Thursday, March 29, 2012

Endings

It's strange how endings work, especially when what's preceded them hasn't.

When I read E.M. Forster's Maurice as a young man, I wanted to like it, of course. But it didn't move me, at least not until the final pages when the petals of an evening primrose came to symbolize something that had quietly, permanently slipped away. There was something in this passage that penetrated as the rest of the novel had not:
'Next Wednesday, say at 7.45. Dinner jacket's enough, as you know'.

They were [Clive's] last words, because Maurice had disappeared thereabouts, leaving no trace of his presence except a little pile of the petals of the evening primrose, which mourned from the ground like an expiring fire. To the end of his life, Clive was not sure of the exact moment of departure, and with the approach of old age he grew uncertain whether the moment had yet occurred. The Blue Room would glimmer, ferns undulate. Out of some eternal Cambridge, his friend began beckoning to him, clothed in the sun, and shaking out the scents and sounds of the May term.

But at the time, he was merely offended at a discourtesy, and compared it with similar lapses in the past. He did not realise that this was the end, without twilight or compromise, that he should never come across Maurice's track again, nor speak to those who had seen him.
When I finished the book, I read that page again and again. And now, more than two decades later, I searched the internet for those words and found them on another blog... they'd been someone else's favorite part of the book as well.

I HAD REMEMBERED MAURICE because I'd just watched Louis Malle's Damage, and once again the ending connected in a way that the rest of the movie did not. Somehow the incomparable voice of Jeremy Irons speaking these words made the whole two hours well spent:
It's takes a remarkably short time to withdraw from the world. I traveled, until I arrived at a life of my own.

What really makes us is beyond grasping. It's way beyond knowing. We give into love because it gives us some sense of what is unknowable. Nothing else matters... not at the end.

(Video link)

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