Persuasion – Jane Austen

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Persuasion is probably my favourite Jane Austen book. It is said to be her darkest story but also the one with most hope. I think it’s the hope in the story that I really like but also that Anne Elliot in many ways is an unlikely heroine. She is a quiet woman, in the end of her prime, who lives a very quiet life. Early disappointments and a very humble, sweet and obliging character have made her into, what we today would call, a wall-flower.

The world of Persuasion is not the glimmering, high society that, for example Pride & Prejudice is full of. It’s a much more quiet world, less brilliant, and much more focused on family gatherings than on big balls and dinners. On the other hand, we see little of the crowded, general balls and parties that play a part of Northanger Abbey. In the end though, Jane Austen is just as brilliant at describing this part of the society she lived in, as she is in all her books. Forget the romances, this is why we still read her.

We have all had our disappointments in life: broken friendships, lost love, that job we wanted but didn’t get etcetera. I think most of us have also experienced the loss of something that it was hard to recover from. The loss was great enough that our lives actually have a before and after that event. What I like about Persuasion, is that there is a new life after the disappointment. The lovers find a way back to each other. More mature and more aware of what they want from life, they reunite. I don’t think that happens very often in life. We don’t get those kind of second chances, but I like the idea that we mature, learn from our experiences and find a new life that most likely is different from what we expected but not worse because of it.

How revealing should your writing be?

I had a comment to my recent post about my current writing frenzy. The question was how much of yourself you reveal when writing about past experiences? It referred to the poetry story I am writing that follow a recent relationship from beginning to end.

My personal view when writing something that is mostly autobiographical is to be brutally honest. The whole point, for me, of a biography as opposed to fiction, is to give a subjective view of events and therefore you should not hide how you perceived things or the way that you remember them. I wrote 95% of the poetry for this story as it happened, as I was trying to deal with the relationship. As such, the raw material is what I felt at that given point in time.

The question that follows is naturally, once you have vented your feelings and created this piece of work, do you share it? I have mixed feeling about that. At one hand, I genuinely think there is a story there worthy of being told. It is also a story not often told as films and songs etcetera tend to focus on how the couple fall in love. Books are slightly better at covering the whole spectra of relationships.

On the other hand, if you are brutally honest in your biographical writing, you are exposing yourself to other people’s opinions, prejudices and criticism of you and your past actions. Not only are you exposing yourself, but other people – in this case my ex. You can to some extent protect others by never naming them but as the creator you cannot protect yourself. Do you want that random strangers know that much about your feelings and perceptions?

I believe you must be able to answer that question before you make a decision to publish. The alternative being to write a fictional story with the same themes but moving away from real persons and events.

Milan Lighting Design Trip

Last week I was sent to my company’s head office in Milan. I was very excited to be allowed the trip and appreciated the break from the normal routines.

It was an intense trip but also full of inspiration. Not only did the company have the usual showroom where our fittings are displayed but there was also a showroom to explore colour rendering (how accurately colours are seen), colour temperature (the difference in how warm/cold the various light sources are preceived) and light against different textures.

There was also a museum with various pre-electricity lamps that the family has bought and collected over the years. I love that stuff! There was everything from the simplest oil lamps purely for practical use, to elaborate, quirky and heavily ornamental lamps.

In todays society, we take light for granted as we tend to over-light our spaces, leaving lights on in rooms where we are not, for example. We forget that once to extending daylight into the evening was expensive and precarious as the burning flame had to be watched. No light where it was not needed. From an eco-friendly perspective, an attitude we perhaps should take to heart again.

I was also given a chance to see the amazing architecture of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. It was designed in 1861 and built by Giuseppe Mengoni between 1865 and 1877. I have seen a similar galleria in Naples but Galleria Vittoria Emanuele II was even more grand. The central dome with its glas and steel structure mind-blowing.

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