Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Mrs Dalloway [1925]

Published just 3 years after Ulysses, Virginia Woolf’s immensely acclaimed literary classic Mrs Dalloway shared a striking resemblance with Joyce’s modernist masterpiece – both were stream-of-consciousness narratives and unfolded over the course of a single day – a technique that has been employed by many future writers; interestingly, the previous book which I read, viz. Samaresh Basu’s Prajapati, too, was formally similar. It was also quite fascinating in the way the points-of-view in this ensemble drama seamlessly transitioned from one character to another in the mode of a hyperlink narrative. And, when you add to that the complex thematic elements that it explored in the cheeky garb of a seemingly Victorian setting – the position of women in inter-war society, marital woes and unrequited love, existential issues, mental illness, the scarring effects of war, upper-class ennui, vanity, superciliousness and vacuity – you know that is not just any other literary text. The book’s central protagonist, Clarissa Dalloway, is a bored, middle-aged and rather unhappy lady who’s planning to throw an ostentatious party at her posh London residence for her fellow upper-class friends and acquaintances. As she goes through the day preparing for the evening, the tale meanders through her inner conflicts and suppressed memories, as well through a host of diverse characters – Peter Walsh, who’s just returned from India and still holds a flame for Clarissa; Richard, her introverted husband; Elizabeth, her individualist daughter; Sally Seton, her childhood friend and to whom she’s secretly attracted to; Septimus Warren Smith, a shell-shocked and suicidal war veteran – who cross each other’s paths, with design as well as inadvertently, over the course of the day, ending with the dizzying, satirical and mournful party that the story had been building up to for most parts of its length. The dense, convoluted, digressing, rambling, dry, downcast, trailblazing and oftentimes infuriating work has been included by Time in its list of 100 Best English-language Novels of 20th Century.

Author: Virginia Woolf
Genre: Drama/Marital Drama/Stream-of-Consciousness/Modernist Literature
Language: English
Country: UK

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