The Waves

The Waves

Book - 1998
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Woolf described this work on the title-page of the first draft as `the life of anybody'. The Waves (1931) traces the lives and interactions of seven friends in an exploratory and sensuous narrative. The Waves was conceived, brooded on, and written during a highly political phase in Woolf's career, when she was speaking on issues of gender and of class. This was also the period when her love affair with Vita Sackville-West was at its most intense. The work is often described as if it were the product of a secluded, disembodied sensibility. Yet its writing is supremely engaged and engaging, providing an experience which the reader is unlikely to forget.
Publisher: Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 1998.
ISBN: 9780199536627
Branch Call Number: WOOLF
Characteristics: xliii, 260 p. ; 20 cm.


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Feb 11, 2018

Experimental novel? Well, not really a novel at all, in the conventional sense. More like a play, consisting entirely of a series of soliloquies spoken/contemplated by six characters. But in my mind there is actually only one character and that is the collected personalities of Virginia Woolf herself. I could easily envision her speaking all these lines in a series of sessions on an analyst's couch. Here she presents each of her alter egos: Susan, the earth-mother; Louis, the social outsider; Jinny, the narcissistic flirt; Neville, the homo-erotic esthete; Rhoda, the frightened little girl; and finally Bernard, the story-teller whose tortured soul comes closest to revealing Virginia herself in the end. But what are we to make of the remote, idealized Percival? I believe his name tells the whole story: Parsifal, the holy and perfect fool, man's hope for salvation from himself. And being perfect, he cannot really exist. The pivotal tragedy then is not Percival's death: it's the realization that he doesn't exist at all.
In Bernard's long (49 pages!) final soliloquy, he (Virginia) confronts his own failure to find the meaning that he has sought all through his life. In the absence of meaning, only death awaits. High romanticism taken to its ultimate heights! Somewhere, Shelley was probably cheering.

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