Somewhere Towards the End by Diana Athill

by Bufkinite@evpl on Wednesday, February 25 2009, 12:11pm. Viewed 883 times.

Cover art from the bookWritten in her 89th year, Diana Athill writes in Somewhere Towards the End not so much about getting old, but reflects on her life and, especially as the book goes on, about being old, and the matter-of-fact changes age imposes on one.

It gives me great hope to read something written by a 90 year old that demonstrates a sharp wit and reflective mind, not to mention a breezy and engrossing writing style.  A few extended quotes may serve to whet your appetite for more:

On religious belief:

“Faith – the decision to act as though you believe something you have no reason to believe, hoping that the decision will bring on belief and then you will feel better -  that seems to me mumbo-jumbo.  I can’t feel anything but sure that when men form ideas about God, creation, eternity, they are making no more sense in relation to what lies beyond the range of their comprehension than the cheeping of sparrows…

…And surely the urgent practical necessity of trying to order [life] so that its cruelties are minimized and its beauties are allowed their fullest possible play is compelling enough without being seen as duly laid on us by a god?"

On gardening:

“And still, each time I’m there [in the garden], I manage to do at least a little bit of work myself; tie something back, trim something off, clear some corner weeds, plant three or four small plants, and however my bones may ache when I’ve done it, I’m always deeply refreshed by it.  Getting one’s hands into the earth, spreading roots, making a plant comfortable – it is a totally absorbing occupation, like painting or writing, so that you become what you are doing and are given a wonderful release from consciousness of self.”

On fidelity:

“Fidelity in the sense of keeping one’s word I respect, but I think it tiresome that it is tied so tightly in people’s minds to the idea of sex.  The belief that a wife owes absolute fidelity to her husband has deep and tangled roots, being based not only on a man’s need to know himself to be the father of his wife’s child, but also on the deeper, darker feeling that a mans owns woman… And woman’s anxious clamour for her husband’s fidelity springs from the same primitive root: she feels it to be necessary proof of her value.”

If you're intrigued by any of this, there is more - much more - in this delightful book.  What a full and interesting life this woman has had!





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