“THE SEA” – LIFE, MEMORIES AND TIDES

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THE SEA

LIFE, MEMORIES AND TIDES

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By Nevin Ulusoy

Sea, that vast salty water, reflecting the colour of the infinite sky, hiding  secrets of life, seeming not to care about us. Tides bringing memories, taking some away then, calling us to find what we are looking for in its depths. Birds, their cheerful and sometimes sad melodies, mingling with the never-ending sound of waves, waves breaking on the shores of our hearts, waves of days that have been lived through, giving a sad touch, tinged with blue, sometimes a cry of mirth, making us shiver with delight. All alone, in the autumn wind and remembering, only remembering, in indian summer that promises cooler days of wisdom.

Sunsets are more beautiful in autumn and winter, having a sense of gloom sometimes, but always with a golden touch.    

“Perhaps all of life is no more than a long preparation for the leaving of it,” writes John Banville in his magnificent novel “The Sea”. It was published in 2005 and won The Man Booker prize the same year. There are amazing vivid images in the book, mesmerizing words flow like rivers, we follow the writer wherever he goes, seeing the characters, listening to the waves, the tempest and penetrating his heart, as he penetrates our hearts. The sentences break through the mind, like the tides invading the coast, you want to the read them again and again, aloud, the sound of the sentences finding its place in the depths of your soul, mixing with the colours of indian summer and the bygone summer of his childhood, blooming days of death-approaching life. A life he has well cherished, delighted, a life void of regret, so he sees life more gloomy because of the life he has in his hands.  A poetic song of sorrow, the hero lives with the images of past days, people, early love, intense love for his beloved who has taken her place in the world of memories, but also very much in him, in his visit to his holiday when he was a child in this book. John Banville is a master of words in this novel and we feel that it can never be forgotten as life goes on. He was born in Ireland, in 1945 and lives in Dublin now. He is also a journalist and a screenwriter. There is a film of the book with the same name and he wrote the scenario.

Max, our hero, is an art-historian, who has lost his beloved wife recently from cancer, which tormented them for a year. The world he knew, he has ever known, has been shattered, in pieces, he cannot breath in it, everything surrounding him was suffocating him in a way, he could not stay at home, his own home, their home. He had no place in this world. Knowing, knowing Anna, how can we claim knowing one person, how well do we know ourselves?

Sea, that vast salty water, reflecting the colour of the infinite sky, hiding  secrets of life, seeming not to care about us. Tides bringing memories, taking some away then, calling us to find what we are looking for in its depths.   

“I do not want solicitude. I want anger, vituperation, violence. I am like a man with an agonising toothache who despite the pain takes a vindictive pleasure in prodding the point of his tongue again and again deep into the throbbing cavity.” After his loss, he wants to be alone with his pain, this anger-filled pain and it takes him to the summer house. He had a dream about trying to go home, walking in the snow and after this dream, he decided to go back to the Cedars, this summer house, his past, the holiday of his first love. Things are a bit different than he remembers them to be. Sea, penetrating him all through the novel, sea, swallowing his first love or rather the twins melting in the sea, leaving everything behind, being a part of the waves. Unlike the nanny in “Rome“, Rose is a passive, watching person as the twins walk into the sea, an unloving relationship. The dark secrets of childhood. His holiday there, Chloe and Myles, their uncaring parents and Rose haunting him along the sea, in the rooms he stays, unable to stay at his own home, his home having the vivid images of his life before that rueful event. The twins, naughty and it is difficult to grasp their entangled relationship with each other. One is reminded of the twins in “The Dreamers” or in Arundhati Roy’s “The God of Small Things”, a relationship that goes beyond a brother-sister relationship. His father and mother’s quarrels, night after night, when they thought he was asleep, in the house they stayed at. His father’s leaving them, never to come back again, their moving from one bad place to a worse one, his mother trying to find a job. Dark envelopes the sea, his heart has the colour of the dark sea, a roaring sea of anguish, sadness. Silence, wherever he goes, it is as if he can touch it, like a wall of ice chilling him in its invasion of both his body and soul. His struggle to soothe himself in a cradle of alcohol bubbles, his days and nights are never-ending torments.

He remembers Anna taking his photographs. Before she took a photo, she waited for a short time. It was as if she saw through him and he was disturbed. “You… how could you go and leave me like this, floundering in my own foulness, with no one to save me from myself.” He wants her ghost, at least her ghost. The storm, at the end, the storm shaking him inside is out, “the sky stamping up and down in a fury, breaking its bones.” His daughter, far from helping him, no one can help him it seems. Everybody is alone in his/her sorrow. In Milan Kundera’s last novel “The Festival of Insignificance”, in the evening of the morning her lover died in her arms, La Franck, a very beautiful and famous woman, went out with some friends and she was happy. The person who talks about her admires her strength immensely, saying she was smiling with her red eyes, red from crying. We do not know whether it is strength or not, but everybody experiences sorrow in a different way.

Sorrow, pain, all human feelings and make our lives more precious. We know bliss through sorrow and feel that life has a smiling face, although it has a harsh touch sometimes. Listening to the words of strong tempest, we know that sea is not dark actually and the silence after storm is unique. Sunsets are more beautiful in autumn and winter, having a sense of gloom sometimes, but always with a golden touch. As Patti Smith says, loss is inevitable and we feel the light they leave in us. Virginia Woolf, in her brilliant novel “Mrs. Dalloway”, expresses the dead may live with the people they were together in their lives, visit some places. To know such love, to have such bliss, is worth a few lives, no, more than a few lives. Every second they shared had a delight in it that most mortals cannot even dare or care to dream, even the quarrels, the disagreements. Yearning for someone you love, what a blessed feeling!   

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