Book Review – The Sea by John Banville (2005)

The Sea_Banville My Rating: 5 of 5  ||  My Review on Goodreads  ||  More About The Book  ||  About The Author

The silence about me was heavy as the sea.

Sitting by the sea, I am trying hard to evade the embrace of camphoric memories that hover schemingly, stroked by the amorous waves. Often this colossal sapphire vial of solitude, seduced by a flicker of cuprous sky or a kiss of the timorous breeze, changes colour and instead of heaping balms of comfort, loathes me with a vision so sharp that a part of me detaches with a vile force and travels into the dense, supine but thorny gardens of bygone land. And then begins a passionate journey between these two warriors who might belong to the same clan but having grown under two vastly different masters, have acquired their traits – past and present do not let any pupil off easily.

In present, Max Morden, having lost his beloved wife, Anna and in a bid to subdue his bereavement, has returned to his childhood town of Ballyless, to ‘The Cedars’, a high-class hotel. In past, ‘The Cedars’ was the hallowed cloister of his teenage assaults which had often boomeranged on his own poor, chalet-resident soul. In present, he checks into a prime room that oversees the jeweled crust of the sea-line, enameled with stony webs and insensitive tourists. In past, this epoch room was one with his vision of infinite pool, sinking in whose bosom with an acerbic joy was his indomitable dream. In present, he gingerly maneuvers the kitchen maze and noiselessly slips into the dining chair with a cerebral ray of sunlight keeping him painfully agile. In past, that very table held his lean legs and strong arms to heighten his nubile passion for Mrs. Grace and idolatrous love for Mrs. Grace’s daughter, Chloe, its inhabitants.

As the gusts of past hurl at the present, heavy boulders of questions, flanked by incredulity and guilt, the present retaliates with a torrid shower of indifference and futility, armed with occasional pelting of tranquil hailstones. The crystal clear mirror that his life had become was merciless in throwing his reflections which neither seemed to fit the past mantle nor could adorn the present portico. But despite such denouncement, Morden keeps the mirror in utmost care, as if his life depended on it. And that is no surprise.

We all have a small box, tucked carefully under a bed or inside an old cupboard, whose only purpose in our lives is to reshuffle it. Its occupants might wear the tags of ‘abandoned’, ‘faulty’, ‘useless’, ‘childish’, ‘silly’, ‘vulgar’, ‘scary’, ‘ignominious’ but they form a part of us that made us what we are today. And no part which plays that part is ever worth giving up. So, it beseeches the stormy nights when we witnessed our cold hearts and we let it; it invokes those blinding days when our burning pursuits ensnarled us and we let it; it inspires us with unbelievable vignettes of our audacity; it vanquishes us with equally unbelievable imprints of our timidity. Its flickering pulse does enough to keep our life monitors active and we simply take solace in the fact that it adorns our life; much like a vintage clock that does not show the right time any more but the time it shows cannot be displayed by any modern timepiece.

I return my glance to the sea and wonder if it ever felt the need to demerge past and present to keep the belligerent duo from infiltrating the fragile fabric of human heart that comes to its arms in search of aching succor. But by sending a colossal army of waves my way, it appears to have answered my pondering in Banville’s restorative thought:

Has this not always been my aim, is this not, indeed, the secret aim of all of us, to be no longer flesh but transformed utterly into a gossamer of un-suffering spirit? 

Bridge (B&W)

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