Louis Esterhuizen. Die vroue in Larkin se lewe

Philip Larkin was nou nie juis bekend vir sy romantiese inklinasie nie; trouens, die beeld van die asketiese digter is die een wat meestal met Larkin in verband gebring word. Tog wil dit nou voorkom, danksy die publikasie van Letters to Monica  (2011: Faber & faber) – sy  korrespondensie in die periode 1945 tot 1970 met Monica Jones (foto), dat ons hier eerder te make het met ‘n geval van stille waters, diepe grond.

Luidens Martin Amis se essay op The Guardian se webtuiste was Larkin in sy lewe by veral twee vroue betrokke: Ruth Bowman by wie hy vir agt jaar betrokke was en einste Monica, ‘n akademikus wat hy in die laat 1940s leer ken het en wie vir die volgende 35 jaar sy metgesel was … In sy inleiding beskryf Amis die verskil tussen die twee dames soos volg: “Ruth’s frail yet defiant homeliness can only be described as quite extraordinarily dated. Monica was a robust and comparatively worldly blonde, with well-shaped bones (but ogreish teeth). A lecturer in English at Leicester, she was a small-community ‘character’: she wore tartan when she discussed Macbeth, and in general favoured dirndl skirts, low-cut tops and markedly cumbrous jewellery. But her defining characteristic was her voice – or, rather, her overpowering idiolect.”

‘n Kostelike aanhaling is juis uit ‘n brief wat Larkin in Oktober 1952 aan Jones geskryf het waarin hy haar wenke gee ten opsigte van haar ‘overpowering idiolect”, soos Amis dit stel: “Dear, I must sound very pompous & huffy . . . It’s simply that in my view you would do much better to revise, drastically, the amount you say and the intensity with which you say it . . . I do want to urge you, with all love & kindness, to think about how much you say & how you say it. I’d even go so far as to make 3 rules: One, Never say more than two sentences, or very rarely three, without waiting for an answer or comment from whoever you’re talking to; Two, abandon altogether your harsh didactic voice, & use only the soft musical one (except in special cases); & Three, don’t do more than glance at your interlocutor (wrong word?) once or twice while speaking. You’re getting a habit of boring your face up or round into the features of your listener – don’t do it! It’s most trying.”

Oor die kwessie van seksuele intimiteit tussen Larkin en Jones is die briewe egter besonder vaag; die vermoede bestaan dat Larkin nou nie juis ‘n persoon was by wie jy ‘wilde passie’ te wagte sou wees nie. Veral nie indien die volgende siening van hom ter harte geneem word nie: “I think . . . someone might do a little research on some of the inherent qualities of sex – its cruelty, its bullyingness, for instance. It seems to me that bending someone else to your will is the very stuff of sex, by force or neglect if you are male, by spitefulness or nagging or scenes if you are female. And what’s more, both sides would sooner have it that way than not at all. I wouldn’t. And I suspect that means not that I can enjoy sex in my own quiet way but that I can’t enjoy it at all. It’s like rugby football: either you like kicking & being kicked, or your soul cringes away from the whole affair. There’s no way of quietly enjoying rugby football.”

Mmmm, nou ja toe. Inderdaad ‘n insiggewende essay waarin Amis onder andere uitvoerig skryf oor die verhouding tussen Larkin en sy eie pa, Kingsley Amis; oor Larkin se jeugjare en vele meer. Gaan lees gerus die essay.

Ten slotte, die volgende aanhaling oor hoekom Monica Jones vir Larkin so ‘n belangrike persoon was, ten spyte van die onderliggende krapperigheid tussen hulle: “Still, one way or another, Monica enabled Larkin to cherish his crucial essences – and to turn them into immortal poetry. ‘I am sure you are the one of this generation!’ she wrote in 1955. ‘I like your poetry better than any that I ever see – oh, I am sure you will make yr name! yr mark, do I mean – really be a real poet, I feel more sure of it than ever before, it is you who are the one . . .’ Many a muse, no doubt, has murmured these words to many a poet. But Monica happened to be right. Larkin’s life was a failure; his work was a triumph. That is all that matters. Because the work, unlike the life, lives on.”



Letters to Monica

Letters to Monica











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