My one fear is that tomorrow I may die without having come to know myself. In the course of my life I have discovered that a fearful abyss lies between me and other people and have realised that my best course is to remain silent and keep my thoughts to myself for as long as I can. If I have now made up my mind to write it is only in order to reveal myself to my shadow, that shadow which at this moment is stretched across the wall in the attitude of one devouring with insatiable appetite each word I write. It is for his sake that I wish to make the attempt. Who knows? We may perhaps come to know each other better. Ever since I broke the last ties which held me to the rest of mankind my one desire has been to attain a better knowledge of myself.
— Sadegh Hedayat, from The Blind Owl
“What is it you are trying to protect?”
“I don’t know. Myself? An image of myself. From another time.”
“But you are no longer that person.”
“Am I not? No, perhaps not entirely. But she was once me and she is in there, somewhere.”
“And you cannot let go of her? Even for me?”
“I am not sure I dare. I guess I am too selfish that way. I should be brave and be able to let go, but that image, that version of me seems too precious. Too vulnerable to let go. Maybe I should. Maybe it’s too unhealthy to keep her inside, to keep her near. In the end, even to the very image that I’m trying to protect.”
“But I’ll look after it as well, once you let go. Don’t you see?”
“But you do not trust?”
“I am sorry.”
“Then I am sorry too.”
“What have I done to deserve this? Why do you critique me so harshly?”
I’m sure this image of my father would never leave my mind.
Words got caught in tears.
“I-I don’t know, Papa. I’m honestly not sure,” I faltered, stumbling down a path I feared venturing. “Maybe… Maybe I got it from Mum.”
“How have it come to this?” he continued, not listening or pretending not to listen, as if I alone had caused this and I alone had the answers.
“I don’t know!”
I sighed in equal frustration and hopelessness, thinking of all the times we argued but never talked; never truly interacted, never showed a general interest in one another. Each pathetic attempt to throw a line that the other one didn’t see, didn’t value. Quietly blaming each other.
All these times where we couldn’t be more alike; truly a child of its father.
“You gave me the whole world, Papa. Do you really blame me for being so much like you?”
“I have lived more than I ever thought possible,” he said, breathlessly, and she trembled in the wake of his answer.
— Maggie Nelson, The Red Parts: a Memoir
“Now, see, you don’t see. What is close to my heart is a product of abstraction, born and existing within an ethereal world, not an object born of concrete matter, time or space; not easily touched upon or visited. Not documented or approved, carved into paper and traded. Only few should be so lucky. No, you miss my point, if your mind only goes down this path; so practical, so weighed in the strict efficiency and industry of our world. What I write is written by the unseeable, the untouchable within – and only then; when this truth is fully realized, can it be seen, can it be touched. You cannot sell and buy this in common currency. You cannot replace its inherent value with the values measured in outside structures; ever so changeable, so unstable. Only by reading and understanding will this work be what it is. Do you understand now?”
But how could she tell the world that she lived within the words? Fully, inescapably? A heart not torn but finally complete. How important it was that she steadfastly remained so – even when it sounded impractical, yes, ludicrous, at best? Her idealism would be shunned, surely, but take away her idealism and you took away her hope. She had to hold on. Tooth and nail. Spirit and heart.
If she did not, then who would?
He looked at her and there was something in his glance; the power of it almost frightened her. It was that emotion that had been steadily building between them ever since the night he had appeared at her window. A feeling beyond love, beyond passion. It seemed to lay its fingers on her very soul, causing her to shiver with breathless delight. Wendy still did not fully understand that part of herself he had awoken. It was too vast and dizzying to contemplate. The depth of her feelings towards him was boundless, unrestrained, almost terrifying in its disregard for limits.*