Sara-Maria Sorentino's Reviews > The Waves

The Waves by Virginia Woolf
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Dec 01, 08

bookshelves: favorite-fiction, time-history
Recommended for: chuck, adam, danielle, allie maybe
Read in November, 2008

What to say? i'm in awe. striking structure, a literary marvel. it punctures the self and its attempts at narrative cohesion, with mystic sensibilities and rhythm. Commentators far more learned than myself have addressed the undulating soliloquies that form this rarefied piece, and they've done it with care and great insight.




Something more in the terrain of that which I can comfortably vocalize is woolf’s attitude towards empire. She has her moments of outright condemnation-- to be found in her reviews and letters, (a jibe at kipling: “whether grown-up people really play this game, or whether, as we suspect, Mr. Kipling makes up the whole British Empire to amuse the solitude of his nursery, the result is curiously sterile and depressing”) but the more fascinating aspect is how her aesthetics themselves are an engaged critique of empire and it's supporting subjectivities; her novels articulate this politics persistently if also obliquely. In Mrs. Dalloway I was surer of the focus in this regard--with The Waves I will have to do some digging to elucidate what I sense. But it is, at the very least, implicit in the six narrators' reverence for Percival, the friend who goes to administrate in India in a blaze of glory, only to die an unheroic death.

To those of you who, with eyebrows raised, are thinking that I just read imperialism into everything, there is some substantial scholarship in this arena (of which I’ve yet to get my paws on): the essay “Britannia rules the waves” by Jane Marcus being the most frequently cited. also circulating somewhere is an out of print book titled ‘Virginia woolf against empire’.


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