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Ovi Symposium; Thirty-eighth Meeting Ovi Symposium; Thirty-eighth Meeting
by Dr. Emanuel Paparella
2014-11-18 17:19:56
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Ovi Symposium:

“A Philosophical Conversation on the Nature of Art within Modernity
and the Envisioning of a New Humanism”

between Ms Abigail George, Drs. Paolozzi, Paparella and Mr. Rywalt
Thirty-eighth Meeting: 6 November 2014

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Symposium's regular participants (in alphabetical order)

abigailAbigail George is an African activist for human rights, a feminist, writer and poet. She has received writing grants from the National Arts Council, Centre for the Book, and ECPACC (Eastern Cape Provincial Arts and Culture Council). She is not purely devoted to poetry but to pursuing writing fulltime. She has written two volumes of poetry, and her latest book is titled Winter in Johannesburg. Storytelling for her has always been a phenomenal way of communicating and making a connection with other people. All About My Mother (a collection of short stories) was published by Ovi magazine in July 2012.

enDr.Ernesto Paolozzi teaches history of contemporary philosophy at the University Suor Orsola Benincasa of Naples. A Croce scholar and an expert on historicism, he has written widely and published several books, especially on aesthetics and liberalism vis a vis science. His book Benedetto Croce: The Philosophy of History and the Duty of Freedom was printed as an e-book in Ovi magazine in June 2013.

papDr. Emanuel Paparella has a Ph.D. in Italian Humanism with a dissertation on Giambattista Vico from Yale University. He currently teaches philosophy at Barry University and Broward College in Florida, USA. One of his books is titled Hermeneutics in the Philosophy of G. Vico, Mellen Press. His latest e-book Aesthetic Theories of Great Western Philosophers was printed in Ovi magazine in June 2013.

rywaltEdwin Rywalt is a computer specialist living in Pennsylvania with his family. He is a talented and accomplished pianist with a college education from Columbia University and a life---long scholarly interest in the nexus between science, technology, and the liberal arts. Beginning in May 2014 he will be offering pro bono services to the Ovi Symposium with typo correction editing and other useful suggestions aiming at improving the overall format of the twice a month section of Ovi magazine. Perhaps in the future, if his commitments allow it, he may decide to join the Symposium’s ongoing dialogue.

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Subtheme of session 38: On Suicide and the Self

Indirect Participants within the Great Conversation across the ages: Camus, Williams, Pascal, Baudelaire, Sartre, Plath, Augustine, Heidegger, Descartes, Jung, Hughes, Sappho.

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Table of Contents for the 38th Session of the Ovi Symposium (6 November 2014)

Preamble by the Symposium’s coordinator Emanuel L. Paparella

Section 1: “Suicide: The Bottomless Pit of Despair.” A Presentation by Emanuel L. Paparella.

Section 2: “Assia Wevill: Mistress, Mother, Poet, Monster, and Sylvia Plath’s Rival. An Ordinary Life (Creative Non-Fiction).” A Presentation by Abigail George.

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Preamble by the Symposium’s Coordinator

In this 38th meeting of the Ovi symposium we resume the exploration of the link between our perception of the self and our existential situation, which is the philosophical question of being or existence. We ask the questions Why do the longings of the human heart for happiness give rise to so much unhappiness and human disasters, foremost among them suicide, the snuffing out of our own existence in time and space? What is the link between this unhappiness and the loss of hope and despair? What about the link with one’s concept of one’s self? Can the self be analyzes and explained by the mind or is it something beyond rationality given that the mind seems unable to explain itself scientifically? We place the dialogue within a philosophical theoretical framework analyzing the current view on man’s spirituality and why it does not seem to be able to withstand the powerful intellectual assaults of modern Positivism and Nihilism. Albert Camus’s take on suicide is examined in some depth (vis his famous The Myth of Sisyphus. He placed suicide at the centre of the philosophical quest and indeed the centre of existentialist philosophy. In section two Abigail George presents to us, in a more literary and phenomenological and less abstract mode, the particularly tragic suicide of Assia Wevill, resembling, in various aspects, that of Sylvia Plath, her romantic rival, and in some way connected to it, as already examined in a previous meeting of the symposium. We hope this topic will be found relevant by the Ovi readership and sincerely welcome comments from them; for after all, a symposium is by its own nature open to all who in some way participate in it.   

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1
Suicide: The Bottomless Pit of Despair
A Presentation by Emanuel L. Paparella

Should I kill myself, or have a cup of coffee?
                             --Albert Camus, The Paradox of Choice

“There comes a time when you look into the mirror and you realize that
what you see is all that you will ever be. And then you accept it.
Or you kill yourself. Or you stop looking in mirrors.”
    -
–Tennessee Williams

Pascal  saw human beings as wretched because of their unsatisfied desires, the void at the centre of their being, which they desperately try to forget by constant activity and the seeking of pleasure. Baudelaire is an example; he was a man without a centre. He inherited a Catholic conscience without the faith and was tortured by a sense of sin and consequent self-hatred. He was a typical narcissist, who only saw the external world reflected in his own self. Sartre is another example: he said he never grew up and was in a permanent state of immaturity. He tried to escape the emptiness through sex, drugs and art. He wrote, “to wish nothing, to feel nothing, to sleep and go on sleeping, that today is my only wish. Ignoble and loathsome wish but sincere…, I fear sleep as one fears a great hole, full of looming horror, leading one does not know where. I can see nothing but the infinite through every window.”

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Sartre describes the despair. “A damned man going without a lamp down the edge of an abyss whose smell betrays its damp depth, down endless stairs without banisters, where slimy monsters wait, whose great phosphorescent eyes make the night darker still and leave nothing visible except themselves.” This sounds eerily like the beginning of the journey into Dante’s Inferno which ultimately turns out to be a personal and existential journey into the Self. The horror of the emptiness of life and the emptiness in the human heart brings a desire for the cessation of existence. But the infinite emptiness has another side to it - humanity’s infinite longings for happiness, for fulfillment, for beauty. There must have been a positive unacknowledged desire in Sartre to satisfy the infinite longing of his human heart. These idealized longings were inevitably unsatisfied. Thus the frustration of the unacknowledged latter was the cause of the acknowledged ‘bottomless pit’. Freud had it on target: we are all governed by subconscious, and often repressed motives and emotions.

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A Message of Despair at the Gates of Dante’s Inferno

These are the rather abstract and universally unfulfilled longings of the human heart dubbed by Pascal as “the reasons that reason knows not.” Abigail George will continue to explore in their particularity, in the second section of this Ovi Symposium meeting, examining the suicide of Assia Wevill who, not unlike Sylvia Plath, already examined in a previous meeting, also committed similar suicide with her child. She was in effect the romantic rival of Sylvia Plath, as Abigail points out.  In this section I’d like to preface those follow-up literary-phenomenological musings by Abigail George with some theoretical-philosophical reflections on what many psychologists nowadays define as the psycho-spiritual model of human nature, a model which differs radically from the usual positivistic materialistic approach so in vogue even in philosophical circles. The psycho-spiritual model accepts that we have spiritual needs in the same way that we have physical and psychological needs.  It also accepts that they can be essential to our sense of wellbeing and, similarly, if neglected, can lead to despair, dysfunction and even mental illness.

In the previous meetings we have explored the dire consequences of alcohol and nihilism on modern life. We’d like to continue analyzing this ethical issue by further exploring the concept of spirituality, another word fraught with danger, when used in the New Age mode. Indeed, there are many points of view as to just what exactly is spirituality, as many as the definitional problems rooted in the semantics or the very language used in describing it. A tentative definition could be: that which is other than mundane and banal and gives meaning and purpose to being. Obviously this is an Heideggerian theme: the issue of being and time.

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Is New Age Spirituality substituting Religion?

First, though, let us return to the central issue of this paper – suicide.  Central to the suicidal dilemma there is often the question “What does it mean to me that I exist?”  If suicide is being contemplated, then this question, in some form or other, is likely to arise.  And if a satisfactory answer to this question cannot be found then suicide becomes an increasingly logical and attractive option. The first observation to make from this is that both the question and any possible answers to it are entirely subjective.  They are about an individual’s sense of self to him/herself.  It is not about what it means to his/her family or friends, or their his/her value to the community, although these may be considerations.  In this sense it is a very private and “selfish” contemplation.  Furthermore any answer to this question is largely irrelevant to anyone other than the person who is asking it.  That is, the only person who requires an answer to it in order to avoid suicide is that person him/herself.  This subjectivity means that there is no instrument that can be used to measure the extent or intensity of the despair and doubt that gives rise to this question.  Similarly, it is impossible to measure in any objective way the adequacy (or inadequacy) of the possible answers to this question.  It is utterly intangible in any physical, material, observable or measurable sense, or in philosophical terms in any positivistic scientific sense.

This subjectivity relates to the first part of our definition of spirituality – that which is other than mundane.  The word “mundane” here does not refer to one of its common usages, that which is considered dull or ordinary.  But nor does the phrase “other than mundane” necessarily mean the transcendental or ecstatic.  The mundane being referred to here is the physical, material, positivistic realm of our human experience.  This is the realm that science thrives in, the realm of observable, measurable objects.  Science has been supreme in analyzing and comprehending the physical world as evidenced by the technological achievements of recent centuries.  Indeed, science has been so successful that it has achieved a dominant position in our thinking of what the universe is and how it operates.  A notable example of this is how science has played a key role in the collapse of many religions, particularly in western societies.  Science challenged and undermined many of the past dogmas of the churches.  The churches, no matter their denomination, ought to have expected the challenge, since many of them had lost contact with their spiritual origins and had become political institutions, more concerned with winning and increasing converts and exercising political power than with purely spiritual matters.  When they tried to assert their authority by denying the truths that science was revealing, it was the beginning of the end of their influence.  One thinks of the trials of Giordano Bruno and Galileo Galilei.

With the substitution of science, considered modern, over religion, considered retrograde and dabbling in superstition, by now superseded by positivism, the intellectual landscape began to appear essentially atheistic.  There was no room in science for any discussion of God, spirit or soul.  The universe became a purely physical universe that was eternal and could be studied and understood by rational, empirical and reductionist scientific methods. This kind of universe had no need for a Creator or a Cosmic intelligence, or a First Cause as the Greeks surmised.  Religious faith became a lifestyle choice; it became “spirituality” with various modes of being, depending on the circumstances and the times. Enter relativism.  We declared ourselves to be a secular society and while religious faith and practices were tolerated, even protected by the state, many chose to discard all religious beliefs. Religious freedom meant exactly that: the freedom to be religious or to be irreligious.  Unfortunately, the baby was thrown out with the dirty bath water and spirituality was also either discarded or trivialized or made a caricature.

This dominance by science with the consequent discarding of spiritual awareness as advocated by atheistic positivists (who now call themselves “brilliant” to avoid any connotation to a Deity and distinguish themselves from the dumb masses) has diminished our understanding and appreciation of our universe and of our selves, and has introduced the clash between the liberal arts and the sciences as exemplified by Positivism.  The great pioneers of science such as Newton and Descartes and even Kant, did not regard the universe to be solely materialistic and mechanistic.  While they saw the power and potential of science they also recognized that science was indeed limited to the observable and measurable objective aspects of this universe.  Through its struggles with the churches to assert intellectual control, anything that could not be described, understood and explained by science became magical, superstitious, not real. 

Given that science could only analyze and comprehend an objective, physical reality, the subjective meaning of even our own feelings have been progressively devalued and dismissed as unreal and illegitimate. These experiences, such as love and compassion, can only be detected by our subjective experience of them.  They are as real and substantial to us as any rock that we might stub out toes on and yet they have no material substance. Try as one may, consciousness cannot be explained away in biochemical terms.  Ideas are not detected by an operation to the brain; what is detected there scientifically are neurons and synapses. But there is something else going on and it is real and it is meaningful and important.  It is also subjective and other than mundane. These subjective feelings are the most important things in our lives. That is the point of William James’ The Varieties of Religious Experience; that is it not scientific to simply ignore any human experiences which includes the religious experience right from the beginning of humankind: religious experiences need to be investigated even if one cannot use the tools of science in doing so. So, William James’ book may not be apologetics for a particular religion but it is scientific in the sense that it insists that any experience of man is worth an investigation.

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If we now look at the next phrase in our definition of spirituality – and give meaning and purpose to being­ – we can see how these subjective experiences have a substantial reality.  We are inspired and motivated by our feelings and thoughts, even when they are repressed and unacknowledged.  Our sense of self is intimately connected to these intangible, subjective feelings and thoughts.  We typically regard some of these, such as love and compassion, as the highest of human virtues.  Indeed, many will claim that this is what distinguishes us from the rest of the animal kingdom. 

Finally we need to look again at our definition of spirituality and ask what it is within us that finds meaning and purpose through these “other than mundane” subjective experiences.  And the answer is that it is our sense of being.  This brings us back to the suicidal dilemma.  Who or what is the me that experiences this sense of selfhood?  What is this being-ness that I call me?  This is the age-old spiritual question of “Who am I? intimated by the Socratic injunction to know oneself truly as a self and not just as another biological entity like any other animal. Animals know many things, but it is highly doubtful that they know that they know or they would have acquired language by now.

So the question persists: is it possible to find a satisfactory answer to this perplexing question or is it merely some dry academic philosophical exercise unrelated existentially to our practical everyday lives?  If you are contemplating suicide it is perhaps the most important and pragmatic question that needs to be faced.  That quintessential existential philosopher, Camus, in “The Myth of Sisyphus” claims, in fact, that suicide is the only important philosophical question.

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Camus’ The Myth of Sisyphus where he describes suicide as the only important philosophical question

First, looking at this question intellectually and philosophically, we are quite likely to find ourselves stuck in the way that psychoanalysis and most psychologies do.  As mentioned above, the notions of self found in these schools of thought are often inadequate and unsatisfactory.  There is certainly no clear agreement on what this sense of self actually is.  Self can be described as the experience of consciousness but that then begs the question of what is consciousness?  We certainly do not currently have any satisfactory scientific description or explanation of what consciousness is. Some have said that it is the universe looking at itself, and that is certainly a wise and insightful statement worth pondering carefully, but to describe self in terms of what the self experiences, whether it is thoughts and feelings or behavior and relationships, still does not adequately describe or explain scientifically and positivistically, so to speak, what the self itself is. 

We seem to recognize that there is some core to our being that we identify with as our selves.  We recognize the value and importance of this innermost sense of self when we talk of the need to nurture our self-esteem and so on.  We also recognize that we can often experience distress or despair, especially perhaps suicidal despair, when there is a conflict between our sense of self from within and our experience of our lives in the outer world.  This tension between the experiences of the in-here with the out-there can become an epic conflict. As Augustine puts it in contemplating the mystery of the self: “What is so much thine as thyself and what is so little thine as thyself?” which of course points to the further question “who am I?” and its corollary “Is my I really mine?” This is the ultimately the question of freedom. How much in control am I of this self. Are we “thrown” into a world largely devoid of meaning as a Sartre or even an Heidegger would contend? Are we condemned, so to speak, to play certain social roles and structures oriented toward consumerism and entrepreneurship, production and material affluence unencumbered by thoughts of what there may be beyond the mundane and the practical?

Psychology has much to say about the relating to the out-there or even the transcendent, but a bit less on the in-here experience, especially when it insists on being defined as a science.  Some schools of psychology will attempt to look at this question in terms of relationship.  That is, they attempt to explore the relationship of the self with the self.  This may be revealing and even useful but ultimately becomes a paradoxical conundrum, the snake eating its own tail, which again cannot be resolved mentally or intellectually. The fatal flaw of most psychologies is that they view the mind as the essence of our sense of being, of our sense of self. The next step to considering the brain the control center or computer of meat between our ears and ourselves as machines, in not too far.  Although psychology recognizes the meaningfulness of our subjective thoughts and feelings, it fails to look beyond the mind as the source of our sense of being.  This fatal flaw overlooks that there is something within each of us that experiences this sense of “having a mind”. 

We sometimes call this consciousness but then we fall into the trap of assuming that consciousness is just another aspect or manifestation of mind.  But the mind is actually incapable of describing itself and pursuing this intellectual and philosophical line of enquiry takes us rationally to a dead-end. Unfortunately, what Positivism has brought about is the confusing of the mind with the brain; a mistake that the ancient Greeks would never have made.

 At this stage of human evolution, if we have religious faith then we may call upon our belief in God or some other belief system to accept this mystery into our lives, or we may side with an atheistic existentialist such as Sartre and conclude that life is utterly meaningless, but decide to somehow plod along with it all the same as some sort of biological imperative or determinism built into the universe. That is to say, we decide to push the boulder up the hill again. Here again is the question of determinism vis a vis freedom. The crucial question here is this: is man able to escape this in-built determinism as ascertained by science?

Underlying this conundrum is a belief – and it is nothing more than that, and not provable scientifically – that the mind is the essence of our being.  This is actually a recent development in the history of humankind, arising very much from the conquest of science over religion.  It is best summed up by the famous quote from one of the pioneers of scientism, Rene Descartes, “I think therefore I am”.  But if we alter this great statement just a little and assert instead that “I am therefore I think” this invites us to examine this am-ness within which the experience of thought arises.  This is an invitation to spiritual rather than intellectual enquiry. Spinoza the Jew was more aware of this spiritual inquiry than Descartes the rationalist Catholic. Descartes ended up with the duality mind/matter while Spinoza conceived mind and matter as complementary and indivisible.

The spiritual enquiry into the nature of the self does not begin with the assumption that the mind is the essence and source of our sense of self.  On the contrary, spirituality argues that there is an indefinable – indescribable and inexplicable – spirit within which arises all that we experience.  We can confuse ourselves and play word games asking whether consciousness itself is just another word for this spirit or whether it is just another manifestation of it.  But, it actually doesn’t matter.  We can also create confusion and indeed conflict (with ourselves and others) pondering whether this spirit comes from some god or other similar notion of some external higher power.  Although this can be interesting and entertaining, and perhaps important for some, it is not actually relevant to the discussion here.  The suicidal dilemma requires only that a meaningful sense of self must be found for the person who is contemplating their own self-death or ultimate demise. A good psychologist may indeed intimate as much when he suggest to his patient that if he cannot find any meaningful sense of self then he should indeed consider killing him/herself. That thought itself, if seriously contemplated, may make some desist from doing so. 

If we allow ourselves to accept the possibility that our experience of “having a mind” is just another manifestation of spirit (or consciousness) rather than the essence of who we are, then this is an invitation to explore this spirit.  When we do this we find that the mind is actually the major obstacle to experiencing, understanding and connecting with this innermost spirit or sense of being.  Our wondrous, busy, versatile minds like nothing more than to take control and make intellectual arguments about who we are and what we are experiencing.  So how do we get past this obstacle?  The simple answer is meditation which is what we experience when the mind is quite.  Then we experience the self that remains present when the mental self is absent; pure consciousness uncontaminated by thoughts.  This is the self without the ego.  It is a bottomless, timeless silence.  Great works of art and literature have been created in adoration of this deeper sense of self.  But any such creative expression of it can only be an approximation of it.  For any image of the self can only ever be that, an image.  This is true also for any mental image or construct we may make of this deepest, most innermost and most private sense of what we are.

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Unlocking the Mystery of the Human Mind

This inner silence can also manifest in other ways.  Sufferers of what is called “depression” which is a form of mental illness, will often speak of either a black hole within them or a feeling of great emptiness.  This can be truly frightening and disabling.  At its extreme it can be lethal. So the critical psychoanalytic question is “what does the self want?” The self wants to want, period. This yearning of the self is commonly recognized, particularly among those diagnosed with depression.  But we need to go beyond and dare to ask what does the self yearn for? To which the answer is “to know itself.” This yearning can be excruciating, especially if we believe that the self is to be found in the mind.  This false belief that “I am my mind” (Descartes’ “I think therefore I am”) is the source of a sense of self that is separate and independent of others and whatever created us.  This egoic, mental sense of self believes that the mind is in control and we find many psychotherapies that seek to develop our self-control.  This false belief, this mental construct, that seeks to control that which cannot be contained or controlled is fearful and fierce.  Many who struggle with despair talk of the pain of the past (memories) and/or the fear of the future (fantasies).  These are both mental constructs again that can demonize the present.  But their strength and power over us is only as strong as our belief that that the mind is actually in control.

Those who have confronted near-death experiences, whether it be suicide or cancer or some other life threatening encounter, will often report that a key moment occurred when they surrendered to what they faced.  This is not the same as giving up.  It is more like an heroic act of acceptance than a fatal giving in. The conclusion of a movie such as All is Lost (starring Robert Redford) exemplifies this concept.  It may be expressed in terms of surrender to one’s self or perhaps to one’s God.  What is also reported is that this moment of surrender only comes after a long struggle, often to the point of utter exhaustion; it is the Biblical all night fight with an angel.  This heroic act of surrender is often frightening and the very last thing we are willing or feel capable of doing.

For the suicidal, this surrender is to dive into this black hole, into this bottomless emptiness.  Which is of course terrifying.  It is important to realize that this is not a surrendering to the urge to kill oneself, which is just a “simple” acting out of the desire to be free of the pain.  No, it is a surrender to this yearning of the self.  This self that wishes to be known, fully and without any contamination or corruption by fears or memories or any other thoughts or feelings.  It is the self that is always present, waiting in silence beneath the chaotic busyness of the chattering mind.  It is a self without any notion of time and space.  It is a self untarnished by any past experience or future possibility.  It is unknowable by the mind and therefore it terrifies the mind.  It is a self that our modern world denies, abuses and caricaturizes.

Diving into this yearning can be too scary.  Some of us, in fact, would rather kill ourselves than go there.  But those who, by some grace or good fortune, have had to encounter this deepest, inner self consistently report that the rewards are great.  For within this self comes the liberation from our greatest fears.  This renewed, fuller, more holistic sense of self that is revealed is characterized by peace and freedom.  Any fears of death, so often at the core of our despair, are lifted.  Demons from the past no longer find any nourishment in this tranquility.  And the future can remain mysterious and acceptable, indeed full of excitement and possibilities.  There is a self esteem that is not propped up with mental, psychological buttresses but stands alone, empty and fragile but invincible.

In some “spiritual circles” this is described as enlightenment or nirvana or, perhaps more accurately, self-realization.  These are just more mental words that can block the path to the self.  So often these spiritual traditions demand that great discipline or devotion is required in order to attain these lofty goals which are dangled before us with little hope that we might ever achieve them.  But this liberated sense of self is not something that is attained or earned. Grace is free and not earned as both Aquinas and Luther pointed out.  It is nothing more than the truth of who we already are that is revealed when the false beliefs of the ego, of the mind, are let go of.  It is true that all the many practices of meditation and postures and worship and diet can all help.  But none of them are necessary.  All that is necessary is a willingness to surrender to who we truly already are. This is what many gurus fail to point out when they teach their meditation techniques.

This sounds far too simple, and it is, for this surrender, as we have seen, can be a fearful thing.  But much of this fear comes from our false beliefs, the denial of our true spirituality and a social environment that rather than encouraging spiritual enquiry, positively dismisses and discourages it.  Unless this is changed we will not reverse the growing incidence of suicide in our modern world that, to use Jung’s words, is in desperate “search of a soul” lost in the bottomless pit of despair. Indeed, Kierkegaard had it on target: the greatest sickness, the sickness unto death, is to be sick and not even to know it. As Dante taught us, the first step on the journey of salvation is the realization that one has lost his way and needs help in finding it again.

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2
Assia Wevill:
Mistress, Mother, Poet, Monster, and Sylvia Plath’s Rival
An Ordinary Life (Creative Non-fiction)

A Presentation by Abigail George

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Assia Wevill (1927-1969)



Assia Wevill (May 15, 1927 – March 23, 1969) was a German-born woman who escaped the Nazis, living in Mandate Palestine and later in Britain, where she had a relationship with the English poet Ted Hughes. She killed herself and also her four-year-old daughter Alexandra Tatiana Elise ("Shura"). Six years earlier, Hughes's wife Sylvia Plath had also committed suicide. Wevill committed suicide in similar fashion to Plath, by use of a gas oven.

Early Life: Assia Gutmann was the daughter of a Jewish physician of Russian origin, Dr. Lonya Gutmann, and a German Lutheran mother, Elizabetha (née Gaedeke). She spent most of her youth in Tel Aviv. Cited by friends and family as a free-spirited young woman, she would go out to dance at the British soldiers' club, where she met Sergeant John Steel, who would become her first husband and with whom she moved to London in 1946. They later emigrated to Canada, where she enrolled in the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, and where she was to meet her second husband, Canadian economist Richard Lipsey. In 1956, on a ship to London, she met the 21-year old poet David Wevill. They began an affair and Assia divorced Lipsey, marrying Wevill in 1960. A refugee from Nazi Germany after the beginning of World War II, she was linguistically gifted, and besides working in the advertising industry, was an aspiring poet who published, under her maiden name Assia Gutmann, an English translation of the work of Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai.

Death: On 23 March 1969, Assia Wevill gassed herself and four-year-old Shura in their London home. She had sealed the kitchen door and window, taken sleeping pills dissolved in a glass of water, and turned on the gas stove. She and Shura were found lying together on a mattress. (From Wikipedia).

He means to put me in a cage. He thinks I have no skills to speak of. And if he loved Sylvia so much and grew to worship not only her but her writing to some degree why did he leave her and make his way to me? To me a cage means the kitchen, her kitchen. Perhaps it is stupid for me to think this way but all I want to do is to please him. Is that so wrong? Who built the universe that way, constructed it so that women can please men before they can please themselves and their children? And hidden somewhere in there are pets and children. Children stroking fur, licking out bowls, holding out their hands for chocolate, who press themselves against you. I am stupid. I longed for him. Pain is like the sea. Deep. You wouldn’t want to go swimming there when it is raining in case there is as storm or lightning. In case you won’t you make it back to the shore because of the current or in case you drown. Scrawling-scribbling-and-the-naming-of-parts. Boyish I-love-him-to-death-till-us-part. I-look-after-the-children, keep-house, proofread his work but still-it-is-never-quite-enough. He does that in his hut all-day-long. He never calls me the interloper but they do.  He never takes my side. It is always there’s Mama’s boy. But I am always intrigued by what he is writing and how quickly his mother seems to recover whenever he is at her side. How am I supposed to interpret that? When I take my meals alone with our little Shura how baffled she must be? What do I say when she looks at me and asks me, ‘Where is papa, where is Frieda, where is Nicky?’

Guts. Space. Breathing room. He is making me look very foolish as if I am running after him (but in the beginning it was the other way round) yet I feel exhilarated when I wake up and see him lying next to me in the mornings. Personal space he certainly seems to need it more than I do. Once upon a time I was so confident, so attractive to both men and women, so clever and now, now this. What he sees, what women of his generation call and want so badly ‘domestic bliss’? I have never wanted children but perhaps it is not too late. And then again what about my verse, what about my poetry, my literary pursuits? Stubborn, ungrateful, unappreciative of my efforts, arrogant but if I leave him now (kaput). All of his London friends think I’m too foreign. His family blames me for Sylvia’s death. Poor, fragile Sylvia. I think she was quite mad. I hate her. I hate her. I hate her and she hated me too I think. I think back to that weekend when they invited the two of us, David and me down to Devon. Of her taking off her shoes and sneaking up to me and Ted in the kitchen. It was him that started all of this not me.

 sym53

Lifted. Fated. He can’t see what he does to women but I can. All his women, these women who are madly in love with him, clearly besotted, half-smitten, blinded by his creativity, his mad good looks, his seductive charm. I am already losing him. I can see that now. He can see that. And that is not to say that he is not a good man. Ted is a good father but why can’t he accept Shura and me. Why does he shut me out? Why does he make this odd list of do this, do that, run my household, teach my children German, play with them for an hour a day, and introduce a new recipe every week? I must be a terrible housekeeper, and an even worse mother, step-mother. They say he’s a tyrant. If I withdraw then I’m becoming just another version of Sylvia. I can feel this cloud of doom coming over me. Swiftly sweeping the exciting London life as I knew it away, away, so far away and the Assia I once knew doesn’t exist anymore and her ghost. Sylvia Plath’s ghost will she always come between us? Will she always be there? I have never wanted to be a domestic goddess. Goddess yes but there was never anything domestic about me. Monster but wherever he goes I will be sure to follow in his footsteps in this lifetime and the next.

‘Come to bed Ted.’ I pouted.

‘I’m writing Assia.’ Was all that he could bring himself to say. I’m writing. Leave me alone. I must be left alone to my own devices now that I have you he could have been saying. I must be everything to him. Yet, but I’m a failure in every department. I’m crumbling. My spirit is no more and no one has a kind word to say about me, the adulterer leading the very willing man in this picture to the slaughterhouse. I am made out to be the woman who took an already crazed woman out of her mind to her death. I AM NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR THOSE CIRCUMSTANCES OF EVENTS AND HOW THEY PLAYED OUT IN THE END. But who cares right? I am just another one of Ted’s women, the assassin with his potent words that are and always will be his weapon. I have no friends to speak of. Perhaps it would help this situation if I had friends. I could invite them over to the house and it would not feel so hostile. You can sometimes cut the tension between me and his father with a knife. I did not hold a gun to Sylvia’s head that fateful night. How was I to know that me and little Shura would soon follow her, that I would murder my own daughter, my beautiful daughter and that I would take my own life and afterward all anyone would say in his circle of friends, and neighbours she had it coming. She only has herself to blame after all. Assia Wevill destroyed Ted Hughes. And the arguments. All those bitter, bitter telephone conversations that I wish I could take back but now I never can.

 sym54

Ted Hughes and Assia Wevill

One day I felt brave enough to ask him, to stand my ground. To finally look him in the eye when I thought he was at his most vulnerable, not surrounded by his friends, his family and especially that sister of his who adored him and who could see that he could do no wrong.

‘What about my work Ted?’ And he smiled as if he was looking at Frieda and after that the conversation became a blur. There was no reality. There was no longer the dream of having a life together. Normal. Was this normal? To always be treated like a slave, always slaving away, cooking meals, scrubbing floors and one day he had the audacity to rub his finger along something I don’t remember what and turn around to me with Frieda in his arms and ask me, ‘Really Assia, is this what is meant by cleaning house?’ I did not know what to do. I only knew I had to get away, get some fresh country air in my lungs and then I began to cry once I was away from Ted and the children and his beloved Frieda who he treated like a pampered doll. Shura often forgotten. My little one. What have I done I have often thought of bringing this child into this world? I thought perhaps he would come and find me and comfort me, apologise and say, ‘Silly me Assia it meant nothing.’ I was working all day while he was plotting against me to get away. I was tired. Three small children with so much energy. So of course I was out of my depth sometimes but I wanted him. My Ted but then again there were my hands. My once beautiful hands with their manicured nails were rough now. I had started to bite my fingernails. And the tantrums had returned that I had left behind in Tel Aviv. I had just become another version of Sylvia Plath’s ghost. My hands they felt like Braille.

‘What about your work?’ he answered in return. ‘Whatever do you mean by that? You wanted a family and have I not given you one. And one day we will find a house of our own to live in. Of course you will have to make that decision yourself. Things have not been easy for me either. You wanted children and have I not given you one.’ I have a dead wife. I have a dead wife. No, that is what he was telling me. What have I done? And was it I Assia Wevill who created the scandal. It was him who asked me to accompany him to that house, that ghost house that morning.

No, no, no I wanted to say. I wanted to scream in his deadpan face because I could see deep down he did not care for me anymore. You were the one who gave me two children, two flowers, two forget-me-nots butcher. I proofread your work Ted. I think you are brilliant but I am nothing like her no matter how beautiful I speak English or write I will never replace her.

‘What about my work. My poetry. Does it not interest you that I write too?’ But how soon he forgets me. I’ve become fragmentary in the same way that Sylvia Plath was doomed to become.

‘But all he said was this in return and I knew I was doomed and Shura was doomed too.

‘You have your hands full with running around three growing children Assia, keeping this house, my house in order. What more could any woman your age (and I thought when he said those words ‘any woman your age’ I thought I would just die on the spot. He was killing me. Striking me again and again and again but I had to take it because this was love and this was the life I had chosen).

So I write to my sister in Canada who has three children of her own, a home, a family and I ask her to come and visit me because the loneliness is killing me. Ted Hughes is killing me and the behaviour of both his parents towards me is shocking. Wasn’t it enough for me to escape Nazi Germany with my family, to hear and see and glimpse up close the laughter, the boots, the handsome blonde, fair-haired and blue-eyed SS soldiers walking up and down and then up and then down again on the train. We escaped the concentration camps, and Hitler. I could not ask for more trauma for trauma in childhood is enough to damage you for good, for a lifetime. I thought that we could build a life together. Ted and his Assia. Assia and her Ted. We were made for each other. I could not take my eyes off him since the very first moment we met.

Rain is pouring into me like liquid sun. My moods go up and down like a pendulum swinging back and forth. And every night she hovers at the foot of our bed as if she has a right to be there by virtue of being the dead wife. Ted falls asleep immediately as soon as his head touches the pillow. I lay awake for hours thinking of our dream house in the countryside. Get here as soon possible my dearest sister because I think I have had enough of his mind games and of him controlling me. I never thought he could be this cruel. I never thought he could be this brutal. His brutality washing over me and my little Shura. Frieda and his Nicky are his two angels. Sylvia’s angels. AM I ENOUGH? I am afraid I will never be. I have changed so much. All he wants to do is write and write and write and I am afraid he wants me out of his life. I am waiting for those words on his lips, ‘You do not belong here anymore.’ I am so afraid. Help me. Only Fay seems to understand. My only friend and I cherish the moments we spend together. I confide in her over tea whenever I am I London. I think she wants me to leave him but how can I do that when I have already invested so much in this relationship. Sometimes I think I could just murder him in his sleep, put a pillow over his face but he is a strong man. I know he will fight back. He, everyone they ever knew as a couple have now put Sylvia Plath on a pedestal and they worship her. He won’t even read my work and I won’t show him anything that I have written to him anymore because he is too critical of it and sometimes I catch him smiling as he is holding my papers, my verses in his hands almost as if he is thinking to himself that I of all people think I can replace her, that I bewitched him and not the other way around. There’s an inflated cut that eats my guts. A wound and I wonder if there is a cure for it. I read S.P.’s work. Brilliant, bold word for word and know that I can never catch up to her. Her love medicine was her children. Her mother was as far as I know a Pandora’s-magic-box sealed shut. I know this, that she did not leave a trail of a layer of clothes on her bedroom floor. Her poetry, her short stories, her sonnet was her conversation with rapture. I tell my sister I need proof. Ted is in the garden now. We have a patch of garden where we grow beet, leafy green vegetables, all kinds of things, herbs and I watch them from the kitchen window forlorn and in despair. This man is killing me, killing me and soon I know he will retire to his hut, to his writing and he will not feel forlorn or despair tormented by the past as I am. I already know that he has chosen Frieda above Shura. Is this love? What is the matter with me? All I know is this, and that is I cannot survive without him, without Shura at our side. People are cruel, women crueller. Is it because I have won? I’m afraid he doesn’t respect me anymore and it is all my fault, he’s pushed me to one side, there’s another beauty in the picture now. A beauty who looks like Marilyn Monroe. I think it has something to do with my childhood and background. I think it has something to do with his childhood, his father, his mother who must have adored him since birth, his background, and his good looks. This Marilyn Monroe lookalike keeps showing up at the house. He tells me she is just a friendly neighbour concerned but he must think I am stupid, dumb. Does he not know he has already sabotaged us? Our telephone calls from London to Yorkshire are bittersweet. We fight, tigers in the night and then we make up, make plans for a life together. We bloom but I am rotting even in the dark. It is only Ted who sleeps soundly. I have no shield. I have my suspicions and every day they are vast and new, incomplete and they make me sick inside to have all these unpleasant thoughts. They are like a museum where my spirit plays. The dead spot of S.P. I cannot get out however hard I try and rub it out. Ted knows nothing of this. I am tense all the time and am convinced that this Marilyn with her blonde crotch is a spy. I am weary. Perhaps I should go back to Vancouver. Go back to school. S.P. wrote about bees and villagers and now they praise her but Ted does not tell his friends I write too. There’s too much history here, too much growth and mourning. I make jam now, and breakfasts. I speak in German. It is on the list. It is on the list. He talks about my curves, that imaginary zone less and less and less now. Women are merely an artist’s sexual object.

I should have burnt that hut to the ground that he wrote in but then again there wouldn’t have been much difference between Sylvia and myself if I had done it. I am also charmed by women but I want to kill them all if anyone of them comes near Ted. How he enjoys their attention and it pricks my imagination, and my subconscious. I know he mocks me sometimes, makes a joke out of me in front of his circle of male friends. They are wise. Women are not. But I still give myself up to him even in my grave as he stands at the mouth of it. I remember when he flirted with me, our love letters and how he erased me and Shura out of his life. In Ireland the fields were beautiful and our love, our family life was the best sensation that I had ever felt in this universe. The world was full of flowers, of a green feast in his garden patch, this kind of life of a landscape was meant for a poet, a writer. There were perfect scrapes but we got through them and I felt catapulted into the air. Pity that the sky was blue every day. I loved the rain although sometimes it made me feel sick, troubled, and depressive. And I would look at the knife on the table and I would think to myself is now the time? Perhaps he would look at me, finally look at me with bandages at my wrists and see me but then I would think of Shura. I knew he did not love me anymore. We were not invited for Christmas in Yorkshire.

This bold and shocking creation that choked me until I couldn’t breathe and then my darling Shura began to cry as I did, began to feel as confused as I did as to why her father couldn’t love her as much as he loved his Frieda. I don’t know why I couldn’t love David Wevill, my third husband anymore. I only knew I had to get out now. It was done. Shura and I was done for and then perhaps then I was the traitor. I wanted to scream. We had a German au pair. So I sent her out and then the deed was done in Clapham Common and we were erased forever from his life. Gas, Gas, Gas. When you discover a traumatic incident like a suicide does it live with you forever? I will never know. My soul is still fertile. His betrayal. My betrayal. Snow falling not self-consciousness, as detailed as the gods, the noises of a mother clinging to her daughter, her eyes shut, heart stopped beating as if by a stray bullet, what was my weapon of choice? It was a glass of water and headache tablets, a mattress dragged into the kitchen. A copycat murder. And then there were tears, of course there were tears for my Shura. I had such a mind-blowing headache that I thought it was a headache after that first deed. I should have told Ted that he did not know what love was. He could not love women. He could only undermine them. He could only love children and wanted Frieda and Nicky to grow up in the shadow of Sylvia Plath and not Assia Wevill and Shura. And now it is my turn to execute myself.

I never wasted anything on the otherworldly and I never felt that feeling otherworldly was wasted upon me. And then in a glimmer death becomes you Sylvia. How does it become you? In a flash, in a moment, a vision, and an enchanted instant, that is both spontaneous and that leaves you chin up, besotted and vulnerable all at the same time.

Assia Wevill little earthquakes shooting off inside her heart. Assia Wevill little earthquakes shooting off inside her mouth. The sweat glistened on her skin. She certainly never seemed wasted on anything other than the otherworldly. Sylvia. Sylvia. I will scream I promise I will if I ever hear that name again. I can hear her breathing down my neck. I can smell the gas. Can’t feel her pulse. I am letting her go, surrendering her to night land. For isn’t night time, and the dark where she belongs with her head filled with the elegant math of night time and dark.

I always feel dissatisfied with my writing as if I have never done enough. And Ted looks at me as if he knows better. Crane your head. Arch your back. As if that is all I can do. Look perfect on his arm. Flirt and flit. You don’t talk English proper but that’s okay you were a beautiful child who grew up into a beautiful woman. But I want to tell them that I have news for them beauty does not last forever. In house cooking and cleaning like mad and looking after his children. Teaching them German.

Death becomes you. They all stand around him. They all smile and nod. I wonder what it will be like to sleep with his doppelganger who will probably have half of his intelligence, his wit and charisma. Ted’s poetry reminded me of how vital our humanity is to us. And every day he makes promises he will never keep. He tells me that the bruises will go away. But I know better. I know they will never go away. And what I say goes. And the bruises will never go away. There I said it a second time and you can’t make me take it back. I didn’t know who I was on my way to seduce when we went to Devon. Strange as it may seem now. I didn’t ask myself beforehand, make notes in my journal that I was going to seduce Ted Hughes the future Poet Laureate.

Luncheon of meat and potatoes again. My lunch of blood. How I wished I would never have to cook another meal for Ted’s father again. So inglorious of everything I said and did. Ted and I would just have to look at each other and he would say something, do anything. It was almost as if she was there in the room with us. Spying on us. All suicides go to heaven. They’re on a heavenly course. Navigating the silver linings of clouds. Filling their pockets (threads lined with cold) with forests of winter. Wet hair smelling of driftwood. Feet finding footholds at the bottom of the lake. Sinking fast. Swim seraphim. Swim you modern day Sappho. You phoenix, you but you refuse to rise out of the ashes. Where’s your spirit quiet little contemporary, you funny little stranger you? Are you commandeering bliss enthralling one with your lush health, air in your lungs, in your merry disposition, that overall demeanour that you can’t hide in a closet filled with clothes and the stale air of cigarettes that you smoked there on the sly periphery of your children and husband or was it in my dreams? Did you not come to me dreamer, dreamy-eyed setting goals in a whimsical fashion? How you terrify but really you know what it should be the other way round. I won him though perhaps not fair and square. I won him by default.

 sym55

Ted Hughes, Assia Wevill and their daughter Shura

Journal entry (as imagined by Abigail George)

It is early days yet. I need proof. Will a village life be enough for us? I am planting the unsaid. The ground, the earth is fertile for the unsaid. I am planting my future delight, my afternoon delight. I’m trembling healer. There is no childhood for me anymore. Tell me a story Ted Hughes. Write me a poem. It doesn’t have to be romantic. Gaze at me. I will watch you while you sleep, while you work. Smile but to smile it has become an issue between us like malignant syrup. We are not just a marriage of two likeminded individuals but two souls. I cannot change what does not move me, what I do not desire, what I do not need. I am your apprentice and you are the master of this household who lifts the veil of my great loneliness, my attractive mask, my costume. I know that you think of my image as sensual. I cannot give that up. I too have a place in this world. Pull up a chair and sit at my kitchen table and eat. Eat this German Jewess’s food, her recipe for seeds and shoots and wings and things. Eat my chicken. Drink from the glass of water I bring you now. I feel useful now. If you want me to peel the potatoes then I will peel the potatoes.

More killing. It is a mystery. Love is like that. Pure with all of its rituals it holds us in a death-grip and I warm to it, my heart warms to it, warms to you Ted. I am blinded by love, by my passionate rival, my nemesis, her unreason. Gaze at me, I am all starry-eyed. I am all yours. When I fall asleep you are there, when I wake you are there, articulate you and I know we are coming to the edge of a precipice when decisions, hardened choices will have to be made. I know you will leave your Sylvia. I know we will go to Spain. This is inevitable. We will both say goodbye to her echo. The echo of the past, the echo of adultery.

Sylvia is just a dead spot now, but who knew that she would shortly become a stain multiplying, multiplying, and multiplying like rain. I am farming and you are a nomad. I will prepare the house for us to live in, look after the children, cook, clean, prepare the meals, set the table with the proper shiny knives, forks and glasses feed the children, teach them German, play with them as if they were my own. You are my dream. I am your dream. In your own words, ‘I am and always will be your exotic Assia.’ We will prosper. We will build gods in this ghost house, little Buddha’s, with fragrant oil on our hands we will burn sticks of incense, their perfume will fill the room. I will not harm you.

When I am in your arms your tenderness is like madness. Your lovemaking is like clotting madness too and afterwards I will feel rapture. Pleasure, what pleasures? Oh, it feels as if I have returned from oblivion.

There will be wild Saturday nights, encounters with other poets and their wives, who will you fall in love with next, who will be your next dream. Know this. If I cannot triumph I will not be able to endure.

You will take me in your arms again and again and again when our love is at the wuthering heights of its purest intensity. You will pin me down. You will hold me. I will pin you down. We will laugh. I do not know yet that one day my soul will be dead and you, dear Ted,  you the one I love the most in the world, hold dearest will be the cause of it.

We will hold hands. We will go into the woods like children with our blanket and our picnic basket of sandwiches. You will come to me with wildflowers in your hands. We will go to the beach, swim, and bathe in the warm water.

I am smitten. I am half-in-love. You have saved me. You have rescued me from a life half-lived, from Nazi-Germany. I think of our children in school, while they lay sleeping in their beds, half-dreaming, half-comatose, protected against the-evils-of-human-nature. Nobody knew what anorexia was, what anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder was. They didn’t know what to call it way back then.

‘Eat. Eat. Why don’t you eat?’ my sister screamed at me. All I could eat was salad and wilted lettuce leaves. There are two sisters. One observes the world and is governed by quiet rivalry, competition between her peers, the stage. The other lives. I think of my sister’s close circle of friends and how they do not know that she is a danger to herself and to others. I love her. I mourn her now. I am always in mourning for her because I cannot have her. I cannot have her love. Whenever I think of childhood I think of pain, I think of my cutting grief, my sister’s grief and how daily the humanity of my mother and my father had shattered me and my sibling.

My mother was my father’s first lover. But I come to you with regret, lovers past and present, three husbands, discontent but clothed or even in my nakedness you can see the real me. Was I promiscuous? I don’t know what the meaning of that word is. When men sleep with women are they promiscuous? When they take a woman to bed do they feel pity, self-pity, no, little or low self-esteem or anguish? All they feel is the sexual impulse. But I am the woman who is made of a much harder substance. To be significant is difficult. And you are the most significant person that I know, the most famous person that I know of Ted Hughes. My Ted, my Ted, my glorious and infallible Ted. In childhood my innocence went kaput.

Don’t even look at me I should have said now when I think about it in retrospect. Don’t tell me how sorry you are. You’re evil. You’re pure evil is what you are. Don’t touch me. I know you have been with someone else. I know you have been with another one, another woman. Another one got in the way. Did you touch her the way your touched me? Do you even know what the word intimacy means? Coward! Fool! Cad or do you prefer scoundrel, rat! Get out! Do you even know what those words mean cheat? I carried two babies for you, aborted one but you felt nothing. I tried to recover from that. You’re nothing but a butcher. Was she very thin? Was she very sad, did she have brilliant sayings, a brilliant mind, did you love her conversation inside and out of the bedroom traitor? Did you kiss her neck or did she remind you of your Sylvia? Hit me. Hit me jailer. I know you want to. I should have said all of those things but I didn’t. Something held me back. Perhaps it was something in his eyes and how he refused to make contact with mine. I hated him at that moment. I loved him at that moment too. But all I was thinking about was that it had all been for nothing. The abortion. My son. A son. My daughter. A daughter. My body and a spirit caught between two worlds like a butterfly in a jar, and I had a sensibility that a profound freedom was calling, a thought of what it would take to build a Christ, the vision of a love affair in the eyes of a girl.

The first time I ever slept with a man it was tantamount to rape. But I never told this to anyone. Men were rough creatures and that is a simple truth, not gentle, not nurturing, and not giving, oh they were gentle and nurturing enough and giving to their children, to the light of their world but not to the unseen. I always thought of violence as being something external, something outside of myself not something that I would have to live with, that would enter me, something that I would have to accept if I wanted to have the most serious love of my life in my life. The brilliant and most accomplished poet of his generation Ted Hughes. I try and remember our conversations word for word and I write it down and read it over and over again. The goal is to get married. The goal is to get married and live happily ever after and see the brightness in his eyes and read his work (replace Sylvia). I am getting older. I am getting fatter. I am losing my allure and one day, one terrible day I believe he will leave me for someone else. He will cheat on me. I write to my sister because I cannot take any of this anymore. The isolation and the fact that everyone thinks I am an interloper. Sylvia was not a martyr. Ted is not the villain as he is made out to be. Women cannot leave him alone. They want to be around him all the time.

‘Do you write?’ he asked me. Ted Hughes asked me in the days before he was Poet Laureate.

‘Some.’ And he smiled. ‘Is that funny?’ I asked.

‘No. It’s just that you’re so young and beautiful I thought you would have other things on your mind, other things to fill your time. Your husband for example. Peeling potatoes. I already know you find no allure in peeling potatoes. I thought, oh well I don’t really know what I was thinking. Forgive me. Your English is exquisite. And tell me what do you write? Poetry. Prose. Short stories.’ And he looked at me for the first time as if he could really see me.

‘I write poetry.’

‘And you have a diary?’

‘Don’t all writers have secret diaries?’

And Ted Hughes smiled again. ‘Not to my knowledge. So let us have a drink then to secret diaries.’

‘To secret diaries and abandoning marriages, running out on spouses and adultery.’

‘To adultery. Where are the glasses Assia Wevill?’

‘In the kitchen.’ And I got up and made my way to the kitchen for the wine glasses kept for special occasions. I did not want to see David cry. And when I came back I knew I just had one question on my mind. I had to ask it of him. I couldn’t breathe you see as I stood in the kitchen wondering what exactly I was going to embark on and what he was sacrificing.

‘Ted, are we going to have an affair?’

‘No Assia Wevill. I think I am in love with you. I think I want you to be my wife and the mother of my children. I think I want to spend the rest of my life with you.’

‘What will all your friends say, your family? All of those people who are loyal to the ghost of Sylvia Plath, to Ariel, all of those people who shadow you in London, at launches and cocktail and dinner parties. Ted they will never accept me. You know that. I know that.’

‘Children make all the difference in the world.’

‘I’m losing my looks. I’m getting fat. I thought I saw Sylvia the other day.’

‘Don’t talk like that Assia. You couldn’t have. You will make me think thoughts I do not want to think.’

‘You’re not responsible for her death.’

‘But don’t you see. I do feel responsible. I feel her presence everywhere I go. In our home. In the faces of our children. In our house where we first lived as newlyweds. Where we were so happy, so productive, so creative. God, can’t you see what I’ve done. I am the depressive and it is not the women in my life who are sad, who suffer, who are manic and silent about the sickness, the insanity of it all, the suicidal illness. I knew she was taking sleeping pills, waking up pills. I knew she was going for therapy.’

‘It was all her own doing. Accept that Edward and you will find peace. I don’t think that it sounds cruel.’

‘Beautiful women are always highly strung, emotional, and cruel. Women are crueller to women than men are to women. Assia tell me. Do you think I should have come round today? Maybe it was a bad idea. Do you think we should be alone like this?’

‘You’re not encouraging anything. I made advances. You made advances. Nobody is taking advantage of anyone in this situation. David won’t be home for hours. We have the flat to ourselves, champagne fizz. I think it was a perfect idea you coming around. Forget her now. I am here.’

‘The perfect woman in every way. In every voluptuous and feminine inspired shape, every exotic curve and filthy dreamy form.’

‘But am I intelligent? But do you like reading them?’

‘I think Assia your poems show great promise.’

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 END  OF 38th SESSION OF THE  OVI  SYMPOSIUM (6/11/2014)

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Intro - P. 1 - P. 2 

2nd Meeting - 3rd Meeting - 4th Meeting - 5th Meeting - 6th Meeting - 7th Meeting - 8th Meeting -

9th Meeting - 10th Meting - 11th Meeting - 12th Meeting - 13th Meeting - 14th Meeting - 15th Meeting -

16th Meeting - 17th Meeting - 18th Meeting - 19th Meeting - 20th Meeting - 21st Meeting -

22nd Meeting -23rd Meeting - 24th Meeting - 25th Meeting - 26th Meeting - 27th Meeting -

28th Meeting -29th Meeting - 30th Meeting - 31st Meeting - 32nd Meeting - 33rd Meeting -

34th Meeting -35th Meeting - 36th Meeting - 37th Meeting - 38th Meeting -

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