A 20 year old Virginia Woolf

” I can’t go on spoiling your life any longer. I don’t think two people could have been happier than we have been”, those were the last words Virginia Woolf had ever written, before she drowned herself to death. Her suicide note was addressed to her husband, who had been with her through the most of her turbulent times.

She was 59, not very young, and while it was not known back then, she suffered what most people now know as bipolar disorder. I imagined that she would have probably killed herself at a younger age, and off-course her final attempt was not the first one. But I don’t know, from the kind of depression she talks of, it is rather admirable that she did not switch herself off earlier.

To those who have read her works, you probably understand her better. As far as I am concerned, I think I have a long way to go before I can ever say anything conclusive about her, except for this – she seems to be an enigma of sorts.

It is difficult to understand how I never had the opportunity to read any of her work, given that I am a great fan of literature and had heard quite a bit about her. And even though I had decided once that I will buy a book by her, I failed to do so. And then recently I saw a movie, one that made me read up as much as I could about Virginia Woolf. The movie is called “The Hours” which boasts of a spectacular cast and has three beautiful women in one reel – Meryl Streep, Julliane Moore and Nicole Kidman! Yes, it is a not a new movie, but I had the opportunity to see it only recently.

Picture taken away from - http://www.impawards.com/2002/hours.html
Picture taken away from – http://www.impawards.com/2002/hours.html

And yes, the third woman in the poster is indeed Nicole Kidman! The movie spins around the lives of three different women from different generation and how they have to deal with suicide in their lives and are somehow connected by Virginia Woolf’s book Mrs Dalloway.

The movie begins with Virginia Woolf (played by Nicole Kidman) writing her suicide note. And that was the first time I came to know that Virginia Woolf is among those unhappy writers that wanted to live beyond the paper’s imagination, but could not. And during the course of the movie, we also get to know about the ambiguity of her sexual preferences. You begin with a straight woman at hand, who claims she is in a happy marriage and then not very later you see her kiss a woman quite passionately and then you are kind of confused. So little bit of googling and reading helps you know that she swung both ways and wrote  on lesbian themes. “What a woman!”, you have to think.

So it is easy to sum her up as a bisexual feminist who happened to be a brilliant writer, but is such a shallow description fair? Obviously not! The enigmatic Mrs Woolf was more than what is written about, and like most such figures, the truth will always elude us.

But as a bystander, you wonder how a woman, whose intellect would have put many of those she knew to shame, a woman who obviously was far ahead of her times, how did such a woman live in such stifling times as the late nineteenth century. And is it not commendable then, that she put up with strong gender biases, sexual abuse at the hands of her half brothers, nervous breakdowns, mental illnesses, arrogant male doctors and a string of other malaise that plagued her times and yet lived on till a good 59?

But you would want to know, what was she thinking, to get a better grasp of what she really was. And her literature holds the key. For the enigmatic Mrs Woolf perhaps cried for help through her literature and her autobiographical essays, but was to receive none. But you still want to know.

So I am going to try and start understanding her. And perhaps, I will begin with Mrs Dalloway. And if you have not read her yet, maybe you should too.