2 hours ago
Friday 19 March 2010
A Fine Read - Radclyffe Hall's 'The Well of Loneliness'
I first read this truly ground-breaking novel in 1987 (at the suggestion of my most beautiful-ever gay friend. - The friendship lasting barely 6 months, breaking down after a disastrous trip to Paris together. Perhaps a story for another time?) But I'm now coming to the end of a re-read and it's striking me, much more than the first time, how remarkable the book is. It was the first novel dealing with lesbian relationships which I'd read and for that reason hadn't been immediately enthusiastic. (Silly me!) First published in 1928, it was soon involved in a notorious trial in the British courts which, unsurprisingly for the time, judged it to be 'obscene' and banned it - thus consigning it to Limbo for some decades. Of course one winces now at the writer's description of lesbians as having the 'mark of Cain', referring to gays generally as 'inverts' and homosexuality as a burden (as indeed it would have been then and in that society) and as a somewhat unwholesome characteristic, those having it being individuals to be understood with sympathy channeled through pity. But once one gets over where Hall was coming from in those repressed days it really is an extraordinary work, beautifully and sensitively written There is nothing in the least pornographic or even explicit in the book ("And that night they were not divided.") nor anything more graphic than the occasional kiss on the mouth. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to anyone interested in historically significant gay lit. If you are so interested, do please read - and let us know what you think.