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In 1927, Virginia Woolf finished To the Lighthouse.
(Fourteen years later she would, they say, put pebbles into her overcoat pockets, walk into a river, and drown).
Seventy pages, that's how long it took me to get into this book, 223 pages long in all. I even had to consult a Russian translation at some point just to understand basic sentence structures. Quite a lot of To the Lighthouse was alien to me, so the surprise was all the greater when it suddenly resounded (and it could not, I think, have resounded without the things that were so alien).
There's Part I, The Window, where the Ramsay family and their friends are spending a day in the Ramsays' summer home on the Isle of Skye in the Hebrides, Scotland.
There's Part III, The Lighthouse, showing the same thing ten years later.
And then there is Part II, twenty pages of the time in between; that was what resounded, what made the whole thing worth reading - for me, at this point, as it would for anyone particularly concerned with death, decay, and the passage of time. A corridor connecting the two blocks, as the author called it, an experiment, it is a thing of beauty - and now I'll just have to give a detached bit of it, more for my remembrance than for anything else. Here.

"So with the lamps all put out, the moon sunk, and a thin rain drumming on the roof a downpouring of immense darkness began. Nothing, it seemed, could survive the flood, the profusion of darkness which, creeping in at keyholes and crevices, stole round window blinds, came into bedrooms, swallowed up here a jug and basin, there a bowl of red and yellow dahlias, there the sharp edges and firm bulk of a chest of drawers. Not only was furniture confounded; there was scarcely anything left of body or mind by which one could say 'This is he' or 'This is she.' Sometimes a hand was raised as if to clutch something or ward off something, or somebody groaned, or somebody laughed aloud as if sharing a joke with nothingness.

Nothing stirred in the drawing-room or in the dining-room or on the staircase. Only through the rusty hinges and swollen sea-moistened woodwork certain airs, detached from the body of the wind (the house was ramshackle after all) crept round corners and ventured indoors. Almost one might imagine them, as they entered the drawing-room, questioning and wondering, toying with the flap of hanging wallpaper, asking, would it hang much longer, when would it fall? Then smoothly brushing the walls, they passed on musingly as if asking the red and yellow roses on the wallpaper whether they would fade, and questioning (gently, for there was time at their disposal) the torn letters in the wastepaper basket, the flowers, the books, all of which were now open to them and asking, Were they allies? Were they enemies? How long would they endure?"

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