Earlier I posted an excerpt from Margaret Forster’s book, The Memory Box, in which one of her characters is unable to live in the present, as “everything exciting lay in the future.”
John Banville’s character in ‘The Sea’, has the opposite problem as he finds his mind always gravitating to the past. As he is reminiscing to his daughter she challenges him:
‘You live in the past', she said.
I was about to give a sharp reply, but paused. She was right, after all.
Life, authentic life, is supposed to be all struggle, unflagging action and affirmation, the will butting its blunt head against the world's wall, suchlike, but when I look back I see that the greater part of my energies was always given over to the simple search for shelter, for comfort, for, yes, I admit, it, for cosiness. This is a surprising, not to say a shocking, realisation. Before, I saw myself as something of a buccaneer, facing all-comers with a cutlass in my teeth, but now I am compelled to acknowledge that this was a delusion.
To be concealed, protected, guarded, that is all I have ever truly wanted, to burrow down into a place of womby warmth and cower there, hidden from the sky's indifferent gaze and the harsh air's damagings. That is why the past is just such a retreat for me, I go there eagerly, rubbing my hands and shaking off the cold present and the colder future. And yet, what existence, really, does it have, the past? After all, it is only what the present was, once, the present that is gone, no more than that. And yet.
John Banville, The Sea (London: Picador, 2005), 60-61.
Image: “Before, I saw myself as something of a buccaneer, facing all-comers with a cutlass in my teeth, but now I am compelled to acknowledge that this was a delusion.”