Tuesday, August 02, 2011

D H Lawrence

British novelist D H Lawrence is a perfect case study in psycho-sexual behaviour in the context of the modern times. No one can deny his contribution to how we look at sex in representation, especially in the context of literature. Philip Larkin was spot-on when he said, “Sexual intercourse began ... between the end of the “Chatterley” ban and the Beatles’ first LP. “Chatterley” ban was indeed a landmark event in the history of freedom of expression, when publishers Penguin won an obscenity case against the novel, ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ in 1959. In today’s context, the book may not be that controversial, but when Lawrence wrote it, the idea was almost blasphemous — how can a gamekeeper sleep with the lady of the house and enter her from the rear, and most of all, how can an upper class woman decide to leave her rich but cripple husband to a gardener just because they have good sex. When I read the novel for the first time, even I did not like the ending.

Those days, ‘The Rainbow’ was a prescribed text for the MA syllabus, I hated the book; I liked the movie version of it though; there were a lot of nudity, and those days I had not seen a lot of French films ... Nonetheless, Lawrence is a master prose writer. He has language and sensibility. I remember in ‘The Rainbow’ there is a scene when Lydia, the polish widow, comes to Tom’s to ask for a piece of cheese. They stand on the doorway and both feel hot and cold, at each other’s presence. I mean, they desire each other, and Lawrence spends one whole page to describe their reactions.

Somehow, I could not sympathise with ‘Mothers and Sons’ as well, it was all too much for me... the mother’s obseesion for her son, and the son’s obsession for another older woman... But I liked ‘Women in Love,’ and really liked Birkins. That was perhaps because I read the book after watching the Ken Russell movie with Alan Bates and Oliver Reed, where they wrestle naked and Birkins proposes the idea of blood brothers.

The one D H Lawrence work I absolutely adore is the heartbreaking short story, ‘The Rocking-Horse Winner’ where a young boy destroys himself in a bid to make his poor mother happy.

The Real David Herbert Richards Lawrence (11 September 1885 – 2 March 1930)

Like the characters he created, Lawrence’s personal life was equally complex, mired by poverty, obsession, wonderlust and destructive decisions. He eloped with the wife of his teacher, Frieda, and though they spend their lives together till the end and were very much in love (‘Look! We Have Come Through’), the incident will force him to lead a vagabond life, in which, despite being poor, he traveled almost the whole world, which in turn enriched his fiction.

And then, there’s his sexuality. Though he was married and all, his fascination for same sex love is evident in his later fiction, especially ‘Women in Love.’ Wikipedia tells me: “While writing Women in Love in Cornwall during 1916–17, Lawrence developed a strong and possibly romantic relationship with a Cornish farmer named William Henry Hocking. Although it is not absolutely clear if their relationship was sexual, Lawrence's wife, Frieda Weekley, said she believed it was. Lawrence's fascination with themes of homosexuality could also be related to his own sexual orientation. This theme is also overtly manifested in Women in Love. Indeed, in a letter written during 1913, he writes, “I should like to know why nearly every man that approaches greatness tends to homosexuality, whether he admits it or not…” He is also quoted as saying, "I believe the nearest I've come to perfect love was with a young coal-miner when I was about 16.”

Therefore, it should be interesting that Lawrence was played by a openly gay man on screen, the talented Ian McKellen, known to the new-generation as Gandolf in The Lord of the Rings series, and as Magneto in the X-Men series. The film was call, aptly, ‘Priest of Love’ (1981). Wasn’t Lawrence really the priest of love. You’d agree if you have read ‘The White Peacock’ or The Plumed Serpent’.

‘Priest of Love’ was produced and directed by Christopher Miles, and the screenplay was by Alan Plater from the biography ‘A Priest of Love’ by Harry Moore. (From

More on D H Lawrence here.

On an unrelated note, the Philip Larkin poem “Annus Mirabilis”

Sexual intercourse began
In nineteen sixty-three
(which was rather late for me) -
Between the end of the "Chatterley" ban
And the Beatles' first LP.

Up to then there'd only been
A sort of bargaining,
A wrangle for the ring,
A shame that started at sixteen
And spread to everything.

Then all at once the quarrel sank:
Everyone felt the same,
And every life became
A brilliant breaking of the bank,
A quite unlosable game.

So life was never better than
In nineteen sixty-three
(Though just too late for me) -
Between the end of the "Chatterley" ban
And the Beatles' first LP.

No comments:

Post a Comment