Tuesday, February 6, 2018

the last book I ever read (George Orwell's Coming Up For Air, excerpt six)

from Coming Up For Air by George Orwell:

Father died in 1915. I was in France at the time. I don’t exaggerate when I say that Father’s death hurts me more now than it did then. At the time it was just a bit of bad news which I accepted almost without interest, in the sort of empty-headed apathetic way in which one accepted everything in the trenches. I remember crawling into the doorway of the dugout to get enough light to read the letter, and I remember Mother’s tear-stains on the letter, and the aching feeling in my knees and the smell of mud. Father’s life-insurance policy had been mortgaged for most of its value, but there was a little money in the bank and Sarazins’ were going to buy up the stock and even pay some tiny amount for the good-will. Anyway, Mother had a bit over two hundred pounds, besides the furniture. She went for the time being to lodge with her cousin, the wife of a smallholder who was doing pretty well out of the war, near Doxley, a few miles the other side of Walton. It was only “for the time being.” There was a temporary feeling about everything. In the old days, which as a matter of fact were barely a year old, the whole thing would have been an appalling disaster. With Father dead, the shop sold and Mother with two hundred pounds in the world, you’d have seen stretching out in front of you a kind of fifteen-act tragedy, the last act being a pauper’s funeral. But now the war and the feeling of not being one’s own master overshadowed everything. People hardly thought in terms of things like bankruptcy and the workhouse any longer. This was the case even with Mother, who, God knows, had only very dim notions about the war. Besides, she was already dying, though neither of us knew it.

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