The Other Side of Silence 

"If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel's heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence. "

George Eliot

Middlemarch

Comments 14

 
Rosy Cole on Monday, 03 September 2018 10:53

There is music and there is cacophony. To distinguish them is the purpose of life.

There is music and there is cacophony. To distinguish them is the purpose of life.
Stephen Evans on Monday, 03 September 2018 16:11

I have laughed out loud more times reading Middlemarch than any book in recent memory. Yet I think maybe this quote encapsulates the goal of her book - to make that impossibly deep revelation of ordinary human life. It reminds me of the poet in The Hours - "I wanted to write about everything". I am only half way through, and if I die of the roar I will let you know.

I have laughed out loud more times reading Middlemarch than any book in recent memory. Yet I think maybe this quote encapsulates the goal of her book - to make that impossibly deep revelation of ordinary human life. It reminds me of the poet in The Hours - "I wanted to write about everything". I am only half way through, and if I die of the roar I will let you know.
Rosy Cole on Monday, 03 September 2018 23:35

Well, the author is an Evans, after all :-)

Well, the author is an Evans, after all :-)
Stephen Evans on Tuesday, 04 September 2018 00:57

True! :)

True! :)
Katherine Gregor on Wednesday, 05 September 2018 08:27

I am ashamed to confess I have never read George Eliot! Right... On the winter reading list.

I am ashamed to confess I have never read George Eliot! Right... On the winter reading list.
Stephen Evans on Wednesday, 05 September 2018 23:44

I hadn't either until last year. I had a time when I wasn't working on any of my own books, so I decided to venture into 19th century novels. It's never too late :)

I hadn't either until last year. I had a time when I wasn't working on any of my own books, so I decided to venture into 19th century novels. It's never too late :)
Rosy Cole on Wednesday, 05 September 2018 15:49

I haven't read Middlemarch and feel that, in view of all else there is to be read, it might be too long and too late. But with George Eliot's writing, the well-observed characters and their story are driven by underlying truths, the kind of books which would be wrecked by alternative endings. If asked, I'd recommend Silas Marner, or The Mill on the Floss to begin with.

I haven't read [i]Middlemarch[/i] and feel that, in view of all else there is to be read, it might be too long and too late. But with George Eliot's writing, the well-observed characters and their story are driven by underlying truths, the kind of books which would be wrecked by alternative endings. If asked, I'd recommend [i]Silas Marner[/i], or [i]The Mill on the Floss[/i] to begin with.
Stephen Evans on Wednesday, 05 September 2018 23:51

I haven't read Mill on the Floss, but I agree Silas Marner is a good starting point. MIddlemarch is funnier, but so far I think the characters and story in Silas Marner are more interesting. Plus it's short.

MIddlemarch to me is beautifully written and despite its wandering plot moves right along, but is an ensemble piece, a presentational piece intended to show (in depth) what life was like in such a town or village. That's my take. Well worth reading, and an achievement, not one I will likely re-read.

I haven't read Mill on the Floss, but I agree Silas Marner is a good starting point. MIddlemarch is funnier, but so far I think the characters and story in Silas Marner are more interesting. Plus it's short. MIddlemarch to me is beautifully written and despite its wandering plot moves right along, but is an ensemble piece, a presentational piece intended to show (in depth) what life was like in such a town or village. That's my take. Well worth reading, and an achievement, not one I will likely re-read.
Rosy Cole on Wednesday, 05 September 2018 15:54

p,s, I confess I don't adequately understand the quotation above, unless it is our common (if unrecognised) yearning for Heaven..

p,s, I confess I don't adequately understand the quotation above, unless it is our common (if unrecognised) yearning for Heaven..
Stephen Evans on Wednesday, 05 September 2018 23:54

Probably not enough context. The full paragraph is:

Not that this inward amazement of Dorothea's was anything very exceptional: many souls in their young nudity are tumbled out among incongruities and left to "find their feet" among them, while their elders go about their business. Nor can I suppose that when Mrs. Casaubon is discovered in a fit of weeping six weeks after her wedding, the situation will be regarded as tragic. Some discouragement, some faintness of heart at the new real future which replaces the imaginary, is not unusual, and we do not expect people to be deeply moved by what is not unusual. That element of tragedy which lies in the very fact of frequency, has not yet wrought itself into the coarse emotion of mankind; and perhaps our frames could hardly bear much of it. If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel's heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence. As it is, the quickest of us walk about well wadded with stupidity.

Probably not enough context. The full paragraph is: Not that this inward amazement of Dorothea's was anything very exceptional: many souls in their young nudity are tumbled out among incongruities and left to "find their feet" among them, while their elders go about their business. Nor can I suppose that when Mrs. Casaubon is discovered in a fit of weeping six weeks after her wedding, the situation will be regarded as tragic. Some discouragement, some faintness of heart at the new real future which replaces the imaginary, is not unusual, and we do not expect people to be deeply moved by what is not unusual. That element of tragedy which lies in the very fact of frequency, has not yet wrought itself into the coarse emotion of mankind; and perhaps our frames could hardly bear much of it. If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel's heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence. As it is, the quickest of us walk about well wadded with stupidity.
Rosy Cole on Sunday, 09 September 2018 18:51

Thank you. It was kind of you to supply longer text. I think it means what I first thought it might, but then wondered if another point was being made. Why does George Eliot sound like Emerson in this piece? I suppose they were more or less contemporaries, but on different continents, with different perspectives and preoccupations.

Thank you. It was kind of you to supply longer text. I think it means what I first thought it might, but then wondered if another point was being made. Why does George Eliot sound like Emerson in this piece? I suppose they were more or less contemporaries, but on different continents, with different perspectives and preoccupations.
Stephen Evans on Sunday, 09 September 2018 23:57

She has an interesting way of suddenly expanding her vision to a wider scope, yet without intruding with the authorial voice as much as was common on that era. Maybe I like it because it sounds Emersonian. The book was published in the year he last visited England I think.

She has an interesting way of suddenly expanding her vision to a wider scope, yet without intruding with the authorial voice as much as was common on that era. Maybe I like it because it sounds Emersonian. The book was published in the year he last visited England I think.
Rosy Cole on Monday, 17 September 2018 22:53

Interesting. But literary arbiters since the two world wars might consider this discursive approach to novel-writing woolly and undisciplined. I wish I had your patience with such. I bet you're doing your usual thing of skip-reading, though :-)

Interesting. But literary arbiters since the two world wars might consider this discursive approach to novel-writing woolly and undisciplined. I wish I had your patience with such. I bet you're doing your usual thing of skip-reading, though :-)
Stephen Evans on Tuesday, 18 September 2018 01:00

Not as much skipping as you might think :) though some characters interested me more than others. There is enough humor sprinkled in to keep me going. and these bursts of vision of hers are affecting. She is as nuanced as Austen, yet in just a phrase or two she can carry you up out of that personal/social dimension to a different mastery. Well worth reading. Makes me want to read her criticism also.

Not as much skipping as you might think :) though some characters interested me more than others. There is enough humor sprinkled in to keep me going. and these bursts of vision of hers are affecting. She is as nuanced as Austen, yet in just a phrase or two she can carry you up out of that personal/social dimension to a different mastery. Well worth reading. Makes me want to read her criticism also.
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Rosy Cole Florence
17 June 2020
Thank you for your delightful comment. It is good to reflect on a way of life that has been lost.
Stephen Evans Florence
16 June 2020
Enjoyed this so much. Charming, evocative, and lyrical.
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