Sunday, March 27, 2005

McEwan's Henry Perowne on love

One of the most seductive aspects of Saturday for me is the narrator's deep love for his wife. Here's a little taste:

"When he thinks of sex, he thinks of her. These eyes, these breasts, this tongue, this welcome. Who else could love him so knowingly, with such warmth and teasing humour, or accumulate so rich a past with him? In one lifetime it wouldn't be possible to find another woman with whom he can learn to be so free, whom he can please with such abandon and expertise."

Now, don't tell me that is not a wonderful, inspiring passage! Add to that Henry's knowledge of himself, and we can see that his love is grounded not only on his passion for his wife, but also on his awareness of his own deeply-rooted needs and qualities:

"By some accident of character, it's familiarity that excites him more than sexual novelty. He suspects there's something numbed or deficient or timid in himself. Plenty of male friends sidle into adventures with younger women; now and then a solid marriage explodes in a firefight of recrimination. Perowne watches on with unease, fearing he lacks an element of the masculine life force, and a bold and healthy appetite for experience. Where's his curiosity? What's wrong with him? But there's nothing he can do about himself. He meets the occasional questioning glance of an attractive woman with a bland and level smile. This fidelity might look like virtue or doggedness, but it's neither of these because he exercises no real choice. This is what he was to have: possession, belonging, repetition." (p40-41)

A faithful man who is neither virtuous nor dogged, just accepting of his own nature. Perhaps I'm getting old, but self-knowledge and acceptance are inmensely appealing qualities in anyone, a narrator included.

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