I enjoyed Corinne De Winter's beautifully written The End of Desire
very much, but the reading experience is no gigglefest, that's for sure.
At the beginning, De Winter asserts the inevitability of desire:
"The feel of new skin, the kiss of an undiscovered mouth when you have woken to the same lover for years, is a great temptation. Does desire for the outside ever die? It sleeps maybe, but like dust settling continuously in corners, it's always there. It's there to inspire us, to taunt us, to let us know it will never be silenced. And this hunger is patient. It knows us inside and out. It looks at us in the mirror with infinite understanding, and like Jesus promised, it is always there for you, until you try to hold it in your arms."
This inevitability of desire takes on an increasingly fatalistic cast as the story continues. The narrator falls in, out, and back in love despite seeming to know better. Love equals pain. Loneliness equals pain. And in the end, all is loneliness, death and pain. The unrequited love and unsatisfied desire of the narrator leads to self-mutilation, alcohol and drug use, rehab and asylum stays, anything to distract from the misery that is existence. Desire is Hell, Dante's Inferno made manifest in an addled mind.
De Winter is a poet. Poetic language moves throughout her prose. At times, the level of devotion resembles ecstatic religious fervor. I felt like I was reading the Song of Songs
of Hebrew Scripture or St. Teresa of Avila's Interior Castle. St. Teresa's intense love of God bordered on orgasmic. No wonder break-ups lead to such an existential buzz kill!
In the end, an "Angel" gives the narrator a choice. Would she like to stop feeling the extreme highs and lows of love, forgetting about past relationships? Or would she like to remain at the mercy of desire? Ultimately, the choice is forgetfulness, psychological Botox. How the Angel (a supernatural being? drug dealer?) accomplishes this soul-deadening feat is unclear. Divine intervention? Drugs? Suicide? The last sentence - "Now, I have only to lift my arms up to the sky to float." - suggests death. De Winter has given desire another martyr.
Did I mention that De Winter's poetic language is beautiful?
"I made the wine you drank holy, your dancing sacred, but they were neither. Who I thought you were: Baker, when you fed me honey cake. Candlestick maker, when you burned pillars of beeswax. Butcher when you quartered me."
And really dark?
"I keep this picture of these girls who I've never met, and I look at it now and then, these 3 beautiful little girls who were shot in the head and chest by their father. I keep this to remember children are precious, that they need to be cared for, loved, protected, and that if there is something I can do about this sorrow that comes into some lives, I must."
Oh yeah, I guess I did.
Read it, but only during relational highs. There's no solace here.