Book Scents: From A.S. Byatt’s Possession
I’m deep in reading and writing mode today, revving up for new projects (I hope) but I wanted to pause just long enough to share this passage from A.S. Byatt’s Possession which I am convinced, for today, is one of the best literary uses of smell I’ve seen. Much of its impact, as is always true of a story (or a smell), comes from the context–it appears at the end of the story and Byatt has been carefully introducing images of Eden and knowledge and apples and trees and storms and birth and destruction for the previous 551 pages. But I think it is very beautiful all on its own, too. And maybe not completely irrelevant to recent events.
“In the morning, the whole world had a strange new smell. It was the smell of the aftermath, a green smell, a smell of shredded leaves and oozing resin, of crushed wood and splashed sap, a tart smell, which bore some relation to the smell of bitten apples. It was the smell of death and destruction and it smelled fresh and lively and hopeful.”
11/16/2012 at 12:49 am
Wonderful! Death and destruction but fresh and lively. Lord, I have not read Possession in years. I remember enjoying it but finding it lugubrious and over-serious. Or maybe that was just me! I think I still have a copy. Must look it out on the weekend. Thanks for the reminder.
11/16/2012 at 1:00 pm
It’s the only one of Byatt’s novels that I truly love, Annemarie, and even then I admit to (gasp! heresy!) skipping some of the poetry. But not only is it a real tour de force, you can feel her having a very good time and the emotions are real and finely drawn and I’ve never seen anyone describe the desire for solitude so well.
11/16/2012 at 11:59 pm
Now I really have to read it! I’ve been looking for my old copy but there have been too many house moves over the years. I’ll pick up a copy and save it for a Christmas read.
11/16/2012 at 12:38 pm
Adore this novel. The best academic novel ever!
11/16/2012 at 1:02 pm
It’s definitely high up there! She has so much sympathy for the academics, even when she’s satirizing them (brilliantly). She knows what it’s like to love that world and that work.