(Eyre’s article appeared in the Guardian, 11/13.)
If I said that to watch Henrik Ibsen’s Little Eyolf is a terrifying experience, you might think I was being histrionic; and if I said that to experience that terror is enlightening, you might think I was being pretentious. But you’d be wrong: as with Greek tragedy, you’d be seeing the white bones of human experience. You’d be looking in the face of truth, which is always a journey into light, however painful.
Imagine that your only child has drowned and the child’s body is still missing. Incredulity will give way to numbness, numbness to anger, anger to despair, despair to exhaustion, exhaustion, perhaps, to acceptance, and acceptance, possibly, to hope. To this, add heartbreak – a metaphor that seems fanciful until it becomes undeniably literal – and then imagine that you and your partner don’t know how to comfort each other, barely know each other, don’t love each other, don’t want to be with each other. That is the fate of the grieving, unloving couple, Alfred and Rita Allmers in Little Eyolf. Tennyson’s line from In Memoriam could serve as their epitaph: “On the bald street breaks the blank day.”
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