The Unwilling Draft


THE LOST HOPE by Elizabeth Bowen

“Seale was, to him, timeless, but at the same time drenched in something amicable distilled from time.”

This near lost story may, ironically, be Bowen’s greatest story, the meta-reflection from or upon her own prose, a story that retroactively was lost within a youthful hope. Did she meet herself when she was young and face out or compromise the explicitly ‘over-packed, bruised’ prose, ‘tortuously knotted as a style’ even then when she was writing it? The “crook of the elbow”, an expression slipped into this story, now becoming such a knotty crux or symbol. The perfect expression. The perfect Bowen expression of her own writing in a LEASE to herself, as SEALED by memory of the sea as a preternatural prophecy that it will be by the sea, a coastal market town, where she would as good as die. A lease from a character she herself creates, as leased to her own freehold self, he being a celebrity writer, significantly male, who returns to Seale at the end of the war, seeing again the two sisters who never evacuated this hub of war and its billeted soldiers, one sister whose beau happened to be killed in the first war. She had been given a fiction manuscript, during this latest second war, by one of these Seale-by-the-Sea’s soldiers, for her to pass on today to the celebrity male writer who had been a recurrent peace-time visitor to the timeless and time-distilled resort, to pass on to him when the second war ended, and the repercussions of asking this writer’s opinion upon this soldier’s text turns out to be sadly pointless. Yet, I sense a Proustianly regained hope when I now read wonderful paragraphs, previously lost, like this:


My reviews of all Bowen stories lost or regained started here:

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