Feux et Signaux de Brume: Virginia Woolf’s Lighthouse


We are told that Virginia Woolf was reading Proust when she was writing To the Lighthouse. Indeed, she entitled the second part of her novel “Time Passes.” To measure the passage of time she needed a clock; she used a house. The way an abandoned country house grows old is something everyone has seen and understands. Little airs pry their way in; water leaks through widening cracks; rats invade; spiders stubbornly weave their webs; dust thickens on floor boards beginning to shrink apart—until that brief moment when the balance is tipped by something as light as a feather, the roof caves in, and the house suddenly collapses. Lovers then seek shelter in its ruins, and campers make their beds among the invading brambles. Just as the faces and hands of old men become wrinkled, so the rooftop and walls of the house come to bear the marks of bad weather and passing weeks, that is, of tempests and time.

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