Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Suite Francaise and Suffering.
"Storm in June" is the first novella, which is centered around its portrayals of how different classes of people experienced and processed the war. I wanted to punch some of the characters in the face; I'm not sure if they were overly flawed intentionally or just drove me insane, namely the ones who could think only of their beautiful material goods or of how vulgar the lower classes were. This blatant self centeredness almost seemed unrealistic to me; that suffering would arouse disgust and disdain rather than empathy.
The inner conflict that seemed so realistic was when a well-to-do mother smugly passed out treats to lower class children, feeling as though she were upholding her Christian duty. My gut reaction to her was disgust. But, she became more human as I read about the panic she felt when she realized that there wasn't food to go around, even for the wealthy. Watching her hubris shrink and her maternal instinct of survival and protection rise made her more real in my mind.
I think that watching suffering, more often than not, brings out complex emotions that are difficult to wade through as an individual and even as a reader: when I am faced with homelessness everytime I get on a subway, it weighs on my heart. Walking by feels so wrong and after living in the city for seven years I still don't know how to discern when and how to help. But, I prefer living in a place where I am forced to wrestle with it, rather than forget that it exists...but does thinking make a difference? What I found while reading was that wartime only heightens the complexity of what to do with the suffering one sees.
And, just like the characters in the book, suffering will in time turn from voyeuristic to personal for all of us, and remind us of our own fragility, and, I think, help us to stand in solidarity with humankind.