Tuesday, January 22, 2008


I finished reading The End of the Affair on Friday. What an excellent book. It was so well written and just so easily evoked the thoughts and emotions the characters were going through and took you back to the moments when it unfolded. It was very 'English', very thought provoking and challenging. Some have said that Bendrix is a character that is not very likeable, but I didn’t find that. He isn’t someone who you would particularly like, but that isn’t the same as disliking him. I think he came across as a troubled man who was looking for answers – and perhaps he was more honest than most about what he really felt, which was not always very palatable, and maybe that is difficult for people to deal with.

Sometimes it’s good to read someone else’s account of circumstances to which you can in some ways relate. Whilst the book is fiction, it is actually based on real events in Graham Greene’s life and you can feel the depth of emotion that was poured into it. The book tells the story of two people, Sarah Miles (a married woman) and Maurice Bendrix, who had a relationship and the aftermath and self-questioning that came when Sarah broke it off unexpectedly with no word of explanation. Bendrix was left with unending questions and no real understanding of why that was – did it mean that the relationship meant nothing and that Sarah had just moved on to her next ‘conquest’ with no thought of him? The questions continually haunted him until one day, some years later, he saw her briefly and from there his questions took a new course.

“I cannot say how many days passed. The old disturbance had returned and in that state of blackness one can no more tell the days than a blind man can notice the changes of light”

An idea was inadvertently planted in his mind by Sarah’s husband – that a private detective might be able to help find the answers. So Bendrix contacted one and one of the things that the detective uncovers is Sarah’s diary. There laid before him is the truth of what happened. One night during the war they had spent the night together and a bomb had flown overhead and landed nearby. When Bendrix went down to survey the damage another bomb came over which was a direct hit. Sarah rushed downstairs to see what had happened and there he was lying ‘dead’ on the floor. She went back upstairs distraught and made a bargain with God, a God in whom she did not believe, that if Bendrix would live then she would learn to believe in God.

“Let him be alive and I will believe. Give him a chance. Let him have his happiness. Do this and I’ll believe. It doesn’t hurt to believe. So I said, I love him and I’ll do anything if you’ll make him alive, I said very slowly, I’ll give him up for ever, only let him be alive with a chance, and I pressed and pressed and I could feel the skin break and I said, people can love without seeing each other, can’t they, they love You all their lives without seeing you, and then he came in at the door, and he was alive, and I thought now that agony of being without him starts, and I wished he was safely back dead again under the door.”

Despite moments of weakness she never did make contact with him and Bendrix was left not knowing that it was because she loved him that she had let him go. When he did finally find out the truth he was elated, but by then, it was too late, as she died before they could be reunited.

“I sat on my bed and said to God: You’ve taken her, but you haven’t got me yet. I know Your cunning. You take us up to a high place and offer us the whole universe. You’re a devil, God, tempting us to leap. But I don’t want Your peace and I don’t want Your love. I wanted something very simple and very easy: I wanted Sarah for a lifetime and You took her away. With your great schemes You ruin our happiness like a harvester ruins a mouse’s nest: I hate You, God, I hate You as though You existed.”

Sometimes I wish that there was some great meaning behind A having broken off contact with me all that time ago. That somehow there were something that would make sense of it all and help me to understand. I can look at it on the surface and offer explanations, but they’re not really the answer because they are my answers, not A’s. But somehow I think it would be so painful to hear the truth that perhaps I am better off not knowing. I had thought that anyway, but a while ago G said to me that a mutual friend had given the impression that A did not have a good account to tell of me. A hard thing to hear.

When I met up with my friend K on Friday she asked me about A and I just said I hadn’t heard anything. K said to me “the problem with you is that you take people at their word. If someone says they will do something, you believe them and assume they will do it. A promised not to let you go and that your friendship would survive, promised to be in touch with you when you bumped into each other a while back, swore to you that the two of you would come out the other side of this. You believed those promises and you still do. All you can do is be disappointed in A for not honouring them”. I shrugged my shoulders and just said that it is my nature to believe people. K then said “You also have to accept that A will probably never believe that you are honourable in your intentions and that the friendship in itself matters enough without their being some other strings attached.” I just nodded my head in agreement*.

I woke up in the early hours of Sunday morning and was dreaming that A and I did finally get back in touch and were on decent terms with each other and it felt like such a relief. But then I remembered that it was just a dream and the moment was lost. Maybe one day.

“I wrote at the start that this was a record of hate, and walking there beside Henry towards the evening glass of beer, I found the one prayer that seemed to serve the winter mood: O God, You’ve done enough, You’ve robbed me of enough, I’m too tired and old to learn to love, leave me alone for ever.”

* At some point I will try and explain why that friendship was so important to me and continues to matter to me even now.


titration said...

Wow I can so relate! Wow. And I love that you included all these quotes. Sad ending to the post though. Maybe you need to see one of my signs that I posted around my city. :)

Tom Foolery (TF) said...

Random, sometimes when you look into a mirror the image you hope to see is not a true reflection but the opposite.TC. TFX

Lemonpillows said...

I have been in the position of being the one to break off contact before. But I *thought* I explained it to the person I broke up with. When I had healed and was ready to talk again, however, she had disappeared from the face of the earth. I still wonder what happened to her.

Maybe A will not make the effort until they one day know that they can't find you when they want to...

Random Reflections said...

titration - glad you liked the post and that you could relate in some way. I'll be keeping an eye out for your signs (with binoculars obviously...)

TF - I do sometimes think I have lost perspective, but now so much time has passed it can be difficult to know what the true one is.

Lemonpillows - A definitely did not explain (there's not much you can say in a brief text!). I don't know if A ever wonders, probably not.

I guess it's easy not to try when you know that you can go back any time you want...

Anonymous said...

Not knowing the reason must be hard and I can understand why you keep thinking about it. When people break up, sometimes they get bitter and things get twisted in their minds. Maybe that's what happened with A and that's why they prefer not to have any contact.
On a personal note, I haven't been able to be friends with my ex. It's just too hard to see her move on and I can't do it. We haven't seen each other in a month and it's the only way I can cope with it. I don't know if it's hard for her not to be in contact with me but I need to take care of myself just now.

Random Reflections said...

LKSN - Thanks. I wouldn't even try and guess what A thinks, but maybe it's that I'm some nutter who won't let it go!

That's sad about you and your ex - but I can understand that is the only way you can deal with it. I hope things look up for you soon.