The story goes that DH Lawrence and Earnest Hemingway were friends of sorts. The Belle Époque was raging; Paris was full of artists and dreamers. Brawling and drinking and dreaming – and writing. Hemingway was a “man’s man” who would get roaring drunk and make fun of Lawrence, himself quiet and somehow soft.
I’ve often thought of Paris in the 20s before war and occupation. Must’ve been grand – exciting and full of purpose. It’s occupied again these days, Paris is – albeit by her own soldiers. Boys from Nice and Bordeaux who enlisted to see the world and ended up guarding the Louvre and walking swagger style down the Champs Elise. Today the literary scene has moved on – but I’ll be damned if I know where. Chain coffee shops in the suburbs mostly. No wonder modern literature has no soul.
I just finished Lady Chatterley’s Lover. It’s not hard to understand why Hemingway mocked him; Lawrence is a better writer. Hemingway’s stuff has always seemed to me a little pretentious – like I should feel privileged to read the great man and not complain that the writing is, well bad really. Not so with Lawrence. His writing flows smoothly and the story is coherent and cohesive. Very Victorian England too – which I like.
The content of this novel could be considered a little rough by any standard. Parts of it I felt went too far, although I understood the point – but it’s no wonder it was declared pornography a hundred years ago. Nevertheless the message is clear – love, physical and sensual and animal is a force of nature that cannot be stopped; and Victorian English nobility was being false in its pretensions to a refinement that denied one of life’s great motivators.
I’m reminded why I return to the classics often – books that remind us of the immutability of the human condition. For that Lawrence is one of the greats.