This Solemn Form of Joy


Sometimes I read a passage that strikes so close to me that it answers the question: Why do I read? In the novel, Trust, by Hernan Diaz, a young woman, Helen, walks from a European villa where she is staying into a nearby town, 1920s:

 The dry echo of her shoes on the cobblestones was all she could hear in the empty streets. Every few steps, she gently dragged a foot, just to feel the skin on her neck tingle with delight at the murmur of leather on stone. With each block, the small city became livelier. Trying to prolong the sense of elation she had found in the initial stillness, she walked on, with buoyant aplomb, away from the voices crashing at distant intersections, away from the mercantile clatter coming from the square, away from the liquid hoofbeats clip-clopping around every corner, away from the women yelling from window to window as they unpinned their laundry, and into alleyways with houses shuttered against the heat, where she could hear, again, her solitary steps. She knew, then, that this solemn form of joy, so pure because it had no content, so reliable because it relied on nobody else, was the state for which she would henceforth strive.

There is, of course, the magnificence of the writing skill, how Diaz can summon the entire character of this town in a single sentence describing what the young woman is walking away from and toward. And then, this solemn form of joy . . . for which she would henceforth strive.

Important to me, as it might be to you, is the solitary walk, the state it can put you in, a complete and essential feeling of self-worth and satisfaction that you are compelled to try to attain again and again. This passage said it perfectly for me.

Naturally, this being one of those literary novels, there’s a downside to such euphoria. Eventually, Helen descends into a mental illness so deep it proves fatal. But for now, this solemn form of joy.

Full review of the novel possibly to come.

By David Klein

David Klein

Published novelist, creative writer, journalist, avid reader, discriminating screen watcher.


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