Tessa Hadley in Longing Amid Lockdown

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Your story “Coda” is about a middle-aged woman, Diane, who goes to live with her ninety-two-year-old mother, Margot, when COVID cancer. You spent some time with your elderly mother during her illness. Maybe the similarity ends there?

It’s an almost impossible question to answer. It opens up the entire relationship between fictional stories and “real life,” which is opaque, shrouded in shadow. And that’s what this story is about, in a way – the lines blur between our dreams and our reality. But the simple answer to your question is yes, of course, the similarity ends there. I am still in our apartment near my mother for the year of the lockdown, but I am with my husband, and there are four of us in our “support bubble” – my aunt, Mom’s sister, it’s one of our oddities. restricting lock life. I’m sure I have a Diane in me (the nose, the corpse, the lonely, a little broken), but she’s not in front now! My mother was married only once — to my father, for sixty-four years, until his death in 2019 — and she did not share Margot’s exotic, Liverpudlian lifestyle. Her style is very different from Margot’s, more boho-arty, less cocktail-set.

Margot lived a life of luxury, with three husbands, and many exotic homes. His life, in essence, is work, and he may not feel, as Diane does, that he has “no drama or fun or passion: those things are true, and others have, but not me. !” Did Diane choose a different lifestyle on purpose, a form of rebellion against her mother?

I don’t think he chose. Has anyone chosen his life on purpose? And if you were choosing, I’m not sure you’d choose Diane; is limited and restricted. Isn’t it even more true that when we are born into a family-and a place and a culture and an era of history, where some impossible things are opened-flowing the influence of our nature on attitudes. found, around the first to take the space? She was the pure, smart girl of a woman who lived in her face and her glow, her beauty—though, there were only a few gaps left for Diane, and she filled them. Although she is no accident, history has never been written against Margot. Margot made something – and beautiful – out of what she could.

But that story of self-creation is dead and narrow, and I don’t see it that way. I see the way that Diane fills her life – which is the smallest thing out there – with all the interesting things that Margot fills her life with. How full of thought and imagination Diane is, how clearly she knows. Margot, of course, is the star (even though she’s in movies, she can’t act). But without Diane, there is no story: no informationthe meaning of all the things that come together is what it is is it. On the other hand, Diane pays for her knowledge; it really pays off. His suffering, in the absence of lust, is the truth in the hearts of all. But I didn’t want this story to be sad. I knew I had to find a happy ending for it, in order to say what I wanted to say about life and the mind.

Diane is at a turning point in her life. His marriage is over, he does not want to put his son and his wife, and he welcomes now out of time, his first job is his mother. But he was also wary of something else. Why do you think he would be so interested in helping to work with the man later?

I think that’s part of the answer: because there’s nothing else to do. It fills the hours – he told himself. I don’t mean in a throwaway way, let go of what he intended, what he created. What I’m trying to convey is how, while the external experience of our lives is restricted and diminished, the inner life can blossom, swell, create, fill. to that specific location. Perhaps, life is more alive, more beautiful and enriching in what is created – up to a point. There is something unknown about Diane’s feelings for Teresa in this story; on the other hand, he is clearly unhinged. And what he created does not hurt anyone; he is happy.

It has nothing to do with Teresa’s personality—otherwise, her personality is another story. Diane needs to have something of her own, apart from her mother or her son. He needed the little details of Teresa’s life that he gathered from observing her. This is not a relationship; it’s just one page, a guess for the imagination. But I think it’s nurturing, though. Feed Diane. His fascination with Teresa is a reflection of his dreams, himself – but not entirely solipsistic. It is important in his dreams that Teresa is real, in fact, she is a physical person, and does what she does, and she is a human being. (It’s a character Margot doesn’t approve of—even before Diane finds out about the Dickie thing, she thinks Margot finds Teresa “stiff.”

Everything that falls in love is part of this illusion of dreaming the other person. And projection is bound to destroy one’s reality, even more so than that person.

Diane reads “Madame Bovary,” and some of the book’s energy is focused on Teresa. Why did you choose that book?

It’s not a very smart choice. At least, I didn’t really think about it; I just knew that was what he was reading. For years, of course, I had in my head a different story that I wanted to write, based on something true that I read (I forget where, maybe it was in Czeslaw Milosz’s “Native Realm” ), about a girl during the war, waiting with her mother to go, with great difficulty, from the country held by Russia to Poland occupied by Nazis. While they wait in a city reduced to rubble, the young girl reads “Madame Bovary.” I thought about this story a while ago and I can’t remember if I did the “Madame Bovary” detail or not. But I can’t write that story—it’s not in my scope, it’s too much for me. So perhaps this is the reason why the “Madame Bovary” detail, and the whole joke between reading and living, has transformed itself into a low-quality example of a middle-aged woman to wait. measuring the lock.

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