Siri Hustvedt: What I Loved

The chair on which I had finished reading »What I Loved« a few days ago, in imperial weather and clear air. | © Bettina Walter

As this long year stretched from February 2020 to February 2021, I read the Siri Hustvedt’s novel What I Loved, which has accompanied me for so many years, for the third time.

When I read it for the first time, we were still a family. The second time, we always set the dinner table for four, although only three of us remained and we became a different family. Then, this last February in 2020, we once again huddled together closely in the house above the lake and celebrated J’s – one of my son’s – non-accidental death, just like every year on February 25.

And there, high above the lake, a place the world can virtually not reach with all of its cacophony, this strange year began to turn and dominate our lives. Distance. But also the amazing grace of the gift of time, of silence and of course, reading.

And in the month of February 2021, I finished reading it – once again by the lake.

Twelve months have passed, and many other books were read in the interim.

I had put the book down up there and left it lying around at the precise point the protagonists’ story turns to sadness – after about 200 pages.

I find myself in S.H.’s novel, I find in it the meaning of life itself, liveliness, relationships, but most importantly loss and death and clouds that move in on the eyesight and place a veil over the razor-sharp resolution.

It is called macular degeneration.

I love the endless descriptions of works of art in this novel and so I stand in front of these images and my field of vision is deeply immersed into the paintings and objects. One is no longer distanced. You see it all with absolute focus although sometimes a cloud moves in.

After all, this is what touches and interests me the most – the seeing of images, pictures in my memory, images of people – simply images, humans...

And how much I miss them during these times – the people, the images, also the theater...

This book talks about the life we live, its enchantment and its losses. That’s why I have to read it again and again.

Bettina Walter, Sana, 28 February 2021
Costume D • I • E