View Full Version : Visions: Virginia Woolf's and Mine

Ron Price
04-12-2008, 09:22 AM

Two of Virginia Woolf’s major works came out in the first year(4/’37-4/’38) of the first Baha’i Seven Year Plan(1937-1944). One work, Three Guineas, was an essay in epistolary format demonstrating Virginia Woolf's views on war and women. As an unfinished manuscript it was published in 1937 entitled The Pargiters. Three Guineas became a book-length essay published in June 1938. The fiction portion of this manuscript became The Years, Woolf's most popular novel during her lifetime. It was on the best seller lists for many months in 1937. Her novel The Waves was published in French in 1937. In a BBC interview from 1937, Woolf explained why English words can not be reduced to static definitions: “English words are full of echoes, memories, of associations. They’ve been out and about on people’s lips, in their houses, in the streets, in the fields for so many centuries, and that is one of the chief difficulties in writing today. They are stored with other meanings, with other memories. And they have contracted so many famous marriages in the past.”1

On 11 April 1937, ten days before the Baha’i community began its Seven Year Plan, the New York Times published a review of Woolf’s novel The Years in which she contracts many meanings and marriages of words. The reviewer wrote that Woolf’s work was more “a poem or a piece of music.”2 There is no cataloguing the characters, no regimenting them into some customary form; they delight in living, thinking, feeling and brooding. Woolf gives them a local habitation and a name; like her autobiography her novels require close reading as she goes about redefining heritage, history, culture and identity and their many intersections. She tries to reach a style of inclusiveness to represent the modern consciousness more appropriately. -Ron Price with thanks to 1Tricia Ares, “Feminist Body, Feminist Mind: A Comparative Analysis of Hélène Cixous and Virginia Woolf,” Modern Matriarch, May 14, 2007; and 2 Peter Jack, “Virginia Woolf’s Richest Novel,” The New York Times, 11 April 1937.

For many you described a world,
a vision of some place they would
find familiar: with style, humour
and a brilliant sensibility, where
they could stretch the night and
fill it fuller and fuller with dreams,
while they searched for some form
of salvation. But you offered secular
intelligence, no doctrine, salvation,
no dogma—far, far, far outside of
beliefs, just naturalness, charm of
spirit which moved precariously
entre deux guerres recapturing
moments in the past renewed in
our time in their uncertainty for
your peace and ours, with your
genius, for our world’s words.

Many, but not all, felt you could
say the unsayable and lift veil after
veil to reveal the meaning of life;
and so, too, did those pledged in
that preliminary task, that initial
stage in the unfoldment of another
vision of a spiritual destiny which
my generation laboured to fulfil
in my life’s century: 1944-2044.1

1 Shoghi Effendi, Messages to America, Wilmette, 1947, p.13.

Ron Price
12 April 2008