Read | 13. Dec 2021

Burning At Both Ends

To call her "Red Comet" makes perfect sense to me. Because Sylvia Plath seemed to be tremendously visible - and vanishing at the same time.

"By now, many of us are familiar with the rough outlines of her saga: the shining promise; the death of her adored father when she was 8; the titanic ambition and extraordinary persistence (in 1950, the summer before Plath started college and after more than 50 rejections, Seventeen magazine accepted her short story “And Summer Will Not Come Again”); the attempted suicide during her time at Smith; the Fulbright to Cambridge, where she met the broodingly handsome Yorkshire-bred poet Ted Hughes (“my black marauder,” as she called him), whom she soon married; the birth of their two children, Frieda and Nicholas; the couple’s single-minded devotion to their art and conviction about their respective talent, followed by Hughes’s affair with Assia Wevill and Plath’s taking her life in February 1963 at the age of 30 during what was famously London’s coldest winter of the century. In the intervening decades she has become a protean figure, an emblem of different things to different people, depending upon their viewpoint — a visionary, a victim, a martyr, a feminist icon, a schizophrenic, a virago, a prisoner of gender — or, perhaps, a genius, as both Plath and Hughes maintained during her lifetime."

I stole that brief CV from novelis Daphne Merkin at the "New York Times" - because there is no better way to sum up that life of one of the most famous female writers of her times - who became famous - and infamous - for her untimely suicide combined with her suffering of circumstances all women of her times were suffering from.

Having finally read that latest memoir by Heather Clark I discovered a new Sylvia Plath. A woman in love and at war with her circumstances, individually mostly but sometimes in a very common way. She was a victim of an era when women were supposed to be happy as soon as they found a husband and a passion for work - also an era of brutal treatments for psycological deseases and female challenges.

The book made me discover the woman behind the heroine of my early feminist days.

What a treat.

The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath
By Heather Clark
Illustrated. 1,118 pp. Alfred A. Knopf. $40.