Is Selfishness the Key to Happiness?

The Bookshelf of Emily J.

I’m sure most of us would immediately answer “no” to the question the title poses. I do. I think self-care and self-love are important in order to be able to share love and affection with others, but I don’t think selfishness leads to happiness.

However, one of the characters of Anita Brookner’s Hotel Du Lac (1984) thinks that selfishness is just what everybody needs in order to be fulfilled. Mr. Phillip Neville preaches this doctrine to the protagonist, Edith Hope, an apt name for a woman who in the end decides to ignore his advice.

Here’s what Mr. Neville believes.

The secret to contentment “is simply this. Without a huge emotional investment, one can do whatever one pleases. One can take decisions, change one’s mind, alter one’s plans. There is none of the anxiety of waiting to see if that one other person has everything she desires, if she is…

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The Ear I Want

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It must be the favourite mantra gracing the lips of those involved in the writing world: KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE.

Indeed, how many times has the need to pin down our audience been stressed? Not nearly enough, for sure. And it will be stressed over and over again to infinity.

But is this need an illusion, an obsession like so many others or are we talking about an issue of paramount importance that, if ignored, can lead the writer to failure and disappointment?

When I first started jotting down my stories on paper I hadn’t given a thought to it. I created to please myself, to express my own thoughts, to give voice to my concerns and obsessions. I was floating within a romantic bubble where everything revolved around me. I was lost to the outside world the way the outside world was lost to me.

And that was a process that satisfied me for the time being. I had no other concerns but to give vent to my own emotions and fascinations.

However, the situation changed dramatically when I realized I was in for the long haul and that writing was my vocation and not merely a pleasant hobby to kill time.

I joined a writing site and asked for serious critiques on my works, exposing my writing to fresh pairs of eyes. I got exactly what I asked for but, also, so much more.

One of the issues that kept popping up in discussion fora and, also, a question directed at every single writer (myself included) was this: who is our target audience, who will be interested in reading our stories, for whom we’re writing.

At first glance, that kind of question, at best, frustrated me and, at worst, hung over me like a black cloud ready to release upon me a furious downpour. It was a matter that provoked in me both bewilderment and anxiety.

My critique buddies had often commented on my authentic and singular voice, something in which I took and still take great pride. But that was the root of the problem as well, because it became an obstacle in deciding as to my readership.

Although influenced greatly by other writers, I had trouble comparing myself to them. Doesn’t everybody have their own style and voice, after all, that is unique and can’t be reproduced? So, I couldn’t be helped in that aspect. Just like I couldn’t help myself in terms of genre since I frequently cross genres and openly define established conventions.

What was I do to?

I thought I’d never reach a conclusion, that despite all my efforts at becoming a better writer than the one I was yesterday, everything was doomed to fail because I couldn’t come up with a solution to a writer’s most burning issue.

In spite of all the difficulties though, the answer manifested itself slowly when my writing vision started crystallizing and when I gained stable critique partners who offered me insightful commentary  by going through most of my works.

So, now, after a long time, I finally know who is included in my target audience and who is excluded. Now, I know who I am writing for and whose ear I need to listen to me.

I’m not writing for a few select neither for the masses. I’m writing for every thinking individual out there who wants to be entertained, moved and challenged.

I’m not writing for children or adolescents. I’m writing for adults.

I’m not writing for those who enjoy a dry, staccato prose. I’m writing for those going after a lush, poetic prose.

I’m not writing for those gravitating towards straightforward imagery. I’m writing for those gravitating towards evocative imagery.

I’m not writing for those seeking mindless entertainment from a book they can easily put aside and forget after reading it. I’m writing for those who are after stories of gravitas.

I’m not writing for those who want to sink their teeth into a book with a rapid succession of events and guns blazing. I’m writing for those who enjoy in their books some philosophical edge.

I’m not writing for those who prefer a plot-driven story where the characters are not in the limelight. I’m writing for those who prefer characters who drive the plot forward through their own passions, virtues and weaknesses.

I’m not writing for those who only seek a means of escapism. I’m writing for those who want to equally evade and interpret reality.

I’m not writing for those who prefer conventionl, formulaic stories. I’m writing for those eager to read stories diverging from the beaten track where a rich worldbuilding abounds and the themes are thoroughly reflected upon, resulting in multiple layers of meaning.

I’m not writing for those who prefer a simplistic or translucent message or those want to be spoonfed. I’m writing for those who want a book to induce them to think, form their own conclusions and view reality under a different light.

More often than not, there are writers claiming that they’re writing for everybody. And while they might believe that, that’s a far cry from the truth. People have different tastes and preferences. Not everybody will love a book just like not everybody will hate a book. There are all sorts of books out there accomodating the needs of various readers.

But if we as writers are not able to spot our own readers, then how do we expect them to spot us? If we want our readers to reach out to us, we have to reach out to them first.

So, have you figured who’s your intended audience? Did you find the process a difficult or an easy one?

 

 

The Fruit of Passion: Chapter 5-Part I

cover the fruit of passion

Here are some excerpts from the first part of the fifth chapter of my fantasy novel, currently titled The Fruit of Passion.

Morella walked in the dark. She knew neither the nature of the challenge nor the place, time and duration of it. But breathing as she was under the gray cloud of Blodwen’s passing, all her thoughts burnt with the fire of the promise she had made to her.

Somehow, Morella carried the notion that, as long as she didn’t diverge from the path her mother had shown her in life and applied the teachings with which she was raised, Blodwen’s spirit kept close to her, filled with love and pride.

Day by day, Morella ruled the queendom with the help of her court by placing herself in her mother’s shoes, reflecting on the fashion with which she would have handled the affairs of the island. And every time she tackled a task in the manner Blodwen would have mentored her to, she sensed a tiny part of her mother’s essence finding its way back to her through the split of her own soul.

  � � �

The well lay within a stone’s throw, atop the highest hill. Built in the shape of a masterly chalice, it sprang from the depths of the earth, its foot rooted inside a triangular, marble slab. Strange patterns, knots and symbols adorned the chalice’s bowlas bizarre in their origin as in their meaning.

Ffynnon bywyd—the fountain of life—as many had taken to calling it, was the hollowed treasure of the island. Placed in the most prominent position in the land, at the centre of Rumia, whoever stood next to it was offered a clear panorama of all the surroundings—the sea, the woods and the town.

Bathed in the strongest sunlight, the water inside the well shone golden; it gurgled like that of a flowing brook amidst a valley. But something of a most wondrous and strange nature took place that roused everyone’s awe. Though the sun always reached its peak at that particular spot, no living creature—be it human or animal—could ever cast a shadow on the earth.

Blessed with Olwen’s sweet kiss, the islanders had made the well a place of reverence and pilgrimage. After the loss of a beloved, many people visited it to taste its water, so that the shunnache of life once again could course in their blood and soften their sorrow. And that process was repeated noon after noon for three wythnos.

� � �

Morella cooed. ”The love of Olwen be upon you. Who are you, my soul?”

And the girl replied, ”The love of Olwen be upon you as well. My Lady, I’ll gladly tell you my name if you do me the same favour.”

”You’ve never seen me before?”

”No, my Lady.”

”Well, I’m Morella of Rumia, daughter of the former queen, Blodwen. Have you ever heard my name?”

”No, my Lady. I’m Rhinnona.”

”I’ve never seen you before.”

”That’s because I’m not a Rumian.”

”Where are you from?”

Rhinnona looked her straight in the eyes. Morella noticed the girl’s mauve pupils and, despite the pleasant sunlight, a shiver crawled over her spine.

”My home is guarded by a veil, an island half above half below the water where streams never run dry and delight reigns over all and there’s never a want for food and drink.”

”How do you call your island?”

”We call it Dwfn Ynys.”

  � � �

Rhinnona spent her mornings in the forest with Myrina, where each taught the other whatever they knew regarding the magic arts; they recited strange verses in languages unrecorded, studied the lifeblood of the flowers and herbs, sang the chief song of the faes, wrote poems with the Kali letters upon the earth and communed a thousand more secrets between them.

She shared her knowledge regarding the healing arts with the healers, teaching them how to enhance the medicinal properties of plants, how to master the power of the silver and gold to cure the sick and how to wield the shunnache of the various gemstones to fix ailments and restore inner peace.

Morella visited the well every noon accompanied by Rhinnona. The girl chatted easily with her, recounting tales from her childhood in Dwfn Ynys. And when nine nights bracketing eight days passed Rhinnona enfolded Morella in her arms.

”My Lady, I thank you for your care and hospitality. My promise holds true. You’re free to seek my homeland whenever you wish to.”

”And how am I supposed to know the location, my soul?”

”Here’s how.” Rhinnona produced a jagged bluestone from her gown’s pocket, circling Morella’s neck with it, chanting rhymes all the while. ”Now you’re carrying the bluestone’s mark like a bandneck. The veil to my world shall be lifted when you rub your hands around you throatmaking the bandneck visibleand saying,

‘The deep isle I seek

that rises above the water

where the silver-blonde daughter

the mist and thunder is to keep.”’

Morella nodded and kissed her cheeks. ”I’ll remember you fondly.”

”One day we’ll meet again, my Lady.”

Having said that, a black wind rose from the seaside and a thick fog flooded the valley beneath and the hills above, sweeping Rhinnona away in a milky blur.

Gaieties and Festivities

IDLE MUSER (aka Aditi)

t1

He looked at the sky
The beaming stars
The shining moon
Yet, he knew the night missed something

Diyas lit around
Lights glowing and lightening up the surroundings
Sweets loaded in big boxes hallmarked the ongoing festivity
But he knew none of it was his

He called her up
Nobody picked up that call
‘Must be busy with the preparations’
he thought

He rang him up
But the number was out of reach
‘Must be driving around with Diwali gifts’
he thought

Crashing on his bed
He wondered of hundreds of miles that set his room apart from his home
And of the excitement he had felt of being on his own
And of the relief of owning his own place, finally

But with passage of those brief moments of euphoria
All he is now left with are
Pangs of pain of being alone
Cringing moments of not being with…

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Mythical Beasts: The White Stag

Under the influence!

The white stag, like many other mythical creatures, wanders through the tangled forests and wild moorlands of our distant past.   Elusive and rare, our forefathers may have caught a glimpse in some hidden glade in the woods,  or seen it moving ghost-like across the wild moors, or maybe stood high on a rocky outcrop crowned against the sky.  The white stag was always something to be desired yet always out of reach. Always leading the hunt onwards, ever onwards, to a destiny ordained by the gods.  From the dark, distant memories of the Wild Hunt have grown the very stuff of legends.

White Hart Badge of Richard II – Author:  Sodacan CC BY-SA 3.0

Encounters with the White Stag

For those humans who  encountered a white stag, there were often profound consequences, sometimes stimulating great spiritual changes within a person.   Sometimes these encounters have been the trigger of great events…

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Quo Vadis: Book Review

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Quo Vadis, written by Polish writer Henryk Sienkiewicz, is a work of historical fiction published in 1895. The novel takes place in Ancient Rome during the reign of emperor Nero and the plot revolves around the love story between a pagan, Roman patrician, Marcus Vinicius, and a Christian girl, Lygia.

A hothead warmonger who has served in the military in Asia, once he returns to Rome, Marcus stays in the house of the former general, Aulus Plautius, to recover from his injuries and rest. There, he sees for the first time the general’s adopted daughter, Lygia, who is a royal hostage. He falls madly in lust with her and tries with the help of his amoral uncle, Petronius, to possess her.

But the world into which the beautiful Lygia and her adoptive mother move is a far cry from the world into which Marcus lives and therefore tension and conflict arise.

On one hand, initially Marcus represents the Roman empire in all its violent and decadent glory. Used to indulge his own whims and desires, Marcus seeks nothing more than his own selfish pleasure, and so attempts to take Lygia according to the traditional Roman way: by applying force.

On the other hand, Lygia with her goodness, purity and humble Christian upbringing is a breath of fresh air against the corruption and viciousness of Nero’s court.

When Petronius convinces Nero to hand Lygia to Marcus as his personal slave, Lygia and the rest of the Christians come up with a plan. Lygia is hidden in the Christian catacombs. From this moment on, Marcus embarks on an anguished search for her throughout Rome.

When he finds her with the help of a Greek, private investigator, he tries to abduct her but ends up getting hurt when Lygia’s bodyguard, Ursus, attacks him. Instead of killing him, the Christians nurse him back to health.

Already the seeds of Marcus’s spiritual transformation have been planted. Marcus, deeply moved by the compassion the Christians show him and the kindness with which Lygia treats him, begins to question his own actions and gradually sees Lygia as something more than the mere object of his lust, as a person with a soul and emotions.

His change and his spiritual journey have been set in motion.

Quo Vadis is one of the top novels ever written for me because Sienkiewicz is a master of pathos. Written during the Romantic movement in Europe, it contains a lot of scenes brimming with romantic ideas and sentimentality. However, Quo Vadis is profoundly humane in its approach.

I maintain the idea that the human psyche and its deep exploration is the essence of good literature. And that’s exactly what this novel delivers. The relationship between Marcus and Lygia has the ability to move the reader because it functions on two levels. On the first level, we’re exposed to a most beautiful and passionate love story. On the second level, Marcus and Lygia represent the violent clash between the old world that is Rome (sadisstic, vindictive, bloodthirsty, materialistic, malevolent, unstable, and ultimately deadly) and the new era Chrisitanity brings (full of love, kindness, peace, respect and forgiveness).

One of the themes that takes central stage in the novel is love. What is love? What does it mean to love someone? How can love affect a person’s life? In Western literature, love has long been associated with both life and death. Quo Vadis is no exception.

Through his love for Lygia, Marcus shedds off his old skin and gains a new one. Eros becomes a revolutionary force that blows up Marcus’s soul. Gradually, he begins to realize there’s a whole world beyond inane self-seeking pleasure and selfish cruelty. By staying with the Christians for some time in the catacombs, he becomes aware that all the foundations of the empire are stinking, festering, falling into decay.

Marcus views the world through Lygia’s eyes. He becomes so devoted to her that his love for her reaches the point of divine adoration. And here enters a very interesting question. Sienkiewicz raises the issue of change. Can people reconsider and change? Can they smash their past and arise anew? Marcus proves that a spiritual awakening, a hopeful resurrection is possible.

His love gives him the opportunity to be reborn, to gain a new life full of meaning and purpose. He proves that humans are not flat, static beings condemned to die the same as they were born. They can rethink their actions, repent, change their mind and heart, mature and grow. They can be influenced and reshaped under the right circumstances.

Marcus’s initial emotions and thoughts as expressed in this passage:

But, first of all, he was unwilling and unable to be reconciled with fate, for never in life had he so desired anything as Lygia. It seemed to him that he could not exist without her. He could not tell himself what he was to do without her on the morrow, how he was to survive the days following. At moments he was transported by a rage against her, which approached madness.

He wanted to have her, to beat her, to drag her by the hair to the cubiculum, and gloat over her; then, again, he was carried away by a terrible yearning for her voice, her form, her eyes, and he felt that he would be ready to lie at her feet. He called to her, gnawed his fingers, clasped his head with his hands. He strove with all his might to think calmly about searching for her,—and was unable. A thousand methods and means flew through his head, but one wilder than another.

are vastly different from his later behaviour when he asks for Lygia’s hand with her consent as expressed in this passage:

And he stretched forth his hand, as if taking Heaven as witness of his love; and Lygia, raising her clear eyes to him, said,—

“And then I shall say, ‘Wherever thou art, Caius, there am I, Caia.’”

“No, Lygia,” cried Vinicius, “I swear to thee that never has woman been so honored in the house of her husband as thou shalt be in mine.”

For a time they walked on in silence, without being able to take in with their breasts their happiness, in love with each other, like two deities, and as beautiful as if spring had given themto the world with the flowers.

They halted at last under the cypress growing near the entrance of the house. Lygia leaned against his breast, and Vinicius began to entreat again with a trembling voice,—”Tell Ursus to go to the house of Aulus for thy furniture and playthings of childhood.”

But she, blushing like a rose or like the dawn, answered,—”Custom commands otherwise.”

“I know that. The pronuba [The matron who accompanies the bride and explains to her the duties of a wife] usually brings them behind the bride, but do this for me. I will take them to my villa in Antium, and they will remind me of thee.”

Here he placed his hands together and repeated, like a child who is begging for something, —”It will be some days before Pomponia returns; so do this, diva, do this, carissima.”

“But Pomponia will do as she likes,” answered Lygia, blushing still more deeply at mention of the pronuba.

And again they were silent, for love had begun to stop the breath in their breasts. Lygia stood with shoulders leaning against the cypress, her face whitening in the shadow, like a flower, her eyes drooping, her bosom heaving with more and more life. Vinicius changed in the face, and grew pale. In the silence of the afternoon they only heard the beating of their hearts, and in their mutual ecstasy that cypress, the myrtle bushes, and the ivy of the summerhouse became for them a paradise of love.

But their happiness is short-lived. Enraged by Marcus’s harsh treatment, Chilo double-crosses Lygia and the Christians, condemning them to endless torture and painful death.

Nero, to gain poetic inspiration, burns Rome, but the Christians are blamed instead. Lygia is imprisoned. From that moment, the tension escalates and the novel enters into suspense territory. Marcus and Petronius do everything in their power to free Lygia. When all fails, Marcus retains his faith in Christ. In some of the most gruesome scenes ever written in fiction, the Christians are killed and eaten alive by wild animals as entertainment in the arena.

Chilo repents, but is brutally killed by Nero’s court, though first forgiven by the man he hurt most. And here Sienkiewicz raises another important issue, that of forgiveness. Do people deserve to be forgiven after generating so much suffering and evil? The answer is not an easy one. After all, forgiveness is a personal matter. Perhaps, the point the Polish writer is trying to make is that it takes tremendous strength and courage to overcome the pain one has inflicted and forgive them.

Marcus is definitely strengthened as a character through his own suffering. He hopes and prays, proving that he possesses, indeed, a lion of a spirit. At this point, when all seems lost, love morphs into a death call which Marcus is more than willing to answer.

But the suffering of Vinicius surpassed human endurance. From the moment that Lygia was imprisoned and the glory of coming martyrdom had fallen on her, not only did he love her a hundred times more, but he began simply to give her in his soul almost religious honor, as he would a superhuman being. And now, at the thought that he must lose this being both loved and holy, that besides death torments might be inflicted on her more terrible than death itself, the blood stiffened in his veins. His soul was turned into one groan, his thoughts were confused. At times it seemed to him that his skull was filled with living fire, which would either burn or burst it. He ceased to understand what was happening; he ceased to understand why Christ, the Merciful, the Divine, did not come with aid to His adherents; why the dingy walls of the Palatine did not sink through the earth, and with them Nero, the Augustians, the pretorian camp, and all that city of crime. He thought that it could not and should not be otherwise; and all that his eyes saw, and because of which his heart was breaking, was a dream. But the roaring of wild beasts informed him that it was reality; the sound of the axes beneath which rose the arena told him that it was reality; the howling of the people and the overfilled prisons confirmed this. Then his faith in Christ was alarmed; and that alarm was a new torture, the most dreadful of all, perhaps.

Marcus and Lygia are an entity to the point where Marcus simply cannot exist without her. He tries all means possible to save her. He pleads, he begs, he speaks to influencial people, he offers money. All in vain. When he becomes convinced that Lygia won’t be alive much longer, he bribes his way to her cell. In a scene of incomparable, emotional beauty and poignancy, he stays with her, both of them praying and bound in love. He has already decided that after her death he will declare to everyone that he himself is a Christian, so that they will kill him and thus go to Heaven with her.

For three days, or rather three nights, nothing disturbed their peace. When the usual prison work was finished, which consisted in separating the dead from the living and the grievously sick from those in better health, when the wearied guards had lain down to sleep in the corridors, Vinicius entered Lygia’s dungeon and remained there till daylight. She put her head on his breast, and they talked in low voices of love and of death. In thought and speech, in desires and hopes even, both were removed unconsciously more and more from life, and they lost the sense of it. Both were like people who, having sailed from land in a ship, saw the shore no more, and were sinking gradually into infinity. Both changed by degrees into sad souls in love with each other and with Christ, and ready to fly away. Only at times did pain start up in the heart of Vinicius like a whirlwind, at times there flashed in him like lightning, hope, born of love and faith in the crucified God; but he tore himself away more and more each day from the earth, and yielded to death. In the morning, when he went from the prison, he looked on the world, on the city, on acquaintances, on vital interests, as through a dream. Everything seemed to him strange, distant, vain, fleeting. Even torture ceased to terrify, since one might pass through it while sunk in thought and with eyes fixed on another thing. It seemed to both that eternity had begun to receive them. They conversed of how they would love and live together, but beyond the grave; and if their thoughts returned to the earth at intervals, these were thoughts of people who, setting out on a long journey, speak of preparations for the road. Moreover they were surrounded by such silence as in some desert surrounds two columns far away and forgotten. Their only care was that Christ should not separate them; and as each moment strengthened their conviction that He would not, they loved Him as a link uniting them in endless happiness and peace. While still on earth, the dust of earth fell from them. The soul of each was as pure as a tear. Under terror of death, amid misery and suffering, in that prison den, heaven had begun, for she had taken him by the hand, and, as if saved and a saint, had led him to the source of endless life.

Petronius was astonished at seeing in the face of Vinicius increasing peace and a certain wonderful serenity which he had not noted before. At times even he supposed that Vinicius had found some mode of rescue, and he was piqued because his nephew had not confided his hopes to him. At last, unable to restrain himself, he said,—

“Now thou hast another look; do not keep from me secrets, for I wish and am able to aid thee. Hast thou arranged anything?”

“I have,” said Vinicius; “but thou canst not help me. After her death I will confess that I am a Christian and follow her.”

“Then thou hast no hope?”

“On the contrary, I have. Christ will give her to me, and I shall never be separated from her.”

But Lygia, naked, unconscious and tied upon the back of an auroch inside the arena, is saved at the last moment when Ursus fights against the beast and kills it with his bare hands. Moved by the intense suffering of the couple, the people of Rome take them both under their protection.

The novel ends with Marcus and Lygia living happily married far away from Rome. Nero dies a degrading death and after the passage of centuries Christianity rules over an once debauched city.

Sienkiewicz is clever enough not to fall into the trap of fanaticism, religious blindness or preaching. He’s never absolute in his portrayal of either side. Not all Christians are kind and loving as shows the case of Crispus, a Christian zealot who verges on fanaticism. Not all pagans residing in Rome are dissolute as shows the case of Lygia’s adoptive father, Aulus Plautius, and Nero’s former mistress, Acte. And somewhere in the middle lies the case of Petronius and his former slave turned lover, Eunice, both representing the last good qualities of the old world: beauty and poetry.

In fact, he fell asleep. When he woke, the head of Eunice was lying on his breast like a white flower. He placed it on the pillow to look at it once more. After that his veins were opened again.

At his signal the singers raised the song of Anacreon anew, and the citharæ accompanied them so softly as not to drown a word. Petronius grew paler and paler; but when the last sound had ceased, he turned to his guests again and said,

“Friends, confess that with us perishes—”
But he had not power to finish; his arm with its last movement embraced Eunice, his head fell on the pillow, and he died.

The guests looking at those two white forms, which resembled two wonderful statues, understood well that with them perished all that was left to their world at that time,—poetry and beauty.

Petronius , indeed, represents an interesting philosophy that contrasts both with the Christian worldview and with Stoicism which was prevalent at that time in Rome. As he writes to Marcus,

There are only two philosophers that I care about, Pyrrho and Anacreon. You know what they stand for. The rest, along with the new Greek schools and all the Roman Stoics, you can have for the price of beans. Truth lives somewhere so high that even the gods can’t see it from Olympus.

Petronius stands for beauty, aesthetics and harmony in a world that devours its own flesh most horriby. And it is exactly this type of philosophy that enables him to face his death with a quiet dignity.

The existence of various philosophies, ideologies and cultures paints Quo Vadis with so much brightness.

If one asked me what is the purpose of literature, I’d reply that it is to move and shake up the reader. Quo Vadis definitely managed to do that. For me, the novel’s originality doesn’t stem from its plot or rich world-building. For me, the originality stems from the excellent exploration of the human soul and the enormous pathos that comes with it.

Quo Vadis is a novel that appeals to the heart. It touches and inspires in most unexpected ways. It’s a profound study on love, strength, faith, spirituality, personal growth, forgiveness and human endurance.

There are many beautiful parts in the novel, but the one who stood out for me, besides the scene with Marcus and Lygia in the prison, is when Marcus talks to Petronius about Lygia after their marriage.

Because I love her immortal soul, and because we both love each other in Christ; for such love there is no separation, no deceit, no change, no old age, no death. For, when youth and beauty pass, when our bodies wither and death comes, love will remain, for the spirit remains.

If that is not a frank and deep emotion that humbles and inspires, then I don’t know what it is.

So, for those of you who haven’t read Quo Vadis, grab a copy and sink your teeth in the book. If not for anything else, the novel presents one of the most fiery and heartening love stories ever written in the history of literature. And in a time like ours where people are so consumed with their own interests and personal gain, we have the need to read such stories even more.

 

 

 

 

 

The Fruit of Passion: Chapter 4

cover the fruit of passion

Here are a few excerpts from the fourth chapter of my fantasy novel, currently titled The Fruit of Passion.

Myrina’s tale crashed like a tide against Morella’s soul, evoking a recent past full of blurred emptiness and bewilderment.

Her mother, Blodwen, hung on the twilight of her life. She reclined on her bed, her body limp, her face anemic, her voluminous hair the wreath of night. Morella waited by her side, her hands interwoven with hers, her cheek placed below the hollow of her throat.

From time to time, Morella lifted her dark head and her otherwise misty eyes raged with fever. She pressed kisses on her mother’s forehead, warmed her impotent fingers with a gentle rub and moistened her chapped lips with a cotton fabric she occasionally immersed into a bowl overflowing with cool water on the nightstand.

***

At the first, grayish beam of morning light, the white she-wolf released a piercing, drawn-out cry. And the cry turned into a blade that tore Morella’s insides apart from heart to rib as Blodwen’s body spasmed momentarily and her spirit flew from the rift of the world to the Otherworld.

Morella grabbed fistfuls of her flowing tresses as if to pluck them from her scalp. Her face distorted into a saturnine mask. Her plum-coloured lips—a painful contrast with her skin’s ashen hue—parted and shut, for all the lamentation she could not put to sound had been delivered by the beast.

***

‘Did you…did you spend the whole night here on the cold floor?”

Myrina nodded. ”Never left. I hated the thought of you being alone.”

Morella didn’t know whether to weep with relief or scream with despair. Whatever words formed on her palate, she swallowed them back unsaid. A malicious need born out of helplessness surged in her. To lash out, to hurt, to torment, to draw rivers of blood, to inflict misery beyond endurance.

But the devilry that poisoned her mind caused her to freeze with terror. In that moment a harsh realization slammed into her. That passions worked in insidious ways, and one caught in their frenzy played dangerously with the temptation to arouse the same state in all who had the misfortune to share a common path.

How wrong you are, Myrina! We’re never more alone than in love and death. All that we love, all that we dream, all that we hope for, we do so alone. And in the company of another that loneliness is magnified tenfold.

In lieu of voicing her thoughts though, she wound the corner of her mouth into a tender smile and settled for another part of the truth. ”Your friendship could inspire the verses of epic poets.”

***

The next morning, a round tumulus was raised over the grave.

Three dusks skimmed since then, during which time passed over Morella like smoke over a screen and a pall of heavy stillness shrouded the island. Every single night she lay awake, watching the shadows in the roof of her own chamber chasing each other. And she fancied that each one of them was the phantom of death, girdling her, giving her a night call in a macabre language she knew not and yet, instinctively recognized.

And at the fourth dusk, the islanders answered her summons, gathering in the courtyard. Erect at the highest step, her eyes registered each and every one of her people, her steady voice sending across a crystalline message.

”I, Morella of Rumia, daughter of Blodwen, proud sister of the Siblinghood of the Sun and each and every one of you who stand before me, pick up the challenge you’ve laid at my feet for the crown as is the custom of our homeland.

”Should I fail the test, I promise to relinquish my claim and hand over the crown to the one you see fit as your true leader. And should I not uphold my vow, may my eyes not behold another sunrise. May night prevail and the moon be streaked blood red.”

Morella repeated the grave words she last uttered to her mother, bowed her head to her people and ended her summons with utter compliance, ”Your wish be done.”