Timelessness: Love and Letters

COMMENTARY (1933)

by Marcelle Sauvageot

On a spontaneous visit to the local bookstore last Friday, I became suddenly determined to add a dose of literature in my life...upon hours of thumbing through every book laid out in every section, I finally picked out this book, partly for its enticingly concise length (didn't want to commit to anything exceeding 500 pages), and partly for its clean, well-designed cover. 

It turned out to be a collection of letters written to express the pain of an end of a love affair in time of the author's declining health; Sauvageot passed away from tuberculosis year after this published, but I think what really broke her spirit was her heart. 

Sauvageot wrote this nearly one hundred years ago, but I've found such kindred soul in her. The way she felt, her spirit of independence and strength, guising with pride as defensive shell to guard her fragility ... I was nearly frightened at how much it all sounded very much like me. It left a resounding sense of camaraderie, sympathy and a streak of sadness. Below, a truly lasting excerpt:

...You know full well that I am always watching myself as I live, that I make fun of myself, that I belittle myself, that I laugh at my impulses and my enthusiasms, that I deny myself any self-confidence. So I had no confidence in you either. I wasn't sure, despite all your love. You had many woman friends: I did not reproach you for this; I would have lied for you to tell me about them, so I could know what drew you toward them, away from me. But you told me very little. I thought you did not love me and didn't dare question you, when I wanted so much to know. I worry over a glance, a word, a silence ... but I say, "You are free," because I don't want a person to stay out of obligation and I would like for him to stay nonetheless. The thing is, I understand so well when someone does not love me anymore that I find any effort to fight or hold on foolish. Such effort would be so pointless, I laugh at my least inclination to protest: "You, jealous? Oh no! That isn't your style: don't say anything. All you would elicit is a smile, a few painful words of appeasement ... And he would leave anyway, just as fast, not any faster ... So: you are free."  
I tried to hold onto a small support separate from you, so I could cling to it the day you would no longer love me. This small support was not another man, it was not a dream, nor an image. It was what you called my egoism and my pride; it was my self that, in my suffering, I wanted to be able to find again. I wanted to be able to hold myself tight, alone with my pain, my doubts, my lack of faith. When I am in distress, only my sense of self gives me the strength to go on. When everything is changing, when everything is hurting me, I am me with myself. To have lost myself, I would have had to be sure I no longer needed myself.

Love can move on, but the feelings don't leave us unmarked. There is something universal in this that feels timeless.