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Ensamhetens brunn (1928)

av Radclyffe Hall

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MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygDiskussioner / Omnämnanden
2,283434,938 (3.44)1 / 238
'As a man loved a woman, that was how I loved ?It was good, good, good ?' Stephen is an ideal child of aristocratic parents - a fencer, a horse rider and a keen scholar. Stephen grows to be a war hero, a bestselling writer and a loyal, protective lover. But Stephen is a woman, and her lovers are women. As her ambitions drive her, and society confines her, Stephen is forced into desperate actions. The Well of Loneliness was banned for obscenity when published in 1928.… (mer)

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A couple of notes: I understand this book is historically important - that doesn't mean it is very good or has aged very well.
And I have to get this off my chest right away. My edition was 496 pages long and throughout that entire time not one person comments, "Stephen, huh, that's an odd name for a girl". NOT ONE! I understand why she's called Stephen (father convinced the cild was going to be a boy, so she gets the boys name they'd picked out) but for not one person to even make passing reference to it throughout the remainder of the book is just entirely unrealistic.
So what to make of the book itself. Well it's all very overblown and flowery. At times it disappears into a religious strain that to the modern reader is redundant and self indulgent. It is of its time.
I also thought that this was going to go down the nature vs nurture debate. The first part of the book sets this up: the girl born instead of the wanted son, such that she is given a boy's name and brought up more like a boy - being allowed to ride astride, for instance. But the text itself, at every oportunity, is insistant that inverts (to use the language of the time) are born. That they can;t be unnatural, as society would have it, because they are born that way. And then God gets dragged in again and you go round the loop again. It's one I have no intention of revisiting, although I am able to admire its bravery while not having enjoyed it very much at all. ( )
  Helenliz | Oct 24, 2020 |
The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall was first published in 1928. It tells about the life of Englishwoman, Stephen Gordon, born to an upper-class family, but a disappointment to her parents as she wasn't the expected boy. From an early age, it was apparent that she was a lesbian. Her father recognized this and tried to help her and guide her but he fell short of actually explaining to her what her sexual identity meant, leaving her confused and uncertain. Her mother knew her daughter was different and that this difference made her unlovable to her, yet she failed to recognize or acknowledge or what that difference was.

I found this an incredibly sad story as she faced manipulation, ridicule and scorn all of her life. It is all too easy to forget how not following the 'norm' in sexual identity was treated not all that long ago. My heart goes out to people who have had to struggle to find their place in the world and be accepted for their true nature.

This book has been banned on and off again over the years, but for quite some time it was one of the main books about being lesbian and as such was the guidebook for many a young girl. I can't say that I particularly enjoyed this story of gender identity but I can understand it's importance. Believed to be auto-biographical, The Well of Loneliness is a slow and thoughtful, non-explicit story about wanting love and acceptance but mostly finding despair and loneliness. ( )
  DeltaQueen50 | Oct 19, 2020 |
A surprisingly good book that is not widely read. The Well of Loneliness has been known as the Lesbian Bible and was written in 1928. It was quite an edgy book for its time. The book itself is more about gender than orientation. The female lead, Stephen, leads a tom-boyish childhood. She hunts, fences, rides her horse but not side saddle fashion. She is also a collage of several people unintentionally. She is built like Vita Sackville-West and will become a writer. Like Sackville-West and her fictionalized Orlando she cannot return to her family house. Her moods in relationships fit more closely to Violet Trefusis. There is also a trip to Spain like Woolf and Sackville-West. All this, however, is coincidental. A well written early twentieth century book. ( )
  evil_cyclist | Mar 16, 2020 |
Watch my YouTube review right here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q0jwYvWzqO8

I’ve taken more notes for this review than a lot of other reviews I’ve written.

Writing this feels bitter-sweet. I feel like I’ve come to know her, come to love her. Stephen Gordon, the young red-haired, strapping lass who learnt to fence, learnt to box and was willing to fight a boy from Eton because girls are better than boys. She has a temper as fiery as her hair, is initially seriously socially awkward, forever trying to prove herself against a world that wasn’t made for her. I loved baby butch Stephen, who had no idea she was unusual, until she did know.

“She felt shy, yet unusually daring.”

This book begins, as most books do, with the main character’s birth. There’s much description of the environment, much like Thomas Hardy. The seasons, hills and valleys and trees all become a part of the novel. Women are described as ivy, clinging and beautiful and men are described as oak trees — and there’s no need to tell you which Stephen would prefer to be. Morton, the country house where Stephen grows up, becomes a character in and of itself. Reading this book is like listening to an orchestra, there are lulls, highs, dips, crescendos. There are parts you do and don’t like, because of how long it is.

If you don’t like horses or animals, I thought I should forewarn you and say there are two fairly prominent horse characters in this book and a dog, much later. These animals have thoughts and interact with Stephen a lot, especially in her childhood. The dynamics of her family are probably the most interesting part of her growing up — Stephen is friendless, lonely, apart from her father, who vows to protect her. He knows she’s queer and keeps it from her, while her mother grows more and more distant from her, to the point of cruelty.

Her parents begin to argue, to fight, as they’ve never done before, and Stephen believes it to be all her fault.

"It is bad for the soul to know itself a coward. It is apt to take refuge in mere wordy violence.”
“I won’t let her face your hatred alone.”

No matter the quality of the writing in this book, because of its trial for obscenity and subsequent infamy, it formed bridges for queer women that they could safely cross. In second World War, libraries lent books on army bases to people who signed their name in a ledger. If you looked in the Well of Loneliness, you could see all the people who’d borrowed the book, and approach women who’d signed their name to it.

A conversation might’ve taken place, and it might’ve sounded something like this.

“I saw you borrowed Well of Loneliness from the library.”

“Oh, yes I did. Such a queer book it was, too.”

“Yes, indeed. Did you enjoy it?”

“On the whole, yes.”

“Would you like to go for a drink?”


… and there you have it. Hall, with her novel, created a way for queer women to talk to other queer women without ever endangering them or creating suspicion. Many times, cheap lesbian pulp, written and produced mostly by men, for men, said on their blurbs that their books were “like something of the Well of Loneliness.”

Radclyffe Hall carved her own path. The story is remarkably autobiographical in parts, and, at times, obsessed with martyrdom. The latter half of the book, especially the last 100 pages are almost a moral monologue of what to do and what not to do as a queer person. How to survive in a place that does not make space for you. And yet the author runs into the same roadblocks as always: marriage, the right to own property together, the right to have their relationship recognised as legitimate. The right to be called anything but a ‘friend’ by the side of a dying spouse.

Any passages that discussed this really affected me. I immigrated to Canada to be with my wife. At the time of our application, same-sex marriage was only available in Canada, not Australia. Legally, on the Australian census, I was single. Recently, we received a call from the Canadian tax office and had to clarify again and again that I didn’t live with Valerie for 2 years of our relationship.

I still get people asking me “Why’d you move?” when they look outside and see slush, snow, cold biting wind. Why did I move from a sub-tropical climate, from the bluest skies in the world and the best beaches I’ve ever been on. Because the slush, the snow, the cold biting wind offered my wife and I more security than Australia could at the time. Usually people would shrug and say “ok” because they’d never considered not having the right to be with the person they loved.

And even when it does have more rights than Australia, the Canadian immigration process is still relentlessly gruelling. After the federal decision to allow same-sex marriage, the Prime Minister at the time, Stephen Harper, created a law so that any couples immigrating here had to have their relationships evaluated for their legitimacy. Because, y’know, now the queers could get married, anyone could apply for the process.

Now, of course, since November of last year, Australia has same-sex marriage at the federal level. It was a pleasure to vote, to say yes and to see it succeed. I’m so happy for all my queer friends at home but also now that my wife and I have another option, and perhaps one day, our children will too.

But any time Stephen Gordon despaired at being unable to marry, to provide security for her beloved, I felt for her. I have been to the those crossroads.

And yet, through it all, we have the character of Valerie Seymour, a French socialite, who stood “like a lighthouse in a storm-swept ocean. The waves had lashed round her feet in vain; winds had howled; clouds had spewed forth their hail and their lightning; torrents had deluged but had not destroyed her. The storms, gathering force, broke and drifted away, leaving behind them the shipwrecked, the drowning. But when they looked up, the poor spluttering victims, why what should they see but Valerie Seymour! Then a few would strike boldly out for the shore, at the sight of this indestructible creature.”

I loved Stephen Gordon. I cherished her. She felt like a friend to me. I never loved her more than when Hall painstakingly described her evening routine. Combing her hair back with a wet comb, the clink of cufflinks, the stiff starch of a collar, meticulously buttoned shirts, cuffs, men’s silk underwear.

But, Hall also uses slurs and sometimes antiquated language to describe black people, or Jewish people. I rolled my eyes. If Hall were born now, she’d be a racist TERF of the worst degree. Her writing, at times, smacks of privilege and I realised, if she existed now, I’d make every effort to kick her out of the community.

And in regards to her writing: most of the other characters, for their part, do not come to life as Stephen does. Mary comes close, but for the majority of the novel, many characters are merely soundboards for Gordon, and somehow I didn’t mind. I didn’t mind any of the novel’s flaws at all, because I loved Stephen so much. I felt like she was real.

There were so many times where I wanted to pull her aside and ask her questions. I took to flagging the book with a mess of pink post-it notes instead. In terms of the overall plot, it moved slowly, sometimes it barely crawled. I feel that the queer people Stephen associates with were introduced too late in the book and it would’ve done better to introduce them earlier, then introduce them again once Stephen had overcome her internalised homophobia, but that’s just me.

There’s no telling why it was flagged for indecency. The word queer, in relation to Stephen, is used a total of 16 times. The word queer is used a total of 21 times and the word invert, which, at the time, was the medical term for a queer person, to describe someone as ‘sexually inverted’, was used 15 times. This last one, perhaps, apart from the scenes where people of the same sex are described in bed, is the most damning of all. Queer has more than one connotation, but invert was used specifically to describe LGBTIQA people. Hall’s bold use of the words themselves, never mind the characters, is incredible.

And yet the only time she ever used the word ‘invert’ was in warning. To say: this is what you shall become. If you’re queer, and you come out, you can never come back from that. You will be cast out. You will be isolated. You will be alone. Despite all your efforts, the world is not built for us. Even Stephen, who is described as having “above all, a grateful nature” is later described as “having a hardened heart.”

Whether this book has a happy ending or a sad ending, there will be an element of bitter-sweetness. Either in the fact that the author risked it all to publish it, or refused to publish it until they could be punished no longer (in the case of E.M. Forster’s Maurice.)

I might not care very much for many of the author’s attitudes, but I loved Stephen Gordon. I still do.

Hall warned us, warned us all what stepping out into the world would do. Then, she did the gayest thing she could possibly think of: she wrote and published this book.

This book was a lifeline in its time, and I would argue, at times, a lifeline now. It reaffirms what I know down to my bones: that queer women and femmes have always existed, that we will always exist, no matter how any society attempts to cast us out.

Hall was angry, bitter and sometimes full of hate.

And in the midst of that, she created Stephen Gordon, who became a lighthouse for us all.
( )
1 rösta lydia1879 | Feb 1, 2020 |
This was read as a part of my ongoing 'read lesbian classics' books, and I will say it sure was a Lesbian Book, in a similar way that Price of Salt sure was a Lesbian Book--though obviously because it was written far earlier, the shifting location of sexuality as a category is something to track and think about here. This edition came with a fairly decent primer in the history of understanding the novel amongst queer and trans folks, so I'd recommend that alongside reading it for sure.

This was definitely interesting for tracking the way that certain tropes have followed queer people across time, as well (especially narratives of suffering and death.) It's also pretty racist (openly uses the n-word) which I don't think folks mention often (though that introductory essay does mention it, so that's got it going for it.) But overall clearly interesting to read and think about, just not overall my super cup of tea for fun. ( )
  aijmiller | Dec 21, 2018 |
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Författarens namnRollTyp av författareVerk?Status
Hall, Radclyffeprimär författarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Ellis, HavelockCommentarymedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Gluckstein, HannahOmslagmedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Hennegan, AlisonInledningmedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Im, Ok-hŭiÖversättaremedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Journel, Vera deÖversättaremedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Lack, LéoÖversättaremedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Lami, AnnieÖversättaremedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Martin, HugoÖversättaremedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Ōkubo, YasuoÖversättaremedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Pattynama, PamelaÖversättaremedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Petit de Murat, UlysesÖversättaremedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Quintella, AryÖversättaremedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Renner, LouisÖversättaremedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Saxey, EstherInledningmedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Schumann, EvaÖversättaremedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Vendyš, VladimírÖversättaremedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Yan, YunÖversättaremedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Zody, BepFörordmedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
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To Our Three Selves
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Not very far from Upton-on-Severn - between it, in fact, and the Malvern Hills - stands the country seat of the Gordons of Bramley; well-timbered, well-cottaged, well-fenced and well-watered, having, in this latter respect, a stream that forks in exactly the right position to feed two large lakes in the grounds.
There is an illuminating and entertaining monograph to be written on the sub-literature which has grown up around The Well of Loneliness. (Introduction)
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Wikipedia på engelska (2)

'As a man loved a woman, that was how I loved ?It was good, good, good ?' Stephen is an ideal child of aristocratic parents - a fencer, a horse rider and a keen scholar. Stephen grows to be a war hero, a bestselling writer and a loyal, protective lover. But Stephen is a woman, and her lovers are women. As her ambitions drive her, and society confines her, Stephen is forced into desperate actions. The Well of Loneliness was banned for obscenity when published in 1928.

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