An Honest Testimony

I have been reading the remarkable book ‘Somewhere towards the End’ by Diana Athill. Now 92, she wrote the book as a sort of postscript – or prescript (she is very much alive) to her life. Having been a publisher’s reader and reviewer of other people’s books, she suddenly discovered in her eighties that she too could write, and this is her fifth and – she says – very likely – her last! We heard her speak at the recent Bath Literary Festival. Beautiful, dignified and – like her book – totally honest and open as she was interviewed, we feel as if we know her. Three extracts from the book….

‘Dwindling energy is one of the most boring things about being old. From time to time you get a day when it seems to be restored, and you can’t help feeling that you are ‘back to normal’; but it never lasts. You just resign yourself to doing less – or rather taking more breaks than you used to in whatever you are doing’…

…‘It does seem to me that the young nowadays are often more sophisticated than I
used to be, and that many of them – certainly my own darlings – relate to their
elders more easily than we did; but I am convinced that one should never, never expect them to want one’s company, or make the kind of claims on them that one makes on a friend of one’s own age.

Enjoy whatever they are generous enough to offer, and leave it at that.’…

…‘What is so good (about young people) is not just the affection they inspire and how interesting their lives are to watch. They also, just by being there, provide a useful counteraction to a disagreeable element in an old person’s life. We tend to become convinced that everything is getting worse simply because our own boundaries ARE doing so. We are becoming less able to do things we would like to do, can hear less, see less, eat less, hurt more, our friends die, we know ourselves will soon be dead… Its not surprising that we easily slide into a general pessimism about life, but it is very boring and it makes dreary last years even drearier.

Whereas if, flitting in and out of our awareness, there are people who are BEGINNING, to whom the years ahead are long and full of who knows what, it is a reminder – indeed it enables us actually to feel again –that we are not just dots at the end of thin black lines projecting into nothingness, but are part of the broad many-coloured river teeming with beginnings, ripenings, decayings, new beginnings – are still part of it just as these children’s being young is, so while we still have the equipment to see this, let us not waste our time grizzling.’

A remarkable book by a remarkable person. I warmly recommend the book!