'Katherine Mansfield Today' Blog

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What was KM thinking and writing 90 years ago today? The ‘KM blog’ posts daily extracts of her letters and notebooks written almost 90 years ago...
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2 July 1922

Hotel d'Angleterre, Montana-sur-Sierre, Switzerland

To return to your Russianization for a moment. It seems to me that when Russians think they go through a different process from what we do. As far as one can gather they arrive at feeling by a process of. . . spiritual recapitulation. I don't think we do. What I imagine is we have less words but they are more vital; we need less. So though one can accept this recapitulating process from Russian writers it sounds strange to me coming from your pen. For instance, in Going Home you get in five lines: "enthusiasm, doubtful, mistrust, acute terror, anxious, joy, sadness, pain, final dissolution, filth and degradation." Or (p.2) "the unhappiness, the misery and cruelty, all the squalor & abnormal spiritual anguish." Again, last page but one of The Sister " futility, monotony, suffocated, pettiness, sordidness, vulgar minuteness." When one writes like that in English its as though the nerve of the feeling were gone. Do you know what I mean?
   I realise its all very well to say these things - but how are we going to convey these overtones, halftones, quarter tones, these hesitations, doubts, beginnings, if we go at them directly? It is most devilishly difficult, but I do believe that there is a way of doing it and thats by trying to get as near to the exact truth as possible. It's the truth we are after, no less (which, by the way, makes it so exciting). [To Arnold Gibbons, 24 June 1922.]

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1 July 1922

Hotel d'Angleterre, Montana-sur-Sierre, Switzerland

To return to your Russianization for a moment. It seems to me that when Russians think they go through a different process from what we do. As far as one can gather they arrive at feeling by a process of. . . spiritual recapitulation. I don't think we do. What I imagine is we have less words but they are more vital; we need less. So though one can accept this recapitulating process from Russian writers it sounds strange to me coming from your pen. For instance, in Going Home you get in five lines: "enthusiasm, doubtful, mistrust, acute terror, anxious, joy, sadness, pain, final dissolution, filth and degradation." Or (p.2) "the unhappiness, the misery and cruelty, all the squalor & abnormal spiritual anguish." Again, last page but one of The Sister " futility, monotony, suffocated, pettiness, sordidness, vulgar minuteness." When one writes like that in English its as though the nerve of the feeling were gone. Do you know what I mean?
   I realise its all very well to say these things - but how are we going to convey these overtones, halftones, quarter tones, these hesitations, doubts, beginnings, if we go at them directly? It is most devilishly difficult, but I do believe that there is a way of doing it and thats by trying to get as near to the exact truth as possible. It's the truth we are after, no less (which, by the way, makes it so exciting). [To Arnold Gibbons, 24 June 1922.]

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