Sunday, 25 October 2009
The piano started again. This time it was not a student but confidant, easy playing. It was Debussy's La Cathedrale Engloutie, The Submerged Cathedral. Through the window came those slow notes, and into this Spanish room the Breton myth of the drowned city, the church bells and the monks chanting from beneath the sea, and in her mind they were Gaudi's cathedral spires, in a slow, centennial rising from the water in apparition.
-Charlotte Wood, The Submerged Cathedral, p. 244.
I've been thinking a lot about gardens lately after reading The Submerged Cathedral by Charlotte Wood and watching The Secret Garden. The garden in both these narratives has a central symbolic function, but the more I read critical material about this symbolism, the more unsatisfied I am. In particular, there's always the much quoted symbolism of the Garden of Eden. I feel as if there's something more to say.
What has always appealed to me about The Secret Garden is the idea of the secret, as much, or perhaps even more so, than the garden itself. This idea of a buried secret as a symbolism for love is also evident in Wood's novel. The idea that love is like an echo of a garden that is buried beneath the sea, like Debussy's Submerged Cathedral. It's no wonder that the book left me haunted. I tend to retain memorable books in my memory by translating them into fragmentary images, and the image of a submerged garden is still present in my mind.
And really, that's how I associate the intimacy of love: as a secret, like hiding beneath the covers when it's cold. Has anyone read The Submerged Cathedral or seen The Secret Garden? If so, I'd love to know what you think.