Shirley Hazzard Laurence Lafore - Essay

Laurence Lafore

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Shirley Hazzard's writing is like some electronic mechanism, enormously intricate in design and function, charged with great power, but so refined by skill that it may be contained in a small case and exhibit a smooth and shapely surface.

The surface of ["The Evening of the Holiday"] … tells us how an Italian man and an Englishwoman meet and fall in love in an Italian town, and how their subsequent, rather undramatic, affair develops. But beneath the surface is a complexity of ideas and effects—and of ancestors. Miss Hazzard tells us that Keats is the forebear of her heroine; among her own are Hawthorne, Henry James and E. M. Forster. Like them, she deals with the perpetually fascinating and valid problems of a woman of northern antecedents and inhibitions confronting the easy sensuality of the Italian male. Upon this foundation—or volcano—she has constructed her complicated and moving edifice.

Like one of Forster's books, Miss Hazzard's ends with a train journey that tells us something of the author's intention. The heroine, continuing on her way after an interruption in the course of her life, shares a carriage with a company of soldiers. At each stop, their bugler relieves their wistful boredom and sense of futility with a romantic tune. But "the song never reached its conclusion, for the train would always start up again with the last refrain and the instrument would be violently shaken in the musician's...

(The entire section is 410 words.)