̶ That’s lovely!
̶ It’s not too soppy?
̶ Sentimental. My Achilles heel, sentimentality. I’ve been told more than once I could make a fortune writing Harlequin Romances.
̶ If you could write one as good as Wuthering Heights!
̶ Emily—I do adore her.
I’d been thinking about Emily, about her ravaging love story, ever since Ingrid had told us she’d been commissioned to write the music for a dance version of Wuthering Heights that a Dutch troupe was developing.
̶ I can’t wait to hear what music she’ll come up with!
̶ Whatever it is, it’ll be powerful. She loves Wuthering Heights as much as I do.
A gust of wind rattles the brittle grass; softly, the soughing of the breeze resumes.
̶ Marietta, I am Emily.
̶ Like a million other readers!
̶ You think so?
̶ I’m sure of it.
̶ Yes, I suppose so. It’s amazing, isn’t it, how she bewitches us?
̶ It is. When I was seventeen I was quite in love with her. And that feeling has never really diminished. It’s very subtle, the sexual power she exerts, but no less strong for that.
̶ How do you explain it?
̶ The book doesn’t flatter the reader, it guards its secrets. And that, as every woman knows, is an aphrodisiac.
̶ And yet she died a virgin. Unknown.
̶ But not unknowing. She may or may not have loved someone at Law Hill School, but what’s certain is that she loved herself. That’s enough to know the essential.
̶ You think so?
̶ I don’t.
̶ My view, Sprague, is this: All the mirroring in the book, the mixing of names and genders, suggests a lesbian consciousness. When you understand the role of Heathcliff, it all becomes clear.
̶ So you believe Emily was lesbian?
̶ I’m sure of it.
We cross the border into France.
̶ What makes you so sure?
̶ Wuthering Heights is a book shot through with ambivalence, and driving it all is Emily’s sexuality. She was your age, Sprague—twenty-seven—when she wrote it. And at that age…
Her demonic masterpiece, and my humble haiku.
̶ …all she knew was that she was an oddity. The language didn’t have the resources for her to conceive of herself any other way. ‘Invert’, maybe.
̶ So the tension in the book, it derives from her response to her sexuality?
̶ Yes. It’s an expression of her ambivalence. And all the violence is a sign of her frustration.
̶ At what?
̶ At not being able to affirm herself frankly.
The traffic’s light; you’re pushing one sixty.
̶ ‘I am Heathcliff’: How do you interpret it?
̶ Heathcliff is the cipher of Emily’s homosexuality. The outsider, the alien, the odd one out. He’s Catherine’s double, not her complement.
̶ He embodies her sexuality?
̶ Yes. That strategy of doubling is very lesbian. Catherine and Heathcliff are one and the same.
̶ So when she has to choose between Heathcliff and Edgar Linton…
̶ She has to choose to affirm or deny her homosexuality. She chooses Linton and her world falls apart. The pain of abandoning such a fundamental part of herself kills her.
Staring at the stubbled fields, I suddenly imagine them as golden wheat.
̶ Yes, I see that now. It all makes sense!
I open the Evian.
̶ How could I have missed it before?
I pass you the bottle. When you give it back, I drink a mouthful and find myself savouring it: So this is the taste of transparency.
̶ Did you really see that scene as Catherine confessing to Nelly her dilemma in choosing marriage partners?
̶ Yes, I suppose I did.
̶ You are sentimental, Sprague.
̶ I told you, when I give up haiku, I’m going to write a Harlequin Romance.
In your sly smile I see my future: I don’t have Emily’s genius, I cannot write a novel as vicious as hers. Instead, I will write one that walks the knife-edge of tenderness, and when I’m done something more will remain than the sheen of my blood on the blade.
̶ For every lesbian, that scene with Nelly is perfectly transparent. Catherine is confessing that she’s going to deny her homosexuality, and she’s aware that it’s a fatal mistake. Remember, she says, ‘If all else remained and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger’.
̶ And in rejecting the stranger, she becomes a stranger to herself.
̶ Yes. Without Heathcliff, she loses all sense of who she is. She didn’t die after giving birth to Cathy, she died when she turned her back on Heathcliff.
You’re pushing one-seventy. I caress your cheek with the back of my fingers; you kiss my fingertips.