On Virginia Woolf, The Years

Some reflections on The Years (here called 'The Pargiters') in Woolf's diary in the 1930s.

2 November 1932
‘after abstaining from the novel of fact all these years – since 1919 […] I find myself infinitely delighting in facts for a change, & in possession of quantities beyond counting  […]. This is the true line, I am sure, after The Waves – The Pargiters – this is what leads naturally on to the next stage – the essay-novel.’

‘[…] feeling as I do that this book is important. Why do I feel this, & I never felt it in the least about the others?’

25 April 1933
On 'The Pargiters':
‘I must be bold & adventurous. I want to give the whole of the present society – nothing less: facts, as well as the vision. And to combine them both. I mean, The Waves going on simultaneously with Night & Day. Is this possible?’

30 May 1933
‘No, I cant look at The Pargiters. Its an empty snail shell.’

2 September 1933
Considers ‘Here & Now’ as new title for the book.

30 November 1936
‘There is no need whatever in my opinion to be unhappy about The Years. It seems to me to come off at the end. Anyhow to be a taut real strenuous book: with some beauty & poetry too. A full packed book. Just finished it; & feel a little exalted. Its different from the others of course: has I think more ‘real’ life in it; more blood & bone.’


From one of the first reviews of the novel. Peter Monro Jack in the New York Times, 11 April 1937.

Virginia Woolf's Richest Novel
In ‘The Years’ Her Art Reaches Its Fullest Development to Date

‘Mrs. Woolf's novel, her first since ‘The Waves’ of 1931, is rich and lovely with the poetry of life. It might be called a chronicle novel, since it begins in 1880 and ends in the present day, or a ‘family’ novel, since it narrates the fortunes of the large and representative Pargiter family. But it eludes both classifications. Though the founder of the present family, old Colonel Pargiter, who lost two fingers in the Indian Mutiny – is, in habit and class, a bit of a Forsyte, there is nothing of the careful solidity of Galsworthy's saga, with its verifiable genealogy, interludes and corroborative detail.

Rather this is a long-drawn-out lyricism in the form of a novel, with flying buttresses to sustain its airy and often absent-minded inspirations. There is the minimum of substructure. But there is everywhere, on one lovely page after another, a kind of writing which reveals a kind of feeling that is more illuminating than a dozen well-made and documented novels. Mrs. Woolf has made, or unmade, her novel in the form of a poem or a piece of music.’


Trudi Tate, Lecture on  The Times  and  The Years , Virginia Woolf and Politics Summer Course, July 2018

Trudi Tate, Lecture on The Times and The Years, Virginia Woolf and Politics Summer Course, July 2018

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