“I’m not very interested in my schooldays, and don’t feel any nostalgia for them. But school is where it all began…
Back then, things were plainer: less money, no electronic devices, little fashion tyranny, no girlfriends. There was nothing to distract us from our human and filial duty which was to study, pass exams, use those qualifications to find a job, and then put together a way of life unthreateningly fuller than that of our parents, who would approve, while privately comparing it to their own earlier lives, which had been simpler, and therefore superior. None of this, of course, was ever stated.
In those days, we imagined ourselves as being kept in some kind of holding pen, waiting to be released into our lives. And when that moment came, our lives – and time itself – would speed up. How were we to know that our lives had in any case begun, that some advantage had already been gained, some damage already inflicted? Also, that our release would only be into a larger holding pen, whose boundaries would be at first undiscernible. […]
But I’ve ben turning over in my mind the question of nostalgia, and whether I suffer from it. I certainly don’t get soggy at the memory of some childhood knickknack; nor do I want to deceive myself sentimentally about something that wasn’t even true at the time — love of the old school, and so on. But if nostalgia means the powerful recollection of strong emotions — and a regret that such feelings are no longer present in our lives — then I plead guilty… And if we’re talking about strong feelings that will never come again, I suppose it’s possible to be nostalgic about remembered pain as well as remembered pleasure.”
Julian Barnes, writing in his Booker Prize winning novella The Sense of an Ending.
- Donna Tart on the intoxicating power of a teacher who believes in you
- Barnes describes how and why printed books will survive
- John Updike’s stirring remembrance of girls in fall