Plath fans will recognize that name. That and Shura Wevill.
Apparently there’s a biography out now of Assia Wevill – that’s kind of an interesting article and review there – but it does take the “Ted Hughes is a villain” attitude which I find rather tiresome. There may be some truth to that (here’s another recent article on Hughes) – he may have been a total bastard when it came to romance – but still: should we turn this man on a flaming pyre for all eternity? How sorry can one person be for having a damn affair? So I’m not really into the “Ted Hughes is evil” thing. Human lives are complicated. Affairs and suicides and emotions are not easy – especially not for intense people like these three. I’ve flip-flopped my allegiances through my years of being a Plath fan. There is never just one side to a situation like this one – a situation which is, frankly, a total MESS.
I don’t know if I’ll read the biography – but it was an interesting thing to hear those names, to have all of these associations come up in my head – just from reading Plath’s poems, and all the biographies. She’s a glimmering witch-woman in Plath’s fantasy … a sleek cold Germanic mistress, who slinked into her husband’s life and whisked him away. This is Plath’s side of things. But Assia, in and of herself, is not interesting. Or – at least not like Hughes and Plath are interesting. Hughes and Plath are more interesting because of their art and their fame. Assia is peripheral to the two of them – and it seems like she knew that herself, and that was part of her suicide. She would never “get in there” with Plath and Hughes. What did Assia do besides break up a marriage and then kill herself and her child? Not to disrespect her, seriously – but her interest here is how she intersected with 2 famous people. That’s the fact. She knew it.
But still. I first read Plath’s stuff in high school – and since then – I have read every biography, every critical study – I came to Hughes late, because I had a bit of that “he’s a villain, I won’t buy his books” feeling – which is moronic. The guy is a master.
What I’m trying to say is that I don’t know any of these people – but just from all the books and articles and poems I have read – I got a jolt of something almost like fear seeing those names this morning.
Assia and Shura Wevill.
Fear? Why fear? I guess it’s because I imagine Ted Hughes’ response. Hughes’ first moment in hearing the news that Assia had killed herself and their daughter. I mean … the mind boggles. The mind BOGGLES at trying to comprehend this.
It gives me a shiver, a shiver of freezing cold horror, to imagine what Ted Hughes must have endured.