Age of Iron
by J.M. Coetzee
Age of Iron Literature and Writing Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
I tell you this story not so that you will feel for me but so that you will learn how things are. It would be easier for you, I know, if the story came from someone else, if it were a stranger's voice sounding in your ear. But the fact is, there is no one else. I am the only one. I am the one writing: I, I. So I ask you: attend to the writing, not to me. If lies and pleas and excuses weave among the words, listen for them. Do not pass them over, do not forgive them easily. Read all, even this adjuration, with a cold eye. (3.172)
The act of writing tells us a lot about Mrs. Curren's loneliness. There's nobody else to tell her story because Mrs. Curren is so fundamentally alone. She has to rely on her written words to communicate with her daughter because she can't think of any viable alternative.
Yes, I said: today is the day. Yet today has passed and I have not gone through with what I promised. For as long as the trail of words continues, you know with certainty that I have not gone through with it: a rule, another rule. Death may indeed be the last great foe of writing, but writing is also the foe of death. Therefore, writing, holding death at arm's length, let me tell you that I meant to go through with it, began to go through with it, did not go through with it. (3.255)
Mrs. Curren planned to commit suicide, but didn't go through with it. She lets the fact that she's still writing be the evidence that she's still alive. This moment creates an interesting link between writing and living – that is to say, as long as she's writing, she's living.
On the telephone, love but not truth. In this letter from elsewhere (so long a letter!), truth and love together at last. In every you that I pen love flickers and trembles like Saint Elmo's fire; you are with me not as you are today in America, not as you were when you left but as you are in some deeper and unchanging form: as the beloved, as that which does not die. It is the soul of you that I address, as it is the soul of me that will be left with you when this letter is over. Like a moth from its case emerging, fanning its wings: that is what, reading, I hope you will glimpse: my soul readying itself for further flight. (3.345)
We have to admit, we've been wondering why Mrs. Curren doesn't call her daughter or see her in person to tell her what's happening in her life. Maybe it's because it's a lot easier to be honest when you're writing to someone than when you're talking to him or her in person – the experience is less immediate.