It has been said the novel Orlando is the longest love-letter ever written; a celebration of the bond between women. The relationship between Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West is well documented and known to have been intimate. That Virginia was passionate and giddy about her relationship with Vita is also known and displayed in Orlando. But Orlando also offers a rare intimate glimpse into the mind of Virginia Woolf. An unselfconscious work, it reveals her mind, talent at play. Orlando offers rich insights into her mind while keeping the rich prose that embodies her other great works. The novel demonstrates several of Virginia's obsessions, the focus here on gender and sexuality. While presumptuous to assume an author's life directly through her work, Virginia herself writes about this inevitable link in Orlando: "In short, every secret of a writer's soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind is written large in his works, yet we require critics to explain the one and biographers to expound the other" (Orlando 209). A good author usually writes what she knows; considering the background of this novel, the reader may draw parallels between Virginia's life, her relationship with Vita and the writing of Orlando.
Who is Orlando? The common interpretation is Orlando is Vita. The book is dedicated to her and pictures of Vita are interspersed throughout the book. Vita herself was said to tell Virginia that she fell in love with herself after reading the novel. Vita's mother was more acetic: "You have written some beautiful phrases in Orlando but probably you do not realise how cruel you have been. And the person who inspired the book ...
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...nergy of her relationship with Vita is apparent in the novel. She was to wrestle her demons in other books (To the Lighthouse as an example) in Orlando she celebrated. But in Virginia's hands, even satire has its serious moments. "I am writing Orlando half in mock style very clear and plain, so that people will understand every word. But the balance between truth and fantasy must be careful" (Dairy 117). And now years later, critics are still trying to view in-between the truth and fiction and the enigma of Virginia Woolf.
Bond, Alma Halbert, Phd. Who Killed Virginia Woolf - a Psychobiography. Human Sciences Press, Inc.:New York, NY 1989.
Lee, Hermione. Virginia Woolf. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.:New York, NY 1996.
Woolf, Virginia. A Writer's Diary. The Hogarth Press:London 1953
Woolf, Virginia. Orlando. Harcourt Brace & Company:New York 1956.
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