Hermione Lee schrijft over de dagboeken van Virginia Woolf.
Egotism is often the subject of the diary. She is much concerned with how she writes it, and what it’s for. And its uses vary: it is a ‘barometer’ of her feelings, a storehouse for memories, a record of events and encounters, a practice-ground for writing, a commentary on work in progress, and a sedative for agitation, anger, or apprehension. In the mid-1920s, she has a self-conscious debate with herself about whether it is a diary of facts, or a diary of ‘the soul.’ (At the same time she is working out how much the ‘damned egotistical self’ should get into her fiction.) She seems to have promised herself that the diary would be about ‘life’ rather than ‘the soul’–perhaps as a way of keeping ‘egotism’ under control: ‘Did I not banish the soul when I began? What happens is, as usual, that I’m going to write about the soul, & life breaks in.’ Later she will ‘cancel that vow against soul description’: she wants to describe ‘the violent moods of my soul.’ But then, ‘How describe them?’ It is difficult to ‘write directly about the soul. Looked at, it vanishes.’ So the sense we get from Virginia Woolf’s diaries of knowing everything about her is, perhaps, illusory.
Often she doesn’t want to write about the soul or ‘myself’ at all, but about other lives, history, meetings, events. Sometimes – during the General Strike, for instance – she takes herself to task for not writing more about historical events, and makes herself do so, even if these accounts may bore her later. Those bits of ‘life,’ she suspects, might turn out to be the most interesting parts of the diary after all.
Virginia Woolf schreef in haar dagboek dat een verkeerslicht in Londen werd geplaatst, of dat het werd uitgevonden, toen ik dat las wilde ik schrijven.