Sunday, 7 June 2009

Under my skin ...

Things do get "under our skin". It's a way of saying that we carry an issue or a person close to our hearts, in our senses, that something has become almost part of our flesh or unconscious. Perhaps it's also a way of saying that we have become almost too sensitive to something or someone. I sense it's incarnational as well.
The French don't say under my skin but they do speak about supposedly over-sensitive people being "écorché vif" which literally means skinned alive but is used to mean hyper-sensitive to insult or injury.
All this because I've been remembering the first volume of Doris Lessing's autobiography, which is called Under my Skin, as I am reading her imagined memoir of her parents Alfred and Emily. In it she imagines her parents lives as if the First World War never happened, as if neither had to take the terrible trauma of that event into their lives. In her imagined version of their lives they never marry and so she would never have been born. In the second half of the book she looks again in more detail than she did in her autobiography at their actual lives, it seems to me that she seeks to understand them and somehow liberate them from the constraints of what war, poverty and convention did to them - and her.
Yet it was in part that testing childhood which gave us one of the most acute and searing literary talents and imaginantions of our times.

"I was born with skins too few. Or they were scrubbed off me by . . . robust and efficient hands." Doris Lessing