Wouldn’t that be one of the most magnificent birthday gifts? Donna Tartt’s The Secret History is a literary gem, a genuine Modern Classic. It is one of the most aesthetically pleasing books I have ever read, not only because of its countless references to the philosophical concept of the Sublime and the beauty that can be found in terror, but also because it affected me more than almost any other book I have read. Tartt is incredible, a literary genius if ever there was one.
Alas, The Secret History never became a movie for various rather complicated reasons. And perhaps also because the story has such clear links to Tartt’s own life at Bennington College.
As a movie or TV show, The Secret History might have looked like this short video I recently found. It’s a fan-made compilation of short clips from other movies and TV shows like Indignation, Kill Your Darlings, and From Dusk Till Dawn. I think it’s beautiful and well-made.
“Why does that obstinate little voice in our heads torment us so?” he said, looking round the table. “Could it be because it reminds us that we are alive, of our mortality, of our individual souls- which, after all, we are too afraid to surrender but yet make us feel more miserable than any other thing? But isn’t it also pain that often makes us most aware of self? It is a terrible thing to learn as a child that one is a being separate from the world, that no one and no thing hurts along with one’s burned tongues and skinned knees, that one’s aches and pains are all one’s own. Even more terrible, as we grow old, to learn that no person, no matter how beloved, can ever truly understand us. Our own selves make us most unhappy, and that’s why we’re so anxious to lose them, don’t you think?”Donna Tartt, The Secret History, p.35