when the dying speak, they cannot lie

Books and reading

In 2020, my lockdown treat to myself was Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light, the final instalment in her trilogy charting the rise and fall of Thomas Cromwell. Yesterday, Mantel’s death was announced. This post by Brian D Butler of Travel Between the Pages seems to me a fine tribute to her writing, and an introduction to it for anyone who hasn’t yet read any of her work.

Travel Between The Pages

I was sad to read of the passing of the great English author Hilary Mantel. Here in the colonies we became acquainted with her powerful prose through the Wolf Hall trilogy. I thought that I would share this piece from Hilary Mantel’s essay “Blot, Erase, Delete,” published in Index on Censorship, Vol. 45, Issue 3, 2016.

It has always been axiomatic that when the dying speak, they cannot lie. I knew a man whose mother told him, as she lay dying, who his real father was: like a woman in a Victorian melodrama. She might as well have climbed out of bed and kicked his feet from under him. The truth was far too late to do him any good, and just in time to plunge him into misery and confusion and the complex grief of a double loss. Some truths have a sell-by date. Some should not be uttered…

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29 thoughts on “when the dying speak, they cannot lie

  1. Oh, brilliant post, Margaret.. “some truths have a sell-by date” and “only the old struggles repeating: half-animated corpses of forbidden childhood thoughts crawling out of the psychic trenches we have dug for them”…What a brilliant writer she was

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  2. I’ve seen a multitude of tweets quoting Mantel which underline what an extraordinarily intelligent, insightful and articulate social commentator she was even apart from her brilliant fiction. A great loss. Thanks for adding to that multitude.

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  3. I have not read any of her books yet, I did enjoy the television dramatization of Wolf Hall. A friend talking on the radio about Hillary spoke of the years and years of research that went into her work and fame coming along late in her writing career. I admire good writers of historic fiction; I love writing pure fiction straight from my head without the extra work!

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    1. I know what you mean. I don’t really have a scholar’s mind. But the TV adaptation of Wolf Hall was wonderful, wasn’t it? They’ll probably run it again now.

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  4. I was sorry to read the news yesterday. I’ve only read the Thomas Cromwell trilogy, but loved all three books and am looking forward to reading more of her work. Thanks for sharing this post!

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  5. You probably wouldn’t remember, but I stole some of her poetic words ‘fallen fruit silks’ for a post I wrote back in 2013. She was an amazing talent and quite a force of nature not afraid to voice her political views either. Most definitely a sad and great loss not just to the literary world. ‘A Place of Greater Safety’ brought the French Revolution to life for me in a similar way as the Cromwell books brought Tudor history alive. I can’t believe she’s gone.

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