Robin Wilkey
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The Castle of Longing

Torn between what her father once was and her own feelings, Terza, and her irrepressible sister Clara, contemplate their father's forthcoming second marriage to a much younger woman with a little unease. Haunted by the past and imagery deeply rooted in Bohemian folklore, Terza draws comfort in her newly revived relationship with her father's mistress, and a mysterious handsome stranger whom she meets quite by accident. At the same time, Clara's relationships are both stormy and shallow, and she looks to her older sister to help her make sense of her own life.

As a treatise on femininity and sensuality, this work endeavours, unhurriedly, to draw a line between realism and a post-existentialist world which expiates artistic freedom from past repression. Opinions on love and immortality are expressed as anecdotes to the character's own reflections on life, and finds respite in the differences between the quiet self-determination of the central character and her incorrigible sister.

Bibliographic Details
ISBN-10: 0951611127Publisher: Artscene Publications (United Kingdom)
ISBN-13: 978-0951611128Publication Date: 1 July 1997
Paperback: 560 pages (in English)Product Dimensions: 5 x 7.75 inches
The life and times of the characters in the story

The main characters are two sisters, Terza and Clara, whose personalities differ greatly. Terza is very clear-sighted and sober, though her character can be surprisingly flexible and tolerant, especially when it comes to her relationship with her sister. Clara is incorrigible, as Terza would frequently say, and her relationships are fragile at the best of times, especially that with her current boyfriend, Rudi. Clara, on the other hand is both vivacious and outrageous and the two sisters soon find that their very different views provide both laughter and bitterness in their love/hate relationship. However, when Clara is in need of a friend and someone to fall back on it is her sister Terza who comes to the rescue.

Clara meets up with her old friend Jana, who is married to the fanatical Karel, a former boyfriend of Clara's and a reactionary whose ideals form the basis of political unrest when he, along with students in a newly formed democracy, barracade themselves in at the university ready for a violent struggle with government forces. Karel leads the students and both Clara and Terza become embroiled in the situation as they try to support Karel's wife Jana.

As the story progresses plans are being made for Terza and Clara's father to marry
a woman half his age called Kirsty, which causes no end of consternation between the two sisters. During this time Terza's relationship with Franti, a man she met on the train whilst visiting her father in Geneva, grows at a steady pace. Meanwhile Clara's relationship with her boyfriend Rudi blows hot and cold and Terza cannot understand why her sister cannot hold down a reasonable relationship.

Compare this with the suave, rich back-drop of more settled European democracies and we find Terza flits languidly between both old and new worlds. But the past is never very far away. Petty jealousies, and Clara's determination to usurp her sister as their father's wedding draws ever closer, makes no pretension to hide the fact that human nature is somehow weaker under the surface than at first perceived. Deeply reflective, the book draws unhurriedly to its conclusion.

The philosophy found in the Castle of Longing
Realism is truth to nature, the fidelity of representation, therefore, the characters in any book must always remain true to their nature, whilst the sense of the tragic increases and diminishes with sensuality (Nietzsche: Beyond Good and Evil, Maxims and Interludes No.155). There are many maxims and interludes which could be interwoven within this book, from the obvious metaphors, which are introduced to express certain feelings of the main characters (' the confusion Terza linked her father's unreasonable actions to that of The Devil's Wall, in the sense that the appearance of a wall between them was much like that of the myth.' - Chapter 1, page 11), to the more obscure and unstated theorems on existentialism - Clara feeling hungry and thirsty, her throat dry and pallid, (Chapter 16, page 194) being compared to thirst as being three-dimensional (Jean-Paul Sartre: Being and Nothingness).

Existentialism, therefore, is a philosophical movement or tendency, emphasizing individual existence, freedom and choice, which has influenced many writers in the 19th and 20th centuries. Its main themes are: Moral individualism: insisting that the highest good for the individual is to find his or her own unique vocation (Kierkegaard). Subjectivity: stressing the importance of passionate individual action in deciding questions of both morality and truth (Kierkegaard, Nietzsche and others).

Refer also to the character of Karel throughout the book, and Jana's exclamation: Karel says there is no love, only passion (Chapter 20, page 251). Choice: existence precedes essence, therefore choice is central to human existence (Jean-Paul Sartre). Clara also quotes Carl Jung when she says (in Chapter 18, page 226): The choice is, therefore, that what is potentially evil in us is then passed onto others, and we hate it in others. Anxiety: that it is spiritually crucial to recognize that one experiences not only a fear of specific objects but also a feeling of general apprehension, which Kierkegaard called dread.

The word anxiety (German angst) was explored by the German philosopher Martin Heidegger, and brings us closer to the philosophy found in The Castle of Longing. The word anxiety can also sometimes be transposed as longing.

The castle of the book's title could refer to a number of things, and it is easy to associate the word castle (or The Castle) with the Austrian Jewish existentialist writer Franz Kafka. (Terza is reading a copy of Kafka's work on her train journey, Chapter 6, page 60). Just a coincidence? Yes. The castle in the title is less tangible, it is what we can't see of ourselves, though others can often see it. Our persona, as Jung would say. Longing: anxiety, angst? These are close. Longing is another word for desire. It is Anji (Chapter 36, page 467) who puts her finger on it when she exclaims: And what is desire, but unsatisfied longing! Terza queries her friend's words, little realizing what Anji is driving at. Anji of course, is referring to Terza's own relationship(s).
An extract from the novel:

We make for ourselves a landau for dreams, so that all our thoughts and fears can be contained easily, and carried wherever we want to go. If Terza could have contained her thoughts in such a way, then we might half expect such a landau to be bereft of dreams, rather than harbour fears that could not be expressed to the angry wayfarer. Instead, her gait was due in some part to the undefinable contention that always counters what it seeks to understand, and the feeling that her sister had betrayed that landau, that conveyance of reflections, took an about turn when Terza had little time to think about it.

She felt guilty, but how could she be angry with her sister? She felt unable to divulge her feelings, for in the same sense she was betraying Franti for something she no longer felt to be true, yet somehow, what had happened had angered her in a way she had not anticipated. She wanted to remember the way things were, she supposed. What did Werner see in Clara?

The train journey had been slow, but by the time the train reached the border, Terza had caught up on some sleep and she awoke with some excitement at the thought that it would only be an hour before she saw Franti again. She composed herself as the train slowed to a halt at the border station and people searched in bags and purses for passports. Terza fumbled for hers, then waited patiently as people around her spoke excitedly, she turned and looked out of the window to see what was going on. The warm rays of the sun beat down upon her long black dress and made it feel warm against her bare skin. Her dark sunglasses hid her eyes as she watched people walking backwards and forwards with their suitcases. She was in Austria at last and a great feeling of exhilaration enthralled her.

Once the passports had been checked the train pulled slowly out of the station and all at once she felt as if she was in a strange new country.

The landscape became more undulating and large and small alpine cottages dotted the fields and lower reaches in the splendour of dark greens and bluish mists, which dominated the view from the train. In the distance, Terza could see the cobalt haze of the mountains as they rose out of the landscape like huge boulders; she thought of Salzburg and Franti and Milo waiting for her. She couldn't wait to see them now and wondered how she would find them. She sat forward resting her elbow on the ledge, cradling her head with her hand, her hair falling dishevelled and to one side, vibrant in the dancing sunlight as it assumed a silky appearance. The dark shadow of her face, augmented by her sunglasses, took on a warm bluish tint as her high cheekbones caught a shimmer of gold like an early Picasso painting, moulded into artistic inflection.

© 1997 Robin Wilkey
Sample Chapters
Chapter 6
Chapter 28