Light by Timothy O’Grady



[Published by Secker and Warburg 2004]


‘Light’ surpassed all of my expectations. I anticipated a story of love lost and friendships made, but it ended up being so much more than that, with a plot that moves and changes, yet remains based on simple ideas, which are written in an interesting and beautiful style. It is always good to discover something different.


‘Light’ is the story of a man in the evening of his life who stumbles upon a younger man in a pub. He stands out because he is reading a book on physics. Yet, once they start talking, the young man M. relates a story of heartbreak at the hands of a woman who disappeared and whom he is attempting to trace.


M. opens up immediately to a stranger. There is desperation in him, but there is also a connection between him and the narrator; the mutual understanding in the loss of a woman many years before. This chance meeting stays with the protagonist, whose sense of fraternity with the young man leads him to make his own attempts to solve the mystery of the missing woman. It also forces him to confront his memories, taking him through post-war Poland and his years as a youth.


There is a vicariousness to the quest – as if he, perhaps, will finally be able to relinquish the memory and hurt of Angelina (which plagues him like disease) if M. can find Hanna. At seventy, he says he still felt like he had a lot of life to live, but it seems more like he was looking for a story that would restore his faith in love.


‘Light’ is a reminder of life as a series of chain reactions, that love is transformative, and that it has the potential to feed on lovers until nothing remains. The course of our lives and our very identities have the potential to be defined by a loved one’s presence or absence.


What is the relation between physics and love? The narrator, in his loneliness and old age, examines M.’s situation, together with his memories, as if performing some kind of scientific investigation, examination, experiment. On one hand, there is a certainty attached to the scientific – a formula that makes determination of a conclusion easy – on the other, love and physics may have something in common; that our answers may change depending on the questions we ask in the beginning and that, like everything else in the world, love is not immune from creation, alteration, annihilation.


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