Corinne, or Italy: a Brief Reflection

“Here the genius feels at home, because here reverie is so sweet. If he is restless it soothes him, if he regrets some unattained goal it presents him with a thousand golden visions. If men oppress him nature is there to welcome him.”

I just started re-reading A Room With a View, which I bought at a bookstore with my parents when they dropped me off for my sophomore year at the U. Needless to say, it’s a special book. However, the above quote is from Corinne, or Italy.

The image people have of Italy: good food and wine, charming men, and inspiring streets. I mean, even I came here to be inspired and find that “dream” escape from reality to pursue my passions. Now I am in Italy, writing to you about the timeless notion that this country heals one’s soul and mind. I’m trying to mix logic in with the fantasy of this place, so I will not say that I’m a changed person. I will say that Florence’s beauty provokes many emotions in me. I will say that I’m the same person, but hopefully becoming a stronger version of myself.

Corinne, or Italy draws an interesting comparison of our leading lady (yup, you guessed it, Corinne) and Italy as a whole. There are many parts of the book that resonated with me, and I will discuss what I think of what I’ve read thus far. Corinne is an independent, strong-willed Italian woman who everyone worships—she’s like the 19th Century’s Beyoncé. An Englishman named Oswald comes to the country and decides to see what’s so special about this woman. His impression: “All her movements had a charm which aroused interest and curiosity, wonder and affection.”

He falls in love with her.

Awwww, so happy. So cute.

Not really. Corinne battles against her love for him and the desire to remain true to herself. “Corinne was not a frivolous person, but each day she felt more dominated by her love for Oswald and she wanted to try and weaken its power.” The wording of De Stael possesses some sort of power over me. Love: something we all want but are terrified of getting. Being in love means the possibility of loss. Being in love means giving up some of the activities you love. It’s vulnerability, honesty, completely letting someone saddle up into your life and take the reins of your heart.

There’s a scene where Corinne says she needs to figure out if there’s anything other than Oswald that brings her pleasure. She’s worried that the feelings he arouses will absorb everything else in her life. He asks her if she wants to stop loving him, and she replies, “No. [But] we must not destroy forever the kind of happiness I must content myself with.”

Ah, the power of love. Even the notion of it is hard to let go of. The question here is if Oswald is worth it. If she lost her creative talent and only had him, would it be enough? Is love ever worth losing a part of yourself?


Maybe not.

Maybe you shouldn’t have to lose a part of yourself. Loving someone means sacrifice and uncertainty. You could give it all to someone and get nothing in return. You could get hurt, or you could choose to let them in completely. Their presence in your life will change you, in the best and worse ways. In Corinne’s case, she believes she can’t do what she loves and love Oswald. She’d lose everything for an Englishman. He doesn’t respect Italian culture and wants Corinne to leave her country to be with him. Corinne says that living in Italy is “a dream-filled sleep under a beautiful sky.”

Corinne reminds me of some of my darkest fears of love and loss. Corinne reminds me of the beautiful mystery of Italy and other things I ponder.

Can love exist without something in you changing? No, but I think that’s the point. Love should change you. Is it possible then to love oneself, another person, and maintain all of the inspiration of the life before love? I am not sure.

A closing quote: “Literature itself ceases to flourish where ideas are not renewed by the strong and varied activity of life. Yet in what country more than in Italy have people shown admiration for literature and art?”

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