Plots, Plotting Lives, and Cinema in "A Candle or the Sun"

George P. Landow, Professor of English and Art History, Brown University

My mother, Clara, had a passion for seeing movies not once but again and again. As a child she had often taken me to an unfashionable cinema, which specialized in reruns. In darkness and in an uncomfortable seat,I had learnt how stupid old men in love became. I remember Carrie and The Blue Angel, I think of Limelight and Pygmalion [139].

My parents, Fred and Clara Perera, had met, fallen in love, lived and would die in the spelland the music of the 1950s. Even as they talked, I could see my mother rehearse the moment when she finds out that my father's disease is incurable. "How long has he, Doc?" she would ask. The doctor, grey-haird, his face lined with the suffering-he-has-had-to-share but neverthless retaining its kindliness, would say with a wisdom that transcendes mere personal experience. . . .She new that she would be smiling and brave until the end so that Father would never knew that she knew. And my Father would, right up to the bitter end, remain his gruff, kindly self, sneaking grimaces of pain but only when he thought Mother wasn't watching, sparing her the agony of knowing. Yet dep down each one knew the other knew and their pretence was another aspect of their love. Then suddenly would come the news: there has been a terrible mistake, a mix-up of x-rays. The nightmare is over and staring into each other's eyes the happiness-ever-after as the camera zooms out, leaving two figures alone but blissful in a landscape of unending green. [14, 33]

Her manner was one of solicitude but she periodically shot him looks of intense animosity that would have bewildered an observer who did not understand her as well as I did.

It was not at Clara Perera was unprepared for Fred's death. I am certain she would have, in her dreamings, rhearsed the moment of his passing several times, viewing it as the climax that had been their life. But he should have looked pale, not grey; weary not shit-scared. If he had to cough blood it should have been bright red and it should have gushed out of his mouth against his will even as he lay dying on her lap. Clara could then wipe (ever so gently, mind you) the blood from his lips with a spotless, white handkerchief extracted from her bodice. But Fred chose not to play this game and this business of bringing up stciky brown mucus was disgusting. [33; cp 49]


Baratham, Gopal. A Candle or the Sun. London: Serpent's Tail, 1991. {Note: Serpent's Tale, the publishers, are located at 4 Blackstock Mews, London N4, England.)

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