Only Shirley Hazzard could end a novel by writing explicitly of a virgin woman’s clitoris – which she describes with a kind of cheerful poetic simplicity as ‘the final fleshly inch where he could wake her and touch her, and say her name’ – using it to literally embody survival, and art, and all of life; turn her back on the War, which is, as we see, unending – ‘the inextinguishable conflagration’ – and write, at last, ‘Many had died. But not she, not he; not yet.’
Even to her, he would not say outright that he was thinking of death; of the many who had died in their youth, under his eyes; of those he had killed, of whom he’d known nothing. On the red battlefield, where I’ll never go again; in the inextinguishable conflagration.
These hours would be lived to the full. Years of hours would follow, but not this. He had felt their chance passing; she too, in fear. For this he had travelled to the airy, empty harbour where, like a legend, she lay in a mildewed swing-seat, waiting. As surely as if she had leapt from a planked deck into the ocean and swum ashore, she had jumped ship for him. Ten thousand miles had been retraced, down to the final fleshly inch where he could wake her and touch her, and say her name.
Many had died. But not she, not he; not yet.
~ Shirley Hazzard.