A Haunted House by Virginia Woolf (1944)
Tuesday’s Tale of Terror July 16, 2013
Virginia Woolf? A tale of terror? Really? I agree this author is not known for her supernatural horror, but this story does possess a haunting and beautiful darkness. I can hear many of you saying, Oh no, Virginia Woolf with her high modernistic style and all that stream of consciousness prose is too dense. I’m not a fan of Woolf either, but A Haunted House (very short at 700 words) will likely surprise you at how entertaining this little tale is for a 7-minute read.
Here’s the key. Do not approach reading this story for plot or action. Woolf’s narrative style requires a close reading, slow and careful, to get the impact of her stunning language, the imagery, and the ghostliness. Create a blank page in your reading mind and expect nothing.
We are in an old English house with a garden, apple trees spinning darkness, wood pigeons bubbling their coos from wells of silence. We meet a ghostly couple in the first paragraph. They are searching for a buried treasure in the house. The live occupants of the house are fully aware of the ghosts from knockings, shutting of doors, wandering footsteps and … from “the pulse of the house.”
Try not to slide over a single line as they all carry a beauty and symbol of their own.
“Death was the glass; death was between us …” What possible buried treasure could these two ghosts desire to find for themselves now?
Woolf will keep you suspended until the very last line and, once you absorb it, I dare you not to murmur a small gasp.
Read this flash fiction at University of Adelaide:
Listen to the narration by David Federmen, Librivox, Ghost Story Collection on YouTube:
If you liked the literary darkness of A Haunted House by Woolf, do leave me a message. This type of story is quite a diversion from the typical tales of terror on this blog. Did you find it refreshing? boring? too literary? stimulating?
Virginia Woolf, born January 25, 1882 – died March 28, 1941.
“I want to write a novel about Silence,” he said; “the things people don’t say.” The Voyage Out.
“She seemed a compound of the autumn leaves and the winter sunshine …” Night and Day
“The wave paused, and then drew out again, sighing like a sleeper whose breath comes and goes unconsciously.” The Waves
“And somehow or other, the windows being open, and the book held so that it rested upon a background of escallonia hedges and distant blue, instead of being a book it seemed as if what I read was laid upon the landscape not printed, bound, or sewn up, but somehow the product of trees and fields and the hot summer sky, like the air which swam, on fine mornings, round the outline of things.” The Essays, Vol 3: 1919-1924.
Virginia Woolf’s advice on life, women, writing, and the world:
Also, click this link to visit March 28, 2017 here at Reading Fiction Blog to view Virginia Woolf’s Suicide Letter post.
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