Somerset Maugham and Marta Hillers believed in the Writing Cure

May 29, 2013 § Leave a comment

Not long ago I learnt from Richard Wiseman’s :59 seconds that talking about negative experiences does not benefit a person in the long term, but writing about them may well be a remedy.

Somerset Maugham and Marta Hillers (the presumed author of A Woman in Berlin) knew this already.

In Somerset Maugham’s Cakes and Ale, Rosie is telling the narrator about the dramatic death of her six-year-old daughter:

‘Was it that death Driffield described in The Cup of Life?’

 ‘Yes, that’s it. I always thought it so funny of Ted. He couldn’t bear to speak of it, any more than I could, but he wrote it all down; he didn’t leave out a thing; even little things I hadn’t noticed at the time he put in, and then I remembered them. You’d think he was just heartless, but he wasn’t, he was upset just as much as I was. When we used to go home at night he’d cry like a child. Funny chap wasn’t he?’

The narrator of Cakes and Ale comments a few pages later: Whenever he [the writer] has anything on his mind, whether it be a harassing reflection, grief at the death of a friend, unrequited love, wounded pride, anger at the treachery of someone to whom he has shown kindness, in short any emotion or any perplexing thought, he has only to put it down in black and white, using it as a theme of a story or the decoration of an essay, to forget all about it. He is the only free man.

In A Woman in Berlin, the author recorded her experiences at the hands of the Russians in a diary: Russians raped many women, often brutally, and in gangs.

Towards the end of her diary, a woman asks the author if she ever dreams of the Russians. (We take it that she meant have nightmares.) The author said ‘no’ and then concluded that she had freed herself of the horror by writing about it.


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