Harry Potter: An elegy
My favourite part about these books has always been, in a way, the backstory. I adore the overarching timeframe, the cyclicality of the sacrifices of Harry’s parents and their generation, sacrifices that are redeemed in the end. I love the way the past is constantly in tension with the present. To truly know himself and understand his destiny, his future, Harry has to be prepared to learn about not just his past but that of all the wizarding world.
There’s also something very beautiful about relationships and love, and love that transcends death. My favourite line has always come from The Prisoner of Azkaban: “Do you think the dead we have loved ever truly leave us? Your father is alive in you, Harry, and shows himself when you have most need of him.” I loved the echo of this line in the Deathly Hallows film, when one of the shadows (I cannot remember which – his mother?) said that they had always been with him, and would stay until the end. It’s not just that Harry is the physical image of his father, but that he shares enough of his father’s personality to bother the one who always disliked James Potter. Carrying on a legacy isn’t always about the good things. Then there’s his mother’s eyes, the only consolation he can offer to a dying man.
The dead never leave. Their spells of love protect us. Their best-laid plans come to fruition (or fall apart). They dispense wisdom in scenes from the afterlife. Some take a long time to truly die, while others come back to life.
Nostalgia’s a powerful feeling. My work at the moment even involves nostalgia studies to a degree. I think that nostalgia is always contingent upon the impossibility of return, whether to the homeland or the past, or whatever the object of desire. My lazy undergraduate days, of writing and reading fan fiction, updating LiveJournal, and endlessly dissecting the Harry Potter books, are long gone. I don’t necessarily desire to return to that time, but I do miss it. I miss trying to study for uni exams and read a new book at the same time. I miss talking about the books with friends who shared my inability to talk about anything else. I miss that overwhelming sense of obsession. As I said, I’ve felt that way about three things during my adolescence: Hanson, the Vampire Chronicles, and Harry Potter, in that order. The only thing I have been more passionate about is my work, which by nature of becoming my work ceased to be less of an obsession and more something I do because I need to. Even falling in love has been a different kind of passion, and dare I say it, less intense. Grand, but on a different scale.
Harry Potter is the only one of the three obsessions that has afforded me some measure of finality. With Hanson, it was a slow decline. I still don’t own and haven’t heard their most recent album. As for the Vampire Chronicles, it comes and goes, but I can’t seem to quit them, if maintaining a LiveJournal community is any measure of interest. But Harry Potter has come to a definite end, on paper and on film, and it’s all been very fitting and lovely and an appropriate close.
I love what cleolinda wrote about the epilogue of the movie in her post here: ‘But to me, at the end of this movie, it wasn't really about the main characters' futures and how many kids they had and what they named them and which ones got the red hair. It was about us.’ She continues: ‘And this is the end of that, its completion, and we're standing on the platform, in the middle of other, different, separate journeys now--but we're on that platform watching all the young kids coming up and getting on that train for the first time.’
You know, I’m just so envious of those people who are going to experience Harry Potter for the first time. Passions are always most intense at the beginning, before they mellow out into love.
This seems an appropriate moment for another of my favourite quotes, this time from Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale:
"I have always been a reader; I have read at every stage of my life and there has never been a time when reading was not my greatest joy. And yet I cannot pretend that the reading I have done in my adult years matches in its impact on my soul the reading I did as a child. I still believe in stories. I still forget myself when I am in the middle of a good book. Yet it is not the same. Books are for me, it must be said, the most important thing; what I cannot forget is that there was a time when they were at once more banal and more essential than that. When I was a child books were everything. And so there is in me, always, a nostalgic yearning for the lost pleasure of books. It is not a yearning that one ever expects to be fulfilled."
Harry Potter is the closest that I have ever come, as a teenager and adult, to fulfilling that lost pleasure in books.