At Thanksgiving my friend Linda Larson sent me Annie Prouix’s National Book Awards Speech, given November 15. Some called it gloomy, with its lamentation about the present state of the world. But Prouix ended on a hopeful note. She read this poem by Wislawa Szymborska. As in the third stanza, maybe all of us who’ve lived long enough have “earned the right to happy endings, at least in fiction”.
That’s why I write romance, or rather, its sister, Women’s Fiction. I disagree with those who say it doesn’t deserve its own genre (but that’s another discussion). After all, it is women who must stay positive, as we’re the ones who bring forth the next generation.
By Wislawa Szymborska
Translated by Clare Cavanagh
They say he read novels to relax,
But only certain kinds:
nothing that ended unhappily.
If anything like that turned up,
enraged, he flung the book into the fire.
True or not,
I’m ready to believe it.
Scanning in his mind so many times and places,
he’d had enough of dying species,
the triumphs of the strong over the weak,
the endless struggles to survive,
all doomed sooner or later.
He’d earned the right to happy endings,
at least in fiction
with its diminutions.
Hence the indispensable
the lovers reunited, the families reconciled,
the doubts dispelled, fidelity rewarded,
fortunes regained, treasures uncovered,
stiff-necked neighbors mending their ways,
good names restored, greed daunted,
old maids married off to worthy parsons,
troublemakers banished to other hemispheres,
forgers of documents tossed down the stairs,
seducers scurrying to the altar,
orphans sheltered, widows comforted,
pride humbled, wounds healed over,
prodigal sons summoned home,
cups of sorrow thrown into the ocean,
hankies drenched with tears of reconciliation,
general merriment and celebration,
and the dog Fido,
gone astray in the first chapter,
turns up barking gladly
in the last.