Orlando by Virginia Woolf is a milestone novel in the history of literature. Those that are familiar with Woolf’s writings would know that how complex and stylistic it could be. Orlando seems to be the height of it. Written as a biography of her lover at a time, Vita Sacksville-West, the work is a fictional reality ( or magic realism, as called these days). It deals with themes like homosexuality, feminism, biographical style, satire, aristocracy, war, and tries to convey that a person is both male and female at a basic level with some aspects dominating others at a given time. She has made the protagonist Orlando as an androgynous character, who experiences both the male and female body and psyche, has had lovers of all kinds and is a warrior and a poet, all the same.
Come to think of it, it is a truly amazing book. There were times when I had to stop after reading a page and think over it for minutes. At other times I would reread and yet not completely grasp. It is witty and funny at places and highly contemplative at other times. I was not aware of Vita West’s personality before reading this so I might have faced drawbacks while reading it but still on its own it is such that it confounds you and leaves you with an immense intellectual and literary stimulation.
There are few works which inspire you to become a writer and whet your wit and appetite for intellectual discussions so much. This book did this to me. I have become an ardent fan of Virginia Woolf as a writer. Her life story saddens me though. To know that a person of such genius suffered from depression is heartbreaking but nonetheless, we have got in return some of the best works in literature.