Can a saint keep a diary? Only a saint could think so. For the rest of us the truth is in the life and all biography is betrayal. We have only so much perspective. The thought of transcending our limitations dumbfounds us. We live by practical if uninspiring rules, among which: to write is to edit is to lie; to write of one’s own life is inexcusable except as farce; however indispensable to sinners, farce is flat unavailable to saints. And finally: if not an outright betrayal, a diary entry seems at best incommensurable with humility. But we’re not saints. We can’t imagine writing for no one. We can’t imagine writing if for no one. The life-long collection of tormented, devotional journal entries by the would-be martyr reverberates with the conviction that her frailty keeps Him vigilant, on her behalf. She means it as a compliment, of course, this recitative as much complaint as prayer, on every page repeated, that her devotion is sufficient, is worthy, is essential to the balance of commitment between them. She offers it in just the way a lover asks, But why do you love me? Does that seem selfish? Only to us. Not having read the originals, we’re in no position to judge how much of her tone is the translator’s, how much the editor’s, how much the echo of a lost tongue and time. So, if she seems too proud, too much a nag to suit our sense of saintliness, the poverty is ours. Regarding the faith of others, if there is a truth, it can’t be told; if told it can’t be heard. No book can be the world. For some it is forbidden to paint the face of god, but it needn’t be. One might as well prohibit being god.
Copyright ©1997-2008 David Hodges