Hunger—that nagging, empty, gut-tugging, bone aching, heavy, and exhausting insatiability. That is the unsatisfying hunger of Hemmingway’s The Garden of Eden. It is the story of a newlywed couple, David and Catherine Bourne, insatiable in their hunger—famished for breakfast, dying for lunch, starving for dinner. And a drink—always some alcoholic drink: whisky, beer, wine (of a thousand brands), Armagnac, and absinthe. And the sexuality of their marriage bed.
But it is a dark hunger—unsatisfied. A hunger that finds hinted-at expressions of the unnatural. Catherine longs to be the boy. She longs David to be the girl. And they make the game of it—in the dark of their room. But what is done in secret will be revealed. It is—and she is discontent. There is one more secret yet to be had by the unsatisfied Catherine, one more desire to find fulfillment, one more experience to try, one more mores to break. Always one more attempt at happiness.
But the loneliness of the empty soul is a dark hunger satisfied only with great difficulty, by an ancient love. Catherine seeks to be as dark as an African, with hair so white that it becomes almost colorless when wet. And in her pursuit of darkness, she never finds the end of those troubled ways. Contentment remains a handbreadth away—while the darkness is always closer than that.
“…Now there is this disregard of the established rules which can very well be the salvation of the whole coast. We are pioneers in opening up the summer season which is still regarded as madness.” Human salvation never is. The trust of wealth promises. The lure of the siren raises echoes of brokenness not to be healed in the pursuit of the vain. And the empty heart, like an empty bottle, is all that remains after drinking the vanity of the earth.
“I thought you might be lonely,” David says to his wife of three months—after they have ventured too far down the roads of marital contentment.
“Everybody ‘s lonely,” David said.
“It’s terrible to be in bed together and lonely.”
“There isn’t any solution,” David said. “All your plans and schemes are worthless.”
“I didn’t give it a chance.”
“It was all crazy anyway. I’m sick of crazy things. You’re not the only one gets broken up.”
“I know. But can’t we try it again just once more and I really be good? I can. I nearly was.”
“I’m sick of all of it, Devil. Sick all the way through me.”
“Wouldn’t you try it just once more for her and for me both?”
“It doesn’t work and I’m sick of it”
“She said you had a fine day and that you were really cheerful and not depressed. Won’t you try it once more for both us? I want it so much.”
“You want everything so much and when you get it it’s over and you don’t give a damn.”
Brokenness is empty. This kind of soul hunger will not be filled with the ordinary kinds of food and drink. Hemmingway drew long from the draughts of promise—till in the end there was nothing, for him, for David, for Catherine…for any who set upon such paths. Vanity? Yes. And the revelation of a modernity now nearing the exhaustion of age and waste and trying.
“All your plans and schemes are worthless,” the heart says.
And with a desperate voice we hear ourselves reply, “Oh, but to give it one more chance.”