Dionne Brand: Love Enough

Love Enough, Dionne Brand’s 2014 urban allegory asks: Do you love enough? Are you loved enough? Do you have enough love? It’s tempting to look at the novel’s overlapping reflections on love, violence and the desire for freedom, depicted through its three pairs of characters as particularly modern; however, these reflections are embedded, not only in the characters’ histories, but the histories of the prior generations to which these characters are connected.

For, though delineated against the brittle Toronto skyline, the Dupont and Dundas enclaves depicted are just catchment estuaries for deposits of fraught lives. It is to ignore Da’uud’s history, for instance, to lay wholly at the feet of Toronto the fact that Bedri falls off the tracks; and Bedri, Lia and June, the most sensitive partners of the three couples in the novel don’t seem to be able to get out of the stasis that has followed and swamped their desire to live fully and to act. Further, in retrospect June realises that she has been more a victim than an agent of her age-old compassionate eye and that the youthful hope of Xavier Simone’s “Love Poem 17” has limits to its power to save or to transform any life.

Of course, the novel does not bypass local insouciance: the city is sending a hundred musicians to Jane-Finch; and as for change, change is depicted as the ugly-beautiful (scars of train-station memory left behind from failed loves and passions).

But the strongest whisper beneath the novel seems to be the awareness of the cyclical and ritualistic nature of human hurt and unfulfilled desire. June, for instance, in spite of her yearning for love beyond sexual ecstasy, has always loved tentatively, watchfully, and with an acute sense of the power of love to destroy.

Do you love enough? Are you loved enough? Do you have enough love? The triptych offers no follow up on its three paired lives. Bruised living, like Bedri’s imaginary bird and Lia’s metal butterfly, remains behind closed doors – in an Audi, in a condominium, or hiding out on Ward’s Island, each in its own plateau of silence. But every so often a wounded sunset slices the cornea of the sky, arresting and impaling with perpetual compassion June’s bloodshot eye.


©Cynthia James January 2015

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