‘Great Lives’ feature on Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf on Prose

An excellent Great Lives a couple of days ago on BBC Radio 4 with comedian Sara Pascoe on Virginia Woolf, with expert commentary from Alexandra Harris, professor of English at the University of Liverpool.

Refreshingly, they offered a portrait of Woolf that consciously sought to go beyond the death and madness areas of her life. Whilst the idea of Virginia Woolf as the host of QI may be a step too far, it is easy to recognise Woolf in Sara Pascoe’s description of her as “egotistical, over-sensitive, manic, and so funny socially.”

The programme includes a recording of Virginia Woolf speaking and, underlining her sociability, a clip from author Elizabeth Bowen remembering Woolf’s engaging and unrestrained laughter.

I like Alexandra Harris’s answer of ‘Friendship’ to the endlessly debated question ‘what did the Bloomsbury Group mean?’ Close to the heart of the matter I think.

Her summation of Woolf, at the end of the programme, is also a delight:

Laughing, trespassing, breaking down barriers. Starting a sentence that zooms along a runway like a ‘plane. Taking us into the imaginations of people we never thought we wanted to know about. Allowing us to look out from eyes we’ve never inhabited before.

You can listen to the programme here: http://bbc.in/2bbulrV