by Dish Staff
The great gay, English novelist first went there to see a young Indian man, Syed Ross Masood, with whom he had fallen in love, prompting him to start writing A Passage to India – a novel it would take him nearly 11 years to complete. Why the delay? Damon Galgut speculates that he was hung up on the famous scene involving Adela Quested and Dr. Aziz in the Marabar caves, and that a second trip to India to see Masood, one in which Forster’s hopes for love were dashed and they abruptly parted way, gave him the material he needed to move beyond the writer’s block:
The impact of this parting goes almost entirely unremarked in his diaries and letters, and yet it must have been of huge importance to him. There are only faint but significant clues as to how he felt. In his diary on 27 January, the night before he leaves, he admits that he has had a “long and sad day”. Then we find this cryptic entry: “Aie-aie-aie – growing after tears. Mosquito net, fizzling lamp, high step between rooms. Then return and comfort a little.”
It seems that something happened between the two men that night. But what? He apparently never spoke about it to anybody else and the diary entry is frustratingly opaque. But it’s almost certain that this incident, whatever it was, involved Masood and some kind of rejection. Whether he tried to touch or kiss his friend, it’s clear that he made some sort of overture and was rebuffed. And the sparse, telegrammatic style of the words indicate – in his case – how deeply felt they were.
It was in this state of mind that he set off to the caves the next morning.
In fact, the visit had been organised by Masood, perhaps as some kind of consolation, though he didn’t get up to see his English friend off. In his journal Forster tersely notes: “Left at 6.30. After one glimpse the raw greyness.” His mood, one senses, was saturated with the feeling of loss – and he carried this feeling with him into the caves a few hours later.
Is it too fanciful to imagine that everything Forster must have been experiencing that day – a confusion of love, sadness, disappointment and possibly anger – was projected on to the caves, and took form in the imagined attack? It’s never explicitly stated in the novel, but it’s obvious that Miss Quested is attracted to Aziz. If the assault is a fantasy, it’s because her desires have no outlet – and the same could be said for Forster.
(A portrait of Forster by Dora Carrington, circa 1924-25, via Wikimedia Commons)