I finally read John McGahern’s The Dark (finally!). So good. Unable to imagine a future, the protagonist waits for his exam to tell him what to be. He wins a university scholarship, heads to Galway, and his future (still unimagined) seems to be unfolding in hopeful–even dreamlike–ways. But, ultimately, the exam and the scholarship it provides him cannot tell him what to be, what to do, or who to become, and the very next chapter begins: “The dream was torn piecemeal from the university before the week was over” (172). I love this line because it distinguishes between the dream and the reality, insisting that the university cannot provide either a certain or utopic future. The “unclear recognition of . . . reality” that the protagonist gains leads him to leave the university, but it also legitimates him. In his words:
One day, one day, you’d come perhaps to more real authority than all this, an authority that had need of neither vast buildings nor professorial chairs nor robes nor solemn organ tones, an authority that was simply a state of mind, a calmness even in the face of the turmoil of your own passing” (188).
Nostalgic for Galway, exhausted from donning professorial robes, I, too, seek a real authority.