"A story has no beginning or end: arbitrarily one chooses a moment of experience from which to look ahead..."
"This is a record of hate far more than of love," writes Maurice Bendrix in the opening passages of The End of the Affair, and it is a strange hate indeed that compels him to set down the retrospective account of his adulterous affair with Sarah Miles—a hate bred of a passion that ultimately lost out to God.
Now, a year after Sarah's death, Bendrix seeks to exorcise the persistence of passion by retracing its course from obsessive love to love-hate. At the start he believes he hates Sarah and her husband, Henry. By the end of the book, Bendrix's hatred has shifted to the God he feels has broken his life but whose existence he has at last come to recognize.
Originally published in 1951, The End of the Affair was acclaimed by William Faulkner as "for me one of the best, most true and moving novels of my time, in anybody's language." This Penguin Deluxe Edition features an introduction by Michael Gorra.
Bendrix, as evidenced by his ability to tell the story, is not dead, merely unconscious, and so Sarah must keep her promise. She breaks off the relationship without giving a reason, leaving Bendrix mystified and angry. The only explanation he can think of is that she's left him for another man. It isn't until years later, when he hires a private detective to ascertain the truth, that he learns of her impassioned vow. Sarah herself comes to understand her move through a strange rationalization. Writing to God in her journal, she says:
You willed our separation, but he [Bendrix] willed it too. He worked for it with his anger and his jealousy, and he worked for it with his love. For he gave me so much love, and I gave him so much love that soon there wasn't anything left, when we'd finished, but You.It's as though the pull toward faith were inevitable, if incomprehensible--perhaps as punishment for her sin of adultery. In her final years, Sarah's faith only deepens, even as she remains haunted by the bombing and the power of her own attraction to God. Set against the backdrop of a war-ravaged city, The End of the Affair is equally haunting as it lays forth the question of what constitutes love in troubling, unequivocal terms. --Melanie Rehak