Adam Vail, rich New Yorker, appreciator of beauty, human rights advocate, world traveller: in his civilised, ethical world, Caro finally has her rightful home. And Caro stands by her, delivering Leadbetter a lacerating lecture on principled behaviour, followed by her trump card: before he can sack her for impudence, she resigns, to marry Adam Vail and move to New York.
When Caro brandishes her resignation to Leadbetter:. He hated her, for her liberty and her looks and her happiness, and that remark about the teapot.
The Gatling jammed: words would not so much as sputter. However, since even she could only be delivered by male intervention, he eventually smiled and made his last attack. Even as we cheer for Caro then, another little bridge — the illusion of her independence — is swept away. Independence, the sovereignty of the self that drives all the most powerful characters in The Transit of Venus , is the third paradox I wish to explore.
Self-reverence, self-knowledge, self-control; These three alone lead life to sovereign power. The phrase recurs again and again. The Transit of Venus is ultimately an examination of this concept: what does it mean? Is it good or bad, neither or both? How is sovereign power to be expressed? In Greene on Capri , Hazzard rebukes the meanness of spirit which saw the press sometimes criticising Greene for his material wealth. She quotes Auden on the same matter. Fascination with artists, wrote Auden,. It follows that those who are not their own masters feel the need to punish those who are.
This happens time and again throughout The Transit of Venus. Adam Vail, too, is suspected and attacked for his independence of mind:. In any group there are masters and followers. Even the right side rather dislikes a man who stands alone. It is to do with this issue, self-sovereignty, that Hazzard allows the most devastating bridge collapse.
It is impossible to discuss The Transit of Venus without examining what Hazzard is doing in its final pages. It changes quite abruptly from a complex, beautifully written love story to an icy examination of selfhood and morality. A more anxious writer than Hazzard might have used this section to speed up — but she does the opposite, slowing the narrative down to an almost unbearable degree, stepping away from it, dismissing major events in a single line, offstage. We already know, for example, from an almost stray line in the first pages of the novel, that Ted Tice will take his own life.
The revelation about Ted shows the novel to be concerned with much deeper moral courage than that required simply to love. But when the struts of those beliefs are torn down — by Paul Ivory and the truth — Caro learns that the true exercise of sovereign power might require not action, but restraint. Ted Tice, patiently some might say pathologically adoring Caro from afar, has all the while held fast to a secret that if spoken, would inevitably drive her away from Paul, toward himself. Alone in the book, Ted preserves the moral power with which he starts out.
In a interview with Dennis Danvers in Antipodes , Hazzard said this about individual authority:.
Book Of A Lifetime: The Transit of Venus, By Shirley Hazzard | The Independent
It gives the words a different ring. A reverberation. This is the reverberation at the heart of this novel —- not love, but integrity. The novel is about the greater humanity that one gains by refusing glibness, resisting the cheap shot. The novel is a call to resist vulgar power, the type gained through reduction, through first impressions, through stereotype or quick certainty. The only advantage he will accept is that bestowed on him by his own strength of character.
When Caro is undone by this final revelation, she looks back and sees her life anew, in a pure and cold and terrible light. And still Hazzard has not finished with her demolitions. On the very final page of the book, at the pinnacle of its happy ending, comes a tragedy which doubles as a puzzle, soluble only to the properly attentive reader. An inattentive reader will miss the clue completely, and close the book bewildered.
This prompts more questions about the shape of this curiously bevelled, bejeweled book. Why would an author risk alienating a reader in this way? But what is the meaning of this puzzle?
Once again, I think it is double-sided. First, the ending is an evocation of the title. The planets, not we humans, are in control. Cosmic accidents occur, our lives capsize; we have command of nothing but our capacity to love, and only in this present, fleeting moment. And as Iris Murdoch said, paying attention is a moral act: only looking closely, with an unsentimental suppression of the desires of the self, makes clarity of vision possible. Art is a serious business, the author seems to be saying, and serious attention must be paid.
You have one life: take notice.
Taken together, the astronomers used these figures to calculate the separation of the Earth and sun using trigonometry. The British sent James Cook on the Endeavour to witness the transit from Tahiti , where his crew became so enamoured with the locals they made only cursory notes on the event. Others fared worse. The French astronomer Guillaume le Gentil was barred entry to Pondicherry for the first transit and watched hopelessly from sea.
He stayed in the area to watch the second transit in , only for cloud to obscure his view. On returning home, he discovered he had lost his job, and his heirs had divided up his estate, giving him up for dead. Halley's plan was a success despite the hardships of those who set out to observe the transit. The astronomers shared their records and eventually arrived at a new measurement for the distance between Earth and the sun of 93m to 97m miles.
Today, the accepted distance is It was the first enterprise in big science," said Lord Rees of Ludlow, the astronomer royal. Rees said it was unlikely he would watch the transit this year though. And it's very early in the morning," he said. The last transit of Venus of the 21st century occurs on 5 and 6 June depending on where you are viewing from.
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The transit starts at The transit will not happen again until December Venus takes nearly seven hours to cross the face of the sun, but the event is divided into four "contacts" that mark different phases of the transit. Venus makes first contact when it encroaches onto the disc of the sun. Twenty minutes later, on second contact, the planet will be fully silhouetted. On third contact, at 5. In the US, the transit will be in progress as the sun sets on 5 June. Much of South America and western Africa will not see the event. If you plan to watch the transit with binoculars or a small telescope , you will need a proper full-aperture solar filter.
Venus will cross the face of the sun on June 5, , and will be visible from many parts of the world. Skywatchers in North America, Europe, Asia and eastern Africa will be well-placed to see at least part of the transit in person. If, however, you are unable to witness the event in person, several organizations will be broadcasting footage from observatories and telescopes online. Viewers who tune in will be able to see the entire event unfold, through footage streamed live from t he summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii. These views will be accompanied by commentary from astronomers and transit experts.
The webcast is currently scheduled to begin at p. The transit will begin at around p. People located in the mid-Pacific region, where the sun will be high overhead throughout the transit, are particularly lucky because they will be able to witness majority of the event.
Still, others in North America, Europe, Asia and eastern Africa should be able to see at least part of the transit in person. In North America, the best time to view the transit will be in the afternoon, in the hours before sunset on June 5. In Europe, Africa and Australia, Venus will be traveling across the sun as it rises in the morning on June 6.
Skywatchers throughout most of Asia and across the Pacific Ocean should be able to view the event any time on Wednesday.