Wolf reads Woolf: Orlando

Virginia Woolf is a darn awesome author: not only a modernist who brought A-list literature but also someone who kicked 1920s British snobbishness in the butt. Still, as it often goes with those oh-so-important authors is that their work is quite a pickle to get through. To prove that I’m not afraid of the big bad Woolf, I’ll rapport about my reading experience per book I finish. First one on my shelf? Orlando.

Orlando is a fabulous character: a beautiful young man whose life stretches out over four centuries and halfway through - without any reason and almost completely hassle-free - changes sex. If you ask me, there’s little that makes literature more interesting than some random play on gender. During her/his life, Orlando is admired by Elizabeth I, drinks tea with it-boys Swift and Pope, wanders about with Turkish gypsies, marries a Victorian explorer and becomes a poet in post-WWI London. You have to admit, that Orlando knows how to live a life or 45. Her romantic partners are much in the same way frollicing around the gender spectrum, which gives Woolf the opportunity to reflect on society and comment on the suffocating roles that it allows women.

The man looks the world full in the face, as if it were made for his uses and fashioned to his liking. The woman takes a sidelong glance at it, full of subtlety, even of suspicion. Had they both worn the same clothes, it is possible that their outlook might have been the same.
— Orlando, Virginia Woolf
Tilda Swinton in the movie adaptation of Orlando (1992)

Tilda Swinton in the movie adaptation of Orlando (1992)

This mock-biography was Woolf’s most selling publication and inspired many authors to play with the man-woman balance. Stylistically speaking, this novel's less innovating than her other work. Woolf considered Orlando as an "author's holiday", like when us ordinary people take a break by walking in the parc. Or by turning on the tv to watch Extreme Hoarders. Which makes Orlando the perfect stepping stone if you want to get into our dear Virignia's work. After all, it's one of the few novels in which the main character gets to the end alive.