A Series of Facts about Edith Wharton, for Aid Workers. Part III.

This post is written by Rachel Unkovic, an aid worker, artist and oral historian. This is the third post in a serial, you can read the first post here and the second one here.

Edith_Wharton_with_soldiers

Edith Wharton with WWI soldiers. Source: The US WWI Centennial Commission website

A Series of Facts about Edith Wharton, for Aid Workers.

Part III

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27.)  I read The Age of Innocence in the summer of 2013, while working at the AkçakaleTal Abyad border crossing.

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28.) The Age of Innocence is not about war, yet Edith wrote it after experiencing a war.

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29.) The Age of Innocence is not violent or cruel, like its predecessor, The House of Mirth, yet Edith wrote it after witnessing violence. She wrote it after seeing the impact of human cruelty on the bodies of women, men and children. From the war, Edith—an expat, always more privileged, always safer—didn’t shrink into cynicism but grew her own capacity for generosity.

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30.) One day in late August 2013, I was curled up with the book in a dusty plastic chair in no-man’s-land between Turkey and Syria, waiting for a drug shipment to clear the crossing, bound for three health centers. Gunshots shattered the air. They were close as fuck. Surrounding me, security men whipped out their Nokias, texting furiously to discover what we were dealing with.

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31.) The most helpful thing I could do was to stay in place and stay calm, and so, as the shots continued, I turned the page of my book and reentered old New York. I read about Ellen and her lovers and the stress and pain of crafting a society where your family will be safe. I read about the beauty of drawing rooms with string musicians playing concertos while women in white gloves sipped cocktails and men in black suits nibbled cookies.

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32.) I read about the world Edith had been born into, a world that she now understood was a fantasy unworthy of her fury, worthy only of her deconstruction.

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33.) A colleague crouched by my chair to explain the barrage of shots: ISIS fighters had attempted to arrest someone several blocks away. I wondered which word my eyes had been on during the shots that had missed their target—and which, during the shots that had struck.

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34. Our drug shipment was delayed by several hours. It made it through.

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To continue reading, click here

2 thoughts on “A Series of Facts about Edith Wharton, for Aid Workers. Part III.

  1. Pingback: A Series of Facts about Edith Wharton, for Aid Workers. Postscript. | Missing in the Mission

  2. Pingback: A Series of Facts about Edith Wharton, for Aid Workers. Part II. | Missing in the Mission

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