Euphoria by Elin Cullhed translated by Jennifer Hayashida

This is a fictionalised account of Sylvia Plath’s final year with and without Ted Hughes, written as a first person account and drawing on her writing of the time. It is a relentless shift backwards and forwards between being a mother, a writer and a lover of Hughes, always feeling like she is the one that must tend to the children, bake, pop down to the post-office and then decry the fact that she has no time to write whilst Hughes goes off to his room for the space to think and create. It is a tiring read, relentless in the fact that her mind can find no place to settle, no role to sink into without feeling guilt and her constant desire for Hughes, almost to devour him. I think it was Elon Musk who said that no one would want to be in his head. I wouldn’t have wanted to be in Plath’s head during this time. Round and round and round.

. . . -, yes our children were to be christened today almost as if in passing.

Ted’s way.

So then there was nothing strange about Mother Sylvia extricating herself from breakfast, nearly going up in smoke and turning to dust before her family when announcing:

‘I’m going to write now. You can clean up – the christening clothes are next to the bed, make sure you brush Frieda’s hair.’


And possibly one of the hardest things to take is that she invited Assia Wevill to their house in South Tawton and introduced them to each other. Did she do this knowingly or not? The result was the same. They had an affair and eventually Hughes left her for Wevill. The writing definitely gives a sense of Plath as manic after this, if not before, along with her belief that she and Hughes would get back together when they were in Ireland. In fact, he did a moonlight flit off to Spain to be with Wevill. Afterwards, when she got back to Devon –

I wrote until my insides were hollowed out, until all of me felt like my body was an arch that threw my soul out like the kind of innards that would lurch into a toilet. Here was the toilet, here was the salvation – here was the paper.


Hughes has written about writer’s block, comparing it to a fox – quick and with a stink – and here Plath likens writing the poem Daddy to vomiting with the relief at the end. Quite brutal. As she was writing she acknowledges a crow calling, a symbol for Hughes, how he was always calling to interrupt the event she was creating. Not just the poem but her marriage as well.

The writing is as raw as the emotions expressed which is quite remarkable as it is a translation and so I have to say, a very good one. You can tell the translator was a poet as the lyrical nature of the writing has been maintained. The opening chapter lets you into the story straight away, entitled 7 Reasons Not to Die and is an excellent way to cover a lot of background about Hughes family thinking that the marriage wouldn’t last but also to demonstrate the deep and absolute love she has for her children.

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