Lovestory: A Tribute to Erich Segal

Lovestory, Erich Segal’s chef d oeuvre, is a novel which even on reading the nth time would please you as much as it does at the first blush. It’s one of the best romantic novels written in the history of English literature. Talking of literature, this book is not really the one which reminds you of Shakespeare and his undecipherable literature but it’s stroked in a manner quite informal and crude and comes exquisitely seamless in narration retiring you charmed by its beautifully sketched out characters.

It’s in the style of writing and supremely in the simplicity of the story where the sumptuous taste of the book lies. Erich Segal wrote the story in the form of screenplay and sold it to Paramount Pictures. However the book came into being only after the production house asked Segal to transform it into a novel as a means of publicizing the upcoming film. Love story was unveiled on 14th February, the Valentine’s Day amongst all the fervour and frenzy and what happened thereafter is purely magical. The book was the best seller for the decade of 1970 and was translated in 33 different languages. And Love story, the film, went on battering all the box office records in 1970.

Love story begins with the verbatim “What can you say about a twenty-five year old girl who died? That she was beautiful and brilliant. That she loved Mozart and Bach. The Beatles. And me”. The story unfurls in a recountal by the male protagonist ‘Oliver Barrett IV’. As the weight of the name hints, he belongs to an ostentatious family, of Harvard University graduates and by the work of destiny meets and falls in love with a quick witted, perky, working class Radcliff College girl ‘Jennifer Cavelleri’.  Much to his father’s stern believes of letting an ordinary girl into their family, Oliver disowns himself and marries Jennifer against filial bickering, pledging to never see his parents again.

With Jennifer teaching in school to earn an income, the couple contentedly struggle their way to paying his college fees and eke out till the day Oliver gets a job in a New York law firm. Soon, Oliver on the pretext of Jennifer unable to conceive a baby meets up with a doctor. He is mysteriously informed about Jenny’s illness that she is afflicted with leukaemia and her days of living are numbered. Thenceforth starts a poignant journey of a man whose beloved was dying, who was now stuck betwixt his unending grief and the responsibility of veiling his grief from her, who is oblivious of the tragedy that has invaded their love filled lives.

Jenny confronts her doctor for her illness and expresses her willingness to know the truth and hence she is awakened to the crushing reality. The couple spends their last moments together doing things that Jenny likes the most which is seeing Oliver playing ice hockey amongst others and Oliver tries desperately not to shed tears seeing her sinking with every passing day.

Jennifer lying on the hospital bed, looking towards heaven with one eye and towards Oliver with the other, asks him to hug her tightly for the last time and he rightly does so, and inside his love filled embrace she closes her eyes and Oliver realizes instantly that he has lost Jenny, the sole purpose of his life.

The book particularly makes you fall in love with itself, it embosses certain kind of sincerity and successfully embodies the love between the two. It’s short and crisply written without any single ‘yawn moment’. Lovestory grips you throughout and when you are indeed released from its clutches, you are almost in tears venerating the literary aesthetics of Erich Segal.

The reason behind embarking upon this 1970 love story in 2010 is the passing away of the celebrated author of lovestory, Erich Segal. He was suffering from Parkinson’s disease from the last 30 years and died of heart attack on January 17, 2010 at the age of 72. He may not be the one of the writers with uncountable best sellers but certainly is the one with enlivening and heartwarming ‘Lovestory’ shining on his cap of achievements.

Tanya Jain

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