Katherine Mansfield

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G. I. Gurdjieff

The final three months of Katherine's brief and vivid life are inextricably linked with George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff the controversial Greco-Armenian savant and 'Teacher of Dancing'.

 

At the zenith of her fame, but irremediably stricken by pulmonary tuberculosis, she took refuge in his Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man at Fontainebleau-Avon. "G. was very good to her", recalls the philosopher Piotr Ouspensky. "He did not insist on her going although it was clear she could not live. For this in the course of time he received the due amount of lies and slander."

 

But such slander requires no special rebuttal. It is amply challenged by the positive account of Katherine's experience, volunteered in her last letters to Middleton Murry. And he, on arriving at the Institute a day before Katherine died, found her: "a being transformed by love, absolutely secure in love."

 

 

Perhaps it is useless to go in search of places once frequented by a person we have loved or admired - long dead before our times. For like Katherine Mansfield and George Gurdjieff, who lie side by side in the Avon cemetery, they have passed triumphantly into the brighter realm of the collective imagination, belonging to all, and possessed by none.

Linda Lappin

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