The Guardian printed a letter by J.K. Rowling, among others, from A Love Letter to Europe: An outpouring of love and sadness from our writers, thinkers and artists, published October 31, 2019, the date that Boris Johnson had designated, unsuccessfully, for Brexit.
Rowling’s letter gives us a few more glimpses of the author we know from her writing. For example, we get another detail confirming her father’s resemblance to the Vernon Dursley school of British manhood, suspicious of all “foreigners” on a micro and macro level. When he visited her in France during her exchange studies, it was her job to attempt to explain to the French waiters that “bien cuit in his case meant there must be no pink at all in the middle of the steak.” Oh, dear.
This excerpt brings to mind the clarity and painfully sweet quality of Sirius and Remus in HP, recounting memories of the Marauders from their mid-thirties perspectives:
We all have shining memories of our youth, made poignant because they’re freighted with knowledge of what happened later to companions, and what lay ahead for ourselves. Back then we were allowed to roam freely across Europe in a way that shaped and enriched us, while benefiting from the longest uninterrupted spell of peace this continent has ever known.
Her phrase, “the longest uninterrupted spell of peace this continent has ever known,” is a grief-stricken eulogy for the Pax Europaea, that time after World War II that creates the stage for the Harry Potter stories, a peace that is disintegrating as we watch in distress. If her wording sounds familiar to HP readers, it may be due to the echoes of Harry’s thoughts when he first saw Dumbledore’s corpse: “there was still no preparation for seeing him here, spread-eagled, broken: the greatest wizard Harry had ever, or would ever, meet.”
The grief for the end of Britain’s membership in a unified Europe does feel a bit like the death of Dumbledore, the wizard who came to hard-won maturity after a battle in 1945 and influenced the rest of the 20th century with his polyglot, peace-enforcing, always diplomatic worldview. The end of the age of Dumbledore feels like Ollivander’s description of the Elder Wand’s prominence: “Yes, it is perfectly possible to trace the wand’s course through history. There are gaps, of course, and long ones, where it vanishes from view, temporarily lost or hidden; but always it resurfaces.”
Goodbye to a flawed, kind, powerful time of goodness. All right, then. There’s work to be done and we don’t know yet how this story turns out.