Book Review: Oscar Wilde’s ‘De Profundis’

File this under the folder of ‘stories that brought me to the verge of tears’ (a very select distinction, might I add).

This has to be the shortest thing of Oscar Wilde’s that I’ve ever read, but that doesn’t at all diminish the emotional power behind its pages. Wilde has always had a way of words that astonishes me; a true and masterful artist that stands atop the peak of the literary mountain. It’s a treacherous climb to get up there, but once you reach it you’re in for a good view.

A sincere analysis of this work would bring me to this; the first quarter and a half of the book had me clutching my chest, trying to come to grips with Oscar Wilde’s perilous struggle in a British prison. But as he moved farther and farther into the recantations of Christ and St. Francis Assisi and how all great things in the West can be attributed to one event, I lost a bit of interest.

Wilde’s portrayal of depression (wearing the antiquities’ word of ‘melancholy’) is that perfect summation of the condition; harrowing, dreadful, but also incredibly eye-opening.

He mentions a conversation that he had while at Oxford with a colleague. As a wide-eyed and idealistic youth, he had the typical dreams of anyone ‘our’ (and by that I mean my) age; filled with wanderlust, eager to ‘taste all of the fruits of the world’, as was eloquently paraphrased in his words. But this sort of enjoyment of the world is one-dimensional and surface-level at best. It’s with suffering, and the trauma brought upon a soul grappling with its own existence, that brought out the true element of what Oscar Wilde would consider ‘the essence of life’.

This paradigm view of the human condition isn’t for everyone. I must make that distinction clear right now. But even if it’s not for you, read it and analyze it in your own way. Whether you view this work important or not based on the religious or meta-physic­­­al aspect, you’ll take a step into a worldview that is not as uncommon as it may seem. And to me, that’s why I’d almost certainly recommend this book to anyone.


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