Finally Facing My Waterloo


It should surprise no-one that my first introduction to the concept of Waterloo was from Abba:

My my, at Waterloo Napoleon did surrender
Oh yeah, and I have met my destiny in quite a similar way
The history book on the shelf
Is always repeating itself

Waterloo – I was defeated, you won the war
Waterloo – promise to love you for ever more
Waterloo – couldn’t escape if I wanted to
Waterloo – knowing my fate is to be with you
Waterloo – finally facing my Waterloo

My my, I tried to hold you back but you were stronger
Oh yeah, and now it seems my only chance is giving up the fight
And how could I ever refuse
I feel like I win when I lose

Waterloo – I was defeated, you won the war
Waterloo – promise to love you for ever more
Waterloo – couldn’t escape if I wanted to
Waterloo – knowing my fate is to be with you

And how could I ever refuse
I feel like I win when I lose

Waterloo – I was defeated, you won the war
Waterloo – promise to love you for ever more
Waterloo – couldn’t escape if I wanted to
Waterloo – knowing my fate is to be with you
Waterloo – finally facing my Waterloo

The extended etymological sense of “a final, crushing defeat” was first referenced in an 1816 letter of Lord Byron. And yes, it was a final, crushing defeat, but as Janet so eloquently posted yesterday, one in four soldiers died.

Meeting one’s Waterloo is something to be avoided. I’ve had a few near misses, but thus far have dodged any final, crushing defeats (although temporary ones are in abundance).

In books, the potential ‘final, crushing defeat’ is what is more normally called the Black Moment–that time in the book when neither the author nor the reader sees a possible way out of the situation that won’t result in misery, loss of love, loss of life, or eternal heartbreak. What makes our books so revelatory is that we do always find a way out, a way to vanquish that defeat with love, or a compromise, or a sacrifice. Literary fiction doesn’t always give us the Happy Ending, at least not the unabashed Happy Ending; romantic fiction does, thank goodness, so we can see hope amidst the fighting.

Have you ever had your own Waterloo? What happened? Are you a fan of the ‘gasp, clutch your chest and wonder how they’ll get out of it’ books, like I am? Who’s your favorite Black Moment author?

Megan

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