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We adore tragedy. Think of your favourite film, your most beloved book, and I venture there will be elements of tragedy within those pages, upon that screen, in almost every case. Some of our finest works of art hold true to pain, portraying heartbreak at their core, and a few exemplars are listed at the end of this piece, those which have touched the Cloud’s own billowing heart.

So why are humans so attached to reliving tragic narratives, in whatever form; is it for the sole purpose of entertainment, or is enlightenment sought, some vicarious gleaning of knowledge?

Tragedy burns, it cuts; it leaves trenchant scars on our hearts and minds, some so painful we’ll never truly recover from the emotional blow dealt; lesions so barbarous our mind’s fingers run across them, pluck them softly each day of our lives. This wretched wounding lives within, inhabits us and we it, breathing into existence as the backdrop to our days, weeks, months . . . years. No matter how well-hidden in the vaults of the psyche, or how assiduously denied, when exposed in others, in art as in life, the raw fascination surfaces.

With time, we come to readily recognise tragedy, pathos, woe and the calamitous, know them well as though old acquaintances. Downtrodden and oppressed fictional characters often rise triumphant at the end of tales, forging hope (no matter how unrealistic and elusive our own nirvana, moksha, or salvation, may be) that the dark will be vanquished by the light, that we too might find such redemption. Eventually. Some promised balm for our anguish, our grief. Some reason to go on.

But why not an equal fascination with love? Surely love affects us just as much as tragedy, with just as much ferocity? Well, love may indeed be beautiful, warm, engulfing in its prepossessing, its viscerally felt power, shining bright rays of triumph across our inner landscapes; but love leaves no surface scars until its tragic end walks into the room; only then do we see the hurt flesh; only then is our morbid fascination piqued.

Therefore tragedy will always be both more pervasive and more perversely alluring to us, whether its form be taken within fiction, fable, apologue, poetry, drama, film, music — still we unwittingly welcome its cold embrace whenever it presents itself; still we are entranced, caught up in its bleak, compelling advance.

Love can survive without tragedy, but it is something we do not need to overcome, to rid ourselves of. They may both walk hand-in-hand, say, at the closing of another’s life, in some dark, visited adversity, or as a natural correlate to compassion.

But only one of them ever leads the way.

  • The Cloud


Esme’s Choices

(Please do leave your own choices in the comment section as I may well pilfer some for the book if I think they fit the dark bill)


Watership Down — Book (1972) Film (1978)
Cloud Atlas — David Mitchell— Book (2004) Film (2012)
Fight Club—Chuck Palahniuk— Book (1996) Film (1999)
The Count of Monte Cristo — Book (1845) Film (1934)
Requiem for a Dream — Alexander Dumas — Book (1978) Film (2001)
The Way We Were — Film (1973)
The Remains of the Day — Kazuo Ishiguro Book (1989) (Film (1993)
Moulin Rouge — Film (2001)
V for Vendetta — Book— Alan Moore (1989) Film (2005)
Meet Joe Black — Film (1999)
Oedipus Rex — Sophocles — Book (429BC),
Doctor Who — Episode — Journey’s End (2008)
Somewhere in Time — Film (1980)
The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover — Film(1989)
Brief Encounter — Film (1945)
Les Misérables — Book (1862) Musical (1987)
On Chesil Beach — Ian McEwan (2007)
Pretty much all of Shakespeare’s shenanigans (Ye olden days),
Synecdoche, New York — Film (2009)
Harold and Maude — Film (1971)
The MuppetsPigs in space — Film (1978)

Possibly not that last one.


Dulce et Decorum Est — William Owen, 1920
Do not go gentle into that good night — Dylan Thomas 1951
Put Out My Eyes — Rainer Maria Rilke 1905
I Am Not Yours — Sara Teasdale, 1884 – 1933
Annabel Lee — Edgar Allan Poe 1849
Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep — Mary Elizabeth Frye 1932
Love’s Secret — William Blake, 1757 – 1827
When We Two Parted — Lord Byron 1788–1824
For A Sad Lady — Dorothy Parker 1926
I measure every Grief I meet — Emily Dickinson 1830–1866
Sonnet 42: — Edna St. Vincent Millay 1923
A Dream Within A Dream — Edgar Allan Poe 1849
The Room Of My Life — Poem by Anne Sexton 1967
Funeral Blues — W H Auden 1938


Pietà — Michaelangelo 1498–1499
Tristram and Iseult — Edward Burne-Jones 1872,
The Taj Mahal — Ustad Ahmad Lahauri 1648 –1653
Ophelia — John Everett Millais 1851–1852
The Burghers of Calais — Auguste Rodin 1894–85
The Scream — Edvard Munch 1893
Saturn Devouring His Son — Francisco de Goya 1820
Uranium and Atomica Melancholica Idyll — Salvador Dalí 1945
Old man in Sorrow — Vincent van Gogh 1890
Angel of Grief — William Wetmore Story 1894
Black on Maroon — Mark Rothko 1958
Laocoön and His Sons — Second Century BC — unearthed 1506 BC
Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird — Frida Khalo 1940


Adagio for strings — Samuel Barber 1936
Adagio in G minor— Tomaso Albinoni 1958
Hurt — Johnny Cash 2002
The Sound of Silence — Simon & Garfunkel 1964
Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart — Chris Cornell 2015 [All the more tragic as he killed himself in May 2017]
The Winner Takes It All — ABBA — 1980
Time Has Told Me — Nick Drake 1969
The Cloud Atlas Sextet — 2012
A Million Little Pieces — Placebo 2013
Bright Eyes — Simon & Garfunkel 1979 [Esme can be heard blubbering away in the background]
The End — The Doors 1967
Superstar— Carpenters 1971
Halo — Depeche Mode 1990
Ne me quitte pas — Jacques Brel 1959
Scheherazade — Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov 1888
Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini 18th variation – Rachmaninoff 1934

So . . . what’s your poison?