Monthly Archives: June 2011

At no risk

Investigations on the subject of art such as those the aesthetician pursues bear no relation to the concern for the work of which we speak. Aesthetics talks about art, makes of it an object of reflection and of knowledge. Aesthetics explains art by reducing it or then again exults by elucidating it, but in all events art for the aesthetican is a present reality around which he constructs plausible thoughts at no risk.

— Blanchot, The Space of Literature (tr. Smock)

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Night and day

‘I have had more than two years in hiding’, Father Rivas said, ‘and we have to travel light. There is no room in our packs for books of theology. Only Marta has kept a missal. I have lost mine. Sometimes I have been able to find a paperback novel – like the one I have been reading. A detective story. That sort of life leaves a lot of time to think and perhaps Marta may be right and my thoughts are turning wild. But I can see no other way to believe in God. The God I believe in must be responsible for all the evil as well as for all the saints. He has to be a God made in our image with a night-side as well as day-side. When you speak of the horror, Eduardo, you are speaking to the night-side of God. I believe the time will come when the night-side will wither away, like your communist state, Aquino, and we shall see only the simple daylight of the good God. You believe in evolution, Eduardo, even though sometimes whole generations of men slip backwards to the beasts. It is a long struggle and a long suffering, evolution, and I believe God is suffering the same evolution that we are, but perhaps with more pain.’

— Graham Greene, The Honorary Consul

Reaching

When did you begin to fall? Wasn’t it when I was born in you? You still sometimes think of yourself as my fallen angel, don’t you? Wasn’t I the one who pushed you out of life as you sat in that dark train station, trying to ignore the piss of drunken Swedes, sitting in the fumes of piss, waiting to be taken back to your room in that boarding school, back to that concrete path between the green thistle bushes, back to nothing? I fell as far as you on those nights, in your anxiety: how else could I have pushed you out? But now I’ve returned, now I’m here to tell you you can only return through me. Or that we can only return through each other. I need you as you need me. We reach for each other but are we falling or rising? Or is reaching the thing?

I don’t know

And I must not forget, at the start of the work, to be prepared to make mistakes. Not forget that mistakes had often proved to be my path. Every time what I thought or felt didn’t work out … a space would somehow open up, and if I had had the courage before I would have gone in through it. But I had always been afraid of delirium and error. My error, however, had to be the path of truth: for only when I err do I get away from what I know and what I understand. If ‘truth’ were what I can understand … it would end up being but a small truth, my-sized.

Truth must reside precisely in what I shall never understand. And would I then be able to understand myself afterward? I don’t know. Will the man of the future be able to understand us as we are today? He, with distracted tenderness, will distractedly pat our heads like we do with a dog who comes up to us and looks at us from within its darkness, with silent, stricken eyes. He, the future man, would pat us, remotely comprehending us, just as I would remotely understand myself afterward, with the memory of the memory of the long-lost-lost memory of a time of pain, but knowing that our time of pain would pass, just as a child is not a static child but a growing being.

— Lispector, The Passion According G.H. (tr. Sousa)

Sleep

One can tell a lot about a person, at any given time of their life, from how they sleep: how hard or easy falling asleep is for them; whether they can sleep anywhere or only at home; the postures in which they sleep; how they awake, and how quickly they rise — quite apart from their own statements, let alone the content of their dreams. For some people falling asleep is a welcome respite from tiredness or discomfort, for others it’s a nightly grapple with separation, with death. How much, for example, can lovers not tell about each other from their behaviour before, during and after sleep? I never told you the thoughts I had when, after we’d made love, unable to sleep as I knew I would be in that unfamiliar room, with this still unfamiliar woman beside me, I looked at you sleeping so prettily, your mouth slightly open, your face trusting sleep. I never told you I didn’t sleep that night. I’ve never told you that not a day has passed since then that I haven’t seen your sleeping face in my mind every time I try to fall asleep. Sometimes sleep, when it comes, is a relief, sometimes it’s an enemy that takes my precious image away and replaces it with random ones; and always, when I awake, after I’ve turned in bed all night, your face is clearer to me than ever, and I never want to get up but stay in this dream forever.

Contact

Ever since the time when he lived for almost a year with the thought that he had lost contact with language, every sentence he managed to write, and which in addition left him feeling that it might be possible to go on, had been an event. Every word, not spoken but written, that led to others, filled his lungs with air and renewed his tie with the world. A successful notation of this kind began the day for him; after that, or at least so he thought, nothing could happen to him until the following morning.

— Handke (via here)

When we give up grasping

Sacrifice is heavy but relinquishment is light. There are mysteries in this that we’ve been allowed to glimpse, aren’t there? There’s a way of life some people can only reach beyond the point of no return, which is the wish to die. There’s a way to live lightly, almost without yourself, smiling at your other self’s desires. For us: with and without each other, in mutual surrender to luck. Is that how we’ll live when we give up grasping, when we give up hating?

Luck

You had a run of luck, you found the right people, the right street, the right flat. Dates fell into place. Things could come together after all, it sometimes happened. There was some interplay between what you did and what happened to you. Currents could gather under the froth of your failure. Or a strange synchronicity would reveal itself, as when random numbers start to form a pattern. It wasn’t that you made your life or that life made you: but sometimes acts and events coalesced, pulling you into the world and the world into you, hiding you in the world’s inner space.

Sometimes a small shift seemed to change everything and the effect was simple, like night turning into day. Some turn of direction or a modulation of frequencies. What was revealed then, what new view opened up? But it wasn’t quite a question of revelation, more like a possibility actuated and so trailing new possibilities behind it. You’d turn your head and see something you’d sensed all along, or it would see you. Those changes made a gentle mockery of you when you put yourself in a position to receive them.

Sometimes things came together when you needed it, even when things seemed to go wrong. Sometimes things went wrong in order to come together. There was a current beneath acts and events that could carry you or turn against you. When it found you, or when you found it, and it brought you towards other people, you called it grace, in the old style.

Luck came only through playing. So how could you start playing, how emerge from your refusal to play, from your grey timid life? How else but by a stroke of luck that carried you with it? What game were you playing, what game was playing you? What did you find as you played, as you renewed your search for luck? You crossed a line and found something that was searching for itself. When you got lucky luck played its game with you, without you. You got lucky: you were ruled by a game that didn’t know its own rules. You got lucky: your luck ran through your fingers…

I am profoundly convinced that the only antidote which can make the reader forget the everlasting ‘I’s’ the author is going to write, is perfect sincerity. Will I have the courage to recount what is humiliating without salvaging my self-esteem with an infinite series of prefatory remarks? I hope so.

— Stendhal (via here)

So she stood thinking. Without making any thought precise – for she was one of those reticent people whose minds hold their thoughts enmeshed in clouds of silence – she was filled with thoughts. Her mind was like her room, in which lights advanced and retreated, came pirouetting and stepping delicately, spread their tails, pecked their way; and then her whole being was suffused, like the room again, with a cloud of some profound knowledge, some unspoken regret, and then she was full of locked drawers, stuffed with letters, like her cabinets.

— Woolf, ‘The Lady in the Looking-Glass: A Reflection’