Le temps retrouvé: Proust’s manuscript pages (click through for more images)
This weekend I am doing a soft launch of Orange Editions, my new e-publishing project. The first volume is my own translation of “Vera,” a short story by Villiers de l’Isle Adam, a philosophical ghost story; a brief, losing struggle between will and death; an ironic, decadent confection. It’s taken from his collection Contes Cruels (Cruel Tales).
While I’m waiting for the Orange Editions site to be set up (link will be live soon), and for the Kindle edition to appear on Amazon, you can download my translation of Vera for no charge as a PDF. I imagine I’ll be good to go with my setup by Wednesday, at which point I’ll disable the free download.
If you download, all I ask is that you contribute a comment to this blog post to let me know. If nothing else, I’d like to know that you were interested enough to check it out, and, better, I’d like to see your comments on the work and the idea.
The site of the soul is the verb, not the subject. We, as passers-by, drift briefly through the predicate. And it ensouls us as we go.
When deciding, we are decisioned. When passing, we are passed by “to pass.” When writing, we are written by “to write.” No souls but predicates inhabit us, actors as we go. We are these and they are we, foragers in a grammar that enacts us.
Gertrude Stein, Matisse, Written in Paris, early 1911, Recorded in New York, Winter 1934-35.
I love finding out that there exist vast repositories of cultural artifact, whole genres, whole literatures, about which I had only the vaguest awareness. And there are times I find it nearly miraculous that I can sit here accessing any of this from home, even if only scratching the surface.
Carnatic music (Sanskrit: Karnāṭaka saṃgīta) is a system of music commonly associated with the southern part of the Indian subcontinent, with its area roughly confined to four modern states of India: Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu. It is one of two main sub-genres of Indian classical music that evolved from ancient Hindu traditions; the other sub-genre being Hindustani music, which emerged as a distinct form due to Persian and Islamic influences in North India. In contrast to Hindustani music, the main emphasis in Carnatic music is on vocal music; most compositions are written to be sung, and even when played on instruments, they are meant to be performed in gāyaki (singing) style. Source: Wikipedia
Sangam literature refers to a body of classical Tamil literature created between the years c. 600 BC to 300 AD. This collection contains 2381 poems composed by 473 poets, some 102 of whom remain anonymous. The period during which these poems were composed is commonly referred to as the Sangam period, referring to the prevalent Sangam legends claiming literary academies lasting thousands of years, giving the name to the corpus of literature. Sangam literature is primarily secular dealing with everyday themes in a Tamil context.
The poems belonging to the Sangam literature were composed by Dravidian Tamil poets, both men and women, from various professions and classes of society. These poems were later collected into various anthologies, edited, and with colophons added by anthologists and annotators around 1000 AD. Sangam literature fell out of popular memory soon thereafter, until they were rediscovered in the 19th century by scholars such as C. W. Thamotharampillai and U. V. Swaminatha Iyer… Much of the Tamil literature believed to have been composed in the Sangam period is lost to us, though detailed lists of works known to the 10th century compilers have survived. Source: Wikipedia
To trace a culture or its products is, in fact, to refold their unfolding, to trace folds, to smooth back to their blank sheets, and then to re-mark them.
I think one of the fundamental mistakes of the human race has been to say that when you have finished with a thought, it’s gone. But it hasn’t gone — it has “folded back” into the rest of consciousness. You don’t know that it’s there any more, but it is still there; it may unfold again, or unfold in another form. So there’s a constant process of unfolding from the background of consciousness into the foreground, and then back again. There could also be feelings that unfold as thoughts. And then the thoughts go back and give rise to more feelings, and movements of the body, and so on. It’s a constant process. Perhaps we could say that it never “began” and will never end, because it goes back into nature, all the way back, as far as you can go. The human race, and all living species, have “unfolded” from the environment.
David Bohm, “Participatory Thought And The Unlimited,” On Dialogue
Typically when weighing the choice between two options, at any level from self to world, the fact is they’re both weighing you down. Dilemmas and problems are often just misrecognitions of the facts at hand, ready to dissipate at a moment’s rethinking.
The very process of thought with which we consider our personal and social “problems” is conditioned and controlled by the content which it seems to be considering so that, generally speaking, this though can neither be free nor even really honest. What is called for, then, is a deep and intense awareness, going beyond the imagery and intellectual analysis of our confused process of thought, and capable of penetrating to the contradictory presuppositions and states of feeling in which the confusion originates. Such awareness implies that we be ready to apprehend the many paradoxes that reveal themselves in our daily lives, in our larger-scale social relationships, and ultimately in the thinking and feeling that appear to constitute the “innermost self” in each one of us.
In essence, therefore, what is needed is to go on with life in its wholeness and entirety, but with sustained, serious, careful attention to the fact that the mind, through centuries of conditioning, tends, for the most part, to be caught in paradoxes, and to mistake the resulting difficulties for problems.
David Bohm, “The Problem And The Paradox,” On Dialogue
There is an old saying that God is a circle whose centre is everywhere. If that is true, the saint goes to the centre, the poet and artist to the ring where everything comes round again. The poet must not seek for what is still and fixed, for that has no life for him; and if he did his style would become cold and monotonous, and his sense of beauty faint and sickly, but be content to find his pleasure in all that is for ever passing away that it may come again, in beauty, in the fragile flowers of spring, in momentary heroic passion, in whatever is most fleeting, most impassioned, as it were, for its own perfection, most eager to return in its glory. Yet perhaps he must endure the impermanent a little, for these things return, but not wholly, for no two faces are alike, and, it may be, had we more learned eyes, no two flowers. Is it that all things are made by the struggle of the individual and the world, of the unchanging and the returning, and that the saint and the poet are over all, and that the poet has made his home in the Serpent’s mouth?
Yeats, “In The Serpent’s Mouth,” Discoveries
O, blank confusion, and a type not false
Of what the mighty city is itself
To all, except a straggler here and there—
To the whole swarm of its inhabitants—
An undistinguishable world to men,
The slaves unrespited of low pursuits,
Living amid the same perpetual flow
Of trivial objects, melted and reduced
To one identity by differences
That have no law, no meaning, and no end—
Oppression under which even highest minds
Must labour, whence the strongest are not free.
But though the picture weary out the eye,
By nature an unmanageable sight,
It is not wholly so to him who looks
In steadiness, who hath among least things
An under-sense of greatest, sees the parts
As parts, but with a feeling of the whole.
This, of all acquisitions first, awaits
On sundry and most widely different modes
Of education—nor with least delight
On that through which I passed. Attention comes,
And comprehensiveness and memory,
From early converse with the works of God
Among all regions, chiefly where appear
Most obviously simplicity and power.
By influence habitual to the mind
The mountain’s outline and its steady form
Gives a pure grandeur, and its presence shapes
The measure and the prospect of the soul
To majesty: such virtue have the forms
Perennial of the ancient hills—nor less
The changeful language of their countenances
Gives movement to the thoughts, and multitude,
With order and relation. This (if still,
As hitherto, with freedom I may speak,
And the same perfect openness of mind,
Not violating any just restraint,
As I would hope, of real modesty),
This did I feel in that vast receptacle.
The spirit of Nature was upon me here,
The soul of beauty and enduring life
Was present as a habit, and diffused—
Through meagre lines and colours, and the press
Of self-destroying, transitory things—
Composure and ennobling Harmony.