“All the world is a stage”, says Shakespeare in As you like it, as if to prove that metafiction is not really a postmodernis...more That “Polysemantic World”…
“All the world is a stage”, says Shakespeare in As you like it, as if to prove that metafiction is not really a postmodernist concept. Indeed, the theatrum mundi theme is quite an old one, but it has never lost its fascination. The idea of a hidden script every human being is unknowingly led to play has fascinated many an artist who either tried to find thus a logic in life, a pattern in the carpet, or used it to point that mankind was never really granted freedom of choice, only a little autonomy of movements, non important in the great scheme of things, since the decision to go right or left is irrelevant when both paths lead to the same destination. Destination known only by the master puppeteer, the deus ex machina, the stage director. Or the magus.
Now I saw Conchis as a sort of novelist sans novel, creating with people, not words; now I saw him as a complicated but still very dirty old man; now as a Svengali; now as a genius among practical jokers.
So, here is the magus' story, told by one of his puppets, Nicholas Urfe, forced to go through a painful initiation in the mysteries of life and death. And what better place for this ancient ritual than the sunny Greece, the only place where the gate to underworld can be found, trespassed and revolved again?
Little by little, the young teacher is caught in a web of stories and events that seem true and false at the same time, real and artificial, that fascinate, provoke or repulse him, that reveal mysteries that are proven ordinary at the light of the day, until he realizes he is not a spectator anymore, but a main character in a crazy world that manipulates him, forcing him to see what he didn’t care to see, to acknowledge his carelessness and indifference, to look at himself in more or less deformed mirrors in order to go back on a path he carelessly abandoned. But arrived there, he is afraid to be left suddenly without a script, a sultan without Scheherazade to tempt his imagination, a Theseus without Ariadne to let him out of maze:
I strolled idly all round the domaine, in the windless air; I waited in all the likely places; I kept on turning, looking backwards, sideways, listening. But the landscape seemed dead. Nothing and no one appeared. The theatre was empty; and, like all empty theatres, it became in the end frightening.
Apparently, Nicholas Urfe is taught to love, but love is creation, and since the Big Bang what more wonderful creation than art? Mankind’s duty, our hero seems to realize almost a century after Oscar Wilde, is to transform life into art, to become gradually aware that his smallest gesture is under spotlight, therefore full of consequences.
…all my life I had tried to turn life into fiction, to hold reality away; always I had acted as if a third person was watching and listening and giving me marks for good or bad behaviour – a god like a novelist, to whom I turned, like a character with the power to please, the sensitivity to feel slighted, the ability to adapt himself to whatever he believed the novelist god wanted. This leechlike variation of the superego I had created myself, fostered myself, and because of it I had always been incapable of acting freely. It was not my defence; but my despot.
For is it not this that makes life bearable, the very fact that it can be read as a frenzy narrative, with its infinite forest of symbols, some recognizable, some not really, and the challenge is to decipher its arcane, to catch a glimpse at the cave entrance, to steal a smile from the gods, to feel part of the script? And of course to feel frustrated at the end of the initiation ceremony:
Perhaps that was my deepest resentment of all against Conchis. Not that he had done what he did, but that he had stopped doing it.
John Fowles did not consider The Magus his best. Maybe because The Magus force lies less in the narrative technique (however clever it seems to be – to mention only the open finale that reinterprets the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice) and more in that fascinating crisscross of meanings of the tale, that never-ending allusion to mythology, literature, history characters and events in a vortex that dazes the reader.
As for me, I was afraid that a second reading will prove disappointing. On the contrary it has been more mesmerizing. More magic. Either that powerful Dantesque magic of “l’amor che move il sole e l’altre stele” sensed all along the novel, or that hopeful Pervigilium Veneris magic of “cras amet qui numquam amavit/ quique amavit eras amet”, whispered at the very end of the story. (less)
The make-believe history is a well-known trick of the postmodernist literature. Here we have a celebrated criminal in Margaret Atwood’s “Alias Grace”,...more The make-believe history is a well-known trick of the postmodernist literature. Here we have a celebrated criminal in Margaret Atwood’s “Alias Grace”, a famous gangster in Mircea Mihaes’ “Woman in Red”, a brought to life portrait in Tracy Chevalier’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring”, and in all these novels and others reality and fiction are blended beyond recognition, to create literature’s second reality. A sort of non-fiction novels, to borrow Truman Capote’s very deceptive term.
However, whether the above-mentioned works concentrate upon the historical figure itself, John Fowles imagines only its background, his novel illustrating, apparently, what made Anne Lee become the founder of the Shakers.
I said apparently because this could be an interpretation of sorts, but of course things are never as simple as they appear in a postmodernist book. History is only a source like any other, but the credibility factor doesn’t function in the same way. The truth of art has nothing to do with the historical truth, even when it copies its methods of investigation.
And the methods ARE similar to those used by a historian or a detective in quest for the truth. The disappearance of an important personage is investigated thoroughly, which gives the narrator the perfect pretext to exercise different styles: juridical, administrative, journalistic, epistolary, dramaturgic, scientific, he tries them all with the same dexterity and all are maggots, possibilities. Just as the many layers of the narrative: historical (the cuts from Historical Chronicle 1736, the information about economy, population, garments in 18th century England, etc.); science-fictional (the maggot-like machine and the time travel), religious (the Quakers, the Protestants, etc.), detective (Ayscough’s investigation) all novels in nuce, hence – maggots.
Last but not least, both in Prologue and Epilogue, the narrator reveals his sources (the obsession with an image, a picture of a woman and Anne Lee’s origins) insisting upon the same idea that the book is only a maggot. Because a work of art never leaves the artist’s hands fully developed, consequently needing the public to maturate? Or because everything has to grow, beings and ideas?
On the other hand, the main character of the book also mentions the maggot twice: first, as a symbol of decay, punishment and death, second as an instrument of salvation. And the last words of the novel refer to it, too:
« I mourn not the outward form, but the lost spirit, courage and imagination of Mother Ann Lee's word, her Logos; its almost divine maggot. »
A divine maggot – that is, the Logos born under the writer’s quill but growing in significance under the readers’ eyes.(less)
Ultima dintre cele patru carti pe tema calatoriei sufletului dupa moarte (dupa Iter in silvis, Psihanodia si Experiente al extazului) opera trece in r...moreUltima dintre cele patru carti pe tema calatoriei sufletului dupa moarte (dupa Iter in silvis, Psihanodia si Experiente al extazului) opera trece in revista diverse credinte, ritualuri si experiente in lumea de dincolo, de la mesopotamieni la Dante. Scopul evocarii acestor conceptii religioase, rituri funerare si experiente la limita mortii este schitarea unui model general al lumii de dincolo, bazat pe ideea existentei unui model general al gindirii umane, care ar explica "intertextualitatea" unor traditii aparent diferite si distantate cultural. Elementele comune ale lumii de dincolo din aceste traditii ar fi drumul dificil al sufletului despartit de trup, intilnirea si dialogul cu alte suflete si cu zeii, judecata, trierea si trimiterea sufletelor in iad sau rai. Miturile, simbolurile si credintele nu mai sint interpretate prin prisma relatiei dintre sursa si destinatar, ci prin cautarea setului de reguli care le-a generat, in contextul in care indivizii gindesc si sint ginditi de traditie: "Nu pretindem ca am solutionat toate problemele referitoare la transmitere, dar afirmam ca transmiterea cognitiva, asa cum a fost conturata in aceasta introducere, reprezinta cel mai flexibil model de difuziune conceput pana acum in cadrul disciplinelor istorice. Este suficient sa repetam ca intelegem transmiterea cognitiva ca pe o regandire activa a traditiei, bazata pe un simplu set de reguli, precum si ca o astfel de participare la traditie a fiecarui individ explica foarte bine persistenta anumitor credinte si practici" Religiile, avind ca tinta lumea de dincolo, devin astfel un alt mod de a reconstrui realitatea, iar lumea moderna, departe de a stinge credinta in alte lumi, o revalorizeza, prin cibernetica, fizica particulelor, literatura SF etc.(less)
Je pensais à l’affirmation de Roland Barthes, que le langage poétique moderne commence avec Arthur Rimbaud et non avec Baudelaire et je me disais, dan...more Je pensais à l’affirmation de Roland Barthes, que le langage poétique moderne commence avec Arthur Rimbaud et non avec Baudelaire et je me disais, dans un premier temps, qu’on peut ramasser assez d’arguments pour soutenir quand même la modernité du dernier. Mais je me suis rendu compte que, en effet, l’innovation baudelairienne porte particulièrement sur l’image artistique pendant que celle rimbaldienne est centrée sur la technique et le langage poétique. Et que, même si on ne peut vraiment contester au poète des fleurs du mal le rôle du précurseur du modernisme, Rimbaud va encore plus loin, son œuvre contenant in nuce plusieurs traits de la poésie postmoderne : la dépersonnalisations, la dépoétisation du langage, les passages narratifs, l’accent mis sur le lecteur, l’ironie, l’esprit ludique...
Tels que les excréments chauds d’un vieux colombier Mille Rêves en moi font de douces brûlures : (…) Doux comme le Seigneur du cèdre et des hysopes, Je pisse vers les cieux bruns, très haut et très loin, Avec l’assentiment des grands héliotropes. (Oraison du soir)
Avec volupté et sans ressentiment, le « je » poétique (qui n’est jamais le même, qui est toujours « un autre ») écrase irrévérencieusement la beauté artificielle de l’image poétique, trop longtemps considérée belle et poétique en vertu d’un canon qui lui cache les stéréotypies comme la célébrité de certaines statues leur cache les imperfections:
– Et tout ce corps remue et tend sa large croupe Belle hideusement d’un ulcère à l’anus. (Venus Anadyomène)
Comme Baudelaire jadis, le jeune poète exploite la force de l’image non conventionnelle, en mélangeant les expressions consacrées poétiques avec des mots ordinaires, crasses, vulgaires pour créer un monde unique mais étrangement familier, où le corps redevient une ombre platonicienne dont le plus insignifiant détail se dessine sur la paroi du macrocosme :
Et le soir aux rayons de lune, qui lui font Aux contours du cul des bavures de lumière, Une ombre avec détails s’accroupit, sur un fond De neige rose ainsi qu’une rose trémière... Fantasque, un nez poursuit Vénus au ciel profond (Accroupissements)
Ainsi navigue le je poétique, ivre bateau sur les mers de l’image, du langage et de la prosodie, soit chavirant vers une absurde révélation (« La Flore est diverse à peu près Comme des bouchons de carafes ! »), soit résolvant les limites linguistiques avec des solutions sur-le-champ (« Le cœur fou Robinsonne à travers les romans »), soit renonçant aux contraintes prosodiques, en inventant le vers libre.
Arthur Rimbaud a commencé à écrire à quinze ans et a arrêté à vingt. Dans son cas, le dire que la valeur n’attend pas le nombre des années s’avère vrai. On est toujours tenté d’imaginer, devant une œuvre inachevée ou à la mort prématurée d’un artiste, ce qu’il aurait pu être fait ou dit encore. Il semble que Rimbaud ait dit tout ce qu’il a eu à dire pendant ces cinq ans-là. Pourtant, avec son message toujours neuf, son œuvre nous parle à l’infini :
Que comprendre à ma parole ? Il fait qu’elle fuie et vole ! (less)
Human soul is not necessarily beautiful even when it hurts, love does not have to be unrequited or forbidden to be cursed, reason wide awake does not...more Human soul is not necessarily beautiful even when it hurts, love does not have to be unrequited or forbidden to be cursed, reason wide awake does not always keep monsters at bay, a strong will does not always mean a noble heart and weakness is not always to be pitied.
Or so Emily Bronte seems to tell us, in this strange story that keeps scattering old myths of star-crossed lovers that haunted the imagination of mankind from Tristan and Isolde to Romeo and Juliet and beyond. What if, the author challenges us, love does not excuse everything? Moreover, what if it does not make us better, nobler, worthier, but rather reveals the darkness of our souls? What if the reasons of the heart are not reasons at all, but blind nature forces, wuthering winds that rise the soul to impossible heights only to let it fall more deeply into the abyss? And what if the soul not only accepts that but welcomes it?
“’If I were in heaven, Nelly, I should be extremely miserable. (…) I dreamt once that I was there. (…) heaven did not seem to be my home; and I broke my heart with weeping to come back to earth; and the angels were so angry that they flung me out into the middle of the heath on the top of Wuthering Heights…”
"Thus spake" Catherine, this intriguing characters of Wuthering Heights, however not as intriguing as Heathcliff, a hero-anti-hero with powerful and destructive passions. Whereas Catherine is, after all, not quite difficult to understand, a typical case of, to put it bluntly, wanting to have the cake and eat it too, Heathcliff’s actions and motivations are not so easy to untangle.
One cannot help but admire him, for he has the same grim dignity the brute force of nature unleashed has got, in both his love and his hate. Furthermore, he has little patience for the fool and for the weak (“It’s odd what a savage feeling I have to anything that seems afraid of me!”) and he punishes accordingly those who try and reduce him to a cliché and an infatuation:
“She abandoned them under a delusion, (…) picturing in me a hero of romance, and expecting unlimited indulgences from my chivalrous devotion. I can hardly regard her in the light of a rational creature, so obstinately has she persisted in forming a fabulous notion of my character and acting on the false impressions she cherished. (…) It was a marvellous effort of perspicacity to discover that I did not love her. I believed, at one time, no lessons could teach her that!”
I’ve always suspected that Emily Brontë created Heathcliff as a malicious representation of the Romantic ideal hero, as a parody of the triumph of the sentiment over the reason, of the nature versus nurture and so on. For his exceptional qualities are not crushed by a haughty society (rather stimulated by it) but by himself. He betters himself firstly to be worthy of Catherine’s love, and after that to take revenge on those who stole her from him. He has no mercy, he despises everybody but Ellen Dean and Hareton, he is cruel and violent without apparent reason. True to his name, he is desert, acid and alone.
He could be, and this is the most interesting feature of the character, he should be a villain. But he is not. It is hard to explain why he is loved. By Catherine’s father and Hareton and Nelly. And above all, by countless readers. Redeemed by his love? Too easy an explanation, although he expresses his feelings unforgettably:
“In every cloud, in every tree – filling the air at night, and caught by glimpses in every object by day - I am surrounded with her image! The most ordinary faces of men and women - my own features - mock me with a resemblance. The entire world is a dreadful collection of memoranda that she did exist, and that I have lost her!”
Unpredictable like the weather, inflexible in his likes and dislikes like an unforgivable god, always proud to reveal himself as he is, warts and all, Heathcliff is one of the most fascinating characters literature has given us, through a little English lady who, with this one and only novel she wrote, was to become one of the greatest writers of all times. (less)