“I explained the conditions of the gift. Paradoxically, I felt both a ‘nostalgie’ for the book I should have written, and now never would, and a fear that the guest, the specter, would never abandon me. I hung up the receiver and repeated, like a wish, these resigned words: ‘Simply the thing I am shall make me live.’ I had invented exercises to awaken the antique memory; I had now to seek others to erase it. One of many was the study of the mythology of William Blake, that rebellious disciple of Swedenborg. I found it to be less complex than merely complicated. That and other paths were futile; all led me to Shakespeare. I hit at last upon the only solution that gave hope courage: strict, vast music—Bach.”—Jorge Luis Borges, ‘Shakespeare’s Memory’ (1983)
“Man shouldn’t be able to see his own face – there’s nothing more sinister. Nature gave him the gift of not being able to see it, and of not being able to stare into his own eyes.Only in the water of rivers and ponds could he look at his face. And the very posture he had to assume was symbolic. He had to bend over, stoop down, to commit the ignominy of beholding himself.The inventor of the mirror poisoned the human heart.”—Fernando Pessoa (via blackestdespondency)
“Cities have often been compared to language: you can read a city, it’s said, as you read a book. But the metaphor can be inverted. The journeys we make during the reading of a book trace out, in some way, the private spaces we inhabit. There are texts that will always be our dead-end streets; fragments that will be bridges; words that will be like the scaffolding that protects fragile constructions. T.S. Eliot: a plant growing in the debris of a ruined building; Salvador Novo: a tree-lined street transformed into an expressway; Tomas Segovia: a boulevard, a breath of air; Roberto Bolano: a rooftop terrace; Isabel Allende: a (magically real) shopping mall; Gilles Deleuze: a summit; and Jacques Derrida: a pothole. Robert Walser: a chink in the wall, for looking through to the other side; Charles Baudelaire: a waiting room; Hannah Arendt: a tower, an Archimedean point; Martin Heidegger: a cul-de-sac; Walter Benjamin: a one-way street walked down against the flow.”—Valeria Luiselli, “Relingos: The Cartography of Empty Spaces” (via invisiblestories)
“We were seized by a frenzy: we began to gallop across the continent, through the savannas and forests that had recovered the earth, burying cities and roads, obliterating all trace of what had been. And we trumpeted, lifting up to the sky our trunks and our long, thin tusks, shaking the shaggy hair of our croups with the violent anguish that takes hold of all us young mammoths when we realize that now is when life begins, and yet it is clear that what we desire we shall never have.”—"The Daughters of the Moon" by Italo Calvino
“And I will look down and see my murmuring bones and the deep water like wind, like a roof of wind, and after a long time they cannot distinguish even bones upon the lonely and inviolate sand.”—The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
But these are examples from homogeneous cultures. How representative of the American nation would you say Negro folklore is?
The history of the American Negro is a most intimate part of American history. Through the very process of slavery came the building of the United States. Negro folklore, evolving within a larger culture which regarded it as inferior, was an especially courageous expression. It announced the Negro’s willingness to trust his own experience, his own sensibilities as to the definition of reality, rather than allow his masters to define these crucial matters for him. His experience is that of America and the West, and is as rich a body of experience as one would find anywhere. We can view it narrowly as something exotic, folksy, or “low-down,” or we may identify ourselves with it and recognize it as an important segment of the larger American experience—not lying at the bottom of it, but intertwined, diffused in its very texture. I can’t take this lightly or be impressed by those who cannot see its importance; it is important to me. One ironic witness to the beauty and the universality of this art is the fact that the descendants of the very men who enslaved us can now sing the spirituals and find in the singing an exaltation of their own humanity. Just take a look at some of the slave songs, blues, folk ballads; their possibilities for the writer are infinitely suggestive. Some of them have named human situations so well that a whole corps of writers could not exhaust their universality. For instance, here’s an old slave verse:
Ole Aunt Dinah, she’s just like me
She work so hard she want to be free
But ole Aunt Dinah’s gittin’ kinda ole
She’s afraid to go to Canada on account of the cold.
It’s crude, but in it you have three universal attitudes toward the problem of freedom. You can refine it and sketch in the psychological subtleties and historical and philosophical allusions, action and whatnot, but I don’t think its basic definition can be exhausted. Perhaps some genius could do as much with it as Mann has done with the Joseph story.
“With looks disheveled, flushed in a sweat of drunkenness
His shirt torn open, a song on his lips and wine cup in his hand
With eyes looking for trouble, lips softly complaining
So at midnight last night he came and sat at my pillow…”—خواجه شمس دین محمد حافظ شیرازی
“'I would like you to write a simple story just once more,' he says, 'the kind de Maupassant wrote, or Chekhov, the kind you used to write. Just recognizable people and then write down what happened to them next.
I say, ‘Yes, why not? That’s possible.’ I want to please him, though I don’t remember writing that way. I would like to try to tell such a story, if he means the kind that begins: ‘There was a woman…’ followed by plot, the absolute line between two points which I’ve always despised. Not for literary reasons, but because it takes all hope away. Everyone, real or invented, deserves the open destiny of life.”—"A Conversation with My Father" by Grace Paley
“The greatest terror a child can have is that he is not loved, and rejection is the hell of fears. I think everyone in the world to a large or small extent has felt rejection. And with rejection comes anger, and with anger some kind of crime in revenge for the rejection, and with the crime guilt—and there is the story of mankind.”—John Steinbeck, East of Eden (via millionen)
To the militant, identity is everything. And all photographs wait to be explained or falsified by their captions. During the fighting between Serbs and Croats at the beginning of the recent Balkan wars, the same photographs of children killed in the shelling of a village were passed around at both Serb and Croat propaganda briefings. Alter the caption, and the children’s deaths could be used and reused.
Images of dead civilians and smashed houses may serve to quicken hatred of the foe, as did the hourly re-runs by Al Jazeera…of the destruction in the Jenin refugee camp in April 2002. Incendiary as the footage was to the many who watch Al Jazeera throughout the world, it did not tell them anything about the Israeli army they were not already primed to believe. In contrast, images offering evidence that contradicts cherished pieties are invariably dismissed as having been staged for the camera. To photograph corroboration of the atrocities committed by one’s own side, the standard response is that the pictures are a fabrication, that not such atrocity ever took place, those were bodies the other side had brought in trucks from the city morgue and place about the street, or that, yes it happened and it was the other side who did it, to themselves. Thus the chief of propaganda for Franc’s Nationalist rebellion maintained that it was the Basques who had destroyed their own ancient town…”
“Love. I’m not capable of it, can’t even approach it from the side, let alone head-on. Nor am I alone in this—everyone is like this, the liars. Singing songs and painting pictures and telling each other stories about love and its mysteries and its marvelous properties, myths to keep morale up—maybe one day it’ll materialize. But I can say it ten times a day, a hundred times, “I love you,” to anyone and anything, to a woman, to a pair of pruning shears. I’ve said it without meaning it at all, taken love’s name in vain and gone dismally unpunished. Love will never be real, or if it is, it has no power. No power. There’s only covetousness, and if what we covet can’t be won with gentle words—and often it can’t—then there is force.”—Helen Oyeyemi, Mr. Fox (via theoryoflostthings)
“My language limitations here are real. My vocabulary is adequate for writing notes and keeping journals but absolutely useless for an active moral life. If I really knew this language, there would surely be in my head, as there is in Webster’s or the Dictionary of American Slang, that unreducible verb designed to tell a person like me what to do next.”—"Faith in a Tree" by Grace Paley
In the wide realm of the world there are ancient forms, incorruptible and eternal forms – any one of them might be the symbol that I sought. A mountain might be the word of the god, or a river or the empire or the arrangement of the stars. And yet, in the course of the centuries mountains are levelled and the path of a river is many times diverted, and empires know mutability and ruin, and the design of the stars is altered. In the firmament there is change. The mountain and the star are individuals, and the life of an individual runs out. I sought something more tenacious, more invulnerable. I thought of the generations of grain, of grasses, of birds, of men. Perhaps the spell was written upon my very face, perhaps I myself was the object of my search. Amid those keen imaginings was I when I recalled that one of the names of the god was jaguar – tigre.
At that, my soul was filled with holiness. I imagined to myself the first morning of time, imagined my god entrusting the message to the living flesh of the jaguars, who would love one another and engender one another endlessly, in caverns, in cane fields, on islands, so that the last men might receive it. I imagined to myself that web of tigers, that hot labyrinth of tigers, bringing terror to the plains and pastures in order to preserve the design. In another cell, there was a jaguar; in its proximity I sensed a confirmation of my conjecture, and a secret blessing.
I despise being a publicist, especially for myself. The only reason that I share this is because there of those very few of you whom I enjoy sharing my work with (and vice versa) and I have not been posting to tumblr lately. This is the September issue of Verse-Virtual.
“Yet how strange is the beauty of music! The brief beauty that the player brings into being transforms a given period of time into pure continuance; it is certain never to be repeated; like the existence of dayflies and other such short-lived creatures, beauty is a perfect abstraction and creation of life itself. Nothing is so similar to life as music.”—Yukio Mishima, The Temple of the Golden Pavilion (via tarkovskian)
“Ah, mademoiselle!” said Butscha, “you love a poet. That kind of man is more or less of a Narcissus. Will he know how to love you? A phrase-maker, always busy in fitting words together, must be a bore. Mademoiselle, a poet is no more poetry than a seed is a flower.”—Honore de Balzac, Modeste Mignon (via talesofpassingtime)