Friday, August 24, 2007
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
and to times
I am Moonless.
Why to break through the window,
Light up the room
and wake me up.
you and your thoughts
are so far
in the middle of
all these nights
you want me
to put to words
the beauty of your face.
I'll do it
for your sake,
But tell me
and collect these pieces
lying on the floor.
You ought not to be
for you're not just content
without taking away
Saturday, August 18, 2007
I didn't liked 'The White Castle' by Pamuk so was bit apprehensive while picking this up. Perhaps I would have never read any of his book again but then he won the Nobel and I thought well, I should try reading one more of his and I am glad that I did.
This one is a treat, a brilliant account of lives in medieval Turkey, a brilliant insight into the world that seems so distant now. Pamuk is brilliant when he brings about the clash between east and West, between various styles of painting and between various faiths. Intertwining an equally interesting tale, Pamuk gives us a masterful account of Ottoman history along with the awesome description of the art of miniaturing. The style in which the novel is written is also superb and adds to the brilliance of the novel.
This novel has given me enough inspiration to take up Pamuk's other works including 'Black Book' and 'Snow' and yes it has one of my favorite lines; "Poetry is consolation to life's miseries".
A must for everyone who love reading great literature. Following are some of the lines I liked in the novel.
My Name Is Red – Orhan Pamuk
Before my birth there was infinite time, and after my death, inexhaustible time.
In this way, by the twelfth year, when I returned to my city at the age of thirty six, I was painfully aware that my beloved’s face had long since escaped me.
After I took care of that pathetic man, wandering the streets of
Over time, jealousy becomes an element as indispensable as paint in the life of the master artist.
Where there is true art and genuine virtuosity the artist can paint an incomparable masterpiece without leaving even a trace of his identity.
Now that I’ve reached this age, I know that true respect arises not from the heart, but from the discrete rules and deference.
To avoid disappointment in art, one mustn’t treat it as a career.
For if a lover’s face survives emblazoned on your heart, the world is still your home.
A letter doesn’t communicate by words alone. A letter just like a book can be read by smelling it, touching it and fondling it. Thereby, intelligent folk will say, “Go on then, read what the letter tell you!” whereas the dull-witted will say, “Go on then, read what he’s written”.
You know how in such situations reasonable people immediately sense that love without hope is simply hopeless, and understanding the limits of the illogical realm of the heart, make a quick end of it by politely declaring, “They didn’t find us suitably matched. That’s just the way it is.”
Painting is the silence of thought and the music of sight.
I thereupon thought how easy it was to end a life. My dear God, you’ve given each of us this unbelievable power, but you’ve also made us afraid to exercise it.
The larger and more colorful a city is, the more places there are to hide one’s guilt and sin; the more crowded it is, the more people there are to hide behind. A city’s intellect ought to be measured not by its scholars, libraries, miniaturists, calligraphers and schools, but by the number of crimes insidiously committed on its dark streets over thousands of years.
Poetry is consolation to life’s miseries.
If presented with the opportunity, we would choose to do in the name of a greater goal whatever awful thing we have already prepared to do for the sake of our own miserable gains, for the lust that burns within us or for the love that breaks our hearts.
In situations such as this, as soon as our merciless intellects draw the bitter conclusion that our hearts refuse, the entire body rebels against the mind.
A great painter does not content himself by affecting us with his masterpieces; ultimately, he succeeds in changing the landscape of our minds. Once a miniaturist’s artistry enters our soul this way, it becomes the criterion for the beauty of our world.
I was encouraged when I saw he could no longer look me directly in the eye. Magnanimous men, who think themselves better and morally superior to others, cannot look you in the eye when they are embarrassed on your behalf, perhaps because they are contemplating reporting you and abandoning you to a fate of torture and execution.
“The first step is marriage,” I said. “Let’s see to that first. Love comes after marriage. Don’t forget: Marriage douses love’s flame, leaving nothing but a barren and melancholy blackness. Of course, after marriage, love itself will banish anyway; but happiness fills the void. Still, there are those hasty fools who fall in love before marrying and, burning with emotion, exhaust all their feeling, believing love to be the highest goal in life.”
“The truth is contentment. Love and marriage are but a means to obtaining it: a husband, a house, children, a book.”
Maybe you’ve understood by now that for men like myself, that is, melancholy men for whom love, agony, happiness and misery are just excuses for maintaining eternal loneliness, life offers neither great joy nor great sadness.
Painting brings to life what the mind sees, as a feast for the eyes.
What the eyes sees in the world enters the painting to the degree that it serves the mind.
Consequently, beauty is the eye discovering in our world what the mind already knows.
The memory of the blind exposes the merciless simplicity of life but also deadens its vigor.
Books, which we mistake for consolation, only add depth to our sorrows.
There are moments in all our lives when we realize, even as we experience them, that we are living through events we will never forget, even long afterward.
There were two types of people in the world: those who were cowed and crushed by their childhood beatings, forever downtrodden because the beating had the desired effect of killing the inner devils; and those fortunate ones for whom the beatings frightened and tamed the devil within without killing him off.
Time doesn’t flow if you don’t dream.
If you stare long enough your mind enters the time of the painting.
It seemed to me that the entire world was like a palace with countless rooms whose doors opened into one another. We were able to pass from one room to the next only by exercising our memories and imaginations, but most of us, in our laziness, rarely exercised these capacities, and forever remained in the same room.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Seven Nights – Jorge Luis Borges
In understanding Borges, one should remember that for him, there is no sensible difference between literary and real experience, so when he talks about books and writers, it is like talking of landscapes and journeys.
The Divine Comedy
Chance – except that there is no chance; what we call chance is our ignorance of the complex machinery of causality.
Poetry is, among so many other things, an intonation, an accentuation that is often untranslatable.
Enchantment, as Stevenson said, is one of the special qualities a writer must have. Without enchantment, the rest is useless.
Truly fine poetry must be read aloud. A good poem does not allow itself to be read in a low voice or silently. If we can read it silently, it is not a valid poem: a poem demands pronunciation. Poetry always remembers that it was an oral art before it was a written art. It remembers that it was first song.
There are two lines which confirm this. One is in Homer –or the Greeks whom we call Homer – where he says, in the Odyssey, “The gods weave misfortunes for men, so that the generations to come will have something to sing about.” The other, much later, is from Mallarme, who repeats, less beautifully, what Homer said: “tout aboutit en un livre,” everything ends up in a book. The Greeks speak of generations that will sing; Mallarme speaks of an object, of a thing among things, a book. But the idea is the same, the idea that we are made for art, we are made for memory, we are made for poetry, or perhaps we are made for oblivion. But something remains, and that something is history or poetry, which are not essentially different.
It was forgotten that poetry began by being narrative, that the roots of poetry are the epic, that the epic is the first poetic genre. In the epic there is time: a before, during, and after. All of that is in poetry.
Halfway through the afternoon that day,
As I bid you my habitual goodbye,
A vague dismay at leaving
Made me know that I loved you.
There is something that Dante does not say, but which one feels at a distance from the episode and perhaps gives it its virtue. Dante relates the fate of the two livers with an infinite pity, and we sense that he envies their fate. Paolo and Francesca are in Hell and he will be saved, but they have loved and he never won the love of the women he loved, Beatrice. There is a certain injustice to this, and Dante must feel it as something terrible, now that he is separated from her. In contrast, these two sinners are together. They cannot speak to each other, they turn in the black whirlwind without hope, yet they are together. When she speaks, she says “we”, speaking for the two of them, another form of being together. They are together for eternity; they share Hell - and that, for Dante, must have been a kind of paradise.
Everyone is defined in a single instant of their lives, a moment in which a man encounters his self for always.
God, as Nietzsche would say, is beyond good and evil.
In some tercet of the Commedia he (Dante) says that no one is permitted to know the judgments of
DREAMS ARE THE GENUS; nightmares the species.
The study of dreams is particularly difficult, for we cannot examine dreams directly, we can only speak of the memory of dreams. And it is possible that the memory of dreams does not correspond exactly to the dreams themselves.
For the savage and for the child, dreams are episodes of the waking life; for poets and mystics, it is not impossible for all of the waking life to be a dream.
He (Sir Thomas Browne) says that dreams give us an idea of the excellence of the soul, seeing the soul free of the body and engaged in play and dreaming. He thinks that the soul enjoys its freedom. And
Dreams are an aesthetic work , perhaps the most ancient aesthetic expression. They take a strangely dramatic form. We are, as
The Thousand and One Nights
”What is time? If you don’t ask me, I know; but if you ask me, I don’t know.” –
“Of the operations of the spirit, the least frequent is reason.” – Fenelon.
Perhaps its not worth it to define something we feel instinctively.
As the vast ocean has only one flavor, the flavor of salt, so the flavor of the Law is the flavor of salvation.
In every moment of our lives we are weaving and interweaving. What we weave is not only our will, or acts, our half-dreams, our sleep, our half-waking; we are forever weaving our karma. And when we die, another being will be born who is the heir of that karma.
To live is to be born, grow old, grow sick, die – not to mention the other sorrows, including the one that was, for the Buddha, the most pathetic: not to be with those we love.
We must renounce passion. Suicide does not help, because it is a passionate act. The man who commits suicide remains in the world of dreams. We must reach the understanding that the world is an apparition, a dream; that life is a dream. But we must feel this deeply, having reached it through the exercises of meditation.
What does it mean to reach Nirvana? Simply that our acts no longer cast shadows. While we are in this world we are subject to karma. Everyone of our acts is interwoven into this mental structure called karma. When we have reached Nirvana our acts no longer have shadows; we are free.
The Irish pantheist Scotus Erigena, said that the holy scripture contains an infinite number of meanings, and he compared it to the iridescent feathers of a peacock’s tail. Centuries later, a Spanish Kabbalist said that God wrote the scriptures for each one of the men of
We say that Spanish is a sonorous language, that English is a language of varied sounds, that Latin has a certain dignity to which all the later languages aspired: we apply aesthetic categories to languages. Erroneously we suppose that language corresponds to that mysterious thing we call reality. The truth is that language is something else.
Bradley said that one of the effects of poetry is that it gives us the impression not of discovering something new but of remembering something that we have forgotten.
If you like the book, fine; if you don’t, don’t read it. The idea of compulsory reading is absurd; it’s only worthwhile to speak of compulsory happiness. I believe that poetry is something one feels. If you don’t feel poetry, if you have no sense of beauty, if a story doesn’t make you want to know what happened next, then the author has not written for you. Put it aside. Literature is rich enough to offer you some other author worthy of your attention whom you will read tomorrow.
This is how I have taught, relying on the aesthetic event, which does not need to be defined. The aesthetic event is something as evident, as immediate, as indefinable as love, the taste of fruit, of water. We feel poetry as we feel the closeness of a woman, or as we feel a mountain or a bay. If we feel it immediately, why dilute it with other words, which no doubt will be weaker than our feelings?
What is the death of a man? With him dies a face that will never occur again, as Pliny observed. Each man has his own unique face, and with him die thousand of events, thousand of memories, all of them too human.
Beauty waits in ambush for us. If we are sensitive, we will feel it in the poetry of all languages.
For me, beauty is a physical sensation, something we feel with our whole body. It is not the result of judgment. We do not arrive at it by way of rules. We either feel beauty or we don’t.
The rose has no why, it flowers because it flowers.
Today we think of a book as an instrument for justifying, defending, disputing, explicating, or chronicling a doctrine, but in Antiquity a book was seen only as a substitute for the spoken word. (As per Plato) Books are like statues, they may seem alive, but when you ask them something they do not reply.
At that time, I believed that shyness was very important, but now I know that shyness is one of the evils one must try to overcome, that in reality to be shy doesn’t matter – it is like so many other things to which one gives an exaggerated importance.
No one should read self-pity or reproach
Into this statement of the majesty
Of god; who with such splendid irony
Granted me books and blindness at one touch.
When something ends, we must begin something new.
We have a very precise image – an image at times shameless – of what we have lost, but we are ignorant of what may follow or replace it.
I too have always known that my destiny was, above all, a literary destiny – that bad things and some good things would happen to me, but that, in the long run, all of it would be converted into words. Particularly the bad things, since happiness does not need to be transformed: happiness is its own end.
I want to live with myself,
I want to enjoy the good that I owe to heaven,
Alone, without witnesses,
Free of love, of jealousy,
of hate, of hope, of fear.
A writer, or any man, must believe that whatever happens to him is an instrument; everything has been given for an end.
Everything near becomes distant. Goethe could be referring not only to twilight but to life. All things go off, leaving us. Old age is probably the supreme solitude – except that the supreme solitude is death. And “everything near becomes distant” also refers to the slow process of blindness, of which I hoped to show, speaking tonight, that it is not a complete misfortune. It is one more instrument among the many – all of them so strange – that fate or chance provide.