Tuesday, December 19, 2006

emerging from the earth, like trees

The Muses
MNEMOSYNE: My dear, has it ever happened to you that when you saw a plant, a stone, a gesture, you experienced the same thing?
HESIOD: Yes, it has.
MNEMOSYNE: And did you discover why?
HESIOD: It was only an instant, Melete. How could I grasp it?
MNEMOSYNE: Have you ever asked yourself why an instant can suddenly make you happy, happy as a god? You are looking, say, at the olive tree, the olive tree on the path you have taken every day for years, and suddenly there comes a day when the sense of staleness leaves you, and you caress the gnarled trunk with a look, as though you had recognized an old friend, and it spoke to you precisely the one word your heart was hoping for. At times it's the glance of a man passing in the street. Sometimes the rain that drives down for days on end. Or the hoarse cry of a bird. Or a cloud you think you've somewhere seen before. For an instant time stops, and you experience the trivial event as though before and after had no existence. Have you ever asked yourself why this should be?
HESIOD: It's you who say why. That instant has made the event a memory, a model.
MNEMOSYNE: Can't you conceive of an existence entirely composed of these instants?
HESIOD: I can conceive of it.
MNEMOSYNE: Then you know what my life is like.
HESIOD: I believe you, Melete, because your eyes confirm it. And the fact that many men call you Euterpe no longer surprises me. But these mortal instants are not a life. If I wanted to repeat them, they would lose their freshness. The staleness always comes back.
MNEMOSYNE: But you said that instant was a memory. And what else is memory but an experience repeated in its intensity? Do you understand me?
HESIOD: No. What do you mean?
MNEMOSYNE: I mean that you know what immortal life is like.
HESIOD: When I talk with you, it's hard for me not to believe. You saw things as they were in the beginning. You are the olive tree, the glance, the cloud. You speak a name, and the thing exists forever.

- Cesare Pavese, Dialogues With Leucò (1947); translation by William Arrowsmith.

2 Comments:

Blogger Zach Campbell said...

Wow--I just picked up a copy of this book less than two weeks ago! Will look into it very soon ...

2:29 AM  
Blogger Mubarak Ali said...

Zach, it's unlike anything I've ever read! It's no surprise Straub/Huillet approached this text twice in their career.

5:43 AM  

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