Unreal Nature

March 31, 2010


Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:22 am


Moondog’s name is Louis, and he is not especially eccentric but I had never before seen a blind person at length, and it is remarkably like being in someone else’s dream in which the most definitive act you can perform would be to disappear. He lives in an atmosphere as dense and separate as an island with its own sea, so he is more autonomous and vulnerable than anyone, and the world is rendered into shadows and smells and sound as though it was being remembered even as it acts … Moondog’s faith is other than ours. We believe in the invisible and what he believes in is the visible.
Diane Arbus in a letter to Marvin Israel (Dec 1960)



March 30, 2010

Because I Was Waiting

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:50 am

… I had a good idea, but I did not have a story. Critics talk as if stories were all idea, but intellect does not make story any more than ideology makes art. The story had to make itself, find its center, find its voice, Sutty’s voice. Then, because I was waiting for it, it could give itself to me.

Or put it this way: I had a lot of stuff in my head, good stuff, clear ideas — but I couldn’t pull it together, I couldn’t dance with it, because I hadn’t waited to catch the beat. I didn’t have the rhythm.

… What is it that prevents the ideas and visions from finding their necessary underlying rhythm, why couldn’t Woolf “dislodge” them that morning?* It could be a thousand things, distractions, worries; but very often I think what keeps a writer from finding the words is that she grasps at them too soon, hurries, grabs; she doesn’t wait for the wave to come in and break. She wants to write because she’s a writer; she wants to say this, and tell people that, and show people something else, things she knows, her ideas, her opinions, her beliefs, important ideas … but she doesn’t wait for the wave to come and carry her beyond all the ideas and opinions, to where you cannot use the wrong word.

That is from an essay The Questions I Get Asked Most Often by Ursula K. LeGuin.

[* Well-known quote from Virgina Woolf, in a letter to Vita Sackville-West: ” … here am I sitting after half the morning, crammed with ideas, and visions, and so on, and can’t dislodge them, for lack of the right rhythm. Now this is very profound, what rhythm is, and goes far deeper than words. A sight, an emotion, creates this wave in the mind, long before it makes words to fit it; and in writing (such is my present belief) one has to recapture this, and set this working (which has nothing apparently to do with words) and then, as it breaks and tumbles in the mind, it makes words to fit it….”]



March 29, 2010

Another Kind of Knowing

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:46 am

… The creative process — sitting down and writing poems — leads me unto regions of knowing that I didn’t know I possessed.

… There is a period of gestation that leads to a kind of quiet and silence and distance, space. What filters through is what becomes the material for the poem.

This is from an interview with poet/teacher Major Jackson by Alexandra Tursi in/on Identity Theory (Sept 17, 2009)

… The creative process is a grinder into which you throw carrots, celery, lentils, shrimp, flowers, music, earrings, kisses — all of that. By the time a poem is done, I don’t know how much of my personal life is in. Granted, there may be some poems triggered by a memory, and trust me you, I’m one of those writers who is addicted to memory, but I am lying a lot of the time. I’m also addicted to the imagination. So what finds its way onto the page is an amalgam of everything sifted through my eyes, my nose, my fingers, and my brain. You know, cognition is a fascinating thing because I believe there are certain kinds of knowing, certain kinds of understanding, but what I find pretty amazing about the human mind is that cognition stops at some point and another kind of exploration, of knowing starts to take over.

Talking about the book he is working on now:

… The poems are all bound by ten lines. I wanted to teach myself how to create an exalted utterance in a poem, how to create something that was emotionally heartrending, that did not need a lot of scaffolding. I wanted to go in a new direction and allow that compression to sing the poem’s themes louder, sing emotive declarations by shrinking it further. It’s been a wonderful exercise.

… I read a lot of poems in a year. I estimate I must read about 10,000 poems a year, between my students’ work, teaching, editing, judging contests, reading friends’ manuscripts, reading new books. I don’t think it’s healthy. I am probably aging myself, or one could argue I might be prolonging life. Let’s go with the latter. I need to go out and sniff some flowers; no, I’m sniffing pages of poems! I read a lot, some of it joyfully, some of it I never get past the fourth or fifth line. The only fear I have with that is that I might be stealing a few lines here or there. I notate that — who I’m riffing off of.

About teaching poetry:

… I love opening students to the pleasures of reading and writing poems. I feel like I’m endowing them with a kind of armor against the world, particularly my undergraduates. We know the world is going to penetrate their interiority. By writing poems, they’re fortifying themselves and nourishing themselves, their spirits and their souls, their humanity. I’m so gratified when I’ve turned students on and brought them into the family of poets. It’s a really beautiful kind of ritual.



All the Puppets

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:43 am

… Until at last, after a sudden blackout, a dull black pause, a moment comes when all the puppets are back in their boxes, all the curtains are drawn, and all the bated breaths are quietly exhaled, while on the vast calm sky dawn is building noiselessly its distant pink and white cities, its delicate, lofty pagodas and minarets.

This is from the story, Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass by Bruno Schulz:

What is a spring dusk?

… it is getting dark, our words lose themselves among unclear associations: Acheron, Orcus, the Underworld … Do you feel darkness seeping out of these words, molehills crumbling, the smell of cellars, of graves slowly opening? What is a spring dusk?

… When the tree roots want to speak, when under the turf a great many old tales and ancient sagas have been collected, when too many whispers have been gathered underground, inarticulate pulp and dark nameless things that existed before words — then the bark of trees blackens and disintegrates into thick rough scales which form deep furrows. You dip your face into that fluffy fur of dusk, and everything becomes impenetrable and airless like under the lid of a coffin. Then you must screw up your eyes and bully them, squeeze your sight through the impenetrable, push across the dull humus — and suddenly you are at your goal, on the other side; you are in the Deep, in the Underworld. And you can see …

It is not quite dark here as we thought. On the contrary, the interior is pulsating with light. It is, of course, the internal light of roots, a wandering phosphorescence, tiny veins of light marbling the darkness, an evanescent shimmer of nightmarish substances. Likewise, when we sleep, severed from the world, straying into deep introversion, on a return journey into ourselves, we can see clearly through our closed eyelids, because thoughts are kindled in us by internal tapers and smolder erratically. This is how total regressions occur, retreats into self, journeys to the roots. This is how we branch out into anamnesis and are shaken by underground subcutaneous shivers. For it is only above ground, in the light of day, that we are a trembling, articulate bundle of tunes; in the depth we disintegrate again into black murmurs, confused purring, a multitude of unfinished stories.

It is only now that we realize what the soil is on which spring thrives and why spring is so unspeakably sad and heavy with knowledge. Oh, we would not have believed it had we not seen it with our own eyes! Here are labyrinths of depth, warehouses and silos of things, graves that are still warm, the litter, and the rot. Age-old tales. Seven layers (like in ancient Troy), corridors, chambers, treasure chests. Numerous golden masks — one next to another — flattened smiles, faces eaten out, mummies, empty cocoons …

… But we have not finished yet; we can go deeper. There is nothing to fear. Give me your hand, take another step; we are at the roots now, and at once everything becomes dark, spicy, and tangled like in the depth of a forest. There is a smell of turf and tree rot; roots wander about, entwined, full with juices that rise as if sucked up by pumps. We are on the nether side, at the lining of things, in gloom stitched with phosphorescence. There is a lot of movement and traffic, pulp and rot, tribes and generations, a brood of Bibles and Iliads multiplied a thousand times! Wanderings and tumult, the tangle and hubbub of history! That road leads no farther. We are here at the very bottom, in the dark foundations, among the Mothers. Here are the bottomless infernos, the hopeless Ossianic spaces, all those lamentable Nibelungs. Here are the great breeding grounds of history, factories of plots, hazy smoking rooms of fables and tales. Now at last one can understand the great and sad machinery of spring. Ah, how it thrives on stories, on events, on chronicles, on destinies! Everything we have ever read, all the stories we have heard and those we have never heard before but have been dreaming since childhood — here and nowhere else is their home and their motherland. Where would writers find their ideas, how would they muster the courage for invention, had they not been aware of these reserves, frozen capital, these funds salted away in the underworld? What a buzz of whispers, what persistent purr of the earth! Continuous persuasions are throbbing in your ears. You walk with half-closed eyes in a warmth of whispers, smiles, and suggestions, importuned endlessly, pinpricked a thousand times by questions as though by delicate insect proboscides. They would like you to take something from them, absorb it into your young life, into your bloodstream; save it, and try to live with it. For what is spring if not a resurrection of history? It alone among these disembodies things is alive, real, cool, and unknowing. Oh, how attracted are these specters and phantoms, larvae and lemurs, to its young green blood, to its vegetative ignorance!

… Before the oldest known legend there were others no one has ever heard; there were nameless forerunners; novels without a title; enormous, pale, and monotonous epics; shapeless bardic tales; formless plots; giants without faces; dark texts written for the drama of evening clouds. And behind these lays, sagas, unwritten books, books — eternal pretenders, and lost books in partibus infidelium.

… Ah, all these rapes and pursuits of that night, the treacheries and whispers, Negroes and helmsmen, balcony railings and night blinds, muslin frocks and veils trailing behind hurried escapes! … Until at last, after a sudden blackout, a dull black pause, a moment comes when all the puppets are back in their boxes, all the curtains are drawn, and all the bated breaths are quietly exhaled, while on the vast calm sky dawn is building noiselessly its distant pink and white cities, its delicate, lofty pagodas and minarets.



March 28, 2010

The Viewer’s Remainder

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 7:22 am

This is the second of two posts. Background to this one is to be found in the one preceding.

This is from an essay, The Gaze in the Expanded Field by Norman Bryson in the collection of essays/discussions, Vision and Visuality edited by Hal Foster (1988):

… It would seem to be the essence of fire that it burns; if it does not burn it is not fire. Yet fire cannot burn itself; it cannot exist in self-enclosure. Fire can burn everything that can be burned, but the one thing fire cannot burn is fire. For fire to be fire it must extend out of the enclosure of flame into the surrounding field, and only when its roots travel into its surround can it burn. Similarly, it is of the essence for water that it can wash everything that exists, and if it does not wash it is not water. Yet the one thing water cannot wash is water: it cannot exist inside the self-enclosure of the entity, circumscribed by a boundary or outline, in a single location that excludes the surrounding field. For water to be water it must percolate through that boundary and infiltrate the entity’s dry surround, enter into the surrounding field across the porous filters of irrigation: only when it does so, when it leaves the self-enclosure of water, can it become water. Its existence comes to it when it has left water behind it and entered what it is not: which is to say that things exist in the ways they do exist, under a mode of constitutive negativity or emptiness, sunyata.

Nishitiani’s move is to dissolve the apparatus of framing which always produces an object for a subject and subject for an object. Passing on to the field of sunyata the object is found to exist, not at the other end of tunnel vision, but in the total field of the universal remainder.

… Once disframed, the brightly luminous segment is found actually to be constituted within the invisible, the dark or unmarked remainder that extends beyond the edge of peripheral vision into the space that wraps its way round behind the spectator’s head and behind the eyes. What can be seen is supported and interpenetrated by what is outside sight, a Gaze of the other enveloping sight on all sides.

… What the image needs to include is the fact of the object’s remainder, the other views which pass out from the object to all those uncountable places where the viewer is not. And what the image also has to acknowledge, even while it records the narrow passage of light that travels to an empirical observer, is the viewer’s remainder, the sum of other views that the viewer excludes by assuming this view, the surrounding envelope of invisibility. What painting risks, in the Ch’an perspective, is the production of a false ontology in which the seer and the seen commune in tunnel vision: the subject mistaking what is only a profile of the object for the object itself; the profile, thus cut out, creating for itself a hypostisized viewing subject, pinned at the other end of the tunnel.

How do I feel about this sunyata stuff? It’s very interesting, but I’m more inclined toward a Merleau-Ponty-ish undissolved-but-fully-interacting kind of approach. Above all, one must make sure that the shutter-release finger remains undissolved.



Tunnel Vision

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 7:15 am

This post and the one that follows are prompted by a bunch of issues that we’ve been circling around over in the Photo.net Philosophy of Photography forum. It’s posted her, not there because the stuff that follows is the sort of thing that tends to cause a riot in that forum amongst that portion of the Photo.net readership who are allergic to “fancier” types of philosophy (big words and such).

First some background: this is a refresher for those who may have forgotten their Sartre/Lacan or (gasp!) who don’t know them, and (probably) an introduction to Nishida/Nishitani. It’s from an essay, The Gaze in the Expanded Field by Norman Bryson in the collection of essays/discussions, Vision and Visuality edited by Hal Foster (1988):

… My argument will be that the line of thinking that passes from Sartre to Lacan in crucial respects remains held within a conceptual enclosure, where vision is still theorized from the standpoint of a subject placed at the center of a world. Although that centralized subject is progressively dismantled by Sartre and Lacan — and the direction of their thought is unmistakably towards a radical decentering of the subject — there seem to me to be areas in which the standpoint of the subject as center is actually retained; the result of that residual contering upon the standpoint of the subject is that vision is portrayed as menaced at that vestigial center, threatened from without, and in some sense persecuted, in the visual domain, by the regard or Gaze. The direction of thought that passes from Nishida to Nishitani undertakes a much more thoroughgoing displacement of the subject in the field of vision, which finds expression in a term so far largely neglected in the Western discussion of visuality, sunyata, translated as “blankness,” “emptiness,” or “nihility.”

Sartre’s conception of the gaze of the other is clearest in his story or scenario of the watcher in the park. Sartre’s narrative involves two stages. In the first movement, Sartre enters a park and discovers that he is alone: everything in the park is there for him to regard from an unchallenged center of the visual field. All of the park unfolds before this absolute center of a lived horizon: the subject resides at the still point of the turning world, master of its prospects, sovereign surveyor of the scene. In this initial exhilaration of self-possession, nothing threatens the occupancy of the self as focus of its visual kingdom. But in Sartre’s second movement, this reign of plenitude and luminous peace is brought abruptly to an end: into the park and into the watcher’s solitary domain there enters another, whose intrusion breaks the peace and fractures the watcher’s self-enclosure. The watcher is in turn watched: observed of all observers, the viewer becomes spectacle to another’s sight. Now all the lines of force which had converged on the center of the watcher’s lived horizon turn, reverse, and reconverge on the space of the intruder and his irruption. … Everything reconverges on this intrusive center where the watcher self is not: the intruder becomes a kind of drain which sucks in all of the former plenitude, a black hole pulling the scene away from the watcher self into an engulfing void.

… [moving on to his description of Lacan’s theories] … When I learn to speak, I am inserted into systems of discourse that were there before I was, and will remain after I am gone. Similarly when I learn to see socially, that is, when I begin to articulate my retinal experience with the codes of recognition that come to me from my social milieu(s), I am inserted into systems of visual discourse that saw the world before I did, and will go on seeing after I see no longer. The screen casts a shadow of death. Everything I see is orchestrated with a cultural production of seeing that exists independently of my life and outside it: my individual discoveries, the findings of my eye as it probes through the world, come to unfold in terms not of my making, and indifferent to my mortality. The screen mortifies sight. Its terms are points of signification, chains of signifiers, that of themselves have no light. The signifier operates on light and with light, but has no light of itself, or only the light it borrows from my eye. The signifier casts its shadow of darkness across my vision, and because of that darkness I am no longer bathed in the lustre of a luminous plenitude. Into my visual field something cuts, cuts across, namely the network of signifiers.

… To Nishitani, Sartre’s nihilism is half-hearted. Sartre places the universe around the self on the field of nihility, yet the self gathers force there, and uses the blankness surrounding it as, so to speak, a springboard from which to launch its own authentic operations. This is to treat the field of nihility, Nishitani observes, as though it were something against which the self reacts — in this case by multiplying its efforts and solidifying its centeredness. What does not happen in Sartre’s work, as Nishitani sees it, is the placing of the je itself on the field of nihility or emptiness: the je reemerges from its encounter with nihility, reinforced in its position as the center of its experience.

So it is with Sartre’s description of vision, and the scenario of the watcher in the park. The intrusion of the other makes of the self a spectacle or object in relation to that other: the self is threatened with annihilation by that irruption of alterity on the subject’s horizon. But Sartre’s analysis in fact stops a long way short of the stage at which this menace to the subject would pass on to the field of nihility and become a decentering of the subject. Sartre’s watcher is objectified by the other’s gaze, just as the other is objectified by his gaze, but the fundamental terms, of subject and object, remain intact throughout the encounter. … The subject’s sense of being a subject is heightened, not undone: and this, following Nishitani’s argument, is because the entire scenario is restricted to its twin poles of subject and object. What is not thought through is the question of vision’s wider frame.

… Stabilizing the entity as a fixed Form, with a bounded outline, is possible only if the universe surrounding the entity is screened out and the entity withdrawn from the universal field of transformations. The concept of the entity can be preserved only by an optic that casts around each entity a perceptual frame that makes a cut from the field and immobilizes the cut within the static framework. But as soon as that frame is withdrawn, the object is found to exist as part of a mobile continuum that cannot be cut anywhere. If the object is, say, a flower, its existence is only as a phase of incremental transformations between seed and dust in a continuous exfoliation or perturbation of matter: at no point does the object come under an arrest that would immobilize it as Form or eidos.

… In Nishitani’s descriptions, an object’s presence can be defined only in negative terms. Since there is no way of singling out an object x without at the same time including it in the global field of transformations, what appears as the object x is only the difference between x and the total surrounding field. Similarly what appears as “the surrounding field” is only its difference from the object x. Nishitani’s thinking is morphologically close to Saussure’s account of the location of an individual word in a language. The word, Saussure maintains, is nothing in itself: it lacks all the properties of the entity. Rather, the word is constituted “diacritically” in its difference from its surrounding field, in this case all the other words in the language. In the same way, Nishitani argues for the diacritical existence of objects: the system of objects “knows no positive terms.” Moreover, since the object field is a continuous mobility, individual objects are constituted by différence, deferral in time, as well. Nishitani’s thinking here is close to Derrida’s portrayal of différance in language. The meaning of a word never stands forth in full array. If we want to know the meaning of an individual word, and look it up in a dictionary, what the dictionary gives is not the meaning of that one word, but other words, synonyms. As one reads a sentence, one does not know what a word in mid-sentence means until one reaches the end of the sentence, and that sentence in turn changes as one moves to the next sentence, or paragraph, or page. Meaning in a sense never arrives; and in the same way, for Nishitani, being never arrives (beings never arrive). The form of the seed is already turning into the form of the flower, and the flower is already becoming dust. The present state of the object appearing as the flower is inhabited by its past as seed and its future as dust, in a continuous motion of postponement, whose effect is that the flower is never presently there, any more than the seed or dust are there.



March 27, 2010


Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:52 am

This is the third of three related posts from Looking In: Robert Frank’s The Americans, extended edition ed. Sarah Greenough (2009):

Frank recognized that most photographs in general and his in particular were deeply ambiguous objects that could be bent to suit any number of objectives, his or anyone else’s. He knew that context was critical to meaning, but he also understood that context did not fix meaning. And it was important to him that meaning not be fixed, for he did not believe that there were any decisive moments, any basic truths about America, the “family of man,” or even any one specific individual; nor did he believe that there were any underlying harmonies that photography or any other method of observation could reveal. His idea of truth, as he has said on a number of occasions, is far closer to that professed by a character in one of Flannery O’Connor’s novels who asserts: “I preach there are all kinds of truths, yours, and somebody else’s, but behind all of them, there is only one truth, and that is, that there is no truth.” For Frank, truth is relative, because, as he later concisely observed, it is “as slippery as a fish.”

… He wanted to describe what it felt like to be “madroad driving men … the crazed voyageur of the lone automobile [who] presses forth his eager insignificance in noseplates & licenses into the vast promise of life.” [quote is from Jack Kerouac]

… He wanted, as he simply stated, to do nothing less than produce “an authentic contemporary document, the visual impact of which should be such as will nullify explanation.”




Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:50 am

This is the second of three related posts from Looking In: Robert Frank’s The Americans, extended edition ed. Sarah Greenough (2009):

Frank’s photographs are fundamentally different from those of [Walker] Evans, for he sought, as he simply said, “things that move,” things that “respond to my movements.”

… as he came to appreciate the complexity of the issues confronting him, he also realized ever more keenly that his earlier refined, lyrical style was grossly inadequate for conveying not only the harshness of the life he encountered but also the multiplicity and uncertainty of his own feelings and experiences. Consciously breaking from his past, he cultivated an anti-aesthetic style, closer to what [Allen] Ginsberg said he sought when “you can catch yourself not writing poetry but writing down what you’re really thinking, actually” or what Kline or de Kooning strove for as they confronted the canvas. “The photograph must be the result of a head to head,” Frank later asserted, “a confrontation with a power, a force that one interrogates or questions.” Like reality, sometimes those confrontations were decisive and emphatic, but often, as in the photograph of the baby on the floor of the Beaufort cafe, they remain unresolved, uncertain, and filled with questions more than answers.

… [After crossing the country] For the first time since he left New York in October, Frank was able to use a friend’s darkroom to develop his film. As he examined his negatives both in Los Angeles and later in March, when he used Miller’s darkroom in Orinda, California, he edited them on the spot, unsentimentally cutting off and throwing away those frames he found of no interest. With a quick eye and sure judgment, he discovered that “even when the photographs are bad, looking at them is instructive.” He also noted those subjects that he had repeatedly explored, such as cars, jukeboxes, and lunch counters, and those that he had only tangentially touched upon, especially religion,, the media, the flag, and the look of the new suburban landscape. But he also recognized that in the last few months not only had his style and approach changed, so too had his intention. No longer striving for poetic effect or even beautiful photographs, he now openly sought to express his opinions about what he saw — his anger at the abuse of power, his suspicion of wealth and its privileges, his support for those less fortunate, and most of all, his fears about the kind of culture he saw emerging in this country.




Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:47 am

This is the first of three related posts from Looking In: Robert Frank’s The Americans, extended edition ed. Sarah Greenough (2009):

… we might be tempted to assume that when Robert Frank received his first check from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation in the spring of 1955, he immediately embarked on his journey and The Americans flowed as smoothly and inevitably from that experience as the highway underneath his car. But reality is always messier and sometimes even richer than myth. Although the idea of creating a spontaneous record of his encounter with the country was immensely appealing to Frank, he initially had no understanding of how complex his project would be or even any clear plans for a transcontinental journey. And though he was willing to lay himself open and let the country define itself as he proceeded, he had no conception of how different the country at large was from the world he knew in New York.

… With his methodical Swiss training, Frank tried to prepare himself. He gathered maps and itineraries from the American Automobile Association; collected letters of reference from the Guggenheim Foundation and friends in the press, as well as introductions to representatives in industries around the country; and he accumulated suggestions from fellow photographers of places to visit — Walker Evans was especially helpful with recommendations in the South, while Ben Schultz and Todd Walker proposed locations in Los Angeles, and Wayne Miller ones near San Francisco. The previous year, Frank had identified some of the “symbols” he wanted to pursue, as he later called them — things seen everywhere but not looked at or examined — and he established file folders devoted to some of these specific subjects. After viewing the Fourth of July celebrations in Jay, New York, in 1954, Frank selected “Flags” as one of his subjects. That fall, after seeing a rodeo in Manhattan, he added “Cowboys,” and a few weeks later, after attending the “Toy Ball” at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, he included rich socialites (with a nod to Jakob Tuggener’s Ballnächte), along with “Jukeboxes,” which were so foreign to his European sensibilities and so expressive of the hypnotic allure of American music. Later in 1954 or early 1955, when he photographed businessmen on the commuter train between New York and Washington, he added the “Congressional” to this group, and in March 1955, after he recorded the centennial celebrations in Hoboken, New Jersey, “Politicians” became yet one more subject. In later October of 1955, when he realized his output would be voluminous, he devised a loose structure for organizing his negatives. With some exceptions, he numbered the rolls of film in chronological order and labeled them according to location — “Houston” or “Santa Fe,” for example — or occasionally by subject — the Los Angeles “Motorama,” for example. But in truth, as his journey (which was actually several trips) took on a life of its own, as city after city washed over him in endless waves like the succession of broken lines on the highways themselves, nothing could prepare him — an East Coast, transplanted European — for the profound impact that the country, its people, and their culture would have on him. Nor could he have foreseen as he traveled to and from Detroit, then to Savannah, and later to Miami, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago as well as countless smaller towns in between, how the mundane, often mind-numbing but also frequently revelatory and even terrifying reality of the journey itself would dominate his life and transform his art.



March 26, 2010


Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:42 am

This is the entire story, Toenails, by Jorge Luis Borges. I got it from Jorge Luis Borges: Collected Fictions translated by Andrew Hurley but it can be found in other collections:

Gentle socks pamper them by day, and shoes cobbled of leather fortify them, but my toes hardly notice. All they’re interested in is turning out toenails — semitransparent, flexible sheets of a hornlike material, as defense against — whom? Brutish, distrustful as only they can be, my toes labor ceaselessly at manufacturing that frail armament. They turn their backs on the universe and its ecstasies in order to spin out, endlessly, those ten pointless projectile heads, which are cut away time and again by the sudden snips of a Solingen. By the ninetieth twilit day of the prenatal confinement, my toes had cranked up that extraordinary factory. And when I am tucked away in Recoleta, in ash-colored house bedecked with dry flowers and amulets, they will still be at their stubborn work, until corruption at last slows them — them and the beard on my cheeks.



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