Unreal Nature

April 1, 2016

The Other Garden

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:17 am

… a landscape as pale as a brain with its crisscrossed fissures laid bare.

This is from the essay ‘Gardens’ found in Knowing the East by Paul Claudel; translated by James Lawler (1900; 2004):

It is half-past three. White mourning. The sky, as it were, is veiled in linen. The air is raw and humid.

I go into the city. I am looking for the gardens.

I walk in black gravy. Along the ditch whose crumbling edge I follow, the smell is so strong it seems explosive. Everything reeks of oil, garlic, grease, filth, opium, urine, excrement, and offal. I walk among a simple, cheerful people in thick buskins or straw sandals, the long hoods of the foumao or felt skullcaps, silk or cotton pants and leggings.

The wall twists and turns, goes up and down, and the coping, with its arrangement of bricks and open-work tiles, imitates the back and body of a dragon rampant. A sort of head tops it, from which there floats a curling fume of smoke. — I have arrived. I knock mysteriously at a small black door that is opened to me. Beneath overhanging roofs I cross a succession of vestibules and narrow corridors. I am in a strange place.

It is a stone garden.

[ … ]

… This harmonious place was built for the pleasure of the members of the “Trade Syndicate for Beans and Rice,” who doubtless come here on Spring evenings to drink tea and watch the glimmering lower crescent of the moon.

The other garden is still more strange.

It was almost night when, entering the square enclosure, I saw it full to the walls with a vast landscape. Imagine a mass of rocks, a chaos, a confusion of overthrown rocks heaped there by a raging sea; the vision of a place of wrath, a landscape as pale as a brain with its crisscrossed fissures laid bare. The Chinese build flayed landscapes.




Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: