March 10, 2014

Travel series: ''Il giorno é arrivato''


The man at the train station couldn't speak English, but I decided to take the next train anyway. I fell asleep on the train, I awoke, and now here I am. In Italy, for the first time.

In the frenzy and chaos of finishing exams and flying to Europe shortly after, I brought with me much adrenaline and two massive dark circles under my eyes. And now, for the first time in many months, I just am. I have no plane or train to take, no activities to do, no places to visit. 

The sun is shining bright, a chilly wind is blowing, and as I walk on the streets of this millenia-old italian city, I feel like an impostor. Everyone around me is busy: busy talking on the phone, busy going back to work, busy going home. I catch a glimpse of their routine, somewhere between home and the office, work and play.

Meanwhile, I am here passive, contemplative, useless. It feels out of place to not be working, to not have something concrete to do. Back where I come from, everything is planned, organised, work-oriented. But here I am.



I don't want to see any monuments. I don't want to visit. I just want to be, here, and now. 

I walk around. Everything is so beautiful, so full of meaning, a feast for the senses. Every sensation is amplified, every thought is loftier. How foreign it is to be a spectator, to pay attention, to notice, to appreciate. 

Parks everywhere. I pick the one that has the prettiest name, with the most vowels. 
My friend and I lie down on the grass, in full sunbeam. I left my bag about a meter away. I should probably bring it nearer, as my passport is in it and you never know. But the heat and weight of the sun are so numbing that I am paralyzed. 


I wake up and look at my watch. We have been napping for an hour and a half. My heart skips a beat, then I sigh in relief: my bag is still there. Always selfish, the sun has once more taken more from me than it has given: I feel heavy and with little energy. It is an oppressive, yet liberating feeling.

The shade is coming our way. The sun will soon be going down. It is good to be idle, for once. It is good to be an impostor of the ordinary. The day has come. 


February 18, 2014

Les grandes espérances

One of the young doffers working in Pell City Cotton Mill, Alabama, 1910

C'est là le titre traduit d'un roman de Charles Dickens, en anglais Great Expectations. C'est un titre qui m'a toujours fascinée, bien que je n'aie jamais ouvert le livre. Il communique et évoque un sentiment puissant, celui de grands idéaux, de grands espoirs. Ainsi, l'on s'imagine une jeune âme qui s'ouvre au monde et à la vie, et nourrit les pensées les plus nobles et innocentes (dans le bon sens du terme) quant au futur et ce qu'il réserve, ce qu'il promet.

Il vient un temps où beaucoup de ces grandes espérances sont déçues. Je pense qu'à cet égard, le terme anglais expectation, mieux traduit par «attente» en français, exprime bien cette désillusion, ce désenchantement. À une époque plus naïve, plus délicate, nous avons développé des anticipations quant au futur. Alors que nous vieillissons, nous sommes forcés d'en venir au constat que le monde n'est pas tel qu'il devrait être. Nous rêvons d'une société qui ne sera jamais, d'une paix utopique, d'amour inatteignable.

Le Sisyphe de Titien, 1548
Plus que tout, nous souhaitons la self-actualization, l'accomplissement de soi, qui dans la pyramide des besoins de Maslow, correspond à cet état suprême d'épanouissement de développement de notre potentiel personnel. Il semble parfois que plus nous tentons d'avancer vers cet objectif, plus il s'éloigne de nous, tel un mirage, tel Sisyphe roulant éternellement son rocher le long de la colline sans jamais en atteindre le sommet.

Souvent quand je pense au monde qui tourne, au temps qui s'écoule et à la vie qui passe, je crois que nous courons parfois le risque d'investir toute notre énergie et tous nos efforts dans la poursuite du soleil couchant, sans jamais le pouvoir toucher.

Je ne dis pas qu'il faut renoncer à nos principes et à nos idéaux. Bien au contraire, je crois fermement qu'il faut vivre de façon intègre et conforme à ses propres valeurs et croyances.

Ce que je remets en doute, c'est combien nous nous attachons parfois à certains buts que nous nous fixons, qui une fois atteints, ne satisfont pas toujours. On rêve de voir l'Europe, puis après y être allé, on se désole de ne pas avoir vu le monde. On est obsédé à l'idée d'obtenir un diplôme universitaire, puis une fois obtenu, on se trouve bien malheureux de ne pas avoir un diplôme de deuxième cycle.

Il m'en faut toujours plus, c'est chronique. Peut-être en est-ce de même pour vous.

Et c'est pour cette raison que j'ai mis la photo du petit garçon travaillant dans une usine de coton, dans les années 1910. Quelles étaient ses grandes espérances à lui? Quelle aurait été sa vie parfaite? Avait-il même le temps d'y songer?

Je ne condamne personne. Il est légitime d'avoir des rêves et des aspirations, l'humain est ainsi fait, et c'est ce qui nous pousse à donner le meilleur de nous-même, à aller là où personne n'est allé auparavant.

Mais le bonheur et la réalisation de soi ne consiste peut-être pas à atteindre une destination qui s'éloigne à mesure que nous avançons.

Il faut de temps en temps jeter un regard en arrière, et être reconnaissant du chemin parcouru.
Là où nous sommes, nombreux sont ceux qui auraient voulu y être dans l'histoire de l'humanité.

Les grandes espérances de ce petit garçon, celles qui semblaient inatteignables, c'est peut-être nous qui les vivons aujourd'hui. N'est-ce pas en soi avoir réalisé beaucoup de rêves, beaucoup d'espoirs?



January 15, 2014

Endings And Beginnings: Rewriting Old Classics

Paul Klee

I thought it would be amusing to put together the first and last sentence of books and see what happens, so I randomly selected 10 titles from The Guardian's Top 100 books of all timeThe result is rather interesting: Alternative thoughts, anecdotes and statements emerged from the novel's main story.... 

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Mark Twain)
You don't know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain't no matter. I been there before.

Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy)

ALL happy families resemble one another; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. But my whole life, every moment of my life, independently of whatever may happen to me, will be, not meaningless as before, but full of the deep meaning which I shall have the power to impress upon it."

The Trial (Kafka)
Someone must have been telling lies about Josef K., he knew he had done nothing wrong but, one morning, he was arrested.  "Like a dog!" he said, it was as if the shame of it should outlive him.

Dead Souls (Gogol)
To the door of an inn in the provincial town of N. there drew up a smart britchka—a light spring-carriage of the sort affected by bachelors, retired lieutenant-colonels, staff-captains, land-owners possessed of about a hundred souls, and, in short, all persons who rank as gentlemen of the intermediate category. I invite those men to remember the duty which confronts us, whatsoever our respective stations; I invite them to observe more closely their duty, and to keep more constantly in mind their obligations of holding true to their country, in that before us the future looms dark, and that we can scarcely...."    [Here the manuscript of the original comes abruptly to an end.]

Gulliver's Travels (Jonathan Swift)
My father had a small estate in Nottinghamshire: I was the third of five sons.  I dwell the longer upon this subject from the desire I have to make the society of an English Yahoo by any means not insupportable; and therefore I here entreat those who have any tincture of this absurd vice, that they will not presume to come in my sight.

Hunger (Knut Hamsuné)
I was lying awake in my attic and I heard a clock below strike six. Out in the fjord I dragged myself up once, wet with fever and exhaustion, and gazed landwards, and bade farewell for the present to the town--to Christiania, where the windows gleamed so brightly in all the homes.

Love In The Time of Cholera (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love. ''Forever,'' he said.

Middlemarch (George Eliot)
Miss Brooke had that kind of beauty which seems to be thrown into relief by poor dress. But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.

Remembrance of Things Past: Swann's Way (Marcel Proust)
For a long time I used to go to bed early. But scarcely had daylight itself–and no longer the gleam from a last, dying ember on a brass curtain-rod, which I had mistaken for daylight–traced across the darkness, as with a stroke of chalk across a blackboard, its first white correcting ray, when the window, with its curtains, would leave the frame of the doorway, in which I had erroneously placed it, while, to make room for it, the writing-table, which my memory had clumsily fixed where the window ought to be, would hurry off at full speed, thrusting before it the mantelpiece, and sweeping aside the wall of the passage; the well of the courtyard would be enthroned on the spot where, a moment earlier, my dressing-room had lain, and the dwelling-place which I had built up for myself in the darkness would have gone to join all those other dwellings of which I had caught glimpses from the whirlpool of awakening; put to flight by that pale sign traced above my window-curtains by the uplifted forefinger of day.

To The Lighthouse (Virginia Woolf)
"Yes, of course, if it's fine tomorrow," said Mrs. Ramsay. Yes, she thought, laying down her brush in extreme fatigue, I have had my vision.



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