Nothing makes sense; apart from art, as it doesn’t make sense and is beautiful.
This semi-autobiographical novel is an epic journey of a child’s first understanding of love and art, written in little over 3000 pages with no chapter divisions and split into several books. Proust’s work is noted to be very influential, if not the most influencing book, especially at the publication time of 1922, yet not popularly read today. The first ‘Way by Swann’s’ begins with Proust as a child when he realises he has a nervous condition as he can’t sleep until his mother kisses him goodnight. For me, his ability to write in such depth about his own psychology as a child and the way in which he is able to decipher every moment with a deep understanding is a pleasure to read. Proust excels in beautiful prose regarding how he and certain people in his life perceive nature, place and affection.
As the first part takes place partly by his summer house next to the almost regal Swann house. The second part focuses on Swann, who is neurotically obsessed with Odette, a frivolous woman who he falls in love with. At first I found the beginning of this story quite lengthy without any real significance until Swann becomes neurotic himself. This again is where the novel excels, in the understanding of relationships and of the human experience. Proust enables us to understand the precise moments of obsession to such a point that it becomes rational and almost a study of psychology.
The third part of the book is a shorter piece returning to Proust as a young boy familiarly obsessively falling in love with Swann’s daughter. This subsequently reveals the ending of Swann’s story with regards to his lover and makes you feel like the entire story has been well-rounded despite the open ending and narrative ambiguities.
This volume is a very nostalgic intricately involving piece reflecting the hindsight of memory and passion which transcends time. The lengthy piece extracts the condition of anxiety to the point of obsession, leaving no significant thought astray in the complex condition in which at some point, we all suffer. Proust’s ability to extract incredible meaning, at length, from minor occurrences are wonderful to read if not stifling in conception.
As a child I only had interest in instinctive drives such as food and play. An animal intention without thinking of cause or reason. It was something I did and must be done. I am well aware that we are animals although we regard ourselves differently due to one evolutionary vice. Somewhere in our history, between being wild and creating space ships we somehow thought about why. Why don’t I use this club to hit something and it will be more effective than a fist; led to great advances on humanity to our current limit of devastation; nuclear power. In the moment of childhood when we realise ‘why’ might not be very obvious. Some say it’s when we look in the mirror and discover our self. Schooling is the institute or whys and what if’s. We are nurtured to think outside of our understanding in a proposed hope of bettering ourselves to become more useful or successful, more at peace with eradicating the anxiety of the unknown. ‘Why’ is irreparable, insatiable, leading to question ourselves of the reason are we doing this? Why does it happen? Why not? Philosophy is born from the condition of why. Forever attempting to orientate normalities of the way we live. This is our greatest ability yet also our greatest vice. We are forever desiring, imagining something else. Something more than what we have as we have been not only nurtured from growing up, yet will perpetually continue to and is irreversible. As a child it’s easy to think I was completely happy playing and eating until I wanted what the other kid had. This is an animalistic instinct such as being bigger or better. When the question of why can’t I have it, or why is it like this becomes apparent we become philosophers. One of my earliest memories was when I climbed a bookshelf inevitably destroying things. It would have to be the case that I climbed because it was instinctive, not contemplative. It couldn’t have been why would I climb this, it would be I’m climbing it. The moment we think about why is the moment we lose our loss of innocence. The transition from child to adult where we cannot be so naive. From this moment, we question every thing from nature to technology, from how can I get that to the very reason we exist at all. This is also the beginning of anxiety. If we don’t know something we have to! If there is a something better how do we get it! These haves have driven us to spectacular heights and will always do so yet the vice of questioning, the polar opposite is yearning, desire and dealing with not having. The American dream is the owner of can do, can be, and why not! Though a fundamental flaw is this very basis of anxiety; that if we all achieved our desires society and civilisation will be unable to operate. Once our basic freedoms and previsions are obtained, such as working for food and shelter and an acceptable level of choice and liberty is obtained; questioning and anxiety prevail. Those without basic liberties and amenities will always be bemused by someone’s subtle despair of thinking about the whys. Those born into comfort with know this but will not be able to escape it. We know that many suffer without food and water yet we gauge in it. This is not to say we are all unhappy and depressed, I’m suggesting that we are designed from an evolutionary and social basis to eternally question and desire without limits making us anxious, as we can never know everything, because we don’t have it. I am not only referring to consumerist society of tangibility, it was well understood in modern advertising that lifestyle desire represented in products is much more effective. We long to be something that we are not; we lust for experiencing things, which seem out of reach though possible. We lead busy lives of work to earn, to buy food, shelter and some entertainment, which will also never end. Of course there are distractions to our questioning. Having children defers all thoughts to the routine of looking after them. We have little time or energy to think about why. Some would say that breeding is our purpose, a biological preservation of race. When children leave home it could well be that our questioning anxiety returns though by that time familiarity and that lust for life is diminished. We wake up and work the best part of the day, get home tired to eat, watch TV then it’s time to rest to do it again. During this life long routine there are small moments of bliss. You could be busy and stressed without thinking of anything else when you hear a piece of music. Music that seems to dive deepest into your rhetorical self bringing a calm euphoric meditative moment of self-awareness. Art attempts to decipher our unanswerable questions. Pleasure such as bathing in the smothering warmth and shine of the sun on a hot day. Gorging into a fat greasy burger. Getting drunk. Getting high. Laughing with friends or finding peace and affection in the arms of a lover. These moments are distractions from our why questions or some would say are the answers to them. But all these things have a limited appeal. In the sun we get burnt. A burger, a joke, a lover has limited lifespan and appeal to us. We always want something else. Something more. We turn that club into a spaceship.
Written by Russell Whitehead..
the man with the beautiful eyes
when we were kids there was a strange house
all the shades were always drawn
and we never heard voices in there
and the yard was full of bamboo
and we liked to play in the bamboo
pretend we were Tarzan
(although there was no Jane).
and there was a fish pond, a large one
full of the fattest goldfish you ever saw
and they were tame.
they came to the surface of the water
and took pieces of bread from our hands.
our parents had told us:
“never go near that house.”
so, of course, we went.
we wondered if anybody lived there.
weeks went by and we never saw anybody.
then one day we heard a voice
from the house “YOU GOD DAMNED WHORE!”
it was a man’s voice.
then the screen door of the house was
flung open and the man walked out.
he was holding a fifth of whiskey in his right hand.
he was about 30.
he had a cigar in his mouth,
needed a shave.
his hair was wild and uncombed
and he was barefoot in undershirt and pants.
but his eyes were bright.they blazed with brightness
and he said, “hey little gentlemen, having a good time, I
then he gave a little laugh and walked back into the house.
we left, went back to my parent’s yard and thought about it.
our parents, we decided had wanted us to stay away from there
because they never wanted us to see a man like that, a strong natural
man with beautiful eyes. our parents were ashamed that they were
not like that man, that’s why they wanted us to stay away.
but we went back to that house and the bamboo and the tame
goldfish. we went back many times for many weeks but we never
saw or heard the man again.
the shades were down as always and it was quiet.
then one day as we came back from school
we saw the house.the man with the beautiful eyes
it had burned down,
there was nothing left,
just a smoldering twisted black foundation
and we went to the fish pond
and there was no water in it
and the fat orange goldfish
were dead there,
we went back to my parents’ yard
and talked about it and decided that
our parents had burned their house down,
had killed the
because it was all too beautiful,
even the bamboo forest had burned.
they had been afraid of the man with the
beautiful eyes. and we were afraid
then that all through our lives
things like that would happen,
that nobody wanted anybody
to be strong and beautiful
like that, that others would never
would have to
from The Last Night on Earth Poems
They killed my mother
At the door of my room;
She died and saved me!
Later, in the dead of night
I was wandering with Bersi
A pale glow flashes
And it lightens ahead of me
The dark street!
My home was burning!
So I was alone!
And all around me, nothing!
Hunger and misery!
I fell ill,
And Bersi, so good and pure
Made a market of her beauty
For my sake -
I bring misfortune to all those who loves me!
It was in that grief
That love came to me!
A voice full of harmony and it says:
‘You have to live! I am the life itself!
Your heaven is in my eyes
You’re not alone!
I’ll collect all your tears!
I’ll walk with you and support you!
Smile and hope! I am love!
Are you surrounded by blood and mud?
I am divine! I am oblivion!
I’m the God that descends on Earth
From the Empyrean, I turn Earth
Into heaven! Ah!
I’m love, I’m love, love
And the angel approaches with a kiss
And the Death is kissing you.
My body is a dying body.
So take it
I’ve already died!
Action. All is silent as the crowds surrounding the scene stare silently. They are still, allowing movement to transcend into the scene. The two leading characters begin the rhythm of action reaction, playing off each other’s fantasy. Rudy, playing the mature father, has a disarming charm that was once used more rebelliously. This rebellious nature now sits opposite incarnated in his son. Leo is a character of youthful trends just as most of us were, though has abilities yet unflourished. In his stare stirs a quiet stubbornness in opposition to the mellow laid back demeanour of his father. Cut.
The short film is titled ‘Apostle’s Manoeuvre’ which I found referred to the phrase ‘To rob Peter to pay Paul; that is, to borrow money off one man to pay another.’ Apostle refers to a missionary, an advocate of a certain cause. They are filming at the Rialto Bingo Club in Coventry which consists of an unusual yellow room with a few bingo tables and machines. Strangely most of the hall has been hollowed out, holes are craters where tables once fastened.
Noise resumes as the actors and crew discuss various perceptions. There are two cameraman, two lighting directors, two sound engineers and various other continuity and production staff to ensure smooth operation. “Ok lets go again” calls Brian the director, pursuing the cycle of re-enactment and repetitions of scenes that become hypnotic in a rhythmic dance of paradynamic shifts, creating memories of motion, sound and footprints.
Camera rolling, sound, clapper board, scene 3 take 4.. Action.
I stand back from the scene waiting for the decisive moment that a photographer encaptures. I see a film set as three spheres, an isolated existence, surrounded by a fortress of crude machinery escalating high and covering the floor with cables of spaghetti, lights and lenses. Surreal equipment with cameras with detached steering wheels and tentacle like apparatus reaching ceilings. Three point lighting, sound equipment with dead animal fur imitation covers. The first of the three spheres is the played scene with the actors, the new existence which is created by the filmmakers. The second sphere is the filmmakers with their machines. The third is the voyeurs, extras and assistants clouding the others watching how the scenes are orchestrated. Its almost like a organic cell of our body, each with a crucial role in a larger system of rules and function.
The clapper board snaps before every scene like a switch of existences, breaking one reality for another. The new scene, this new reality has the capability to re-enact each moment to become perfect. Each take pushes for a greater significance. Brian shouts ‘cut’ signalling the end of the shot, bringing us back to reality.
The actor is curious. The players hide their anxiety of performing a life not their own, clouded in desire and pretence one step closer to true escapism. Action and scenes roll one after another. Brian cuts the scene again, relaxed and confident, confides with the actors to refine nuances. The director is like a psychiatrist, working with people to get the most out of their persona. The director pursues a journey for our vision based on his own, in order to create a certain suspension of disbelief, a certain truth.
Beth and Amiee play characters distracted by the outside world, on mobiles and flirting yet perform their characters menial tasks with mouth and tongue in cheek. They are exuberant actors, bursting with admirable excess energy that only performers harbour. A condition that any artist desires and learns to live with.
Tired faces of concentration, repetition and performance allude in ore of a film set, breaking walls of reality, dancing with morals, extracting pinnacle moments. Soon the final ‘it’s a rap’ will echo across all spheres. A sharp uncomfortable snap thrusting us back into our own realities like the transition from the cinema theatre to the sobering auditorium, or being awoken from a deep numbing dream. I am informed that this bingo club has already closed for business, possibly making this filming one of its last stories to tell. It will soon become yet another empty vessel of the economy, where memories echo in the hollow spaces, where noise once sung yet forever captured in film for the briefest of moments.
Hast thou, which art but air, a touch, a feeling
Of their afflictions, and shall not myself,
One of their kind, that relish all as sharply,
Passion as they, be kindlier moved than thou art?
Though with their high wrongs I am struck to the quick,
Yet with my nobler reason ‘gaitist my fury
Do I take part: the rarer action is
In virtue than in vengeance: they being penitent,
The sole drift of my purpose doth extend
Not a frown further. Go release them, Ariel:
My charms I’ll break, their senses I’ll restore,
And they shall be themselves.
You do look, my son, in a moved sort,
As if you were dismay’d. Be cheerful, sir.
Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air,
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
Act IV Scene I.
While reading Kafka’s short stories I quickly understood how prestigious they have become to the significance of literature and society. His writing inspired the term ‘Kafkaesque’ which means unusually sinister; though I would suggest that his works reach much further into social senses with regard to a symbolic reflection into everyday life.
Metamorphosis is the most unusual story about a man who wakes up to find himself turned into a beetle. Usually my interest would wane at such a premise though it soon became apparent that symbolically, the theme represented that either Kafka saw the working man as an insect, a cog in the machine serving a higher power without value of life and worked without question for a low wage and status. His life was no more than a life of an insect. Further, it could be that the unfortunate victim Gregor Samsa had not in fact turned into a beetle and that actually he had gone insane.
On his deathbed, Kafka ordered his friend to destroy most of his works. Least not forget that Kafka was a successful insurance executive and writing was his hobby in his spare time. Only a few of his stories were published in his lifetime. Thankfully his friend Max Brod, failed his request and sent them for publication instead in hope that Kafka wasn’t in his right mind with that decision.
Some his short stories not over a page long, create a powerful insight into our existence in our society and humanity. ‘The Consideration of Amateur Jockeys’ reflects upon the unsatisfying position of winning and competition and how ridiculous it is to be surrounded by contempt and envy over such trivialities.
Some of his stories such as ‘The Rejection’ delve deeper into his and our psychology. ‘In The Penal Colony’ is a powerfully uncomfortable story of a torture machine which is sad to represent the sinister foreboding of looming war.
I would summarise that Kafka’s stories are an unusually menacing reflection upon society with use of surrealism and plays on the conflictions of decisions and paralysis of life. Even though I wouldn’t consider his works to be most treasured, I understand the necessity of his unique writing.
A horrible feeling of desolation pinched my heart. I listened rigid but heard nothing but the creep of blood in my ears. Great and shadowy and strange was the world and I drifted solitary through its vast mysteries.
A remote faint question, where I might be, drifted and vanished again in my mind. I found myself standing astonished, my emotions penetrated by something I could not understand.
I felt naked. I felt as perhaps a bird may feel in the clear air knowing the hawk wings above and will swoop. I began to feel the need of fellowship. I wanted to question, wanted to speak, wanted to relate my experience. What is this spirit in man that urges him forever to depart from happiness, to toil and to place himself in danger?
It was this restlessness, this insecurity perhaps that drove me further and further afield in my exploring expedition. As the hush of the evening crept over the world, the sun touched the mountains and became very swiftly a blazing hemisphere of liquid flame, and sank. Then, slow and soft and wrapping the world in fold after fold of deepening blue, came the night. And then, the splendor of the sight — in the sky, one bright planet shone kindly and steadily like the face of an old friend. The full temerity of my voyage suddenly came upon me. At last I began to feel the pull of the earth upon my being, drawing me back again to the life that is real, for men.