Eileen Myles, The Importance Of Being Iceland
However this may be, an irresistible fascination emanated from this painting; but the water-color entitled ‘The Apparition’ was perhaps even more disturbing.
There, the palace of Herod arose like an Alhambra on slender, iridescent columns with moorish tile, joined with silver beton and gold cement. Arabesques proceeded from lozenges of lapis lazuli, wove their patterns on the cupolas where, on nacreous marquetry, crept rainbow gleams and prismatic flames.
The murder was accomplished. The executioner stood impassive, his hands on the hilt of his long, blood-stained sword.
The severed head of the saint stared lividly on the charger resting on the slabs; the mouth was discolored and open, the neck crimson, and tears fell from the eyes. The face was encircled by an aureole worked in mosaic, which shot rays of light under the porticos and illuminated the horrible ascension of the head, brightening the glassy orbs of the contracted eyes which were fixed with a ghastly stare upon the dancer.
With a gesture of terror, Salomé thrusts from her the horrible vision which transfixes her, motionless, to the ground. Her eyes dilate, her hands clasp her neck in a convulsive clutch.
She is almost nude. In the ardor of the dance, her veils had become loosened. She is garbed only in gold-wrought stuffs and limpid stones; a neck-piece clasps her as a corselet does the body and, like a superb buckle, a marvelous jewel sparkles on the hollow between her breasts. A girdle encircles her hips, concealing the upper part of her thighs, against which beats a gigantic pendant streaming with carbuncles and emeralds.
All the facets of the jewels kindle under the ardent shafts of light escaping from the head of the Baptist. The stones grow warm, outlining the woman’s body with incandescent rays, striking her neck, feet and arms with tongues of fire,—vermilions like coals, violets like jets of gas, blues like flames of alcohol, and whites like star light.
The horrible head blazes, bleeding constantly, clots of sombre purple on the ends of the beard and hair. Visible for Salomé alone, it does not, with its fixed gaze, attract Herodias, musing on her finally consummated revenge, nor the Tetrarch who, bent slightly forward, his hands on his knees, still pants, maddened by the nudity of the woman saturated with animal odors, steeped in balms, exuding incense and myrrh.
Like the old king, Des Esseintes remained dumbfounded, overwhelmed and seized with giddiness, in the presence of this dancer who was less majestic, less haughty but more disquieting than the Salomé of the oil painting.
In this insensate and pitiless image, in this innocent and dangerous idol, the eroticism and terror of mankind were depicted. The tall lotus had disappeared, the goddess had vanished; a frightful nightmare now stifled the woman, dizzied by the whirlwind of the dance, hypnotized and petrified by terror.
It was here that she was indeed Woman, for here she gave rein to her ardent and cruel temperament. She was living, more refined and savage, more execrable and exquisite. She more energetically awakened the dulled senses of man, more surely bewitched and subdued his power of will, with the charm of a tall venereal flower, cultivated in sacrilegious beds, in impious hothouses.
- Joris-Karl Huysmans, À rebours
I wanted to put ground between my shadow and myself, between my name and me, between the memory of my name and the rest of me, between my flesh and me myself, that me myself who, without shadow and name and memory and flesh would be almost nothing.
There are times when the best course is to sink out of sight like the dead, disappear in one fell swoop as if swallowed up by the earth, to vanish in thin air like a puff of smoke. But it is never quite possible to do any of these things, for we would thus be able at will to extricate ourselves from the mud of crime and sin, we would be freed from the weight of our tainted flesh, a dead weight which we would never miss or long for again—such horror it would come to hold for us. But there is always someone who won’t let us forget our flesh, someone to rub our noses, our souls’ noses, in the dregs. And nothing reeks like the leprous stench left in us by past evil, or like the hopeless rot choking us in that charnel-house of aborted hopes which is all our sad life amounts to from birth!
-Camilo Jose Cela, The Family of Pasual Duarte (trans. Anthony Kerrigan)
Literature is indissolubly bound up with life, it is the necessary prolongation, the obvious culmination, the indispensable complement of experience. All experience opens on to literature and all literature on to experience, and the path that leads from one to the other, whether it be literary creation or reading, establishes this relationship between the fragmentary and the whole, this passage from the anecdotal to the historical, this interplay between the general and the particular, between what is felt and what is understood, which form the very tissue of our consciousness.
-Georges Perec, ‘Robert Antelme or the Truth of Literature’ (trans. John Sturrock)
“The Waters cannot get beyond the state of the virtual, of seeds and what is latent. Everything that has form manifests itself above the Waters, by detaching itself from them. On the other hand, as soon as it is separated from the waters and has ceased to be potential (virtual), every form comes under the laws of Time and Life; it acquires limitations, participates in the universal becoming, is subject to history, decays aways and is finally emptied of substance unless it be regenerated by periodic immersions in the Waters, repetitions of the “deluge” which is its cosmogonic corollary. The purpose of the ritual lustrations and purifications is to gain a flash of realisation of the non-temporal moment (in illo temp ore) in which the creation took place; they are symbolical repetitions of the birth of worlds or of the “new man”.”
— Mircea Eliade, Images and Symbols: Studies in Religious Symbolism, p. 152
Donald Barthelme | 1981 | The Paris Review Interview (via austinimus)
Machado de Assis (via sacredgeometryofchance)
Yukio Mishima, The Temple of the Golden Pavilion (via cerebralnausea)
Maxim Gorky (right) on Anton Chekhov (left), if only this were true of all of us: “It seems to me that in the presence of [Chekhov], everyone felt an unconscious desire to be simpler, more truthful, more himself”
“But slowly, abruptly—the thought occurred to me that this story had no witness: I was there—the ‘I’ was already no more than a Who?, a whole crowd of Who?s—so that there would be no one between him and his destiny, so that his face would remain bare and his gaze undivided. I was there, not in order to see him, but so that he wouldn’t see himself, so that it would be me he saw in the mirror, someone other than him—another, a stranger, nearby, gone, the shadow of the other shore, no one—and that in this way he would remain a man until the very end. He wasn’t to split in two. This is the great temptation of those who are approaching their end: they look at themselves and talk to themselves; they turn themselves into a solitude peopled by themselves—the emptiest, the most false. But if I was present, he would be the most alone of all men, without even himself, without the last man which he was—and thus he would be the very last.”
Maurice Blanchot, from The Last Man, tr. Lydia Davis