Monday, December 05, 2011

And after that there is only travel...

(Warning: Content not suitable for minors)

Perhaps I had mentioned Roberto Bolano's book The Insufferable Gaucho in one of my previous posts. Apart from the story, Alvaro Rousselot's Journey, that I loved, there is an essay in this book that had many marvelous thoughts in it. The essay is called Literature + Illness = Illness. It is dedicated to Bolano's friend the hepatologist, Dr. Victor Vargas. The essay has many sub-topics such as Illness and public speaking, Illness and freedom, Illness and height and so on. The most facilitating sub-chapter is one entitled, Illness and French poetry.

He quotes one of Mallarme's poems from Brise marine:

The flesh is sad--and I've read every book.
O to esacpe--to get away. Birds look
as though they're drunk for unknown spray and skies.

Then Bolano goes on to analyse the poem. "What did Mallarme mean when he said that the flesh was sad and that he'd read all the books? That he'd had his fill of reading and of having sex? That beyond a certain point, every book we read and every act of carnal knowledge is a repetition? And after that there is only travel? That f...g and reading are boring in the end, and that travel is the only way out?"

Then he tries to answer the question posed by Mallarme: "I think Mallarme is taking about illness, about the battle between illness and health: two totalitarian states, or powers if you prefer. I think he is talking about illness tricked out in the rags of boredom."

Under Illness and travel, Bolano writes: "...But it all catches up with you. Children. Books. Illness. The voyage comes to an end."

He then goes over to Baudelaire and quotes some of his lines: Once we have burned our brains out, we can plunge/to Hell or Heaven--any abyss will do--/deep in the Unknown to find the new!

Bolano says: "Rimbaud clearly understood, since he plunged with equal ferver into reading, sex, and travel, only to discover and accept, with a diamond-like lucidity, that writing doesn't matter at all."

Reading, writing, sex, travel--Bolano understands--resemble each other, and all that, is a mirage: there is only the desert and from time to time the remote, degrading lights of oasis.

Even though we feel tired of all the above acts, we have no choice but to go on. Bolano says: "We have to go on exploring sex, books, and travel, although we know that they lead us to the abyss, which, as it happens, is the only place where the antidote (to the illness of boredom) can be found."

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