If one were to look at my sidebar (which by the way is perhaps the worst kind of bar -- armbar, open bar, sand bar, minibar, crowbar -- these are all finer bars...) one would see that my two favourite thinkers are Xenophenes and Italo Calvino. I have relied upon Jacque Lacan's brilliance before, but I realized that I have never before demonstrated to my readers the radiant eloquence of Calvino or the piercing insight of Xenophanes. So today I will present to you a quotation from "Invisible Cities" by Italo Calvino.


In Raissa, life is not happy. People wring their hands as the walk in the streets, curse the crying children, lean on the railings over the river and press their fists to their temples. In the morning you wake from one bad dream and another begins. At the workbenches where, every moment, you hit your finger with a hammer or prick it with a needle, or over the columns of figures all awry in the ledgers of merchants and bankers, or at the rows of empty glasses on the zince counters of the wineshops, the bent heads at least conceal the general grim gaze. Inside the houses it is worse, and you do not have to enter to learn this: in the summer windows resound with quarrels and broken dishes.

And yet, in Raissa, at every moment there is a child in a window who laughs seeing a dog that has jumped on a shed to bite into a piece of polenta dropped by a stonemason who has shouted from the top of the scaffolding. 'Darling, let me dip into it,' to a young serving-maid who holds up a dish of ragout under the pergola, happy to serve it to the umbrella-maker who is celebrating a successful transaction, a white lace parasol bouth to display at the races by a great lady in love with an officer who has smiled at her taking the last jump, happy man, and still happier his horse, flying over the obstacles, seeing a francolin flying in the sky, happy bird freed from its cage by a painter happy at having painted it feather by feather, speckled with red and yellow in the illumination of that page in the volume where the philosopher says: 'Also in Raissa, city of sadness, there runs an invisible thread that binds one living being to another for a moment, then unravels, then is stretched again between moving points as it draws new and rapid patterns so that at every second the unhappy city contains a happy city unaware of its own existence.'

This is what lacan's logic, and indeed all critical analysis, can never see, because it can not be examined from outside, it can only be lived from within. The only thing I would question about this excerpt is his use of the word "philosopher" where he clearly means sage. it is supposed to be set in the far and mystical east though... philosophers never see the hidden city of happiness.


Blogger Jay said...

You have to leave room for improvement.

4:48 a.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As an intrepid reporter who has followed his subject(the reprehensible Leo Salloum) into various types of bars on many different continents, I am confused.

Mr. Mustard, what in god's name is an armbar?

2:22 p.m.  
Blogger justin said...

One of my favorite stories to tell about China is how I found this book in a Daoist guesthouse at the top of a mountain.

A book which YOU had left there, perhaps a week before. I sat and read it all the day I found it, leaving your Perec book with it when I departed.

Events like that illustrate to me the threads Calvino talks about: intersecting histories and futures.

10:21 a.m.  
Blogger Matthew Lie - Paehlke said...

Zero37 -- An armbar is a wrestling move. You obviously are not as familiar with Brazilian grappling as I.

Justin -- I didn't leave that book there, I found it there and also read as much as I could in a day. I think I wrote my name in it just for kicks. I was wondering where my Perec was, no worries, I'll go pick it up. :)

12:35 p.m.  
Blogger justin said...

Yes, and please visit my blog as well! When you have a chance!


wait... that's really a site. damn.

stupid 'bots!

*waves broom angrily*


11:56 p.m.  
Blogger me said...

hmmm...now this wasn't exactly the happiest thing to post on your birthday now was it?

12:42 a.m.  

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