Wednesday, April 25

This is what Language is For - A Book to Die For

I have only read a chapter, but it is obvious.  It was obvious after the first paragraph.  This is the lost treasure.  Jonathan Safran Foer has reminded the world of something that should never have been forgotten.  This is what reading is all about.  This is what language is for.  

Excitement doesn't cover it.  Perhaps a panic to prove to the world that I have justified my existence.   Bruno Schultz' The Street of Crocodiles and Jonathan Safran Foer's Tree of Codes have finally arrived from The Book Depository.  

(If you didn't read my original post on Tree of Codes, it is a work by the glorious Safran Foer, which consists of Foer taking a copy of his favourite book The Street of Crocodiles, and cutting sections from the pages so that the remaining phrases make an entirely new story.)  

A sculpture of words
Anyway, both books finally came, within a day of each other.  While I was waiting for Tree of Codes, I started reading its inspiration.  Safran Foer actually wrote a foreword to The Street of Crocodiles which as a fellow Safran Foer lover, (let alone a book lover), you should definitely read.  Even before I got into the book, I was completely smothered with delight and engrossed by the gorgeous words that Foer wrote about it.  

I want to read the whole thing to you, but to type four pages in would take me forever.  So let it suffice to say that he quoted Franz Kafka, "A book must be an ice-axe to break the seas frozen inside of us."  To which he adds, "Schulz's two slim books are the sharpest axes I've ever come across.  I encourage you to split the chopping block using them."  

Heart skipping, pulse pounding through my wrists, I rushed through the title pages like pages of wrapping paper on a present.  

Safran Foer once said "Some things you love passively.  Some you love actively.  In this case, I felt the compulsion to do something with it."  I was holding in my hands the thing that dear Jonathan loved actively, and I was trembling with excitement that I would discover between its covers that would compel me too.  

Yes.  Yes.  Yes.  Yes.  YES.  YES.  YES.  

Yes I did.  I have only read a chapter, but it is obvious.  It was obvious after the first paragraph.  This is the lost treasure.  Jonathan Safran Foer has reminded the world of something that should never have been forgotten.  This is what reading is all about.  This is what language is for.  

I want to give you the whole chapter, but once again, I can't.  So I will give you some sentences with which to feed your soul with words.

I implore you to not read this like you might normally read a story.  Read it with attention, and slow breathing, as though it is something special for yourself.  Really listen to it.  

On those luminous mornings, Adela returned from the market, like Pomona emerging from the flames of the day, spilling from her basket the colourful beauty of the sun - the shiny pink cherries full of juice under their transparent skins, the mysterious black morellos that smelled so much better than they tasted, apricots in whose golden pulp lay the core of long afternoons.  And next to that pure poetry of fruit, she unloaded sides of meat with their keyboard of ribs swollen with energy and strength, and seaweeds of vegetables like dead octopuses and squids - the raw material of meals with a yet undefined taste, the vegetative and terrestrial ingredients of dinner, exuding a wild and rustic smell.   
The dark second-floor apartment of the house in Market Square was shot through each day by the naked heat of summer: the silence of the shimmering streaks of air, the squares of brightness dreaming their intense dreams on the floor; the sound of a barrel organ rising from the deepest golden vein of day; two or three bars of a chorus, played on a distant piano over and over again, melting in the sun on the white pavement, lost in the fire of high noon.   
After tidying up, Adela would plunge the room into semi-darkness by drawing down the linen blinds.  All colours immediately fell an octave lower, the room filled with shadows, as if it had sunk to the bottom of the sea and the light was reflected in mirrors of green water - and the heat of the day began to breathe on the blinds as they stirred slightly in their daydreams.  

The Street of Crocodiles, (1: August) by Bruno Schulz, first published 1963.  

For me, this was a delight of every sense.  I smelt the fresh fruit, and knew exactly the flavour of the morellos that smelt better than they tasted.  I heard the shadows dropping an octave lower with the fall of the blind.  And I the humanity of the light dreaming intensely on the floor.  The keyboard of ribs on the meat.  The distant organ, the mirrors of green water.

This is not only a festival of words, but a symphony of music and light.  But beside being a festival and a symphony, I can't help but feel how intimate it is.  It is a symphony just for me.  Or just for you.  I laughed during this because I could hardly believe someone would write something so beautiful for me.

The Tree of Codes

The day that Tree of Codes came, I was surprised by the sheer beauty of it.  It is so delicate, and natural.  It's just like the publisher, Visual Editions, said.  "It's a book that remembers it has a body".  That is a perfect way of describing the sensation.

I read the first chapter straight away - the Jonathan Safran Foer equivalent of the first chapter of The Street of Crocodiles.  It is over in less than ten sentences, but each sentence seems to take a lifetime to read.

It is intensely Jonathan Safran Foer.  Every word that he pulls out of the text, I can immediately recognise, and this subtext makes what he's saying so potent.  And yet, even knowing what the original chapter sounds like, he winds each phrase of it into his very own, personal story.

It is beautiful.  It is spectacular.  It is more than I could have imagined.  And it is so simple.  Hardly anything at all.  It is just so powerfully incredible.  The incredible words of Schulz have become the incredible words of Foer, weaving a new heartbreaking beautiful tale.

I have found something compelling, alright.  This is an active love.  

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please leave a comment to respond to my post or start a new conversation about whatever it is that you're passionate about.

If you don't have a Blogger or Google account, you can always leave an anonymous comment. Thankyou for taking the time!