Canvas once touched by the fingers of both Giorgione and Titian

‘La Vecchia’ (c.1506) by Giorgione

We stand before a canvas once touched by the fingers of both Giorgione and Titian.

I know that restorers’ fingers may long since have erased all traces of the two masters’ palms,

still it’s difficult not to be moved.

~ Adam Zagajewski, Slight Exaggeration: An Essay


Notes:

Sunday Morning

A few days ago I spent a couple of minutes in St. Mary’s Basilica—it was a weekday—where perhaps a dozen people were kneeling in prayer.

Every now and then someone’s cell phone rang.

Horizontal communication refused to surrender, it kept on battling its vertical counterpart.

~ Adam Zagajewski, Slight Exaggeration: An Essay


Notes:

Veteran’s Day: asking ourselves what it must have been like to live through…

The same thing happens whenever we attempt, incredulously, to peer into the past, asking ourselves what it must have been like to live through World War Two, the Holocaust, or during Stalin’s purges, the years of the greatest terror, and it seems impossible, inconceivable, to survive even an hour in such a nightmare—but for those who weren’t that day’s direct victims of persecution, there was always more reality, always some kind of weather, they were either hungry or well fed, a dog was barking somewhere, a plane flew overhead, Mother was making pierogi in the kitchen, you had to think about buying winter boots, making the soup … They went for walks in the park, they forgot for a moment. They were in love, happily or otherwise, they read Madame Bovary or some other nineteenth-century novel, the radio played a Schubert sonata. Anyone who spent his or her childhood in Stalin’s Poland will remember the scent of the first spring pussy willows and the stammering priest who taught catechism in a cramped parish hall smelling of floor polish better than the gigantic portraits of leaders floating awkwardly, flapping over the May Day Parade. Even the fear that paralyzed so many in its time evaporates as the years pass, becomes difficult to imagine. Especially fear, fear, which is like a migraine—it disappears and leaves no trace. Although it may leave scars upon the soul.


Notes:

  • Post Inspiration: In honor of all who served.
  • Photo: Daily Mail – “My hero big brother: Heart-wrenching moment a soldier’s grieving sister collapses in front of his grave at Arlington Cemetery”
  • Related Posts: Adam Zagajewski

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

Zofia Nalkowska writes in Medallions that we’re never given reality in its entirety, it reaches us only in “fragments of events,” and this alone permits us to bear periods of historical catastrophes. But isn’t it just the opposite? We manage to survive great misfortunes, times of terror, only because we receive an excess of reality. Of course, tyrants waste no time, but a bird is still singing somewhere, a tram bell rings, rain begins falling, a neighbor asks to borrow a pinch of sugar, I hear my heart beating, stars burn at night as they always do. Someone plays cards in the suburbs, a bottle of rotgut stands in the grass, green tomatoes ripen in the sun.


Notes:

  • Post Inspiration: A gunman walked into a small Baptist church in rural Texas on Sunday and opened fire, killing at least 25 people and turning a tiny town east of San Antonio into the scene of the country’s most recent mass horror. (NY Times, November 5, 2017)
  • Photo: Harvest to Table
  • Related Posts: Adam Zagajewski

Sunday Morning

And visitors, how should they treat the cathedral? Here’s what I think: You need to take your time in Chartres Cathedral, you can’t hurry, like the tourist groups; you should take a seat, study the windows, then stand up and stroll around, forget that you’re in a cathedral, then remember again, and after a while you’ll sense something undescribed in any guidebook, a kind of strong longing or desire that isn’t contained within the cathedral’s walls or its windows, it’s in the air, in its very lungs. After some time, after you’ve circled the cathedral several times, crossing its zones of light and shade, purely visual impressions recede while this ever-growing desire comes into focus. We don’t know why the cathedral inspires such longing. Why its dark interior gives rise to longing.

~ Adam Zagajewski, Slight Exaggeration: An Essay


Notes:

  • Photo: Chartres Cathedral, France. The first Gothic cathedral ever built, Chartres Cathedral has stood for over 800 years. With its soaring arches and unmatched stained glass windows, to enter Chartres is to have a spiritual experience. Photographer: Michael Brewer.
  • Related Posts: Adam Zagajewski

Lightly Child, Lightly.

Music— organized by melody, harmony, but sometimes we’re most struck by the mass of sound, the absurd (intellectually speaking) accumulation of noises, the magnificent, physically compelling actualization of the instruments’ power— as sometimes in Bruckner we feel the bows vibrating, the cellos’ heavy hair swimming alongside the bass cry of the trumpets and trombones, sometimes in Wagner, or more recently, in the first movement of Henryk Gorecki’s Third Symphony, when slow as the dawn, the orchestra’s cocoon unfolds— or, a different metaphor, we can imagine the hull of a massive ship emerging, slowly, from the mist. This incredibly sensual, palpable wall of sound stirs our entire body, but remains unseen. And perhaps it’s precisely this contrast— between overwhelming presence and invisibility— that moves us, leads us, momentarily, to another world, another way of being that we can only visit.

~ Adam Zagajewski, Slight Exaggeration: An Essay (April 4, 2017)


Notes:

  • Photo: janae (@janaeture)  (via Your Eyes Blaze Out)
  • Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here.
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”
  • Related Posts: Adam Zagajewski

 

Sunday Morning

L7matrix

It’s enough just to listen to music, to keep asking questions for which there are no answers, to remember paintings seen in a museum, to note the earth’s quiet at dusk, birds’ voices in May, to shiver at the thought that they’re alive, that the gleam of each new dawn is an endless promise.

~ Adam Zagajewski, Slight Exaggeration: An Essay (April 4, 2017)


Notes:

Elle est bonne

On the Mediterranean beaches of France, in summer, you hear one cry repeated endlessly: Elle est bonne. That is, It’s good. Meaning the seawater. Cautious, modern inhabitants of cities thus assure one another that it’s safe to go in the water, they won’t be stunned by its arctic cold. But in its essence this cry affirms the world, nature. Elle est bonne.

~ Adam Zagajewski, Slight Exaggeration: An Essay (April 4, 2017)


Photo: South of France via Oliver’s Travels. Related Posts: Adam Zagajewski

 

How to describe the way these two waves of reality, the world and dreams, meet, do battle

Gosia-janik

How to describe the way these two waves of reality, the world and dreams, meet, do battle, fail to reach agreement, conclude short-lived treaties that are immediately broken, how at dawn they stare at one another incomprehendingly, begin to build bridges again by evening, and then once more turn furiously upon each other, with a passion mixing love and hate, and afterward, drift to sleep by the side of a highway leading nowhere, on an embankment where weeds grow with their heady scent.

~ Adam Zagajewski, Slight Exaggeration: An Essay (April 4, 2017)


Notes:

And I could never understand how these two forces, the light element of music and history’s heavy breath, coexisted.

Only what isn’t real. Sometimes I thought you could only really love what isn’t real: poems, paintings, the sounds of a piano drifting from the music academy, where a pianist, no longer young, a maestro, a stranger from another town, showed students how to play Chopin’s Fourth Ballade. Love only what isn’t real, but reality always resurfaced, in the shape of a trivial question about what to make for dinner (the ham’s gone, we’re out of tea), or in the form of menacing history: war’s broken out, mass demonstrations have paralyzed the city, inflation has imperceptibly changed the appearance of shops and streets (though it left Beethoven’s sonatas unscathed). And I could never understand how these two forces, the light element of music and history’s heavy breath, coexisted. I’ve tried to write about it more than once, but even the most dedicated readers have delicately hinted that they’ve had enough, let’s move on to something new, since these two worlds still cannot be reconciled or fused, they remain completely indifferent to my questions, they mock my inquiries, my worries, they likewise dismiss the protests of my scattered readers.

~ Adam Zagajewski, Slight Exaggeration: An Essay (April 4, 2017)


Notes:

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