Tuesday Quought: La parte de Archimboldi
“Esa noche, mientras trabajaba en la puerta del bar, se entretuvo en pensar en un tiempo de dos velocidades, uno era muy lento y las personas y los objetos se movían en este tiempo de forma casi imperceptible, el otro era muy rápido y todo, hasta las cosas inertes, centellaban de velocidad. El primero se llamaba Paraíso, el segunda Infierno, y lo unico que deseaba Archimboldi era no vivir jamás en ninguno de los dos.”
Roberto Bolaño; 2666, p. 1001-1002, Anagrama, Collecion Compactos, Barcelona 2009.
[My English translation: “That night, whilst he worked the door of the bar, he whiled away the time, thinking of time at two speeds, one of them was very slow and persons and objects moved in this time in a way that was barely noticeable, the other was very fast and everything, up to and including the non-living things, was moving with scintillating speed. The first was called Paradise, the second Hell, and the only thing Archimboldi wished for was not to live in any of them.”]
Why is Paradise slow? I guess because it gives you the time to think things through, and to appreciate what happens instead of merely playing along.
Why is Hell fast? Presumably because its speed is unforgiving. Shit happens – and you are a part of ‘that shit’. No time to write about it. Nor to expand on it.
Why doesn’t Archimboldi want to live in either? I haven’t got the faintest of clues, as I do not think Archimboldi is one of the best worked out characters in this (or indeed in any other) regard, & whether that’s a good or a bad thing you will have to work out for yourselves. But I do know that Paradise is boring and Hell is painful. And therefore that neither is better than reality, even if reality cannot truthfully be spelled with this or that capital letter (which is an interesting application of truth, said in passing).
On closer inspection, Hell & Paradise are the abstractions of the two worst things that can happen to human beings: boredom & pain. Things going too slow, and things going too fast. Also: Archimboldi is closer to Paradise than he is to Hell – and this is true because of the mere fact that he makes the observation highlighted by a writer that I quoted; but not much closer because they do it for entertainment (to pass time), & not in a grand desire to stop all engines, tinker with them – e.g. in order to make them run hellishly smoother – and then be on with it, quicker and better.
Paradoxically – but not in a logically mysterious sense of ‘paradoxically’ – by observing this both Bolaño & Archimboldi speed up time whilst also slowing it down. Slowing it down because the insight allows them more time, to understand their surroundings. Speeding it up because time is being whiled away by it, & more observations can be fitted in a shorter time frame. Both eventually because the insights have increased.
Which brings me to cultural pessimism (you didn’t see that one coming, did you?): it seems quasi-unavoidable and is also pervasively present in the tale of Archimboldi. I myself – a distinctly out-of-the-closet cultural optimist – believe it’s an identity crisis best explained as a time/speed crisis as per the above. Considered in one way; things go fiendishly rapid and in a continuum of pain that seems to be the most acute sense of reality. Considered in another, more contemplative, way there seems to be a benign stated of ‘high culture’ where universal qualities appear, and can be appreciated in … peace and quiet.
The latter is associated with the past (as only the past can have withstood the Test of Time) as it is only after quite some time that the security emerges in which one can contemplate these universal ‘goodies’. The former is associated with the future; the decaying of universal insights into the flashing lightning speed of ever more inputs.
Or, to reverse yet another time, uncertainty and certainty.
Deconstruction and postmodernism have been written off too easily in the silly end of the 20th century. The crisis is – at least in part – resolved by understanding how we can take apart the past, remain with the filtered out best bits and move toward the future in which the proportion of good bits versus bad bits can’t but increase in basically Darwinian ways (to make a connection with other posts of mine tagged with ‘cultural optimism’).
The problem with the ferocious attack on postmodernism is modernism with a twist: critical people are now convinced they are beyond criticism since they are critical. Not coincidentally, I think, Bolaño did not wish to finish his book (in more or less the same way as Archimboldi seems unable to finish living).
Not knowing biographic detail, I don’t think the book is unfinished because he died to soon. My thesis is that the book is so long precisely because he didn’t die sooner (or is this too cruel?). The unfinished and the unfound are more productive than the found and the finished; reality is preferable to Hell as it is preferable to Heaven.
[This was, by the way, not ‘my’ exercise in literary criticism; one good reason to restrict one’s reading (and specifically of works of fiction) to old classics is to let the many bacteria, loving the immediate and modern, process the new, knowing that – over a sufficient amount of time – only the really good stuff will be able to resist the all-consuming nature (e.g. the biographical interest, & the related interest in live performances in theaters near you) of this ‘highly specialized’ bacterial colony of lovers of the literary contemporaneous and all other things ‘hot’ or ‘in’. The sad – but not terribly sad – thing is that some really good stuff won’t find its Bubis; luckily this is true of bad stuff as well.]
[Whilst writing I listened to Paco de Lucia, Al di Meola, John Mc Laughlin, The Guitar Trio, Polygram 1996.]
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