Thursday, September 08, 2005

Cara mia, ti voglio bene... Tu sei una mia stella*

There is a man I love and respect. I often find myself... while fingering the cool gentle lines of his books, the precise cut of his pages... I often find myself wondering how he holds his wine-glass, and do his eyes crinkle when he laughs?

His name is Alessandro Baricco.

He writes books.

In italian.

He has a beautiful voice- Listen for yourself, here, where he talks about an audio project he conceptualized. He could be ordering a toilet-paper roll or cursing his aunt, it doesn't matter: the words smooth-laughing, dancing, holding you close that come from within him have you spell-bound with the very sound. Its liquid. Like a still lake in the sun.

I could speak of his books, but this is not a review section, and that will come, considering he is my chosen author for a big assignment due in two weeks. I have read his work in translation, and the sheer poetry of his story-- the thing that makes you want to cry and dance with an long-dead grandfather-- makes me only wish that I could read it in the original.

Yes, he's aquarian [long-standing associates will understand that strange obsession] and yes, he's a genius with humour and metaphor. He is a bard, and I must meet him. I must meet him, more than I must win the nobel, or speak with axl rose, or dance with robbie williams. A biggie, you understand.

But yes, I must let you read some of what he has written, from one of my favourite books:

Sand as far as the eye can see, between the last hills and the sea -- the sea -- in the cold air of an afternoon almost past, and blessed by the wind that always blows from the north.

The beach. And the sea.

It could be perfection -- an image for divine eyes -- a world that happens, that's all, the mute existence of land and water, a work perfectly accomplished, truth --truth -- but once again it is the redeeming grain of a man that jams the mechanism of that paradise, a bagatelle capable on its own of suspending all that great apparatus of inexorable truth, a mere nothing, but one planted in the sand, an imperceptible tear in the surface of that sacred icon, a minuscule exception come to rest on the perfection of that boundless beach. To see him from afar he would be no more than a black dot: amid nothingness, the nothing of a man and a painter's easel. The easel is anchored by slender cords to four stones placed on the sand. It sways imperceptibly in the wind that always blows from the north. The man is wearing waders and a large fisherman's jacket. He is standing, facing the sea, twirling a slim paintbrush between his fingers. On the easel, a canvas.

He is like a sentinel -- this you must realize -- standing there to defend that part of the world from the silent invasion of perfection, a small crack that fragments that spectacular stage set of being. As it is always like this, you need only the glimmer of a man to wound the repose of that which would otherwise be a split second away from becoming truth but instead immediately becomes suspense and doubt once more, because of the simple and infinite power of that man who is a slit, a chink, a small doorway through which return a flood of stories and the enormous inventory of what could be, an infinite gash, a marvelous wound, a path made of thousands of steps where nothing can be true anymore but everything will be -- just as the steps are of that woman who, wrapped in a purple cloak, her head covered, is pacing the beach with measured tread, skirting the backwash of the sea, her feet tracing furrows from right to left across what is by then the lost perfection of the great picture, consuming the distance that separates her from the man until she comes to within a few paces of him, and then right beside him, where it takes nothing to pause and silently look on.

The man does not even turn. He continues staring out at the sea. Silence. From time to time he dips the brush in a copper cup and makes a few light strokes on the canvas. In their wake the bristles of the brush leave a shadow of the palest obscurity that the wind immediately dries bringing the pristine white back to the surface. Water. In the copper cup there is only water. And on the canvas, nothing. Nothing that may be seen.

The north wind blows as it always does and the woman pulls her purple cloak closer around her.

"Plasson, you have been working for days and days down here. Why do you carry all those colors around with you if you do not have the courage to use them?"

This seems to wake him up. This hits home. He turns to observe the woman's face. And when he speaks it is not to reply.

"Please, do not move, he says."

Then he brings the brush up to the woman's face, hesitates a moment, rests it on her lips and slowly runs it from one corner of her mouth to the other. The bristles come away tinged with carmine. He looks at them, dips them ever so slightly in the water and looks up once more towards the sea. On the woman's lips there lingers the hint of a taste that obliges her to think "sea water, this man is painting the sea with the sea" -- and it is a thought that brings a shiver.

For some time now she has already turned round, and is already pacing measuredly back along the immense beach, her steps a mathematical rosary, when the wind brushes the canvas to dry a puff of rosy light, left to float unadorned amid the white. You could stay for hours looking at that sea, and that sky, and everything, but you would find nothing of that color. Nothing that may be seen.

The tide, in those parts, comes in before night falls. Just before. The water surrounds the man and his easel, it clutches them, slowly but with precision, they stay there, the one and the other, impassable, like a miniature island, or a wreck with two heads.

Plasson, the painter.

Every evening a boat comes to pick him up, just before sunset, when the water has already reached his heart. This is the way he wants it. He boards the boat, stows away the easel and all, and allows himself to be taken home.

The sentinel goes away. His duty done. Danger averted. Against the sunset the icon that has again failed to become sacred fades away. All because of that manikin and his paintbrushes. And now that he has gone, time has run out. The dark suspends everything. There is nothing that can, in the dark, become true.

-Alessandro Baricco, 'Ocean Sea'.

Here is his website. Voglio vederti stasera, Alesssandro.


*Italian- My darling I love you... you are a star.. my star.


Anshumani said...

You like 'Ocean Sea'? ... girl, it took me a whole month to finish that book ... and you know how I am with books ... I usually finish them in one reading ... but this one got on my nerves ... OK! Agreed it's a beautiful piece of work but I couldn't take it ... now Silk is awesome ... romantic and stuff ... You wanna dance with robbie williams ... he he he ... I wanna dance with Monica Belucci

A Hairy Snail said...

True, it's an amazing book. Thanks for getting that for me. :)

Erm... where did you get the Italian from? There's this site called Babel Fish - try it sometime.

The Wizard of Odd said...

*amused look*

art anshu, art... loved the pantoumity of that book. Silk is way more structured, true... and economical :-D And ha, you never know my friend... one day, across a dance floor, eyes gazing dreamily from over robbie's shoulder, I will look and see you, belucci in ur arms [assuming you havent stepped on her toes and scared her off already] with one hand surreptitously placed over her arse. Or should I say the small of her back?


and aye, 'dek, pick up italian from where I pick up greek-- everywhere. Glad u like the book.

Anshumani said...

Things have changed since you left ... dance was apparently in my blood ... just needed a release ... have been dancing a lot lately ... and girls tell me I'm good ... he he

*smiles that arrogant self-absorbed smile*

Gul said...

:) nice.. really nice.. hope i bump into the book sometime. will remember the name. thanks.