Wednesday, November 10, 2010

a letter

pathological romance of a fictional woman

This is lulu affectionately named after an obsession for Louise Brooks in the late eighties, used for light study while learning photography in the early nineties.  She was made of fiberglass and plaster, the faint drip falling from her lip was from her moonlighting days as a Halloween witch, a slight trickle of blood fashioned from a red shade of nail polish in which she seduced young children to her lovingly.  For all her portraits and illusions of womanhood she failed to be true.

This is a letter to a real woman who was loved.  Who's to say if the love was real it was felt that much is certain.  It was written on a Friday evening by the author Gustave Flaubert to Louise Colet in 1846:

"You tell me, my angel, that I  have not initiated you into my inner life, into my most secret thoughts.  Do you know what is most intimate, most hidden in my heart, and what is most authentically myself?  Two or three modest ideas about art, lovingly brooded over, that is all.  The greatest events of my life have been a few thoughts, a few books, certain sunsets on a beach at Trouville, and talks five or six hours long with a friend now married and lost to me.  I have always seen life differently from others, and the result has been that I've always isolated myself (but not sufficiently, alas!) in a state of harsh unsociability, with no exit.  I suffered so many humiliations, I shocked people and made them indignant, that  I long ago came to realize that in order to live in peace one must live alone and seal one's windows lest air of the world seep in.  in spite of myself I still retain something of this habit.  That is why I deliberately avoided the company of women for several years.  I wanted no hindrance to my innate moral precept.  I wanted no yoke, no influence.  In the end I no longer desired woman's company at all.  Stirrings of the flesh, throbbings of the heart, were absent from my life, and I was not even conscience of my sex.  As I told you, I had an overwhelming passion when I was little more than a child.  When it ended I decided to divide my life in two parts:  to put on one side my soul, which I reserved for Art, and on the other my body, which was to live as best I could.  Then you came along and upset all that.  So here I am, returning to a human existence!

You have awakened all that was slumbering, or perhaps decaying, within me!  I have been loved before,  and intensely,   though I'm one of those who are quickly forgotten and more apt to kindle emotion than to keep it alive.  The love I arouse is always that felt for something a little strange.  Love, after all, is only a superior kind of curiosity, an appetite for the unknown that makes you bare your breast and plunge headlong into the storm.  

As I said, I have been loved before but never the way you loved me; nor has there ever been between a woman and myself the bond that exists between us two.  I have never felt for any woman so deep a devotion, so irresistible an attraction; never has there been such complete communion.  Why do you keep saying that I love the tinselly, the showy, the flashy?  'Poet of form!'  That is the favourite term of abuse hurled by utilitarian's at true artists.  For my part, until someone comes along and separates for me the form and the substance of a given sentence, I shall continue to maintain that that distinction is meaningless.  Every beautiful thought has a beautiful form, and vice versa.  In the world of Art, beauty is a by-product of form. just as in our world temptation is a by-product of love.  Just as you cannot remove from  a physical body the qualities that constitute it - colour, extension, solidity - without reducing it to hollow abstraction, without destroying it, so you cannot remove the form from the Idea, because the Idea exists only by virtue of its form.  Imagine an idea that has no form - such a thing is as impossible as a form that expresses no idea.  Such are the stupidities on which criticism feeds.  Good stylist are reproached for neglecting the Idea, the moral goal; as though the goal of the doctor were not to heal, the goal of the painter to paint, the goal of the nightingale to sing, as though the goal of Art were not and foremost,  Beauty!"


Migue said...

Se me ha puesto la piel de gallina :).
When I've got in the blog, I thought: "uff too long to read it", now that I did it, I can just say Thank you Diane.

I love when he says:
"The greatest events of my life have been a few thoughts, a few books, certain sunsets on a beach at Trouville, and talks five or six hours long with a friend now married and lost to me."
Yes, I look back now that I am 40 :))), and if I think about the greatest events of my life... my God, it is true that they are so little tiny things that I feel scared about the fact that I might have been wasting so much time...

Thanks :)

diane said...

I know it's daunting when you see so many lines but I'm glad you took the time, I was moved very much. I can live vicariously through Gustave's love for Louise. I particularly love his argument for art :)
Enjoy the tiny things with everything you have then life could never be a waste, besides believe the best is yet to come :)

Rosa said...

Dear Diane,
I knew this beautiful letter by Flaubert. I found it touching, full of poetry...and of the sense of life! I think that many women would like to receive a such a letter!
I think that our life is made by little things. Little things like bricks with which we build a whole existence.But love is the most important ingredient of our life. The one making our life worth to be lived. Love and to be loved. Give and receive without expecting anything in exchange: isn't this the essence of love?

Many many thanks for this homage to poetry, love and life!

A world of love!:))

diane said...

Thank you Rosa,
I think people hang on to love for all the reasons you pointed out. Not everyone is so lucky though so perhaps to appreciate love and it's beauty? :)