Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The secret story

He told me all this as we drank tequila in that cheap restaurant in one of the poor suburbs of Irapuato, which, needless to say, didn't have a licence to sell alcoholic beverages. Then he launched into an argument whose principal objective was to discredit art. Cavernas's engravings, I knew, were still hanging in my friend's living room and I had no reason to suspect that he had taken any steps to sell them. When I tried to point out that what had happened between him and Cavernas was an incident in his life story, not an episode in art history, so that it might be used to discredit certain persons, but not artists in general and certainly not art itself, my friend hit the roof.

But that's where art comes from, he said: life stories. Art history comes along only much later. That's what art is, he said, the story of a life in all its particularity. It's the only thing that really is particular and personal. It's the expression of and, at the same time, the fabric of the particular. And what do you mean by the fabric of the particular? I asked, supposing he would answer: Art. I was also thinking, indulgently, that we were pretty drunk already and that it was time to go home. But my friend said: What I mean is the secret story.

[...]

So now you're wondering what I mean by the secret story? asked my friend. Well, the secret story is the one we'll never know, although we're living it from day to day, thinking we're alive, thinking we've got it all under control and the stuff we overlook doesn't matter. But every damn thing matters! It's just that we don't realise. We tell ourselves that art runs on one track and life, our lives, on another, we don't even realise it's a lie.


— from "Dentist," in Last Evenings on Earth, by Roberto Bolano.
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