Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Microchemical raptures

"The parting was vague, because the separation still seems unreal."

This last line is underlined in pencil, then circled in black ink, and also flagged in the margin with an exclamation mark. Was it me or him who underlined it? I don't remember. I do remember, though, that when I read Sontag for the first time, just like the first time I read Hannah Arendt, Emily Dickinson, and Pascal, I kept having those sudden, subtle, and possibly microchemical raptures — little lights flickering deep inside the brain tissue — that some people experience when they finally find words for a very simple and yet till then utterly unspeakable feeling. When someone else's words enter your consciousness like that, they become small conceptual light-marks. They're not necessarily illuminating. A match struck alight in a dark hallway, the lit tip of a cigarette smoked in bed at midnight, embers in a dying chimney: none of these things has enough light of its own to reveal anything. Neither do anyone's words. But sometimes a little light can make you aware of the dark, unknown space that surrounds it, of the enormous ignorance that envelops everything we think we know. And that recognition and coming to terms with darkness is more valuable than all the factual knowledge we may ever accumulate.
— from Lost Children Archive, by Valeria Luiselli.

I resisted reading this book. I hadn't liked The Story of My Teeth, despite its accolades; I assumed this Archive would be similarly overrated. But thus far (about a quarter in), I am loving it. It's touching me in all the right ways, caressing my brain and poking my heart. I want to know more about acoustemology and private languages. It makes me want to read Susan Sontag.

Those raptures for me, these days: Clarice Lispector, Olga Tokarczuk. This book too seems to be full of raptures.

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