Thursday, June 24, 2010

absence before and nothingness after

Nearly done with John Berger's From A to X.

Some guilty pleasure involved in enjoying it uncritically, and for the memorable phrases I have been copying into my notebook (there are many of these, enough to make up for the inevitable questions about narrative vagueness and naivete).

The most memorable letter is one that describes a flight A'ida and Xavier take. This one chapter could be the whole book: the sensory detail that brings the world into Xavier's cell; the memory of flight, so precious to one who cannot even see the sky except occasionally (there's a Hikmet poem one should quote here); the retelling of a shared past; the past as parable; the enormity and significance of small things; the importance of detail.

We feel A'ida's world in all its sensuous detail but we can only imagine Xavier's. What would a description of flight to do a man incarcerated?

"It's a sensation of growing, of growth. When someone is remembered and emerges from oblivion, maybe they feel like we did," A'ida says.

Maybe despair is a middle-class luxury. I don't know. But beyond the second section, I begin to tire of this emphasis on hope, of the large burdens small incidents are asked to bear. Berger begins to cross the fine line between immersion and wallowing and I'm not sure I like the transgression.

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