The idea around this book, this story that doesn’t need an explanation but stems from something that was endured. This book is a disguise that reveals itself delicately. It’s a vessel constantly overflowing on some days with politics; while love has invariably submerged itself with laws of having emotional and physical consequences. It leaves an impact on life and the thing we call life itself. A vessel brimming with water it’s not designed to hold. A life with consequences it’s not supposed to have.
There’s a passing of worlds and generations in us that we are the unwavering outcomes of. A missing element. A shadow lurking in corners that were built years before we were born. Those corners feel like boulders we carry on our shoulders. Too heavy to lift without succumbing to the parched ground beneath our feet. Too wide to let go of without falling with it. The final weight crushing every part of our body.
And everything else that nature conspired to build in us. This weight is pragmatic, no less. It is enslaved with history, desire, regrets, and forced imitations. The cost of living is unbiased to our means of paying for it.
How can it be possible to build the simplest beings in the world and enforce on them ideas that remain unchanged for hundreds of years? So ingrained are our feelings of life and death that what’s left to render in between becomes the only primal test of living.
What about the end of living? Death is certainly not the end of living. The former is not as consequential as we think it is. The stronger the dose of life, we feel its poison and willingly lay down in its grave. The end of living is also a form of death in which we’re still inseparable of our bodies. We wander with no cause. Lost or found.
When the little things are as indifferent in this world as the big things. And you see yourself in neither. The little things have a world of their own. Following the course of life in the objects humans leave behind.When it’s your wounds that still remain irreparable. What of the Small Things then? Who’s the Savior?
Such consequences of living are memorable when felt. Or do they pass on, like the air we breathe?
It’s not enough to think of Italo Calvino as an avid science-fiction writer. Nor is it enough to think of him as a magical realism philosopher that his writing so eloquently verifies. It’s not enough to think of him as a writer forced into a dimension that his literary diction so effortlessly surpasses. You want to read him as you would want to get to know a person – slowly, searchingly, and devotedly.
The Complete Cosmicomics is an Odyssey that is organic and diverse. It’s a collection of short stories featuring the Big Bang in all its perplexities, the movement of time, the shrinkage of space, the undying effect of perception, the birth and death of an atom, the memory of the world. Calvino was adamant to bring forth realistic narratives concerning cosmos’s most telluric elements: wind, sea, air, dust, terrestrial planets, and us, the “outsiders.”
His writing wakes you not out of a deep sleep, but into a dream, suffused with layers one on top of another, extending into a labyrinth of truly impressive and imaginative concepts. These stories are scientific and philosophical. The book, in substance and essence, is a library. Each of his stories are narrated by an animate object, Qfwfq, who exists in one story as a dinosaur, in another as an atom, and in others as inhabiting so many other universes.
Only a few books, like The Complete Cosmicomics, allow you to travel over into the soul of the characters that inhabit the stories. You’re not bringing these characters to life by reading them. These stories, as they are, function as heartbeats, rhythms of the mind and body that pulsate in their celestial and alluring presence. You, the reader, continue on their journeys only to join their breaths to yours.
I insist you find your bearings in less intense writers before plunging into the mental construct that is the philosophy (or anti-philosophy) of Emil Cioran. Dostoevsky, Sartre, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Simone de Beauvoir. You’ll sense an underlying theme – existentialism, morality, the subconscious – and this, because I’ve read the above-named writers, is all the better for a reader to grasp.
Emil Cioran draws parallels to condition the unconditional existence of life. His is the marriage of pessimism and misanthropy tinged with the underlying aspect of human nature. His “philosophy,” per se, feels like its antithesis. Rather he accuses the world, the society of constructing a delusion barrier that protects its people from the only philosophical problem – that is death. To unwrap the layers of a false and vicious cycle that abandons one on the edge of atrophy stripping them of their identity and spirit- this is what Cioran wants us to do.
Can humans survive when stranded, as it were, on a level devoid of illusions? On The Heights of Despair is a collection of aphorisms teeming with provocative and razor-sharp revelations. They’re hard to miss, perhaps harder to digest, because they illuminate such acute distortions of reality. And how it impinges on our consciousness and on our entire waking lives, putting us in a death spiral through which there is no ethical escape.
His interpretation of the “organic and existential thinker” is deeply individualized and psychological. Going against the grain of useless speculation – the superficialities of humankind, the greed, the strategic maneuvering of one’s livelihood in order to avoid pain and suffering – is nothing but Cioran’s manner of beseeching one to think for oneself through the lens of one’s inner agony. He speaks of no weighing scale, no equilibrium that keeps one’s metaphorical boat afloat. Rather, that inner unrest, the insistence of one’s ceasing existence in the infinite is what he wants us to mull over.
Contemplating on the immanence of death, solitude, knowledge, and love is all the more sobering in this arresting book. As much as I’d like you to read this, I don’t want anyone to read this.
Do words reveal you? Surely, there is a confession somewhere in you. Where you live internally more voraciously than you do externally. Where you write essays that nobody asked of you but your soul demands it. Where you map your becoming of a person and your unbecoming in a world full of identities. You may have blurred yours out here, but inside, under the mask of warped symmetry that is the rest of the world, you’re still you: a wonderful contradiction, an enigma.
Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis, which reads like a soulful appeal expressing his deepest sorrows and anguish, is a steep slope to climb. I will digress a bit and explain why I think this is one of the cruelest (and not the greatest) love letters ever written. There is nothing wrong in what is written or the writer himself. Rather I see this letter as the heart of one’s darkness directed at someone invisible, which is synonymous with philistinism and apathy. The letter is heavy with hurt and passion. Hurt that is embraced as incarnate and passion that is its identical half. The soul within these faculties, alone, bear the weight of Wilde’s emotional and ideological imprisonment.
The humanity of love is not the most comforting in De Profundis. Rather I saw it as delusion and deprivation. I couldn’t help but view his isolation as a confession of a romantic’s worst nightmare. Who harbors “a sort of nausea of life” for it can be unfair and unsympathetic to the sentimental and logical, in equal measure.
In between moments of bitterly romantic resolutions are Wilde’s creative and thoughtful symphonies. Those are the ones you cling to- to be able to decipher a complex and emotional man’s journey of self-discovery; his “I” in this tragic, hedonistic, and hysterical world.
I’ll end with Wilde’s summation of the hypocrisy of this world: “The world, having had its will, goes its way, and we are left to suffer undisturbed.” However, this is not without cause as it also helps us realize that “there is nothing wrong in what one does, but there is something wrong in what one becomes. It is well to have learned that.”
Kobo Abe finds surreal ways to capture the absurd and existential in life. The Ruined Map is Abe’s symbolic witch hunt that includes a nameless detective looking for a missing person. At its best, this story reads like a room full of broken mirrors; everywhere you look, you see slices of your identity flashing in them. Not once does Kobo Abe’s writing grant you your complete reflection. It mirrors the dark recesses of life seen and felt in fragments, so why should it spare the consciousness that survives it?
Consider this novel a study in human paranoia. It’s disturbing, incoherent, and a bit stubborn. Halfway through the book, the story feels like it’s getting nowhere; no climactic ending, no significant revelations. Nevertheless, the story is pensive and interestingly descriptive. The ambitious metaphors, the protagonist’s stinging imagination, and the mysterious diversions. Kobo Abe pulls you in and you willingly forget your reality without knowing when.
There’s a recurring thematic structure in all his stories; mirroring vanity, existentialism, and human insolence. Perhaps it’s easier to comprehend The Ruined Map after reading The Woman in the Dunes, The Face of Another, and The Box Man. When it comes to reading Kobo Abe, I can feel the slow, embryonic catharsis of his characters. And for that alone, I’d read and re-read all of his stories.