There is a world in which ages are not equal, the sexes not undifferentiated, roles not equivalent and civilisations not easily confused with one another.
There is a world in which the ignorant are not the equal of the learned, the oral does not have the same ‘voice’ as the written, nor the vulgus as the atomos, nor barbarians as civilised beings.
There is another world.
There is a world that belongs to the shore of the Lethe.
That shore is memory.
It is the world of novels and sonatas, the world of the pleasure of naked bodies that love the half-closed blind or the world of the dream that loves it even more closed, to the point where it feigns the darkness of night or contrives it.
It is the world of magpies on graves.
It is the world of solitude required for reading books or listening to music.
The world of tepid silence and idle semi-darkness where thought drifts, then suddenly seethes with excitement.
Pascal Quignard, The Roving Shadows. trans. Chris Turner. Seagull Books, 2011 (2002)
Revisiting an old friend, my first Quignard and one of those coincidences that provides much joy: I had forgotten that The Roving Shadows is, in part, a tribute to Junichiro Tanizaki’s In Praise of Shadows, which Des has highly recommended to me. It was awaiting me under the Christmas tree this morning.
What a great quotation! ‘The world of magpies on graves.’ I can see that Quignard is a must-read. At the moment I can only get a hold of Abysses in a couple of days when I get to Sydney but I really like the look of ‘The Roving Shadows’ and ‘Sex and Terror.’ I’ll order them online when I get back to St Kilda. (BTW Tanizaki seems to have got under your Christmas tree pretty fast.) Best wishes.
I’m sure you’ll love both, Des, particularly The Roving Shadows. I’m currently reading Quignard’s Abyss. Initial impressions of opacity interwoven with beauty and insight. It took rereading to unpick The Roving Shadows. Most of my gifts these days are drawn from a wish list. Books aside, there is nothing else I need.
Definitely going to get a copy of Roving Shadows – and I think we had a discussion about Quignard once before, in which I said – I must read! – and then like so many other wonderful things, have left to linger. I’m very curious to hear your thoughts on In Praise of Shadows – it’s an essay I try to read once a year, and although you can detect/discuss Tanizaki’s nationalism in it, it is still hauntingly beautiful. It led me long ago to his Seven Tales story collection, which is another favourite.
I’m part way through Abyss, another in Quignard’s Lost Kingdom series and quite extraordinary in its force. I’ll get to Tanizaki’s Praise of Shadows next; with Des’ and your endorsement I’m sure I shall love it.