How does he see?

“He wanted to write like Cezanne painted. / Cézanne started with all the tricks. Then he broke the whole thing down and built the real thing. It was hell to do. … He, Nick, wanted to write about country so it would be there like Cézanne had done it in painting. You had to do it from inside yourself. There wasn’t any trick. Nobody had written about country like that. … You could do it if you would fight it out, if you’d lived right with your eyes. / It was a thing you couldn’t talk about.”

Ernest Hemingway, The Nick Adams Stories

Gertrude Stein did this more than a decade earlier, learning from Cézanne how to see. I think of Hemingway often as I read Knausgaard, now reading his fourth book and wondering how his vision is formed. It is writing that gets close to another consciousness, perhaps more than any other writer, yet there is still that distance that comes from the unanswerable question: how does he see? A question that goes back to Altamira and Lascaux.

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Anthony

Time's Flow Stemmed is a notebook of my wild readings.

2 thoughts on “How does he see?

  1. Whenever I’m writing or talking about books this is the unnameable thing that I’m not able directly to talk about, the thing that’s always already there between the words. I’ll spend a lifetime I think trying to understand exactly what Cézanne and Hemingway achieved – neither of them without standing on the shoulders of others, as you say – Stein among others for Hemingway, probably (and despite little stylistic similarity) Pissarro more than anyone else for Cézanne.

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