Monday, September 13, 2010


Where the first 400 pages of Celestial Harmonies are a construction of aphorisms and anecdotes, the distilled experience of 400 years of Esterhazy nobility, the second half constitues a more visceral novel. I found the first part remniscent of Perec's Life: A Users Manual. It wasn't a puzzle of exact precision, but rather, a tumbling monologue on futility and vanity.

On the other hand, my father--specifically, my grandfather and his family--never felt that they had anything to lose since (repetition!) they had so much that they had every reason to think they couldn't lose it all, for everything can't be lost, only a lot. But if you lose a lot from this everything, there's still everything left. Accordingly, everything remains the same, and accordingly, it is not worth thinking about. Later, when historical happenstance took from them everything they possessed, this line of reasoning came full circle: if you have nothing, no matter how much of it you may lose, the same amount remains. Accordingly, everything remains the same. And--teetering on the brink of a great nothing--they concluded that it's something not worth thinking about, and they either marched out to the potato patch to rake the potatoes (having taken on the work for half the yield), or else sat out on the porch and quietly reflected on the vagaries of fortune.

My friend Roger is reading a book by Jerzy Pilch and we were sharing examples of this perspective which runs through both of the novels.


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