Friday, December 05, 2003

I was reading an article by Umberto Eco, a lecture he gave at the Alexandrian Library (The Alexandrian Library is itself an anachronism, a 21st century library emerging from the mediterranean landscape not as a new venture into the electronic age but more as a confused homage to its ancient predecessor.) In his lecture you can hear the old pleas for the book form (which I am sympathetic to), a pile of fading paper in a world where information is now transferred electronically, rendered as pixels rather than bursts of ink.

So, one of the sidebar images was from one of my favorite books, Max Ernst's Une Semaine de Bonte. I had forgotten I owned this book and so I went looking for it among some boxes of books that I had stored away.

This is a wordless novel, a surreal collage, in which bird-headed women vie with lion-headed men. In which bats and dogs and enormous serpents appear in bedrooms, water and sand and elements flow through Victorian streets and ballrooms. The novel is intractable, it makes no sense. But Ernst maintains a light, distant sense of continuity from frame to frame so that you cannot help but feel that there must be some logic.

When you read this book, you end up inventing your own story to make sense of it all, to try to explain it away. A parable maybe?

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