Two more great quotes from “The Elegance of the Hedgehog”

What is the purpose of Art?  To give us the brief, dazzling illusion of the carmellia, carving from time an emotional aperture that cannot be reduced to animal logic.  How is Art born?  It is begotten in the mind’s ability to sculpt the sensorial domain.  What does Art do for us?  It gives shape to our emotions, makes them visible, and, in so doing, places a seal of eternity upon them, a seal representing all those works that, by means of a particular form, have incarnated the universal nature of human emotions.

But when we gaze at a still life, when–even though we did not pursue it–we delight in it’s beauty, a beauty borne away by the magnified and immobile figuration of things, we find pleasure in the fact that there was no need for longing, we may contemplate something we need not want, may cherish something we need not desire.  So this still life, because it embodies a beauty that speaks to our desire but was given birth by someone else’s desire, because it cossets our pleasure without in any way being a part of our own projects, because it is offered to us without requiring the effort of desiring on our part:  this still life incarnates the quintessence of Art, the certainty of timelessness.  In a scene before our eyes–silent, without life or motion–a time exempt of projects is incarnated, perfection purloined from duration and its weary greed–pleasure without desire, existence without duration, beauty without will.  For Art is emotion without desire.

Besides having an interesting perspective on Art, passages such as these make me want to revist my study of French so I can read The Elegance of the Hedgehog in its original French.  Madame Michel repeatedly stresses the purity of language and the reverence we owe it in our daily lives.  Because of this, I believe it would add so much more to my understanding of this little book if I could observe it in its natural habitat–playing and weaving its way through the beautiful intricacies of the French language.


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