Sunday, March 22, 2009

Post 564 : Passages 48 : Milan Kundera, Identity, Eyes & eyelids

Milan Kundera, Identity, Pg. 58-59

When her discomfiture becomes unbearable, he clasps her to him and says, laughing, ‘I wanted to see your eyelid washing your cornea like a wiper washing a windscreen.’

Since his last encounter with F., he has been thinking about it: the eye, the window to the soul, the centre of the face’s beauty, the point where a person’s identity is concentrated; but at the same time an optical instrument that requires constant washing , wetting, maintenance by a special liquid dosed with salt. So the gaze, the greatest marvel  man possesses, is regularly interrupted by a mechanical washing action. Like a windscreen washed by a wiper. And nowadays you can even set the tempo of the windscreen wiper in such a way that the movements are separated by a ten-second pause, which is roughly an eyelid’s rhythm.

Jean-Marc watches the eyes of people he talks to and tries to observe the action of the eyelid; he finds that it is not easy. We are not accustomed to being aware of the eyelid. He thinks; there’s nothing I see so often as other people’s eyes. this the eyelids and their movements. And yet I don’t register their movement. I delete it from the eyes in front of me.

And he goes on thinking; puttering ion His workshop God stumbled on this body form to which we must each become the soul for a short while. But what a sorry fate, to be the soul of a body cobbled together so offhandedly, whose eye cannot do its looking without being washed every ten, twenty seconds! How are we to believe that the person we see before is a free, independent being, how own master? How are we to believe his body is the faithful expression of whatever soul inhabits it? To be able to believer that, we’ve to forget the perpetual blinking of the eyelid. We’ve to forget the putterer’s workshop we come from. We’ve had to submit to a contract to forget. It’s God himself who imposed the contract on us.

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