Good ending – interesting image of them running to get to the church / hostel before curfew in that even though we don’t know her religion, it seems as if she’s run to a different culture, as if the pebble had washed downstream and the current had altered it beyond recognition and so all one can do is make their away anew in the same old world. Everyone is running to and from something anyway.
She has all the opportunity and freedom and love in the world and yet it doesn’t mean anything to her. She chose her own husband, had a great education, the potential for a career – but nothing comes from it – it’s as if her inability to find satisfaction is what killed her baby, just as in The Lost Ribbon.
Though not rape, it is pretty much sexual assault when the West African boy kisses her at the club and then says he actually wants to meet her friend. I don’t understand people like this.
The story does do a good job of making her seem as if she doesn’t exist, as if there is no home at all 4 her, but it’s not exactly riveting reading, it’s like reading the memoir of a fog – beautiful, but lacking substance
No shortage of food or money in this story. We began with poverty and hunger, but now the main characters have enough money to travel to Italy and eat very nice food. Have they “arrived”? What does “arriving” even mean since that implies anything else is not arriving, is not home, is not a place but rather a space between places.
Is the pebble she dropped in the river the same as from the previous story, only this story is taking place years later and he is the boy all grown up with a family of his own? Both stories begin on a journey – this time it’s a raft. Fitting that the final image of landscape in the book is of a river since rivers have often come up in the book as dividing and cutting and as time flowing past.
The boy was not travelling with his father – then I wonder who he is. He’s got a hell of an arm to have hit the truck as it passed (I wonder if that’s one of the truck drivers who pulls into the town in The Road To Mirpur Khas?
And so she seems to have started a new life with her as the boy’s mother – she had miscarried so this is a new start for her.
So that was the plan to just grab the boy and run out. Makes since they are all probably going to be killed, but I have to admit that it seems like a pretty weak plan – though what else are they going to do?
The boy’s childish belongings suddenly take on more meaning than her own jewelry. She somehow now has a greater responsibility for these objects and she seems to share a deeper comradeship with the boy than with her husband.
Is she thinking of overpowering the bandits? What difference does it make if there is one guard or three “outside the door”? And is this what the boy meant when he pointed to his ear – did he mean for her to listen or did he mean something else? She sees him smile so she thinks they are on the same page, but are they?
Interesting how she only think that her shoes are going to get ruined after Ahmed attacks the bother with his machete (again, sort of like a movie – No Country For Old Men when Chigur keeps his feet from stepping in the blood and wipes them after killing the wife). She’s very distant – which makes sense considering the situation she’s in – better to be distant than panicked I suppose.
She watches the young couple and how happy they appear to her, but do we really know? Makes me think of Hitchcock’s Rear Window where we can watch and watch but do we really know anyone, either from across the street, across the map, or across the bed? In fact she seems to like watching people – the people on the train and well as her neighbors.
“in the time since they had married, it seemed to her that she’d lost most of her preferences”. Of course since the marriages are arranged it’s not unusual for neither person to be happy, but it does speak to the broader definition of a union in which when you’re forced to be with someone (willingly or not) you have to shape yourself to fit in that space, like being in a crowded bogie.
I’m surprised there aren’t more scenes in this book with trains considering how important trains are to India. Everyone also has a plan for dealing with looters who stop the trains and rob everyone – obviously there is no police and since they are in the middle of nowhere then there isn’t going to be any protection.
Though she doesn’t use one of her favorite words, transport, she is describing the sensation of being transported into the realm of art, a world of pure forms and extasy (as she spells it) as well as being carried into the world of the work of art, such as the scenery in a painting or the joy of a sonata. Art is her lodge in a vast wilderness (which she wrote in her copy of the Aeneid).
I suppose the question she is asking here is what is it about art – from both the artist’s point of view as well as the connoisseur’s – that alters our reality? What exactly is going on when we look at a painting that transports us to another world, causes us to weep when we read a line of Keats, or makes us believe, if just for a moment, that we are in the presence of God when we hear Beethoven’s Ninth? What mystical information is being transmitted from the physical object that is art – the canvas, the sheet of paper, the musical instrument – which transforms our emotional state, our inner reality?
Emily doesn’t seem to have an answer as to the specifics of how art works, her solution is merely to allow “Art” to “stun” her, to transport her as if she were in a “Balloon” and were carried along the “celestial” currents of the invisible “Ether” of art. She is content to enjoy what “Art” can do – she’s not so much interested in the how. And perhaps this is how the earliest artists also felt when they crawled through dark and narrow caves with only a portion of animal fat to light their way so that they could recreate the world as they saw it. They didn’t care how they were impelled to do this, they only knew they must – perhaps they thought it was part of their relationship with some sort of God which compelled them and when we look at the art they left behind it’s hard to not feel a reverence for their craft.
Such is the overwhelming power of art; God itself resides there.
Emily describes three forms of art in this poem: painting, music, and poetry and I feel she is also ordering them so that the most important (to her) completes the poem. The first, painting, she describes not just the act of viewing a painting, but she is also interested in its creation. She uses the word “stir” which evokes the painter mixing their oils, and she describes “how the fingers feel” as if we are the artist holding the brush which makes the canvas come alive with its subject. In a sense she is talking us into the space that exists between the artist and the art, a “rare – celestial” space that, while it does not exist in reality, does in fact exist in reality simply because the work of art was created thus something whose “bright impossibility” has transformed the thoughts and imaginations of the artist into a physical reality on the canvas.
But she’s not just saying that the artist has captured an image – she uses the word “bright” which also implies light, as in seeing – but that this physical object evokes an emotional response. This piece of wood with stretched canvas upon which animal fats and ground plant matter are mixed and smeared in such a way that it transcends the mere physical limitations of the frame and expands outward so that we actually feel the art, it gets inside us and causes us “torment” even though there is no villain in the room, and “Such sumptuous – Despair” even though we’re just looking at some wood, fabric, and oil.
Having broken free of the physical limitations of the frame, she moves on to music which is even more unusual in that music does not exactly exist the way normal physical objects do. When we hear a piece of music we are hearing a series of notes, but music doesn’t exist as a whole and physical entity whose boundaries we can define, music occurs because the notes, once inside of us, are transformed into some cohesive substance of the mind. Emily describes this sensation as the invisible gas which fills a “Balloon” and the invisible gas – “Ether” – which desensitizes the patient and allows them to be susceptible to the surgeon, in this case the composer whose invisible notes float as if they are a free-floating “Ether” which drugs the unsuspecting mind and reshapes our typically rigid frame of consciousness into something more sublime.
Finally she hints at how the patient (both as in the sense of the audience being like the artist’s patient, as well as those who are willing to take the time to appreciate art), once they are under the influence, are stunned, as if Zeus’ “Bolts” had struck them down and were working some miracle upon them. She also suggests that “The License to revere” is something that is loaned to us, that it is a “privilege” which means it is not something which belongs to us. Zeus’ “Bolts” are his alone to strike us with, we can only stand in awe of such a gift but cannot produce our own. However, once struck with this “Bolt” the will of the gods is now working through us, we become the instrument of the gods, our actions are like the vibrations of the reed or the stirring of “the fingers” and in this state we are “Enamored” that we have been given this rare “privilege”, we are “impotent” to explain it or even stop it, and if we are wise we are “content” to allow it to happen.
Thus we are like the canvas, the musical instrument, and the poet’s notebook – we are the canvas of the Gods who work though us and allow us to touch them through art, to touch the infinite, to experience the forms, to transform matter into a wand which can so alter our emotional state that once in that state it will begin to alter our physical state too by pointing us in new directions, by shining a light on a world we never knew existed before and thus allows us to transform our lives.
We literally become new people through art. And that is magical.