Articulating Despair

‘The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. […] A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.’
(Thoreau: Walden)

Thoreau’s view is of a truth that is covered over, masked with falsehood, and which (as with Frisch’s technology) we exploit without engaging with. He views it from above:

‘The very simplicity and nakedness of man’s life in the primitive ages imply this advantage, at least, that they left him still but a sojourner in nature. When he was refreshed with food and sleep, he contemplated his journey again. He dwelt, as it were, in a tent in this world, and was either threading the valleys, or crossing the plains, or climbing the mountain-tops. But lo! men have become the tools of their tools. The man who independently plucked the fruits when he was hungry is become a farmer; and he who stood under a tree for shelter, a housekeeper. We now no longer camp as for a night, but have settled down on earth and forgotten heaven. We have adopted Christianity merely as an improved method of agriculture. We have built for this world a family mansion, and for the next a family tomb. The best works of art are the expression of man’s struggle to free himself from this condition, but the effect of our art is merely to make this low state comfortable and that higher state to be forgotten. There is actually no place in this village for a work of fine art, if any had come down to us, to stand, for our lives, our houses and streets, furnish no proper pedestal for it. There is not a nail to hang a picture on, nor a shelf to receive the bust of a hero or a saint. When I consider how our houses are built and paid for, or not paid for, and their internal economy managed and sustained, I wonder that the floor does not give way under the visitor while he is admiring the gewgaws upon the mantelpiece, and let him through into the cellar, to some solid and honest though earthy foundation.’
(Thoreau: Walden)


‘Why do you live if you’re not happy?’
‘Everyone is constrained to create a fiction for themselves in order to carry on living. There are those who think about their families, those who think about work, or about money, or about sex. But they’re all illusions.’
(P V Tondelli: Rimini)

The important thing here is that Rimini is actually radically false, whether viewed by Bauer, the young journalist stationed there from outside, or from within, and even though the ‘real’ is thoroughly complicit with the false. Hence this about a homosexual relationship that is likewise radically subaltern in how it is expressed:

‘Leo felt then the entirety of his own life separated by an abyss from the great events of living and of dying. As if he had always lived in a zone that was separate from society. As if his doing badly in the world, or being happy, his wandering, all this had taken place on some stage. Now the portrayal was ending. Fathers and mothers, the Church, the State, the officials in charge of personal data were re-establishing their grip, consigning everything to the nullifying dust of the archives. Everything except the insignificant pain of some extraneous young man.
‘But Thomas was dying. At twenty five years. And he, Leo, who was only four years older, found himself the widower of a companion so that it was as though he had never had one and about him there existed not even a word in any human lexicon that could define the one who had been for him not a husband, not a wife, not a lover, not only a companion but the essential part of a new and mutual fate.’
(P V Tondelli: Camere separate)


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