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Monday, September 11, 2006

The Paradox of the Joycean Lens

Just when you though Old Dead Beat might be bringing you somewhere substantial (Dante and the Road to Possibility) who should drop in for tea but that old Granddaddy of them all Milan Kundera bringing along his own

While boiling the kettle Old Dead Beat asked him about the possibility of finding out about ourselves through an exploration of our thoughts and feelings, the interior universe of fiction (see Jimmy and Jackie a Quiet Natter).

“Joyce analyzes something still more ungraspable than Proust’s “lost time”: the present moment. There would seem to be nothing more obvious, more tangible and palpable, than the present moment. And yet it eludes us completely. All the sadness of life lies in that fact. In the course of a single second, our senses of sight, of hearing, of smell, register (knowingly or not) a swarm of events, and a parade of sensations and ideas passes through our heads. Each instant represents a little universe, irrevocably forgotten in the next instant. Now, Joyce’s great microscope manages to stop, to seize, that fleeting instant and make us see it. But the quest for the self ends, yet again, in a paradox: the more powerful the lens of the microscope observing the self, the more the self and its uniqueness eludes us; beneath the great Joycean lens that breaks the soul down into atoms, we are all alike. But if the self and its uniqueness cannot be grasped in man’s interior life, then where and how can we grasp it?”

Can it be grasped at all?

“Of course not.”

At this point in time Dead Beat let the kettle boil dry and the element burn itself out while Granddaddy Kundera sat on the sofa wearing a knowledgeable grin.

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