7

– Spring/Summer 2003

Shadowland

Richard Flood, Claire de Duras, Toussaint L'Ouverture

Cut a chrysalis open, and you will find a rotting caterpillar. What you will never find is that mythical creature, half caterpillar, half butterfly, a fit emblem for the human soul. For those whose cast of mind leads them to seek such emblems. No, the process of transformation consists almost entirely of decay.1

Art is not life, nor was it ever meant to be. Art is, at its most elevated, that triumph of the cognitive animal over banal necessity. History is not experience, nor a mirror of experience. History is, at its simplest, what has been remembered, or misremembered, for the record. Art and history are not congenial; they don't lie to each other, but they are incapable of telling the same truths. They can both approach the truth, caress it a bit, but truth is something other, something that is neither expressive nor linear. Art and truth are, however, sympathetically conjugal and dwell in the many-chambered cave of life and history. They merge and mingle in a whispering darkness where an occasional pulse of flame illumines that which we fear the most and that to which we aspire most dearly. It is a darkness inhabited by ghosts and infants, those who have passed over and those who have yet to bear witness or wear the stain of complicity. What light exists is provided by artists who, from the beginning, have transformed caves into civilisations.

The Duchess: I've done you so much harm in wishing to do you

Footnotes
  1. Pat Barker, Regeneration, New York: Penguin Books, 1993, p.184

  2. Claire de Duras, Ourika, New York: Modern Language Association, 1994, p.64

  3. Ibid., p.39

  4. C.L.R. James, The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L'Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution, New York: Random House, 1963, p.336

  5. Ibid., p.364

  6. Ibid., p.334

  7. Stephen E Ambrose, Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West, New York: Simon and Shuster, 1996, p.36

  8. C. de Duras, op. cit., p.23

  9.  S.E. Ambrose, op. cit., p.449.

  10. Ibid., p.449

  11. Charles Robert Maturin, Melmoth the Wanderer, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1961, p.225

  12. Ibid., p.123

  13. Georges Bataille, Erotism: Death and Sensuality, San Francisco: City Lights, 1986, p.194

  14. Ibid., p.179

  15. C.R. Maturin, op. cit., p.15

  16. G. Bataille, op. cit., p.174

  17. Ibid., p.196

  18. M.L. Rosenthal and J.J.M. Smith, Exploring Poetry, New York: Macmillan & Co., 1955, p.622