[ilds] gnomic aorist

david wilde wilded at hotmail.com
Wed Jun 2 17:32:24 PDT 2010

Black Book (1937) definitely set me thinking and taking Classical Greek (Scott-Liddle) grammar to discover the 'true- meaning' of the aorist - gnomic and otherwise which led me to discover the horror Durrell suffered in his many guises as a Public School (Private in the UK system) student in many a school setting of classical languages and history.  This literary gem (Black Book) made possible by a transatlantic understanding between Durrell and Henry Miller.  Miller advocated the use and misuse I suspect of the radical and irrational usage of grammar previously offered by the likes of Gertrude Stein (Ida) to peform a self-reflecting surreal drama.  Notwithsatnding Andre Breton etc and the 'Pataphysique' art of Henry Miller's pre-WWII Paris.  Amen. 
> Date: Wed, 2 Jun 2010 14:21:03 -0400
> From: Charles-Sligh at utc.edu
> To: ilds at lists.uvic.ca
> Subject: [ilds] gnomic aorist
> Bruce Redwine wrote:
> > Durrell, however, definitely likes /gnomic;/ he advocates a gnomic 
> > style somewhere. Whether he was influenced by Classical or possibly 
> > Modern Greek is a very interesting question, which could fall under 
> > that rubric of Durrell's diction, previously discussed.
> >
> Cf. /The Black Book/:
> > Not even the phenomenon of Grace disturbed my life as much as that 
> > glimpse of the social mysteries. Horses
> > sweat, but Grace perspires; very delicately on the smooth flesh, on 
> > the thin flanks, under the tiny
> > undernourished breasts. The blue−veined phthisic fingers are moist and 
> > languorous. But why the present
> > tense? For Grace is no more; no more the street girl who sat, hugging 
> > her knees, and staring at the empty
> > wallpaper. Shall we write of her in the gnomic aorist? Shall we invest 
> > her with an epitaph? She would not
> > understand it. She understood nothing. She seemed not to hear. You 
> > could speak to her, sing to her, dance
> > before her, and the distances she contemplated were not diminished by 
> > one inch.
> > Here, it is real enough the stage on which I re−create this chronicle 
> > of the English death. There is Bach
> > playing in the roars of the wind, the piercing slatterns of the rain. 
> > There is you dancing, and the million yous
> > who persist in matter, echo, weep, cry, exult in flower powder, 
> > smaragd, Italy, moon, veins of rock. There is
> > the cadenza of flesh here naked, and the you who run to the conclusion 
> > of autumn, selfless and melancholy, or
> > smolder on the beach savagely. in all particulars of the body you are 
> > working, in the dark sump of the vagina,
> > brewing vegetable history, sowing continents in whom I am the reaper; 
> > in the dusty sandals or the naked toes.
> > It is forced upon me to write of you always in the gnomic aorist. For 
> > this is the new vocabulary which I am
> > learning with ease. I am beginning my agony in the garden and there 
> > are too many words, and too many things to put into words. in the 
> > fantastic proscenium of the ego, when I begin my soliloquy, I shall 
> > not choose as
> > Gregory chose. To be or not to be. It is in your capacity as Judas 
> > that you have chosen for me. The question
> > has been decided. Art must no longer exist to depict man, but to 
> > invoke God. It is on the face of this chaos that
> > I brood. And on the same chaos printed, across the faces of these 
> > hideous mimes of mine, your pale glyph.
> > The white illusion of bone and tissue, the firm cheekbones set in soft 
> > plates of flesh, the pouting mouth, the
> > soft jawless head of the snake, the lips as delicate as the biscuit. 
> > Lubra in the dark, and when the swords grow
> > up from Constantinople, marmoreal, caryatid, pupa of flesh growing 
> > upward among the bones, carrying them
> > upward from the hip, irresistible leaven. The hills snooze on with the 
> > liths of your fingers laid over them: the
> > sensitive calyx of the pelvis like the dish of land which holds our 
> > sea, silent outside the house. All that is
> > dying in me in this fatal landscape, your mine among active things, 
> > stone, shards, language, meteors, butter.
> > Nothing but the punic body, our essential traitor, which stifles me 
> > with its pollens. Snore on, you winter sea,
> > there is no more in here than the seven hectic elements can offer me: 
> > more than the fantasy of the third ocean,
> > dipping its brush among the molten colors, leaking down to the hot 
> > magma of things. More. More.
> -- 
> ********************************************
> Charles L. Sligh
> Assistant Professor
> Department of English
> University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
> charles-sligh at utc.edu
> ********************************************
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