Tuesday, July 03, 2007

intimation of grace

On a more serious note, Perec on the phenomenology of puzzles (from pages 338-339):
Fortunately, it was more usual for Bartlebooth, at the end of such hours of waiting, having gone through every stage of controlled anxiety and exasperation, to reach a kind of ecstasy, a stasis, a sort of utterly oriental stupor, akin, perhaps, to the state archers strive to reach: profound oblivion of the body and the target, a mental void, a completely blank, receptive, and flexible mind, an attentiveness that remained total, but which was disengaged from the vicissitudes of being, from the contingient details of the puzzle and its maker's snares. In moments like that Bartlebooth could see without looking how the delicate outlines of the jigsawed wood slotted very precisely into each other, and taking two pieces which he had ignored until then or which perhaps he had sworn could not possibly join, he was able to fit them together in one go.

The intimation of grace would sometimes last for several minutes, which made Bartlebooth feel as if he had second sight: he could perceive everything, understand everything, he could have seen grass grow, lightning strike a tree, erosion grind down a mountain like a pyramid very gradually worn away by the gentle brushing of a bird's wing: he would juxtapose the pieces at full speed, without error, espying, beneath all the details and subterfuges intended to obscure them, this minute claw or that inperceptable red thread or a black-edged notch, which ought to have indicated the solution from the start, had he but the eyes to see: in a few instants, borne along by such exalted and heady self-assurance, a situation that hadn't shifted for hours or days, a situation that he could no longer even imagine untying, would be altered beyond recognition: whole areas would join up, sky and sea would recover their correct locations, tree trunks would turn back into branches, vague birds back into the shadows of seaweed.

These privileged instants were as rare as they were intoxicating, as fleeting as they were seemingly effective. Bartlebooth would soon revert to being a sandbag, a lifeless lump chained to his worktable , a blank-eyed subnormal, unable to see, waiting hours without knowing what he was waiting for.

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