Sunday, June 30, 2019

Contemplative Walking

Three Novellas 

Three Novellas

“What can you do. You get a name, you're called 'Thomas Bernhard', and it stays that way for the rest of your life. And if at some point you go for a walk in the woods, and someone takes a photo of you, then for the next eighty years you're always walking in the woods. There's nothing you can do about it.”
   ― Thomas Bernhard

Walking is an early novella by Bernhard translated into English by Kenneth J. Northcott. The story is a stunning read even as it is presented in unparagraphed totality. It fuses philosophy’s depth of thought with poetry’s contemplative spaciousness.

The following excerpt provides an idea of the author's approach:
"we may not ask ourselves how we walk, for then we walk differently from the way we really walk and our walking simply cannot be judged, just as we may not ask ourselves how we think, for then we cannot judge how we think because it is no longer our thinking. Whereas, of course, we can observe someone else without his knowledge (or his being aware of it) and observe how he walks or thinks, that is, his walking and his thinking, we can never observe ourselves without our knowledge (or our being aware of it)."

I was reminded, ever so slightly, of some of the reveries of Thoreau or Rousseau on walking although this text is more late twentieth century than either of those authors. The famous essayist Lewis Thomas also comes to mind as he assayed the nature of how a jellyfish and a sea slug illuminate the mystery of the self. You can imagine why I might consider myself both excited and exasperated with his prose. Nonetheless in this novella and the other two, Amras and Playing Watten, I found some of the very best writing this reader of Bernhard had ever encountered, even though they may have been composed a bit earlier than his other recognized masterpieces.


Brian Joseph said...

This sounds great. As I think you know, I love such philosophical musings.

I also love to walk both alone and with others. But there is indeed something special about walking alone with only one's own mind for company.

mudpuddle said...

i read recently that it takes about .oo4 seconds for sensory input from the eyes or skin to reach the brain, so when we think about who it is that is doing the thinking, we're being embroiled in a time paradox... in some ways it's easier to pretend that time doesn't exist at all (as some physicists theorize) and thatreality is whatever we choose to make it... lol

James said...

Yes, Brian, the solitary walk can be stimulating in myriad ways.

James said...

Great point - however, no matter what I believe about time it still seems to move too slowly or too fast depending on my relative need for it to just go away.