Monday, July 20, 2015

Do I deserve this face? Really!

One of the many wonderful things about reading the Economist is this: the correspondents bring in quotes that are just charming.

The trigger for such a post is this: the latest issue of the Economist has a special on Singapore, to mark the city-state's fiftieth birthday.  The lead essay begins with:
At 50, according to George Orwell, everyone has the face he deserves. Singapore, which on August 9th marks its 50th anniversary as an independent country, can be proud of its youthful vigour.
It took me a while to get past the opening sentences.  After all, it was not too long ago that I crossed the five-oh.  "everyone has the face he deserves"?  I don't deserve to look better than this?  I don't deserve to look like George Clooney or a Bradley Cooper? ;)

Here's the unfortunate aspect of it all--Orwell himself did not live to look at himself in the mirror and decide whether he deserved that face.  He was only 47 years old when he lost the battle against tuberculosis.

I wonder whether Nabokov thought he deserved the face that he had when he wrote Lolita; he was a little over fifty at that time.  He was in Oregon when he finished writing that novel.  In Ashland.  And he apparently wrote a poem, titled "Lines written in Oregon."  Guess where it was published?  Yep, the New Yorker!  This is all way too fascinating how the different things are inter-connected ;)
Esmeralda! now we rest
Here, in the bewitched and blest
Mountain forests of the West.
Here the very air is stranger.
Damzel, anchoret, and ranger
Share the woodland’s dream and danger.
And to think I deemed you dead!
(In a dungeon, it was said;
Tortured, strangled); but instead –
Blue birds from the bluest fable,
Bear and hare in coats of sable,
Peacock moth on picnic table.
Huddled roadsigns softly speak
Of Lake Merlin, Castle Creek,
And (obliterated) Peak.
Do you recognize that clover?
Dandelions, l’or du pauvre?
(Europe, nonetheless, is over).
Up the turk, along the burn
Latin lilies climb and turn
Into Gothic fir and fern.
Cornfields have befouled the prairies
But these canyons laugh! And there is
Still the forest with its fairies.
And I rest where I awoke
In the sea shade – l’ombre glauque
Of a legendary oak;
Where the woods get ever dimmer,
Where the Phantom Orchids glimmer –
Esmeralda, immer, immer.
But this means that I have to now struggle to figure out what the poem is really about!  No wonder Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew didn't care about poems and feelings;  in that same essay in which it quoted Orwell, the Economist notes that Lee's maxim was "poetry is a luxury we cannot afford,”

I wonder whether Lee deserved his face when he was fifty! ;)

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