At the close and beginning of two seamless chapters in my so-called life, I find myself halfway through this book, which is, mostly, about art. Make that Art. I only have three units in Art back in college, and I feel like I have just enrolled in three more.
I am exaggerating because this is not purely about Art. Yes, there’s a lot of talk about Art here since this is about a group of artists commissioned by a Sultan to complete a certain Book of Festivities. But there’s also love, religion, sex, death, and uhm, style and signature, painting and time, memory and blindness, oh, those are facets of art.
So this book, the Book of Festivities, is gaining some notoriety due to its near blasphemous content. Let me say that the novel takes place in the 16th century Istanbul, so what was deemed blasphemous then might be sheer conservatism nowadays. But there is a point, I tell you. It’s very interesting, but I’d rather not talk about it.
Let’s talk instead of one of the challenges of the artists: painting Death.
After so much suffering, a calm overcame me. Death did not cause me the pain I’d feared; on the contrary, I relaxed, quickly realizing that my present situation was a permanent one, whereas the constraints I’d felt in life were only temporary. This was how it would be from now on, for century upon century, until the end of the universe. This neither upset nor gladdened me. Events I once endured briskly and sequentially were now spread over infinite space and existed simultaneously. As in one of those large double-leaf paintings wherein a witty miniaturist has painted a number of unrelated things in each corner–many things were happening all at once.
Did the author experience death for him to write that? Of course not. In painting and writing, one does not need to fully experience the event itself, in this case death. The feelings associated with it may suffice. I say suffice because I don’t think these could qualify as substitutes. But who will be there to paint or write if he has already experienced death?
No, this isn’t too thick about death, although the novel begins with a chapter entitled I Am A Corpse. It is a mystery, yes, but there’s also love in it. And a little drama among the participants of a ménage à trois.
Anyway, this is a real page-turner. I sometimes get a little disoriented with the changing narrators, immediately switching from scene to scene. But that is not such a hurdle. I don’t mind it all.
Thanks to my Buddy Atty. Monique for this copy! And thanks for all the greetings yesterday! If you are so inclined, below is my new age.
Date Started: April 23, 2012. 12:30 AM. Book #22 of 2012.