Muriel Barbery
Europa Editions, New York, 2011, 2008, English; originally published 2006 in French
ISBN: 9781933372600
On 1 book list
Lisa Jenks

A gentle story full of philosophy and references to literature and art, and I could not put it down—although I wanted to savor it. A bit of a dilemma. A quote from the book knocked me off my chair, metaphorically speaking: “Yet how exhausting it is to be constantly desiring. . . . We soon aspire to pleasure without the quest, to a blissful state without beginning or end, where beauty would no longer be an aim or a project but the very proof of our nature. And that state is Art. . . . When we gaze at a still life, when—even though we did not pursue it—we delight in its beauty, a beauty borne away by the magnified and immobile figuration of things, we find pleasure in the fact there was no need for longing, we may contemplate something we need not want, may cherish something we need not desire. So this still life, because it embodies a beauty that speaks to our desire but given birth by some else’s desire, because it cossets our pleasure without in any way being part of our own projects, because it is offered to us without requiring the effort of desiring on our part: this still life incarnates the quintessence of Art, the certainty of timelessness. In the scene before our eyes—silent, without life or motion—a time exempt from projects is incarnated, perfection purloined from duration and its weary greed—pleasure without desire, existence without duration, beauty without will. For art is emotion without desire.”

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