Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Music of Chance

"In the long run, however, the impression that lingered of that room was quite different from what Nashe had imagined it would be. In the weeks and months that followed, he often found himself thinking back to what he had seen there, and it stunned him to realize how many of the objects he could remember. They began to take on a luminous, almost transcendent quality for him, and whenever he stumbled across one of them in his mind, he would unearth an image so distinct that it seemed to glow like an apparition from another world. The telephone that had once sat on Woodrow Wilson's desk. A pearl earring worn by Sir Walter Raleigh. A pencil that had fallen from Enrico Fermi's pocket in 1942. General McClellan's field glasses. A half-smoked cigar filched from an ashtray in Winston Churchill's office. A sweatshirt worn by Babe Ruth in 1927. William Seward's Bible. The cane used by Nathaniel Hawthorne after he broke his leg as a boy. A pair of spectacles worn by Voltaire. It was all so random, so misconstrued, so utterly beside the point. Flower's museum was a graveyard of shadows, a demented shrine to the spirit of nothingness. If those objects continued to call out to him, Nashe decided, it was because they were impenetrable, because they refused to divulge anything about themselves. It had nothing to do with history, nothing to do with the men who once owned them. The fascination was simply for the objects as material things, and the way they had been wrenched out of any possible context, condemned by Flower to go on existing for no reason at all: devoid of purpose, alone in themselves now for the rest of time. It was the isolation that haunted Nashe, the image of irreducible separateness that burned down into his memory, and no matter how hard he struggled, he never managed to break free of it." [excerpt from the novel, The Music of Chance, by Paul Auster]