Subscribe to Newsletter
Monthly Newsletter: Join more than 3,000 African literature enthusiasts!
Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our "Guide to African Novels."

Lost and Beautiful Things

H as there ever been a moment in your life when you encountered something so beautiful it did something to you? Places you visited. Books you enjoyed. Stories you heard. Women you loved. Bodies you touched. Things you craved. Were you enraptured? Did you passively submits to the captivation? Or did you resist its hold on you? Did you fight back? What feeling do you attach to that moment? Joy? Ecstasy? Anger? Powerlessness? Desire?  Does the image of the beautiful thing ever haunt you?

As for me, beautiful things always leave me desolate. I experience beauty the same way I experience love. Loving leaves me empty and broken.  If I tell you that I enjoy being bereaved, you’ll probably think me perverse.  But think about it this way. My first reaction to beauty is always rapture. Let’s say I read a line from Rilke’s Duino Elegies, it quickly transports me. It really doesn’t matter where. Maybe to the castle Duino itself where Rilke first heard the mysterious voice that inspired the poem. But this transport never lasts. I find myself back in my bed, in my dingy room, under the flickering light bulb, with the smell of cold coffee making my stomach churn. Desperately, I read the same line. I flip through the pages, searching for another line, another portal, another encounter with the beautiful. But it is lost. Then the thought comes to me that the discomfort of this loss is not altogether unwelcome. If beauty has deserted me, the pain of its loss still keeps me company. If the wretchedness that comes after the passion is not  divine, it is at least graceful in its earthliness. And it is satisfying beyond all measure.

I love the longing for lost and beautiful things.  And the suffering can be sweet. Take for example my beloved. The image of her body lives in me even though her face eludes me. When she was alive I did not know her face. I did not love her for that. Her body, goddess-like, was what moved me.  Not when she was warming my bed but when she just stood there, like a statue in sublime lifelessness. Looking at her was sincerely enough.  But now she is no more. Yet I never miss her. In my room I have the perfect picture of her, dead as a statue and without a face.

 

Tags: , , ,

I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

One Response to “Lost and Beautiful Things” Subscribe

  1. Sel 2011/05/09 at 16:58 #

    Are you male or female? Not that it should matter but somehow it does.

    My mind resounded with the emotion in this piece and it started to form an image of you. A kindred spirit.

    I just keep wandering if you’re man or woman? Are you comfortable saying?

Leave a Reply

I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

Monthly Newsletter!

Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our
"Guide to African Novels."

Archives

Zukiswa Wanner’s Travel Memoir, Hardly Working, is Adventure-filled and Personal

zukiswa wanner hardly working

  Four years after her fifth novel, London Capetown Joburg, award winning South African writer Zukiswa Wanner has a new […]

Cameroonian Novelist Patrick Nganang Details His Experience at Kondengui Central Prison

patrick nganang (1)

A few weeks ago, we reported that Cameroonian novelist Patrick Nganang was remanded in prison, following an article he wrote […]

Zahrah Nesbit-Ahmed Charts an Epic Adventure into African Books

Zahrah Nesbit-Ahmed

Zahrah Nesbit-Ahmed truly has a heart spellbound by books. The brilliant curator of Bookshy blog recently shared the road map […]

Angels and Muse | Artsy Co-working Space Opens in Lagos

Ehikhamenor angels and muse (1)

Award-winning artist and writer Victor Ehikhamenor has always given us the gift of beautiful art. But his latest project, Angels […]

WATCH | Nnedi Okorafor in HBO’s Afro-Futurism Documentary

nnedi okorafor afrofuturism black panther

For the past few months, fans have been connecting the dots between Afro-futurism and the Black Panther superhero movie. So […]

Adichie’s New Nigerian Publisher, Narrative Landscape Press, Is Releasing Box Sets of Wax-Print Cover Designs of Her Books

The Thing Around Your Neck

Dear Nigeria-based Adichie fans, this news is for you! Your favorite Adichie books are being reissued in iconic Ankara (wax-print) […]

Thanks for signing up!

Never miss out on new posts. Subscribe to a digest, too:

No thanks, I only want the monthly newsletter.