Subscribe to Newsletter
Monthly Newsletter: Join more than 5,000 African literature enthusiasts!
Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our "Guide to African Novels."

Lost and Beautiful Things

SHARE THIS

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: , , ,

Ainehi Edoro is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she teaches African literature. She received her doctorate at Duke University. She is the founder and editor of Brittle Paper and series editor of Ohio University Press’s Modern African Writer’s imprint.

One Response to “Lost and Beautiful Things” Subscribe

  1. Sel May 9, 2011 at 4:58 pm #

    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 to Sel

Welcome to Brittle Paper, your go-to site for African writing and literary culture. We bring you all the latest news and juicy updates on publications, authors, events, prizes, and lifestyle. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram (@brittlepaper) and sign up for our "I love African Literature" newsletter.

Monthly Newsletter!

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

Archives

Down River Road, a New Print & Online Magazine Exploring the Alternative in Literature, Music, & Visual Art, Calls for Submissions to Second Issue

down river road journal

A new Nairobi-based print and online magazine, down river road, is exploring the margins, the shifting centers, and the new […]

Dr Stella Nyanzi Wins Appeal at Ugandan Court, Regains Freedom, But Is Possibly Re-arrested

stella nyanzi - graph - kampala dispatch

Dr Stella Nyanzi is free. The academic, feminist and queer rights advocate has been in prison for criticising Uganda’s long-serving […]

Apply for This Fully-funded Creative Writing Scholarship at the University of East Anglia, Sponsored by the Miles Morland Foundation

UEA - Literature@UEA Twitter

The Miles Morland Foundation African Writers’ Scholarship is currently accepting accepting applications for its 2020 program. It is an initiative […]

Chinelo Okparanta Recalls Her First Teenage Crush

chinelo okparanta - bucknell university

“I was 16 years old, nearly 17, when a boy first expressed interest in me. Or, maybe it was that […]

Namwali Serpell, Maaza Mengiste & Marlon James Are Finalists for Los Angeles Times Book Prizes

Namwali Serpell

Finalists for the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes have been announced. The Ethiopian novelist Maaza Mengiste is nominated in the […]

Romeo Oriogun Shares Heartfelt, Powerful Personal Story as Anticipation Peaks for His Debut Poetry Collection, Sacrament of Bodies

Romeo Oriogun - main

Romeo Oriogun’s debut poetry collection Sacrament of Bodies is still some 12 days away from its March 1 publication date […]

Thanks for signing up!

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

No thanks, I only want the monthly newsletter.