Thelen on Decay

We take the liberty to quote here at length the great German author Albert Vigoleis Thelen, on decay.

“. . . I wended my way to the Calle Morey, past the Cathedral with its coloration of burnt earth, the earth of Mallorca. I quickly located the . . . house, a mummified palace from the Moreto epoch, modified in later times and resulting, through a patina of decay, in a combined style that was not without a certain unified effect. In Spain, this crumbling and erosion of masonry under the influence of sooty time begins at the moment when the architect hands over the key to the owner, just as a living organism taking its first breath starts breathing its very last. In Portugal, such fatally creative decay – creativity, as always, considered as a form of decline – begins with the laying of the cornerstone – a fact that could lead us to even more telling analogies in the human sphere. As I grow older, again and again I see more and more clearly that the preservation of human creations is an exercise in intellectual impoverishment, a tragic admission of impotence and impossibility, a futile attempt at rescue. To avoid sinking, all we need is a slab of wood . . . As for myself, I love to watch things collapse. In the noise, the showers of ashes, and the clouds of swirling dust I can suddenly discern a gesture, witness the emergence of a word and a deed that captivate me. In such events I detect a tone that, in my enraptured state, can lead me toward the ineffable more readily than the sight of anything that is firmly grounded, supported on all sides, anchored, held fast with mortar and pitch. In the realm of language, poems by Trakl can have this effect on me. In the absence of words, gestures, or sounds, I can still sense the fantastic metamorphoses that take place amidst all the rubble.”

From The Island of Second Sight by Albert Vigoleis Thelen

Copyright © 1953 by Albert Vigoleis Thelen

English translation copyright © 2010 by Donald O. White

The Overlook Press, New York

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s