Saturday, August 5, 2017

the last book I ever read (An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter by César Aira, excerpt three)

from An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter by César Aira:

The landscape revealed by this backward glance revived old doubts and crucial quandaries. Rugendas wondered if he would be able to make his way in the world, if his work, that is, his art, would support him, if he would be able to manage like everyone else . . . So far he had, and comfortably, but that was due in part to the energy of youth and the momentum he had acquired through his training at the Academy and elsewhere. Not to mention good luck. He was almost sure that he would not be able to keep it up. What did he have to fall back on? His profession, and practically nothing else. And what if painting failed him? He had no house, no money in the bank, and no talent for business. His father was dead, and for years he had been wandering through foreign lands. This had given him a peculiar perspective on the argument that begins “If other people can do it . . .” All the people he came across, in cities or villages, in the jungle or the mountains, had indeed managed to keep going one way or another, but they were in their own environments; they knew what to expect, while he was at the mercy of fickle chance. How could he be sure that the physiognomic representation of nature would not go out of fashion, leaving him helpless and stranded in the midst of a useless, hostile beauty? His youth was almost over in any case, and still he was a stranger to love. He had ensconced himself in a world of fables and fairy tales, which had taught him nothing of practical use, at least he had learnt that the story always goes on, presenting the hero with new and ever more unpredictable choices. Poverty and destitution would simply be another episode. He might end up begging for alms at the door of a South American church. No fear was unreasonable, given his situation.

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