Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Agnon and Nietzsche on Enthusiasm and Religion (respectively)

Two things I have come across today that excited me were texts. The first is translated by me and the second is randomly plucked from the internet, with me unfortunately having to translate from my own Hebrew translation the last sentence.

S. Y. Agnon seems to me pretty much the epitome of untranslatability, so possibly this will not work, but we'll consider it a challenge and experiment. From his "Oath of Allegiance", this passage is about Reknitz, an Austro-Hungarian marine botanist recently arrived in early 20th century Jaffa. I can think of very few things less exciting than botany, so it's kind of awesome to me how he can't. Have at you:

"Every day he would go out and take what the ocean gave him, and if the time was right he would hire a dinghy, and the attendant Ichyeh would mediate between him and the Arab dinghy owners, and he'd set out to sea and say let's sail to the place where Adam's forebears lived. And holding in his hands a brand of fishing net and iron instruments, he would draw out a host of algae that do not reach the surface, his heart thumping like a hunter pursuing his prey.

Never had Reknitz gotten seasick; to the contrary - the mysteries of the ocean, the wonders of creation would give him strength and fortitude. Burgeon these plants inside the sea, like gardens of bloom, like thickets of bush, like a grove shaded in the water, and their eye like the eye of the yellow sulphur; like crimson; like the living flesh; like ivory pearls; like the eye of the olive; like corals; like the peacock's feathers; cleaved to the crags and rocks and cliffs.

From fondness of the sea and love of its plants he'd call it my orchard, my vineyard, and other such names of affection. And coming back from the sea he'd wash his algae in sweet water, to take out the salt - salt that bloats and enlarges - and lay them down on a flat plate. Anybody seeing him tending to his weeds will think he is preparing a salad for himself to eat, while Reknitz will forget to eat his bread because of these weeds.

Once the algae are taken out of the plate he would go and lay them out on top of a thick paper, their mucus serving as an adhesive. Of all the botanists of the world none deal with sea plants but a few, and of the few dealing in sea plants none deal with the land of Israel's algae but Reknitz. Reknitz examines their ways and their methods of developing and multiplying. Some researchers do their work with the sea now and again, as on days off from the university. But Reknitz is there all days of the year, days of sun and days of rain, at day and at night; when the sun boils the sea and when the chill freezes it; while the ocean is quiet and while it's tumultuous; as people sleep and as they scurry after their business."

Entirely unrelatedly, and needing no exposition, my new main man Nietzsche just jumped way up my reading list with this, from "Ecce Homo":

"The concept of 'God' was invented as a counter-concept of life — everything harmful, poisonous, slanderous, the whole hostility unto death against life synthesized in this concept in a gruesome unity! The concept of the 'beyond', the 'true world' invented in order to devaluate the only world there is - in order to retain no goal, no reason, no task for our earthly reality! The concept of the 'soul', the 'spirit', finally even 'immortal soul', invented in order to despise the body, to make it sick - 'holy'; to oppose with a ghastly levity everything that deserves to be taken seriously in life, the questions of nourishment, abode, spiritual diet, treatment of the sick, cleanliness, and weather! In place of health, the 'salvation of the soul' - that is, a folie circulaire [manic-depressive insanity] between penitential convulsions and hysteria about redemption! The concept of 'sin' invented along with the torture instrument that belongs with it, the concept of 'free will', in order to confuse the instincts, to make mistrust of the instincts second nature! The clear trademark of degeneration - enticement by all that is harmful, loss of the ability to find personal good, self-destruction - all these achieve the level of a moral value in the concept of the nullification of selfishness, in self-denial, and become a duty, a holiness, a Godly element in man!"

Bottom line is, believing in religion is believing it's up to somebody else, whether it's God or his priests or his ordained earthly leaders. It's meant to keep us pacified, and it winds up keeping us dead. Ashamed, frightened, anaemic and dead.

No comments:

Post a Comment