Tuesday, October 18, 2016

passage from Tournier

'One day I say him finishing the portrait of a woman. She was neither young nor beautiful nor rich. But there was something radiant in her eyes, her faint smile, her whole face.

"Yesterday," Assur said to me, "I went to the Prophet's Fountain, the one fed by a wretched Persian wheel.  The flow is meager and intermittent, so each time it starts up there's a good deal of pushing a shoving. At the back of the crowd a feeble old man was waiting with a tin cup trembling in his hand, and there wasn't a chance that he'd ever be able to fill it. But then this woman, who had just filled an amphora with great difficulty, went over and shared her water with him.

"It was nothing. An infinitesimal gesture of friendship among the desperately poor -people among whom sublime and abominable deeds are done every day. What was unforgettable was the woman's expression from the moment when she caught sight of the old man to the time when she gave him his water and left him. I carried that face away with me in my memory, and then, concentrating to keep it alive in me as long as possible, I did this drawing. What is it? A fugitive glimmer of love in a harsh existence. A moment of grace in a pitiless world. That rare and precious moment when the likeness sustains and justifies the image."

"I realize that what I am after is quite a revolution. I sometimes wonder if a more profound revolution is even conceivable. That's why I'm so patient, because I understand what resistance and persecution artists have to contend with. There's very little hope of winning out. But it's that bit of hope that I live for."'  Michel Tournier, from The Four Wisemen

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