Identity by Milan Kundera
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Chantal’s phrase echoed in his head and he imagined the story of her body: it was lost among millions of other bodies until the day a look of desire settled on it and drew It forth from the nebulous multitude; then the number of such looks increased and set afire this body, which ever since has been moving thought the world like a torch; now is its time of radiant glory, but soon the looks will start to grow fewer, the light to dim little by little, until the day when his translucent, then transparent, then invisible body will pace the streets like a small itinerant non-being. On this journey from the first invisibility to the second, the phrase “men don’t turn to look at me anymore” is the red light signaling that the body’s gradual extinction has begun.
However much he may tell her he loves her and thinks her beautiful, his loving gaze could never console her. Because the gaze of love is the gaze that isolates. Jean-Marc thought about the loving solitude of two old persons become invisible to other people: a sad solitude that prefigures death. No, what she needs is not a loving gaze but a flood of alien, crude , lustful looks settling on her with no good will, no discrimination, no tenderness or politeness—settling on her fatefully, inescapably. Those are the looks that sustain her within human society. The gaze of love rips her out of it.
With some remorse he recalled the dizzyingly headlong beginnings of their love. He did not have to conquer her: she was conquered from the first instant. Turn to look at her? No need. She was instantly with him, in front of him, beside him.
When she was sixteen, seventeen years old, she used to cherish a certain metaphor; had she invented it herself, heard it, read it? No matter: she wanted to be a rose fragrance, a pervasive, overwhelming fragrance, she wanted to move thus through all men and, by way of the men, to embrace the entire world. The pervasive rose fragrance: a metaphor of adventure. At the threshold of her adult life, that metaphor unfolded like the romantic promise of a sweet promiscuity, like an invitation to the journey through men.
from IDENTITY, Milan Kundera
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