小滿 xiǎomǎn / 小満 shōman / 소만 soman
槐月十二 / twelfth day of the sophora month
I finished the Scarry book yesterday over two sessions at Monmouth Coffee with a lunch break, with Chiara and Mary-Jane, sandwiched in between.
On a previous occasion at Monmouth, someone sat next to me was curious about my reading and asked:
- if I was a nurse;
- is it a medical book;
- is it funny?
No, no and no but it's fun.
It was fun because there were many occasions while reading it when I was surprised and this carried through to the end. When I started, I had no idea where it will lead me to. When I finished, I realised that, without reading it, I could never imagine where it will lead me to. It's the first book that made me feel this way.
The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World
Part One: Unmaking
Chapter 1 The Structure of Torture: The Conversion of Real Pain into the Fiction of Power
Chapter 2 The Structure of War: The Juxtaposition of Injured Bodies and Unanchored Issues
Part Two: Making
Chapter 3 Pain and Imagining
Chapter 4 The Structure of Belief and Its Modulation into Material Making: Body and Voice in the Judeo-Christian Scriptures and the Writings of Marx
Chapter 5 The Interior Structure of the Artifact
The Body in Pain is a profoundly original meditation on the vulnerability of the human body and the literary, political, philosopical, medical, and religious vocabularies used to describe it. Elaine Scarry bases her analysis on a wide array of sources, including literature and art, medical case histories, documents on torture compiled by Amnesty International, and the writings of such figures as Clausewitz, Churchill, and Kissinger. The author begins with the fact of pain's inexpressibility, noting not only the difficulty of describing pain, but its ability to destroy a sufferer's language. She then analyzes the political consequences of deliberately inflicted pain, particularly in cases of war and torture, showing how regimes "unmake" an individual's world in their exercise of power. From the actions that "unmake" the world Scarry turns to a discussion of actions that "make" the world - the acts of creativity that produce language and cultural artifacts.
This is, in no way, a suggestion of failure of its title, contents and back cover summary. Scarry made something so rich in its breadth and generous in its spirit it denies encapsulation so I can only say broadly, in its essence, The Body in Pain is a book on what it is, what it means, and what it takes to be living in consciousness of our fragility in a world unaware of our sentience.
I am looking over my notes and will like to leave you with this passage that illustrates my reactions and segues into my next reading, also by Scarry, On Beauty and Being Just.
"A lightbulb transforms the human being from a creature who would spend approximately a third of each day groping in the dark, to one who sees simply by wanting to see: its impossibly fragile, milky-white globe curved protectively around an even more fragile, upright-then folding filament of wire is the materialization of neither retina, nor pupil, no day-seeing, nor night-seeing; it is the materialization of a counterfactual perception about the dependence of human sight on the rhythm of the earth's rotation; no wonder it is in its form so beautiful."
(The book was recommended by Lucinda. Thank you very much. xx)