Initially, he doesn’t even have light enough to paint, but it almost doesn’t matter.“What are you doing up there”, someone would ask, “I’m working” Jonas replied. ” The narrator tells us “he was not painting, but he was meditating.
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Both Lessing and Camus, if in quite different ways, are interested in the question of the self versus the social, but also in a broader question, one that incorporates the presence of Africa and other’exotic’ locations in their work, and the notion of listening to one’s heart in all its manifestations.
This question isn’t always one of inner integrity, in the usual sense of being true to oneself: often the truth barely concerns the self at all.
One of his true and trusted friends, Rateau, gets informed one day that Jonas is losing his talent when someone says, “Well, take my word for it, he’s on the decline…you can’t resist success.
He’s finished.” Surrounded by envy, disdain and mediocrity, Gilbert eventually retreats to an attic space, determined to work alone if he cannot produce at all with others around him.
“In the vast reaches of the dry, cold night, thousands of stars were constantly appearing, and their sparkling icicles, loosened at once, began to slip gradually towards the horizon.” “Breathing deeply, she forgot the cold, the dead weight of others, the craziness or stuffiness of life, the long anguish of living and dying.” Her adultery is with nature, as she sneaks out of the room to snatch time with the cosmos.
She is ‘cheating’ on her husband but being true to a figure much larger than herself.One can dissolve into the natural world, but be wary of those who want to disintegrate one’s identity into the social, into the mechanics of one’s existence rather than its biology, geology, cosmology.There are numerous passages in Camus’s , there is perverse integrity to Mearsault’s inability or refusal to cry at his mother’s funeral and yet claiming he shot a man because of the sun.Where Borges moved towards a metaphysics of hard words to describe metaphysical conundrums, Camus offers soft words as he insists on the manner in which man is overwhelmed by the natural environment.Such a problematic needs not simply descriptive words, the names of trees, rock formations, flora and fauna, but a language that can give emotional specificity to nature’s capacity to work on and obliterate aspects of the self.The question in Camus’s work (as it often happens to be in Lessing novels like books also) is frequently one of not listening to oneself, but to the wind, the sun, the sea, the elemental.