Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Readings: Urbanity and Its Discontents

The following excerpt is from the novel The Impostor by French writer, Georges Bernanos, translated into English by J.C. Whitehouse:

Through the darkness, gasping and groaning in their pleasure, cities call to us profoundly. The noise and glare of every street we cross follows us into the darkness, frightful, plaintive, becoming gradually more and more muted until we reach the edge of a new tumult which adds it own heartrending voice. Yet "voice" is not the right word, for only forests, hills, fire, and water have voices and speak their own language. We no longer really understand it, though even the coarsest of us cannot quite forget an old and hallowed harmony, a strange and wonderful affinity between things and our minds. The voice we no longer understand is still that of a tranquil friend or brother, bringing peace. The lowest of men, those devoted to carnal hedonism and the cult of the self whom our modern world has honored as gods, have foolishly believed that they have recreated that voice when all they have done is strip nature of the antiquated forest gods, dryads, and nymphs and replace them with their own barnyard sensuality.

Bernanos is describing Paris, but it might as well be Detroit. What more can I say?