Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Readings: Recalling Reality

One of the characters in one of the novels of Philip K. Dick’s great Valis Triology, recommends to one of the other characters that he (or she?) read the work of Hayyim Nahman Bialik. Because of the nature of Dick’s preoccupations, this endorsement interested me greatly and I made note of the name. Unfortunately, I did not make note of which character in which novel made this recommendation, so I can’t make that citation here.

Although Bialik was, and still is, considered to be the modern master of Hebrew poetry (see the Wikipedia article linked in the opening paragraph above), my library (the one I work in) did not have a book of poetry by Bialik available. But it did have a volume containing three stories in English translation. Below are two excerpts which appear eight pages apart in the first and longest of the stories. I found them to be both true and very beautiful. See what you think:

~ from the story, “Aftergrowth” by Hayyim Nahman Bialik:

It has been said very truly that man sees and grasps only once in his life, during his childhood. Those first sights, virgin as when first they left the Creator’s hands, are the embodiment of things, their very quintessence. What comes later is no more than a defective second edition. It is done after the fashion of the original, to be sure, and is faintly reminiscent of it, but it is not the same thing. I have found this to be true of myself. Whatever I have seen and deemed worthy of blessing in the skies above or on earth in the course of my life has been enjoyed only by virtue of that original, that primal seeing.


And it is clear to me that when the lot of all men befalls me and the portals of the world open wide for my departure, in that final hour all the sights and the visions of my childhood will troop out once more from behind their veil and will muster around me. All of them will come, down to the very last one, bringing their charm, their love and their pristine brightness, as they were shown to me in the very dawn of my day. Then suddenly the light of all seven days will gather about them, and be extinguished forever with the light of my soul…

~ translated from the Hebrew by I. M. Lask

Once again I am amazed at the breadth and depth of PKD’s knowledge and interests.