Feb 8, 2011

On perfection

I recently finished a book that I would probably place in my top 50 favorites ever, the monumental David Copperfield
Dickens was born and lived and died, and he has passed like a shadow into the land of the shadows. But this enormous being whom he has hewn out of stone and who stands, colossal with carved eyes staring at the staring sun, he is the thing that we have to speak of; he is the thing that we cannot speak of. This is why the worshippers of Dickens will write ten volumes about Dicken's life and will not write one page about Dicken's work. It is because Dicken's work is indeed faulty; Dicken's work is indeed imperfect; but Dicken's work contains perfection, and when a man sees perfection he goes blind.
When a man sees one of the real beauties of Dickens abruptly he catches his breath. This book of David Copperfield is the one, perhaps, on which he expended most of his actual ambition to be exhaustive, artistic, and perfect. It is not exhaustive, artistic, nor perfect. The only thing is that, when you see it at the proper angle, it is annihilating.

G. K. Chesterton, Appendix [Introduction to the original Everyman Edition of David Copperfield, 1907] 

Chesterton eloquently expressed feelings I share about David Copperfield--and that I feel towards Iceland and Halldór Laxness as well. Let me repeat his words:

... when a man sees perfection he goes blind. 

When you see ... [perfection] ... it is annihilating.

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