Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Talking to destiny

This fabulous photo by Nikki Kahn [published in The Washington Post of 16 March 2010] has been labeled "Life goes on". Why not?

[Click the photo to visit the Pulitzer Prizes website.]

The newborn's name is Destiny Dorival. I erupted in tears (literally) when I first gazed upon that beautiful little nose and mouth, determined to gain their rightful place upon our planet Earth. Welcome! Destiny Dorival was born in a makeshift maternity tent in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in the days that followed the earthquake of 12 January 2010.

Maybe, at some time in the future, an adult Haitian girl, Destiny Dorival, will come upon my present humble blog post. [Why not? You don't imagine that Google's gonna let its precious live data disappear!] Destiny might read Rilke's Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, especially the episode of the death at Ulsgaard of the chamberlain Christoph Detlev Brigge, evoking an earthquake atmosphere.
For when night had fallen, and those of the over-wearied domestics who were not on duty tried to snatch some sleep, then Christoph Detlev's death shouted, shouted and groaned. It roared so long and so constantly that the dogs, at first howling in concert, were struck dumb and did not dare lie down, but stood on their long, slender, trembling legs, in terror. And when the villagers heard it roaring through the spacious, silvery Danish summer night, they rose from their beds as if there were a thunder-storm, put on their clothes and remained sitting in silence round the lamp until it was over. And women near their time were consigned to the most remote rooms and the most thickly partitioned recesses. But they heard it; they heard it, as if it had cried from their own bodies, and they pled to be allowed to get up too, and came, voluminous and white, to sit with their vacant faces among the others.
Through his evocations of the chamberlain's death, Rilke prepares us, as it were, for the most terrible moment of Malte's notebooks (which Destiny Dorival will appreciate, I hope):
And what a melancholy beauty came to women when they were pregnant, and stood, their slender hands involuntarily resting on their big bodies which bore two fruits: a child and a death. Did not the broad, almost nourishing smile on their quite vacant faces come from their sometimes thinking that both these fruits were growing?
Dear Destiny was born in the midst of death. An ordinary Rilkean affair.

POST SCRIPTUM: French-language readers of my blog who would like to receive a copy of my Rilkean movie script on Malte might send an email request to sky.william [at] orange.fr.

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