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date: 14 June 2024

Simic, Charleslocked

Simic, Charleslocked

  • Henry Hart

Extract

With his characteristic blend of whimsy and high seriousness, Charles Simic once remarked: “There are three ways of thinking about the world. You can think about the Cosmos (as the Greeks did), you can think about History (as the Hebrews did), and since the late eighteenth century you can think about Nature. The choice is yours. Where do you prefer to find (or not find) the meaning of your life? And do you include God on the menu? I myself fancy the cosmic angle. The brain-chilling infinities and silences of modern astronomy and Pascalian thought impress me deeply, except that I'm also a child of History. I've seen tanks, piles of corpses, and people strung from lampposts with my own eyes. As for Nature so-called, it's a product of Romantic utopias: noble savage, Rousseau, earthly paradise in the manner of Gauguin, the projects of Charles Fourier, our Transcendentalists, and so forth” (The Unemployed Fortune-Teller, 1994). Simic's qualifications and quips—“Until we resolve these questions, a nap in a hammock on a summer afternoon is highly recommended”—suggest that his three worldviews are tentative rather than dogmatic. While steeped in tradition, his own views, in fact, run counter to traditional assumptions about an orderly, meaningful, divinely created cosmos; a linear concept of history proceeding from genesis and fall to judgment and salvation; and a pastoral view of nature.

Subjects

  • North American Literatures

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