vineri, 22 martie 2013

Raymond Carver: Cathedral

Experiencing life with little self-awareness is much like being blind. Watching and hearing without intellectual or emotional engagement is not living. The narrator in "Cathedral" watches his wife fretting and reads her poems, just as he listens to her visiting friend, but can he really connect with them? His unreliable voice and insensitivity are proof of his disenchantment:

When we first started going out together, she showed me the poem. In the poem, she recalled his fingers and the way they had moved around over her face. In the poem, she talked about what she had felt at the time, about what went through her mind when the blind man touched her nose and lips. I can remember I didn't think much of the poem. Of course, I didn't tell her that. Maybe I just don't understand poetry. I admit it's not the first thing I reach for when I pick up something to read.

Later on, the narrator tries to draw the cathedral he watches on television, to the benefit of his blind companion. In doing so, he realises that gaining real knowledge about the world requires more than physical vision. In some unexpected way, he discovers his inner shortsightedness, for the man witnessing the drawing with his hands is able to see at a different level.

The blind man said, "We're drawing a cathedral. Me and him are working on it. Press hard," he said to me. "That's right. That's good," he said. "Sure. You got it, bub, I can tell. You didn't think you could. But you can, can't you? You're cooking with gas now. You know what I'm saying? We're going to really have us something here in a minute. How's the old arm?" he said. "Put some people in there now. What's a cathedral without people?"

My wife said, "What's going on? Robert, what are you doing? What's going on?"

"It's all right," he said to her. "Close your eyes now," the blind man said to me.

I did it. I closed them just like he said.

"Are they closed?" he said. "Don't fudge."

"They're closed," I said.

"Keep them that way," he said. He said, "Don't stop now. Draw."

So we kept on with it. His fingers rode my fingers as my hand went over the paper. It was like nothing else in my life up to now.

Then he said, "I think that's it. I think you got it," he said. "Take a look. What do you think?"

First published in 1981, in The Atlantic Monthly, "Cathedral" is a very good example of how Carver manages to encapsulate a meaningful message in a seemingly ordinary narrative.  

The full text here




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