Island man

A human being is an island in an ocean of seven billion people. Born from some kind of undersea tremor, anchored in the abyss by the umbilical cord a mere few seconds. The trauma of the experience is longlasting. Women recover from it in part by becoming mothers; men remain disconsolate. Through their dramatic works, Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides revealed the tragic complexity of family relationships. Psychoanalysis subsequently labeled these various complexes, and theater, that remedial treatment through art, ultimately gave way to therapy on the couch.

Human beings are islands because they are isolated. When in pain, they suffer alone. They may be part of a community, but no one can assuage their discontent. Whoever was not born on an island will never understand isolation, the inability to cross over to the other side because the sea is too rough. Of course, helicopters and ferries have consigned this isolation to another age. Yet some connections aren’t really profitable, leaving islands cut off in winter, even today. I grew up on the island of Thásos, in the Aegean Sea, so I know what I’m talking about.

Great literature alone has managed to convey this sense of man-island singularity. Our literary heroes are the ones that impressed us by their singularity. Just as we revisit certain unforgettable islands, rediscovering their beauty, so we reread Madame Bovary, The Red and the Black, Anna Karenina and The Fruits of the Earth, reiterating with André Gide:“Nathaniel, throw away my book ... and out of yourself create, impatiently or patiently, ah! Nathaniel, that most irreplaceable of beings.”

Miscellanées France-234

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