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The Unbearable Lightness of Being (part 2 chapter 20)

2006-08-22 20:21

  20

  Oh, to be the alter ego of his polygamous life! Tomas refused to understand, but she could not get it out of her head, and tried to cultivate her friendship with Sabina. Tereza began by offering to do a series of photographs of Sabina.

  Sabina invited Tereza to her studio, and at last she saw the spacious room and its centerpiece: the large, square, platform-like bed.

  I feel awful that you've never been here before, said Sabina, as she showed her the pictures leaning against the wall. She even pulled out an old canvas, of a steelworks under construction, which she had done during her school days, a period when the strictest realism had been required of all students (art that was not realistic was said to sap the foundations of socialism)。 In the spirit of the wager of the times, she had tried to be stricter than her teachers and had painted in a style concealing the brush strokes and closely resembling color photography.

  Here is a painting I happened to drip red paint on. At first I was terribly upset, but then I started enjoying it. The trickle looked like a crack; it turned the building site into a battered old backdrop, a backdrop with a building site painted on it. I began playing with the crack, filling it out, wondering what might be visible behind it. And that's how I began my first cycle of paintings. I called it Behind the Scenes. Of course, I couldn't show them to anybody. I'd have been kicked out of the Academy. On the surface, there was always an impeccably realistic world, but underneath, behind the backdrop's cracked canvas, lurked something different, something mysterious or abstract.

  After pausing for a moment, she added, On the surface, an intelligible lie; underneath, the unintelligible truth.

  Tereza listened to her with the remarkable concentration that few professors ever see on the face of a student and began to perceive that all Sabina's paintings, past and present, did indeed treat the same idea, that they all featured the confluence of two themes, two worlds, that they were all double exposures, so to speak. A landscape showing an old-fashioned table lamp shining through it. An idyllic still life of apples, nuts, and a tiny, candle-lit Christmas tree showing a hand ripping through the canvas.

  She felt a rush of admiration for Sabina, and because Sabina treated her as a friend it was an admiration free of fear and suspicion and quickly turned into friendship.

  She nearly forgot she had come to take photographs. Sabina had to remind her. Tereza finally looked away from the paintings only to see the bed set in the middle of the room like a platform.

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