‘When I first saw this,’ I told him in front of a Dali painted as if with brown melting cheese, ‘I didn’t think about the significance of cannibalism in the story of our senses, our desires and our loves – I didn’t ponder on the benefits of sampling the flavour we’ve instilled in the other. Though it’s all very clear here, very vivid, graphically spelled out, I wasn’t struck by its lesson because I had already drawn it from another source – and it was that initial source which filled my mind.’
I gave him an excerpt from Calvino’s ‘Under the Jagiar Sun’ to understand what I referenced.
I was living and dying in all the fibers of what is chewed and digested and in all the fibers that absorb the sun, consuming and digesting. Under the thatched arbor of a restaurant on a river-bank, where Olivia had waited for me, our teeth began to move slowly, with equal rhythm, and our eyes stared into each other’s with the intensity of serpents—serpents concentrated in the ecstasy of swallowing each other in turn, as we were aware, in our turn, of being swallowed by the serpent that digests us all, assimilated ceaselessly in the process of ingestion and digestion, in the universal cannibalism that leaves its imprint on every amorous relationship and erases the lines between our bodies and sopa de frijoles, huachinango a la vera cru-zana, and enchiladas.
It was least difficult to grasp. And as we looked at the painting together and allowed those words to hover over its colours, I tried to conclude by explaining why I had brought him there, what was the point, if not the message of Dali’s work, of Calvino’s novella?
‘The point is to learn how to build links and bridges between different areas of life – the point is to appropriate what is otherwise disparate and meaningless around you – a remote canvas, a random story, scraps of worlds and lamguages others have created for themselves, tools for a crafting of your own.’
But he had had a bad day – my words failed to get a grip of him – I saw the lesson being disheveled from my lips to his. I typed it down to piece it back and save it for you.