Acheiropoeita

Currently rereading my own copy of Teju Cole’s collection of essays, Known and Strange Things — whose title is a reference to a passage from Seamus Heaney, “a hurry through which known and strange things pass”. I like finding out things like this, just when people would ask why Two Kinds of Intelligence? Of which I would send them to read Rumi. Maybe if I ever have my own memoir or a collection of essays, I’d like to call it Two Kinds of Intelligence.

There’s definitely a lot I wanted to write about this book, but I have had a long day — both personal and work — so I am going to reserve my review for later. Right now I could not help thinking of Cole’s description of Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer’s poems, of which he said brings to mind the concept of acheiropoeita — ‘making without hands’. In Byzantine art, acheiropoeitic images were those believed to have come miraculously into being without a painter’s intervention. The examples include the Shroud of Turin, the Veil of Veronica, and possibly Albrecht Dürer’s self portrait, that were usually produced out of direct contact. This is how Tranströmer’s poems are like, Teju alluded, “like a contact printing. There is little elaborate construction evident; rather, the sense of the sudden arrival of what was already there, as when a whale comes up for air: massive, exhilarating, evanescent”.

I also picked up André Aciman’s memoir, Out of Egypt today, although I have not started reading it. As I mentioned, I have had a long day today, and I almost didn’t write today’s post. I have not any slightest idea what to write without resorting to write about the mundane things like going for lunch and feeling lethargic. But as I was looking through the reviews, I found a passage from Aciman where he wrote in his very own collection of essays, Alibis, “you write not after you have thought things through, you write to think things through”.

And here I am, 386 words in for the day, writing as I think things through. An acheiropoeitic production by itself.

Comment 1

  1. Pingback: No way to trade the Earth – Two Kinds of Intelligence

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