Saturday, January 13, 2007

Baudelaire & the power of words

A few days ago I watched some bits of an interview with Farouk Gouida - a very well known Egyptian poet - on Al-3aashera Masa'an (العاشرة مساءا). He was a close friend to Muhammad Abdel-Wahab, the late legend who is a cornerstone in the Egyptian music-making. In the interview, Farouk mentioned a discussion that went on between himself and Abdel-Wahab when they were debating which form of art is the most expansive and most difficult to master. Abdel-Wahab believed the form of art that fulfills this criteria is poetry, since it can include most of other forms such as music, painting ...etc.

Early this morning I was reading an interview with the novelist-dentist Dr. Alaa Al-Aswany in an old issue of The Art Review (issue #3). When asked about the people who influenced his writing style, Alaa mentioned many old and contemporary, international and local names of writers. One of the writers he mentioned was Charles Baudelaire, and he described him as: "the one who taught me how to draw a portrait with words rather than using paints and brushes".

I searched for works by Baudelaire in order to see how he wrote descriptions in his poetry. I found many works I liked, but one of them that I thought would be an example of how Alaa described him is the poem called Cats. I included the poem here..

* * *

They are alike, prim scholar and perfervid lover:
When comes the season of decay, they both decide
Upon sweet, husky cats to be the household pride;
Cats choose, like them, to sit, and like them, shudder

Like partisans of carnal dalliance and science,
They search for silence and the shadowings of dread;
Hell well might harness them as horses for the dead,
If it could bend their native proudness in compliance

In reverie they emulate the noble mood
Of giant sphinxes stretched in depths of solitude
Who seem to slumber in a never-ending dream;

Within their fertile loins a sparkling magic lies;
Finer than any sand are dusts of gold that gleam,
Vague starpoints, in the mystic iris of their eyes


Another poem that I liked by Baudelaire is the one called Afternoon Song..

Though your wicked eyebrows call
Your nature into question
(Unangelic's their suggestion,
Witch whose eyes enthrall)

I adore you still
O foolish terrible emotion
Kneeling in devotion
As a priest to his idol will

Your undone braids conceal
Desert, forest scents,
In your exotic countenance
Lie secrets unrevealed

Over your flesh perfume drifts
Like incense 'round a censor,
Tantalizing dispenser
Of evening's ardent gifts

No Philtres could compete
With your potent idleness:
You've mastered the caress
That raises dead me to their feet

Your hips themselves are romanced
By your back and by your breasts:
By your languid dalliance

Now and then, your appetite's
Uncontrolled, unassuaged:
Mysteriously enraged,
You kiss me and you bite

Dark one, I am torn
By your savage ways,
Then, soft as the moon, your gaze
Sees my tortured heart reborn

Beneath your satin shoe,
Beneath your charming silken foot
My greatest joy I put
My genius and destiny, too

You bring my spirit back,
Bringer of the light
Exploding color in the night
Of my Siberia so black


Blogger DoDo said...

Seven years ago, when I first watched the movie "The Usual Suspects"..
A catchy line by Kevin Spacey was dangling in my mind....
" The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist..." I was determined to know who wrote this peculiar quote... so I found out it was Charles Baudelaire... I read a short biography about him... he was basically a melancholic poet with morbid images of modern city... but one has to confess, he IS powerful and hurtful with his words...
Good choice khaled...

btw, r u Khaled Reda the one in the PTP group? I've just registered a week ago but don't know anyone yet! If u're a member, r u gonna attend "wa7at el ghoroub" discussion on the 23rd? and/or Bab El Shams movie night on the 19th?

10:00 PM

Blogger Khaled said...

I adore this movie!

Yes I am Khaled Reda from PTP. Not that I'm trying to hide it of course :) but how did you know?

I will most probably join the book discussion.. but not the movie since I saw it before..

1:45 AM

Blogger DoDo said...

I suspected u're the same person coz:
1- U signed ur first post as Khaled Reda, and ur mails to the ptp mailing list r signed with the same name
2- U know Rehab Bassam, and she's the one who introduced me to the group....

C u in the book discussion :)

10:57 AM

Blogger DoDo said...

btw, did u get to read the book? what's ur impression so far?

10:58 AM

Blogger Khaled said...

Yes I forgot that I signed my full name in my first post :) I only started reading the book today.. so it's too early for even an impression..

1:00 AM


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