Tuesday, December 28, 2010
About the making of a beautiful object
A passage from Annie Dillard's excellent book For the Time Being, describing the blades made by the prehistoric Solutrean people in central France eighteen thousand years ago:
"Hold one of these chert knives to the sky. It passes light. It shines dull, waxy gold - brown in the center, and yellow toward the edges as it clears. At each concoidal fractured edge all the way around the double-ogive form, at each cove in the continental stone, the blade thins from translucency to transparency. You see your skin, and the sky. At its very edge the blade dissolves into the universe at large. It ends imperceptibly at an atom.
Each of these delicate, absurd objects takes hundreds of separate blows to fashion. At each stroke and at each pressure flake, the brittle chert might - and, by the record, very often did - snap. The maker knew he was likely to lose many hours breath-holding work at a tap. The maker worked in extreme cold. He knew no one would ever use the virtuoso blades. He protected them, and his descendents saved them intact, for their perfection. To any human on earth, the sight of one of them means: someone thought of making, and made, this difficult, impossible, beautiful thing."