martes, 1 de julio de 2014

Milan Kundera on Nostalgia (Ignorance)

Milan Kundera

The Greek word for “return” is nostos.  Algos means “suffering.” So nostalgia is the suffering caused by an unappeased yearning to return.

The dawn of ancient Greek culture brought the birth of the Odyssey, the founding epic of nostalgia. Let us emphasize: Odysseus, the greatest adventurer of all time, is also the greatest nostalgic. He went off (not very happily) to the Trojan War and stayed for ten years. Then he tried to return to his native Ithaca, but the gods’ intrigues prolonged his journey, first by three years jammed with the most uncanny happenings, then by seven more years that he spent as hostage and lover with Calypso, who in her passion for him would not let him leave her island.

Odysseus lived a real dolce vita there in Calypso’s land,  a life of ease, a life of delights. And yet, between the dolce vita in a foreign place and the risky return to his home, he chose the return. Rather than ardent exploration of the unknown (adventure), he chose the apotheosis of the known (return). Rather than the infinite (for adventure never intends to finish), he chose the finite (for the return is a reconciliation with the finitude of life).

Homer glorified nostalgia with a laurel wreath and thereby laid out a moral hierarchy of emotions. Penelope stands at its summit, very high above Calypso.
Calypso, ah, Calypso! I often think about her. She loved Odysseus. They lived together for seven years. We do not know how long Odysseus shared Penelope’s bed, but certainly not so long as that. And yet we extol Penelope’s pain and sneer at Calypso’s tears.

-Milan Kundera

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