Wednesday, August 31, 2022

The Light We Cannot See












We have just returned from a visit to McCall Idaho.  There is a wonderful lodge there that sits on the confluence of the southern shore of  Payette Lake and the Payette River.  The river makes its way to the south there, creating several other large lakes as well as the often rafted river gorge with its class five rapids.  The Lake is an ancient 600 feet deep glacial lake with pristine snow melt water that is clear enough to see perhaps 30 feet down.  For a week, I did little more than stare at the lake with its 8,000 foot mountains on its northern shore from our room or the sandy beach just below.

The light there is magnificent.  The bright sand, the blue water, the green pine forest, the clear aired light blue sky with all manner of clouds hanging over it all.  It's like looking at the ocean, except you are a mile high and the waves lap instead of roar.

We had friends with us who we gladly shared our time with.

One night, we talked about the Pulitzer prize winning book,  All the Light We Cannot See.  Besides being one of the great titles of all time, some reviewers opine that it is one of the best historical fictions of our time. This from its Amazon page:

Written by Anthony Doerr, the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning author of Cloud Cuckoo Land, All the Light We Cannot See is a beautiful, stunningly ambitious instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

Marie-Laure lives in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where her father works. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, Werner Pfennig, an orphan, grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find that brings them news and stories from places they have never seen or imagined. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments and is enlisted to use his talent to track down the resistance. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.

Doerr’s “stunning sense of physical detail and gorgeous metaphors”
are dazzling. Ten years in the writing,  All the Light We Cannot See is a magnificent, deeply moving novel from a writer “whose sentences never fail to thrill”.

The book was a winner of the Pulitzer Prize, a New York Times Book Review Top Ten Book, and a National Book Award Finalist.  And it should soon also be available as a 4 part series on Netflix this year. 

But what does the title mean?   It's a reference first and foremost to all the light we literally cannot see: that is, the wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum that are beyond the ability of human eyes to detect (radio waves, of course, being the most relevant to the plot of the book).

But for me, the title is more ethereal than that. 

For as I have written in Lightland and Beyond,  we literally do not see light at all.  All the light we cannot see is the creation itself.  For we only see where the light has been.  Look up into the dark night sky to see for yourself.  Space is full of light, yet we see mostly darkness with our eyes.  And this distinction is not just some semantic trick.

In the Greek creation of the Cosmos as described in the Theogony,  Hesiod asks the Muses to reveal to him which came into being first and the answer was the Void.  Out of the Void came darkness and black night. Out of Night came Light and Day.  Even in the Hebrew version of the creation... darkness is first. 

But the point is this.

Most of us do not see Light.  

We see Day.  

For light cannot be seen without matter, and as sure as matter reveals light, it also creates shadow or the Night. In Doerr's masterful work, Marie-Laure LeBlanc evacuates Paris with her father after he is entrusted with a valuable diamond named the Sea of Flames. It represents the human desire for power and control.

And in this dark night of political ignorance,

All the light we cannot see will win the day.


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Blogger Vista de Peyote Cafe said...

That was a great book--I read all of his stuff...

2:16 PM  

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