An appeal to the hivemind and a parting nod

Tomorrow B and I leave for a few weeks to visit Corsica, Sardinia, and Sicily. As we lead an incredibly stressful life here in Paris, we are both looking foward to this much-needed vacation. Obviously I’m joking about our respective stress levels, but we are pretty excited for a change of scenery. I’m a bit of a beach junkie, so the idea of sunning on white sand beaches and hiking to swimming grottos has me pretty psyched. We both will also get to indulge our inner geeks — B will be able to survey some serious Etruscan, Greek, Roman, and Phonecian ruins and I’ll be able to see a lot of the towns that ole David Herbert spent time in during his travels. We’re also planning to eat ourselves stupid and have been spending most of our time reading aloud to one another about various regional organ meats that we can’t wait to try. I’ll promise to take tons of pictures and post the yummiest ones here when I return.

So here is my appeal to the hivemind:  If you happen to have visited Ajaccio, Sartène, or Bonifaccio in Corsica; Oliena, Bosa, or Cagliari in Sardinia; or Palermo, Cefalù, Catania, or Taormina in Sicily and have any recommendations (especially food-related ones), would you mind posting them in the comments? Must-eats? Must-sees? We’re two adventurous eaters, eager museum-goers, and wouldn’t mind a serious hike if it yielded us a serious beach. Thanks in advance for any ideas!

I won’t have my computer with me and I suspect that Italian internet cafes are still as expensive as I remember, so it’s going to be lights out around here at Keeping the Bear Garden in the Background for the next few weeks. As a parting gift, let me leave you with David Herbert’s impressions of Mount Etna, which B and I intend to climb (!) on our final day.  That is, if we haven’t eaten ourselves immobile.

Why can’t one sit still?  Here in Sicily it is so pleasant: the sunny Ionian sea, the changing jewel of Calabria, like a fire-opal moved in the light; Italy and the panorama of Christmas clouds, night with the dog-star laying a long, luminous gleam across the sea, as if bayaing at us, Orion marching above; how the dog-star Sirius looks at one, looks at one!  he is the hound of heaven, green, glamorous and fierce!–and then o regal evening-star, hung westward flaring over the jagged dark precipices of tall Sicily: then Etna, that wicked witch, resting he thick white snow under heaven, and slowly, slowing rolling her orange-colored smoke.  They called her the Pillar of Heaven, the Greeks. It seems wrong at first, for she trails up in a long, magical, flexible line from the sea’s edge to her blunt cone, and does not seem tall. She seems rather low, under heaven. But as one knows her beter, oh awe and wizardry! Remote under heaven, aloof, so near, yet never with us. The painters try to paint her, and the photographers to photograph her, in vain. Because why? Because the near ridges, with their olives and white houses, these are with us. Because the river-bed, and Naxos under the lemon groves, Greek Naxos deep under dark-leaved, many-fruited lemon groves, Etna’s skirts and skirt-bottoms, these are still our world, our own world. Even the high villages among the oaks, on Etna.  But Etna herself, Etna of the snow and secret changing winds, she is beyond a crystal wall. When I look at her, low, white, witch-like under heaven, slowly rolling her orange smoke and giving sometimes a breath of rose-red flame, then I must look away from earth, into the ether, into the low empyrean.  And there, in that remote region, Etna is alone. If youwould see her, you must slowly take your eyes from the world and go a naked seer to the strange chamber of the empyrean. Pedestal of heaven! The Greeks had a sense of the magic truth of things. Thank goodness one still knows enough about them to find one’s kinship at last. There are so many photographs, there as so infinitely many water-colour drawings and oil-paintings which purport to render Etna. But pedestal of heaven! You must cross the invisible border. Between the foreground, which is our own, and Etna, pivot of winds in the lower heaven, there is a dividing line. You must change your state of mind. A metempsychosis. It is no use thinking you can see and behold Etna and the foreground both at once. Never. One or the other. Foreground and a transcribed Etna. Or Etna, pedestal of heaven.

Why then must go? Why not stay? Ah what a mistress, this Etna! with her strange winds prowling round her like Circe’s panthers, some black, some white. With her strange, remote communications, and her terrible dynamic exhalations. She makes men mad. Such terrible vibrations of wicked and beautiful electricity she throws about her, like a deadly net! Nay sometimes, verily, on can feel a new current of her demon magnetism seize one’s living tissue, and change the peaceful lie of one’s active cells.  She makes a storm in the living plasm, and a new adjustment. And sometimes it is like madness.

Sea and Sardinia, 1921

Sounds like quite the drug, and I can’t wait to experience it.  I’ll catch you, dearest reader, on the flip side. In the meantime, I hope that wherever you are, you are enjoying these long summer nights.

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One comment

  1. laura

    No ideas on Sardinia, but I read this extract from Colette Peignot’s works in Georges Bataille the other day…”Nous avons fait, Georges et moi, l’ascension de l’Etna. C’est assez terrifiant. J’aimerais à t’en parler, je ne peux y penser sans trouble et je rapproche de cette vision tous mes actes du moment. Ainsi, il m’est plus facile de serrer les dents…si fort- à se briser les mâchoires.”

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