Sunday, May 18, 2014

Blaise Cendrars

Blaise Cendrars [Ike]

It was only gradually, and after a long experience of driving, little by little as cars were perfected and roads improved, and one could at last travel at speed, pure speed, that I realized I was insensibly stripping myself bare of everything by forging ahead into the unknown, for to what can one compare speed if not to the slow thrust of thought, which progresses on a metaphysical plane, penetrating, isolating, analysing, dissecting everything, reducing the world to a little pile of aerodynamized ashes (the corners worn away by the wind of the mind!) and magically reconstructing the universe by a fulgurating formula which claps between inverted commas (or the two points between which a record is broken) this illumination which restores life: ‘All the world’s my stage’. . . .

here I only want to pencil in the portrait of Manolo Secca. He is a saint. On my way down, I only passed by, stopping long enough to fill up at the pump; on the return journey, I stayed with him for a week, up to my neck in a barrel of paraffin to get rid of the vermin: lice, jiggers, eggs and larvae that cling to you when you come out of the bush, the hinterland, the swamps and the oceans of grass, and make your skin itch; then I filled up the tank and set off again. . . .

Manolo Secca is taciturn and gives nothing away. All day long, throughout the years and years and years that he has been there, at the frontier of the imaginable world, a desert-like zone that took me two weeks to cross by car, he carves statues out of sections of tree-trunk, which he cuts down himself, black statues and white statues, according to the wood he has chosen, cajù and Brazilian rosewood, life-size figures in small cars, so small that each personage has his own car. He works in a dozen studios at once, spreading out in a circle around the petrol pump, and, when I was staying with him, I counted exactly three hundred and eight figures, some of them finished and others barely outlined or rough-hewn. . . . The curious thing was that all these ridiculous little cars were saloons and the figures were standing on the roofs. Manolo Secca was so amazed by my open car, a grand tourisme tourer, that he took the measurements, promising to carve my statue standing in my life-size car and to place it in front of the petrol pump. ‘You have opened my eyes,’ he mumbled.

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