L’ETRANGER, THE OUTSIDER – CAMUS AND VAN GOGH, THE EYE OF THE ARTIST
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L`ETRANGER, THE STRANGER, THE OUTSIDER ——- THE OBSERVER WHO WATCHES FROM THE EDGES OF SOCIETY -THE ARTIST, THE LEADER ……………………………………………………………………………………………..VAN GOGH SENDS HIS EAR TO THE WOMAN HE LOVES FROM A DISTANCE
Some years back, I was studying “L`Etranger” by Camus,
which is: `The stranger`, “The Outsider”…
The man standing outside the restaurant windows in the large city –
Paris, Toronto, New York, London – he might be
highly intelligent, but he does not partake of the affluence
of society; he`s not included in the good times or good food; he`s not invited to cocktail parties,couples groups in fine restaurants. He is totally excluded for one reason most of all:
he is an observer.
The only consolation L`Etranger has for all this rejection and ostracizing –
he knows that most fine artists
live lives as solitaries. Oh yes, they may be in the
midst of a family, or they may not. But one thing is sure –
they are alone. They are alone now, and they have always been alone.
Even when they are in a bar attempting to
talk to others, or at the funeral of a loved one,
the artist might be acutely observing the scene;
but he is detached, an outsider – he is The Stranger.
There are too many examples of this “healthy sickness” – too many examples to count: Van Gogh,
why didn`t he have sex with the prostitute? Why did he
send his ear to her?
Because he was too detached? Likely so…
Detached, yes, alienated, apart from… observing…
He saw her closely; he saw her so completely
that he loved her in a way she had never been
She may not have known this… (What do
any of us know about the people around us?)
But she likely sensed it – she may not have sensed
his love; she might have thought it was lust… but she
certainly sensed his attention.
He was detached. He saw her every colour, uncertainty
and frown. He probably never took her hand, or
shared a coffee with her. But he loved her in a way
that no one ever had…no one had ever seen her
Although, if you look at it from the woman`s
point of view. perhaps she would have rather had a meal and sex
with the man instead of being observed so closely… even if he
looked at her with utter love, what good was that to her?
She might have thought… She was busy. She had
a child perhaps and cats to take care of.
I`m sure she would have preferred to take the man`s
hand… but to endure his disconcerting stare?
Who among us want to be observed so closely?
Most of us have our guilts and paranoias…
who has the gift of repose?
Sometimes the artist. And sometimes not.
Van Gogh likely would have preferred to take
her hand, also, or to pat her rump. But it was not to
be. He was too much the outsider, too much
If he had been able to hold her hand, he would
not have had to send her his ear.
Of the few women I can think of at the moment –
none of them would be more likely
to spend time with me, if I sent them
What do you think, my lady? If I sent you my ear,
would that patch up the differences between us?
Would that make everything all right.
Or would I be taking another trip
up the hill into a locked unit?
Close attention makes people uncomfortable.
They have their own lives to lead, and they do not
need some maniac perched like a jackdaw on the back
of the chair next to them… closely watching
the expressions on their face.
But most true artists are exactly that: painters
and writers have been primarily that – observers….
Maniacs,madmen, excluded outlaws and pariahs
they are the watchers no groups are comfortable with…
And so the artists are found looking in
through the glass into the restaurant from the cold sidewalk…
Shivering in a wet raincoat with two dollars and forty cents
in your pocket… if you go to a cheap restaurant, you
can just about buy a coffee.
And when you go home, you can eat your oil paints
instead of bread.