I write for a living and currently I do so for a magazine specialised in architecture and design, the kind that favours spotless white surfaces, exotic woods, and titanium lamps. Some days ago, we had a conversation with my editor about ecology, and why it had stopped being a marketing gimmick. “These are not times for the beautiful,” I told him, “but for the useful”.
The beautiful is also a metaphor for writing — that is: the aesthetic acme of human communication. But when normal human interaction stopped I stopped writing creatively. My imagination was torn away from make believe. And I sense many of my peers are grappling with the prospect of abandoning the beautiful, of letting go of gymnastics of style.
Like many in my trade, my fascination began with the smell of paper, the binding, the ink. But now, when I open one of the many titles on offer, I feel trapped. Trapped inside an elevator with one of those disagreeable, almost psychopathic people who just can’t stop talking. That’s what literature has come to mean to me.
I wanted to become a writer, but I turned into a pro. I learned the craft, paid the bills, and even managed to dedicate thirty odd years to my own work. Let’s be sincere: not much came of it, except for the fact that my glasses grew thicker. Now I only want to smell sanding paper.
I have come to admire a piece of copper wire or a nail. Because not long ago they were rocks, hidden in the depths of the earth, and it took labour — hard labour — to turn them into what they are: a work of art that nobody gets credit for — no gallery, no statement, no CV. The same goes for light bulbs, doorknobs, even the screwdriver my father bought fifty years ago.
Of course, I continue to read, even indulge in a Houellebecq novel now and then. But I steer clear from professional thinkers and contemporary French philosophers. Except, perhaps, for old-timers like La Boétie, a writer who is as useful as a wrench.
So, my tools have pushed me onto the world of matter. And maybe that’s why I feel more at home at a hardware store, with those who do things instead of writing about them: I have become a hardware Mishima. The rest doesn’t move me anymore, and probably won’t in the future either. It’s strange, but having said this I suddenly feel beautiful again, if you know what I mean.
Claudio Molinari Dassatti is a translator, writer and part-time working cook. He has received a few distinctions in New York, Spain, and Italy. But after living half of his life abroad, he moved back to the industrial belt of Buenos Aires, where nothing cultural happens. He lives austerely, has a warm place to sleep, and prefers eccentrics for friends. The rest, as the good book says, is vanity.