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From the book's jacket ...28 Nov. 2013
- Published on Amazon.com
The Writing of Stones is a fascinating meditation on the human imagination contemplating the interior of stones. Caillois examines patterns that are revealed by polishing sections of minerals such as agate, jasper, and onyx. He considers the impact these configurations have had upon the human imagination throughout history and he reviews man's attempt to categorize and explain them.
Marguerite Yourcenar [in her introduction] points out that "there had taken place in [his] intellect the equivalent of the Copernican revolution: man was no longer the center of the universe, except in the sense that the center is everywhere; man, like all the rest, was a cog in the whole system of turning wheels. Quite early on, having entered 'the forbidden laboratories,' Caillois applied himself to the study of diagonals which link the species, of the recurrent phenomena that act, so to speak as a matrix of forms." Caillois found the presence throughout the universe of a sensibility and a consciousness analogous to our own. One way which this consciousness expresses itself is in a "natural fantasy" that is evident in the pictures found in stones. Man's own aesthetic may then be no more than one of many manifestations of an all-pervasive aesthetic that reveals itself in the natural world.
Caillois also studies the artist's collaboration with nature in the modification of these picture stones. By cutting and framing a picture found or by elaborating the pattern in the stone, the artist admits that nature, with or without an artist, can produce shapes and colors that are works of art. Caillois reminds us that "nature not only provided a stock of models but also directly created works worthy of admiration--works capable of competing on equal terms with human achievements without having to pass through the alchemy of human art."
Where, then, do these speculations lead us? By turning on its head, as it were, the quintessential modern dilemma--whether expressed as a dualism of mind and body, as an antithesis of matter and soul, or as the separation of subject and object--Caillois carries the reader beyond the usual arguments about what is and what is not human.
The Writing of Stones will interest all who wish to understand what can be learned about the world and its slow and patient formation. Archeologists, gemologists, sculptors, students of art, aesthetics, history, literature, and philosophy will confront questions that they have felt but have not possessed, so far, a way to study in new ways. Here Caillois offers many fresh approaches that we have yet to resolve.