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  • "What does it mean?" I asked. He shrugged. "Please translate it," I begged. "It means nothing," he said. I didn't believe him. "Of course it does, please translate," I repeated. "It's nonsense," he said and walked away, on to the next nonsensical artwork. I stayed behind, sensing, searching.

    There was a red thread, inviting me to search for clues. My eyes traveled diagonally, along a route of letters that amounted to words, recognizable but void of meaning. As words often are. I read locus and interpreted it as crazy. I read solus and figured it might have something to do with the sun, which in my native tongue is called sol. When I came home I looked it up, and learned that Locus solus is a surreal novel, written by Raymond Roussel. Locus means place, solus means by oneself; alone. I thought it over.

    *

    I commenced to unravel the thread. It ran from the Palais de Tokyo and back across the city, along the route I walk every day, through the slightly surreal, labyrinth-like Marais quarter where I tend to get lost, and further, winding past my apartment and continuing all the way to the Père Lachaise cemetery, where Raymond Roussel is buried, and which, incidentally, is the first place I walked to on my first day in his city of birth, Paris.

    Following the thread all the way back to ground zero, ce lieu solitaire, this lonely place, I realized that the scattered bits and pieces I was drawn to in the vast exhibition space of the Palais were all connected; the mosaic of teeth, the huge glass diamond, the dancing girl, cette danseuse ridicule, and the hairless cat, the preserved head, the strange tableaux vivants taking place inside the large glass cage. The rooms I had wandered through with impatient wonder were actually a staging of Roussel's story, which might explain why the entire Palais de Tokyo felt like a locus solus to me. Lost, but curious, I had explored that ghostly place, that crowd of surreal monsters, blinded people whose appearances and faces were made up to intimidate. I knew I didn't belong but I wanted to be there, all the same, and I nerved myself, feeling confused and terrified, but present, and in the end I was rewarded for my curiosity, I was welcomed into a circle of light, a crazy sun, blackening the closed-off faces and facades and confining them to the dark outskirts of comprehension, while including me in a secret society of clarity. Shielded, camouflaged in black-and-white, I stared and stared at the sun but I wasn't blinded. I could see more clearly than ever. And it hurt.

    *

    *

    "But what does it mean?" he asks; "please explain." I shake my head. "I can't tell you," I say; "it's complicated." He looks at me, skeptically. "Then try to summarize it," he insists; "give me the short version." I tell him it's impossible. "You'll have to figure it out for yourself," I say; "I can't provide you with a shortcut to understanding." He looks at me, blankly. "I can't interpret the meaning for you," I tell him; "you have to seek your own answers, find your own truth." He shrugs and walks away.


    Truly, it may all be nonsense, you never know with art. In any case, the line ce lieu solitaire means something to me.
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