Monday, July 7, 2014

The Inner Beauty by Maurice Maeterlinck

Title: The Inner Beauty
Author:  Maurice Maeterlinck
Original Publication Date: 1910
Pages: 39
Genre/s: Classics, Philosophy

Nothing in the whole world is so athirst for beauty as the soul, nor is there anything to which beauty clings so readily. (5)

This has been a particularly hard piece to read, and by a necessary consequence, to write a review of. Maurice Maeterlicnk is, before anything else, a Nobel laureate (1911) who earned the coveted award for his plays which form a substantial part of the Symbolism Movement. Adherents believed that absolute truths could only be described indirectly, which necessitates a style of writing punctuated by metaphorical and suggestive prose. This is now our caveat by which we seek to assuage any difficulty in tackling this work.

The work is divided in three parts, Inner Beauty, Invisible Goodness, and Silence. This is a spiritual and ruminative work in all its aspects.

"Beauty is the only language of our soul: none other is known to it."(10)

Beauty is of course acts that we could generally and objectively categorize as good in man. Maeterlinck states that every man, even the unhappiest and the most destitute have at the depths of their being, this beauty that he speaks of. This necessarily lays down the premise that men by nature are good, or, in Maeterlinck's words, are naturally beautiful beings, who need only to acquire the habit of dipping into that nature, into that soul, and the greatest act by which we enliven this beauty is by loving.

Is it not in love that are found the purest elements of beauty that we can offer to the soul?(19)

To him, to love means losing every bit of 'ugliness' in our souls. It is the state by which we come closest to God. But to be good, to be able to love with real ardent affection, we must first go through suffering, a harrowing by which we are molded to become better and end up in tune with our soul, our inner beauty. "Grief is love's first food, and every love that has not been fed on a little pure suffering must die like the babe that one had tried to nourish on the nourishment of a man." (20)

And there would always remain between us truth which had not spoken, which we had not even thought of speaking... and only in silence could we perceive it.

And he counsels the reader to search for this intermittent pockets of silences in life which holds the 'real' secrets and calls them 'secret silences'.

One has to forgive my limited and modest uptake of Maeterlinck's philosophy as contained in this work. Admittedly, this is only one way to look and deconstruct this highly suggestive and metaphorical work. It bears mentioning that nowhere was beauty explicitly defined within the work except from derivable contextual references, and even then it was questionable and equivocal. The work, however clearly references  to spirituality and to God, to a human soul, but not religion. The chapter on Invisible Goodness clearly refers back to the Soul and its nature of goodness and nobility. The silence he refers to is also curious as he does not clarify as to whether he refers to spiritual silences or a physical world of a noiseless condition. Indeed he says that:

There is no silence more docile than the silence of love, and indeed it is the only one that we may claim for ourselves alone. The other great silences, those of death, grief or destiny, do not belong to us. They come towards their own hour, following in the track of events, and those whom they do not meet need not reproach themselves. But we can all go forth and meet the silence of love.

But then again he writes,

If I tell someone that I love him - as I may have told a hundred others - my words will convey nothing to him, but the silence that will ensue will make it clear.

This book forms part of my remarkably extensive reading list on Nobel Prize for Literature Laureates

This review, along with my other reviews, has been cross-posted at imbookedindefinitely

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