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91 Robert Nichols The Mirror of Narcissus 1/ Under the spell of beauty. As we say the beloved object bewitches us. Which one of us has not been in love sometime? The power, the authority of beauty. Her face and form, the way the hair falls like water over the neck, those blue eyes ... But in this case the beloved object is myself. That is the spell of Narcissus cast upon me. I am enchanted. What is the cause, the agency of this? We say that Narcissus is enchanted by this reflection. The pool acts as a mirror as I bend down. But what if the opposite happened? Instead of the reflection as I bent down, the surface opens. It does not reflect. But opens up like the shutter of a camera. There is another person standing below looking up at me. This is the enchantment of the other. The circle of the sky over my head— blue and framed by a few leaves—has become the blue of his world. AN EXTREME CASE I always like to think in extreme cases: and the patch of sky becomes an apartment building, say, in Calcutta. The beggar is squatting on the sidewalk looking up at the windows of the apartment house, a modern building, or at the entrance marquee. Perhaps diners are going into a restaurant inside. He is holding out his begging bowl. Brown skin, a soiled turban and loincloth that is no less foul and dirty. Emaciated limbs. We are looking into the large liquid eyes of the Indian, from which the light has almost gone out. As we look it is extinguished in the pool. I must tell you this comes from a memory—transformed into an image . My wife and I were traveling in Chile. We were in Santiago. We had gone to the movies and had to stand in line for the next showing. A woman from the slums—calledpoblaciones—was sitting on the sidewalk with two small children. She was selling something from a flat box. Mangoes. The children played by the ticket window almost at our feet. I'm not sure it was mangoes. It may have been bunches of cornflowers she was selling, or straw flowers dipped in a blue dye. One of them, the little girl, could barely walk, a toddler. The woman watched distractedly, at the same time narcotized. She seemed barely concerned with the children, or with selling the flowers either. As you know this scene is repeated with variations for anyone who has traveled. I didn't realize at the time that this was merely an example of what was then a prevailing economic condition. "Underemployment." I first came 92 the minnesota review across the word in a Santiago newspaper. Unemployment, underemployment . As the black market is a hidden economy, it's there but not officially recognized—the world of underemployment is a hidden economy. That is, reality is hidden behind a veil. Presumably we are talking about large quantities of people. The aggregate . At the same time we have to notice that the language, which is the language of economic/statistics deadens ... numbs as with Novocain precisely this story of the individual. The story of the woman and the children on the sidewalk is deemphasized and one could say it is of no interest. It doesn't tell how she got there, what was happening at home, what was in her mind when the decision was made, etc. For instance, I imagine it was in the barrio of Los Gatos, a little house next to a machine shop. At the edge of the pasture ... exceedingly dry at this time of year, a tawny brown color, becoming the foothills of the surrounding mountains. It's hard to tell from the outside whether these barrios are rich or poor. On the street a mangy dog picking over a pile of garbage is a common sight one finds everywhere in Santiago. Of course, inside the house it's different. We might imagine a conversation between Maria and her sister. The husband is out, maybe at a bar drinking. We know he's not working. Or he could be at a political...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2157-4189
Print ISSN
0026-5667
Pages
pp. 91-100
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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