by Kleitia Vaso

Even in literary writings, where the role of the word is paramount, certain phrases are overused and, as such, lose their power. They attempt to present a meaning that should be obvious to most of us but, depending on taste and mood, often they transmit nothing but float in our memory as a result of overexposure. One such an expression is “the landscapes within, “or “internal landscape”. I have encountered it often but it never struck me as a clever or profound finding; on the contrary, I thought of it as a facile combination of words, wishy-washy in form and power.

I still think that it is not especially beautiful. But, I am becoming increasingly convinced that everything, even a phrase, is a part of a relationship, and, as such, is dependent on an infinite number of conditions to succeed. In the case of language – words or phrases–its power, or lack thereof, is determined by its beauty, the receiver’s capacity to understand, the time of the day, the mental or emotional state of the reader, solitude, multitude – to paraphrase the great Baudelaire – and so on. The right combination, the right moment – this is the magic formula which only unleashes its full power on e few rare instances. But, a minor version of these full moments can happen often; the convergence of the right word or image with the right amount of sun and vulnerability, for instance.

Just the other day, I had just such an experience because of a lecture I accidentally found by Jorge Luis Borges whose writing has often left me cold, despite him being undoubtedly a great writer. I’ve read his work as a kind of a puzzle that should be solved rather than liked it as something that may have moved me profoundly. Yet, I was listening to his lecture and he was so simply, precisely, and beautifully – an ideal combination – discussing the joys of poetic language that I kept thinking how much richer life can be with a more refined mind and greater capacity for understanding. But, I was also going through a slightly vulnerable and emotional period, one where even those closest to me were not finding the right words to say. Yet, it was such an overwhelmingly beautiful sunny day that during a few moments in the lecture, I felt extremely moved by Borges’ capacity to absorb, experience, and, as a result, transmit beauty with beautiful and simple, not overly embellished phrases.

Looking out of my temporary cage, I could see outside and feel the day through a few screens and obstacles: the window, the plants partially blocking my view, the external window, bars behind bars behind bars. And, then and there thinking about Borges, my writing, our thoughts, I finally grasped some of the value of the variations of the phrase “internal landscape.” Simultaneously here and there, in a place and another, a time or another, a real or fictional world, we have within us many worlds – visible, invisible, explored or unexplored – that indeed the world’s external landscape does not do it justice. For a brief moment, I felt richer, greater, than the world outside, capable of protracting and expanding the instant into an immeasurable unit, of living several lives within one.

by Kleitia Vaso