Face and Mask
Face and Mask
Literature is an ironic mask. It knows that’s what it is. A nonironic mask is a lie. The mask is a metaphor for the face; it is at once sharp featured and enigmatic. The faces of others are a few simplified lines; when recalling them, I see my friends’ masks with my mind’s eye. Ancestors, gods, demons have only masks—masks that, with their aggressive sharpness, rise above our redundant faces. My face was shaped by nature and time; my masks by me alone. That’s why they are so abstract, simplistic—truly human creations. We need masks as much as we need words; we couldn’t communicate without them. We introduce ourselves and wave our masks before one another the way we wave our hats. The writer is a makeup artist; he manufactures myths, creates masks, looks behind them and discovers other masks.
The row of masks forms an endless, mystical continuum; behind each mask there is always another. If I like a man, his face is an emblem of the universe; if I don’t, it’s a death mask. We paint one another’s masks; then we become suspicious of them and tear them off. There are as many masks as there are relationships, which makes thinking about the subject difficult. Try to talk about last night’s party on the telephone, and you’ll be seizing moments out of a stream of memory and stringing them together according to the corrective logic of chance, in a sequence prompted by hidden emotions. As we talk about others, we construct their sometimes amusing, sometimes insipid masks. In truth, we are looking for the face, the one and only; all masks are but approximations of this one face. But because we can never be sure that we see the face looking at us, we place masks over it, though none of them really fits—the face does smile through. It is impossible to discover the face. Two infinities can’t cross paths—two faces cannot contemplate each other. Without a mask, it seems, we cannot come together. A mask is an epistemological joke.
Socialist thought provides us with an imaginative and moral horizon.
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