Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Roland Barthes on the Cucumber

I was reading Roland Barthes' L'Empire des Signes in Roland Barthes, Oeuvres Completes (vol. 3, 1968-1971), when I came across this (original in French; the translation below, slightly edited, comes from the Internet):

At the Floating Market in Bangkok, each vendor sits in a tiny motionless canoe, selling minute quantities of food: seeds, a few eggs, bananas, coconuts, mangoes, pimentos...From himself to his merchandise, including his vessel, everything is small. Occidental food, heaped up, dignified, swollen to the majestic, linked to a certain operation of prestige, always tends toward the heavy, the grand, the abundant, the copious; the Oriental follows the converse movement, and tends toward the infinitesimal: the cucumber’s future is not its accumulation or its thickening, but its division, its tenuous dispersal, as this haiku puts it:

Cut cucumber;
Its juice runs
Drawing spider legs
(p. 362)

Quite interesting, as it sums up the whole ethos of haiku, its size, its suggestive power, and its contrast to Occidental, Western poetry and hence its contrasting outlook at life.

1 comment:

  1. WOW! What a continuation of movement in the "cucumber" haiku and in the same time, many different images.
    Great post Paul. You always remind us of the simplicity of life and the "small" things that count the most ...