Orpheus Complex

Unpleasant Matter不愉快的物質

Continuing our study of unpleasant matter, we will now attempt to characterize, from the point of view of the material imagination, a work of literature that contains great psychological truths.


In Nausea, Jean-Paul Sartre presents a character, Roquentin, who exemplifies with unusual clarity a certain psychological type. This character serves to distinguish between a psychological originality profoundly rooted in the unconscious and the contrived originality found in woks of secondary novelists.


One discovers, if one reads enough, that novelists imbue their heroes with numerous contradictions, in the belief that they will appear “ life-like” by means of gratuitous inconsistencies. But contradictions do not necessarily produce ambivalence. A contradiction not rooted in ambivalence remains a mere psychological incident.


Sartre, on the other hand, develops his psychological novel by following the opposite course, proceeding from ambivalence to contradiction. He presents a character who, in the realm of the material imagination, cannot attain “ solidity,” and consequently can never maintain a firm position in life.


Roquentin is sick even in the realm of material images, that is to say even in his attempt to establish a viable relationship with the substance of things. He attributes contradictory qualities to the essence of things because he himself is divided by ambivalence as he approaches them.


We can see this ambivalence play out precisely in Roquentin’s imagery of the consistency of objects. In a single paragraph, Sartre shows the hero of Nausea in the process of gathering  “chestnuts,” : old rags,” and, later, “ heavy and sumptuous papers, probably soiled by excrement.


Yet Roquentin recoils from contact with a pebble on the beach—a pebble washed clean by the sea! The conventional responses of attraction and disgust are here reversed. This material inversion excites irregular, and as a consequence passionate, concern. Unpleasant material suffices to make an unhappy man conscious of his unhappiness.



Earth and Reveries of Will by Gaston Bachelard

Translated by Springhero 雄伯




Orpheus Complex 奧費斯情結

We believe, however, that if human life is indeed placed in the framework of these natural rhythms, what we are determining is happiness, not thought. The mind needs a much closer pattern of reference points.


If intellectual life is to become the dominant form of life, physically speaking, with thought time prevailing over lived time, then we must devote all our efforts to the quest for an active repose that finds no satisfaction in what is freely bestowed the hour and the season.


It would seem that for Pinheiro dos Santos this active, vibrant repose corresponds to the lyric state. The Brazilian philosopher has a close knowledge of modern French literature, in particular of Valery and Caudel, whom he greatly admires. He submits to each in turn, to the power of the rhetoric of Claudel’s writing, and then to the subtle ambiguities of Paul Valery’s thought.

對於Pinheiro dos Santos而言, 這個積極共鳴的安詳似乎是跟抒情的狀態對應。這位巴西的哲學家對於現代法國文學耳熟能詳,特別是他所頗為心儀的梵樂希及柯帖耳。他時而傾心於柯帖耳的華美文藻時而陶醉於保羅、梵樂希思想的的細膩微妙。

In Valery, he appreciates most of all the supreme art of the poet as, skillfully, he disturbs our calm and calms our disturbance, and moves from our heart to our mind, only to return at once from mind to heart.


Yet Pinheiro dos Santos does not rest content with this rather coldly intellectual interpretation of the lyric life. He prefers that lyricism should continue to be regarded as a purely physical charm, a myth that lulls us to sleep, a complex binding us to our past, to our youth and its impetuosity.

可是對於這種以冷靜知性詮釋抒情人生的方式Pinheiro dos Santos 並不滿足。他寧可要抒情的人生繼續被認為是一種純粹肉身的魅力,一種引誘我們入眠的神話,一種使我們跟往事、跟青春、及其戀執密切結合的情結。

Indeed, he suggests a lyric myth for Rhythmanalysis which could well be called the Orpheus complex.


This complex would correspond to our first and fundamental need to give pleasure and to offer solace; it would be revealed in the caresses of tender sympathy, and characterized by the attitude in which our being gains pleasure through the giving of pleasure, by the attitude of making some kind of offering.



The Orpheus complex would be the exact antithesis of the Oedipus complex. Poetic interpretations of this Orpheus complex may be seen in Rilke’s orphic lyricism, as a lyricism which egotistically lives out an indeterminate love of others.


How very sweet it is to love anyone or anything indiscriminately. How delightful ever to live at the moment in love, ever amidst love’s first rapturous declaration!


This, then, is the basis of a theory of formal pleasure which is the very opposite of the theory of that material pleasure, immediate and objective, which in the Oedipus complex binds the unfortunate child to the face that he first sees above his cradle.


Gaston Bachelard, Subversive Humanist

Translated by Springhero雄伯

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