In the sunset of dissolution …

Marie Antoinette's execution in 1793 at the Place de la Revolution

Marie Antoinette’s execution in 1793 at the Place de la Revolution

In the sunset of dissolution, everything is illuminated by the aura of nostalgia, even the guillotine.

I don’t know why but a year or two ago, I copied this sentence in a notebook. It comes from “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” by Milan Kundera.

I remember the book but not too well. I may have written the sentence down because of its beauty. I love words like dissolution, illumination and aura. And I very much like nostalgia, the word and what it means. Which is, to be as precise as the dictionary, “a bittersweet longing for the past.”

This was nostalgia in an unfamiliar context: Czechoslovakia, 1968. But clearly, the sentence is meant to have a broader reference than that. My life. Anybody’s. So I began to examine it to see understand what it means in my life and in any murders I may construct.

“The sunset of dissolution,” the end of a culture or country, isn’t something I’ve experienced. I’ve never lived through a revolution or a genocide, not even the devastation of an earthquake or tornado. Of course, all of us will experience the ultimate dissolution when we die. Out world will fall apart and fragment. The light will diminish and then go out. The sun will set.

But it will be illuminated, says Kundera (or his translator), by the aura of nostalgia. “Sunset” identified the time of day. Nostalgia does more that.  It makes things clearer and more comprehensible. Even something like the guillotine. Even dying itself.

When someone dies in a murder mystery, we usually see the dying from the outside. It’s not so much a dissolution as a simple erasure. But seen from the victim’s point of view, it’s illuminated by bittersweet memories of the past.

It’s kind of like “your whole life flashing before your eyes,” but something more.

And how interesting is that?




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One comment on “In the sunset of dissolution …
  1. Jeannine says:

    Another thoughtful and interesting post. I will have to think about this more. Can a person be both hopeful and fearful? I think so, and I do like nostalgia!

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