Near the Bone

Celebrated French poet’s notebook: “Idea for a story: it is discovered that eating raw human flesh is a cure for cancer.” What sort of story? Surely not a morality tale, a talking heads, philo-sophistic dialogue of should and shouldn’t delivering a meditation on the nature of the Good. Maybe he was thinking of a multi-part everyday TV soap of greedy folk: amazing revelations of the mega-rich and their insatiable lust for a life of endless full-screen details …..? No, that wouldn’t be his style. A melodrama, then, of electronic money, gigabyte power and market corruption? Share prices in mortuaries reach new high, trade of the dead and near dead brings life to ailing stock markets, tragedy – SICK FINANCIER EATS MOTHER BY MISTAKE – strikes in ever new and enterprising ways? Or a dozen other fun-filled cream and cupcake fantasies spun out in this late 20th century moment, unforeseen by the poet, when the sight on TV of cancered flesh-eaters chewing their way back to being heads of armies and leaders of nations might — I only say might– be felt to be too near the bone. After all, who is eating and who is being eaten in the circle of the world is a tricky subject. Perhaps our poet was thinking – which poet since then hasn’t, at some time or other, thought- of Dante’s Ugolino trapped at the cold center of hell, forever sinking his teeth into the skull of the treacherous bishop who’d bricked Ugoloni and his children in a room to starve to death. You can see why he didn’t write it.

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