E se io volessi la Luna

The title line of this post is either a quote or a paraphrase from the Camus play Caligula, which I read long back in Italian and didn’t entirely understand. It’s a difficult and interesting piece, less an act of drama than a venue for thought to speak for a time.

The emperor Caligula is famous, depending on your taste in history and arts, either as the leading man in one of the grossest movies ever to have a cast of stars, or for being a bloody and insane head of state in a time when that sort of thing was all right with the citizenry (ahem), or for being about as perfect a symbolic patsy as anyone could wish for the corrupting warp of greed and power. And that horse thing as well.

In the Camus, Caligula imagines that the moon is his lover (well, yes, fine, I’ve done that too and what of it, though mine was with a stronger sense of metaphor I suspect), and sends his man Helicon to bring her to his quarters. It’s the point at which his greed and his delusions outstrip his power, and as he plummets toward his ultimate encounter with the last page of Act IV, it is a moment he recalls. By demanding the impossible, rather than the simply awful or twisted or cruel, he crosses into failure. When he fails, his certainty collapses, and he falls along with it.

“If I’d had the moon, if love were enough, all would be changed,” he says. “But where can I quench this thirst? What heart, what god would be as deep and pure for me as a great lake? Neither this world nor the other world has a place for me. Yet I know, and you know, that all I needed was for the impossible to be.”

The picture above is from the night of June 21st, the night of the summer solstice. It’s a 1.6-second exposure from a tripod on Atlantic Avenue, just next to the Key Food, looking out over Clinton Hill below. It’s the first nightscape I’ve ever taken.

“I won’t have the moon. Never, never, never! But how painful it is to know that and to have to go through to the bitter end!”

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