Friday, December 19, 2008

Before It Can Be Tasted, The Body Must Be Spoken

Fig. 1. Egon Schiele - Nude, 1910

'The word 'fleisch', in German, provokes me to an involuntary shudder. In the English language, we make a fine distinction between flesh, which is usually alive and, typically, human; and meat, which is dead, inert, animal and intended for consumption. Substitute the word 'flesh' in the Anglican service of Holy Communion; 'Take, eat, this is my meat which was given for you...' and the sacred comestible becomes the offering of something less than, rather than more than, human. 'Flesh' in English carries with it a whole system of human connotations and the flesh of the Son of Man cannot be animalised into meat without an inharmonious confusion of meaning. But, because it is human, flesh is also ambiguous: we are adjured to shun the world, the flesh and the Devil. Fleshly delights are lewd distractions from the contemplation of higher, that is, of spiritual things; the pleasures of the flesh are vulgar, unrefined, even with an element of beastliness about them, although flesh tints have the succulence of peaches because flesh plus skin equals sensuality.'

Angela Carter