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Edmund White Print E-mail

Villa dei Misteri, 1984

A bare foot, exposed on a swelling bulge, suddenly bulks large; in a dark fold, a woman secretly begins a neat incision into her own lean stomach. In another piece, figures drawn in red are hung like skinned martyrs along the wall. Within a day an entire room can be filled with these harrowing figures. In seconds they can be whisked away, evacuated. Portable gods. Lares and Penates. Icons. Or one thinks of Titian’s painting, The Flaying of Marsyas, the gruesome account of the satyr who challenged Apollo to a music contest, lost and was skinned alive by the vengeful god. The curious mixture of lyrical details (the god’s intense application to his job, the ecstatic expression of an instrumentalist striking up his violin) and the brutal facts (the bleeding body, the bucket of blood, the thirsty dog lapping up the blood) remind me of the mood of Kuryluk’s work, at once poetic and horrifying.

Edmund White is a novelist, critic and Professor of Literature at Princeton University, New Jersey.

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