Friday, December 14, 2012

James Bond, Nietzsche and the 'suicide garden'

The toxic Yellow Oleander, from
Blofeld's 'suicide garden' 
I recently had my usual column in the Canberra Times, 'Deep thoughts on nature's way'.

Prompted by Ian Fleming's You Only Live Twice, with its 'suicide garden', I'm exploring the savage garden, with help from Friedrich Nietzsche. A sample:
While in the garden stalking Blofeld, Bond watched a man affected by one of [Blofeld's] prized plants. ''Down the path,'' wrote Fleming, ''came staggering a man, or what had once been a man. The brilliant moonlight showed a head swollen to the size of a football, and only small slits remained where the eyes and mouth had been.'' This grotesque imagery marks Blofeld's garden as a savage, terrifying place - a Disneyland of death, as his wife put it.  
Gardens are often seen as unequivocally good: hospitable, benign, kind. As Sir Francis Bacon wrote in his seminal essay Of Gardens, they're ''the greatest refreshment to the spirits of man.'' Whether it's the Classical ideal of mathematical, military precision, or the Romantic vision of primordial, rambling splendour, gardens are treated as perfections of nature and human nature.  
And indeed, it is nature that is at the heart of their appeal - the cultivated and beautified landscape is where we encounter and enjoy nature at its finest. It offers the ineffable joy of reverie and the sublime, and the tangible goods of food, exercise and economy.  
Blofeld's estate seems to overturn these impressions of a caring universe. His garden presents us with a very different face of nature: indifference at best, and malice at worst. Why?
(Image: J.M. Garg)

1 comment:

aquaduck said...

The pleasure & pain to be found in the garden. The aromatic flower, the thorny stem. In nature we can see beauty…sublimely so, as you write. In its silence it speaks a language for those who hear. In nature I see a maker of intricate detail, organic perfection that reaches heavenward only to fall, wither & fade. The soft strong brilliance of colour like life beneath our skin turns to frail fragments of dust.

A place for humanity & creature alike to dwell, to enjoy its bounty & its maker. The life giving, life sustaining pattern knows the invisible & its curse that says this far you come & no further. Like the powerful ocean & its sound as it meets the lands shoreline (Job 38:11)

What was has been lost, but much remains. What will come again will have no evil, only healing.