|The toxic Yellow Oleander, from|
Blofeld's 'suicide garden'
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)