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The Psychoanalysis of Fire by Gaston Bachelard

Gaston Bachelard. (Translated by Alan C.M. Ross.) 1968 (reprint ed.);

115 pp. $15.50.

Beacon Press.

Eloquent. Not the physics or ecology, but the poetic imagination of fire. Fire and Respect. Fire and Reverie. Sexualized Fire. Firewater (brandy) and spontaneous combustion. Idealized Fire. Fire and Purity. Original Fire. Now over sixty years old, this short book contains more engaging paragraphs and thoughts about fire than anything before or since. He's pyromantic and perspicacious; thanks, Gaston Bachelard. ?PW

"Fire and heat provide modes of explanation in the most varied domains, because they have been for us the occasion for unforgettable memories, for simple and decisive personal experiences. Fire is thus a privileged phenomenon which can explain anything. If all that changes slowly may be explained by life, all that changes quickly is explained by fire. Fire is the ultra-living element. It is intimate and it is universal. It lives in our heart. It lives in the sky. It rises from the depths of the substance and offers itself with the warmth of love. Or it can go back down into the substance and hide there, latent and pent-up, like hate and vengeance. Among all phenomena, it is really the only one to which there can be so definitely attributed the opposing values of good and evil. It shines in Paradise. It burns in Hell. It is gentleness and torture. It is cookery and it is apocalypse. It is a pleasure for the good child sitting prudently by the hearth; yet it punishes any disobedience when the child wishes to play too close to its flames. It is well-being and it is respect. It is a tutelary and a terrible divinity, both good and bad. It can contradict itself; thus it is one of the principles of universal explanation.

"In one Australian tribe the legend is very amusing, or, rather, it is because a bird is being amusing that it succeeds in stealing the fire. "The deaf adder had formerly the sole possession of fire, which he kept securely in his inside. All the birds tried in vain to get some of it, until the small hawk came along and played such ridiculous antics that the adder could not keep his countenance and began to laugh. Then the fire escaped from him and became common property." Thus, as is often the case, the legend of fire is the legend of licentious love. Fire is associated with innumerable jokes.


ISBN: 0807064610

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