miners lamp


The light maze and “starry ceiling” in Waterfall isn’t too far from the truth, there are minerals such as sphalerite which can fluoresce for up to 2 minutes after the the source of light energy has been turned off. They glow brilliantly when rubbed or exposed to friction, a property known are triblofluorescence. There are pictures of caves with these minerals and the appearance is stunning. The monsters could use these minerals to create lamps that light up and stay glowing for a tiny bit, enough time to get to the next lantern on the path, in fact it seems that with enough energy in either the form of heat or friction or electricity, or “magical electricity”, you could easily create glowing crystals to dimly light the caves.

Michaux travels via his languages: lines, words, colours, silences, rhythms. And he does not hesitate to break the back of a word, the way a horseman does not hesitate to wind his mount. Language as a vehicle, but also language as a knife and a miner’s lamp. Their utility is paradoxical, however, since they are not employed to foster communication, but rather pressed into the service of the incommunicable. The extraordinary tension of Michaux’s language stems from the fact that it is an undoubtedly effective tool, but its sole use is to bare something that is completely ineffective by its very nature: the state of non-knowledge that is beyond knowledge, the thought that no longer thinks because it has been united with itself, total transparency, a motionless whirlwind.

_Octavio Paz, This is an edited extract from Octavio Paz’s 1967 introduction to the Miserable Miracle by Henri Michaux, published in a new edition this month by New York Review Books. Link