Auturo Perez Reverte writes about beauty and tradition in El Maestro de Esgrima, The Fencing Master, translated from the Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa. His richly descriptive narrative is engaging to read. I am currently on a third book by him – I highly recommend his captivating and perceptive work.
It struck me while reading this passage the other day that I had just witnessed something that strikingly resembled his observation regarding beauty. I watched the arrival of a bride (the novia), in a “boda en la playa” a beach wedding. Well, I don’t know if the services occurred here at the beach but the festivities certainly did, in a spectacular seaside setting. The recognizable traditions of she in her flowing white gown on the arm of her father and the accompanying mariachis in their dress garb made an impressive procession.
Reverte wrote “Beauty, with a capital B, can be found only in the cult of tradition, in the rigorous exercise of those gestures and words that have been repeated and preserved by men down the centuries.” “But we must always remember that beauty resides in preserving precisely what others allow to fall away.” And as I further ponder this, I find that it has profound application to so many things. What Reverte has observed, I can also embrace. It’s the relevance in and appreciation for preserving things as well as skills and customs as did his character, Jaime Astarloa.
Reverte, through Astarloa, refers to the fine art of fencing – a masterful portrayal of the life and times of an aging fencing master clinging to his nearly lost art and other treasures he held dear in his intimate world in Spain in the middle of the 19th century. The sensitivity that Reverte conveys through this insightful man, Astarloa, is potent. Yes, as he sentimentally expresses, this same preservation of beauty and lost art can be found in furniture, decorative accessories, written documents, architectural detail and myriad items that have carefully passed through the ages – their masterful attention to detail and craftsmanship still in evidence.
The lost art of stone masons and fine craftsmanship of so many trades – we are losing them. And so timely that I read this novel now, for the first time, when so recently fencing did lose a master, Bob Anderson, the legendary sword-master and Olympic fencer who fought as Darth Vader in the original Star Wars and who directed many well known movie actors in the finely choreographed moves of their iconic sword fights –swash buckling on the big screen. Anderson was 89.
“Beauty, is in the eyes of the beholder?” Is there not a universal recognition of beauty that transcends individual taste and opinion? The quiet wabi sabi to the crisply refined precision of some things –the graceful carriage to the perfection of mastered moves – I think it’s worth pondering.