Fiction: “The Artist”, by Dr. Konrad Gunesch

She was still quite a young artist. For half her life, she had worked incessantly on her opus. It was a synthesis of the arts. It was an opera about an artist. She had written a novel, and then extracted the libretto. She had taken her best poems and set them to music. Her best paintings and sculptures would be used as scenery. She would herself act and sing the main part, while directing the whole work.

She knew that the different parts of the work did not compare to the greatest ever works and achievements. But she knew that all the parts were good. She had presented each to different well-known masters, who all found them remarkable pieces within their arts. Their combination in one work would be more than the sum of its different parts. She had a clear idea of how the different elements would unify in harmony in the end. She knew that the result would be something nobody would have seen before.

What she missed most was that she could not talk to anybody about it. Everybody seemed to know her only for her work on her single parts. Some talked to her about her compositions, others about her sculptures, others about her writings, others about her recent acting and singing, and others about her painting. Very few wanted to know about more than one part, even if she made no secret of working on several. The few who learned of her several activities thought of her as obsessed or wasting her life.

She had never found anybody who understood the efforts and sacrifices it had taken to pursue and complete all the different parts. She knew that even in the finished work most people would not recognise that. They would hear, see and read emotions within the features of her painted and sculpted faces and bodies, in the words of her poems, in the melodies of her songs. A few would notice how each part underlined the beauty of the others. Maybe some would see the sense and beauty of the whole.

Even so, it would bring her a well-deserved rest, wealth, and recognition. She had not had a rest for half of her life. When tired of working on one part after a long time, she had recovered by working on another part. She had never had wealth beyond the bare necessities of life. Everything else went into her opus. She had never had recognition for her efforts. She had come to find it almost understandable.

But now it was finished. In the end, it had been worth all the suffering. She knew she had achieved a marvel that had originally seemed impossible even in her eyes. She had given everything she had, and while her work had demanded all she could give, it had taught her everything she could have learned. She had found the answer to the question of who she was.

At dusk, she assembled all the parts of her work in one place. Throughout her silent watch of the night she stood motionless, and enjoyed imagining the harmony of their connection.

With the first light of the new day, she set fire to the site. She watched the flames rise and reach all her work. Before the last flames had burned to the ground, she turned and walked towards the horizon with a sack on her back. It contained the most important tools and books for her arts. She knew she would never come back. For the first time in her life, she felt nothing but relief. She was the only one who needed to know.

Dr. Konrad Gunesch is Associate Professor of International Education and Linguistics at the American University in the Emirates in Dubai. His main research areas, across more than eighty journal, book and chapter publications, are steeped in a transdisciplinary outlook and rooted in international education, cultural identity, language learning, comparative literature, media and film studies, gender studies, environmental economics, and sustainable tourism. He has given over sixty official and invited international keynote presentations at the universities of Harvard, MIT, Oxford, Cambridge, London, Lisbon, Istanbul and Washington in Rome among others, and over a hundred and sixty conference presentations in sixteen languages.

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