Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Gift

The most fascinating book I have probably ever read, recommended by a friend to whom I am indebted now, because of the same - :) - Lewis Hyde's 'The Gift', "the sort of book that you remember where you were, and even what you were wearing, when you first picked it up".

"It is the cardinal difference between gift and commodity exchange that a gift establishes a feeling-bond between two people, while the sale of a commodity leaves no unnecessary connection.

...a gift makes a connection. To take the simplest of examples, the French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss tells of a seemingly trivial ceremony he has often seen accompany a meal in cheap restaurants in the South of France. The patrons sit at a long, communal table, and each finds before his plate a modest bottle of wine. Before the meal begins, a man will pour his wine not into his own glass but into his neighbor's. And his neighbor will return the gesture, filling the first man's empty glass.

In an economic sense nothing has happened. No one has any more wine than he did to begin with. But society has appeared where there was none before. The French customarily tend to ignore people they do not know, but in these little restaurants, strangers find themselves placed in close relationship for an hour or more. 'A conflict exists,' says Lévis-Strauss, 'not very keen to be sure, but real enough and sufficient to create a tension between the norm of privacy and the fact of community...'This is the fleeting but difficult situation resolved by the exchange of wine. It is an assertion of good grace which does away with the mutual uncertainty.'

Spacial proximity becomes social life through an exchange of gifts. Further, the pouring of the wine sanctions another exchange - conversation - and a whole series of trivial social ties unfolds."

Page 58, Chapter 4, 'The Bond', from 'The Gift, How the Creative Spirit Transforms the World', by Lewis Hyde

I found it on Flipkart.

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