At the sides of the highway, the children saw the forest: a thick growth of strange trees blocked the view of the plain. Their trunks were very very slender, erect or slanting; and their crowns were flat and outspread, revealing the strangest of shapes and the strangest colours when a passing car illuminated them with its headlights. Boughs in the form of a toothpaste tube, a face, cheese, hand, razor, bottle, cow, tire, all dotted with a foliage of letters of the alphabet.
Italo Calvino, Marcovaldo trans. William Weaver (London: Minerva 1993) p. 37
Franz said, ‘Beauty in the European sense has always had a premeditated quality to it. We’ve always had an aesthetic intention and a long-range plan. That’s what enabled Western man to spend decades building a Gothic cathedral or a Renaissance piazza. The beauty of New York rests on a completely different base. It’s unintentional. It arose independent of human design, like a stalagmitic cavern. Forms which are in themselves quite ugly turn up fortuitously, without design, in such incredible surroundings that they sparkle with a sudden wondrous poetry.’
Sabina said, ‘Unintentional beauty. Yes. Another way of putting it might be “beauty by mistake”. Before beauty disappears entirely from the earth, it will go on existing for a while by mistake. “Beauty by mistake” – the final phase in the history of beauty.’
Franz said, ‘Perhaps New York’s unintentional beauty is much richer and more varied than the excessively strict and composed beauty of human design. But it’s not our European beauty. It’s an alien world.’
Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being trans. Michael Henry Heim (London: Faber and Faber, 1985) p. 97-98