I speak of stones that have always lain out in the open or sleep in their lair and the dark night of the seam. They hold no interest for the archaeologist, artist or diamond-cutter. No one made palaces, statues, jewels from them; or dams, ramparts, tombs. They are neither useful nor famous. They do not sparkle in any ring. Architecture, sculpture, intaglio, mosaic, jewellery have made nothing of them. They belong to the planet’s beginnings, have sometimes come from another star.

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They are not carved in the effigy of anyone, man, beast or fable. The only tools they have known are those that were used to uncover them; the hammer to reveal their latent geometry, the grindstone to display their grain or awaken their dull colours. They have remained what they were, sometimes fresher, more legible, but always in their truth: themselves and nothing else.

I speak of stones older than life itself enduring on cold planets, even after life was fortunate enough to hatch upon them. I speak of stones that need not wait for death and have nothing more to do than allow the sand, the rain, the undertow, the storm, and time to wash over their surface.

Man envies their longevity, hardness, intransigence, and brilliance, their smoothness and impenetrability, remaining whole even when broken. They are fire and water in their own immortal transparency, sometimes witnessed by the iris and sometimes by a breath. They bring purity, cold and distance from the stars, multiple serenities, because they have it in the palm of their hands.

As one who, in speaking of flowers, leaves aside both botany and the art of gardens and bouquets – still has much to say – so, for my part, forgetting mineralogy, discarding the arts that make use of stones, I speak of the naked stones, fascination and glory, where a slower, vaster and more profound mystery than the destiny of a passing species is concealed and at the same time given away.

(ROGER CAILLOIS, Stones, 1966)

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