04.09.2018. These Notes, and this is a strangely – for a generic name ON THE INTERNET – fitting term for what is not intended for writing, point to sound and light variations more than to what is made of words and what, allegedly, carries meanings. Notes are not blogs, slogs or frogs. Notes do not jump on you. They are indeed points that aim to fix. They also are what one whispers in awe or frustration, they are those hostages of emotion that are not at all about expression; yet, they are to be expressed, if only under the breath in the ear of THE lover, these intimations, imitations, incidentals.
Born out of a long and by now more complicated life than the author has ever desired, these Notes are nonetheless too fleeting to carry any wisdom, to connote in general. They are beyond and aside of a directed gaze, or any direction to that matter. They are not directionals that blink (blinkers). Too soft, too weak, too… ah, occasional and too soon to matter. They are written, yes, still written, but for no particular audience in mind and without any particular purpose. Just so.
06.09.2018. The beginning of a story. It always comes after the light is off and the eyes are firmly closed and not aching any more from too much seeing during the day. Like in when staring outside shifts to staring inside and the inner space gets illuminated. What a show! A pity it is missed by all but the Self and Another Self, a presence on stage and a presence offstage, sitting leisurely in the first row directing the incoming dreams. The title of the story is A Man Who Burnt Hitler. His name is Antoine Swartz. He likes his name. It makes him think that it matches his SS uniform and his darker skin to a ‘T’ (no, of course, he is still very Arian, he passed all the checks, but he comes from the North Eastern German stock (G. Grass’ geography of Flounder comes to mind); hence, his thick black hair, merry freckles around the eyes, and a long lanky figure, you know, the one that is so good for goosestepping – alas, another trite allusion). His parents named him after obscure French politician Antoine Plissart. Like many Germans, they were in love with France. Well, perhaps, but, certainly, not for long. When meeting women, he would introduce himself by saying ‘an-tu-ann,’ stressing the last syllable, only to watch one more fair-haired Fräulein melt and become one less.
Speaking of the Nazis, the daughter of a friend from Boston I used to know years ago (most of the people I used to know qualify nowadays to be called ‘used to know,’ ‘some time,’ ‘former this or that,’ or just ‘ex,’ them being somehow gone as if pushed out of circulation by some relational expiration date), well, this young woman called BMW cars ‘fascist.’ There is something to it if you place the front of the car, its (in)famous two eyed grid, underneath the vanity curl of Antoine’s SS hat in the very spot where the Totenkopf emblem would shine with unambiguous menace. Speaking of which, me digressing again (no wonder my students in the European Far North where I taught the Russian language, gave me the nickname ‘digressor’), I am quite in awe with the collectors of Nazi symbolics: uniforms, war decorations, documents, domestic objects. Why anyone wishes to find, pay, and keep all this morbidity, and in secret mostly? I can see how an otherwise decent person caresses this stuff when alone, daring not to show it to strangers. An acquaintance in Russia I am thinking defined his gruesome interest in ‘all that’ in terms of ‘aesthetics.’ ‘The aesthetics of death,’ I added then. He did not accept. ‘The aesthetics of history,’ he said. ‘Too general,’ I said, and we left it at that, but I still wonder looking at all the books translated and written on the subject in so very many languages occupying (yes, a very proper word for the occasion) two whole shelves at my late father’s dacha (he too was bewitched). I keep the books, but I don’t want to see the titles, and so I turn these books around in such a way as have them face the walls when I am there. In this way I have collection blend into a single discourse, a discourse that still begs the question.
09.09.2018. My partner, who is German, got somewhat perturbed by me starting the Notes with a story about a Nazi. ‘Why do you want to write on this topic?,’ she asked. ‘Why indeed?’ Well, the reasons are several. On the one hand, my protagonist is a generic type of person: quiet, patient, differential, his lookalike exists in every culture, he speaks dozens of different languages and is still recognizable as Antoine. His demeanor – self-assured but unimposing – attracts people, especially people like myself, people who have little patience and run ahead of the train on most personal and formal occasions, quite an unattractive sight, I keep on reminding myself. As a German, I would have been a neurotic German, a German, who wanders looking hunted down, painfully sensitive, unable to deal, faltering under fire. The type is much more pervasive, but much less interesting (I too am much less interesting to myself, but that is also a property of being unable to assume an outside perspective on oneself past the first order of separation – I cannot experience my experience of myself, only that of the Other is available for any in-depth scrutiny, like it always takes me by surprise to be hearing my own voice in a recording).
On the other hand, Antoine is decidedly a cultural subject. He is friendly and open as many young German men I used to know during my almost eight years of living in that country. He is thoughtful and efficient. He does not complain. He stands his ground, but he is not forceful. And not violent. And this is the reason he was noticed by Hitler and was chosen to serve him. Antoine is a person one can rely on. Not in terms of loyalty – no public figure should expect loyalty – but on an everyday level. He would not judge and even his vanity is of a subdued kind. ‘Is he earnest then?,’ my partner asked. ‘I think so.’ I conjure up his image. I am surprised to see that, again, Antoine is very handsome, like Falco is handsome, all these cheek dimples, sleek long hair (I am thinking the younger Falco before drugs and alcohol got under his skin, making him pear-shaped and bedraggled – still a pity, a PITY!) and long seeking fingers of a striptease dancer (Oops, a ‘no’ here: Antoine is sleek, but not seedy; he is a stage presence all right, but only as a second – that is why Hitler chose him from the line of his SS piers; it especially appealed to the Führer that Antoine was not eager to be chosen. Does it mean that he did not care? I don’t know. The story has just begun. He isn’t vain, right. Let’s just wait and see). ‘Is he ambitious?’ ‘No. I don’t think so.’ My favorite Hannah Arendt’s work is ‘Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil.’ Like his master, Antoine was banal but he was not evil. He was just there, the right man at the wrong turn of his country’s history. Consider this: He discharged his gun at a human being only once, and that human being was Hitler.
I have come to realize that dating my entries is redundant because I edit what has already been written all the time (‘Revisator!’) building on the earlier bits by way of footnoting them internally, like in the continuous act of inserting loose change in the premade slot in order to give the whole thing more weight which does not mean more substance. Gambling is never about winning. Sex is never about making children. Revising is a habit, a gesture. Do you think that laws of physics apply to writing?
It has been a long time, writing here: moving between countries helps collect impressions, no doubt, but they are as fleeting as the distances overcame, left behind, forgotten. It is a bit ironic, for most of all my notes belong to small genre; they are not much different than a piece of paper you have just put yourself into by scribbling a few ineligible words. Subsequently, I have tons of constantly disappearing ‘wrotes,’ as I wish to call them. Somewhat derogatory, for organizing my texts happens only on the macro level, they are folk fictions. I cannot go deeper: the foreign language stops me. I should be writing in Russian as well. At home, with my partner and my children, we speak English. Each child knows 5-6 Russian words used perfunctorily in their ‘Okay, I will say something’ manner when I put them on the phone with my mother, who they call ‘babushka’, stressing the middle syllable, and that is all my native tongue means to them. When heard some stranger speak Russian, they say – Hungarian. I don’t mind the association – often, when someone eager for communication here in England would ask me where I am from, I used to say – Hungarian to avoid unnecessary complications, trying to make it easy for myself and for my native interlocutors, but now when England has a fair bit of Hungarians, I decided to switch for a more complex and perhaps confusing identity: Kyrgyz. What? What? Where is it? Is it a language even? Sounds like something that belongs to carpentry: After you are done with Kyrgyz, you can do the first paint of the wall.
As it always happens to digressors, they tend to digress in multiple directions. For example, I would like to present a haiku, the first one I have written since 1994. Moreover, and perhaps a bigger digression deals with the language. The analytic order of the English language makes it easier to write a haiku, but the synthetic Russian cannot be capped when thinking or translating it: the free word order spells out semantic flexibility as well. This is to say, the English translation of haiku has less ability to express its nuances. Without further ado: Oops, – WordPress does not seem to let its publications to appear in other languages.
Then: The sun of March is bright, and the road is mud. The little girl and the old woman, holding hands, venturing out into the unknown. Will they make it?
Sounds like it has no heart, this haiku, in English,. Well, I should try better next time. This little piece comes from Vasiljev’s painting ‘On the Road.’ It reminds me me of my mother who is a lonely soul and who would like to take the road as an opportunity to become the little girl, a favorite grand-daughter for a big family. Now, she is more like the mother of Grendel from John Gardner’s novel. She is trying hard to DO something, anything, for her children, but all she needs to do is to try and UNDERSTAND them in all their difference. Alas!
Speaking of children, I have three of them. The middle one looks just like myself. But I understand him the least. He is an astoundingly handsome boy (here: not necessarily like me), but, like myself, he is strangely detached, a ‘thing of his own,’ as my former friend said about me when I was in my twenties. He is an enigma, reminding of Fowls and his ‘Enigma,’ a story about a strange disappearance of a well-to-do businessman, who, already in his fifties, didn’t come home one day. Gone for good in a flash. I read the story thirty years ago, but it still resonates with me.
When one is living through their fifties, he often has to face one or another existential crisis, which reminds me the character of Otto-the-postman from Tarkovsky’s ‘Nostalgia’ speaks about waiting for something to happen in the opening scene. Waiting for something. When it doesn’t come, this something, this event, warrants a disappearance, and myself, one of many of that age, who cannot help but wait for an event that would justify their entire life, their living, to be more exact, when tired of waiting, go some place. I yearn to know about this place. I imagine it to be deeply covered in snow, a remote place. I see a dog, a big German shephard, an old Russian hut in need of much repair, but most of all, it has to be so remote, so lonely, that that the very idea of loneliness would dissipate at the moment of the inability to stand up and proceed.
There is no duty, no hardship, even love in this place. It is entirely white, empty of human presence, and even a dog is more of a decoration.
When you old, and at 55 I feel old, decorations, more precisely things, become burdensome as if all you want is an colorless expanse that will eventually devour you, making you one with them. The question that leads to this imaginary place is the fundamental one: Why should or rather ought to continue living? Or, more technically, how can one turn into snow, wind, earth? How can one become an elemental?
This digression does not mean that I forgot about my character and his short but dutiful life. After all, it is him, at not so advanced age, set fire on the most hated man on earth. But these notes will not reveal the reasons – there are none – for that deed. He too disappeared like a dark angle whose only purpose was to eliminate a monster. In the meantime, he polishing his beautiful long boots, ready to assume his duty as Hitler’s adjutant, just appointed in the lowest rank, whistling, as was his habit, Polka, and looking forward to appear in all his orderly immpecable self. As I wrote before, he had no fear, no morals of the usual kind. A blank slate, one could see him already gone, as he will be very soon.
When I tam thinking of Antoine, and I am doing it fairly often, I wonder if he traveled a lot, or even some. I am sure he was confined to Germany, to Berlin throughout most of his life. I also think he was not particularly unhappy about it, given how he was in the world. Myself, I consider myself a seasoned traveler, but I am still excited at the prospect of taking a journey. Journey is movement and movement makes me think. Shukshin’s story ‘ comes to mind: ‘. I always take a book with me, but I rarely engross myself in reading when I travel: the print serves as a distraction a way to channel my thoughts which tend to run amok against the perceptual overload of smells, sights, and people. Flight 2583 London Heathrow to Moscow Sheremetyevo. I have flown to Moscow hundreds of times from the United States and Europe. I am travelling from Brighton, a ‘relaxed’ place, a place, where people wear shorts and sandals to departmental meetings, and where everyone, who is not gay, looks like gay, and gays sport their looks to the extreme. The weather (Oh, no, I am talking about the weather again, but how can one not talk about the weather if it is so very dismal that you either bitch about it all the time, a legitimate topic to complain about is a country, where people think it is bad taste to complain to begin with, or pretend that it is not there: wearing nothing but a T-short is an expected sight at all times, – rain, storm, and slit, tornado and Tsunamis included) is a mix of the sun and strong cold wind coming from the English Channel. I arrive early and have to stand for a while at the bus stop, slowly freezing my extremities. The stop consists of a single pole with a picture a bus and a few glass panels thrown together in a manner which does not really protect travellers from the elements but creates an impression of doing so. A thoughtfully designed – so as to dissuade the homeless – narrow, very narrow and uncomfortable to sit on bench is sticking out in the middle. They call it Pull Valley Coach Station, but there is no food stand or coffee machine or any of the usual amenities that a station would presuppose. An elderly English couple is standing next to me, apparently freezing as well, trying to smile, mumbling about their discomfort through their bad teeth. Their complaints are barely audible; they are not meant for others (unless they are already in a conversation – then, it is legit). The bus to Heathrow is already there. It is sitting at the station saying Out of Service. The bus driver is inside. We all, about ten of twelve of us, know it, but patience is a virtue in the UK. We are waiting. Five minutes before the departure time, I move back and start pacing. As a foreigner, I am allowed not to be patient. At some point I line up with a short black man who sees my impatience and start talking to me. He speaks with a strong Nigerian accent, – another foreigner. I tone down my artificial English and start speaking with a generic American accent. He gladly responds. In a fast and irritated voice he tells me about him having to stand where he is standing, in ‘the dumm carner,’ while the bus-driver is sitting comfortably in the bus and so on and so forth. I give him the usual, trying not to cross the invisible boundary of criticizing the native, using the generic ‘these people,’ ‘the guy’, etc. ‘These people burn me up,’ I say. From a stock of set responses, this one works very well, giving the other person an opportunity to blast ‘these people’ out of their comfort zone. I purse my lips the Obama style and nod and nod and nod. We are revelling in our ‘alien’ togetherness. We are ranting at will, happily ignoring the rules of appropriateness, forgetting about ‘good manners’ and stock behavioural patterns in the country which used to set the highest standards of politeness and good will for all. We are having a ball, the Nigerian, who is by now speaking so fast that I can barely understand him and myself, the Russian, who has happily given up on pretending that he participates by taking his turn. It is enough for me to attend to him, and, in this way, to share the comradership of bitching, that commonness that only the natural born outsiders know. A fat girl and a nerd boy, back in school. Remember? Finally, on the dot of the departure time, the driver walks out. He smiles and tells us in a pretend apology that he arrived late (too much traffic) and had only 20 minutes to rest instead of 45 minutes that he is entitled to take, but he is ready to go and will not compromise the schedule. He says all that as he is taking our luggage, checking our tickets, chatting about Swansea, greeting the familiars. The Nigerian guy and myself are standing aside when we hear all that, and as we do, a transformation occurs in both of us. Our embarrassment is such that it immediately divides us. We are no longer looking at each other and instead of playing out a distinct possibility of sitting together, we go our separate ways: he rushes into the bus and I linger to let him settle. Then I walk in, passing by him without saying a word. Every alien for himself, I am thinking. Once on the bus, I buckle up to show my good will to driver and remain buckled for the two hour plus trip, feeling like I am making amends for my hasty judgement of a nice English man.
A bad taste still in my mouth, I walk inside the airport only to feel that my irritation thermometer begins to climb. The English may not be xenophobic, but they are decidedly not interested in a cultural other. They go on their five week-long vacations a year to have the sun and the sea and almost never a culture, a museum, a trip to the opera. Food (being so very palate numbed after a life-long diet of fish and chips and god knows what other deep fried shit that they eat, the English care less about food than any other nation I personally know – the Russians, the Belgians, the French, the Italians, the Americans, and the whole East European schmogarsboard), but mostly pubs where they guzzle pints of bear on regular days and weekends alike, arranging their entire life and work schedules around a pint. Occasionally, they ask you about your accent, but they are not taking the info you give them anywhere. Unlike the Americans (I know, I know, – I am dangerously stereotypical, but I do believe and I did argue for cultural stereotypes to be inalienable from one’s everyday existence), the English do not pick up on what you give them, not even with ‘I was in Russia in 1971,’ or ‘What do you think about Putin?’ as would be an expected response from an American. They do not pretend to try and affiliate with you. ‘Oh, Russian. That’s all right’ is the most common response I have heard in my five years of living in that country. ‘Of course it is all right,’ I want to say, but say nothing. Silence is the foreigner’s best friend. Yet, I am not irritated by the English. I am irritated by the sheer diversity without diversity that I see. The English are just the background
On the plane, which is surprisingly empty (long live the Russian-English collapse of mutual good will!), I start looking forward to my entitlement, my miniature dinner. ‘What is it going to be?,’ I am musing to myself. ‘Lamb? Chicken? Fish?’ Whatever it is, I know I deserved it. After I washed down my entire take-in (a hard-boiled egg, half of banana and a free apple from a posh restaurant I took my family for my oldest son’s 12 year birthday) at the Indian-run Nero) before going through the gate, I am ready, baby ,for my tiny white bun and a slice of Russian black bread with cheese and butter and a mystery entre. The joys of miniaturism…(oh, well, later about that and ‘no’, it is not going to something straight from The Fight Club). So, I am thinking about my meal, I do have a distinct difficulty concentrating. Right behind me, two clever Moscow ‘boys’ (for my age; in fact they are well in their twenties) are conducting that very familiar kind of banter that would often make me feel lost in college. I am neither fast nor clever. I tend to fall hopelessly behind. That is why I do not do banter, I say to myself. I write banter. It is not what they say to each other however, but how they do it that is getting to me, making my skin crawl in irritation.
I also wonder, to move to a different subject matter concerning Antoine, if my character was a quiet child. Yes, in fact, he was. Not just quiet but introspective, focusing on small things, on the things at hand. It is for that reason that he did not have many friends and none imaginary ones. He was entirely self-sufficient in his observing mode: neither good nor bad but precisely self-sufficient as in being independent from others. This does not mean however that he was independent from everything. As I have said, he was dependent on his environment to an extent that made him appear detached as he was but only from his socium. I was also detached as a child and also was attached to my environment, but, unlike Antoine, I loved my little toys, especially Playmobil figurines, which came into my life just at the right time. These figurines were not imaginary but their lives were that. Miniature worlds became me. Even when I walked, I walked with my head down, looking the ground, seeking out tiny little things that I would collect and use for my worlds. None of this was happening to my sons who, if anything, are very outword-bound and totally uninterested in anything miniature, including collections.
Telephone for Speaking with God
There is a certain awe one experiences when he sees a red phone on the table of a head of state. A direct line to another head of state, which I presume not any state but the one whose head has the red button and a bunch of nuclear arms in his possession. What can possibly surpass the power of this kind of communication. Well, my son Luka has recently found himself a relic. Of course, nobody could expect a relic to be a pice of wood of approximately size of a small brick: 10x3x4 cm. It was peculiar: it looked like a piece of an old ship that got shipwrecked centuries ago: well-polished by the elements, it was both smooth and porous. Its original purpose was unknown. Against our rule – no stones, sticks, seagull feathers–to be brought in the house, we felt differently about this object. It appeared to be harmless and hygienwise—passable, so it was all right for Luka to bring it home. It was a mysterious object nonetheless, and we wondered about its use, talked about it; yet, we quickly forgot about it until one day, a week or so later, we caught Luka upstairs in his big brother’s bedroom talking to someone holding the piece of wood next to his ear, just like a cellphone. It was at this point that we realized that he indeed uses it as a phone, talking, as the title of this note has already given away, to–God. We did not know at first, thinking an imaginary friend, but Luka’s confidence and his continuation of talking despite our presence, made us ask after he was done with the common phone talk closure, as in Okay. Buy buy. Who it was that was on the other end of the phone, Luka, we asked, expecting a response pointing to a Marvel hero or another such character. It was not such a character, however. As soon as we found out, we became flabbergasted. Neither one of us is religious and neither one of us likes to discuss God unless it is for academic purposes. Two things stood out immediately: God is not an imaginary friend, therefore how come? Second, Luka’s confidence and his sense of privacy were of the level we have been unfamiliar with before. Our investigation yielded the following: God was Luka’s personal friend. So, our original suggestion that God cannot be such was simply overthrown. Second, as for the content of Luka’s conversations, Luka simply said that it was his business. Even more flabbergasted, we suggested that perhaps we can improve his phone: I thought that panting buttons and a screen would be god, and maybe a soft plastic antenna could be also good. To this, Luka esponded that the phone must remain as is, throwing us back in another wondering spin, but nothing much happened since then. A year later, Luka still talks to God and the ‘phone’ is still there, resting on his shelf in the little ones’ bedroom.
Why Tarkovsky? Why is it that I am laboring so much over a book that is doomed to be complicated and hardly unique. Perhaps the reason for this is the same reason that made me cry when I watched ‘Mirror’ for the first time at the age of fifty five. My childhood, my family, my life passed before my eyes zeroing in on the last scene: the field, the twilight, the cross, the passing. Now that I am looking back, I remember how I encountered Tarkovsky for the first time in 1980 at a closed viewing of his Stalker in the House of Cinema in Moscow. The film produced a strong and lasting impression on myself, a young adult, who was in a continuous search for new sources of self-betterment. Tarkovsky’s cinema appeared to offer such a source. My preliminary research thirty years ago (confined mostly to Soviet journal Iskusstvo Kino [Cinema Art]) yielded only several publications by Tarkovsky and about him. The latter were largely negative, creating a strong dissonance to my experience. I saw Solaris in 1985, in the early days of ‘perestrojka,’ when many ‘shelved’ films started making it out from film archives into the open. I found Solaris as captivating; moreover, I found it deeply ‘philosophical,’ although then I understood the term in the mundane sense.
A new rubric for these notes. I have abstained from using it, for it is a diaries rubric: I have it in all my little notebooks, some of which were purchased and others – given to me as gifts. I will try and move those proper diary notes in here, with much editing of course. In the meantime, the new rubric is better be called ‘projects.’ There are so many. And this is one thing that differs me from Antoine. He hardly had projects. He was certainly clever and pensive, a good observer in a primitive, that is, more advanced than an intellectual could ever be, way. Yet, he harbored no projects. Hitler felt it and chose him intuitively, as a doer, an actor without a role. Babylon Berlin is a German series whose lead actor (name) is precisely like Antoine. Oh, yeah, the project I need to put down here is a linguistic one. It is inspire by W. Saphire’s rubric on language (more). This one is about the marketing diminution of those names that came to associate not just with a particular product but because of their uniqueness at the time – with a whole of products – Xerox, Hoover, WhatsApp. Now that WhatsApp is rethinking its name, it became clear that none cares the company that begot the name. Moreover, it became less than it ‘should’ be. How come? Well, this is what the project is about. There are also words that sound ‘yeam’ and thus they travel into the other’s tongue. For example, foreignisms ‘komponent’ or ‘platforma.’ Put’ is an endemic Russian word that is also one way of putting it, but the foreignisms somehow make a difference in the vocal or phonetic quality as to stay within a foreign language as a host.
Another rubric. This one deals with the intercultural component of my being. This time the most present foreign culture for me, my immediate xenos, the English (mind you – Antoine, despite all their efforts, his frankophilic parents did not make him international, that is, he remained essentially a German, a local. TA deficit turned proficit: there was some purity about him, some innocence), and so I will now and then throw in my observations of this very alien culture. I would like to begin however with a strange similarity between the Russians and the English (the Anglo-Saxons) – their interest in the existential question. They are essentially, and the Germans join in here, existential cultures. One does not have to go too far to find non-existential ones in contrast. I shall explain.
Thinking of a friend of mine who built her entire life on someone else’s privilege. How can one possibly do that and remain a good human being at the same time?
The British journalism has not changed its key modality (tonality, stylistics), so much laughed at and mimicked by Monty Python, in the last fifty years.
Antoine was enjoying his bath. Hot and fluffy from the French soap the water gave him immense pleasure. it also covered him fully. He felt dressed. He liked to be dressed at all times. A man of pleasure is a man of good measure, repeated Antoine. Who was that man, that philosopher who said that? Khm. Difficult to tell if you had only a secondary school education and even that of a highly reductive kind.
Antoine’s best friend was a woman. This shall not be surprising given that barely perceptible effeminate trait about him. Less surprising was that his friend, Christina, was slightly older and somewhat crude. If she lived in this day and age, she would have been wearing unlaced boots under a long heavy skirt over wide hips. Short legged, flat chested with long thin disheveled brown hair, she looked like a poor fit to Antoine’s smooth and gaunt demeanor, his blue eyes (hers were light hazel). When Antoine’s colleague saw for the first time in a small cafe in Steglitz, he mistook her for a cheap prostitute who came up to their table looking for some action. Worn out shoes, unfresh nylons, and even her smell (strawberry soap) would easily explain his mistake. He was so stunned, that poor chap, when he found out that she was Antoine’s ‘woman friend’ that he forgot to fake embarassment but kept on staring at her in sheer disbelief.
She was out of place in that café as she would be out of place everywhere. Antoine’s friend snickered. Yes, he was one of those ‘staring,’ ‘snickering’ Germans. It was not until Kristina sat down – on the edge of the chair – and started speaking that the friend (Gerhard – for the sake of variety) underwent a complete transformation. One should have seen his gaping mouth and raised eyebrows and something entire new about his attitude: reverence. It was her voice. Molassy, flowing slowly into your ears like honey. Exactly like honey. Antoine pulled a whimsical look. He knew what he was showing. He was proud of his find. He was a collector not of things but of oddities. Kristina stood high up on his rather diverse list. A stoic in his everyday routine, Antoine was a grand collector of people’s character traits. If Kristina’s vice were of opera quality, it would have not produced the same impression as it did now – it mesmerized Gerhard into submission. “A simple mind,” thought Antoine about him. Actually, what he thought was: “An idiot.” His friend did not pass the test of encountering wonder. Poor chap, said Antoine, as he probably said before on similar occasions many times, snap out of it. Kristina stopped speaking as if Antoine’s remark literary turned her off. Gerhard snapped out of it. With a sound – a long laborious outbreath – Oooph. Indeed, – it was hard work listening to Kristina. Attending to her had something physical about it. Like sex. Only Antoine would not know: He made sure there was no hanky-panky with his exhibits. It would be dangerous.
I keep on thinking about wrong things. As in ‘wrong-wrong.’ This kind of thinking-circular, viscous, miniscule-is domesticating my brain. It prevents me from seeing far or deep, keeps me on the surface level, and it is very frustrating to live that kind of life. I am trying to battle it with reading poetry or Dostoyevsky. Oh, man, that curse of every literate Russian–Dostoyevsky! So disturbing, so very addictive. One does not read him, one gets poisoned by him. Nabokov has a beautiful poem dedicated to Feudor Mikhajlovich: “As Christ was walking in the Garden..” But was Dostoyevsky really able to see Beauty in a pile of filth? I cannot sleep if I read The Idiot at bed time. Same with Tsvetayeva. My mind cannot process the complexity of her images in that state. I feel totally screwed.
11.01.2020. One of the effects of losing a loved one, when the loss is entirely unexpected and not justified by age or illness, or other leading circumstances are sand dreams. Dreams still happen, but they are not just interrupted as would be expected. They are given in such low resolution that one can perceive nothing in the foreground, not figures, but only the distant and undefined background, with indistinct shapes moving against this porridge of the horizon. The sandy taste in the mouth contributes to the sensation of being inside the sand pit.
I wonder if writing in English does not defy the purpose of these Notes. It is like telling about what’s important to the wind. Laborious…
12.01.2020. Reading Brodsky. I dislike listening to him read his poems. The singing element in his voice is annoying. I’d rather listen to Frolova sing him. Going through old letters. Some are impossible to throw away. Out of many lives lived by me, no one life can claim some of their authors. They transcend all these lives. Brodsky was wrong when he said/wrote that in order to forget a life, one has to live through another. I don’t remember myself at 30 any longer. I recognize myself in the pictures, but I don’t remember how I was. A swash-buckler? Really? That guy? Brodsky wrote about aging at 32. I properly felt it at 50. However, he died at 55. Does it mean I will live to 70? Funny it is – the mathematics of age.
13.01.2020. It is Old New Year in Russia. How very depressing, this combination – ‘old new year’, certainly worse then another one. The one that is gone was the hardest…I just discovered (when re-reading old letters) that I had friends who were my friends only so that they would watch me fall. Standing there while I was balancing my way out of a fall, watching for it to happen. What would they have done if I really fell? I did not live to find out. At some point all of them drifted away – to watch someone else, no doubt.
Watched pretty boy Aussi’s Neil Robertson lose to Stephen McGuire in snooker at the this year’s Masters. So sad. I rarely go for a pretty boy in competition. I like the underdog. As in Smila’s Sense of Snow: I celebrate the fat girl. Here, too. At first. But Neil was vulnerable. McGuire was fat and bold and altogether not friendly-looking. But what a character! Neil was a bit cocky tho. He was leading 5 to 1 and needed the last one to win, but then one awkward ball and the match went to hell. I don’t watch sports. I watch snooker. Something about the activity of rolling balls on a table. And the human element of course. Got hooked up when alone in Belgium. Also Masters. And UK Championship. So dramatic and so .. stupid, in a way. Like this style of writing notes – indulgent and ..stupid. Rolling, rolling, rolling balls.
23.01.2020. When my niece died, I thought that if the world would stop now it would be because of her. Imagine a novel written about a huge disaster, a world crisis, an apocalypse, all that because of one person who had to part the world that way, with billions of other lives.
16.01.2020. These notes are turning into a cease pool for unprocessed emotions. You dump – you feel better. Automatically. They are also becoming more and more like diary entries. Not that I am forgetting about Antoine. He is very much on my mind. Especially recently. Actually, with all this reading of literature that I do these days I cannot help but wonder about the presence of literature in the everyday. For example. The recent death of a loved one has spawned all sorts of estrangements. I have already mentioned dreams. In general, it is about an new reality. Not surreal, as in the underlining of reality, but a new reality that a trauma brings about. The everyday is no longer there to provide a cushion. So, you have visions and other phenomena caused by the perceptual deficit. But then literature kicks in so strongly and unexpectedly. And there is plenty venue: death, formalities of it, funeral, wake, second wake. New people. The people who know how to grieve and the people who don’t. Exposed people and characters. Yourself, if you care to do self-analysis on the spot, or in situ as anal-retentive conversation analysts love to call it. So, literature. Poetry starts coming to mind. From the recesses of memory you get visitations by bits and pieces of poetry learnt ages ago. Old folks have it anyway, but here it it much more vivid. Then comes prose. The Russian literature fits this mode very well. It is character literature. So, Tolstoy, Chekhov and Dostoyevsky. The Triad of Big Psychologists. A Russian person is stuck between them, and the choices are both vastly fulfilling and limiting.
15.04.2020. After I have read one of Franzen’s biographical essays (on Peanuts), I got excited and ordered a Peanuts desk calendar only to find out that if one is to examine Schulz’s humour closely, he could quickly see that his is a lack of humour, confirming that essentially children are not funny. They are before comism and before morality. However, what can be made funny is their relationality is grotesque and their use of the adult language in children’s situation is funny. My children did not like Peanuts: boring.
16.04.2020. I must say, Corona does affect writing. In the situation when future is suspended in so many ways, time slows down to a halt, and space shrinks to a room or apartment, writing suffers from a lack of purpose and inspiration. Even academic writing boils down to inserting quotes. The Corona malaise colours all other writing activities in the shades of the mud. Dreams are coloured in equally somber tones. They are also very inwardly set: labyrinths, abandoned hotels, repetitive action, faceless characters. A deep sigh of relief signifies the end of Corona dreams in the morning.
20.04.2020. Tarkovsky would not have been able to make a film based on Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita (he wished). The director had a remarkable lack of irony. He was mythopoetic through and through.
19.04.2020. Atologist, who studies characters, and ethnologist, who studies peoples, justify examination of stereotypes about national character if morality is not evoked in conclusion. For example, the tiptoeing of the English before attributing blame to its own. doing things on their own terms sometimes overrides the politeness imperative. The hands-off approach to child rearing is often linked to politeness as a desirable trait to learn. Here, – for the sake of the parents.
21.04.2020. Playmobil has just launched Playmobil face masks (it proudly announced – Not a Toy!). 1£ from the sale of each mask goes to emergency services (Red Cross). They look cute. Mask a fashion statement and mass product. No heroes, one face.
24.04.2020. Corona is an event which I have not known before. A different kind of plague. has not been imagined. Not by sci-fi writers. Not in Outbreak, 12 Monkeys, the X-Files. It is an unfathomable event. It can be interpreted only by our reactions to it, which are inevitably self-contradictory. A unity (nation, city, family, relationship) is juxtaposed to a disunity (self- and other-isolation), proximity versus distance. Anecdotally – the Vietnamese suggest to fight Corona by using the blood of black cats. Logically correct – Corona comes from bats. A cat catches mice (bats). The cat is the destroyer of bats; therefore, a part of it should function as a token, a pharmakon. The semiotics of Corona.
29.04.2020. The amount of inspirational, mediational, motivational blog-blah-logy about Corona is astounding. Why does one feel the need to inspire the other during hard times? Corona is a problem. It is not a cause for grieving en ensemble. It needs to be solved. No wonder one leader of one country refused to let more whaling nurses during video conferences to pontificate on their suffering, which is so common that I cannot help but wonder about another need: to mythologize those ‘in the frontlines’ (curious term – essential worker). A person who does their job, who is professionally obligated, and as is the case with medical workers, obligated by oath (like the military), does not have to be admired just for doing their job. And all that amidst recommendations by another leader of another country to drink or inject dysinfectant. In the meantime, the third leader watches Home Alone during his convalescence and, as it is common for the country, eats chips with tea.
30.04.2020. In Azerbajdzhan they closed fitting rooms but not shops. Speakign of half-measures (another pandemia term).
01.05.2020. In English schools, distant learning offers meditational classes, replacing intercorporeal sociality with inner corporeal retreat. Only 70 per cent of students do distant learning as in sending schools homework. A cool world of distant learning it was described by a Russian mom is a severe misconception from the pedagogical standpoint. As much as blogging is not literature, online learning is not education. Internet pornography is not sex. A part of it, but never it. Apocalyptic scenarios of a more than severe lockdown kind may teach us that. No Internet – no distant learning. Do you really want you child’s education be dependent of the mode this education is given?
02.05.2020. An eminent virosologist from Germany found out that children eject as much capillary liquid as adults, yet they do not infect others as much. Well, a phenomenologist who knows much about corporeality would immediately note – children are small. Their height does not allow them to spread at the infectionable height. Actually, a correction is in order (07.05.2020). This very virologist was highly critiqued for the blind spots in his study, to which, he rightfully responded, I admit, that Media reported on his inconclusive findings as conclusive, – something that Media seems to do more than ever in the time of pandemic uncertainty and lack of precedent.
03.05.2020. Performing the everyday in an highly attentive manner is a way of normalizing it toward a new ordinary.
06.05.2020. In the context of Corona, one sees many lives as meaningless, many people as selfish, many communities, nations as sham-ful. Nothing good will ever come out of these revelations.
08.05.2020. A friend of mine is heavily engaged in esoterics and pre-philosophical mysticism, especially on the issue of reincarnation and life after death. i am sympathetic, but with a caveat. I have a sense (experienceable) that we are already living other lives, as in others, as in parallel lives, but not as doubles, although those are also possible, but as in fragments, parts, angles, features, sides, detail, etc. It is somehow soothening to know that there is community or generation of you.
09.05.2020. Adjacently – to the above – I feel surrounded by the same kind of person who likes me and who dislikes me. Different countries, different ages, different contexts, but the type is the same. Now, with parallel lives of your own, it would make sense to assuem there are also parallel contexts, would it not?
10.05.2020. In writing the most important for me is not lexics but syntax.
11.05.2020. Corona is not a tragic event. It has an entirely different sense about it. It has created a genre which knows no precedent. If one wants to enact the event in its own genre, one will be lost. One can get to it somewhat by analyzing the emotional response it evokes. For myself, this response is largely disappointment: in myself, my people, my country, the world I live in, mass media, food, friends, relations, communication. This kind of disappointment is beyond complaint. It is not a kin of depression either. It is just there as a beaten up flag hanging limp from a bent rusty pole in front of what used to be a castle, a fortress, a home. We have not won yet, but we have already been beaten.
13.05.2020. Been watching The Walking Dead a lot. On Amazon Prime. It is a very disturbing series, but I am drawn to it: must be bad taste. On a different level: the set-up f the series allows for an immense variety of dramatic action. I very much commend the script-writing team and the director. Still – my dreams after an evening episode are guaranteed to be horrifying. I had these dreams before but never with zombies. The zombies are actually less scary than the characters like the Governor. Good acting too.
16.05.2020. My sister’s adopted daughter Vasilisa got a real play house (sleeps two) for a birthday gift (she turned 7). The house came preassembled and required a crane for it to be put over the fence. Vasilisa was disappointed. She wanted a pony. When I was 7 I received 3 matchbox cars and a set of plastic toy Indians. I was delirious from happiness. I have always been into miniature things.
17.05.2020. I have realized what my book on Tarkovsky is missing the most. My Tarkovsky is two-dimensional. I am yet to flesh him out. My bio about him is as bland as okroshka. All that kvas.
18.05.2020. The setup for The Walking Dead (WD) allows the director to introduce new characters pretty much every season, while keeping the core group only marginally altered. Bad actors can be killed off and new actors can be tried on the site. With all this, the set can remain unchanged in principle and therefore perfected: abandoned, semi-destroyed, desolate. The same can be said about zombies. Their makeup is getting better and better with every season. There is also some constancy introduced, some rules as to how they move, what they eat, how they bite. Killing a zombie becomes as much of a televisual martial art as karate used to be. I am very impressed with the cinematic potential of the series. On a more intelligent note, it is painful to watch WD already because the Corona crisis has the traces of what could have come in a real apocalyptic event in terms of the human behavior basics. As in being selfish versus altruistic, as in waking up the seven deadly sins and let them rule.
19.05.2020. Strangely, and since everything is strange and outwordly these days, I began to think about the mental health of pets, that is, those happy pets that are used to be alone at home, waiting at the door or on the couch, pining after their absent masters, the pets with an established routine, that is, well-adjusted pets. So comes the lockdown and turns the balanced worlds of these good obedient creatures upside down, making them want attention where they did not have any, making them want to be taken care of immediately and all the time, becoming spoiled in the course of a week. And then, if such heightened attention got bestowed on them lose it all two months later, and, with it, their sanity. So sad. A good day for pet therapists tho. Just like a good day for human therapists. The latter already have their hands full no doubt with all the on-lining whining a trained mind can stomach.
20.05.2020. My son Nik is arbitrarily competitive. In a competition he tends to move away, not toward. He is a congenial character: has much of his father in him. Makes it both easy to see but difficult to interpret and impossible to predict.
21.05.2020. Classification of sexuality depending on the ‘relational’ body.
22.05.2020. Small genre project should include conversational genres: stories (scary stories), set responses, other devices. Translatability of certain personalities: ‘I am not able to gauge him.’ The cats (Lulu and Myshkin) are not translatable but can be easily laughed at. Quid pro quo in myths and fairy-tales.
25.05.2020. A new historical consciousness is being born out of having whole nations locked down. On the one hand, this consciousness should enhance the sense of national belonging. On the other hand, it unites us all in the face of the common – for the world crisis. A new cosmopolitan is being born. This – what I have just said – is not at all interesting.
26.05.2020. More interesting are observations of the English who are emerging quite weary of the stereotypical attitude of SCACO as it has been applied to comply and apply it not to comply. However in order to justify the transition they have to pretend that the pandemic is no longer. The current government understands it – what good would a politician be if he didn’t? – and plays along: lifting quarantine in a gradual, or not so gradual, fashion.
27.05.2020. Antoine has to wait. Should not be hard: he is currently in training. His teacher, title-rank-title Herr Max (solid name, people like it, as it connotes fundamentality) Krowitz (not so good, but passable for the pure blood line minded agency in Berlin) is good at what he does. And what he does is to turn a superiority attitude into skill.
28.05.2020. When I asked my youngest child why it is in his mind that a wolf would not care about a squirrel, he said it would be “unreasonable” to do so.
29.05.2020. Communications between Snoopy and the little yellow bird are enveloped in frustration. Their interactions make for the worst humour in the series. Humour cannot be pushed – pardon the pun – here goes the little yellow bird. Writing good instructions is quite an art. I just saved one for assembly and one for preparing food (duck). Not just sequence but emphasis and allowables are essential. The colour in fashion these days is ‘tired silver.’ Go figure. My mom keeps on asking: Who could profit from COVID-19? After hearing her question for the 220th time, I volunteered: The same people who profited from AIDS. She got very upset. She wanted to hear names, even if the names of countries, organizations, races.
30.05.2020. My youngest is going through the making of potions stage. His favorite is ‘it makes your teeth yellow’ potion and ‘you smell like fish and cannot get the smell out’ potion. Well, he is barely seven. I should make a desktop calendar. A small genre calendar. That last taxi driver, that Uzbek taxi driver in Moscow, the one whose wife is an invalid – he was administered both potions by a wizard. I wonder what it was that he did. Must be ‘misdirection’… Khi-khi. Tanja has made a nice observation about Corona sides, such as not shaking hands. She said that it feels weird a lot of times to shake a hand with a thick wedding ring. Even holding such a hand, as for example, my mother’s is a shareable experience to me. Corona should have a theme song. And a dance. Better a cheer dance. With those…girls. Khi-khi. How about writing an article on Tarkovsky, nabokov and Shemyakin (this WP editor is good – he recognized all three names and corrected my Shemyakin). No, not because they were all dissidents (immigrants), but because they exercised mythopopetic literality. YOU know what I mean. The Cheshire cat, the Simpsons ‘stray’ cat, and Garfield have much in common: they don’t give a damn, just like Myshkin.
Tomorrow. The American literature of the 20th century does not know character. It is all about context. It is close to film because of that. To the American film, I must add. To their own genre. The superhero is the American character par excellance. It tries to be a character, to have a character. Corona awakened the spirit. Hegel. Marx. Derrida.