Collected Prose [PDF] [ucpk7742lu00] (2023)

PAUL AUSTER Collected Prose, Autobiographical Writings, True Stories, Critical Essays, Prefaces, and Artistic Collaborations



The Death of Sir Walter Raleigh Aurora Borealis CRITICAL ESSAYS The Art of Hunger New York Babel Dada Bones Truth, Beauty, Silence From Cakes to Stones The Poetry of Exile Innocence and Memory Book of the Dead Reznikoff ×2 The Bartlebooth Torlies

Prefaces Jacques Dupin André du Bouchet Black on White Twentieth-Century French Poetry Mallarmé's Son Walking a Tightrope Translator's Note The National Story Project A Small Anthology of Surrealist Poems The Art of Invisible Care Joubert Hawthorne at Home OCCASIONS A Prayer by Salman Rushdie Appeal to the Governor of Pennsylvania Best Substitute for War Reflections on a Cardboard Random Notes: September 11, 2001 - 4:00 p.m. m. underground 3


Portrait of an invisible man

In your search for the truth, be prepared for the unexpected, as it is hard to find and mysterious when you find it. Heraclitus One day there will be life. A man, for example, in excellent health, not elderly, with no history of disease. Everything is as it was, as it always will be. He goes from one day to the next, minding his own business and dreaming of the life that awaits him. And then suddenly death comes. A man lets out a small sigh, falls into the chair and is death. Haste leaves no room for thought, does not give the mind a chance to find a word of comfort. We are left with nothing but death, the irreducible fact of our own mortality. We can accept death after a long illness with resignation. We can even attribute accidental death to fate. But a human being who dies for no apparent reason, a human being who dies simply because he is human, brings us so close to the invisible line between life and death that we no longer know whose side we are on. Life becomes death, and it is as if death had possessed that life all along. death without warning. In other words, life stops. And you can stop at any time. * The news of my father's death reached me three weeks ago. It was Sunday morning and I was in the kitchen preparing breakfast for my son Daniel. Upstairs, my wife was still in bed, warm under the covers, enjoying a few extra hours of sleep. Winter in the country: a world of silence, wood smoke, white. My head was full of thoughts about the play she had written the night before and I looked forward to the afternoon when she could get back to work. Then the phone rang. I immediately knew there were problems. No one calls at 8 am on a Sunday unless it's news that can't wait. And news that can't wait is always bad news. I couldn't muster a single uplifting thought. * Even before I packed my bags and started the three-hour drive to New Jersey, I knew I had to write about my father. I didn't have a plan, I didn't have exactly 4

idea what that meant. I don't even remember making a decision about it. It was there, a certainty, an obligation, that began to press on me the moment I received the news. I thought: my father is gone. If I don't act fast, all his life will go with him. Looking back now, even from as close a distance as three weeks, I find that reaction quite strange. I always imagined that death would numb me, would paralyze me with pain. But now that it's over I haven't shed a single tear, I don't feel like the world has collapsed around me. In a strange way, he was extremely willing to accept this death, despite how sudden it was. What bothered me was something else, something unrelated to the death or my reaction to it: the realization that my father had left no trace. He had no wife, no family to depend on, no one whose life would change in his absence. Perhaps a brief moment of terror among scattered friends, schooled by the idea of ​​a capricious death like the loss of his friend, followed by a brief period of mourning, and then nothing. Eventually, it would be as if he had never lived. He was absent even before he died, and those closest to him learned long ago to accept this absence, to treat it as the fundamental quality of his being. Now that he's gone, it wouldn't be hard for the world to accept the fact that he's gone forever. The nature of his life prepared the world for his death-it was a kind of anticipated death-and if and when they remembered it, it would be vague, no more than vague. Devoid of any passion for a cause, person or idea, unable or unwilling to reveal himself under any circumstances, he managed to distance himself from life so as not to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of things. He ate, went to work, had friends, played tennis, and yet he wasn't there. In the deepest and most unchanging sense he was an invisible man. Invisible to the others and probably invisible to him too. If I kept looking for him while he was alive, always trying to find the father who wasn't there, now that he's gone I still feel like I have to keep looking for him. Death has changed nothing. The only difference is that I no longer have time. * For fifteen years he lived alone. Stubborn, opaque, as if he were immune to the world. He didn't seem to be a man occupying a space, but rather a man-shaped block of impenetrable space. The world bounced off him, crashed into him, stuck to him at times, but never disappeared. For fifteen years he was haunting a huge house, alone, and in that house he died. For a short time we lived there as a family: my father, my mother, my sister and me. After my parents divorced, they all parted ways: my mother started a new life, I went to college, my sister stayed with my mother until she also went to school. Only my father stayed. Because of a clause in the divorce agreement that my mother still owned an interest in the house and would receive half the value of any sale (which made my father reluctant to sell), or because of a secret refusal to change your life (not to show the world that divorce is the fifth

in a way that he could not control) or simply because of inertia, an emotional lethargy that prevented him from doing anything, he stayed to live alone in a house that could accommodate six or seven people. It was an impressive place: old, solidly built, Tudor in style, with leaded windows, a slate roof, and rooms of regal proportions. The purchase was a big step for my parents, a sign of increasing prosperity. This was the best neighborhood in the city, and while it wasn't a good place to live (especially for children), its prestige outweighed its lethality. Given that he lived the rest of his life in this house, it is ironic that my father initially resisted moving there. He complained about the price (a constant theme), and when he finally relented, he came off with a grumpy, reluctant temper. However, he paid in cash. Suddenly. No mortgage, no monthly fees. It was 1959 and business was going well. Always a normal person, he would start work early in the morning, work hard all day and when he got home (he didn't work late those days) he would take a nap before dinner. Sometime during our first week in the new house, before we were properly settled in, he made a strange mistake. Instead of driving to the new house after work, he drove straight to the old house like he had for years, parked the car in the garage, went in the back door, went up the stairs, went into the bedroom, lay down on the floor. he bed and fell asleep. He slept for about an hour. Needless to say, the new owner of the house was a bit surprised when she returned to find a strange man sleeping in her bed. But unlike Goldilocks, my dad didn't jump or run. The confusion was finally resolved and everyone had a good laugh. He still makes me laugh to this day. And yet I can't help but think of it as a pathetic story. It's one thing when someone accidentally drives back to their old house, but I think it's another when they don't realize something has changed inside. Even the most tired or distracted mind has a pure animal response song and can give the body a sense of where it is. You had to be almost unconscious not to see, or at least not feel, that the house was no longer the same. "Habit," as one of Beckett's characters says, "is a great killer." And if the mind is unable to respond to physical evidence, what will it do when faced with emotional evidence? * In the last fifteen years almost nothing has changed in the house. He did not add furniture, he did not remove furniture. The walls remained the same color, the pots and pans were not replaced, even my mother's clothes were not thrown away, but were stored in a closet in the attic. The size of the house frees you from having to make decisions about the things in it. Not that he clung to the past and tried to keep the house as a museum. On the contrary, he didn't seem to know what he was doing. It was carelessness that ruled him, not memory, and though he had lived in this house all these years, he lived in it as a stranger. He spent less and less time there over the years. He ate most of his meals in restaurants, he set his social calendar to keep himself busy each night, and he rarely used the house for more than a place to sleep. Once, a few years ago, I mentioned to him how much money I've made writing and translating in the last year (a charity by any standards, but more than ever) and his sixth birthday.

The amusing response was that he spent more than that on food alone. The thing is, her life didn't revolve around where she lived. Home to him was only one of many stations in a detached and restless existence, and this lack of center made him a perpetual outsider, a tourist in his own life. You never had the feeling that you could be located. Yet the house seems important to me, at least to the extent that it has been neglected, a symptom of a state of mind that would otherwise inaccessibly manifest itself in the concrete images of unconscious behavior. The house became a metaphor for my father's life, an accurate and faithful representation of his inner world. Because although he kept the house clean and more or less as before, it was going through a gradual and inevitable process of deterioration. He was orderly, he put everything in its place, but nothing was taken care of, nothing was cleaned. The furniture, especially in the rooms he rarely visited, was covered in dust, cobwebs, signs of total disrepair; the kitchen stove was so covered in charred food beyond repair; in the cupboard, sometimes languishing on the shelves for years: bug-infested packets of flour, old biscuits, bags of sugar that had turned to solid blocks, bottles of syrup that could no longer be opened. Every time he prepared a meal, he washed the dishes promptly and diligently, but only rinsed, never with soap, so that every cup, saucer, and plate was covered in a grimy film of grease. Throughout the house: The blinds, which were always closed, were so worn that they would break at the slightest pull. Leaks appeared and dirty the furniture, the stove did not give enough heat, the shower did not work. The house was becoming precarious, it was depressing to enter. One had the feeling of entering a blind man's house. Sensing the madness of living in this house, his friends and family urged him to sell it and move elsewhere. But he always managed to dodge them with an evasive "I'm happy here" or "the house suits me." In the end, however, he decided to move. Good at the end. In our last phone conversation, ten days before his death, he told me that the house had been sold and the foreclosure was scheduled for February 1, three weeks from now. He wanted to know if there was anything in the house that he could use and I agreed to go visit my wife and Daniel on the first available day. He died before we had a chance to. * I learned that there is nothing more terrifying than facing the objects of a dead person. Things are inert: they only make sense in terms of the life that uses them. When this life ends, things change although they remain the same. They are there and they are not: tangible spirits condemned to survive in a world to which they no longer belong. For example, how about a closet full of clothes quietly waiting to be taken out again by a man who never opens the door again? Or the packets of condoms scattered among drawers full of underwear and socks? Or an electric razor in the bathroom, still clogged with stubble from the last shave? Or a dozen empty hair dye tubes hidden in a leather bag? – that suddenly reveal things you don't want to see, don't want to know. There's a sharpness to it, and also a kind of horror. In themselves, things mean nothing like the seventh

Cookware from a lost civilization. And yet they tell us something, they are not there as objects, but as remnants of thought, as remnants of consciousness, symbols of loneliness in which a person comes to decide for himself: whether to dye his hair, whether to do this or that. shirt he wears whether he lives or dies. And the futility of everything once death is present. Every time I opened a drawer or stuck my head in the closet, I felt like an intruder, a thief searching the secret places of a man's mind. I kept waiting for my dad to come in and look at me in disbelief and wonder what the hell he was thinking. It didn't seem fair that he couldn't protest. I had no right to invade your privacy. A hastily scrawled phone number on the back of a business card that read: H. Limeburg - Garbage Cans of All Kinds. that are never funny and a sudden sense of how unreal the world has always been, even in its prehistory. A drawer full of hammers, nails and more than twenty screwdrivers. A file full of canceled checks from 1953 and the cards I received for my sixth birthday. And then, buried deep in a bathroom drawer: the monogrammed toothbrush that once belonged to my mother and hadn't been touched or seen in over fifteen years. The list is inexhaustible. * I soon realized that my father had done almost nothing to prepare for his departure. The only signs I could see of the impending move around the house were a few boxes of books: trivia books (outdated atlas, a fifty-year-old electronics manual, a high school Latin grammar, old law books). he had planned to donate it to charity. Otherwise nothing. There are no empty boxes waiting to be filled. No furniture is donated or sold. No deal with a moving company. It was like she couldn't face it. Instead of leaving home, he simply wanted to die. Death was a way out, the only legitimate escape. But for me, there was no escape. The thing had to be done and there was no one else who could do it. For ten days I went through their things, cleaned the house and prepared it for the new owners. It was a miserable time, but also strangely good-natured, a time of reckless and absurd decisions: sell, throw away, give away. My wife and I bought a large wooden slide for eighteen-month-old Daniel and set it up in the living room. He liked chaos: he rummaged through things, put lamps on his head, threw plastic poker chips around the house, ran through the vast spaces of the rooms that were gradually emptying. At night, my wife and I would lie under monolithic bedspreads and watch trashy movies on TV. Until the television was donated. The oven had problems and if I forgot to fill it with water it would turn off. One morning we woke up to find that the temperature in the house had dropped to forty degrees. Twenty times a day the phone would ring and twenty times a day I would tell someone that my father had died. He had turned me into a furniture salesman, a moving company, a work messenger. *8

The house was beginning to resemble the set of a well-known comedy. Relatives ran to ask for this piece of furniture or that tableware, trying on my father's suits, knocking over boxes and chattering like geese. The auctioneers would come and appraise the merchandise ("No filler, not worth a dime"), turn up their noses, and walk away. Garbage collectors trudged in heavy boots and dragged mountains of garbage. The boatman read the water meter, the gasman read the gas meter, the tankers read the oil meter. (One of them, I forgot, for whom my father had caused a lot of trouble over the years, told me with savage connivance, "I don't like to say it," that is, he said it, "but your father was a hateful bastard. . ") The real estate agent came to buy some furniture for the new owners and ended up bringing him a mirror. A lady who had a gift shop bought my mother's old hats. She came to a dumpster with a team of helpers (four black men named Luther, Ulysses, Tommy Pride, and Joe Sapp) and she hauled away everything from a set of chins to a broken toaster. When she disappeared, there was nothing left. Not even a postcard. Not even a thought. If there was a worst moment for me in those days, it was when I walked across the front lawn in the pouring rain to throw a bunch of my father's ties into the back of a Goodwill Mission truck. There must be over a hundred connections, and many of them I remember from my childhood: the patterns, the colors, the shapes embedded in my first consciousness as clearly as my father's face. Watching me throw them away like trash was excruciating and I almost cried at the exact moment I threw them in the truck. For me, rather than watching the coffin lower to the ground, throwing those ties down seemed to encapsulate the idea of ​​the funeral. I finally understood that my father was dead. * Yesterday one of the children from the neighborhood came here to play with Daniel. A girl of about three and a half years who has recently discovered that adults were once children and that even her own mother and father have parents. At one point, she picked up the phone and started a fake conversation, then turned to me and said, "Paul, it's your dad. He wants to talk to you. That was cruel. I thought: There's a ghost on the other end of the phone." he's on the line and he wants to talk to you. Lots of talking to me.” It was a few moments before he could speak. “No,” I finally blurted out. “It can't be my dad. He wouldn't call today. He is elsewhere. I waited for him to hang up and left the room. * I found several hundred photographs in her bedroom closet, tucked into faded brown envelopes, stuck to the black pages of crooked albums, scattered loosely in the drawers. From the way they were stored, I gathered that she never looked at them, even forgot they were there. A very large album, bound in expensive leather and with a gold-engraved title on the cover—This is Our Life: The Austers—was completely empty inside. 9

Someone, probably my mother, bothered to ask for this album once, but no one ever bothered to fill it out. At home, I would look at these images with a fascination that bordered on madness. I found them irresistible, precious, the equivalent of holy relics. I felt they could tell me things I had never known before, reveal a previously hidden truth, and I studied each one intently, taking in the tiniest detail, the tiniest shadow, until every image became a part of me. I didn't want anything to go to waste. Death takes the body of a person. In life, a man and his body are synonymous; in death is man and his body. We say: "This is the body of X", as if that body that was once the man himself, not something that represents or belongs to him, but the man called X himself, suddenly becomes meaningless. When a man walks into a room and you shake his hand, you don't feel like you're shaking his hand or body, but you're shaking his hand. Death changes that. This is the body of X, not that is X. The syntax is completely different. Now we are talking about two things instead of one, which means that man continues to exist, but only as an idea, as an accumulation of images and memories in other people's minds. The body is nothing more than flesh and bones, a mass of pure matter. Discovering these photographs was important to me because they seemed to validate my father's physical presence in the world and gave me the illusion that he was still there. The fact that many of these images were images I had never seen before, particularly those from his youth, gave me the strange feeling that I was meeting him for the first time, that a part of him was just beginning to exist. I had lost my father. But at the same time I had also found it. While I had those images in my mind, while I was looking at them intently, it was as if he was still alive, even in death. Or, if not alive, at least not dead, or rather floating somehow, trapped in a universe that had nothing to do with death, where death could never come. Most of these images told me nothing new, but they helped me fill in gaps, confirm impressions, provide evidence where there was none before. For example, a series of photos of him as a bachelor, probably taken over several years, give a clear idea of ​​certain aspects of his personality that were lost during the years of his marriage, a side of him that I did not know aware of. I start with see you after his divorce: my dad as a prankster, as a city dweller, as a do-gooder Charlie. Frame after frame, he takes the women, usually in pairs or trios, all in comical poses, perhaps embracing each other, or two sitting on his lap, or a theatrical kiss for the benefit of the person taking the photograph. In the background: a mountain, a tennis court, maybe a swimming pool or a log cabin. These were the photos he brought back from weekend trips to various Catskill resorts with his single friends: playing tennis, hanging out with the girls. He continued like this until he was thirty-four years old. It was a life that suited him and I can understand why he came back to her after her marriage failed. For a person who finds life bearable only by remaining on the surface of himself, it is natural to be content with offering others only that surface. There are few requirements to meet and no commitment is required. Marriage, on the other hand, closes the door. Your existence is confined to a narrow space where you are 10

constantly forced to reveal himself and therefore constantly forced to look within himself, to explore his own depths. When the door is open, there is never a problem: you can always escape. You can avoid unwanted confrontations, either with yourself or with others, simply by walking away. My father's options were almost limitless. Because the other's domain seemed unreal to him, he invaded that domain with a part of himself that he felt equally unreal, another self that he had trained as an actor to play in the big world's empty comedy. This surrogate self was essentially a hyperactive, mischievous child, a teller of fantastic stories. He couldn't take me seriously. Since nothing mattered, he was given the freedom to do whatever he wanted (sneak into tennis clubs, pose as a restaurant critic for a free meal), and the charm with which he carried out his conquests was precisely what made these pointless achievements. . Com vaidade de mujer, hid a idade, inventava histórias sobre sus negocios, falava de si só superficialmente — na terceira pessoa, como se fosse um conhecido ("A friend of mine has this problem; what do you do that he should do? Do about that? …"). Whenever a situation got too difficult for him, when he felt left out and had to come out, he ducked into a lie. Eventually, the lie came automatically and she tolerated herself. The principle was to say as little as possible. If people never found out the truth about him, they couldn't turn their backs on him and use it against him later. Lying was a way to buy protection. So what people saw when he appeared in front of them was not himself, but a person he made up, an artificial creature that he could manipulate to manipulate others. He himself remained invisible, a puppeteer pulling the strings of his alter ego from a dark and lonely place behind the curtain. During the last ten or twelve years of his life, he had a girlfriend and this was the woman he was dating, who played the role of official escort. From time to time marriage was vaguely mentioned (at his insistence) and everyone assumed this was the only woman they had anything to do with. However, after her death, other women stepped forward. This one loved him, this one adored him, another wanted to marry him. Her main friend was surprised to learn about these other women: my father had never said a word to her about them. Each had been nurtured with a different bloodline, and each thought he possessed them completely. As it turned out, none of them knew anything about him. He had managed to dodge all of them. * Lonely. But not in the sense of being alone. Not just like Thoreau, for example, went into exile to find out where he was; not just like Jonah praying for deliverance in the whale's belly. Solitary in the sense of withdrawal. In the sense that he doesn't need to see himself, he doesn't need to see that someone else sees him. Talking to him was an exhausting experience. Either he would be absent, as before, or he would attack you with a dry joke that was just another form of absence. It was like trying to make himself understood by a senile old man. They talked and there was no response or an inappropriate response which shows that he is 11 years old.

He had not followed the course of his words. In recent years, when I spoke to him on the phone, I would talk more than usual, become aggressively talkative, babbling in a vain attempt to get his attention, to provoke a reaction. After that, I invariably felt stupid for trying so hard. He didn't smoke, he didn't drink. No hunger for sensual pleasures, no thirst for intellectual pleasures. Books bored him, and it was the odd movies or plays that kept him from falling asleep. Even at parties, he could be seen struggling to keep his eyes open, and more often than not, he would give in and fall asleep in a chair as conversations swirled around him. A man with no appetite. You felt that nothing could be imposed on him, that he did not need anything that the world offered him. * At thirty-four, marriage. Divorced at fifty-two. In a way, it took years, but it didn't really last more than a few days. He was never a married man, never a divorced man, but a lifelong bachelor who had a marriage breakup. Although he did not shy away from his outward duties as a husband (he was faithful, took care of his wife and children, accepted all responsibilities from him), it was clear that he was not cut out for the part. He just didn't have the talent for it. My mother was only 21 years old when she married him. Her conduct during their brief courtship of her was chaste. No bold advances, no gasping attacks from the aroused man. From time to time they held hands and kissed each other politely good night. Love, in so many words, was not declared by any of them. When the wedding came around, they were little more than strangers. It didn't take long for my mother to realize her mistake. Even before the honeymoon was over (that honeymoon so well documented in the photos I found: the two of them, for example, are sitting together on a rock by a perfectly calm lake, behind which a wide sunny path leads to the pine forest hillside in the shadows, my father holding my mother and the two of them looking at each other, smiling sheepishly as if the photographer had made them stand in that pose for a very long moment) even before the honeymoon was over , my mother knew that the wedding was not going to work would. Through tears, he went to her mother and told her that she wanted to leave him. Somehow, her mother managed to persuade her to go back and try it. And then, before the dust settled, she found out that she was pregnant. And suddenly it was too late to do anything. * Sometimes I think about how I was conceived at this honeymoon resort in Niagara Falls. Not that it matters where it happened. But the idea of ​​what must have been a dispassionate embrace, a blind and obedient groping between the cold hotel sheets, never allowed me to realize my own contingency. Niagara Falls Or the danger of two bodies connecting. And then me, a random homunculus, like a daredevil in a barrel, shooting at the falls. A little over eight months later, on the morning of her 22nd birthday, my mother woke up to tell my father that the baby was coming. Ridiculously, she said that the baby would be due in three weeks, and she immediately went to work, 12

he left her without a car. she waited. I thought that maybe she was right. She waited a little longer, called a sister-in-law, and asked to be taken to the hospital. My aunt stayed with my mother all day and she would call my father every few hours to ask him to come over. Later I would say that I am busy now, I will come if I can. Shortly after midnight, I made my way into the world, ass first, no doubt screaming. My mother was waiting for my father, but he didn't arrive until the next morning, accompanied by his mother who wanted to visit grandson number seven. A short, nervous visit and then back to work. Of course he cried. He was young, after all, and he hadn't expected her to mean so little to him. But he could never understand these things. Neither at the beginning nor at the end. He was never able to be where he was. While he lived, he was in another place, between here and there. But never really here. And never really there. * Thirty years later, the same little drama was repeated. This time I was there and I saw it with my own eyes. After the birth of my own son, I thought: he will definitely like this. Isn't every man happy to be a grandfather? I wanted to see him fall in love with the baby so he could show me that he was capable of emotion, that after all he had feelings just like everyone else. And if he could show affection for his grandchild, wouldn't that be an indirect way of showing affection for me? You don't stop yearning for your father's love, even when you grow up. But then people don't change. In all, my father only saw his grandchild three or four times, and at no time could he distinguish her from the impersonal mass of babies born into the world every day. Daniel was only two weeks old when he first saw him. I remember the day clearly: a scorching Sunday at the end of June, the time of heat waves, the country air gray with humidity. My father parked the car, saw my wife putting the baby in the stroller for a nap, and came over to say hi. He put his head in the stroller for a split second, straightened up, and said, "Beautiful baby. Good luck with that," and then moved further into the house. A stranger found himself in line at the supermarket. I didn't look at Daniel for the rest of his visit that day, and not once did he ask to be held.* All this just as an example. It is impossible for me to enter another person's solitude. If it is true that we can get to know another human being, even a little, then only to the extent that he is willing to make himself known. A man will say, I'm cold. Or he doesn't say anything and we see him shake. Anyway, we will know that he is cold, but what about 13?

Man who doesn't say anything and doesn't tremble? Where everything is undisciplined, where everything is hermetic and elusive, we can only watch. But whether you can understand what you observe is another matter. I don't mean to imply anything. He never talked about himself, he never seemed to know there was anything to talk about. It was as if the life within him was slipping away from him. He couldn't talk about it, so he passed in silence. When there is only silence, isn't it presumptuous to talk about me? And yet, if there had been more than silence, would he have felt the need to speak? My options are limited. I can be silent or talk about things that cannot be verified. At the very least, I want to write down the facts, state them as directly as possible, and let them say what they have to say. But even the facts don't always tell the truth. He was so relentlessly neutral on the surface, his behavior so completely predictable, that everything he did was a surprise. One could not believe that such a man existed, that he lacked feelings, that he wanted so little from others. And if there was no such man, that means there was another man, a man hidden inside the man who wasn't there, and the trick is to find him. On the condition that he is there to be found. Realizing from the beginning that the essence of this project is failure. * Oldest memory: your absence. In the early years of my life, I would go to work early in the morning before I woke up and come home long after I had gone to bed. I was my mother's son and lived near her. I was a small moon orbiting her vast land, a speck in her gravity sphere, ruling the tides, the weather, the forces of emotion. Her refrain for her was: Don't worry, you're pampering him. But my health was not very good and she used that to justify the care she was giving me. We spent a lot of time together, she in her solitude and I in my cramps, patiently waiting in the doctors' offices for someone to calm the agitation that constantly raged in my stomach. Still, I desperately clung to those doctors, wanting them to hold me. From the beginning, it seemed, I searched for my father, desperately searching for someone like him. Later memories: a wish. Always ready to deny the facts at the slightest excuse, I continued to hold out a cantankerous hope for something that was never given to me, or was given to me so rarely and randomly that it seemed to be happening beyond the scope of normal experience in one place. where I could never live more than a few moments at a time. It wasn't that he felt he didn't like her. He seemed distracted, unable to look my way. And more than anything, I wanted him to notice me. Everything, even the smallest thing, was enough. For example, one Sunday when the family walked into a crowded restaurant and we had to wait for our table, my dad took me outside, pulled out a tennis ball (from where?), dropped a quarter on the sidewalk and came closer. at a table with me: hit the coin with the tennis ball. He couldn't have been more than eight or nine years old. 14

Looking back, nothing could have been more trivial. And yet, hearing my father casually ask me to share his boredom with him almost crushed me with happiness. Disappointments were more common. For a moment it seemed to change, opening a little, and then suddenly it was gone. The one time I convinced him to take me to a football game (Giants vs. Chicago Cardinals, Yankee Stadium or the Polo Grounds, I can't remember which), he got up abruptly in the middle of Square's fourth quarter. and he said, "Now it's time to go." He wanted to "beat the crowd" and avoid getting stuck in traffic. Nothing I said could convince him to stay, so we carried on like this while the game was in full swing. Unearthly despair as he followed him up the concrete ramps and, worse, into the parking lot, the noise of the invisible crowd roaring behind me. You couldn't trust him to know what you wanted, to anticipate what you might be feeling. Having to tell himself that ruined the fun beforehand, interrupting a dream harmony before he could play a note. And even if you had told him, I wasn't sure he understood what you meant. ***

I remember a day like today. A rainy Sunday, insomnia and silence inside the house: the world at half time. My dad was taking a nap or waking up from one, and somehow I was lying in bed with him, just the two of us in the room. Tell me a story. That must have been how it started. And since he wasn't doing anything, because he was still dozing off in the laziness of the afternoon, he did exactly as I asked and plunged into a non-stop story. I remember everything so clearly. He feels as if he has just walked out of this room with its light gray and tangle of quilts on the bed, as if he could return at any moment just by closing his eyes. He told me about his gold prospecting days in South America. It was an adventure story of deadly peril, chilling escapes, and unexpected twists of fate: he hacked his way through the jungle with a machete, fought bandits with his bare hands, and shot his donkey when he snapped. Leg. His language was flowery and complicated, probably echoing the books he himself had read as a child. But it was precisely this literary style that I loved. Not only did he tell me new things about himself, he revealed to me the world of his distant past, but he also told me in new and strange words. This language was as important as the story itself, it was part of it, and in a way, indistinguishable from it. The strangeness of him alone was proof of his authenticity. It did not occur to me that this might have been a made up story. Years later, he still believed that. Even past the point where he should have known better, he still felt there might be some truth to it. He gave me something to hold on to my father and I was reluctant to let go. I finally had an explanation for his mysterious evasions, his indifference to me. He was a romantic figure, a man with a dark and exciting past, and his current life was just a kind of stopping point, a way to buy time until he embarked on his next adventure. He drew his plan from him, he discovered how to recover the gold buried in the heart of the Andes. fifteen

* In the back of his mind: the desire to do something out of the ordinary, to impress him with an act of heroism. The further away I was, the higher the stakes for me. But when a child's will is stubborn and idealistic, it is also absurdly practical. He was only ten years old and there was not a child he could save from a burning building, nor a sailor he could save at sea. On the other hand, I was a good baseball player, the star of my minor league team, and even though my dad wasn't interested in baseball, I figured if he saw me play once, he'd start seeing me play again. Light light. He finally came. My mother's parents were visiting at the time and my grandfather, a huge baseball fan, showed up with him. It was a special Memorial Day game and the seats were full. If you've ever wanted to do something remarkable, now is the time. I remember seeing them on the wooden bleachers, my father in a white shirt with no tie and my grandfather with a white scarf around his bald head to protect him from the sun - the whole scene in my head now was white light penetrated by this blinding. It probably goes without saying that I made a mess. I didn't get a hit, I lost my balance on the field, I couldn't be more nervous. Of the hundreds of games I played growing up, this was the worst. Later, when I went to the car with my father, he told me that he had played a good game. No, I didn't, I said, it was terrible. "Well, you did the best you could," he replied. You can't always get away with it. It wasn't like he was trying to cheer me up. He also didn't try to be rude. Instead, he said, as if automatically, what is said on such occasions. They were the right words, but he said them without feeling, an exercise in decency, uttered in the same distant intonation he would use almost twenty years later when he said, "A beautiful baby. Good luck with that." I could see that his mind was elsewhere. In itself, it doesn't matter. The important thing is this: I realized that even if he had done all the things I did, his reaction would have been exactly the same. He didn't really care if I was successful or not, he didn't define me by who I was, and that meant his perception of me would never change "that we were fixed in an unchanging relationship, separated from each other on opposite sides of a wall. Besides, I realized that none of this had anything to do with me. It only had to do with him. Like everything else in his life, he seemed to walk through the mists of his loneliness as if he were several feet away. The world was a distant place to him, I guess, a place he could never really set foot in and there in the distance between them all the shadows passed through him, I was born, became his son and grew as if I were a shadow more, appearing and disappearing in a dimly lit area of ​​his awareness.* **

With her daughter, born when I was three and a half, it was a little easier when she was 16.

he. But in the end it was infinitely more difficult. She was a beautiful girl. Unusually frail, with large brown eyes that would burst into tears at the slightest sign. She spent most of her time alone, a diminutive figure wandering through an imaginary land of elves and fairies, dancing on tiptoe in lace ballerina outfits and singing loud enough for only her to hear. She was an Ophelia in miniature, apparently already doomed to a life of constant inner struggle. She made few friends, struggled to make ends meet in school, and was plagued by self-doubt from an early age that turned the simplest of routines into nightmares of fear and defeat. There were tantrums, terrible screaming fits, constant convulsions. Nothing seemed to go right for a long time. More sensitive than I to the nuances of the unhappy marriage around us, her insecurity became monumental and paralyzing. At least once a day she would ask our mother if she "loved daddy." The answer was always the same: of course, it couldn't be a very convincing lie. If that were the case, the question would not have to be asked again the next day. On the other hand, it's hard to imagine how the truth could have made things better. * It was almost as if she exuded an air of helplessness. The immediate impulse was to protect them, to protect them from the attacks of the world. Like everyone else, my father spoiled her. The more she seemed to beg for pampering, the more he was willing to give her. Long after she learned to walk, for example, he insisted on carrying her up the stairs. No doubt he did it out of love, he liked to do it because she was her little angel. But behind that pampering was the unspoken message that she could never do anything for herself. She was not a person to him, but an angel, and since she was never forced to act as an autonomous being, she was never able to become one. However, my mother saw what was happening. When my sister was five years old, she took her for an exploratory appointment with a child psychiatrist, and the doctor recommended that she start some type of therapy. That night, when my mother shared the results of the meeting with my father, he exploded with rage. No daughter of mine, &c. The idea that her daughter needed psychiatric help was no different than being told she had leprosy. He would not accept. He wouldn't even discuss it. That is the point I am trying to make. His refusal to look within was matched by an equally stubborn refusal to look at the world, to accept even the most undeniable evidence on his face. Several times in his life, he would stare at something, nod, and then turn away and say he wasn't there. It made it almost impossible to talk to him. Until you managed to find common ground with him, he would take the shovel out of her and out from under you. *


Years later, when my sister suffered a series of debilitating nervous breakdowns, my father continued to believe that she was fine. She was as if he was biologically incapable of recognizing her condition. In one of his books, R.D. Laing, the father of a catatonic girl, who would take her by the shoulders every time she visited the hospital and shake her as hard as possible, telling her to "get together." My father wasn't holding my sister, but her position was essentially the same. What she needs, he would say, is to get a job, to get dressed, to live in the real world. Of course. But that's exactly what she couldn't do. She alone is sensitive, he said, she needs to overcome shyness. By taming the problem and making it a personality trait, he was able to continue to believe that nothing was wrong. It was less blindness than lack of imagination. When does a house stop being a house? When does the roof come off? When will the windows be removed? When the walls come down? At what point does it become a pile of rubble? She is different, he said, nothing is wrong with her. And then one day the walls of his house finally come crashing down. However, if the door is still standing, all you have to do is walk through it and you'll be inside. It's nice to sleep under the stars. Forget about the rain. It can't take long. * Little by little, as the situation worsened, he had to start accepting it. But still, at every stage of his journey, acceptance of him has been unorthodox and has taken eccentric, almost self-defeating forms. For example, he was convinced that the only thing he could help her with was an intensive program of megavitamin therapy. That was the chemical approach to mental illness. Although never proven to be an effective cure, this treatment method has a large following. You can see why my father would have been drawn to that. Instead of fighting a devastating emotional event, he might see the disease as a physical flaw, something that could be cured in the same way that the flu is cured. The disease became an external force, a kind of beetle that could be eradicated with an equal and opposite external force. In his eyes, my sister could remain strangely indifferent to all of this. She was right where the battle would take place, which means that what happened didn't really affect her. He spent several months convincing her to start this megavitamin program, even going so far as to take the pills herself to prove she wouldn't get poisoned, and when she finally gave in, she didn't take the pills. for more than a week or two. The vitamins were expensive, but she wasn't afraid to spend the money. On the other hand, she angrily refused to pay for other treatments. She didn't think a stranger could care what was happening to her. The psychiatrists were all charlatans only interested in giving their patients water and driving fancy cars. She refused to pay the bills, confining them to the seedy kind of public welfare. She was poor, she had no income of her own, but he sent almost nothing. However, he was more than willing to take matters into his own hands. Although he couldn't benefit either of them, he wanted her to live in her house so he could take care of her. He at least he could trust her own feelings and knew that he cared for her. But when she came (for a few months after one of her admissions) he didn't interrupt her normal routine to please her, but 18

He continued to spend most of his time outside, rattling around the huge house like a ghost. He was careless and stubborn. But above all, I know that he suffered. Sometimes when he and I talked about my sister on the phone, I could hear her voice crack slightly, as if he was trying to stifle a sob. Unlike anything else he faced, my sister's illness eventually washed over him, but only to leave him feeling utterly helpless. There is no greater pain for parents than this impotence. You have to accept it even if you can't. And the more you accept, the greater your despair becomes. His despair became very great. * Today, as I wandered aimlessly around the house, depressed and feeling that I was starting to lose touch with what I was writing, I came across these words from a Van Gogh letter: “Like everyone else, I feel the need to have a family and friendship, affection and friendship. I am not made of stone or iron like a fire hydrant or a post." Maybe that's what really matters: getting to the core of human emotion despite the evidence. * These smaller images: incorrigible, stuck in the mud of memory, neither buried nor fully recoverable. And yet, each one is a fleeting resurrection in itself, a lost moment. Like the way he walked, oddly balanced, bouncing on his toes as if he were about to plunge blindly into the unknown. Or how he would lean over the table while he ate, his shoulders tensing, always eating the food, never liking it. Or the smells emanating from running cars: exhaust fumes, oil leaks, exhaust fumes; the mess of cold metal tools; Constant noise while driving. A flashback to the day I drove him through downtown Newark, when I wasn't six, and he slammed on the brakes, the jolt smacking my head against the dash: the sudden swarm of black people around the car look, if I was okay , especially the woman who offered me a vanilla ice cream cone through the open window and my very polite "No thanks", too flabbergasted to know what I really wanted. Or another day in another car, a few years later, when my dad spat out the window, only to find the window hadn't been rolled down and my unreasonable, boundless joy at seeing saliva run down the glass. And yet, as a child, how he would sometimes take me to Jewish restaurants in neighborhoods I had never seen before, dark places full of old people, each table festooned with a bottle of blue-tinted soda, and how sick I was to leave my food untouched. and content to watch him devour borscht, pirogues, and boiled beef with horseradish. Me, growing up as an American kid who knew less about my ancestry than I did about the Hopalong Cassidy hat. Or how, when I was twelve or thirteen and really wanted to go somewhere with some of my friends, I called him at work to ask his permission and he said puzzled because he didn't know how to say, "You're just a group of 19."

of rookies" and how my friends and I (one of whom has died of a heroin overdose) have repeated those words for years like a piece of folklore, a nostalgic joke. ***

The size of your hands. your calluses Eat the hot chocolate shell. Tea with Lemon. Black tortoiseshell glasses were scattered around the house: on kitchen counters, on tables, on the edge of the sink, always open, lying there like some strange unsorted animal. To watch him play tennis. How his knees gave way sometimes when he walked. His face. The resemblance of him to Abraham Lincoln and how people have always noticed it. His bravery with the dogs. His face. And your face again. tropical fish. * He often seemed to lose concentration, to forget where he was, as if he had lost the sense of his own continuity. This made him prone to accidents: a broken thumbnail from hammer blows, various minor car accidents. The distraction of him as a driver: to the point of scaring at times. I always thought it was a car that was killing him. Other than that, his health was so good that he seemed invulnerable, free from the physical ailments that plague us all. As if nothing could touch it. * The way of speaking: as if he was struggling to get out of solitude, as if his voice had rusted, he had lost the habit of speaking. He would always falter and clear his throat a lot, clear his throat, seem to stutter in mid-sentence. You clearly got the feeling that he was uncomfortable. Also, as a child it always amused me to see him sign his name. He couldn't just put pen to paper and write. As if unconsciously delaying the moment of truth, she always made a little hesitant movement, a circular motion, an inch or so to the side, like a fly buzzing in the air, pointing at his place before moving toward him. It was a modified version of the way Art Carney's Norton spelled his name in The Honeymooners. He even uttered his words a bit strange. For example, "Upown" instead of "upon", as if the push of your hand had its counterpart in your voice. He had an airy, musical quality. Every time he answered the phone, it was a melodious "Hallooo" that greeted you. The effect was less amusing than endearing. It made him look 20

slightly dazed, like he was out of step with the rest of the world, but not much. Just a degree or two. Indelible tics. * In those crazy and tense moods that he sometimes got into, he would always come up with strange opinions, he didn't really take them seriously, but he liked to play devil's advocate to keep things alive. Joking around with people put him in a good mood, and after making a particularly silly comment to someone, he would often squeeze that person's leg; at one point, he always tickled her. He literally liked to pull his leg. * Again the house. No matter how unkempt his appearance may appear from the outside, he believed in his system. As a mad inventor protecting the secret of the perpetual motion machine from him, he would not allow anyone to tamper with it. Once, when my wife and I were moving apartments, we stayed at his house for three or four weeks. Finding the darkness of the house oppressive, we raised all the shutters to let in daylight. When my father came home from work and saw what we had done, he had an uncontrollable anger that was out of proportion to any wrongdoing he might have committed. Anger like that rarely came out of him, only when he felt cornered, offended, crushed by the presence of other people. Money problems sometimes triggered it. Or a small detail: the blind of your house, a broken plate, a little nothing. Still, there was that anger in him, I think all the time. Like the house that was well organized but falling apart on the inside, the man himself was calm, almost unearthly in the steadiness of him, but he was the victim of an unstoppable, churning rage within him. Throughout his life he strove to avoid facing this power, cultivating a kind of automatic behavior that allowed him to avoid it. Reliance on fixed routines freed him from the need to look at himself when making decisions; the cliché would always slip out of his mouth ("Nice baby. Good luck with that") instead of the words he had run out of that he was looking for. All this led him to be flattened as a personality. But at the same time it was what saved him, what made life possible for him. As long as he could live. *From a bag of loose photos: a doctored photo taken in an Atlantic City studio sometime in the 1940s. They sit in groups around a table, each photo taken from a different angle, so that initially, if you think it must be a group of different men From the darkness that surrounds them, from the absolute stillness of their poses, it seems that they have gathered there to celebrate a seance. And then when you look at the picture, you start to realize that all these men are the same man. The session becomes a real session and it is as if he has come there to call himself to bring 21

of the dead, as if by accidentally multiplying it makes itself disappear. There are five of him there, and yet the nature of the photo trick denies the possibility of eye contact between the different selves. Everyone is condemned to look at nothing as if they were under the eyes of others, but without seeing anything, without ever being able to see anything. It is an image of death, a portrait of an invisible man. I begin to understand the absurdity of the task I have set myself. I feel like I'm going somewhere, like I know what I mean, but the further I go, the more certain I am that the path to my object doesn't exist. I have to reinvent the path at every turn, and that means I can never be sure where I am. A sensation of walking in circles, going backwards several times, going in several directions at once. And even if I do make progress, I'm not entirely convinced that it will get me where I want to be. Just because you're wandering in the desert doesn't mean there's a promised land. When I started, I thought it would come spontaneously, in a trance-like outpouring. My need to write was so great that I thought the story would write itself. But the words have been coming very slowly so far. Even on the best of days, I couldn't write more than a page or two. I feel like I'm in torment, cursed with a mental failure to focus on what I'm doing. Over and over I watched my mind drift away from what was in front of me. As soon as I think of something, it conjures up something else, and then something else, until there's such a dense accumulation of detail that I feel like I'm suffocating. I have never been so aware of the gap between thinking and writing. In fact, for the last few days, I've felt that the story I'm trying to tell is somehow incompatible with language, that the extent to which it defies language is an accurate measure of how close I've come to it. about to say something important, and that when the time comes when I can say the only really important thing (assuming it exists), I can't say it.

There was a wound and now I know that it is very deep. Instead of healing me like I thought it would, writing kept that wound open. sometimes i'm 22

I could even feel the pain centering in my right hand, as if every time I picked up the pen and pressed it against the page, my hand would tear. Instead of burying my father for me, those words kept him alive, perhaps more than ever. I see him not just as he was, but as he is, as he will be, and every day he is there, invading my thoughts, sneaking up on me without warning: lying in his coffin underground, his body still intact, his nails and hair still. they are growing. A feeling that if I want to understand something, I have to penetrate this image of darkness, to enter the absolute darkness of the earth. *Kenosha, Wisconsin. 1911 or 1912. Even he wasn't sure of the date. In the hustle and bustle of a large immigrant family, birth certificates could not be considered very important. What matters is that he was the last of five surviving children, a girl and four boys, all born within eight years, and that his mother, a short, wild woman who spoke little English, kept the family together. . She was the matriarch, the absolute dictator, the driving force at the center of the universe. His father died in 1919, which means that he did not have a father until early childhood. In my childhood, he told me three different stories about the death of his father. In one version, he died in a hunting accident. In another, he had fallen down a ladder. In the third, he had been shot down in World War I. I knew these contradictions were nonsense, but I assumed that meant even my father didn't know the facts. Since he was so young when it happened, he was only seven years old, I assumed that he never told the exact story. But that didn't make any sense either. Surely one of his brothers would have told him. However, all my cousins ​​told me that they also received different explanations from their parents. Nobody ever talked about my grandfather. I had never seen a picture of him until a few years ago. It was as if the family decided to pretend it never existed.


Among the photos I found at my father's house last month was a family portrait from those early days in Kenosha. All the children are there. My father, less than a year old, sits on his mother's lap and the other four surround them in the tall, uncut grass. Behind her are two trees and behind the trees is a large wooden house. A whole world seems to emerge from this portrait: a specific time, a specific place, an indestructible sense of the past. When I first looked at the painting, I realized that it had been torn in half and then clumsily repaired, leaving one of the trees in the background dangling ghostly in the air. I assumed that the photo had been accidentally broken and didn't think twice. However, the second time I saw it, I took a closer look at that crack and discovered things that I must have missed.

Before. I saw the fingertips of a man grasp the torso of one of my uncles; I saw very clearly that another of my uncles did not put his hand on his brother's back as I had thought at first, but on a chair that was not there. And then I realized what was strange about the photo: my grandfather had been cut. The image was distorted because part of it had been removed. My grandfather was sitting in a chair next to his wife while one of his sons was standing between his knees, and he was not there. Only the tips of his fingers remained: as if he were trying to crawl back into the frame from a hole in the depths of time, as if he had been banished to another dimension. The whole thing shocked me. * Some time ago I heard the story of my grandfather's death. Without an extraordinary coincidence, it would never have been known. In 1970, a cousin of mine went on vacation to Europe with her husband. On the plane she sat next to an old man and, as always, they struck up a conversation to pass the time. It turned out that her husband lived in Kenosha, Wisconsin. My cousin was amused by the coincidence, noting that her father had lived there when he was a child. Out of curiosity, the man asked her last name. When she told him about Auster, she blanched. oysters? Your grandmother wasn't a crazy little redheaded woman, was she? Yes, she was my grandmother, answered my cousin. A crazy little woman with red hair. And so she told him her story. It had been over fifty years ago, but she still remembered the important details. When this man returned from vacation, he found the newspaper articles related to the story, had them photocopied, and sent them to my cousin. This was her letter of introduction: June 15, 70 Love —— and ——. It was nice to receive your letter, and although it seemed that the task could be difficult, I was lucky. “Fran and I went out to dinner with Fred Plons and his wife, and Fred's father bought the apartment building on Park Ave from his family. - The Lord. Plons is about three years younger than me, but he said he was fascinated by the case (at the time) and he remembered some of the details. He said that his grandfather was the first person to be buried in the Jewish cemetery here in Kenosha. - (Prior to 1919, Jews did not have a cemetery in Kenosha, but their loved ones were buried in Chicago or Milwaukee.) With that information, I had no trouble locating where his grandfather is buried. – And I was able to determine the date. The rest is in the transcript I'm sending you. – Everything or nothing is that your father never hears this verification that I'm going through for you – I don't want him to suffer more than he has suffered... I hope that this sheds some light on what his father is doing will come in two years last years. Our warmest regards to both: Ken and Fran


The newspaper articles are on my desk. Now that the time has come to write about it, I am surprised to find that I am doing everything in my power to postpone it. I hesitated all morning. I took the garbage to the landfill. I played with Daniel in the backyard for almost an hour. I read the entire newspaper, right down to the spring training baseball lineup scores. Even now, as I write about my aversion to writing, I feel incredibly restless: after just a few words, I get up from my chair, pacing back and forth, listening to the wind outside blowing through the loose gutters against the rattling of home. . . The smallest thing can distract me. It's not that I'm afraid of the truth. I'm not even afraid to say that. My grandmother murdered my grandfather. On January 23, 1919, exactly sixty years before my father's death, her mother shot and killed her father in the kitchen of her home on Fremont Avenue in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The facts themselves don't bother me any more than I expected. The hard part is seeing them in print, taken out of the realm of mystery, if you will, and made into a public event. There are over twenty articles, most of them lengthy, all from the Kenosha Evening News. Even in this nearly illegible state, almost completely eclipsed by time and the dangers of photocopying, they still have the ability to impact. I suppose they are typical of the journalism of the time, but that doesn't make them any less sensational. They're a mix of scandal and sentimentality, bolstered by the fact that the people involved were Jewish, and therefore almost by definition queer, giving the whole performance a salacious and condescending tone. And yet, stylistic flaws aside, the facts seem to be there. I don't think they explain everything, but they certainly explain a lot. A guy can't go through something like that without being affected as a man. * In the margins of these articles I can decipher some of the minor news of the time, events that were almost insignificant compared to the murder. For example, the rescue of the body of Rosa Luxemburg from the Landwehr Canal. For example: the Versailles Peace Conference. And so on, day after day, through: the Eugene Debs case; a note on Caruso's debut feature ("Situations...must be very dramatic and full of soulful warmth"); Battle Reports of the Russian Civil War; the funerals of Karl Liebnecht and thirty-one other Spartacists ("More than fifty thousand people marched in the five-mile procession. Twenty percent of them wore wreaths. There was no cheering or applause"); the ratification of the national ban change ("William Jennings Bryan, the man who made grape juice famous, was there with a big smile"); the textile strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts, led by the Wobblies; the death of Emiliano Zapata, "bandit leader in southern Mexico"; Winston Churchill; Bella Kun; Prime Minister Lenin (sic); Woodrow Wilson; Dempsey vs. Willard. I've read the articles on the murder a dozen times. Still, I find it hard to believe that I didn't dream. They pile on me with the full force of an unconscious trick, distorting reality like dreams do. Since the big headlines announcing the murder dwarf everything else that happened in the world that day, they give the event the same self-centered importance that we give to the things that are happening.

in our private life. It's almost like drawing a child tormented by an indescribable fear: the most important is always the greatest. Perspective is lost in favor of proportions, dictated not by the eye but by the demands of the mind. I read these articles as history. But also as a cave drawing that was discovered on the inner walls of my own skull. The headlines of the first day, January 24, cover more than a third of the front page. HARRY AUSTER KILLS EX WIFE ARRIVED BY POLICE A prominent real estate agent is shot dead in his wife's kitchen on Thursday night, following a family dispute over money and a wife. The wife says that the husband was a dead man, he had suicide wounds to his neck and left hip and the wife admits that the revolver used in the shooting was his property: the 9-year-old son, a witness to the tragedy, can be the solution to keep the mystery. According to the newspaper, "Auster and his wife had recently separated and divorce proceedings were pending in the Kenosha County District Court. They had money problems on several occasions. They also argued that Auster [illegible] was friends with a young woman known to the woman as 'Fanny'. As my grandmother did not confess until the 28th, there was some confusion as to what really happened. My grandfather (who was thirty-six years old) entered the house at six o'clock in the evening with "fits" her two eldest children, "while witnesses say that Mrs. Auster was in the bedroom putting Sam, the youngest, to bed. Sam [my father] explained that he did not see his mother pull a gun out from under the mattress when they put him to bed for the night”. His uncles (his second youngest son) held out a candle for him to look at. "The boy explained that when he heard the shot and saw the flash of a gun, he panicked and ran out of the room." According to my grandmother, her husband shot her, she admitted that they argued over money and “then he said”, she continued, “it will be the end of you or me”, and threatened me. he had the revolver, I kept it under the mattress of my bed and he knew it ”. Since my grandmother spoke almost no English, I assume that this statement and all others attributed to her were made up by the reporter. Whatever she said, the police didn't believe her. Auster repeated her story to several officers without making any significant changes and expressed great surprise when told the police should arrest her. He very tenderly kissed little Sam goodnight and then went to the county jail. "The two Auster boys were guests of the police department last night and slept in the squad room and this morning the boys appeared to have fully recovered from the shock they suffered as a result of the tragedy at their home." article, this information is given about my grandfather

“Harry Auster was born in Austria. He came to this country a few years ago and has lived in Chicago, Canada and Kenosha. He and his wife, according to the story told to the police, later returned to Austria, but she joined her husband in Austria when they arrived in Kenosha. Auster bought several houses in the second arrondissement and ran large businesses for a time. He built the large three-unit building on South Park Avenue and another known as the Oyster Apartments on South Exchange Street. Six or eight months ago he ran into financial setbacks…. “Some time ago, Ms. Auster asked the police for help in monitoring Mr. Auster, alleging that she was having relations with a young woman who she thought she should be investigated. This was how the police first found out about the “Fanny” woman. "Many people saw and spoke to Auster on Thursday afternoon, and all of these people said that she appeared normal and showed no signs of intent to take her own life..." *The following day was the coroner's inquest. My uncle was called to the stand as the only witness to the incident. "A sad-eyed little boy, nervously twirling his hat, wrote the second chapter of the Auster murder mystery on Friday afternoon... His attempts to save the family name were tragically pathetic. Time and time again, when asked if his parents were fighting, he would reply, "They were talking," before finally adding, apparently remembering his oath, "And maybe they're fighting, well, just a little."The article describes the jury as "strangely moved." for the child's efforts to protect his father and mother. In the last paragraph, the reporter writes that "officials suggested events of a surprising nature." * Then came the funeral. This gave the anonymous reporter a chance to emulate some of the exquisite diction of Victorian Melodrama. The murder was no longer just a scandal. It turned into a touching conversation. THE TEARLESS WIDOW AT AUSTER'S GRAVE Mrs Anna Auster, under surveillance, attends the funeral of her husband Harry Auster on Sunday. "Dry-eyed and without the slightest hint of emotion or sadness, Mrs. Harry Auster, who is detained here in connection with the mysterious death of her husband Harry Auster, attended the funeral of the man under guard on Sunday morning. connection with his death. Neither in Crossin Chapel, where she looked at the dead face of her husband for the first time since Thursday night, nor in the churchyard did she show the slightest sign of weakening. The only indication that he appeared to be passing out under the terrible strain of the ordeal was when he walked over the grave after the funeral was over for a meeting this afternoon with the Rev. M. Hartman, pastor of B'nai Zadek Church, asked... 28

"When the rites were completed, Mrs. Auster calmly donned her fox fur collar and signaled to the police that she was ready to depart... "After brief ritual ceremonies, the funeral procession formed in the street Wisconsin. Auster also asked to go to the cemetery, and the police immediately agreed. She seemed very irritated that he had not given her a carriage, perhaps remembering the brief period of apparent wealth when the Oyster Limousine was spotted in Kenosha... "...The ordeal was unusually long because in There were delays in preparing the grave and "While waiting, she called for Sam, the youngest boy, and tightened the collar of her cloak around his neck. She spoke to him in a low voice, but with this exception, she remained silent until the rites were over..." A prominent figure at the funeral was Samuel Auster, from Detroit, Harry Auster's brother. He took special care of the younger children. new and tried to comfort them in their pain. In speeches and demonstrations, Auster expressed great bitterness over the death of his brother. He made it clear that he did not believe in the suicide theory and made comments reminiscent of those of the widow. accusations..." The Reverend M. Hartman...delivered an eloquent sermon at the grave. He complained that the first person to be buried in the new cemetery was a violent man who was murdered in his prime. He died an untimely death." . The widow did not seem impressed with the tributes paid to her late husband. Nonchalantly, he opened his tunic to allow the patriarch to make a cut in his knitted sweater, in a sign of mourning dictated by the Hebrew faith. "Kenosha did not abandon the suspicion that Auster was murdered by his wife..." * The The next day's newspaper, January 26, brought the news of the confession. After her meeting with the rabbi, she had requested an interview with the police chief. “When she entered the room, she was shaking a bit and she was visibly excited when the boss set up a chair. "You know what your little son told us," she began, realizing that the psychological moment had arrived. "You don't want us to think he's lying to us, do you?" And the mother, whose face has been masked for days so none of the horror beneath her can be seen, sheds her camouflage, suddenly becomes sensitive, and sobs her terrible secret. “He's not lying to you; everything he said is true. I shot him and I want to make a confession.'” This was her formal statement: “My name is Anna Auster. I shot and killed Harry Auster on January 23, 1919 in Kenosha, Wisconsin. I've heard people say there were three shots, but I don't remember how many shots were fired that day. My reason for shooting Harry Auster is because she said Harry Auster abused me. He was furious when I fired, said Harry Auster. I never thought of shooting him, said Harry Auster, until the moment I shot him. I think this is the pistol I fired with, said Harry Auster. I make this statement voluntarily and without obligation to do so." 29

The reporter continues: “On the table in front of Mrs. Auster was the revolver with which her husband was shot. Speaking of which, she touched it hesitantly, then withdrew her hand with a noticeable tremble of horror. Without saying a word, the chief lowered his gun and asked Mrs. Auster if she had anything else to say. "'That's it for now,' she replied calmly. "You sign for me and I'll leave my mark." Being taken back to her cell..." Bei from The Prosecution The next day, her attorney filed a complaint. guilty plea. "Wearing a plush coat and a fox fur boa, Ms. Auster entered the courtroom...She smiled at a friend in the crowd as she took a seat at the front of the table." According to the reporter, the The public was “calm”. However, it could not resist this comment: 'On her return to her locked room, an incident occurred which provided commentary on Ms Austero. "A woman accused of having sex with a married man was brought to the prison for detention in an adjoining cell. Seeing them, Mrs. Auster inquired after the new arrival and learned the details of the case. "'He should get ten years,' she said as the iron gate slammed implacably. 'It was one of her ways that brought me here' "." 'Do you have any idea that this woman is not going to appear in court?' She clings to them and the court can see that they cling to them.'” The press was silent for a week. Then, on February 8, there was a story about “the active support the cause is receiving from some of the Jewish-language newspapers published in Chicago. Some of these documents contained columns discussing Ms. Auster, and it is explained that these articles required her defense... "On Friday afternoon Ms. She cried like a child as the interpreter read the contents of those papers to the solicitor..." Solicitor Baker stated this morning that defending Mrs. Auster would be emotionally insane... "Mrs.'s trial is one of the most interesting murder trials ever tried in County District Court of Kenosha, and the human interest story that has occurred in women's advocacy up to this point is to be expected." it will play out largely during the trial." * Then nothing for a month. On March 10, the headlines read: ANNA AUSTER SUICIDE ATTEMPT Suicide attempt took place in Peterboro, Ontario, in 1910 - for 30

Carbonate and then gas. The lawyer brought this information to the court to grant him a stay of trial and give him time to make statements. "Attorney Baker believed that the woman had simultaneously endangered the lives of two of her children and that the story of the suicide attempt was important because it would reveal Ms Auster's mental state." * March 27th. The trial was set for April 7. Then another week of silence. And then on April 4, as if it had gotten too boring, a new development. AUSTER SHOOTS BROTHER'S WIDOW "Sam Auster, Harry Auster's brother... The shooting took place right in front of Miller's Grocery Store... "Auster followed Mrs. Auster to the door and shot her once. Mrs. Auster, although she did not fire the shot, landed on the sidewalk, and Auster returned to the store and, according to witnesses, stated, "Well, I'm glad I did." There he waited in silence for his arrest... "At the police station... Auster, after collapsing in a state of nervousness, gave his explanation of the shooting. "'This woman,' he said, 'killed my four brothers and my mother. I tried to help, but she wouldn't let me." As they took him to the cell, he sobbed, "But God will do my part, I know that." The court's refusal to name him executor on the grounds that the widow had some rights in the case has worried him recently… “She's not a widow,” he commented this morning on this incident, “She's a murderer and should have no rights… ." "Auster will not be charged immediately to investigate the case thoroughly. Police admit that his brother's death and subsequent events may have affected him so much that he was not fully responsible for what happened." Auster has repeatedly expressed the hope that he too will die and every precaution is being taken to prevent him from being take my life..." The next day's paper added: "Auster spent a very uncomfortable night in prison. Several times the officers found him in his cell sobbing and appeared to be hysterical... it was explained that she could appear in court if the involuntary case goes to trial Monday night.” * After three days, state dropped case Claiming murder took place on March 31.

The district attorney deliberately relied heavily on the testimony of a certain Ms. Mathews, an employee of the Miller Grocery Store, who alleged that "Mrs. Auster came into the store three times on the day of the shooting to make phone calls. On one On one of those occasions, the witness said, Mrs. Auster called her husband and asked him to come into the house and turn on the light. She said Auster promised to come at six o'clock. But even if she invited him into the house, that doesn't mean she intended to kill him as soon as he was there. It makes no difference anyway. Whatever the facts, the defense attorney used everything to his advantage. The strategy was to present overwhelming evidence on two fronts: proving my grandfather's infidelity, on the one hand, and proving my grandmother's history of mental instability, on the other, both of which combine to produce a case of justifiable manslaughter or manslaughter "due to insanity." Attorney Baker's opening remarks were designed to elicit the full sympathy of the jury. "He recounted how Mrs. Auster struggled with her husband to build the home and happiness that was once theirs in Kenosha after enduring years of hardship..."So after they worked together to build this house," he continued attorney Baker, "that mermaid went out of town and Anna Auster was thrown aside like a rag. Instead of providing food for her family, her husband kept Fanny Koplan in a Chicago apartment. The money she helped amass was squandered on a prettier woman, and after so much abuse, it's no wonder her sanity was shaken. and she momentarily lost control of her senses.'” The first witness for the defense was Mrs. Elizabeth Grossman, the daughter of my grandmother's only sister, who lived on a farm near Brunswick, New Jersey." She gave a great testimony. the whole story of Mrs. Auster's life, her birth in Austria, the death of her mother when Mrs. Auster was only six years old, the trip to that country with her sister eight years later; she worked long hours making hats and bonnets in the fashion stores of New York; how the immigrant girl amassed a few hundred dollars from that job. He spoke of the woman's marriage to Auster shortly after her twenty-third birthday, and of her business adventures; of her failure in a small candy store and her long journey to Lawrence, Kas., where they tried a new start and where her first child was born; her return to New York and the second failure, which ended in bankruptcy and Auster's flight to Canada. She told of Mrs. Auster who followed Auster to Canada; about Auster's desertion of his wife and young children and how he said he would 'leave him to his own devices' [sic] and how he told his wife he would need fifty dollars to do that when he dead could be found with him and used for give him a decent burial... She said that while in Canada they were known as Mr. and Mrs. Harry Ball…. “A small break from the story that Ms. Grossman failed to deliver was provided by former Police Chiefs Archie Moore and Abraham Low, both from Peterboro County, Canada. These men spoke of Auster's departure from Peterboro and the grief of his wife. Auster, they said, left Peterboro on July 14, 1909, and the next night Moore found Mrs. Auster in a room of her seedy house suffering from the effects of gas. She and the children lay on a mattress on the floor as gas spewed from four open nozzles. Moore reported the additional fact of finding a vial of carbolic acid in room 32.

and that traces of the acid were found on Mrs. Austero. She was taken to a hospital, the witness explained, and she was ill for several days. These two men stated that, in her opinion, there was no doubt that Mrs. Auster had shown signs of insanity while she had a taste of life for herself in Canada”. Other witnesses were the two eldest sons, each of whom recounted the family's domestic difficulties. There was much talk of Fanny, including frequent fights at home. “He said that Auster had a habit of knocking over plates and cups and that once her mother's arm was cut so badly that a doctor had to be called to attend to her. She explained that at that time her father was using profane and indecent language with her mother... ”Another witness from Chicago testified that she often saw my grandmother bang her head against the wall in fits of mental anguish. A Kenosha police officer said he “once saw Mrs. Auster running wild down a street. He stated that her hair was "more or less" disheveled, adding that she behaved like a "crazed woman". They also called a doctor, claiming that she suffered from "acute mania". Between sobs and suppressed tears, she told the story of her life with Auster up to the 'accident'... Mrs. Auster withstood the test of interrogation very well, and her story was told three times in the same way. ”. In his summary, “Attorney Baker made a strong emotional call for the release of Ms. Austero. In a speech that lasted almost an hour and a half, he eloquently told the story of Mrs. Austero…. On several occasions, Ms. Auster was moved to tears by her attorney's remarks, and women in the audience wept several times as the attorney drew a portrait of the immigrant struggling to keep her home." The judge gave her to the jury only two verdicts: guilty or not guilty of murder. It took them less than two hours to reach their decision. As stated in the April 12 Bulletin, "At 4:30 this afternoon, the jury returned a verdict in the trial of Mrs. Anna Auster, finding the defendant not guilty." *April 14. "'I am happier now than I was seventeen years ago,' said Mrs. Auster on Saturday afternoon as she shook hands with each of the jurors after their verdict. "While Harry was alive," she told one of them, "I was worried. I never knew true happiness. Now I regret that he died in my hand. Now I am as happy as I could ever hope to be..." Auster walked out of the courtroom, she was accompanied by her daughter... to be announced by her released mother... "In Sam Auster County Jail. ... although he cannot understand everything, he says he is willing to honor "the decision of the twelve jurors... "'When I heard about the verdict last night,' he said in an interview Sunday morning, 'I fell to the ground . I couldn't believe she could walk free after the murder.' of my brother and her husband. It's too big for me. I don't understand, but I'm turning 33 years old.

leave it now I once tried to fix it my way and failed, and all I can do now is accept what the court said.'” He too was released the next day. "'I'll go back to my factory job,' Auster told the district attorney. "As soon as I have enough money, I'll put a headstone on my brother's grave and do everything in my power to help the sons of one." of my brothers who lived in Austria and died fighting in the Austrian army". This morning's lecture brought to light the fact that Sam Auster is the last of the five Auster brothers. Three of the children fought with the Austrian army in the World War and all were killed in action." In the last paragraph of the latest article on the case, the newspaper reports that "Mrs. Auster now plans to take the children and leave for the east. in a few days… It is said that Mrs. Auster decided to do this on the advice of her lawyers, who told her to move into a new house and start a life without anyone knowing the story of the trial.”***

I think it was a happy ending. At least for the readers of the Kenosha paper, clever lawyer Baker, and, no doubt, my grandmother. Of course, nothing more is said about the fate of the Auster family. With this announcement of his departure for the East, the public record ends. Since my father rarely spoke to me about the past, I learned very little about what followed. But from the few things he mentioned I was able to get a good idea of ​​the climate in which the family lived. For example, they were in constant motion. It was not uncommon for my dad to attend two or even three different schools in one year. With no money, life has become a series of escapes for homeowners and creditors. In an already closed family, this nomadism completely isolated them. There were no permanent landmarks: no home, no city, no friends to rely on. Just the family itself, it was almost like living in quarantine. My father was the baby and throughout his life he continued to look up to his three older brothers. As a child he was known as Sonny. He suffered from asthma and allergies, did well in school, most recently playing on the football team and running a 440 for the Central High track team in Newark. He graduated his first year in the Depression, went to law school overnight for a semester or two, and then dropped out, like his brothers before him. The four brothers stayed together. There was something almost medieval about their mutual loyalty. Even though they had their differences, they didn't even like each other in many ways, I don't see them as four separate individuals, but as a clan, a fourfold image of solidarity. Three of them - the three youngest - ended up as partners and lived in the same town, and the fourth, who lived only two towns away, had been founded by the other three. There was hardly a day that my father did not see his brothers. And that means a lifetime: every day, for more than sixty years. 3. 4

They took the habits, idioms, small gestures of others that were mixed in such a way that it was impossible to know where a certain attitude or idea came from. My father's feelings were inflexible: he never said a word to any of his brothers. Once again, it was the other who was not defined by what he did, but by what he was. If one of the brothers insulted him or did something offensive, my father still refused to pass judgment. He is my brother, he said, as if that explained everything. Fraternity was the first principle, the impregnable postulate, the only article of faith. Like belief in God, it was heresy to question it. As the youngest, my father was the most loyal of the four and also the least respected by others. He worked hard, he was very generous to his nieces and nephews, and yet those things were never fully recognized, let alone appreciated. My mother remembers that one of the brothers proposed to her on his wedding day at the party after the ceremony. Whether he had managed to escape is another matter. But just teasing her like that gives you a rough idea of ​​how I felt about my dad. You don't do that on a man's wedding day, even if he's your brother. * At the heart of the clan was my grandmother, a Jewish Mammy Yokum, a mother who killed all her mothers. Wild, undisciplined, the boss. It was her loyalty to each other her to her her that kept the brothers so close. Even as grown men with wives and children, they faithfully went home for dinner every Friday night, without their families. That was the relationship that mattered and took precedence over everything else. There must have been something funny about it: four tall men, each over six feet tall, were serving a little old lady who was a foot shorter than her. One of the few times they came with their wives, a neighbor walked in and was surprised to find such a large gathering. Is this his family, Mrs. Austero? he asked him. Yes, she replied with a wide and proud smile. That is -. That is -. That is -. And this is Sam. The neighbor was a bit surprised. And those lovely ladies? he asked. Who are you? Oh, she responded with a casual wave of her hand. This is - is. This is - is. This is - is. And this is from Sam. The picture that the Kenosha newspaper painted of her was not bad. She lived for her children. (Attorney Baker: Where would a woman with five children like this go? She clings to them and the court can see that they cling to her.) At the same time, she was a bully, prone to screaming and hysterics. When she was angry, she would hit her children over the head with a broom. She demanded loyalty and she got it. Once, when my father had saved the huge sum of ten or twenty dollars from his newspaper trip to buy a new bicycle, her mother came into the room, opened her piggy bank, and took her money without a penny from her. sorry. She needed the money to pay some bills and my father didn't get a chance to express his complaints. By telling me this story, he did not want to show how his mother wronged him, but to show that the well-being of the family was always more important than the well-being of any of his members. He may not have been happy, but he wasn't complaining. 35

This was a capricious rule. For a girl, knowing that the sky could crash down on her at any moment meant that she could never be sure. She then she learned not to trust anyone. Not even himself, someone always came along to show what they thought was wrong, that it didn't matter. She learned never to want too much. * My dad lived with mom until he was older than me now. He was the last to go alone, the one left to take care of her. However, it would be wrong to say that he was a mama's boy. He was very independent, very initiated into the ways of masculinity by his brothers. He was good to her, obedient and attentive, but not without a certain detachment, even humor. After he got married, she would always call him and lecture him about this and that. My dad put the phone down on the table, walked across the room and ran errands for a few minutes, then picked up the phone again, picked it up, and said something innocuous to let her know I was there (uh-huh, uh-eh, hmmmm, right ) and then walked away again, back and forth, until he finished speaking. The comedic side of his frankness. And sometimes it was very good for him. * I remember a tiny, withered being sitting in the front room of a duplex in the Weequahic neighborhood of Newark, reading the Jewish Daily Forward. Even though I knew I had to do this every time I saw her, kissing her made me shudder. Her face was so lined, her skin so inhumanly smooth. Worse than that was his smell, a smell I could only identify much later as camphor, which he must have kept in her dresser and over the years had seeped into the fabric of his clothing. . For me, that smell was intrinsically linked to the idea of ​​“grandmother”. As far as I remember, she wasn't very interested in me. The only time she ever gave me a gift was a second- or third-hand children's book, a biography of Benjamin Franklin. I remember reading it to the end and I even remember a few episodes. Franklin's future wife, for example, laughed at him the first time she saw him walking the streets of Philadelphia with a huge loaf of bread tucked under her arm. The book had a blue cover and was illustrated with silhouettes. I must have been seven or eight years old at the time. After my father's death, I discovered a suitcase in his basement that had belonged to his mother. It was locked and I decided to pry it open with a hammer and screwdriver, thinking it might contain some buried secret, some long-lost treasure. When the latch fell and I lifted the lid, it was there again, that smell wafting to me, instantly, palpably, like my own grandmother. I felt like I had just opened his coffin. There was nothing interesting about it: a set of carving knives, a lot of jewelry. Also a rigid plastic bag, a kind of octagonal box with a handle. I gave the thing to Daniel and he immediately started using it as a portable garage for his fleet of trucks and small cars. 36

* My father worked hard all his life. He got his first job at nine years old. At eighteen, he ran a radio repair shop with one of his brothers. Except for a brief moment when he was hired as an assistant in Thomas Edison's lab (only to have his job taken away the next day when Edison learned he was Jewish), my father never worked for anyone but himself. He was a very demanding boss, much more demanding than he could have been an outsider. The radio store eventually led to a small home goods store, which in turn led to a large furniture store. From there, he began to get involved in real estate (such as buying his mother a house) until he gradually supplanted the store as his focus and became his own business. Associating with two of his brothers went from one thing to another. Get up early every morning, go home late at night, and work in between, nothing but work. Labor was the name of the country in which he lived and he was one of the greatest patriots of it. But that doesn't mean he liked his work. He worked hard because he wanted to earn as much money as possible. Work was a means to an end, a means to money. But the ending did not bring him any joy either. As the young Marx wrote: “If money is the tie that binds me to human life, society to me, me, nature and man, is not money the tie of all ties? Can't untie and tie all ties? So isn't it the universal means of separation?" All his life he dreamed of becoming a millionaire, of being the richest man in the world. He wanted money not so much as what it represented: not just success in the eyes of the world, but a way of making yourself untouchable. Having money means more than being able to buy things: it means the world never has to affect you. Money in the sense of protection, not pleasure. As a child without money and therefore vulnerable to the whims of the world, the The idea of ​​wealth became for him synonymous with the idea of ​​escape: from evil, from suffering, from being a victim. He was not trying to buy happiness, only the absence of unhappiness. Money was the panacea, the embodiment of his desires. deeper and more slippery humans. I didn't want to spend it, I wanted to know it was there. Money, then, not as an elixir, but as an antidote: that little bottle of medicine that you carry in your pocket when you go out into the jungle, in case a snake bites you poisonous.* Sometimes his reluctance to spend was so great it was almost like a disease. He never went so far as to deny himself what he needed (since his needs were minimal), but, more subtly, he chose the cheapest solution every time he needed to buy something. This was bargain shopping as a way of life. There was a kind of perceptual primitivism in this attitude. All distinctions were abolished, everything reduced to the lowest common denominator. The meat was meat, the shoes were shoes, the feather was feather. It didn't matter that there was a choice between Chuck and Porterhouse, that there were thirty-nine cent disposable pens and thirty-seven cent pens.

Fifty dollar fountain pens that would last twenty years. The truly beautiful object was almost detestable: it meant an exorbitant price had to be paid, and that made it morally reprehensible. On a more general level, this led to a permanent state of sensory deprivation: by closing your eyes to this, you denied intimate contact with the shapes and textures of the world, closing yourself off from the possibility of experiencing aesthetic pleasure. The world he looked at was a practical place. Everything had a value and a price, and the idea was to get the things you needed at the closest possible price. Each thing was understood only in terms of its function, judged only by how much it cost, never as an intrinsic object with its own special properties. Somehow I think that made the world seem boring to him. Uniform, colorless, without depth. After all, if you only see the world in terms of money, then you don't see the world at all. * As a child, there were times when I was ashamed of him in public. Bargaining with the merchants, angry over a high price, arguing as if his manhood were at stake. A stark reminder of how everything inside me would wither away, that I wanted to be anywhere in the world but where I was. One incident in particular stands out, in which he bought a baseball glove with him. For two weeks I visited the store every day after school to admire what I wanted. One night when my father took me to the store to do some shopping, he exploded so hard at the clerk that I was afraid he was going to tear him to pieces. Scared and with a sore heart, I told him not to bother, he didn't want the glove after all. When we left the store, he offered to buy me an ice cream. The glove is useless, he said. I'll buy a better one another time. Better, of course, meant worse. * Complaints about having too many lights on in the house. He always worried about buying low wattage light bulbs. * His apology for never taking us to the movies: "Why spend a fortune when it's going to be on TV in a year or two?" . It became a kind of ritual. Yes, he said and nodded, it's a good choice. Years later, when my wife and I lived in New York, he would sometimes take us out for dinner. The script was always exactly the same: as soon as we had the last bite in his mouth, he would ask, "Are you ready to go?" Impossible to even think about dessert. 38

Your absolute discomfort in your own skin. His inability to sit still, talk, "relax." You were nervous to be with him. You felt like he was always on the verge of leaving. * He loved clever little tricks and prided himself on his ability to beat the world at his own game. A pettiness in the most trivial aspects of life, as ridiculous as it is depressing. He would always disconnect the odometers on his cars and fake the mileage to secure a better trade-in price. At his house, he always did his own repairs instead of hiring a professional. With a talent for machines and knowing how things work, he took strange shortcuts and used all available materials to create Rube Goldberg solutions to mechanical and electrical problems, rather than spend money to get it right. Permanent solutions never interested him. He mended and mended, a little here, a little there, never sinking his boat but never giving him a chance to swim. * The way he dresses: as if he were twenty years late. Cheap synthetic suits on discount store shelves; pairs of shoes unpacked from the trash cans of bargain basements. In addition to showing his meanness, this disregard for fashion reinforced the image of him as out of this world. The clothes he wore seemed to be an expression of loneliness, a concrete way of affirming his absence. Although he was rich and could buy whatever he wanted, he looked like a poor wretch with hay fever fresh off the farm. In the last years of his life this changed a bit. Being single again probably shook him: he realized that he needed to become socially acceptable if he wanted to have a social life. Not that he went shopping for expensive clothes, but at least the tone of his wardrobe changed: muted browns and grays were abandoned in favor of lighter colors; The old style gave way to a more striking and elegant image. Plaid pants, white shoes, yellow turtleneck, boots with a large buckle. But despite these efforts, he never felt completely comfortable in these clothes. They were not an integral part of his personality. One had to think of a little boy who had been fantasized by his parents. * Given his strange relationship with money (her desire for wealth from him, his inability to spend money), it was somehow appropriate that he made a living among the poor. Compared to them, he was a man of enormous wealth. And yet, spending his days among people who had next to nothing, he caught a glimpse of what he feared most in the world: running out of money. It put things in perspective for him. He didn't consider himself stingy, but reasonable, a man who knew the value of a dollar. he had to be 39

Stay tuned. It was the only thing standing between him and the nightmare of poverty. When the business was at its peak, he and his brothers owned nearly a hundred buildings. His land was the grim industrial north of New Jersey--Jersey City, Newark--and nearly all of his tenants were black. They say "slumlord", but in this case that would not be an accurate or fair description. He was by no means an absentee owner. He was there, and he worked hours that would have led even the most conscientious employee to go on strike. The work was a constant juggling. There was purchase and sale of buildings, purchase and repair of accessories, management of various teams of installers, rental of apartments, supervision of janitors, attention to tenant complaints, attention to building inspectors, constant commitment to water and electricity companies, not to mention the frequent visits to the courts. both as plaintiff and defendant, to seek back rent payments to respond to violations. It all happened at once, a constant attack from a dozen directions at once, and only a man who did things at his own pace could handle it. On any given day, it was impossible to do everything that needed to be done. You didn't go home because you were done, but simply because it was late and you didn't have time. The next day, all the problems would be waiting for you, and some new ones too. He never stopped. In fifteen years he took only two vacations. He was kind to the tenants: he deferred his payments, dressed his children, helped them find work, and they trusted him. The elders, fearful of being robbed, allowed her to keep his most prized possessions in his study. Of all the brothers, he was the one people turned to with their problems. Nobody called him Mr. austere. It was always Mr. Sam. When he was cleaning the house after his death, I found this letter in the bottom of a kitchen drawer. Of all the things I've found, I'm happy I found this one. Somehow it balances the book, giving me living proof whenever my thoughts stray too far from the facts. The letter is addressed to "Mr. Sam" and the handwriting is almost illegible. April 19, 1976 Dear Sam, I know you're very surprised to hear from me. Maybe I'll introduce myself first. Nash. I am Albert Groover's sister-in-law, Mrs. Groover and Albert, who have lived for so long at 285 Pine Street, Jersey City, and Mrs. Banks, who is also my sister. she arranged for my children and I to obtain an apartment at 327 Johnston Avenue, near the corner of Mr. and Mrs. Groover, my sister. Anyway, I'm getting rid of the $40 rent. That was in 1964, but I didn't. I forgot I had this big debt. So here is your money. Thank you for being so kind to the children and to me back then. I really appreciated what he did for us. I hope you remember the moment. So that you never forget. He called the office about 3 weeks ago but they weren't there at the time. May the good Lord bless you always. I would hardly come to Jersey City to see you. Anyway, now I'm happy to pay off that debt. All for now Best regards 40

Mrs. JB Nash When I was a kid, I used to go out with him when he collected the rent. I was too young to understand what I was seeing, but I remember the impression it made on me, as if, precisely because I did not understand, the raw perceptions of those experiences were flooding me where they are today as immediate. possible are a splinter in the thumb. The wooden buildings with their dark and inhospitable corridors. And behind each door a horde of children playing in an empty apartment; an always grumpy, overworked, tired mother, hunched over an ironing board. The most penetrating is the smell, as if poverty were more than lack of money but a physical sensation, a stench that invades the head and makes it impossible to think. Every time I entered a building with my father, I held my breath, not daring to breathe, as if the smell would hurt. Everyone was always happy to meet Mr. Sam. I have received countless smiles and pats on the head. I remember once, when I was a little older, I was driving down a street in Jersey City with him and I saw a little boy wearing a T-shirt that I had outgrown a few months earlier. It was a very distinctive shirt, with a strange combination of yellow and blue stripes, and it was definitely mine. Inexplicably, a feeling of shame washed over me. Even older, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, she sometimes went to him to earn money by working with carpenters, painters, and craftsmen. Once, on an unbearably hot day in the middle of summer, I got a job helping one of the men put up a roof. The man's name was Joe Levine (a black man who changed his name to Levine's in thanks to an elderly Jewish grocer who helped him in his youth), and he was my father's most trusted handyman. We hauled several fifty-gallon drums of tar onto the roof and went to work spreading the material over the surface with brooms. The sunlight hitting that flat black roof was brutal and after about half an hour I got really dizzy, slipped on a wet patch of tar and fell and somehow knocked over one of the open barrels which spilled tar everywhere. When I returned to the office a few minutes later, my father was amused. I could tell the situation was funny, but too embarrassed to joke about it. To my dad's credit, he didn't get mad at me or make fun of me. He laughed, but in a way that made me laugh too. So he dropped what he was doing and took me to Woolworth's across the street and bought me some new clothes. Suddenly it became possible for me to feel close to him. * Over the years, business began to decline. It was not the business itself that was to blame, but the nature of the business: at that time, in that place, it was no longer possible to survive. Cities collapsed and no one seemed to care. What was once a more or less rewarding job for my father now turned into a simple drudgery. In the last years of his life, he hated going to work. Vandalism has become such a serious problem that any kind of repair has become a demoralizing gesture. As soon as a toilet was installed in a building, burglars ripped out the pipes. Windows were constantly being broken, doors were being smashed, 41

The corridors were destroyed, fires started. At the same time, a sold-out sale was impossible. Nobody wanted the buildings. The only way to get rid of them was to abandon them and let the cities take over. Large sums of money were lost in this way, the work of a lifetime. In the end, when my father died, there were only six or seven buildings left. The entire empire had collapsed. The last time I was in Jersey City (at least ten years ago), the place looked like a disaster area, as if it had been looted by the Huns. Gray and desolate streets; trash piled up everywhere; Shipwrecks that drag aimlessly up and down. My father's office had been broken into so many times that now only two gray metal desks, two chairs, and three or four telephones remained. Not even a typewriter, not a touch of color. It was no longer a workplace, but a room in hell. I sat down and looked at the bank across the street. No one left, no one entered. The only living things were two stray dogs that jumped on the steps. How he managed to get up and go there every day is beyond me. force of habit or sheer stubbornness. It wasn't just depressing, it was dangerous. He was ambushed several times and once was kicked in the head so severely by an assailant that his hearing was permanently damaged. For the last four or five years of his life there had been a slight, constant ringing in his head, a ringing that never stopped, even while he slept. The doctors said there was nothing they could do about it. After all, he never went out into the street without a wrench in his right hand. He was over 65 years old and did not want to take any more risks. * Two phrases that came to mind this morning as he was showing Daniel how to make scrambled eggs. "'And now I want to know,' says the woman with terrible force, 'I want to know if it is possible to find another father like him anywhere in the world.'" (Isaac Babel) "Children always have a tendency to degrade or exalt their parents, and for a good son his father is always the best of fathers, not to mention any objective reason to admire him." (Proust) * Now I realize what a bad son I must have been. Or, if not bad, at least a disappointment, a source of confusion and sadness. It didn't make sense that he had a poet son. Nor could I understand why what a young man with two degrees from Columbia University, after graduating, working as a simple sailor on an oil tanker in the Gulf of Mexico and then sailing to Paris without rhyme or reason and spending four years there an existence of lead in the mouth His The most common description of me was that I had my "head in the clouds" or "feet off the ground". a person from another world. in 42

Through his eyes, you became part of the world through work. By definition, work was something that brought money. If it didn't give money, it wasn't work. Writing, therefore, was not work, especially writing poetry. At best, it was a pastime, a pleasant pastime among the things that really mattered. My father thought he was wasting my gifts and refusing me to grow. Still, a kind of bond remained between us. We weren't close, but we kept in touch. About one call a month, maybe three or four calls a year. Whenever a book of my poetry was published, I dutifully sent it to him and he always called to thank me. Every time he wrote a magazine article, he'd put a copy aside and hand it over to him the next time he saw it. The New York Review of Books meant nothing to him, but the Commentary articles impressed him. I think he felt that if the Jews published me, there might be something to it. When he was still living in Paris, he once wrote to me that he had gone to the public library to read some of my poems that had recently appeared in an issue of Poetry. I imagined him in a large deserted room, early in the morning, before leaving for work: sitting at one of those long tables, still wearing his coat, meditating on words that must have been incomprehensible to him. I've been trying to keep this image in my mind along with all the others that don't come out of it. * The unbridled and utterly bewildering power of contradiction. Now I understand that every fact is nullified by the next fact, that every thought produces an equal and opposite thought. Impossible to say anything without reservation: it was good or it was bad; it was this or that, they are all true. Sometimes I feel like I'm writing about three or four different men, each one different, each one at odds with the others. fragments Or the anecdote as a form of knowledge. Yes. * The occasional flash of generosity. In those rare moments when the world didn't pose a threat to him, kindness seemed to be his drive in his life. "May the Lord always bless you." His friends called him when they were in trouble. Somewhere in the middle of the night a car got stuck and my dad got out of bed and came to the rescue. In a way, it was easy for others to take advantage of him. He refused to complain about anything. A patience that bordered on the superhuman. He was the only person he knew who could teach someone to drive without getting angry or passing out from nerves. He could run right into a utility pole and he still wouldn't bother. Impenetrable. And that's why he sometimes almost relaxed. *


Even as a young man, he was particularly interested in his eldest nephew, the only son of his only sister. My aunt had an unhappy life, marked by a series of difficult marriages, and her son took the brunt of it: trafficked to military schools, never given a home. Motivated, I believe, by nothing more than kindness and a sense of duty, my father took the boy under his wing. He cared for him with constant encouragement, taught him how to function in the world. Later he helped him with the business and when a problem arose he was always willing to listen and advise. Even after my cousin married and started his own family, my father continued to take an active interest, once hosting them in his home for over a year and devotedly giving his four nephews and grandchildren gifts on their birthdays and visiting them. them frequently. for dinner. This cousin was more devastated by my father's death than any of my other relatives. At the family gathering after the funeral, he came up to me three or four times and said, “I found it the other day. We were supposed to have dinner together on Friday night. The words he used were exactly the same each time. As if he didn't already know what he was saying. I felt that we had switched roles, that he was the grieving son and I was the compassionate nephew. I wanted to put my arm around his shoulders and tell him what a good man his father had been. After all, he was the real son, he was the son that I could never be. * For the last two weeks these lines by Maurice Blanchot have resonated in my head: “One thing must be understood: I have not said anything extraordinary or surprising. The extraordinary begins the moment I stop. But I can't talk about it anymore." Starting with death. Work your way back to life and eventually return to death. Or: the vanity of wanting to say something about someone. * In 1972 he visited me in Paris. It was the only time he traveled to Europe. That year I lived in a tiny utility room on the sixth floor, barely big enough for a bed, a table, a chair, and a sink. The windows and the small balcony looked down on the face of one of the stone angels looming over St. Germain Auxerrois: the Louvre to my left, Les Halles to my right, and Montmartre straight ahead. I was very fond of this room and many of the poems that later appeared in my first book were written there. My father did not plan long stays, just vacations, as you would say: four days in London, three days in Paris and then back home. But he warmed me to the idea of ​​seeing him and I decided to make him have a good time. 44

However, two things happened that made it impossible. I got really sick with the flu; and I had to go to Mexico the day after he arrived to work on a ghost writing project. I waited for him all morning in the lobby of the tourist hotel where he had booked, sweating with a high fever, almost mad with weakness. When he didn't show up at the appointed time, I stayed another hour or two, but finally gave up and went back to my room, where I threw myself on my bed. Late in the afternoon there was a knock on my door, waking me from a deep sleep. The encounter is straight out of Dostoevsky: the middle-class father visits his son in a strange city and finds the struggling poet alone in an attic, dying of a fever. What he saw shocked him, outraged him that someone could live in such a space, and prompted him to act: He made me put on my coat, dragged me to a nearby clinic, and then bought me prescription pills. After that, he refused to allow me to spend the night in my room. I couldn't resist, so I agreed to stay at his hotel. He was no better the next day. But there were things to do, and I got myself together and did them. In the morning I took my father to the huge apartment of the film producer on Henri Martin Avenue, who sent me to Mexico. I had been working on and off for this man for a year now, doing odd jobs, if you will, translations, script synopses, things that were only marginally related to the movie that didn't interest me anyway. Each project was dumber than the last, but the pay was good, and he needed the money. He now wanted me to help his Mexican wife with a book that he was going to write for an English publisher: Quetzalcóatl and the secrets of the feathered serpent. This felt a bit overwhelming and I turned him down multiple times. But every time I said no, his offer worked, so far I got so much money that I couldn't refuse. I would only be gone for a month and they would pay me in cash, in advance. That was the transaction my father witnessed. For the first time, I could see that he was impressed. Not only did I show him around this luxurious setting and introduce him to a man who made millions of dollars in business, but this man calmly passed a stack of hundred dollar bills across the table and told me to have a safe trip. Of course it was the money that made the difference, the fact that my father had seen it with his own eyes. I felt triumphant, as if I had been validated in some way. For the first time he had to realize that he could take care of me on my own terms. He became very protective and tolerant of my weakened condition. He helped me put the money in the bank, all smiles and jokes. He then picked us up a taxi and took me to the airport. At the end, a big handshake. good luck son kill her. your bet * Nothing for several days…. Despite the excuses I have made, I understand what is happening. The closer I get to the end of what I can say, the more reluctant I am to say anything. I want to postpone the moment of the end and pretend that I am just beginning, that the best part of my story is yet to come. No. 45

As useless as those words seem, they still stand between me and a silence that continues to terrify me. Going into that silence means that my father is gone forever. * The dirty green carpet of the funeral home. And the manager, oily, professional, with eczema and swollen ankles, makes a list of expenses as if she were going to buy bedroom furniture on credit. She handed me an envelope containing the ring my father was wearing when he died. As I touched the ring as the conversation continued, I noticed that the underside of the stone was smeared with the residue of some soapy lubricant. It was a few moments before she made the connection, and then it was absurdly obvious: lotion had been used to remove the ring from his finger. I tried to imagine the person whose job it was to do these things. I felt less horror and more fascination. I remember thinking, I have entered the realm of facts, the realm of raw details. The ring was gold with a black setting bearing the insignia of the Masonic Fraternity. My father had not been an active member for over twenty years. The undertaker kept telling me how he met my father "in the old days," hinting at an intimacy and friendship that he was sure never existed. When I gave him the information to pass on to the newspapers for the obituary, he prefaced my statements with false facts and was quick to show how well he knew my father. Every time this happened he would stop me and fix it. When the obituary appeared in the newspaper the next day, many of these false facts were published. * Three days before his death, my father bought a new car. He had ridden once, maybe twice, and when I got back to his house after his funeral, I saw him in the garage, already dead, like a giant stillborn creature. Later that day, I stopped in the garage for a moment to be alone. I got behind the wheel of this car and breathed in the strange newness of the factory. The odometer read sixty-seven miles. That was also my father's age: sixty-seven. The brevity made me sick. As if that was the distance between life and death. A short jaunt, little more than a drive to the next town. * Worst regret: not having had a chance to see him after he died. I ignorantly assumed that the casket would be open during the funeral, and when it wasn't, it was too late to do anything about it. Never having seen him dead robs me of an agony that I would have enjoyed. It's not that his death has become less real, but every time I want to see him, every time I want to touch the reality of him, I have to do an act of imagination. There is nothing to remember. Nothing but a kind of emptiness. 46

When they dug up the grave to accommodate the coffin, I noticed a thick orange seal sticking out of the hole. It had a strange calming effect on me. For a brief moment, the simple fact of death could no longer be hidden behind the words and gestures of the ceremony. Here it was: abrupt, unadorned, impossible to take your eyes off. My father was lowered to the ground, and in time, as the coffin began to disintegrate, his body would help nurture the very root that I had seen. That made more sense to me than anything said or done that day. * The rabbi who conducted the funeral was the same man who conducted my bar mitzvah nineteen years earlier. The last time I saw him, he was a clean-shaven young man. He was now old, with a thick gray beard. I didn't know my father, in fact, I didn't know anything about him, and half an hour before the service started, I sat him down and told him what to say in the eulogy. He made notes on little pieces of paper. When it was time to speak, he spoke with great emotion. The subject was a man he had never met, but it seemed like he was speaking from the bottom of his heart to him. I heard women sobbing behind me. He followed almost word for word what I told him. It occurs to me that I began writing this story a long time ago, long before my father died. * Lying awake in bed night after night, my eyes open to the darkness. The inability to sleep, the inability not to think about how he died. I'm sweating between the sheets trying to imagine what it's like to have a heart attack. Adrenaline is pumping through me, my head is pounding, and my whole body feels like it's contracting into a small area behind my chest. The need to experience the same panic, the same deadly pain. And then at night there are dreams, almost every night. In one of them, which woke me up a few hours ago, the teenage daughter of a friend of my father's informed me that my father had impregnated her daughter. Since he was very young, it was agreed that my wife and I would raise the child after the birth. The baby would be a boy. Everyone knew this in advance. Perhaps it is equally true that, once this story is finished, it will continue to be told even after the words have run out. * The old man at the funeral was my great-uncle Sam Auster, who is now nearly ninety years old. Tall, hairless, with a high-pitched, hoarse voice. Not a word about the events of 1919, and I didn't have the courage to ask him. I took care of Sam when he was a little boy, he said. But that was it. When asked if he would like a drink, he asked for a glass of hot water. Lemon? No thanks, just hot water. 47

Blanchot again: "But I can't talk about it anymore." * From the house: a document from St. Clair County, Alabama, duly announcing my parents' divorce. Signature below: Ann W. Love. * From the house: a watch, some sweaters, a jacket, an alarm clock, six tennis rackets and an old rusty Buick that hardly works anymore. A crockery, a coffee table, three or four lamps. A Johnnie Walker pub statue for Daniel. The blank photo album This Is Our Life: The Austers. At first I thought it would be a comfort to hold on to these things, they remind me of my father and make me think of him as I live my life. But objects, it seems, are just objects. I already got used to them, I began to consider them my own. I look at the time on his watch, put on his sweaters, drive his car. But all this is just an illusion of intimacy. I've already mastered these things. My father disappeared from them, he became invisible again. And sooner or later they break, fall apart and have to be thrown away. I doubt it matters. * “… Here only the one who works earns his bread, only the one who is afraid finds peace, only the one who goes down to the underworld saves his loved ones, only the one who draws the knife gets Isaac…. Whoever does not want to work, observe what is written about the virgins of Israel, because she gives birth to the wind, but whoever wants to work, gives birth to his own father. (Kierkegaard) * After two in the morning. An overflowing ashtray, an empty coffee cup, and the chill of early spring. A photo of Daniel now, lying in his crib and sleeping. to finish it. I wonder what he'll do with those pages when he's old enough to read them. And the image of his body wild of him and fluffy of him sleeping upstairs in his crib. to finish it. 1979 The Memory Book


"When the dead cry, they begin to recover," said the raven solemnly. "I'm sorry to disagree with my famous friend and colleague," said the owl, "but I believe that when the dead cry, it means they don't want to die." Collodi, The Adventures of Pinocchio Place a blank sheet of paper in front of him on the table and write these words with his pen. Was. He will never do it again. * He returns to his room later that day. He finds a new sheet of paper and places it on the table in front of him. He writes until he covers the entire page with words. Later, when he rereads what he has written, he has difficulty deciphering the words. Those he understands don't seem to be saying what he thought they were saying. He then he goes out to dinner. * That night, he tells himself that tomorrow will be another day. New words start screaming in his head, but he doesn't write them down. He decides to call himself A. He paces between the table and the window. He turns the radio on and off. He smokes a cigarette. * He So he writes. Was. He will never do it again. * Christmas Eve 1979. Your life no longer seems to reside in the present. Every time he turned on the radio and listened to the world news, he imagined the words that described things that happened a long time ago. Though he was in the present, he felt as if he were looking at her from the future, and that present as past was so outdated that even the horrors of the day that would normally have filled him with outrage seemed far away. , like reading the voice on the morning radio chronicles of a vanished civilization. Later, in a period of greater clarity, he would describe this feeling as "longing for the present." *** A detailed description of classic storage systems follows, complete with diagrams, diagrams, and symbolic drawings. Raymond Lull, for example, or Robert Fludd, not to mention Giordano Bruno, the great Nolan burned at the stake in 1600. Places and images as catalysts for the memory of other places and images: things, events, the buried artifacts of own life. . mnemonics. It follows Bruno's idea that the structure of human thought corresponds to the structure of nature. And therefore come to the conclusion that everything is somehow connected with everything else. 49

* Simultaneously, and in parallel, a brief treatise on space. For example, the image of a man sitting alone in a room. As in Pascal: "All man's unhappiness stems from one thing: his inability to remain still in his room." As in the sentence: "he wrote the memories in this room." * The memories. book one Christmas Eve 1979. He is in New York, alone in his little room at 6 Varick Street. Like many of the buildings in the neighborhood, this used to be just a workplace. All around you are remnants of your former life: mysterious networks of pipes, soot-covered tin roofs, hissing jets of steam. Every time his gaze falls on the frosted glass of his door, he can read these clumsy stenciled letters in reverse order: R.M. Pooley, licensed electrician. People should never live here. It is a space for machines, spittoon and sweat. She can't call it home, but the last nine months have been all she's had. A few dozen books, a mattress on the floor, a table, three chairs, an electric stove, and a bowl of cold, corroded water. The bathroom is down the hall, but he only uses it when he needs to take a shit. He urinates in the sink. For the past three days, the elevator has not worked, and since this is the top floor, he has been reluctant to leave the house. It's not so much that he's afraid to go up ten stories when he comes back, but it discourages him from exhausting himself so much only to return to so much desolation. By staying in this room for a long time, he usually manages to fill it with thoughts of him, which in turn seems to drive away the sadness or at least knock him unconscious. Every time he leaves, he takes thoughts of him with him, and during his absence the room gradually empties of his efforts to inhabit it. When he comes back, he has to start the whole process over again and that takes work, real spiritual work. Given his physical condition after the ascent (chest heaving like bellows, legs tense and heavy as logs), this internal struggle takes even longer to progress. Meanwhile, in the interval between the moment he opens the door and the moment he begins to reclaim the void, his mind reels in wordless panic. It is as if he was forced to witness his own disappearance, as if he crossed the threshold of this space and entered another dimension and settled in a black hole. Above him, dark clouds pass through the tar-smeared skylight and drift away from Manhattan at night. Below him, he listens to the traffic rushing toward the Holland Tunnel: streams of cars returning home to New Jersey the night before Christmas. It's quiet next door. The Pomponius brothers, who arrive there every morning to smoke their cigars and shred plastic letters—a business in which they still work twelve or fourteen hours a day—are probably at home preparing their festive dinner in advance. This is all for the better. One of them has been sleeping in his tent lately and his snoring keeps A. awake all the time. The man sleeps directly across from A., on the other side of the thin wall that separates his two rooms, and hour after hour A. lies in bed, staring into the darkness, trying to adjust his thoughts to the ebb and flow of events. issues. . man, 50

adenoid dreams. The snore gradually intensifies, and at the height of each cycle it becomes long, piercing, almost hysterical, as if at nightfall the snorer had to imitate the sound of the machine that imprisoned him during the day. For the first time, A. can count on a calm and uninterrupted sleep. Even the arrival of Santa Claus will not disturb you. Winter Solstice: The darkest time of the year. As soon as he wakes up in the morning, he feels like the day is slipping away from him. There is no light to bite, no sense of time to unfold. One more sensation of closed doors, of closed padlocks. It is a hermetic season, a long moment of interiority. The outside world, the tangible world of materials and bodies, seems to be just an emanation of your spirit. He feels himself slipping through events, a wraith hovering around his very presence as if he lived somewhere next to him, not really here, but nowhere else either. A feeling of being locked in and being able to walk through walls at the same time. Somewhere on the edge of a thought he realizes: a darkness in the bones; take note of it. During the day, the heat comes out of the radiators at maximum power. Even now, in the coldest of winters, he is forced to keep the window open. However, at night there is no heat at all. Sleep fully dressed, with two or three sweaters, well wrapped in a sleeping bag. On weekends, the heating is completely turned off day and night, and lately there have been times when he's sitting at his desk trying to write and can't feel the pen in his hand. In itself, this lack of comfort does not bother him. But it has the effect of throwing you off balance, putting you in a state of constant internal alertness. Despite what it seems, this room is not a retreat from the world. There is nothing here to welcome you, no promise of great vacations to lull you into oblivion. These four walls contain only the signs of his own restlessness, and to find some peace in this environment, he must dig deeper and deeper within himself. But the more you dig, the less there is to dig more. This seems undeniable. Sooner or later it will wear out. As night falls, the current halves, then rises again and falls for no apparent reason. It's like the lights are controlled by a playful deity. Con Edison has no record of the site and no one has ever had to pay for electricity. At the same time, the phone company refuses to acknowledge A's existence. The phone has been here for nine months and works perfectly, but she still hasn't received the bill. When he called recently to clarify the matter, they insisted that they had never heard of it. He somehow managed to escape the clutches of the computer and none of his calls were recorded. His name is from the books. Whenever he felt like it, he could spend his spare time making free phone calls to faraway lands. But the fact is that there is no one he wants to talk to. Not in California, not in Paris, not in China. The world has shrunk to the size of this room for him, and he must stay where he is for as long as it takes to understand it. Only one thing is certain: he can't be anywhere until he's here. And if he doesn't find that place, it would be foolish to think of looking for another. * Life inside the whale. An explanation of Jonas and what it means to refuse to speak. Parallel text: Gepetto in the Shark's Belly (Whale in the Disney version) and Story 51

how Pinocchio saves him. Is it true that to become a real boy you have to dive into the depths of the sea and save your father? First statement on these matters. More installments will come. ***

Then shipwreck. Crusoe on his island. "This child can be happy if he stays at home, but if he goes abroad, he will be the most miserable guy ever born." Lonely Consciousness. Or in the words of George Oppen: “The collapse of the singular”. A view of the waves all around you, the water as endless as the air, and the warmth of the jungle beyond. "I am separated from humanity, a loner, banished from human society." It's Friday? No not yet. There is no Friday, at least not here. Everything that happens is prior to this moment. O: The waves will have erased the tracks. * First comment on the nature of chance. Start here. A friend of his tells him a story. A few years pass and then he thinks about the story again. It's not like I started with the story. Instead, in the act of remembering, he realized that something was wrong with him. Because the story would not have come to mind if what evoked his memory had not already made itself felt. Unknowingly, he had dug in a place where memory had all but disappeared, and now that something had surfaced, he couldn't even imagine how long the digging had taken. M.'s father hid from the Nazis in a Paris bonne chambre de bonne for several months during the war. Finally, he managed to escape, made it to the United States and started a new life. Years passed, more than twenty years. M. was born, grew up and went to study in Paris. Once there, he spent several difficult weeks looking for a place to stay. When he was desperate to give up, he found a little chambre de bonne. Immediately after moving in, he wrote a letter to his father to tell her the good news. About a week later he received an answer: Your address, M.'s father wrote, this is the same house where I hid during the war. Then he went on to describe the details of the room. It turned out to be the same room that his son rented. * So start with this room. And so it begins with this room. And beyond is the Father, the Son and the War. Talking about fear and remembering that the man who was hiding in that little room was a Jew. By the way: the city was Paris, the place from which A. had just returned (December 15), and who once lived for a whole year in a Parisian chambre de bonne - where he wrote his first volume of poetry and where his own father lived visited him once on his only trip to Europe. In memory of the death of his father. And also, understand, most important of all, that M's story doesn't make sense. Still, it starts here. The first word only appears at one point 52

when nothing else can be explained, at some point in the experience that escapes all the senses. Reduce yourself to saying nothing. Or tell yourself: This is what haunts me. And then, almost at the same time, realizing that this is what haunts him. * Place a blank sheet of paper on the table in front of him and write these words with his pen. Possible inscription for the Book of Memory. Then open a book by Wallace Stevens (Opus Posthumous) and copy the following sentence. "Faced with an extraordinary reality, consciousness takes the place of imagination." * Later that day, he writes continuously for three or four hours. Later, when he reads what he wrote, he finds only one paragraph of interest. Although he doesn't know what to do with it, he decides to save it for the future and writes in a lined notebook: When the father dies, he writes, the son becomes his own father and his son. He looks at his son and sees himself in the boy's face. He imagines what the boy sees when he looks at him and realizes that he will become his own father to him. Inexplicably, he moves him. It is not just the sight of the child that moves him, not even the thought of being in his father, but what he sees in the child from his own vanished past. It is a nostalgia for his own life that he can feel, a memory of his own childhood as the son of his father. Inexplicably, at this moment he trembles with both joy and sadness, if possible, as if he is going back and forth, into the future and into the past. And there are times, many times, when those feelings are so strong that your life seems to no longer live in the present. * Memory as a place, as a building, as a succession of columns, cornices, porticoes. The body in the mind as we move, going from one place to another, and the sound of our footsteps as we walk, going from one place to another. “It is necessary, therefore, to use a large number of squares,” writes Cicero, “which must be well lighted, clearly ordered, and moderately spaced; and images that are active, sharply defined, unusual, and that have the power to quickly reach and penetrate the psyche…. For places are like tablets of wax or papyrus, figures like letters, the arrangement and arrangement of figures like writing, and speech like reading." * He returned from Paris ten days ago. He was there on a business visit and it was the first time he had been abroad in over five years. the travel shop, 53

the constant talking, excessive drinking with old friends, the long separation from his son finally wore him down. When he had a few days at the end of the trip, he decided to go to Amsterdam, a city he had never visited. He thought: the paintings. But once there, what impressed him most was what he had not planned. For no particular reason (flipping through a guidebook he found in his hotel room), he decided to visit the Anne Frank House, preserved as a museum. It was a Sunday morning, gray with rain, and the streets along the canal were deserted. He climbed the narrow, steep stairs inside the house and entered the back building. Standing in Anne Frank's room, the room where the diary was written, now empty with the faded photographs of Hollywood movie stars she had collected still plastered on the walls, he suddenly found himself crying. Not sobbing, as might be with a deep inner pain, but crying silently, the tears rolling down his cheeks as if he were just a response to the world. At that moment, he later found out, the memories began. As in the sentence: "She wrote her diary in this room." From the window of this room, which overlooks the backyard, you can see the rear windows of a house where Descartes lived. Now there are children's swings in the yard, toys scattered on the lawn, cute little flowers. Looking out the window that day, he wondered if the children who had these toys had any idea what happened thirty-five years ago where he was. And if so, what would it be like to grow up in the shadow of Anne Frank's bedroom? Repeating Pascal: "All the unhappiness of man derives from one thing: his inability to remain still in his room." At about the same time that these words entered the Thoughts, Descartes was writing from his room in that house in Amsterdam to a friend in France. "Is there any country," he gushed, "where one can enjoy as much freedom as here?" Everything can be read as an explanation of everything else, so to speak. Imagine Anne Frank, for example, if she had lived after the war and read Descartes' Meditations as a student in Amsterdam. Imagine a loneliness so crushing, so heartbreaking that you stop breathing for hundreds of years. * Observes with some fascination that Anne Frank's birthday is the same as her son's. June twelfth. Under the sign of Gemini. A photo of the twins. A world where everything is double, where the same thing always happens twice. Memory: the space in which something happens a second time. * The Book of Memory. Book Two. The last testament of Israel Lichtenstein. Warsaw; July 31, 1942. “I set to work with zeal and enthusiasm to help gather archival material. They entrusted me as a supervisor. I hid things. Nobody knew except me. I only trusted my friend Hersh Wasser, my boss... he is well hidden. Please God save. This will be the best and the best we can do in the current cruel times... I know we won't make it. Survive and stay alive 54

after such terrible murders and massacres it is impossible. That is why I am writing this testament of mine. Perhaps not worth remembering, but only for my courage in working with the Oneg Shabbat Society and being the most vulnerable for hiding all the material. It would be a trifle to give my own head. I am risking the head of my dear wife Gele Seckstein and my dear daughter Margalit... I do not want gratitude, nor monuments, nor praise. I just want a reminder so that my family, my brothers and sisters abroad know what happened to my remains... I want my wife to be remembered. Gele Seckstein, artist, dozens of works, talented, has not exhibited, has not exhibited publicly. During the three years of the war, she worked with children as an educator, teacher, made sets and costumes for children's productions, received awards. Now we are preparing with me to receive death... I want my girl to be remembered. Margalit, now 20 months. She has a perfect command of Yiddish, she speaks pure Yiddish. At 9 months she became fluent in Yiddish. In terms of intelligence, she is on par with a 3-4 year old. I don't want to brag about it. The teachers of the Nowolipki 68 school witness this and tell me about it…. I don't feel sorry for my life and my wife's. But I feel sorry for the talented girl. She also deserves to be remembered... May we be the saviors of all the Jews left in the world. I believe in the survival of our people. The Jews will not be exterminated. We, the Jews of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Lithuania, Latvia, are the scapegoats for all of Israel in all other countries." *Get up and look. Feel. Lie down in the bed. walking the streets Eating his meals at the Square Diner, alone in an alcove, a newspaper open on the table in front of him. Open your mail. To write letters. stand up and watch. walking the streets He learned from an old English friend, T., that both families originally came from the same town (Stanislav) in Eastern Europe. Before World War I, it was part of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy; between the wars it had been part of Poland; and now, since the end of World War II, part of the Soviet Union. In T.'s first letter it is speculated that they might be cousins ​​after all. However, a second letter brings clarity. T. found out from an elderly aunt that his family was very rich in Stanislav; A.'s family (and this coincides with everything he has known) was poor. The story goes that one of A's relatives (some sort of uncle or cousin) lived in a small cabin on T's family property. He fell in love with the young lady of the house, proposed to her, and was rejected. At that moment, he left Stanislav forever. What is particularly fascinating about this story for A. is that the man had the same name as his son. A few weeks later he reads the following entry in the Jewish Encyclopedia: AUSTER, DANIEL (1893-1962). Israeli lawyer and mayor of Jerusalem. Auster, who was born in Stanislav (then western Galicia), studied law in Vienna, received his doctorate in 1914, and moved to Palestine. During World War I, he served at the Austrian Expeditionary Forces headquarters in Damascus, where he helped Arthur Ruppin send financial aid from Constantinople to the starving Yishuv. After the war, he established a law firm in Jerusalem that represented various Arab-Jewish interests, 55

and served as Secretary of the Legal Department of the Zionist Commission (1919, 20). In 1934 Auster was elected to the Jerusalem City Council; In 1935 he was appointed deputy mayor of Jerusalem; and in 1936–38 and 1944–45 he was acting mayor. Auster represented the Jewish case against the internationalization of Jerusalem that was presented before the United Nations in 1947-1948. In 1948 Auster (representing the Progressive Party) was elected mayor of Jerusalem, the first to hold the position in an independent Israel. Auster held this position until 1951. He also served as a member of the Israel Provisional Council in 1948. He headed the Israel United Nations Association from its inception until his death.” * During the three days he spent in Amsterdam, he was doomed. The city plan is circular (a series of concentric circles cut in half by canals, an intersection of hundreds of small bridges, each connected to one another and then to each other as if they were infinite), and you can't just "follow" it. a street like in other cities. To get anywhere, you need to know in advance where you are going. A. no, being a stranger and also strangely reluctant to consult a map. He rained for three days and for three days he walked in circles. He realized that Amsterdam was a small place compared to New York (or New Amsterdam, as he liked to call himself upon his return), a city whose streets could probably be memorized in ten days. And yet, even if he was lost, couldn't he ask a passerby for directions? Theoretically yes, but he actually couldn't do it. It wasn't that he was afraid of strangers, nor that he was physically reluctant to speak. More specifically, he was reluctant to speak English with the Dutch. Almost everyone in Amsterdam speaks excellent English. However, this ease of communication bothered him, as if he somehow took the strangeness out of the place. Not in the sense that he was looking for the exotic, but in the sense that the place would cease to be itself, as if speaking English would negate the Dutchness of his Dutchness. If he could be sure that no one would understand him, he would not hesitate to run up to a stranger and speak to him in English in a comical attempt to make himself understood: with words, gestures, grimaces, etc. doing this to hurt the Dutch, although they themselves had long since admitted it. That's why he kept his mouth shut. The lazy. He walked in circles. He was lost. Later he found out that he was sometimes only a few meters away from his destination, but he didn't know which way to go, so he took the wrong path, getting further and further away from where he thought he was going. It occurred to him that he might be wandering the circles of hell, that the city had been designed as a model of the underworld, based on a classical representation of the place. He later recalled that some 16th century writers on the subject used various diagrams of Hell as memory systems. (for example, Cosmas Rossellius in his Thesaurus Artificiosae Memoriae, Venice, 1579). And if Amsterdam was hell and memory was hell, then he realized that maybe he was lost for some reason. Cut off from all that was familiar to him, unable to find a single point of reference, he saw his footsteps, leading nowhere, leading nowhere but himself, wandering into himself and was lost. . Far from worrying him, this state of helplessness became a source of joy, of euphoria. the 56

blew into his bones. As if he were on the brink of some previously hidden knowledge, she blew into his bones and said almost triumphantly: I'm lost. * His life no longer seemed to reside in the present. Every time he saw a child, he tried to imagine what he would be like as an adult. Every time he saw an older person, he tried to imagine what that person was like when he was a child. He was worse with women, especially if the woman was young and pretty. She couldn't help but look through the skin of her face and imagine the nameless skull behind it. And the prettier her face is, the more passionately she searches for the signs of the approaching future: the appearance of wrinkles, the slack jaw behind, the gleam of disappointment in the eye. He would put one face on top of the other: this forty-year-old woman; this woman at sixty; this woman at eighty; as if, even being in the present, he felt like running after the future, looking for the death that lives inside each one of us. Some time later, in one of Flaubert's letters to Louise Colet (August 1846), he came across a similar thought and the parallel struck him: '... I always present the future, the opposite of everything is always before my eyes. I never saw a child without thinking of growing old, nor a cradle without thinking of a grave. When I see a naked woman, I imagine the “skeleton of her” of her. *Walk down the hospital corridor and hear the man whose leg was amputated yell out loud, It hurts, it hurts. That summer (1979), every day for more than a month crossing the city to the hospital, unbearable heat. Helping grandpa put on his dentures. Shaving the old man's face with an electric razor. He read her the New York Post baseball scores. First statement on these matters. More installments will come. * Second comment on the nature of chance. He remembers skipping school with his friend D. on a rainy day in April 1962 and going to the Polo Grounds to watch one of the first New York Mets games. The stadium was almost empty (attendance was eight or nine thousand) and the Mets lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates. The two friends were sitting next to a boy from Harlem, and A. recalls the pleasant conversation between the three of them during the game. He's only been back on the polo grounds once this season, and that was for a festive doubleheader (Memorial Day: Day of Remembrance, Day of the Dead) against the Dodgers: over fifty thousand people in the stands, bright sunshine, and a crazy afternoon. Events on the field: a triple play, home runs in the park, double steals. He was with the same friend that day and they were sitting in a secluded corner of the stadium, unlike the good seats they had gotten in the previous game. They eventually left their 57

Places to go to the hot dog stand, and there, a few rows up the concrete steps, was the same boy they'd met in April, this time next to his mother. They all recognized each other and greeted each other warmly, each marveling at the coincidence of their reunion. And make no mistake: The odds against this matchup were astronomical. Like his two friends A. and D., the boy who was now sitting with his mother hadn't been to a game since that rainy April day. * Memory as space, as a body, as a skull, as a skull that encloses the space in which a body sits. As shown in the image: "A man was sitting alone in his room." "The power of memory is immense," said San Agustín. “It is a vast and immeasurable sanctuary. Who can plumb its depths? And yet it is a skill of my soul. Although it is part of my nature, I cannot understand everything that I am. This then means that the mind is too narrow to fully contain itself. But where is the part of him that doesn't stop? Is it somewhere outside and not inside? So how can you be a part of this if you're not in it?" *** The Book of Remembrance. Book Three. In 1965, in Paris, he experienced for the first time the infinite possibilities of a limited space. He was first introduced to SA through a chance meeting with a stranger in a cafe. A. was only eighteen at the time, the summer between high school and college, and had never been to Paris before. They are his first memories of the city where he would later spend so much time, and they are inevitably linked to the idea of ​​a bedroom. Place Pinel, in the 13th arrondissement where S. lived, was a working-class neighborhood and yet one of the last vestiges of the old Paris, the Paris that is still talked about, but that no longer exists. S. lived in a room so small that he at first seemed reluctant to resist going inside. The presence of one person filled the room, two people suffocated him. It was impossible to move in it without contracting your body to the smallest dimensions of it, without contracting your mind to an infinitesimal point within you. Only then can you begin to breathe, feel the space expand, and watch your mind explore the fathomless expanses of that space. For within that space was an entire universe, a miniature cosmology containing all that was vastest, most distant, and most unknowable. It was a shrine, little larger than a body, to honor all that exists beyond the body: a representation of a person's inner world in painstaking detail. S. literally managed to surround himself with the things that were inside him. The room in which he lived was a dream room and the walls of it were like the skin of a second body around him, as if his own body had been transformed into a spirit, a breathing instrument of thought. pure. This was the uterus, the belly of the whale, the original place of conception. Venturing into this darkness, S. had invented a way of dreaming with open eyes. S., a former student of Vincent D'Indy, was once considered a promising young composer. However, for more than twenty years, none of his works had 58

publicly performed. Naive in everything, but particularly in politics, he made the mistake of having two of his major orchestral works performed in Paris during the war: Symphonie de Feu and Hommage à Jules Verne, each of which required more than 130 musicians. . This was in 1943 and the Nazi occupation was still in full force. When the war ended, people came to the conclusion that S. had been a collaborator and, although nothing could be further from the truth, he was sidelined by the French music world, by innuendo and tacit approval, never by direct confrontation. The only sign that one of his classmates still remembered him was the annual Christmas card he received from Nadia Boulanger. A stuttering, childish man with a fondness for red wine, he was so innocent, so ignorant of the evil in the world, that he could not even begin to defend himself against his anonymous accusers. He simply withdrew, hiding behind a mask of eccentricity. He proclaimed himself an Orthodox priest (he was Russian), grew a beard, donned a black cassock and changed his name to Abbaye de la Tour du Calame, all the while - restless, dizzy - with which he continued the work of his life: a piece for three orchestras and four choirs, which would last twelve days. In his misery, in his absolutely miserable living conditions, he turned to A. and said, helplessly stuttering and with bright gray eyes: “Everything is wonderful. There has never been a more wonderful moment than this.” The sun did not penetrate his room in Pinel Square. He had covered his window with a heavy black cloth, and what little light there was came from a few strategically placed dimly lit lamps. The room was barely larger than a second-class train carriage and the same shape: narrow, tall, with a single window at the other end. S. had cluttered that small space with an assortment of items, the remains of a life: books, photographs, manuscripts, private totem poles, everything that mattered to him. Shelves, compacted with this accumulation, rose to the ceiling on each wall, each one curving and tilting slightly inward, as if the slightest disturbance might loosen the structure and allow the entire mass of things to fall onto it. S. lived, worked, ate and slept in his bed. Immediately to her left, against the wall, was a row of small shelves that seemed to contain everything she needed to get through the day: pens, pencils, ink, music paper, cigarette holder, radio, penknife, bottles of wine, bread. , books, magnifying glass. To his right was a metal frame with a tray attached to it that he could swing back and forth on the bed, which he used as a desk and dining table. This was life as Crusoe would have lived it: shipwrecked in the heart of the city. Because there was nothing that S. had not thought of. In his anguish, he managed to support himself more efficiently than many millionaires. Despite all the evidence, he was realistic, even in his eccentricities. He examined himself well enough to know what was necessary for his own survival, and he accepted these peculiarities as conditions of his life. There was nothing timid or pious in his demeanor, nothing to suggest the resignation of a hermit. He embraced his condition with passion and joyous enthusiasm, and looking back now, A. realizes that he has never known anyone who laughed so hard and so hard. The huge composition that S. had been working on for the past fifteen years was far from complete. S. called his "work in progress" in reference to Joyce, whom he greatly admired, or the Dodecalog, which he would call 59

the-work-to-be-done-that-is-done-in-the-work-process. It was unlikely that she would have imagined that he would complete the piece. He seemed to accept the inevitability of his failure almost as a theological premise, and what might have been a dead end of despair to another man was to him a source of boundless and mundane hope. At some point, perhaps in his darkest moment, he had equated his life and his work, and now he was unable to distinguish between the two. Every idea flowed into his work; the idea of ​​his work gave meaning to his life. To have thought of something within the realm of possibility, a job that could have been completed and therefore separated from him, would have ruined the company. It was about failing, but only trying the strangest thing he could conjure up for himself. The end result, paradoxically, was humility, a way of assessing his own insignificance in relation to God. Because dreams like S.'s were only possible in the spirit of God. But, dreaming as he did, S. had found a way to participate in everything that was beyond him and to get a few inches closer to the heart of infinity. For more than a month that summer of 1965, A.S. He made visits two or three times a week. He didn't know anyone else in town, so S. became his anchor for the place. He could always count on S. being there, greeting him enthusiastically (Russian style; three kisses on the cheek: left, right, left) and more than willing to chat. Many years later, at a time of great personal need, he found that these encounters with S. drew him back again and again because they were his first experience of what it was like to have a father. His own father was a distant, almost absent figure with whom he had very little in common. On his part, S. had two grown sons, and both abandoned his example and adopted an aggressive and stubborn attitude towards the world. In addition to the natural relationship that existed between them, S. and A. were united by a common need: one for a son who would accept him as he was, the other for a father who would accept him as he was, as he was. was. This was underlined by a parallel birth: S. was born in the same year as A.'s father; A. was born the same year as S's youngest son. To A., S. satisfied his father's hunger with a strange combination of generosity and need. He listened attentively and saw his ambition to be a writer as the most natural thing for a young man to do. If A.'s father, in his strange and withdrawn way of being in the world, made A. feel superfluous in his life, as if nothing he did could affect him, S. in his vulnerability and neediness, A. made it necessary for him. A. brought him food, provided him with wine and cigarettes, made sure he didn't starve, which was a real danger. Because S. was like that: he never asked anyone for anything. He would wait for the world to come to him and entrust his release to chance. Sooner or later someone had to show up: his ex-wife, one of his children, a friend. Still, he wouldn't ask. But he wouldn't refuse either. Every time A. arrived with a meal (usually fried chicken from a delicatessen on the Place d'Italie), he turned himself into a fictitious party, an excuse to celebrate. "Ah, chicken," S. yelled and bit his leg. And then again, chewing, dripping the juice into his beard: "Ah, chicken," with a mischievous, self-deprecating laugh, as if he recognized the irony of his desire and the undeniable pleasure he took from food. Everything became absurd and luminous in that laugh. The world was turned upside down, swept away, and immediately reborn as some kind of metaphysical 60

Farce. There was no place in this world for a man ignorant of his own ridicule. * New meetings with S. Letters exchanged between Paris and New York, some photographs, all lost. 1967: Another visit of several months. Meanwhile, S. had shed his priestly garments and resumed using his own name. But the costumes he wore on his walks through the streets of the neighborhood were just as wonderful. Beret, silk shirt, scarf, heavy corduroy trousers, leather riding boots, silver-handled ebony cane: a view of Paris via Hollywood, circa 1920. It is perhaps no coincidence that the youngest son of S. became a film producer. In February 1971, A. returns to Paris, where he will stay for the next three and a half years. Although he was no longer there as a visitor, which demanded his time, he still saw S. quite regularly, perhaps once every two months. The link was still there, but over time A. began to wonder if it wasn't really a memory of that other link that had formed six years earlier that kept him in the present. Because it turns out that A. did not write any more letters to S. after his return to New York (July 1974). It's not that she didn't think of him anymore. But it was the memory of him, rather than the need to keep in touch with S. in the future, that seemed to concern A. now. In this way, he began to feel the passage of time in a tangible way on his own skin. It was enough for him to remember. And that in itself was an amazing discovery. What was even more terrifying for him was not seeing S when he returned to Paris (November 1979) after an absence of more than five years. And that, despite the fact that he had decided to do it. During his visit, which lasted several weeks, he would wake up every morning and say to himself, I need to make time to see S. today, and then throughout the day he would make an excuse not to see him. That reluctance, he began to see, was the product of fear. But afraid of what? Go back to your own past? Discovering a present that contradicts the past and modifies it, which in turn destroys the memory of the past that it wants to preserve? No, he realized, nothing so simple. So what? The days passed and little by little he began to get light. He is afraid that S. is dead. Irrationally, he knew. But since A.'s father had died less than a year ago and S. had just become important to him in terms of thoughts about his father, he felt that the death of one somehow automatically led to the death of the other. Despite what he tried to tell himself, he really believed it. Besides, he thought: If I go to S., I will find that he is dead; but if I stay away, that means he's alive. Therefore, by remaining absent, A. felt that he would help keep S. in the world. Day after day he walked around Paris with a painting of St. A hundred times a day he imagined himself entering the little room on Place Pinel. And yet he couldn't go there. It was then that he realized that he lived in a state of dire need. * Other comments on the nature of chance. 61

A photograph of his last visit to S. at the end of those years in Paris (1974) is preserved. A. and S. are outside S's house. They each have an arm around the other's shoulder and there is an unmistakable glow of friendship and camaraderie on their faces. This photo is one of the few personal memorabilia that A. brought back to her room on Varick Street. Looking at this photo now (Christmas Eve 1979) he recalls another photo he had seen earlier on S.'s bedroom wall: S. as a young man, maybe eighteen or nineteen, with a twelve or thirteen year old boy from S. together . The same invocation of friendship, the same smile, the same pose with the arms around the shoulders. The child, S. told him, was the son of Marina Tsvetaeva. Marina Tsvetayeva, who, along with Mandelstam, is considered the greatest Russian poet in the eyes of A. Looking at this photo from 1974, he imagines that his impossible life ends when he hangs himself in 1941. For many years between the Civil War and his death, she lived in Russian émigré circles in France, the same community where S. grew up and where she met her and was friends with her son Mur. Marina Tsvetayeva, who wrote: "Perhaps there is a better way / to conquer time and the world / pass and leave no trace - / pass and leave no shadow / on the walls..."; that she had written: "I didn't want this, no / this (but listen carefully / wanting is what bodies do / and now we're just ghosts) ..."; who had written: "In this most Christian world, all poets are Jews." When A. and his wife returned to New York in 1974, they moved into an apartment on Riverside Drive. Among his neighbors in the house was an elderly Russian doctor, Gregory Altschuller, a man in his eighties who was still a researcher in one of the city hospitals and, along with his wife, was very interested in literature. Dr. Altshuller's father had been Tolstoy's personal physician, and on a table in his Riverside Drive apartment was a huge photograph of the bearded writer, dedicated to his friend and physician in equally large handwriting. In conversations with the young Dr. Altschuller he learned something from A. that seemed to him no less extraordinary. In a small town on the outskirts of Prague, in the middle of the winter of 1925, this man gave birth to the son of Marina Tsvetayeva: the same boy who became the boy in the painting on the wall of S. who gave birth in his career. as a doctor. "It was night," Dr. Altschuller wrote recently, "the last day of January 1925.... Snow fell, a terrible storm that snowed everything. A Czech boy ran to me from the village where Tsvetayeva now lived with her family, although her husband was not with her at the time. Her daughter was also traveling with her father. Marina was alone. "The boy ran into the room and said: 'Pani Tsvetayeva wants you to go to her immediately because she is already in labor! You have to hurry, she is on her way.'" What could he say? I dressed quickly and walked through the woods, knee-deep in snow, in a raging storm. I opened the door and entered. In the dim light of a lone lamp, I saw stacks of books in a corner. of the room; they hit the ceiling. The garbage accumulated for days was thrown in another corner of the room. And there was Marina, smoking one cigarette after another in bed, the baby already on the way. She greets me cheerfully: "You're almost late!" I searched the room for something clean, a bar of soap. Nothing, not a clean handkerchief, not a piece of anything. She lying on the bed, smoking and smiling, she said to me: "I told you that you would give birth to my baby." . You came - and 62

Now it's your business, not mine'…. “Everything went quite well. However, the baby was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck so tightly that she could barely breathe. she was blue… “I desperately tried to get the baby to breathe again and she finally started breathing; she went from blue to pink. All this time Marina smoked, she was silent, she didn't make any noise and she looked at the baby, at me…. “I came back the next day and saw the boy every Sunday for many weeks. In a letter (May 10, 1925), Marina writes: “Altschuller conducts everything that concerns Mur with pride and love. Before eating, Mur is given a teaspoon of unsweetened lemon juice. He is fed according to Professor Czerny's system, which saved thousands of newborns in Germany during the war. Altschuller sees Mur every Sunday. Percussion, auscultation, some kind of arithmetic calculation. He then writes how I should feed Mur for the next week, what should I give him, how much butter, how much lemon, how much milk, how to gradually increase the amount. Every time he comes over he remembers what he received last time without having any notes with him... Sometimes I have this crazy urge to just take his hand and kiss it. “The boy quickly grew into a healthy boy who was adored by his mother and his friends. I last saw him when he was less than a year old. At that time, Marina moved to France and lived there for the next fourteen years. George (Mur's legal name) went to school and soon became an avid student of literature, music and art. In 1936, her sister Alia, then in her early twenties, left the family and France to join her father in Soviet Russia. Marina was now alone in France with her very young extreme difficulty, financially and morally. In 1939, she applied for a Soviet visa and returned to Moscow with her son. Two years later, in August 1941, her life came to a tragic end... “The war continued. Young George Efron was in charge. "Goodbye literature, music, school," he wrote to his sister. She signed her letter "Mur". As a soldier, he proved to be a brave and intrepid fighter, taking part in many battles and dying in July 1944 as one of hundreds killed in a battle near the village of Druika on the Western Front. He was only twenty years old. * The Book of Memories. Book Four. Several blank pages. Full illustrations follow. Old family photos, the family itself, going back as many generations as possible. Consider them very carefully. Then several sequences of reproductions, beginning with the portraits that Rembrandt painted of his son Titus. To include them all: from the 1650 vision of the boy (golden hair, red feathered hat) to the 1655 portrait of Titus "intrigued by his lessons" (pensive at table, compass in left hand, right thumb pressed against chin) to Titus in 1658 (Seventeen years old, the extraordinary red hat, and as one commentator wrote, "The artist has painted his son with the same insight normally reserved for his own features") Titus's last surviving painting from the early the 1660s: that of a desolate frail old man at 63

Disease. It is clear that we look back - we know that Titus will die before his father ... ”Following is the 1602 portrait of Sir Walter Raleigh and his son of oito anos, Wat (unknown artist), which is hanging in the National Portrait Gallery , in London . Remarkable: the uncanny similarity of their poses. Father and son face forward, left hands on hips, right feet at 45 degrees, left feet forward, and the boy's face is grim with determination, imitating his father's confident and imperious gaze. As a reminder, when Raleigh was released after thirteen years' imprisonment in the Tower of London (1618) and embarked on the doomed journey to Guyana to clear his name, Wat was with him. To remember that Wat, who led a relentless military attack against the Spanish, lost his life in the jungle. Raleigh to his wife: "Until now I never knew what mourning meant." And so he went back to England and allowed the king to cut off his head. More photos follow, perhaps several dozen: Mallarmé's son, Anatole; Anne Frank ("This is a photo that shows me the way I always wanted to look. Then I would certainly have a chance to go to Hollywood. But unfortunately I tend to look different now"); mur; the children of Cambodia; the children of atlanta The dead children. The children who are going to disappear, the children who are dead. Himmler: "I have made the decision to annihilate all Jewish children from the face of the earth." Nothing but pictures. Because at a certain point, the words suggest that you can no longer speak. Because these images are the unspeakable. * He spent most of his adult life wandering cities, many of which he did not know. He spent most of his adult life poring over a small rectangle of wood, concentrating on an even smaller rectangle of white paper. He has spent most of his adult life getting up, sitting down, and pacing. These are the limits of the known world. He is listening. If he hears something, he starts listening again. So he waits. He watches and waits. And when he starts to see something, he watches and waits again. These are the limits of the known world. * Room. Brief mention of the room and/or the dangers lurking in it. In the picture: Hölderlin in his room. To relive the memory of that mysterious three-month journey on foot, alone through the mountains of the Massif Central, fingers clenching the pistol in his pocket; that journey from Bordeaux to Stuttgart (hundreds of miles) which preceded his first nervous breakdown in 1802. “Dear friend… It has been a long time since I wrote to you, and yet I have been in France and have seen the land sad and lonely ; the shepherds and shepherdesses of the south of France and the lonely beauties, men and women, who grew up in fear of political insecurity and hunger…. The mighty element, the fire from heaven and the stillness of the people, their life in nature, their narrowness and contentment, moved me again and again, and as heroes are said to do, I can say that Apollo 64 struck

Me". Arriving in Stuttgart, "very pale, very thin, with wild sunken eyes, long hair and beard and dressed like a beggar", he stopped in front of his friend Mattthison and said a single word: "Hölderlin". Six months then his beloved Suzette died of schizophrenia until 1806, and after thirty-six years, which is half his life, he lived alone in the tower that the Tübingen carpenter Zimmer had built for him.AN ZIMMER The lines of life are like different what the streets are like or the edge of the mountains, and what we are down here, in harmony, in reward, In peace forever, a god will end there.Towards the end of Hölderlin's life, a visitor from the Torre mentioned Suzette's name. The poet replied: "Ah, my Diotima. Don't talk to me about my Diotima. She gave me thirteen children. One is pope, another is sultan, the third is emperor of Russia..." And then: "You know what she went crazy, she did, crazy, crazy, crazy." In those years, they say, Hölderlin rarely went out. When he left his room, it was alone to wander aimlessly through the countryside, filling his pockets with stones and picking flowers that he would later tear to pieces.In the city, the students laughed at him and the children fled in fright when he came to greet them. In the end, his mind became so confused that he began calling himself by different names: Scardinelli, Killalusimeno, and once, when a visitor was late leaving his room, he showed him the door and said with a warning finger : "I am the Lord God". In recent years there has been repeated speculation about Hölderlin's life in this room. One man claims that Hölderlin's madness was false and that the poet withdrew from the world in response to political backlash paralyzing that swept through Germany after the French Revolution. He lived, so to say, in the basement of the tower. According to this theory, all the writings of Hölderlin's Folly (1806-1843) were actually written in a secret and revolutionary code. There is even a play that expands on this idea. In the scene At the end of this play, the young Marx visits Hölderlin in his tower. This encounter suggests that it was the old and dying poet who inspired Marx to write the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844. If so, Hölderlin would not only be the greatest German poet of the 19th century, but also a central figure in the history of political thought: the link between Hegel and Marx, since it is a documented fact that Hölderlin and Hegel were friends when they were young, they studied together at the Tübingen seminary. Speculations of this kind seem tedious to A. It is not difficult for him to accept Hölderlin's presence in the room. He would go so far as to say that Hölderlin could not have survived anywhere else. Without Zimmer's generosity and kindness, Hölderlin's life might have ended prematurely. Retiring to a room does not mean that someone has gone blind. Being crazy doesn't mean you've been stupid. It is probably the space that brought Hölderlin back to life, that brought back the life he had left. As Jerome commented on the book of Jonah, ignoring the passage about Jonah in the belly of the whale: "You'll find that where you think Jonah's end should have been, there was his safety." Hölderlin in the first year of his life, 65

this room, "while the moon is light. King Oedipus can have too many eyes. This man's sufferings seem indescribable, indescribable, indescribable. If the drama represents something like that, that's why. But what gives me when I think of you now " Like streams, the end of something that expands like Asia sweeps me away. Of course, this suffering, Oedipus also has it. For that, of course. Did Hercules also suffer? Indeed.... Because fighting with God like Hercules is a plague." And immortality in the midst of the envy of this life, participating in it is also a suffering. But that is also a suffering when a man is covered in freckles! , covered with some spots! This is what the beautiful sun does: because it straightens everything. It guides the young man with the charm of its rose-like rays through its course. The sufferings of Oedipus seem like a poor man who complains of that something is wrong with him. Son of Laius, poor foreigner in Greece! death and death death is a kind of life The fourth counter-argument above. Or: reasons for being in the room. * The Book of Memory. book five. Two months after his father's death (January 1979), A.'s marriage broke up. Troubles had been brewing for some time, and the decision was finally made to separate. If one thing was for he accept this breakup, feel unhappy about it and still understand that it was inevitable, another thing was that he swallowed the consequences it brought: the separation from his son. The idea was unbearable. In the spring he moved into his room in Varick Street. Over the next several months, he paced back and forth between that room and the house in Dutchess County where he and his wife had lived for the past three years. Midweek: loneliness in the city; on weekends: visits to the country a hundred miles away, where he slept in his old office and played with his son, less than two, reading to him from the cherished books of the day: Let's Go Trucks, Hat Sale, Mother Goose. Shortly after moving into his room on Varick Street, six-year-old Etan Patz disappeared from the streets of the same neighborhood. Everywhere A. looked, there was a photo of the boy (on lampposts, storefronts, exposed brick walls) with the caption: LOST BOY. Since this child's face was not drastically different from his own son's (and even if it was, it might not matter), every time he saw the image of that face, he had to think of his own son, and thus: lost. . boy Etan Patz was sent downstairs by his mother one morning to wait for the school bus (the first day after a long bus drivers' strike, and the boy was anxious to do that little thing himself, that little gesture to become independent ). . and then he was not seen again. Whatever happened to him, it happened without a trace. He could have been kidnapped, he could have been killed, or maybe he just walked away and died where no one could see. The only thing that can be said with certainty is that he disappeared, as if from the face of the earth. The newspapers made this story very important (interviews with the parents, interviews with the investigators assigned to the case, articles about the child's personality: what games did he like to play, what foods did he like to eat), and A. began to see the Presence of this catastrophe - superimposed on yours and certainly on many 66

small catastrophe, it was inevitable. Everything that appeared before his eyes seemed just an image of what was inside him. The days passed and each day a little more pain surfaced inside him. A sense of loss washed over him and he wouldn't let go. And there were times when that loss was so great and so suffocating that he thought he would never let go of her again. ***

A few weeks later, at the beginning of summer. A bright New York June: bright light falling on the bricks; transparent blue sky inclined to a blue that even Mallarmé would have loved. A.'s grandfather (maternal) began to slowly die. A year ago he had performed magic on A's son's first birthday, but now, at eighty-five, he was so weak that he could no longer stand without support, move without willpower with such intensity that the mere thought of it to move enough to exhaust you. There was a family conference in the doctor's office and it was decided to refer him to the Doctor's Hospital at East End Avenue and Eighty-Eighth Street (the same hospital where his wife had died of amniotropic lateral sclerosis, Lou Gehrig's disease). years before). A. was at this conference, as were his mother and his mother's sister, his grandfather's two children. Since none of the women could stay in New York, it was agreed that A. would be responsible for everything. A's mother had to return to California to care for her seriously ill husband, while A's aunt wanted to go to Paris to visit her first granddaughter, the newborn daughter of her only son. Everything, it seemed, had literally become a matter of life and death. At this point, A. suddenly thought (perhaps because his grandfather had always reminded him of WC Fields) of a scene from Fields' 1932 film Million Dollar Legs: Jack Oakey frantically runs to catch up with a receding stagecoach, begging it to the driver to stop. . to stop; "It's a matter of life and death!" he exclaims. And the driver answers calmly and cynically: "What not?" During this family conference, A. could see the fear on his grandfather's face. Finally, the old man caught his eye and pointed to the wall next to the doctor's desk, which was covered with laminated plaques, framed certificates, awards, degrees, and testimonials, and nodded knowingly, as if to say, "Very impressive, isn't it?" ?". No? No? This guy will take good care of me.” The old man was always carried away by so much pomp. "I just got a letter from the president of Chase Manhattan Bank," he said, though it was really just a formal letter. That day in the doctor's office, however, it was painful for A. to see it: the old man's refusal to recognize the thing by looking directly into his eyes. "I feel good about all this, doctor," said the grandfather. "I know you will heal me again." And yet, almost against his will, A. admired this blinding ability. Later that day, she helped her grandfather pack a small bag of things to take to the hospital. The old man dropped three or four of his magic tricks into his pocket. "Why are you doing that?" A asked. "So I can entertain the nurses," his grandfather replied, "in case it gets boring."


A. decided to stay in his grandfather's apartment while the old man was in the hospital. The house couldn't be empty—someone had to pay the bills, collect the mail, water the plants—and it had to be cozier than the room on Varick Street. Above all, the illusion that the old man was coming back had to be maintained. Until there was no death, there was always the possibility of no death, and that possibility, however small, had to be proven. A. she stayed in this apartment for the next six or seven weeks. It was the same place she had frequented since childhood: a tall, squat, oddly shaped building at the corner of Central Park South and Columbus Circle. She wondered how many hours as a child he had spent watching the traffic meandering around the Christopher Columbus statue. From those same sixth-floor windows, he watched the Thanksgiving Day parades, witnessed the construction of the Coliseum, and spent entire afternoons counting the people passing in the streets below. He now he was surrounded by that place again, with the Chinese telephone table and his grandmother's glass zoo and the old humidor. He had gone straight back to his childhood. A. continued to hope for a reconciliation with his wife. When he agreed to come to town with his son to stay in the apartment, he felt that maybe real change was possible. Insulated from the things and worries of their own lives, they seemed to adapt well to this neutral environment. But neither of them was willing to admit that this wasn't an illusion, an act of recollection coupled with an act of unfounded hope. Every afternoon, A. took two buses to go to the hospital, spent an hour or two with his grandfather, and went back the way he had come. This arrangement worked for about ten days. Then the weather changed. Unbearable heat descended on New York, turning the city into a nightmare of sweat, exhaustion, and noise. None of this helped the little one (crammed in the apartment with the crackling air conditioner or wandering the damp streets with his mother), and when the weather didn't change (humidity was recorded for weeks at a time), A. and his wife decided that she and the child should return to the country. He was left alone in his grandfather's apartment. Each day became a repeat of the day before. Talking to the doctor, driving to the hospital, hiring and firing private nurses, listening to Grandpa's complaints, tucking the pillows under his head. Every time he saw the old man's flesh, he was terrified. The emaciated limbs, the withered testicles, the body that had been reduced to less than 50 kilos. This was a burly man whose proud, well-distended belly preceded every step into the world, and now he was barely there. If at the beginning of the year A. had experienced some kind of death, such a sudden death that, giving her over to death, she deprived herself of the knowledge of this death, now she was experiencing a death of another kind, and it was just as slow, the deadly exhaustion, that detachment from life at the heart of life, which finally taught him what he had always known. Almost every day he called his grandfather's former secretary, a woman who had worked in the office for more than twenty years. After his grandmother's death, she became his grandfather's most constant companion, the respectable woman he flaunted at formal occasions: family parties, weddings, funerals. Every time he called, he asked a lot of questions about 68

about her grandfather's health and then asks A. to arrange a hospital visit for her. The problem was her own failing health. Although she was young (late 1960s at the latest), she suffered from Parkinson's disease and had lived in a nursing home in the Bronx for some time. After countless conversations (her voice on the phone was so weak that A. needed all of her concentration to understand half of what he was saying), he finally agreed to meet her outside the Metropolitan Museum, where she was a special bus is available. from the nursing home leaving outpatients once a week for an afternoon in Manhattan. On this particular day, it rained for the first time in almost a month. A. arrived before the appointed time and then stood on the museum steps for over an hour, wiping his head on a newspaper, looking for the woman. He finally decided to give up and made one last tour of the area. There he found her: a block or two down Fifth Avenue, standing under a pathetic sapling as if to shelter from the rain, a clear plastic hood over her head, leaning on her cane, her body leaning forward, all rigid. , afraid to take a step, looking at the wet sidewalk. That weak voice again, and A. almost put her ear to her mouth to hear it, only to come out with a weak, tasteless comment: the bus driver forgot to shave, the newspaper wasn't delivered. A. was always annoyed with this woman, and even when he was well, he was embarrassed that he had to spend more than five minutes in her company. He was now almost angry with her and resentful of the way she seemed to expect him to pity her. He mentally beat her up for being such a pathetic and selfish creature. It was more than twenty minutes before she got a taxi. And then the endless ordeal of taking her to her curb and putting her in the cab. Her shoes scrape the pavement: an inch and then stop; another inch and then pause; another inch and then another inch. He took her arm and did his best to encourage her to participate. When they reached the hospital and he was finally able to get her out of the back of the taxi, they began to drive slowly towards the entrance. Outside the gate, when A. thought they were going to make it, she froze. She was suddenly afraid that she couldn't move, and that's why she couldn't move. No matter what A. told her, no matter how gently he tried to persuade her, she would not relent. People came and went—doctors, nurses, visitors—and there they were, A. and the helpless woman, standing in the middle of the traffic. A. told her to wait where she was (as if she could have done otherwise) and went into the lobby where she found an empty wheelchair which she drove off under the suspicious eye of an administrative clerk. Then he sat his helpless partner in the chair and pushed her across the hall to the elevator, diverting the manager's calls: "Is she a patient? Is this woman a patient? Wheelchairs are only for Grandpa's patients, the old man". he fell asleep, neither asleep nor awake, and stretched out in a rigidity on the edge of consciousness. When they entered, he woke up enough to be aware of her presence, and when he finally realized what had happened, he smiled for the first time in weeks. Tears suddenly filled her eyes. He took the woman's hand and said to A., as if she were addressing the whole world (but in a weak, very weak voice): "Shirley is my love. Shirley is the one I love." *


At the end of July, A. decided to spend the weekend out of town. She wanted to see her son and needed a break from the heat and the hospital. His wife came to New York and left the child with her parents. She doesn't remember what they were doing in town that day, but late in the afternoon they arrived at the Connecticut beach, where the boy spent the day with his grandparents. A. found his son sitting on a swing, and the first words out of the boy's mouth (who had been coached by his grandmother all afternoon) were startlingly clear to him. "I'm so glad to see you, dad," he said. At the same time, A's voice sounded strange. The boy seemed out of breath and he spoke each word in a staccato of single syllables. A. had no doubt that something was wrong. He insisted that everyone leave the beach immediately and go home. Although the boy was in a good mood, that strange, almost mechanical voice continued to speak through him like a ventriloquist's puppet. His breathing was extremely rapid: his upper body fluttered, in and out, in and out, like the breathing of a small bird. Within an hour, A. and his wife were looking at a list of local pediatricians and trying to find one close by (it was Friday night at dinner). On the fifth or sixth try, they caught a young doctor who had just taken over a practice in town. Coincidentally, she was in his office at the time and told them to come in in a moment. Either because she was new to the job or because she had a irritable nature, her child examination caused A. and his wife to panic. She sat the boy at the table, listened to his chest, counted his breaths per minute, watched his flaring nostrils, the slightly bluish skin tone of his face. Then a crazy mess in the office trying to assemble a complicated fan: a steam engine with a hood resembling a 19th century chamber. But the boy didn't want to keep his head under the hood, and the hiss of cold steam startled him. Then the doctor tried a shot of adrenaline. "Let's try this one," he said, "and if it doesn't work, we'll give you another one." He waited a few minutes, went over the respiratory rate calculations, and gave her the second injection. Still no effect. "It is," she said. "We have to get him to the hospital." She made the necessary phone call, and with an angry energy that seemed to rally everything in her little body, he told A. and her wife how to get her to the hospital, where to go, and what to do, and then led them away. outside. , from where they left in separate cars. His diagnosis was pneumonia with asthmatic complications, which was confirmed after X-rays and more sophisticated tests at the hospital. The boy was taken to a special room in the children's ward, nurses stabbed and prodded him, as he screamed as liquid medicine was poured down his throat and hooked up to an IV. Bound and placed in a cot, which was then covered with a clear plastic tent into which a cold oxygen mist was pumped from a valve in the wall. The boy stayed in this tent for three days and three nights. His parents were allowed to be with him at all times, taking turns sitting by the boy's cradle, with his head and arms under the tent, reading to him, telling him stories, playing games, while the others sat in a small sitting room reading. . room reserved for adults, looking at the faces of the other parents whose children were in the hospital: none of these strangers dared to talk to each other, as they all had only one thing on their minds and talking about it would only make things worse. It was exhausting for the boy's parents, since the medicine that ran through his veins was mainly adrenaline. This filled him with extra energy, beyond the normal energy of a two-year-old, and they spent most of their time trying to calm him down and stop him from leaving the store. for 70

A. That was of little importance. The fact of the child's illness, the fact that he really could have died if he had not been taken to the doctor in time (and the horror that seized him as he thought: what if he and his wife had decided to spend the night in the city, entrusting the child to the grandparents, who with age stopped paying attention to details and who, in fact, did not notice the strange breathing of the child on the beach and made fun of A. when he first mentioned it) , the fact that all these things made the struggle to keep the boy quiet nothing to A. Just having considered the possibility of the boy's death, with the thought of his death thrown in his face in the doctor's office, it was enough for him. treating the boy's recovery as if he were some kind of resurrection, a miracle bestowed on him by chance. However, his wife began to show the effort. At one point he approached A., who was sitting in the adult bathroom, and told him: "I give up, I can't take him anymore" - and in his voice there was so much resentment against the child, that he was very angry with despair that something in A. broke. Stupidly, he wanted to cruelly punish her wife for this selfishness, and at that moment the new harmony that had grown between them during the last month disappeared: for the first time in all the years they had been together, he turned against her. she. He left the room and went to her son's bed. * The modern nothing. Interlude about the power of parallel lives. That autumn, in Paris, he attended a small dinner given by a friend of his, J., a well-known French writer. Among the guests was another American, a student of modern French poetry, who was talking to A. about a book he was editing: Mallarmé's Selected Writings. A., he wondered, has Mallarmé already translated? The fact is that he had it. More than five years earlier, shortly after moving into the Riverside Drive apartment, she had translated some of the passages Mallarmé wrote in 1879 at the bedside of his dying son, Anatole. They were short works of great obscurity: notes for a poem that was never written. They were not discovered until the late 1950s. In 1974, A. made draft translations of thirty or forty of them, and then kept the manuscript. When he returned to his Varick Street room from Paris (December 1979, exactly one hundred years after Mallarmé wrote the Death Notes for his son), he rummaged through the folder of handwritten drafts and began preparing the versions. late translations of him. These were later published in the Paris Review along with a photo of Anatole in a sailor suit. From his preliminary observations: "On October 6, 1879, Mallarmé's only son, Anatole, died at the age of eight after a long illness. The disease, diagnosed as infantile rheumatism, spread slowly from one limb to the other. another and ended up engulfing the boy's entire body. For several months, Mallarmé and his wife sat helplessly at Anatole's bedside while doctors tried various remedies and applied treatments without success. The boy was taken from the city to the countryside and back in the city.On August 22, Mallarmé wrote to his friend Henry Ronjon "about the struggle between life and death that our poor thing is going through... But the real pain is that this little creature may disappear. It's too much for me, I can't bear the idea."71

It was precisely this thought, A. acknowledged, that made him return to these texts. His translation was not a literary exercise. It was a way of reliving his own moment of panic at the doctor's office this summer: it's too much for me, I can't take it. Because it was only at that moment, as she later realized, that she finally understood the full implications of his own parenting: the child's life meant more to him than her own; If it was necessary to die to save his child, he would be willing to die. And so, in that moment of fear, he became the father of his child once and for all. Translating these forty-something fragments of Mallarmé may have been a minor matter, but in his eyes it amounted to a prayer of thanksgiving for the life of his son. A prayer for what? Maybe for nothing. Your attitude towards life. For the modern nothing. you can drag me to the grave with your little hands - you have the right - I who follow you, let me go - but if you want, let us both... make an alliance, a hymen, fine - and the life that remains in me will serve for - - *no - nothing to do with big deaths - etc. - as long as we live, he will live - in us it will be only after our death that he will be dead - and the bells of the dead will ring for him *sail - sailed the river, your life that passes and flows*

Brief comment on the word "radiation". She first heard this word in connection with her son when she showed a photo of the boy to his good friend R. de él, an American poet who had lived in Amsterdam for eight years. They were drinking in a bar that night, surrounded by a crowd and loud music. A. took the photo out of his wallet and handed it to R., who looked at the photo for a long time. Then, a bit drunk, he turned to A. and said with great emotion in his voice: "He has the same charisma as Titus." About a year later, shortly after the publication of "A Tomb for Anatole" in the Paris Review, he explained that A. was visiting R. R. (whom A.'s son was very fond of): "Today something extraordinary happened to me. ... in a bookstore, leafing through various magazines, and I opened the Paris Review with a photo of Mallarmé's son. For a second I thought it was his son. The resemblance was unbelievable." A. responded: "But those were my translations. I was the one who got her to put that photo up. Didn't you know that?" And then R. said: "I never got that far. I was so impressed by the photo that I had to close the magazine. I put it back on the shelf and left the store." 72

* Your grandfather lasted another two or three weeks. A. returned to the apartment overlooking Columbus Circle, her son was out of danger and her marriage was finally at a standstill. These were probably the worst days for him. He couldn't work, he couldn't think. He began loafing around, eating only unhealthy foods (frozen dinners, pizza, Chinese take-out noodles), and leaving the apartment alone: ​​dirty clothes thrown in a corner of the room, dirty dishes piled up in the kitchen sink. Stretched out on the couch, chain-smoking, he watched old movies on TV and read second-rate crime stories. He didn't try to get close to any of his friends. The only person he called, a girl he met in Paris when he was eighteen, had moved to Colorado. Gone is the setting sun and the wind, and the wind of nothingness that breathes (here is modern? nothingness) * death - whispers softly - I'm nobody - I don't even know who I am (because the dead don't know I know they're dead - not even if they die - at least for children - or heroes - sudden deaths, otherwise my beauty is made of last moments - clarity, beautiful face - of what it would be without me*

One night, for no particular reason, she wandered through the lifeless 1950s neighborhood and walked into a bar topless. Sitting at the table, drinking a beer, he suddenly found himself next to a voluptuously naked young woman. She walked up to him and began describing all the indecent things she would do if he paid her to go "back room." There was something so frankly humorous and sober about her approach that she ended up taking her suggestion. They decided that it would be better if she sucked his cock, since she claimed to have an exceptional talent for the activity. And sure enough, she launched into it with an enthusiasm that rather surprised him. A few moments later, as it entered his mouth with a long, pulsing stream of sperm, he had this vision in that very second, which continues to shine on him: that each ejaculation contains several billion sperm, or almost as many as there are. we are people in the world.- which means that each human being carries within himself the potential of a whole world. And what would happen, if it could happen, is the whole range of possibilities: a litter of idiots and geniuses, beautiful and deformed, saints, catatonics, thieves, stockbrokers and tightrope walkers. Each human being is, therefore, the entire world, carrying in their genes a memory of all humanity. Or, as Leibniz said: "Every living substance is a perpetual living mirror of the universe."

Explosion of the first spark in the infinite vacuum of space. At least that's what he thought at that moment when his cock exploded in the mouth of this naked woman whose name he now forgot. He thought: the irreducible monad. And then, as if he had finally mastered it, he thought of the stealthy, microscopic cell that had forced its way through his wife's body some three years ago to become his child. * Then nothing. He withered. He was sweating in the summer heat. Like a modern Oblomov curled up on his couch, he didn't move unless he had to. In his grandfather's apartment there was a cable TV with more channels than A. ever thought existed. Every time he called, it sounded like there was a baseball game on. He could follow not only the Yankees and New York Mets, but also the Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves. Not to mention the little bonuses he occasionally offers mid-afternoon: Japan's major league games, for example (and his fascination with the game's constant drumbeat) or, even stranger, Long's Little League championships. Island. To immerse yourself in these games was to feel that your mind was striving to enter a place in its purest form. Despite the hustle and bustle of the field, baseball was offered to him as an image of what does not move and, therefore, a place to rest his mind, sheltered in his refuge from the ups and downs of the world. Oh! you understand that when I accept to live - apparently forgetting you - it feeds my pain - and that this apparent forgetfulness can burst into tears more terribly at a random moment, in the middle of this life, when you appear to me *true sadness in the apartment - not cemetery - furniture * only to find absence - - in the presence of clothes - etc - * no - I will not give up for anything Father - when I feel that nothing invades me He had all his childhood playing with him. From the first muddy days of early March to the last frosty afternoons of late October. He had played well, with an almost obsessive dedication. This not only gave him an idea of ​​his own possibilities and convinced him that, in the eyes of others, he was not entirely hopeless, but it was also what brought him out of the lonely confines of his childhood. . He initiated it into the world of the other, but at the same time he could keep it within himself. Baseball was great potential for daydreaming. the 74

constantly fantasizing about it, he projected himself into a New York Giants uniform and jogged to his position at third base at the Polo Grounds, the crowd cheering wildly at the mention of his name over the loudspeakers. Day after day, he would come home from school and throw a tennis ball against the steps of his house, pretending that every gesture was part of the World Series game playing out in his mind. He was always down to two outs in the bottom of the ninth, one man on, the Giants to one. He was always the batter and he always hit the game-winning home run. As he spent those long summer days at his grandfather's house, he began to realize that, for him, the power of baseball was the power of memory. Memory in two senses of the word: as a catalyst to remember one's own life and as an artificial structure to order the historical past. For example, 1960 was the year that Kennedy was elected president; it was also the year of A.'s bar mitzvah, the year he came of age. But the first image that comes to mind when 1960 is mentioned is Bill Mazeroski's home run beating the Yankees in the World Series. He can still see the ball floating over the fence at Forbes Field, that tall, dark barrier so thickly dotted with white numbers, and by remembering the sensations of that moment, that abrupt, overwhelming moment of joy, he is able to go back into his mind. own past. , to remain in a world that would otherwise be lost to him. He's reading a book: The shape of the field hasn't changed since 1893 (the year before his grandfather was born) when Pitcher's Mound was set back ten feet. The diamond is part of our consciousness. Its flawless geometry of white lines, green grass and brown earth is as familiar an icon as the stars and stripes. Unlike almost everything else in American life this century, baseball has remained constant. Except for a few minor changes (artificial turf, designated hitter), the game being played today bears a striking resemblance to that of Wee Willie Keeler and the old Baltimore Orioles: those long-dead young men in the photos with their handlebar mustaches. and heroic poses. What is happening today is just a variation of what happened yesterday. Yesterday reflects today and tomorrow will anticipate what will happen next year. The past of professional baseball is intact. There is a record of every game played, a stat for every hit, miss, and walk on the ball. You can measure achievements against each other, compare players and teams, talk about the dead as if they were still alive. Playing as a child is at the same time imagining playing as an adult, and the power of that imagination is present even in the most casual games. How many hours of his childhood, A wonders, did he spend imitating Stan Musial's batting stance (feet together, knees bent, back arched into a tight French curve) or Willie Mays' baskets? On the other hand, for those who do become professionals, there is an awareness that they are living out their childhood dreams, practically getting paid to remain children. Nor should the depth of these dreams be minimized. A. can recall growing up Jewish, mistaking the last words of the Passover Seder, "Next year in Jerusalem," with the disappointed fandom's ever-hopeful refrain, "Wait until next year," as if it were a comment. the other side: winning the pennant was entering the promised land. Baseball somehow got mixed up with the religious experience in his mind. *


Just as A. was beginning to sink into the quicksand of baseball, Thurman Munson was killed. A. noted that Munson was the first Yankees captain since Lou Gehrig, that his grandmother died of Lou Gehrig's disease, and that his grandfather's death would come shortly after Munson's death. The newspapers were full of articles about the receiver. A. had always admired Munson's game in the field: the fast hitters hitting singles to right, the beefy body swinging around the bases, the anger that seemed to consume him as he went about his business behind the plate. Now A. was touched to learn of Munson's work with children and the problems he was having with his own hyperactive son. Everything seemed to repeat itself. Reality was a Chinese box, an endless series of boxes within boxes. Because here, too, the theme reappeared in the most unlikely place: the curse of the absent father. It seemed that Munson himself was the only one with the power to calm the boy down. Every time he was home, the boy's outbursts stopped, his frenzy lessened. Munson learned to fly a plane so he could come home more often during baseball season to be with his son, and it was the plane that killed him. * A.'s baseball memories were inevitably linked to his grandfather's memories. It was his grandfather who took him to his first game, told him about the old players, showed him that baseball was as much talk as it was watch. As a boy, A. stayed in the office on 57th Street, playing with typewriters and calculators until his grandfather wanted to leave, then she took him for a walk on Broadway. The ritual always involved a few rounds of poker in one of the arcades, a quick lunch, and then the subway to one of the city's stadiums. Now that his grandfather was gone at his death, they continued to talk about baseball. It was the only subject they could still discuss as equals. Every time he visited the hospital, A. would buy a copy of the New York Post, sit by the old man's bed, and read to him about the games of the day before. It was his last contact with the outside world and it was painless, a series of coded messages that he could understand with his eyes closed. Anything else would have been too much. In the end, his grandfather told him in a barely audible voice that he had begun to remember his life. She had dug up her childhood days in Toronto, reliving events that had taken place eighty years before: defending her younger brother from a gang of thugs, delivering bread to neighborhood Jewish families on Friday afternoons, all the trivial things and long. forgotten things, coming back to him now as he lay motionless on the bed, assuming the meaning of spiritual illuminations. "Lying here gives me a chance to remember," he told A., as if it were a new power he had discovered in himself. A. could feel the joy that this produced in him. Little by little, the fear that had been on his grandfather's face for the past few weeks began to take over. Memory was the only thing that kept him alive, and it was as if he wanted to delay death as long as possible so he could keep remembering. He knew it, but he didn't want to say that he knew it. He continued at 76 through last week.

he talked about going back to his apartment, and not once did the word "death" come up. Even on the last day, she waited until the last possible moment to say goodbye to her. A. was coming through the door after a visit when her grandfather called out to him. A. was standing by the bed again. The old man took her hand and squeezed it as hard as he could. So: a long, long moment. Finally, A. leaned down and kissed her grandfather's cheek. Neither of them said a word. * A. reminds of an intriguer, a businessman, a man of bizarre and grandiose optimism. Who else could have called his daughter Queenie with a straight face? But when she was born, he declared: "she will be a queen", and he could not resist the temptation. He made his living with the lantern, the symbolic gesture, being the life of the party. Many jokes, many accomplices, impeccable timing. He played hide-and-seek, cheated on his wife (the older he got, the younger the girls got), and he never lost his taste for it all. His languages ​​were particularly splendid. A towel was never just a towel, it was a “Turkish towel”. A drug user was a drug addict. He, too, would never say "I saw...", but rather "I had the opportunity to observe...". In this way, he was able to thicken the world, making it a more immersive and exotic place for him. He played the lead role and reveled in the side effects of the pose: waiters called him Mr. B, delivery guys smiled at his excessive tipping, everyone congratulated him. He had come to New York from Canada just after World War I as a poor Jewish boy and had done everything right in the end. New York was his passion, and in his later years he refused to move, defying his daughter's offer to live in sunny California with the words that became a popular refrain: "I can't leave New York." York". Here's the action." A. remembers a day when he was four or five years old. His grandparents came to visit him and his grandpa did a magic trick for him, a little thing he found in a clothing store. When he didn't come up with a new trick on the next visit, A. had a great outburst of disappointment. From then on, new magic always arose: coins that disappeared, silk scarves produced from nothing, a machine that turned strips of blank paper into money, a large rubber ball that turned into five small rubber balls when you squeezed it. in the palm of your hand. hand, hand, an unlit cigarette in a handkerchief that did not burn, a jug of milk poured into a newspaper bag that did not spill. What started out as an oddity to amuse his grandson has become a true calling for him. He became a talented amateur magician, an expert in sleight of hand, and was particularly proud of his Mages Guild membership card. He worked his magic at every one of the A kids' birthday parties and performed until his senior year, hitting up New York's oldest clubs with one of his girlfriends (a puffy woman with lots of fake red hair) who was singing a song, himself accompanying on the accordion that introduced him as the great Zavello. it was natural his life was so impregnated with the confusion of the illusion that he had done so much business in making people believe him (convincing them that what was not there really was and vice versa) that for him it was little. get on stage and cheat on her more formally. He had a knack for grabbing people's attention, and anyone who saw him could feel the satisfaction he took from being the center of attention. 77

No one is less cynical than a magician. He knows, and everyone knows, that everything he does is hypocritical. The trick is not really to deceive them, but to please them so that they want to be deceived: so that for a few minutes the control of cause and effect is loosened, the laws of nature suspended. As Pascal said in Thoughts: "It is not possible to have reasonable reasons not to believe in miracles." However, A.'s grandfather was not happy with magic. He also loved jokes, which he called "stories", all jotted down in a little notebook that he kept in his coat pocket. At some point during every family gathering, he would grab the notebook, quickly scan it in a corner of the room, put it back in his pocket, sit in a chair, and then plunge into an hour of meaningless conversation. Again, the memory of laughter. Not, like S., a burst of laughter, but a sinuous laugh from the lungs, a long sound loop of tones that began as a sigh and gradually dissolved into a fainter and weaker chromatic hiss. So too A. would like to remember: how he would sit in this chair and make everyone laugh. His grandfather's greatest achievement, however, was neither a magic trick nor a hoax, but a kind of paranormal voodoo that wowed the entire family for years. It was a game called Wizard. A.'s grandfather took out a deck of cards, asked someone to draw a card, any card, and held it up for all to see. The Five of Cups. Then he would go to the phone, dial a number, and ask to speak to the magician. Okay, he said, I want to talk to the magician. A moment later he was handing over the phone and a voice came from the receiver, a man's voice, saying over and over again: Five hearts, five hearts, five hearts. Then he thanked the magician, hung up, and stood there smiling at everyone. Years later, when it was finally explained to A., it all seemed so simple. Your grandfather and a friend agreed to be each other's wizard. The question, can I speak to the magician?, was a signal, and the man on the other end of the line began shuffling the suits: spades, hearts, diamonds, clubs. If he was right, the person he called would say something, anything, indicating that he would go no further, and then the magician would go through the litany of numbers: ace, two, three, four, five, etc. If he hit one, the person he called would say something again and the magician would stop, he would put the two elements together and repeat them into the phone: five of hearts, five of hearts, five of hearts. * The Book of Memory. Book Six. It is extraordinary for him, even in the ordinary reality of his experience, to feel his feet on the ground, to feel his lungs expand and contract with the air he breathes, to know what he will do when he puts one foot in front of the other, being able to go from where he is going. over there. He finds it extraordinary that some mornings, as soon as he wakes up and bends down to tie his shoes, he is invaded by such intense happiness, a happiness so natural and harmonious with the world that he manages to feel alive in the present, a present that surrounds and permeates him. bursting through him with the sudden, overwhelming realization that he's alive. And the happiness that he discovers in himself at that moment is extraordinary. And if he is 78 or not

it is extraordinary, he finds this extraordinary happiness. * Sometimes he feels like we're wandering aimlessly through a city. We walk down the street, take a random turn onto another street, stop to admire the cornice of a building, bend down to inspect a patch of tar on the sidewalk that reminds us of certain paintings we admire, look at the faces of people passing by. in front of. the street and try to imagine the life they lead, have lunch in a cheap restaurant, go out and follow the path of the river (when this city has a river) to see the ships go by, or the big ships that dock in the port, maybe they sing to themselves as we walk, or maybe they whistle, or maybe they're trying to remember something we forgot. Sometimes walking through the city seems like we are not going anywhere, that we are looking for a hobby and only tiredness tells us where and when to stop. But just as one step inevitably leads to the next, a thought inevitably follows the previous thought, and in case a thought gives rise to more than one thought (say, two or three thoughts, each equal to the other in all its consequences). ). ), it will be necessary not only to follow the first thought to its conclusion, but also to return to the original position of that thought to follow the second thought to its conclusion, and then the third thought, and so on, and so on when we try to visualize this process in our head, a network of paths begins to be drawn, as in the image of the human circulatory system (heart, arteries, veins, capillaries). ) or as an image of a map (for example, of the streets of a city, preferably a big city, or even streets bisected and winding, as in gas station street maps that span a continent), then you What to really do when walking through the city is to think, and to think in such a way that our thoughts form a journey, and this journey is neither more nor less than the steps we have taken, so that in the end we can say with certainty that we have been on a trip, and even if we don't leave our room, it was a trip and we can say with certainty that we have been somewhere, even if we don't know where it is. * He pulls from the shelf a brochure he bought ten years ago in Amherst, Massachusetts, as a memento of his visit to Emily Dickinson's house, and now reflects on the strange exhaustion that came over him that day at the poet's house. the fourth said: shortness of breath, as if he had just climbed to the top of a mountain. He walked through that little sunny room, looking at the white bedspread and polished furniture, thinking about the seventeen hundred poems that were written there, trying to see them as part of these four walls, and still he failed. So, because if the word is a way of being in the world, he thought, then even if there was no world to enter, the world was already there, in that space, that is, it was the space that was present in the poems and not the reverse. Now he reads, on the last page of the pamphlet, in the awkward prose of the anonymous writer: 'In that room-office, Emily proclaimed that the soul may be content with her own company. But she discovered that consciousness was both bondage and freedom, so she 79

that even here, out of despair or fear, he became a victim of his own imprisonment…. For the sensitive visitor, Emily's room takes on an atmosphere that embraces the poet's various moods of superiority, fear, anxiety, resignation, or ecstasy. Perhaps more than any other specific place in American literature, it symbolizes an indigenous tradition of avid study of the inner life, embodied by Emily." * Musical accompaniment of The Book of Memory. Loneliness sung by Billie Holiday. Recorded May 9, 1941 by Billie Holiday and Her Orchestra. Presentation time: three minutes and fifteen seconds. Like this: In my solitude you persecute me / With reveries of days gone by. / In my solitude you mock me / With memories that never die... Etc. With thanks to D. Ellington, E. De Lange and I. Mills. * First allusions to a female voice. Specific references to several are mentioned below. Because she believes that if there is a voice of truth - if there is, and if the truth can speak - it will come from a woman's mouth. * It is also true that memory sometimes comes to him as a voice. It's a voice speaking inside of him, and not necessarily his own. It speaks to him like a voice tells stories to a child, but sometimes that voice teases him, calls him outright, or curses him outright. Sometimes he intentionally distorts the story he is telling, twisting the facts to suit his whims and serving the interests of the drama instead of the truth. Then he must speak to him in his own voice and tell him to stop, taking him back to the stillness from which he came. At other times he sings. Other times he whispers. And then there are times when he just hums, babbles, or screams in pain. And even though he doesn't say anything, he knows he's still there, and in the stillness of that voice that doesn't say anything, he waits for her to speak. * Jeremiah: “Then I said: Oh, Lord God! behold, I cannot speak, because I am a child. But the Lord said to me: Do not say: I am a child, because you will go to everything I send you, and everything I send you, you will speak... Then the Lord stretched out his hand and touched my mouth. And the Lord said to me: Behold, I have put my words in your mouth. * The Book of Memory. book seven. First Commentary on the Book of Jonah. 80

You immediately realize how strange it is compared to other prophetic books. This short work, the only one written in the third person, is more dramatic than any other in the Bible, a story of solitude, but it is told as if it came from outside that solitude, as if it were plunged into darkness. plunged into this loneliness, the "I" has disappeared from itself. He cannot, therefore, speak of himself except as another. As in Rimbaud's phrase, "Je est un autre". Jonah is not only hesitant to speak (as is Jeremiah, for example), he actually refuses to speak. "Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah...But Jonah arose to flee from the presence of the Lord." Jonas runs away. He books a ticket on board a ship. A terrible storm arises and the sailors fear drowning. Everyone pray for deliverance. But Jonah “went down to the sides of the ship; and he slept soundly." So sleep is the world's last refuge. Sleep like a picture of loneliness. Oblomov snuggled up on his sofa and dreamed that he was back in his mother's womb. Jonah in the belly of the ship; Jonah in the belly of the whale. The ship's captain finds Jonah and tells him to pray to his god. Meanwhile, the sailors cast lots to determine who among them was responsible for the storm, “…and the lot fell on Jonah. You will have peace of mind, because I know that this great storm is coming upon you because of me. "Still, the men rowed hard to bring him ashore; but they could not, for the sea was rough and stormy against them. So they took Jonah and threw him into the sea, and the sea ceased to rage." Despite popular whale mythology, the great fish that devours Jonah is by no means a means of destruction. Drown in the sea. "The water engulfed me to the very soul: the abyss engulfed me, the weeds engulfed my head." depths of this solitude, which is also the depth of silence, as if in the refusal to speak there was the same refusal to surrender when turning towards others ("Jonah got up to flee from the presence of the Lord"), that is, the who seeks solitude seeks stillness; who does not speak is alone; he is alone until death-Jonah meets the darkness of death. We are told that "Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the fish," and elsewhere, in a chapter of the Zohar, we are told: "'Three days and three nights': that is, the three days that a Man lies in his grave before his belly is opened." And then, when the fish spits Jonah out on dry land, Jonah comes back to life, as if the death he found in the fish's belly was preparation for a new life, a life that has passed through death, a life that can finally speak, because death has frightened him so much that he opens his mouth: "I cried to the Lord because of my affliction, and he heard me; from the bowels of hell I cried, and you heard my voice." In the darkness of solitude that is death, the tongue finally loosens, and the moment it begins to speak there is an answer. And though there is no answer , the man begins to speak. * The prophet. Too bad: speaking into the future, not through knowledge, but through 81

through intuition. The true prophet knows. The false prophet advises. That was Jonas's biggest problem. When he preached God's message and told the Ninevites that in forty days they would be destroyed because of his wickedness, he was sure they would repent and be saved. Because he knew that God was "merciful, slow to anger, and great in mercy." "Then the inhabitants of Nineveh believed in God and proclaimed a fast and dressed in sackcloth, from the largest to the smallest." And if the Ninevites were saved, wouldn't that make Jonah's prophecy wrong? Wouldn't he then be a false prophet? Hence the paradox at the heart of the book: the prophecy would only hold true if he didn't utter it. But then, of course, there would be no prophecy and Jonah would no longer be a prophet. But it is better not to be a prophet than a false prophet. “Therefore, O Lord, take now, I pray, my life from me; because it is better for me to die than to live.” So Jonas was silent. So Jonah fled from the presence of the Lord and was lucky enough to be shipwrecked. That is, the shipwreck of the singular. *** Cause and effect reference. A. remembers a moment from childhood (twelve, thirteen years old). One afternoon in November, he was wandering aimlessly with his friend D. Nothing happened. But in each of them, at that moment, a sense of infinite possibility. Nothing happened. Or one could say that it was actually this awareness of possibility that was taking place. As they walked through the cold, gray air that afternoon, A suddenly stopped and announced to his friend: Within a year something extraordinary will happen to us, something that will change our lives forever. The year passed and nothing extraordinary happened on the appointed day. A. explained to D.: It doesn't matter; The most important thing will happen next year. When the second year came, the same thing happened: nothing. But A. and D. were not intimidated. They continued to celebrate this day throughout their high school years. Not with ceremony, but simply with recognition. For example, seeing yourself in the school hallway and saying that Saturday is the day. It was no longer as if they expected a miracle to happen. But even stranger, over the years they both got used to the memory of his prediction. The bold future, the mystery of what has not yet happened: this too, he learned, can be remembered. And it sometimes occurs to him that the blind youthful prophecy he made twenty years ago, that anticipation of the extraordinary, was actually the extraordinary itself: his mind leaping joyfully into the unknown. The fact is that many years have passed. And yet he still remembers that day at the end of November over and over again. * Prophecy. How true. Like Cassandra talking about the loneliness of her cell. Like in a woman's voice. 82

The future leaves your lips in the present, everything exactly as it will happen, and it is your incredible destiny. Madwoman, daughter of Priam: "The cries of that sinister bird," from which "...wailed wails / Frightfully as she chewed the bay leaf, / And again, like the black sphinx, / She poured forth torrents of enigmatic song" . (Lycophrons Cassandra; in Royston's translation, 1806). To speak of the future is to use a language that is eternally ahead of itself, to entrust to the past the things that have not yet happened, to an "already" that is always behind, and in that space between the statement and the act, word by word, word by word. , an abyss opens, and if you think so much about that void, you get dizzy, you want to fall into the abyss. A. recalls the emotion she felt in Paris in 1974 when she discovered the 1,700-line poem by Lycophron (circa 300 BC), which is a monologue of Cassandra's delusions in prison before the fall of Troy. He came to the poem through a French translation by Q., a writer his age (twenty-four). When she met Q. three years later in a cafe on Rue Condé, the latter asked her if he knew of an English translation of the poem. Q. himself could not read or speak English, but yes, he had heard of a Lord Royston in the early nineteenth century. When A. returned to New York in the summer of 1974, he looked for the book in the Columbia University library. To his great surprise, he found it. Cassandra translated from the original Greek by Lycophron and illustrated with notes; Cambridge, 1806. This translation was the only substantial work written by Lord Royston. He completed the translation while he was still a student at Cambridge and published the poem in a deluxe private edition. So after graduation he did the traditional continental tour. Due to Napoleonic troubles in France, he did not travel south, which would have been the natural route for a young man of his interest, but north to the Scandinavian countries, and in 1808 he traveled through the treacherous waters of the Baltic Sea, drowning. . in a shipwreck off the coast of Russia. He was only twenty-four years old. Lycophron: "the hidden one". In his dense and disconcerting poem nothing is named, everything becomes a reference to something else. One quickly gets lost in the maze of associations and still continues through it, propelled by the power of Cassandra's voice. The poem is a verbal outpouring, spitting fire, consumed by the fire that goes out on the threshold of sensuality. "Cassandra's word", as a friend of A.'s said (B.: at a lecture, oddly enough, on Hölderlin's poetry - poetry which he compares in character to Cassandra's speech), "this irreducible sign - nonsense - an incomprehensible word, Cassandra's word, a word from which no lesson can be learned, a word said over and over again to say nothing..." After reading Royston's translation, A. he realized that there was a great talent in that lost shipwreck. Royston rolls with such fury, with such deft, acrobatic syntax that reading the poem makes one feel trapped in Cassandra's mouth. Verse 240 An oath! They have an oath in heaven! Soon her sails will open and in her hands the mighty oar will break into pieces on the way back. wave; As songs and hymns and songs of joy delight the rosy god to rise, Rife of 83

The Delphic sanctuary of Apollo, the smoke of numerous holocausts: the Enorches rejoiced to hear where the light of the candle hung atop their terrible feasts shines, and how the savage rushes into the poor field, mad to destroy, will order his vines to close their tendons gather strength and throw them to the ground. * Line 426 ...then Greece For this crime, yes for this, myriads of children will cry: not urns but rocks They will give ear to their bones; no friend will pour on its dust the dark libations of the dead; A name, a breath, an empty sound remains, A barren marble, hot with bitter tears Of orphaned parents and children and widowed wives! * Line 1686 Why water the barren stump? To the winds and the waves, to the dead winds, to the dead waves, and to the meaningless shadows of the forest, I hunt and sing my vain song. Such sorrows Lepsieus heaped upon my head, he Dipped my words in disbelief; The jealous god! because from my virgin sofa I fell in love with him and I did not return the love. But fate is in my voice, the truth on my lips; What must come will come; and when growing grief breaks out in his head, when his homeland falls from its seat, which no man nor God can save, a misery will moan: "No lie flowed from her, true were the cries of this sinister bird." A. is fascinated to recall that both Royston and Q. translated this work in their early twenties. Despite the century and a half that separated them, each one gave special power to their own language through this poem. At some point, it occurred to him that Q. might have been Royston reincarnated. Every hundred years or so, Royston was reborn to translate the poem into another language, and just as Cassandra was destined never to be believed, Lycophron's work would not be read for generation after generation. Useless task, then: writing a book that would be closed forever. And yet the image appears in your head: shipwreck. Consciousness sinks to the bottom of the sea and the eerie sound of breaking timber, the tall masts crashing into the waves. Imagine Royston's thoughts as his body hit the water. Imagine the devastation of that death. * The Book of Memory. book eight. By the time he was three years old, A.'s son's taste in literature began to diversify, from simple, heavily illustrated children's books to more sophisticated children's books. The illustration was still a source of great joy, but it was no longer decisive. The story itself had enough to grab his attention now, and when A. reached a page with no pictures, he was moved to see the boy staring ahead, at nothing, at empty air, at the ground. he blank wall and he wondered what the words were telling him. "It's fun to pretend we don't see anything," he once told his father as they walked down the street. Again the boy entered the bathroom, closed the door and did not come out. A. asked through the closed door, "What are you doing there?" "I'm thinking," said the boy. “I need to be alone to think.”* One by one, the two became interested in a book. The story of Pinocchio. First in the Disney version and shortly after in the original version in 1984

Text by Collodi and illustrations by Mussino. The boy does not get tired of listening to the chapter about the storm at sea, which tells how Pinocchio finds Geppetto in the belly of the terrible shark. "Oh father, dear father! Did I finally find you? Now I will never, ever leave you!" Gepetto explains: "The sea was rough and the white waves caused the boat to capsize. Then a terrible shark came out of the sea and as soon as it saw me in the water, it quickly swam towards me, stuck out its tongue and devoured me." As easily as I could, if I were a mint chocolate. "And how long have you been locked up there?" "From that day until now, two long and tiring years, two years, my Pinocchio..." "And how did you live? Where did you find the candle? And the matches to light, where did you get them?" "In the storm that flooded my ship, a large ship suffered the same fate. All the sailors were rescued, but the ship went straight to the bottom of the sea, and the same terrible shark that swallowed me swallowed most of it. .. Luckily for me, this ship was loaded with meat, preserves, biscuits, bread, bottles of wine, raisins, cheese, coffee, sugar, wax candles and matchboxes, with all these blessings I managed to live two whole years. years, but now I'm down to the last crumb, there's nothing left in the cupboard today, and this candle you see here is the last one I have." "And then?" "And so, my dear, we found ourselves in the dark." For A. and his son, who had parted so many times in the last year, there was something deeply satisfying about this reunion passage.In fact, Pinocchio and Geppetto are separated throughout the book.Geppetto receives the mysterious talking piece of wood of the carpenter Master Cherry in the second chapter.In the third chapter, the old man forms the puppet. Even before Pinocchio has finished, his tricks and antics begin. "I deserved it," Geppetto tells himself. before he did that. Now it's too late." At this point, Pinocchio, like every newborn baby, is pure will, instinctive need without conscience. Geppetto quickly teaches his son to walk. He recreates himself for him. The next day, Geppetto sells his coat to buy Pinocchio an ABC Book for school ("Pinocchio understood... and unable to hold back his tears, he jumped on his father's neck and kissed him again and again. again"), and then for more than two hundred pages , they don't see each other again. The rest of the book tells the story of Pinocchio's search for his father, and Geppetto's search for his son. At some point, Pinocchio realizes that he is a real man. But he is also Of course this won't happen until he's reunited with his father, of Collodi's original to the Disney adaptation lies in his reluctance to make the inner workings of the story explicit They remain intact, preconsciously, dreamily, while these things are expressed at Disney, sentimentalizing them and therefore trivializing them. At Disney, Gepetto prays for a son; at Collodi, he makes it easy. The physical act of forming the doll (from a piece of wood that he talks about, that lives), reflects Michelangelo's idea of ​​sculpture: the figure is already present in the material; the artist 85

it only undoes the excess matter until it reveals the true form, which implies that Pinocchio's being precedes his body: his task throughout the book is to find it, that is, to find himself, which means that this is a history of becoming and not of birth), this act of forming the puppet is enough to convey the idea of ​​prayer and it is certainly stronger to remain silent. The same goes for Pinocchio's efforts to become a real boy. In Disney, the Blue Fairy commands you to be "brave, true, and selfless," as if there's a simple formula for taking control of yourself. There are no directives in Collodi. Pinocchio just gropes, just lives and gradually realizes what he can become. The only improvement Disney makes to the story, and this is debatable, comes at the end, in Monster the Whale. In Collodi, the shark's jaws drop (he suffers from asthma and heart problems), and all Pinocchio needs to organize his escape from him is courage. "Then, my dear father, we have no time to waste. We have to go." "Escape! How?" "We can run out of the shark's mouth and into the sea." "You speak well, but I don't know how to swim, my dear Pinocchio." "Why does that matter? You can climb on my shoulders and I, being a good swimmer, will carry you safely to shore. "Dreams, my son!" Geppetto replied, shaking his head and smiling sadly, "Do you think a three-foot-tall doll can be strong enough to carry me on its shoulders and swim?" "Try and see! And in any case, if it is written that we must die, at least we will die together". Pinocchio did not add another word, he took the candle in his hand and went to light the way, telling his father: "Follow me and do not be afraid" In Disney, however, Pinocchio also needs ingenuity. The whale's mouth is closed, and when it opens it is only to let the water in, not out. Pinocchio cunningly decides to light a fire inside the whale, causing it to Monstro sneezes, causing the puppet and his father to be thrown overboard. But with this recovery, more is lost than gained. Because the decisive image of the story is omitted: Pinocchio swimming in the barren water, almost sinking. under the weight of Geppetto's body, making their way into the blue-grey night (page 296 of the American edition), on which the moon shines, a benevolent smile on the face and the huge gaping mouth of the shark behind them. on his son's back: the image evoked here of Aeneas carrying Anchises on his back from the ruins of Troy is so clear that every time A. reads the story to his son, he cannot help but see (because it is not thinking, really, that's how fast these things go in your head), certain clusters of other images swirling from the center of your concerns: Cassandra, for example, predicting the fall of Troy and then its loss, as in the wanderings of Aeneas that precede the founding of Rome, and in that wandering the image of another wandering: the Jews in the desert, which in turn supplies other groupings of images: "Next year in Jerusalem", and with it the photograph in the Jewish encyclopedia of his relative, who bore the name of his son. A. closely observed the face of his son during these readings from Pinocchio. He concluded that it is the image of Pinocchio rescuing Geppetto (swimming with the old man on his back) that gives the story meaning. A three year old is really very small. A little shy compared to his father's crowd, he dreams of gaining excessive powers to overcome the dim reality of himself. He is still too young to understand this 86

one day he will be as tall as his father, and even if you explain this to him very carefully, the facts are still open to great misinterpretation: "And one day I will be as tall as you, and you won't be like me either." The fascination with superheroes in comics is perhaps understandable from that point of view. It's the dream of being big, of growing up. "What does Superman do?" "He saves people." Because this act of saving is basically what a father does: protect his little son from danger, and let the boy see Pinocchio, the same silly puppet who stumbled from one misfortune to another, who wanted to be "good" and couldn't be "evil" at the same time. incompetent puppet who wasn't even a real child is becoming a redemption figure, the being who saves his father from the clutches of death is a sublime moment of revelation Save the father You have to think about it from the point of view of the child. And this must be fully contemplated in the mind of the father who was once a small child, a son, that is, of his own father. Puer aeternus. The son saves the father. * **Another comment on nature He does not want to fail to mention that two years after meeting S. in Paris, during a subsequent visit, he accidentally met S.'s youngest son - through means and circumstances that had nothing to do with S. This himself young, P., exactly the same age as A., worked his way up to a position of considerable power with a major French film producer. The same A. later worked for the same producer, doing various jobs for him (translation, ghostwriting) in 1971 and 1972, but none of this is essential. Crucially, P. managed to achieve co-producer status in the mid-1970s, shooting the multi-billion dollar film Superman together with the French producer's son, A. read it as the most expensive piece of art in the history of the Western world. In the early summer of 1980, just after his son's three-year-old birthday, A. and the boy spent a week together in the countryside at the home of some friends who were on vacation. A. noticed in the newspaper that Superman was performing at a local theater and decided to take the boy in the unlikely way that he would survive. For the first half of the film, the boy was silent, fiddling with a popcorn container, whispering questions to him as directed by A., and tackling the case of exploding planets, rockets, and outer space without much fuss. But then something happened. Superman started to fly and suddenly the boy lost his composure. His jaw dropped, he got up from his chair, spilled the popcorn, pointed at the screen, and started yelling, "Look! Look! He's flying!" He was crazy for the rest of the movie, his face taut with fear and fascination, babbling questions to his father, trying to process what he had seen, marveling, trying to process it again, marveling. In the end, it was a bit too much for him. . "Too much buzz," he said. His father asked him if he wanted to go and he said yes. A. picked him up and carried him out of the theater - in a violent hail storm. As they ran to the car, the boy said (jumping into A's arms): "We're going to have a great adventure tonight, aren't we?" For the rest of the summer, Superman was his passion, his obsession. the unifier 87

purpose of your life. He refused to wear any shirt except the blue one with the S on the front. Her mother sewed her a cape and whenever she went out she insisted on putting it on, running through the streets with her arms out in front as if she were flying, pausing only to warn everyone to report passersby under the age of ten. : "I am superman!" A. was amused by this, as she remembered the same things from her own childhood. It wasn't this obsession that got him; not even the coincidence of meeting the men who made the film that led to this obsession. Rather, that was it. Every time he saw his son posing as Superman, he couldn't help but think of his friend S of him, as if even the S on his son's T-shirt wasn't a reference to Superman, but rather. to his friend of his. And he marveled at this trick his mind played on him, this constant transformation from one thing to another, as if behind every real thing there was a shadow, as alive in his mind as the thing before his eyes and in the world. In the end, he no longer knew what he really saw of these things. And so it happened, it happened many times, that his life no longer seemed to live in the present. * The Book of Memory. book nine. For most of his adult life, he made a living translating books by other writers. He sits at his desk and reads the book in French, then takes his pen and writes the same book in English. It is the same book and not the same book, and the strangeness of the activity never ceased to amaze him. Each book is an image of loneliness. He is a tangible object to take, put down, open and close, and his words represent many months, if not many years, of a man's solitude, so every word you read in a book can tell you that he is facing a particle. of that loneliness A man sits alone in a room and writes. Whether the book is about loneliness or about companionship, it is necessarily a product of loneliness. A. sits in his own room translating another man's book, and it is like entering his solitude and making it his own. But that is certainly impossible. Because once a loneliness is broken, once one loneliness is replaced by another, it is no longer loneliness, it is a kind of company. Although there is only one man in the room, there are two. A. imagines that he is a kind of ghost of that other man who is there and who is not there, and whose book is the same and not the same one that he is translating. So, he tells himself, it is possible to be alone and not be alone at the same time. A word becomes another word, one thing becomes another thing. This is how it works, it is said, like memory. He imagines a giant Babel inside him. There is a text and it is translated into infinite languages. Sentences pour out of him at the speed of thought, and each word comes from a different language, a thousand languages ​​growing inside him at once, the noise from him echoing through a maze of rooms, hallways, and stairways hundreds of floors up. . He repeats. In memory space, everything is itself and something else. And then he realizes that everything he is trying to capture in The Memory Book, everything he has written up to now, is nothing more than the translation of one or two moments in his life, those moments that he lived in the Christmas Eve 1979, in his room at Calle Varick, 6. *


The moment of illumination that burns in the sky of solitude. Pascal was in his room on the night of November 23, 1654, sewing the monument into the lining of his clothing so that she could find the record of that ecstasy in his hands at any time for the rest of his life. he. In the Year of Grace 1654, Monday November 23, the feast of Saint Clement, Pope and Martyr, and others in the Martyrology. and Eva de San Crisogomo and other martyrs. From 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Fire "God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob", not of philosophers and scientists. Security. Security. Feeling. Happiness. Peace. • • • Greatness of the human soul. • • • Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy. • • • I will not forget your word. Amen. • • • On the power of memory. In the spring of 1966, shortly after meeting his future wife, A. was invited by his father (an English teacher at Columbia) to the family home on Morningside Drive for dessert and coffee. The dinner guests were Francis Ponge and his wife, and A.'s future father-in-law thought that young A. (then only nineteen years old) would be delighted to meet such a famous writer. Ponge, the master poet object who had invented a poetry perhaps more rooted in the outside world than any other, was teaching a course at Columbia that semester. A. spoke French reasonably well at the time. Since Ponge and his wife did not speak English and A.'s future in-laws spoke almost no French, A. participated more than he could in the discussion, due to his innate shyness and his preference for silence. . He remembers Ponge as a kind and feisty man with bright blue eyes. The second time A. met Ponge was in 1969 (although it may have been 1968 or 1970) at a party in Ponge's honor given by G., a Barnard professor who translated his work. When A. Ponge shook his hand, he introduced himself by saying that, although he probably doesn't remember him, he had met once in New York several years ago. On the contrary, Ponge replied, he still remembers that night well. And then he spoke of the apartment where the dinner had taken place, describing it in every detail, from the view from the windows to the color of the sofa and the arrangement of furniture in each of the different rooms. For a man to remember so clearly things he had only seen once, things that could have touched his life for a fleeting moment, struck A. with all the force of a supernatural act. He realized that for Ponge there was no separation between the work of writing and the work of seeing. Because no word can be written without first being seen, and before reaching the page, it must first have been a part of the body, a physical presence with which one lives as one lives with one's heart, stomach and brain. Memory, then, not so much as the past contained in us, but as evidence of our experience in the present. If a person really wants to be present in his environment, he should not think about himself, but about what he sees. He has to forget about being there. And from this forgetfulness grows the power of memory. It is a way of living life in such a way that nothing is lost. 89

* It is also true that, as Beckett wrote of Proust, "the man with a good memory remembers nothing because he forgets nothing." And it is true that one must distinguish between voluntary and involuntary memory, as Proust does throughout his long novel about the past. However, what A thinks he is doing while writing the pages of his own book does not belong to any kind of memory. A. has a good and a bad memory. He lost a lot, but he also saved a lot. As he writes, he feels himself moving in (through yourself) and out (into the world) at the same time. Perhaps what he experienced in those brief moments on Christmas Eve 1979, sitting alone in his room on Varick Street, was this: the sudden realization that even in the deepest solitude of his room he was not alone, or more accurately, that the moment he tried to talk about that loneliness, he became something more than himself. Remembering, then, not only as a resurrection of one's own private past, but as an immersion in the past of others, that is to say: the history - of which one participates and bears witness, is part of it and is separated from it. Therefore, everything is simultaneously present in your mind, as if each element reflects the light of all the others, while at the same time emitting its own unique and indelible glow. If there's a reason he's in this room right now, it's because something in him longs to see it all at once, to savor the chaos in all its raw, urgent simultaneity. And yet storytelling is necessarily a slow and complicated task of trying to remember what has already been remembered. The pen will never be able to move fast enough to write every discovered word into memory. Some were lost forever, others can be remembered, and others were lost, found, and lost again. There is no way to be sure of that. * Possible ticket(s) for The Book of Memories. “Thoughts come and go randomly. There is no way to hold it or have it. A thought escaped me: I tried to write it down: instead, I write that it escaped me. (Pascal) “When I write down my thoughts, sometimes they escape me; but it reminds me of my own weakness, which I always forget. It teaches me as much as my forgotten thought, because I only strive to see my own nothing. (Pascal) * The Book of Memory. book ten. When he talks about space, he does not mean neglecting the windows that are sometimes present in the room. The room need not be an image of Hermetic Consciousness, and when a man or woman is standing or sitting alone in a room, there is more going on than the stillness of thought, the stillness of a body.

Difficulty putting your thoughts into words. Nor is it meant to imply that only suffering takes place within the four walls of consciousness, as in Hölderlin's and Emily Dickinson's earlier allusions. Think, for example, of Vermeer's women, alone in their rooms, with the bright light of the real world streaming in through an open or closed window, and the utter stillness of that solitude, an almost poignant evocation of everyday life and your variables. .domestic . He thinks in particular of a painting he saw on his trip to Amsterdam, Woman in Blue, which nearly immobilized him before seeing it in the Rijksmuseum. As one commentator wrote: "The letter, the card, the woman's pregnancy, the empty chair, the open box, the invisible window - are all natural reminders or emblems of absence, of the invisible, of other thoughts, wills, times and Places of the past and the future, of birth and perhaps of death, in general, of a world that extends beyond the edges of the frame and of ever-widening horizons that encompass and impact the scene that floats before our eyes. Vermeer insists on the plenitude and self-sufficiency of the present moment, with such a conviction that its ability to orient and contain itself is endowed with metaphysical value." Even more than the objects mentioned on this list, is the quality of the light that falls through from the invisible window to the viewer's left which so enthusiastically invites them to turn their attention to the world beyond the painting of the woman and, over time, you can almost hear the voice in the woman's head as she reads the letter in her hands, she, so pregnant, so calm in the immanence of motherhood, with the letter taken out of the box, which will probably be read for the hundredth time; and there, on the wall to her right, a map of the world that is the image of all that is outside the room: that light that runs softly across her face and shines on her blue robe, belly full of life, and its luminosity bathed in blue, a light so pale that it borders on white, others follow: a woman serving milk, a woman holding scales, a woman putting pearls, a young man at the window with a pitcher, a girl at the open window reading a letter. the present moment." ***

If it was Rembrandt and Titus who somehow lured A. to Amsterdam, where he entered rooms and found himself in the presence of women (Vermeer's women, Anne Frank), then his trip to this city was also planned as a pilgrimage to his own past. . Once again, his inner movements are expressed in the form of paintings: an emotional state that finds a tangible representation in a work of art, as if another person's loneliness were actually an echo of his own. In this case, it was Van Gogh and the new museum that was built to house his work. Like an early trauma buried in the unconscious, forever connecting two unrelated objects (this shoe is my father, this rose is my mother), Van Gogh's paintings remain in his mind as images of his youth, a translation of his feelings. deeper. he. . It can even be quite precise, locating events and your reactions to events by place and time (exact places, exact times: year, month, day, even hour and minute). The decisive factor, however, is less the sequence of the chronicle than its consequences, its permanence in the space of memory. So, as a reminder, one day in the year 91

April, when he was sixteen, skipping school with the girl he fell in love with: so in love and hopeless it still hurts to think about it. Remembering the train and then the ferry to New York (that ferry that is no more: industrial iron, hot fog, rust) and then going to a great exhibition of Van Gogh paintings. Remembering him standing there, trembling with happiness, as if seeing those works together endowed her with the girl's presence, mysteriously covered her with the love he felt for her. A few days later, based on the canvases he had seen, he began writing a series of (now lost) poems, each poem titled after a different Van Gogh painting. These were the first real poems that he wrote. The poems were more than a method of insight into these paintings, but an attempt to rescue the memory of that day. However, many years passed before he realized this. It was only in Amsterdam, looking at the same paintings he had seen with the girl (first seen almost half of his life ago), that he remembered writing these poems. At that moment the equation became clear to him: the act of writing as an act of remembering. Well, apart from his own poems, he hasn't forgotten any. * Standing in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam (December 1979) in front of the painting The Bedroom, completed in Arles, October 1888. Van Gogh to his brother: “This time it's just my bedroom… Looking at the painting must make the brain or rather, to rest the imagination… “The walls are pale purple. The floor is red tile. “The wood on the bed and chairs is a cool butter yellow, the sheets and pillows are a very light lime green. "The scarlet roof. The green window. "The dresser is orange, the sink is blue. "The purple doors. “And that's it, there's nothing in this room with the blinds closed. … “This as revenge for the forced rest I had to take…. "One day I'll also make sketches of the other rooms for you" However, as A. continued to look at the photo, he could not help getting the impression that Van Gogh had done something completely different from what he had planned.A's first impression was indeed one of calm, a "calm" as the artist describes it.But as he tried to inhabit the space represented on the canvas, little by little he began to experience it as a prison, an impossible space, an image, not so much a place to live as a spirit forced to live there. Look closely. The bed is blocking one door, a chair is blocking another door, the blinds are closed: you can't get in, and once you're in, you can't get out. Drowning among the furniture and everyday objects in the room, in In this painting, a cry of pain begins to be heard and, when you hear it, it does not stop. "I cried because of my suffering..." But there is no response to this cry. The man in this painting (and this is a self-portrait, not unlike the image of a man's face with eyes, nose, lips, and jaw) has spent too much time alone, has struggled too long in the depths of solitude. The world ends at this barricaded gate. Because space is not a representation of loneliness, it is the substance of loneliness itself. And it's so heavy, so unbreathable, 92

that can only be shown what it is. "And that's it: there's nothing in that room with the blinds closed..." *Additional comments on the nature of chance. A. came and went from London, spending a few days visiting English friends at both ends of his journey. The Girl on the Ferry and in the Van Gogh Paintings was English (she grew up in London, lived in the United States from the age of twelve to eighteen, and then returned to London to attend art school), A. spent several hours at first with her as part of your journey In the years after high school graduation, they kept in touch infrequently, maybe five or six times at the most. A. had long since healed from her passion, but had not completely erased it from her memory, somehow clinging to the feeling of this passion, although she had lost the meaning of her for him. It had been several years since they had last seen each other, and she now found her somber, almost oppressive, being with him. She was still beautiful, she thought, but her loneliness seemed to encapsulate her like an egg encapsulates an unborn bird. She lived alone, she had almost no friends. She worked on wooden sculptures for many years, but she refused to show them to anyone. Every time she finished a piece, she would destroy it and start the next one. Again A. faced the loneliness of a woman. But here she collapsed and dried up in the fountain. A day or two later she went to Paris, finally to Amsterdam, and then back to London. He thought to himself: There will be no time to see her again. One of these days, before returning to New York, he wanted to have dinner with a friend (T., the same friend who had thought they were cousins) and decided to spend the afternoon at the Royal Academy of Art, where a large exhibition of paintings " Post-Impressionists" was on display. However, the large influx of visitors to the museum made him reluctant to spend the afternoon as he had planned, and he found himself with three or four extra hours before dinner. He went to lunch at a cheap fish and chip restaurant in Soho and wondered what to do with himself in his spare time. He paid the bill, left the restaurant, turned the corner, and there she was, looking through the window of a large shoe store, when he saw her. It wasn't every day he met someone on the streets of London (he knew few people in the metropolis), but this meeting seemed quite natural to him, as if it were an everyday occurrence. He had thought of her a moment before, regretting her decision not to call her, and now that she was there and suddenly before her eyes, he couldn't help but feel that he wanted her to appear. He approached her and said her name. * Chart. Or the collapse of time into images. There were several paintings by Maurice Denis in the Royal Academy exhibition that he had seen in London. A. visited the widow of the poet Jean in Paris in 93

Follain (Follain, who died in a traffic accident in 1971, a few days before A. moved to Paris) in connection with an anthology of French poetry that A. was preparing and which actually brought him back to Europe. He soon learned that Madame Follain was the daughter of Maurice Denis, and many of her father's paintings hung on the apartment walls. She was now in her seventies, maybe eighty, and A. was struck by her Parisian toughness, her raspy voice, her devotion to the work of her late husband. One of the paintings in the apartment had a title: Madelaine à 18 mois (Madelaine at 18 months), which Denis had written on the canvas. This was the same Madelaine who had become Follain's wife and whom A. had just invited to his apartment. For a moment, I don't know, she looked before this picture painted for eighty years, and I saw, how she was giving an incredible leap in time, the face of the child in the picture and that one of the old days. The faces in front of her were exactly the same. For a moment, he felt that she had passed through the illusion of human time and experienced it for what it was: nothing more than a blink of an eye. He had seen his whole life ahead of him, and in that moment he had collapsed. * O. to A. in conversation about the feeling of having aged. O., already seventy years old, her memory fails her, her face wrinkled like the palm of a half-open hand. He looks at A. and shakes his head with deadpan humor: "What a strange experience with a guy." Yes, it is possible that we will not grow up, that even in old age we will continue to be the children that we always were. We remember ourselves as we were then and feel the same. Then we became what we are now and we continue to be what we were despite the years. We do not change on our own. Time ages us, but we do not change. * The Book of Memory. book eleven. He remembers coming home from his wedding reception in 1974, his wife in her white dress at his side, and taking the key to the front door from his pocket, placing it in the lock, and then, turning his wrist, he feels the blade of the key breaks in the relocking. He recalls that in the spring of 1966, shortly after meeting his future wife, he broke one of the keys on his piano: F over middle C. That summer, the two traveled to a remote part of Maine. One day, while walking through a nearly deserted city, they came upon an old meeting hall that had not been used for years. Remnants of some male society were scattered about the place: Indian hats, lists of names, drunken remains. The room was dusty and deserted, except for a piano in the corner. His wife started playing (she played well) and she found that all the keys worked except one: F over middle C. Perhaps it was at that moment that A. realized that the world would continue to deceive us 94

him forever. *If a novelist had used these little incidents of broken piano keys (or the wedding day accident where the key got lost in the door), the reader would be forced to take note and assume that the novelist was trying to say something about your characters or the world. We could talk about symbolic meanings, subtext or just formal means (because as soon as something happens more than once, even randomly, a pattern takes shape, a form starts to emerge). In a work of fiction, there is supposed to be a consciousness behind the words on the page. Nothing is assumed before the events of the so-called real world. The fictional story consists entirely of meanings, while the factual story is devoid of meaning beyond itself. When a man tells you: "I'm going to Jerusalem", you think to yourself: Well, he's going to Jerusalem. But if a character in a novel said the same words: "I'm going to Jerusalem", his response would not be the same. You think first of Jerusalem itself: its history, its religious role, its function as a mythical place. They would think about the past, the present (politics; who should also think about the recent past), and the future, as in the phrase: "Next year in Jerusalem." Furthermore, you would integrate these thoughts with everything you already know about the character going to Jerusalem and use this new synthesis to draw further conclusions, refine insights, and think more convincingly about the book as a whole. And then, finished the work, read the last page and closed the book, the interpretations begin: psychological, historical, sociological, structural, philological, religious, sexual, philosophical, individually or in various combinations, according to the inclination of each one. While it is possible to interpret real life according to either of these systems (people end up going to priests and psychiatrists; sometimes people try to understand their lives in terms of historical conditions), this does not have the same effect. Something is missing: grandeur, the apprehension of the general, the illusion of metaphysical truth. It is said: Don Quixote is an uncontrolled conscience in the realm of the imaginary. You look at a crazy person in the world (A. your schizophrenic sister, for example) and you don't say anything. That could be the blues of a wasted life, but no more. From time to time A. sees a work of art with the same eyes with which he looks at the world. To read the imaginary in this way is to destroy it. Think, for example, of Tolstoy's description of opera in War and Peace. Nothing is taken for granted in this passage, and therefore everything is reduced to absurdity. Tolstoy makes fun of what he sees simply by describing it. “In the second act, there were cardboard monuments on the stage and a round hole in the back that represented a moon. Curtains were drawn over the spotlights and low notes were played on trumpets and double basses as a line of people in black cloaks appeared on either side of the stage brandishing what appeared to be daggers. Then other men ran onto the stage and began dragging the girl who was previously white and was now light blue. They didn't take her away right away, they sang with her for a long time before finally dragging her away, and backstage something metal was hit three times and they all knelt down and sang a prayer. All of this action was repeatedly interrupted by enthusiastic applause from the audience." There is also the same and opposite temptation to look at the world as if it were 95

they were an extension of the imagination. This also happened to A. a few times, but she is reluctant to accept it as a valid solution. Like everyone else, he craves meaning. Like everyone else, his life is so fragmented that every time he sees a connection between two fragments, he is tempted to look for meaning in that connection. The connection is established. But to make sense of it, to look beyond the mere fact of his existence, would mean turning an imaginary world into the real world, and he knows it wouldn't exist. In his bravest moments, he embraces insignificance as his first principle, and then realizes that it is his duty to see what is in front of him (even though it is also within him) and speak what he sees. He is in his room on Varick Street. Your life has no meaning. The book he is writing makes no sense. There is the world and the things that are in the world, and to speak of them is to be in the world. A key breaks in a lock and something has happened. It means that a key has broken in a lock. The same piano seems to exist in two different places. Twenty years later, a young man lives in the same room where his father faced the terror of loneliness. A man meets his old love on a street in a strange city. It just means what it is. No more no less. He then writes: Entering this space means disappearing in a place where the past and the present meet. And then he writes: as in the sentence: "he Wrote the scrapbook in this room." * The invention of loneliness. He means. I mean, he means. Like in French "vouloir dire" which literally means "I want to say" but actually means "means". He will say what he wants. He wants to say what he wants to say. He says what he wants to say. He means what he says. * Vienna, 1919. Nonsense, yes. But it would be impossible to say that we are not haunted. Freud referred to such experiences as "strange" or strange, the opposite of heimlich, which means "familiar", "native", "belonging to home". The implication, then, is that we are pushed out of the protective shell of our habitual awareness, as if suddenly outside of ourselves and adrift in a world we don't understand. By definition, we are lost in this world. We can't even hope to find our way back. Freud argues that each stage of our development coexists with all the others. Even as adults, we bury within us the memory of how we saw the world as children. And not just a reminder: the structure itself is intact. Freud combines the experience of the uncanny with a revival of the egocentric and animistic worldview of childhood. “It seems that each of us has passed through an individual phase of development corresponding to that animistic stage of primitive man, that none of us has passed through it without some trace of it that can be reactivated, and that whatever comes our way now suggests that 'strange' satisfies the condition of awakening and expressing in ourselves these traits of animistic mental activity." He concludes: "A strange experience occurs when repressed infantile complexes have been revived by an impression, or when beliefs have, 96

the losers seem to be confirmed once more.” None of this is, of course, an explanation. In the best of cases, it serves to describe the process, to show the terrain on which it develops. As such, A. is more than willing to accept it as true. The strangeness, then, as a reminder of another home of the spirit long before. Likewise, a dream sometimes defies interpretation until a friend suggests a simple, almost obvious meaning. A. cannot prove that Freud's argument is true or false, but he finds it correct and he is more than willing to accept it. . Therefore, all the coincidences that seem to multiply around you are somehow linked to a memory from your childhood, as if the world returned to a previous state of your being with the appearance of your childhood memory. That seems correct to you. He remembers his childhood and it appeared to him in the form of these experiences in the present. He remembers his childhood and writes it to him in the present. Perhaps this is what he means when he writes: "Functionality is the first principle." Perhaps this is what he means when he writes: "He means what he says." Maybe that's what he means. And maybe not. There is no way to be sure of that. * The invention of loneliness. Or stories of life and death. The story begins at the end. speak or die And as long as you speak, you will not die. The story begins with death. King Shehriyar was tricked: "And they kept kissing, cutting, hitting and partying." He withdraws from the world and vows never to succumb to female tricks again. He later returns to the throne and satisfies his physical desires by receiving women from the kingdom. Once satisfied, he orders his execution. "And he did not stop doing this for three years, until the land was deprived of marriageable girls, and all the wives, mothers and fathers wept and wept against the king, cursing him, complaining and crying out to the Creator of heaven and earth for to help the one who hears prayer and answers the one who calls him; and those who had daughters fled with them, until at last there was not a single girl of marriageable age left in the city." At this point, Shehrzad, the vizier's daughter, volunteered to go to the king ("Her memory was guarded with verses, tales, folklore, and sayings of kings and sages, and she was wise, witty, prudent, and well-mannered. ") Her desperate father tries to dissuade her from facing that certain death, but she is relentless. "Marry me to this king, for either I will be the means of saving the daughters of Muslims from slaughter, or I will die and perish as others have died." ". She lies with the king and puts her plan into action. to: "...telling delightful stories to get us through our nightly vigils...; king of his habit." The king agrees to listen to her. She begins her story, and what she tells is a story about stories, a story in which there are several stories, each about stories - by means of which a man is saved of death. The day begins to dawn, and in the middle of the first story within the story, Shehrzad falls silent. "It's nothing compared to what I'm going to say tomorrow night," she says, "if the King let me live." And the king says to himself, "By Allah, I won't kill them until I hear the rest of the story." This continues for three nights, with each night's story ending before 97.

ends and skips to the beginning of the next night's story, at which point the first narrative cycle ends and a new one begins. Truly, it is a matter of life and death. On the first night, Sehrzad begins The Merchant and the Genie. A man stops for lunch in a garden (an oasis in the desert), throws down a date stone, and behold, “a huge spirit appeared to him with a drawn sword in his hand, and came to him and said: Yeah". so that I could kill you, just as you killed my son." "How did I kill your son?" asked the merchant, and the spirit replied: "When you threw the date pit, it hit my son, who was then dying, in her bosom, and he died instantly. invisible to waking life. The merchant pleads his case and the Genie agrees to stay his execution. But in exactly one year the merchant must return to the same place where the spirit will carry out the punishment. A parallel is already being drawn with the Sherhzad situation. She wants to delay her execution, and by planting that idea in the King's mind, she makes her case, but in a way the King cannot see. Because that is the function of the story: to make a person see the thing before his eyes, holding something else to look at. The year passes and the merchant, true to her word, returns to the garden. He sits down and starts crying. An old man walks by carrying a gazelle on a chain and asks the merchant what is wrong with him. The old man is fascinated by what the merchant tells him (as if the merchant's life were a story, with a beginning, a middle, and an end, a fiction invented by another mind – which indeed it is), and decides to wait and see how it goes. Then another old man passes by carrying two black dogs. The conversation is repeated and then he too sits and waits. Then a third old man passes by, driving a dappled mule, and the same thing happens again. Finally, the spirit appears in a "cloud of dust and a great spinning pillar from the heart of the desert." Just as he is about to drag the merchant away and kill him with his sword, "How have you killed my son, dearest to my heart!", the first elder steps forward and says to the ghost, "If I tell to me El The story of that gazelle and she seems wonderful to you, do you want to give me the third part of that merchant's blood? Surprisingly, the genius agrees, just as the king agreed to listen to the story of Sherhzad: voluntarily, without fighting That would be letting the genie see what he already sees: and that's what he decided to do Instead, the old man wants to dissuade him from the facts, dissuade him from thoughts of death and thus erase him (literally "ablock", from Latin delectare). for a new attitude towards life, which in return will make you overcome your obsession to kill the merchant, surrender. An obsession of this type surrounds the person in solitude. You see nothing but your own thoughts. A story, however, Since it is not a logical argument, it breaks down these barriers. Because it presupposes the existence of others and allows the listener to get in touch with them, even mentally. The old man plunges into an absurd story. This gazelle you're looking at, he says, is actually my wife. She lived with me for 30 years and in all that time she was unable to conceive a child. (Again: an allusion to the missing child - the dead child, the unborn child - that traces genius back to her own pain, but indirectly, as part of a 98

world where life is equal to death.) "Then I took a concubine, and by her I bore a son like the rising full moon, with eyes and eyebrows of perfect beauty..." When the boy was fifteen years old, the old man was to another city (he is also a merchant), and in his absence the jealous one used magic to transform the boy and his mother into a calf and a cow. "Your slave died and your son ran away," the woman said when she returned. After a year of mourning, the cow was slaughtered as a sacrifice, through the machinations of the jealous wife. When the man wanted to sacrifice the calf a moment later, his heart failed him. "And when the calf saw me, it broke its halter and came to me and swirled around me and wailed and wept until I took pity on it and said, 'Bring me a cow and let this calf go.'" The Shepherd's Daughter, also trained in Charms, later discovered the calf's true identity. After the merchant granted her two requests (to marry the son and to cast a spell on the jealous wife by imprisoning her in the form of an animal - "otherwise I am not safe from her trade"), she returned the son to his father. . original shape. The story doesn't end there either. The Son's wife, the old man continues, “dwelt with us days and nights and nights and days, until God took her away; and after her death my son undertook a journey to the land of Ind, the homeland of that merchant; and after a time I took the gazelle and walked with it from place to place, seeking news of my son, until chance brought me to this garden, where I found this merchant sitting and weeping; And this is my story." The spirit agrees that this is a wonderful story and leaves a third of the merchant's blood to the old man. One by one, the two remaining old men offer the same deal to the genius and begin their stories in the same way. "These two dogs are my big brothers," says the second old man. "That mule was my wife," says the third. These opening sentences contain the essence of the whole project. Because what does it mean? look at something, a real object in the real world, say an animal, and say that it is something other than what it is? This means that everything lives a double life, both in the world and in our minds, and that denying one of these lives is to kill the thing in both lives at the same time. In the stories of the three old men, two mirrors face each other, one reflecting the light of the other. Both are enchantments, real and imagined, and both exist by virtue of the other. And it really is a matter of life and death.The first old man entered the garden looking for his son; The ghost has come to the garden to kill the innocent murderer of his son. What the old man tells him is that our children are always invisible. It is the simplest of all truths: a life belongs only to the one who lives it; life itself will claim the living; Live and let live. And in the end, these three stories save the merchant's life. Thus begins "The Thousand and One Nights". At the end of the whole chronicle, after story after story after story, there is a final result, and it has all the unchanging seriousness of a miracle. Sherhzad bore three sons to the king. Once again the lesson is clear. A voice that speaks, a woman's voice that speaks, a voice that tells stories of life and death has the power to give life. "'May I then dare to ask Your Majesty for a blessing? Please, oh Sherhzad,' she replied, 'and it will be given to you.'" my children." Then they brought her to her in haste, and there were three male children, one who walked, one who crawled, and one who suckled. She lifted them up and placed them on 99

In front of the king, he kissed the ground and said: 'O king of times, these are your children, and I want you to redeem me from the death sentence for these children.' Hearing these words, the king begins to cry. He takes the children in his arms and declares his love for Sherhzad. "Thus they adorned the city in a splendid manner, such as had never been seen before, and drums and fifes sounded, while all the pantomimes, knights, and players practiced their various arts, and the king showered them with mercy and bounty. Also he gave alms to the poor and needy and extended his gifts to all his subjects and to the people of his kingdom." * Mirror text. If the voice of a woman who tells stories has the power to bring children into the world, it is also true that a The child has the power to bring stories to life. They say a man would go mad if he couldn't. Do not dream at night. If a child cannot enter the imaginary, he will never engage with the real either. The need for a child storytelling is as basic as his need to eat and manifests itself in the same way as hunger Tell me a story, Tell me child Tell me a story Tell me a story, dad So the father sits down and tells him a story Or lies down beside him in the dark, the two of them in the child's bed, and begins to talk. as if there was nothing in the world but his voice, and he tells his son a story in the dark. Often it is a fairy tale or an adventure story. But often it's just a simple leap into the imagination. Once upon a time there was a boy named Daniel, A. tells his son Daniel, and perhaps these stories, in which the boy himself is the hero, satisfy him more. Also, while he is sitting in his room writing the Book of Memories, A. realizes that he is speaking of himself as someone else to tell his own story. He has to go away to be there. And then he says A. while he means I. Because the history of memory is the history of seeing. And although the things to be seen no longer exist, it is a history of seeing. Then the voice continues. And even when the boy closes his eyes and goes to sleep, his father's voice continues to speak in the dark. * The Book of Memory. Book Twelve. It cannot go further. Children suffered at the hands of adults for no reason. Children were abandoned, starved, killed for no reason. It goes no further, he says. "But then there are the children," says Ivan Karamazov, "and what should I do with them?" And again: “I want to forgive. I want to hug myself, I don't want more suffering. And if the sufferings of children are added to the sufferings necessary to buy the truth, I predict that all the truth is not worth the price.”*


Every day he sees her looking at him effortlessly. These are the days of Cambodia's collapse, and every day it is there, look at it in the newspaper, with the inevitable images of death: the emaciated children, the adults with nothing in their eyes. For example, Jim Harrison, an Oxfam engineer, notes in his diary: “Visited a small clinic at KM 7. Absolutely no drugs or medication, severe cases of starvation, clearly starved…. The hundreds of children were all marasmatic, many skin diseases, baldness, discolored hair and a lot of fear in the entire population. in dirty rags in bed hungry - without medicine - without food... Tuberculosis associated with hunger gives people a Belsen appearance. In one room, a thirteen-year-old boy was lying in bed because he was going crazy-many children are now orphans-or can't find families-and there was a lot of twitching and convulsing among the people. An eighteen-month-old boy was in a state of destruction from what appeared to be infected skin and flesh that had collapsed under the heavy kwashiorkor: his pus-filled eyes in the arms of his five-year-old sister. I find this very hard to bear, and this situation must apply to hundreds of thousands of people in Kampuche today." Two weeks before reading these words, A. was out for dinner with a friend of his, P., a writer and editor of a major weekly news magazine. He was editing "History of Cambodia" for publication. He had seen almost everything written in the American and foreign press about the conditions there, and he told A. a story that an American volunteer doctor in one of the refugee camps on the Thai border told an American newspaper that Carolina had written. It was about the visit of the wife of the President of the United States, Rosalynn Carter, to these fields. A. could remember the photos published in newspapers and magazines (the First Lady embracing a Cambodian child, the First Lady talking to doctors) and, despite what she knew, the responsibility of the United States to create the conditions for the Ms. Carter came to protest, she had been moved by these photos. It turned out that Mrs. Carter visited the camp where the American doctor worked. The camp hospital was makeshift: a thatched roof, some support beams, patients on mats on the floor. The president's wife arrived, followed by a swarm of officials, reporters and cameramen. There were too many of them, and as they trudged through the hospital, patients' hands were stepped on by heavy Western shoes, intravenous lines were broken by passing their legs, bodies were accidentally kicked. Perhaps this confusion was avoidable, perhaps not. Anyway, after the visitors completed their inspection, the American doctor appealed. Please, he said, would any of you take the time to donate blood to the hospital; even the healthiest Cambodians' blood is too thin to be useful; our stock has run out. But the first lady's trip was delayed. There were other places to visit that day, other people wanting to see. This is not the time, they said. Sorry. Very sorry. And then, as abruptly as they had arrived, the visitors were gone. * In it the world is monstrous. As the world can lead man to nothing but despair, a despair so complete, so determined, that nothing can open the door to this 101

Prison that is hopelessness, A. peeks through the bars of his cell and finds a single thought that brings him comfort: the photo of his son. And not just his son, but every son, daughter, son of every man or woman. In him the world is monstrous. As there seems to be no hope for the future, A. looks at his son and realizes that he must not give in to despair. There is this responsibility for a young life, and in creating this life he must not despair. Minute by minute, hour by hour, as he remains in the presence of his son, tending to his needs, giving himself up to this young life that is a constant challenge to stay in the present, he feels his despair slipping away. And although he is still desperate, he does not despair. The idea of ​​a child's suffering is therefore monstrous to him. It is even more monstrous than the monstrosity of the world itself, because it robs the world of its only comfort, and though one can imagine a world without comfort, it is monstrous. He can't go any further. * This is where it starts. He is left alone in an empty room and begins to cry. "It's too much for me, I can't stand it" (Mallarmé). “Sounds like Belsen,” observed the Cambodian engineer. And yes, this is where Anne Frank died. "It really is a miracle," he wrote three weeks before his arrest, "that I have not given up all my ideals because they seem so absurd and impossible to realize... I see the world gradually turning into a desert, I "hear the thunder that is coming that is going to destroy us too, I feel the suffering of millions and yet, when I look at the sky, I think that everything will be fine, that this cruelty will also end..." *No, he does not mean that this is the only one. It doesn't even mean to say that it can be understood, that talking and talking about it, one can make sense. No, it's not the only thing, and life goes anyway, for some, if not for most. And, however, since it is a thing that will always elude understanding, he wants to be represented as the thing that always comes before the beginning.As in the sentences: "It begins here. He is alone in an empty room and begins to cry." * Return to the belly of the whale "The word of the Lord came to Jonah... and said to him: Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and howl against it..." Also in this commandment, Jonah's story differs of all the other prophets. Because the Ninevites are not Jews. Unlike the other bearers of God's Word, Jonah is not invited to address his own people, but rather strangers. Worse yet, they are the enemies of his people. Nineveh was the capital of Assyria, the most powerful empire in the world in 102

Time. In the words of Nahum (whose prophecies are preserved in the same scroll as the story of Jonah), "The bloody city...full of lies and theft." “Get up, go to Nineveh,” God tells Jonah. Nineveh is to the east. Jonah heads immediately west to Tarshish (Tartessus, at the tip of Spain). He not only flees, he also crosses the limits of the known world. This flight is not difficult to understand. Imagine a similar case: a Jew must travel to Germany during World War II and preach against the Nazis. It is a thought that demands the impossible. As early as the second century, one of the rabbinic commentators argued that Jonah boarded the ship to drown himself in the sea for the sake of Israel, not to flee from God's presence. This is the political reading of the book, and Christian interpreters were quick to turn it against the Jews. For example, Theodore of Mopsuestia says that Jonah was sent to Nineveh because the Jews refused to listen to the prophets and that the book of Jonah was written to teach "the obstinate people" a lesson. However, Rupert von Deutz, another Christian interpreter (12th century), affirms that the prophet disobeyed God's command out of pity for his people and that, therefore, God was not very angry with Jonah. This echoes the opinion of Rabbi Akiva himself, who stated that "Jonah was jealous for the glory of the son (Israel), but not for the glory of the father (God)." Despite this, Jonah finally agrees to go to Nineveh. But even after he delivered his message, even after the people of Nineveh repented and changed their way of life, even after God forgave them, we learn that "Jonah was very displeased and very angry." This is patriotic rage. Why should Israel's enemies be forgiven? It is at this point that God teaches Jonah the lesson of the book, in the parable of the pumpkin that follows. "Are you going to be okay with being angry?" he asks. Jonah then retreats to the outskirts of Nineveh "until he could see what would become of the city," implying that he still felt that Nineveh would be destroyed, or that he expected Nineveh to return to her sinful ways to punish herself. God prepared a gourd (a castor bean plant) to protect Jonah from the sun, and "Jonah was well pleased with the gourd." But the next morning God withered the plant. A strong east wind was blowing, a scorching sun was beating down on Jonah, and he "fainted, wishing to die, saying, It is better for me to die than to live," the very words he had used earlier to point out the meaning of this parable. message is the same as in the first part of the book. “And God said to Jonah: Can you be angry about the pumpkin? And he said: I do well to be angry to death. Then said the Lord: Have pity on the gourd, for which I will not work, nor let it grow; who was born in one night and died in one night; and I will not spare Nineveh, that great city, where there are more than sixty thousand people who cannot distinguish between his right hand and his left hand; and also a lot of cattle? These sinners, these Gentiles, and even the animals that belong to them, are God's creatures just like the Hebrews. This is a surprising and original notion, especially considering the date of the story: 8th century BC. C. (time of Heraclitus). , after all, is the essence of what the rabbis have to teach. If there is to be justice, there must be justice for all. No one can be excluded, or there will be no justice. The end is inevitable. The smallest of the all books, which tells the curious and even comical story of Jonah, occupies a central place in the liturgy: it is read every year in the synagogue on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the most solemn day of the year. 103

the Jewish calendar. Because, as already mentioned, everything is connected to everything else. And if everything exists, it follows that they all exist. He doesn't forget Jonah's last words: "I do well to be angry to death." And yet he writes those words on the page before him. If there is everything, it follows that there are all. * The words rhyme, and even though there's no real connection between them, he can't help but think of them together. room and tomb, tomb and womb, womb and room. breathing and death Or the fact that the letters in the word "alive" can be rearranged to make the word "bad." He knows that this is just a school game. Surprisingly, however, when you type the word "student", you can remember your eighth or ninth birthday and the sudden feeling of power you felt within yourself when you discovered that you could play with words in this way, as if you had inadvertently found a secret path to truth: the absolute, universal, unshakable truth that lurks in the center of the world. In his scholastic enthusiasm he obviously did not consider the existence of languages ​​other than English, the great Babel of languages ​​that swarmed and struggled in the world outside his scholastic existence. And how can absolute and unshakable truth vary from one language to another? However, the power of rhyming words, of word transformations, cannot be entirely discounted. The meaning of magic remains, even if it cannot be linked to the search for truth, and this same magic, these same correspondences between words are present in all languages, although the individual combinations are different. At the heart of every language is a web of intersecting rhymes, assonances, and meanings, and each of these events acts as a kind of bridge connecting opposite and opposite aspects of the world. Language, then, not simply as an enumeration of individual things to be added up and whose sum is equal to the world. It is the language expounded in the lexicon: an infinitely complex organism whose elements—cells and tendons, corpuscles and bones, fingers and liquids—coexist in the world, none of which can exist alone. Since every word is defined by other words, what it means to write part of the language means to write the whole language. Hence, language as monadology, to use the term used by Leibniz. ("Because everything is plenum, all matter is interconnected, and any movement in the plenum produces an effect on distant bodies, proportional to the distance. Therefore, each body is not only affected by those with which it is in contact , and it is also in a certain way feels everything that happens to them, but also feels through them those who touch those with whom it is in direct contact.It follows, therefore, that this communication extends to any distance Consequently, every body experiences everything that happens in the universe, so much so that the one who sees everything could read in each body what is happening somewhere, and even what has happened or will happen, could observe what is happening in the present. distant both in time and space, but a soul can only read in itself what is directly represented in it, it cannot unfold all its folds at once, because these go to infinity, therefore it was less a search for truth than a search for the world, as it appears in language. The language is not 104

TRUE. This is how we exist in the world. Playing with words is just examining the workings of the mind, reflecting a speck of the world as the mind perceives it. Likewise, the world is not just the sum of the things in it. It is the infinitely complex web of connections between them. Like the meanings of words, things only acquire meaning in relation to each other. "Two faces are the same", writes Pascal. "Neither are funny per se, but their resemblance next to each other makes us laugh." Faces rhyme with eyes, just as two words can rhyme with ears. To take the statement one step further, A. would state that it is possible for events in a person's life to rhyme. A young man rents a room in Paris and later discovers that his father hid in the same room during the war. Considering these two events separately, there would be little to say about either of them. The rhyme they form when seen together alters the other's reality. Just as two physical objects, when brought closer together, emit electromagnetic forces that affect not only the molecular structure of each other, but also the space between them, altering the environment itself, so to speak, so are these two (or more) events. that rhyme in themselves create a connection in the world and add another synapse that channels through the vast plenitude of experience. These connections are common in literary works (to return to this argument), but one tends not to see them in the world, because the world is too big and one's life is too small. Only in those rare moments when we catch a glimpse of a rhyme in the world can the mind jump and piece things together across time and space, through vision and memory. But there is more than just rhymes. The grammar of existence encompasses all the figures of language itself: simile, metaphor, metonymy, synecdoche, so that everything found in the world is actually many things, which in turn give rise to many other things, according to what those things are. They are considered. below are, are contained or removed from. Often the second term of a comparison is also missing. It can be forgotten or buried in the unconscious or otherwise rendered inaccessible. “The past is hidden”, writes Proust in an important passage of his novel, “out of the reach of the intellect, in a material object (in the sensation that this material object will give us) that we do not suspect. And as for that object, it depends entirely on the luck that we find it or not before dying ourselves. Everyone has experienced, in one way or another, the strange sensations of forgetfulness, the bewildering power of the absent concept. I entered this room, a man will say, and the strangest feeling came over me, as if he had been there before, although I don't remember anything. As in Pavlov's experiments with dogs (showing, at the simplest level, how the mind can make a connection between two different things, eventually forgetting the first and thus turning one thing into the other), though we can't say what it is. . . What A. perhaps found difficult to express is that he has not lost any of the terms for some time. Wherever his eye or mind seems to stop, he discovers another connection, another bridge that takes him to another place, and even in the solitude of his room, the world rushes towards him at breakneck speed, as if everything were suddenly flowing. in him and it happened to him at the same time. coincidence: highlight; occupy the same place in time or space. The spirit, then, as that which contains more than itself, as in Augustine's sentence: "But where is that which does not contain?"*


Second return to the belly of the whale. "When he came to, the doll could not remember where he was. Everything was dark around him, a darkness so deep and so black that he thought for a moment that he had plunged headfirst into an inkwell." This is how Collodi describes Pinocchio's arrival in the shark's belly. It would have been one thing to write it in the ordinary way: "An Inky Black Darkness," like a worn-out literary flourish forgotten by the time it's read. But something else is going on here, something that goes beyond the question of good or bad writing (and this is obviously not bad writing.) Note: Collodi does not make comparisons at this point, there is no "as if", there is no "how", nothing that can equate or contrast one thing with another. The image of absolute darkness immediately gives way to the image of an inkwell. Pinocchio has just entered the shark's belly. He still doesn't know that Geppetto is there too. Everything, at least for this brief moment, is lost. Pinocchio is surrounded by the darkness of loneliness. And in that darkness, where the puppet finally finds the courage to rescue his father and thus transform him into a real boy, the essential creative act of the book takes place. his pen in the darkness of his inkwell. After all, Pinocchio is only made of wood. Collodi uses it as an instrument (literally, the pen) to write his story. This does not mean giving in to primitive psychologization. Collodi would not have achieved what he does in Pinocchio if the book were not for him a memory. He was in his fifties when he sat down to write it and had recently retired from a minor career in public service that, according to his nephew, was marked "neither by zeal, nor by punctuality, nor by dedication." submission". Nothing less than Proust's novel In Search of Lost Time, his story is a search for his lost childhood. Even the name he wrote under was reminiscent of the past. His real name was Carlo Lorenzini. Collodi was the name of the small town where his mother was born and where he spent his holidays as a child. There are some data about this childhood. He was a storyteller admired by his friends for his ability to captivate them with stories. According to his brother Ippolito, "he did it so well and with such imitation that half the world was delighted and the children listened with their mouths open." In an autobiographical sketch written late in life, long after Pinocchio was finished, Collodi leaves little doubt that he saw himself as the puppet's double. He appears as a jumper and a palhaço - he eats eyebrows in the classroom and sends the hearts to the two colleagues' bags, catches flies and places them on the ear of another person, draws figures on the men's clothes on his forehead: general, child or chaos for all. Whether this is true or not is irrelevant. Pinocchio was Collodi's second in command, and after the puppet was created, Collodi saw himself as Pinocchio. The doll became an image of himself when he was a child. Dipping the doll in the inkwell, therefore, meant using his creation to write his own story. Because only in the darkness of solitude does the work of memory begin. * Possible ticket(s) for The Book of Memories. 106

“We must definitely look for the first traces of imagination in the child. The child's favorite and most attractive activity is playing. Perhaps we can say that every playing child behaves like an imaginative writer, creating his own world or, more precisely, rearranging and rearranging things in his world... It would be a mistake to think that he does not take himself seriously this world; on the contrary, he takes his game very seriously and spends a lot of emotion on it." (Freud) "They will not forget that the emphasis on the writer's childhood memories, which may seem so strange, is ultimately due to the hypothesis that imaginative creation, such as daydreaming, is a continuation and substitute for children's play." (Freud) * Watch your child. Watch the child move around the room and listen to what he says. Watch him with his toys playing talking to himself Each time the child picks up an object or pushes a truck across the ground or adds another block to the tower of blocks growing in front of him, he talks about what he is doing like a storyteller would in a story. film, or invent a story to accompany the actions it initiates. Each movement generates a word or series of words, each word triggers another movement: a reversal, a continuation, a new series of movements and words ("a universe where the center is everywhere, the circumference is nowhere"), except perhaps in the child's consciousness, which is itself a constantly changing field of perceptions, memories, and expressions. There is no law of nature that cannot be broken: trucks fly, a block becomes a person, the dead rise at will. The child's mind goes from one thing to another without hesitation. Look, he says, my broccoli is a tree. Look, my potatoes are a cloud. Look at the cloud, it's a man. Or when he tastes food on his tongue and looks up with a mischievous glint in his eye: "Do you know how Pinocchio and his father escaped from the shark?" He pauses, letting the question settle. Then whispering: "They gently crawl on your tongue." Sometimes it seems to A. that his child's train of thought as he plays is an exact reflection of his own progression through the maze of his book. She even considered if she could somehow create a diagram of her son playing (a comprehensive description containing every change, association, and gesture) and then create a similar diagram of her book (figuring out what's in the spaces between words, the spaces in the syntax, the spaces between sections, i.e. untangling the spool of connections), the two diagrams would be the same: one would fit perfectly on top of the other. During the time he was working on The Book of Remembrance, she especially enjoyed watching the boy reminisce. Like all uneducated creatures, the child's memory is amazing. The ability to observe in detail, to see an object in its singularity, is almost limitless. Written language alleviates the need to remember much in the world because memories are stored in words. The child, however, before the appearance of the written word in a place, remembers it in the same way that Cicero would recommend, in the same way developed by various classical authors on the subject: the image that he married to the place. For example, one day (and this is just one example, taken from a 107

countless possibilities), A. and his son were walking down the street. They found one of the boy's daycare friends standing in front of a pizzeria with his father. A.'s son was happy to see his friend, but the other boy seemed to fear the meeting. Say hi, Kenny, his father insisted, and the boy managed a weak wave. So A. and her son continued their walk. Three or four months later they passed through the same place together. Suddenly, A. heard her son mutter in a barely audible voice, Say hello, Kenny, say hello. A. came to think that if the world is somehow imprinted on our minds, it is also true that our experiences are imprinted on the world. For that brief moment, as they passed the pizzeria, the boy literally saw his own past. The past, to repeat Proust's words, is hidden in a material object. Therefore, wandering in the world also means wandering within ourselves. That is, the moment we enter the memory space, we enter the world. * It's a lost world. And he realizes that he will be lost forever. The boy will forget everything that happened to him so far. There will be nothing left but some kind of glow, and maybe not even that. All the thousand hours that A. spent with him in the first three years of his life, all the millions of words that he spoke to him, the books that he read to him, the meals that he cooked for him, the tears that he wiped away, all these things will disappear. from the memory of the child forever. * The Book of Memory. Book Thirteen. He remembers that he gave himself a new name, John, because all the cowboys were called John, and every time his mother called him by his real name, he refused to answer. He remembers running out of the house and lying in the middle of the street with his eyes closed, waiting for a car to hit him. She remembers his grandpa giving her a large Gabby Hayes painting and it took pride of place on his dresser. He remembers thinking that the world was flat. He remembers learning to tie his shoes. He remembers that his father's clothes were kept in his bedroom closet and that he was woken in the morning by the creaking of the hangers against each other. He remembers seeing his father tying his tie and telling him: Get up, boy. Remember that he wanted to be a squirrel because he wanted to be light as a squirrel and have a bushy tail and jump from tree to tree as if he were flying. She remembers looking through the blinds and seeing his newborn sister returning from the hospital in her mother's arms. He remembers the nurse in the white dress sitting next to her little sister and feeding her Swiss chocolate chips. She remembers that she called them Swiss, although she didn't know what that meant. She remembers lying in his bed at dusk in the middle of summer and looking out the window at the tree and seeing different faces in the configuration of the branches. He remembers sitting in the bathtub pretending his knees were mountains and the white soap was an ocean liner. She remembers the day his father gave him a plum and told him to go ride a tricycle. Remember being 108

he didn't like the taste of the plum and threw it down the drain and was overwhelmed with guilt. He remembers the day his mother took him and his friend B. to the television studio in Newark to see Junior Frolics perform. He remembers that Uncle Fred put makeup on his face, just like his mother, and that this surprised him. He remembers cartoons on a small television, no bigger than the one in his house, and the disappointment he felt was so great that he wanted to get up and shout his protest to Uncle Fred. He remembers that he expected to see Farmer Gray and Felix the cat running around a life-size set, attacking each other with real pitchforks and rakes. Remember that B's favorite color was green and that he claimed that his teddy bear had green blood in its veins. He remembers that B. lived with both grandmothers and that to get to B.'s room it was necessary to go through a room on the top floor where the two white-haired women sat in front of the television all the time. Remember to wander through neighborhood bushes and yards looking for dead animals. She remembers burying them next to his house, deep in the darkness of the ivy, and that they were mostly birds, small birds like sparrows, thrushes, and wrens. He remembers building crosses for them out of branches and saying a prayer over their bodies as he and B. lowered them into the hole they dug in the ground, their dead eyes touching the loose, damp earth. He remembers that one afternoon he took the family radio apart with a hammer and screwdriver and explained to his mother that he was doing it as a science experiment. Remember that those were the words he used and that his mother hit him. He remembers trying to chop down a small fruit tree in the backyard with a blunt ax he found in the garage and failing to leave more than a few dents. He remembers seeing the green at the bottom of the bark and being struck by it. He remembers sitting at his desk away from the other kids in first grade because he was being punished for talking in class. He remembers sitting at this table reading a book with a red cover and red illustrations on a teal background. She remembers that the teacher came up behind her and very delicately put her hand on her shoulder and whispered a question in her ear. She remembers that he was wearing a white sleeveless shirt and that his arms were plump and full of freckles. He remembers colliding with another kid in a schoolyard softball game and being knocked to the ground so violently that for five or ten minutes he saw the whole thing as a photographic negative. He remembers getting up and going to the school building and thinking, I'm going blind. She remembers how, in those few minutes, his panic gradually turned into acceptance and even fascination, and when he regained his normal vision, he felt that something extraordinary was happening to him. He remembers wetting the bed long after it was acceptable and cold sheets when he woke up in the morning. He remembers being invited to stay over at a friend's house for the first time and how, afraid of wetting the bed and humiliating himself, he stayed up all night looking at the glowing green hands of the clock he read that he won on his sixth birthday. he. He remembers studying illustrations in a children's Bible and coming to terms with the fact that God had a long white beard. He remembers thinking that the voice he heard inside him was the voice of God. She remembers going to the circus at Madison Square Garden with his grandfather and taking a ring off the finger of an eight-foot giant in the sideshow for fifty cents. She remembers having the ring on top of his dresser next to the photo of Gabby Hayes and being able to put four 109s on it.

through your fingers He remembers speculating that perhaps the entire world was locked in a glass jar and that it was sitting on a shelf among dozens of other glass worlds in the pantry of a giant house. He remembers refusing to sing Christmas carols at school because he was Jewish and staying in the classroom while other children went to the auditorium to rehearse. He remembers coming home from the first day of Hebrew class in a new suit and being pushed into a stream by older kids in leather jackets who called him a fucking Jew. She remembers writing his first book, a detective story that he wrote in green ink. He remembers thinking that if Adam and Eve were the first people on Earth, they would all be related to each other. She remembers throwing a coin out the window of his grandparents' apartment on Columbus Circle and his grandmother telling her that someone was thinking of her. He remembers looking down from the top of the Empire State Building and being surprised to find that the cabs were still yellow. He remembers visiting the Statue of Liberty with his mother and remembers that she got very nervous with the torch and forced him to sit down the stairs, one step at a time. Remember the boy who was struck by lightning while hiking at summer camp. He remembers lying next to him in the rain and watching the boy's lips turn blue. He remembers his grandmother telling him how she remembered coming to the United States from Russia when he was five years old. He remembers her telling him that she remembered waking up from a deep sleep and finding herself in the arms of a soldier carrying her to a ship. He remembers that she told him that it was the only thing he could remember. * The Book of Memory. Later that same night. Shortly after writing the words "it was the only thing he remembered", A. got up from his desk and left the room. As he walked down the street, feeling exhausted from the day's efforts, he decided to keep walking for a while. darkness came. He stopped for dinner, opened a newspaper on the table in front of him, and after paying the bill, decided to spend the rest of the night at the movies. He took almost an hour to go to the theater. When he was going to buy the ticket, he changed his mind, put the money in his pocket and left. He returned and followed the same path that had led him there, but in reverse. Somewhere along the way, he stopped for a glass of beer. He then he continued his walk. It was almost midnight when he opened the door to his room. That night, for the first time in his life, he dreamed that he was dead. He woke twice during his sleep, shaking with panic. Each time he tried to calm down, telling himself that if he shifted in bed, the dream would end, and each time he went back to sleep, the dream would pick up exactly where he had left off. It wasn't exactly that he was dead, it was that he was going to die. That was true, an absolute and immanent fact. He was lying in a hospital bed with a terminal illness. His hair had fallen out in clumps and his head was bald. Two nurses dressed in white entered the room and told him: “Today you are going to die. It's too late to help you. They were almost mechanical in his indifference to him. He cried and begged: "I am too young to die, I don't want to die now." “It is too late,” the sisters replied. "We have to shave your head now." With tears in his eyes, 110

he allowed his head to be shaved. So they said, “The coffin is over there. Lie down, close your eyes and soon you will be dead. He wanted to run away. But he knew that he was not allowed to disobey his orders. He walked over to the coffin and entered. The lid was closed on him, but once inside he kept his eyes open. Then he woke up for the first time. After going back to sleep, he climbed out of the coffin. He was dressed in a white hospital gown and was barefoot. He left the room, wandered through many corridors for a long time, and then left the hospital. A short time later, he knocked on the door of his ex-wife's house. "I'm going to die today," I told him, "there's nothing I can do about it." He took the news calmly and behaved like the nurses. But he wasn't there because of his sympathy. He wanted to give her instructions on what to do with his manuscripts. He went through a long list of his writings and told her how and where to publish them. Then he said: “The Book of Memories is not finished yet. I can't help it. There will be no time to finish. You finish it for me and then you give it to Daniel. I trust you. You are doing this for me. She agreed, but without much enthusiasm. And then she began to cry, as before: "I am too young to die. I don't want to die now." But she patiently explained that she should accept it if necessary. So he left his house and went back to the hospital. When he got to the parking lot, he woke up a second time. After falling asleep again, he was back. at the hospital, in a basement room next to the morgue. The room was large, empty, and white, like an old kitchen. A group of his childhood friends, now adults, were sitting around a table eating a large and sumptuous meal. They all turned and looked at him as he entered the room, he explained to them: "Look, they shaved my head. I have to die today and I don't want to die." His friends were excited. They invited him. sit down to eat with them. "No," he said, "I can't eat with you." I have to go to the next room and die. He pointed to a white swing door with a round window. His friends got up from his chairs and joined him at the door. For a time, they all remembered their childhood together. Talking to them reassured him, but at the same time it was even more difficult for him to muster the courage to walk through the door. He finally announced: "I have to go now. I must die now." One by one, with tears running down his face, he hugged his friends, hugged them with all his might and said goodbye to him. He then woke up for the last time. * Final phrases for The Book of Remembrance. From a letter from Nadezhda Mandelstam to Osip Mandelstam dated 10/22/38, which was never sent: "I have no words, my dear, to write this letter... I write it in vain. Perhaps you will come back and find me not here. Then that will be all you have left to remember me by... Life can last so long. How hard and slow for each of us to die alone. Can this fate be for us who are inseparable? Cubs and children, will we Do we deserve this? Do you deserve this, my angel? Everything goes on as before. I know nothing. And yet I know everything: every day and every hour of your life is clear to me as in a delirium. my last dream i bought you food in a dirty hotel restaurant on 111

The people who were with me were complete strangers. As soon as I bought it, I realized that I don't know where to take it because I don't know where you are... When I woke up, I told Shura: "Osia is dead." I don't know if you're still alive, but since that dream I lost sight of you. I don't know where you are, will you listen to me? You know how much I love You. I could never tell you how much I love you. I can't tell you now. I speak to you, only to you. You are always with me, and I, who was so wild and angry and never learned to cry simple tears - now I cry and cry and cry... It's me: Nadia. Where are you?" *** He places a blank piece of paper on the table in front of him and writes these words with his pen. The sky is blue and black and gray and yellow. The sky is not there and it is red. . All this It was yesterday. All this was a hundred years ago. The sky is white. It smells like earth and it's not there. The sky is white like earth and it smells like yesterday. This was all tomorrow. All this was in a hundred years. The sky is lemon and pink and lavender. Heaven is earth. Heaven is white and it is not there. Wakes up. Walks between table and window. Sits down. Gets up. Walks back and forth between bed and chair. Lies down Looks at the ceiling Closes his eyes Opens his eyes He walks back and forth between the table and the window * Finds a new sheet of paper He puts it on the table in front of him and writes these words with the pen . Was. Will never be again. Remember. 1980-1981

LITERATURE (Citation sources not mentioned in the text) page 68 "The last testament of Israel Lichtenstein". In A Holocaust Reader, edited by Lucy S. Dawidowicz. Behrman House. New York, 1976. Page 71 Flaubert. Gustave Flaubert's letters, selected, edited and translated by Francis Steegmuller. Harvard University Press. Cambridge, 78 Marina Tsvetaeva. Elaine Feinstein translation quotes. About Marina Tsvetayeva: selected poems. oxford112

University Press, 1971. Page 78 Gregory I. Altshuller, M.D. Marina Tsvetayeva: Memoirs of a doctor. During the Sun. Volume IV, Number 3: Winter, 1980. New York. Page 80 Christopher Wright. About Rembrandt and his art. Galahad Books. New York, 1975. Page 81 Hölderlin. Prose quotes translated by Michael Hamburger. In Friedrich Hölderlin: Poems and Fragments. University of Michigan Press. Ann Arbor, 1966. Page 82 Holderlin. To the room. Translated by John Riley and Tim Longville. In what I own: Versions of Hölderlin. Grosseteste Review Press, 1973. Page 108 B. = André du Bouchet. In Hölderlin Aujourd'hui, lecture delivered in Stuttgart, 1970. Page 110 Collodi. The adventures of Pinocchio. Translated by Carol Della Chiesa. macmillan. New York, 1925. All other citations in this edition. Some translations slightly modified. Page 119 Edward A. Snow. A study by Vermeer. University of California Press. Berkeley, 1979. Page 121 Van Gogh. The letters of Vincent Van Gogh. Edited by Mark Roskill. Athenaeum. New York, 1972. Page 125 Tolstoy. Ann Dunnigan's translation of War and Peace. New American Library. New York, 1968. P. 126 Freud. "The weird'." In On creativity and the unconscious. Harper and Row. New York, 1958. Page 127 Arabian Nights. All quotes from The Thousand and One Portable Nights. Translated by John Payne. Edited by Joseph Campbell. Viking New York, 1952. Page 132 Dostoevsky. The Karamazov brothers. Translated by David Magarshack. Penguin. Baltimore, 1958. Page 132 Jim Harrison. Quoted in The End of Cambodia?, by William Shawcross. The New York Book Review. January 24, 1980. Page 134 Anne Frank. The diary of a young woman. double shift New York, 1952. Page 135, citing commentaries on the book of Jonah from “Jonah, or the Unfulfilled Prophecy” in Elias Bickerman's The Four Strange Books of the Bible. Shock. New York, 1967. Page 137 Leibniz. In Monadologie and other philosophical essays. Translated by Paul Schrecker and Anne Martin Schrecker. Bob Merrill. Indianapolis, 1965. P. 138 Proust. Swann's way. Translated by C.K. Scott Moncrieff. Any house. New York, 1928. P. 140 Freud. "The poet's relationship with the dream". In On creativity and the unconscious. Page 147 Nadezhda Mandelstam. lose the hope. Translated by Max Hayward. Collins and Harville. London, 1974. WORD OF MOUTH Chronicle of early failures

When I was in my twenties or thirties, I went through a period of several years where everything I touched was doomed to fail. My marriage ended in divorce, my writing career failed, and I had financial problems. I don't mean just an occasional shortage or a periodic shortage, but a constant, appalling, almost suffocating lack of money that has poisoned my soul and left me in a state of abandonment.

Endless panic. No one but me was to blame. My relationship with money had always been flawed, enigmatic, full of conflicting impulses, and now I was paying the price for refusing to talk about it. My only ambition all along was to write. I've known it since I was sixteen or seventeen, and I never deluded myself into thinking I could make a living out of it. Becoming a writer is not a “career choice” like becoming a doctor or a police officer. You don't choose as much as you are chosen, and once you accept the fact that you are not cut out for anything else, you must be willing to walk a long, hard road for the rest of your days. Unless you become a lackey of the gods (and woe to the man who counts on that), your work will never pay enough to support you, and if you want to have a roof over your head and not starve, you have to. ! holding down other jobs to pay the bills. I understood all that, I was prepared for it, I had nothing to complain about. In that sense, I was very lucky. I did not want material goods and the prospect of being poor did not scare me. All I wanted was a chance to do the job I believed was in me. Most writers lead a double life. They make good money at legitimate jobs and take the time to write to the best of their ability: early morning, late night, weekends, holidays. William Carlos Williams and Louis-Ferdinand Céline were doctors. Wallace Stevens worked for an insurance company. T. S. Eliot was a banker and then a publisher. Among my acquaintances, the French poet Jacques Dupin is co-director of an art gallery in Paris. William Bronk, the American poet, ran his family's coal and lumber business in upstate New York for more than forty years. Don DeLillo, Peter Carey, Salman Rushdie, and Elmore Leonard all worked in advertising for a long time. Teach other writers. This is probably the most common solution these days, and with all the major universities and junior colleges offering so-called creative writing courses, novelists and poets are constantly scratching and crawling to secure a spot. Who can blame them? The salaries may not be high, but the work is stable and the hours are good. My problem was that I wasn't interested in leading a double life. It's not that I didn't want to work, but the idea of ​​beating the clock on a nine to five job left me cold and completely without enthusiasm. I was in my early twenties and felt too young to settle down, too busy with other plans to waste time earning more money than I wanted or needed. As for finances, he just wanted to survive. Life was cheap then, and with no responsibility to anyone but myself, I could survive on an annual income of about three thousand dollars. I tried grad school for a year, but that was only because Columbia offered me a free $2,000 scholarship, which means I actually got paid to study. Even under these ideal conditions, I quickly realized that I didn't want any of it. He was sick of school, and the prospect of another five or six years as a student seemed like a fate worse than death. I no longer wanted to talk about books, I wanted to write them. I thought it was fundamentally wrong for a writer to hide out in a university, surround himself with too many like-minded people, get too comfortable. The risk was complacency, and when that happens to a writer, he's pretty much lost. I will not defend the decisions I made. If they weren't practical, I really didn't want to be practical. What he wanted were new experiences. wanted 114

go out into the world and test myself, go from this to that, explore as much as possible. As long as I kept my eyes open, I thought that whatever happened to me would be useful, it would teach me things I had never known before. If that sounds like a pretty old-fashioned approach, maybe it was. The young writer says goodbye to family and friends and leaves for parts unknown to discover what he is made of. For better or worse, I doubt a different approach would suit me. He had energy, a head full of ideas, and itchy feet. Given the size of the world, the last thing he wanted was to play it safe. ***

It's not hard for me to describe these things and remember how I felt about them. Difficulties only start when I ask why I did that and why I felt what I felt. All the other young poets and writers in my class made sensible decisions about their future. We weren't rich kids to depend on handouts from our parents, and once we got out of college, we'd be alone forever. We were all in the same situation, we all knew the score, but they acted in one way and I in another. That's what I still can't explain. Why did my friends act so cautiously and why was I so reckless? I come from a middle class family. My childhood was pleasant and I never suffered the hardships and privations that afflict most of the people who live on this earth. I was never hungry, I was never cold, I never felt in danger of losing anything I had. Security came naturally, and despite the comfort and happiness of home, money was a constant topic of conversation and concern. My parents went through the economic recession and neither of them fully recovered from those difficult times. All were scarred by the experience of not having enough, and all endured the pain in different ways. My father was tense; My mother was extravagant. She spent; she did not. The memory of poverty did not soothe him, and although his circumstances had changed, he could never fully believe it. She, on the other hand, was quite happy with these new circumstances. She loved the rituals of consumption and, like so many Americans before and after her, she cultivated shopping as a means of self-expression, sometimes elevating it to the level of an art form. Walking into a store meant participating in an alchemical process that imbued the cash register with magical and transformative properties. Unspeakable desires, intangible needs and unspoken longings all went through the piggy bank and came out as real things, tangible objects to hold in your hands. My mother never tired of recreating this miracle, and the resulting stories became a bone of contention between her and my father. She felt that we could afford it; she didn't. Two styles, two worldviews, two moral philosophies were in perpetual conflict with each other, and in the end, her marriage broke up. Money was the dividing line and became the single overwhelming source of contention between them. The tragedy was that they were both good people, caring, honest, hardworking, and beyond that wild battlefield, they seemed to get along. He couldn't understand how a relatively minor matter could cause so much trouble between them. But of course money is never just 115

Money. It's always something different, and it's always something else, and it always has the last word. When he was a child, he was in the middle of this ideological war. My mother would take me shopping for clothes, suck me into the maelstrom of her enthusiasm and generosity, always letting her talk me into wanting the things she offered me, always more than I expected, always more than I thought I needed. It was impossible to resist, it was impossible not to like how the officials adored them and fulfilled their mandates, it was impossible not to be carried away by the force of their actions. However, my joy was always mixed with a lot of fear, since I knew exactly what my father would say when the bill came. And the fact is, he always said that. The inevitable outburst came and almost inevitably the matter was resolved with my father declaring that the next time he needed something he would take me shopping. Then it was time, for example, to buy a new winter jacket or a new pair of shoes, and one night, after dinner, my father and I went to a discount store that was on the side of a road somewhere. in the darkness of New. Sweater. I remember the glow of the neon lights in these places, the concrete walls, the endless racks of cheap men's clothing. As the radio jingle goes, "Robert Hall this season / Let you know why - / Indoors / Boom boom boom / Indoors!" Ultimately, this song is as much a part of my childhood as the Pledge of Allegiance or the Our Father. The truth is that I enjoyed this bargain hunt with my father as much as I enjoyed the purchases orchestrated by my mother. My loyalties were evenly divided between my two parents, and pitching my tent at one campsite or the other was never an option. My mother's approach might have been more appealing, if only for the fun and excitement it generated, but something about my father's stubbornness captivated me as well, a sense of hard-won experience and knowledge at the core of his beliefs. , a determination that led him. someone who would never back down, even at the risk of looking bad in the eyes of the world. I found that admirable, and as much as I adored my beautiful and endlessly charming mother for blinding the world the way she did, I also adored my father for defying the world itself. It was maddening to see him in action, a man who seemed to care less what others thought of him, but he was also educational, and I think I paid more attention to those long-term lessons than I would have. Did you ever think As a kid, I fell into the mold of your classic daredevil. At the first hint of snow, I ran outside with my shovel and started knocking on doors, asking people to hire me to clean driveways and sidewalks. When the leaves fell in October, I was outside with my rake, ringing the same bells and asking about the lawn. At other times, when there was nothing to do locally, he would ask about "employment opportunities." Cleaning out the garage, cleaning out the basement, trimming the hedges—whatever it took, I was the man to do it. In the summer he sold lemonade on the sidewalk in front of my house for ten cents a cup. I collected empty bottles from the kitchen pantry, put them in my red cart, and took them to the store to exchange for cash. Two cents for the little ones; five cents for the large. With what I earned, I bought mostly baseball cards, sports magazines, and comics, and what was left over I diligently put in my piggy bank, built in the shape of a cash register. I really was the son of my parents and I never questioned the 116

Principles that animated his world. Money talked, and as you listened to it and followed its arguments, you learned to speak the language of life. I remember once being in possession of a fifty cent piece. I don't remember how I got this coin, it was as rare then as it is now, but whether it was a gift to me or I got it myself, I have a fair idea of ​​how much it meant to me and what a large sum it was. In those days, for fifty cents, you could buy ten packs of baseball cards, five comic books, ten candy bars, fifty jawbreakers, or if you prefer, a combination of all of these. I put a half dollar in my back pocket and headed for the store, feverishly trying to figure out how to spend my small fortune. However, somewhere along the way, the coin disappeared for reasons that still baffle me. I reached into my back pocket to check, I knew it was there, I just wanted to be sure, and the money was gone. Was there a hole in my pocket? Did I accidentally take the coin out of my pants the last time I touched it? I have no idea. I was six or seven years old and I still remember how miserable I was. I had tried to be so careful, and despite all my precautions, I had lost the money. How could I allow something like that? Lacking a logical explanation, I decided that God had punished me. I didn't know why, but I was sure that the Almighty reached into my pocket and took out the coin himself. * Gradually, I began to turn my back on my parents. Not that I began to love them less, but the world they came from no longer seemed so attractive to live in. I was ten, eleven, twelve years old and I was already becoming an internal emigrant, an exile in my own home. Many of these changes can be attributed to puberty, to the simple fact that I was growing up and starting to think for myself, but not all. At the same time, other forces acted on me, each contributing to push me down the path I followed. It wasn't just the pain of witnessing my parents' marriage fall apart, and it wasn't just the frustration of being stuck in a small suburban town, and it wasn't just the late-1950s American climate, but come on all of us. put it together, and suddenly there was a strong argument against materialism, an indictment of the orthodox view that money was a commodity to be placed above all others. Did my parents value money and where did they get it from? They fought so hard for it, put so much trust in it, and yet for every problem she solved, another took its place. American capitalism had created one of the most prosperous times in human history. It produced countless cars, frozen vegetables, and miracle shampoos, and yet Eisenhower was president, and the entire country became one gigantic TV commercial, a continual proclamation to buy more, earn more, spend more, dance around the world. dollar tree until you drop dead from the frenzy of having to keep up with everyone. It didn't take me long to discover that I wasn't the only person who felt this way. When I was ten years old, I stumbled across a copy of Mad magazine in a candy store in Irvington, New Jersey, and I remember the intense, almost surprising pleasure I felt reading those pages. They taught me that I have soul mates in this world, that others have already opened doors that I myself was trying to open. In the American South, fire hoses were pointed at blacks, the Russians had launched the first Sputnik, and I was 117 years old.

start paying attention. No, you didn't have to buy the dogma they were trying to sell you. You could resist them, taunt them, draw their attention to their bluff. The sanity and dull honesty of American life were nothing more than a farce, a careless publicity stunt. The moment you begin to study the facts, contradictions emerge, rampant hypocrisies are exposed, and suddenly a whole new way of looking at things becomes possible. We were taught to believe in "liberty and justice for all," but the fact is that liberty and justice are often at odds. The pursuit of money had nothing to do with justice; Its driving force was the social principle of “every man for himself”. As if to demonstrate the fundamental inhumanity of the market, almost all of its metaphors are drawn from the animal kingdom: dog eats dog, bulls and bears, rat race, survival of the fittest. Money has divided the world into winners and losers, rich and poor. That was an excellent arrangement for the winners, but what about the people who lost? Based on the evidence before me, I came to the conclusion that they should be set aside and forgotten. It's a shame, of course, but those were the breaks. If you build a world so primitive that it makes Darwin its main philosopher and Aesop its main poet, what else can you expect? It's a jungle out there, isn't it? Just look at this Dreyfus lion walking down the middle of Wall Street. Could the message be clearer? Either eat or be eaten. It's the law of the jungle, my friend, and if you don't have the guts, get out while you can. I left before entering. By the time I entered my teens, I had already come to the conclusion that the business world would have to do without me. It was probably when I was at my worst, most insufferable, most confused. I burned with the zeal of a newfound idealism, and the rigor of perfection that I sought for myself made me a bit of a Puritan in training. I was repulsed by the outward trappings of wealth and despised any display of swagger my parents brought home. Life was unfair. I finally found out, and because it was my own discovery, it hit me with the full force of a revelation. As the months passed, it became more and more difficult for me to reconcile my good fortune with the bad luck of so many others. What did I do to deserve the comfort and benefits bestowed on me? My father could afford it, that was all, and whether or not he and my mother fought over money was a small point compared to the fact that they had money to fight. I squirmed every time I had to get into the family car, so shiny and new and expensive, so clearly an invitation for the world to admire how wealthy we were. All my sympathies were with the downtrodden, the dispossessed, the outcasts of society, and a car like that filled me with shame, not just for myself, but for living in a world that allowed such things. * My first works do not count. My parents still supported me and I was not required to fend for myself or contribute to the family budget. So the pressure was low and without pressure nothing important can be at stake. I was happy to have the money I earned, but I never had to use it for necessities, never had to worry about putting food on the table or falling behind on rent. These problems would come later. Now I was just a high school kid looking for a pair of wings to carry me from where I was. 118

When I was sixteen, I spent two months as a waiter at a summer camp in upstate New York. The following summer, I was working at my Uncle Moe's electronics store in Westfield, New Jersey. The jobs were similar in that most of the tasks were physical and did not require much thought. If loading trays and scraping plates were less interesting than installing air conditioning and unloading refrigerators from 12-foot trailer trucks, I wouldn't want to put too much inventory on it. These are not apples and pears, but two types of apples, both the same shade of green. As boring as the job was, I found both jobs immensely satisfying. There were too many colorful characters, too many surprises, too many new thoughts to absorb for me to bother with the drudgery, and I never felt like I was wasting my time just trying to earn a paycheck. Money was a big part, but the job wasn't just about money. It was about learning who I am and how I fit into the world. Even at the camp, where my co-workers were all 16 and 17 year old high school students, the kitchen helper came from a whole different universe. Marooned, Bowery bums, men with dubious histories, the camp owner rounded them up on the streets of New York and convinced them to take their low-paying jobs, which included two months of fresh air, free housing, and a surfboard. Most of them didn't last long. One day they would just disappear and return to the city without bothering to say goodbye. A day or two later, the missing man would be replaced by a similar lost soul that rarely survived for long. I remember one of the dishwashers was named Frank, a grumpy, short-tempered guy with a serious drinking problem. Somehow we became friends and sometimes we would sit on the stairs behind the kitchen in the evenings after work and talk. Frank turned out to be a very intelligent and cultured man. He worked as an insurance agent in Springfield, Massachusetts, and until the bottle got over him, he lived the life of a productive tax-paying citizen. I distinctly remember not daring to ask him what had happened, but one night he told me anyway, turning a convoluted story into a short, dry account of the events that killed him. In sixteen months, he said that everyone he cared about had died. He sounded philosophical about it, almost as if he was talking about someone else, but there was a hint of bitterness in his voice. First his parents, he said, then his wife and his two children. Illnesses, accidents, and funerals, and when it was all gone, it was as if his insides had been ripped out. "I just gave up," he said. "I didn't care what happened to me, so I became a bum." The following year at Westfield I met several unforgettable personalities. Take Carmen, the witty, bulky accountant who, to this day, is the only woman I've ever met with a beard (she actually had to shave), and Joe Mansfield, the helper with two hernias and a wrecked Chrysler. . that he had cleared the odometer three times and was now at 360,000 miles. Joe sent his two daughters to college and, in addition to his day job at the hardware store, he worked eight hour nights as a foreman at a commercial bakery, reading comics next to giant pots of dough to keep from falling asleep. . He was the most exhausted man I have ever met, and also one of the most energetic. He supported himself by smoking menthol cigarettes and twelve to sixteen bottles of orange soda a day, but I never saw him put a piece of food in his mouth. If he ate lunch, he said, he would get too tired and pass out. the 119

The hernias appeared a few years earlier when he and two other men carried a huge refrigerator up a narrow flight of stairs. The other men had lost their balance and Joe had to carry the entire weight of the thing alone, and at that very moment, struggling not to be crushed by the several hundred pounds he was holding, his testicles were shot out of his scrotum. First one ball, he said, then the other. pop pop He wasn't supposed to lift heavy objects anymore, but whenever there was a particularly large piece of equipment to deliver, he would show up and help us, just so we wouldn't kill each other. Among us was a nineteen-year-old redhead named Mike, a skinny, uptight shrimp with a missing index finger and one of the fastest tongues I've ever seen. Mike and I were the air conditioning crew and we spent a lot of time together in the van going to and from work. I never tired of hearing the onslaught of outlandish and unexpected metaphors and outrageous opinions pouring out of him every time he opened his mouth. For example, if you found one of your customers to be very arrogant, you would not say "this person is an idiot" (as most do) or "this person is arrogant" (as some would say), but "this person acts like your shit." ". it doesn't smell." Young Mike had a special gift, and on several occasions this summer I was able to see how well it served him. Countless times we would go into a house to install an air conditioner, and again and again when we were in the middle of our work (driving screws, measuring the caulk to seal the window), a girl would walk into the room. She never seemed to fail. She was always seventeen, always pretty, always bored, always "just hanging around the house." ". As soon as she appeared, Mike activated the spell. It was as if he knew she was coming in, as if he had already rehearsed her lines and was fully prepared. I, on the other hand, was always taken by surprise. , and when Mike joined in on her singing and dancing (a combination of bullshit, frenzy, and jitters), I stupidly got on with the job. Mike spoke and the girl smiled. Mike talked some more and the girl laughed. Within two minutes they were old friends, and by the time I finished work, they were exchanging phone numbers and arranging where they would meet on Saturday night. It was absurd; it was sublime; he blew me away. If it had only happened once or twice, I would have dismissed it as a coincidence, but this scene played itself out over and over no less than five or six times over the course of the summer. In the end, I had to grudgingly admit that Mike was more than lucky. He was someone who created his own happiness. * In September I started my last year of high school. It was the last year I spent at home and it was also the last year of my parents' marriage. Their split was so long in coming that I was less upset than relieved when the news broke at the end of Christmas break. It was a mismatch from the start. If they have been together for so long, it is more "for the good of the children" than for themselves. I don't mean to answer, but I suspect that a turning point came two or three years before the end, when my father took over the chores of buying the house. That was the last big money fight my parents had, and it stands out in my memory as the final symbolic straw that broke the camel's back. Is it true that my number 120

Mom liked to fill her shopping cart at the local Shop-Rite until it was almost too heavy to push; it was true that she was happy to provide the treats my sister and I asked for; it was true that we had eaten well at home and that the pantry was well stocked. But it was also true that we could afford these things and that the family economy was not affected by the amounts that my mother put into the box. However, in my father's eyes, his spending was out of control. When he finally put his foot down, he landed in the wrong place and ended up doing what no man should do to his wife. In fact, he fired her from her job. From then on, he was in charge of bringing food to the house. Once, twice, even three times a week, he would stop somewhere on the way home from work (as if he didn't have enough to do anymore) and load up his truck with groceries. The select cuts of meat my mom used to bring home were replaced with Chuck and Shoulder. Brand name products have gone generic. The after school snacks are gone. I don't remember hearing my mother complain about her, but it must have been a colossal defeat for her. She was no longer responsible for her own home, and the fact that she didn't protest, that she didn't fight back, must have meant that she had already given up on the marriage. When the end came, there was no drama, no loud confrontations, and no last-minute regrets. The family dispersed in silence. My mother moved into an apartment in the Weequahic area of ​​Newark (taking my sister and me with her), and my father was left alone in the big house and lived there until her death. In a perverse way, these events made me very happy. He was happy that the truth was finally out, and he was grateful for the twist and turn that followed as a result of that truth. There was something liberating about the joy of knowing the slate was clean. A whole part of my life was over, and while my body was still working to finish high school and help my mother move into her new home, my spirit had already dissolved. Not only was I about to leave my house, but the house itself was gone. There was nothing left to return to, nowhere but far away. I didn't even bother attending my high school diploma. I offer this as proof, proof of how little it meant to me. When my classmates put on their gowns and received their diplomas, I was already on the other side of the Atlantic. The school gave me special permission to leave early and I booked a ticket on a student ship that left New York in early June. All my savings went towards this trip. Birthday bonuses, graduation bonuses, bar mitzvah money, the odds and the expenses I racked up from summer jobs: about fifteen hundred dollars, I don't remember the exact amount. This was the era of five dollars a day in Europe, and if you carefully controlled your funds, it was indeed possible to do so. I spent more than a month in Paris, living in a hotel that cost seven francs a night ($1.40); I traveled to Italy, to Spain, to Ireland. In two and a half months I lost more than ten kilos. Everywhere I went, I was working on the novel I started writing that spring. Fortunately, the manuscript is gone, but the story I carried in my head that summer was no less real to me than the places I visited and the people I met. I had some extraordinary encounters, especially in Paris, but most of the time I was alone, sometimes excessively alone, alone to the point of hearing voices in my head. God knows what to do with this eighteen-year-old boy now. I see myself as an enigma, a place of inexplicable confusion, a vulnerable, weightless, wide-eyed, perhaps slightly touched creature.

Desperate internal waves, sudden startles, fainting, flying thoughts. When someone really got close to me, he could be frank, charming, and downright sociable. Otherwise, he was withdrawn and brooding, barely present. I believed in myself and I still didn't have faith in myself. He was bold and timid, agile and clumsy, determined and impulsive: a walking monument to the spirit of contradiction. My life had just begun and I was already moving in two directions at once. I didn't know it yet, but to get anywhere I had to work twice as hard as everyone else. The last two weeks of the trip were the strangest. I went to Dublin for reasons related to James Joyce and Ulysses. I had no plans. My only purpose was to be there and I thought the rest would take care of itself. The tourist office referred me to a guest house in Donnybrook, a 15-minute bus ride from the city center. Other than the old couple running the place and two or three customers, I barely spoke to anyone the whole time. I never had the courage to set foot in a pub. At some point in my travels, I had an ingrown toenail and although it seems like a strange condition, it was not fun at all for me. I felt as if the point of a knife had entered my big toe. Walking became an ordeal, and yet, from morning until evening, I did nothing but walk and limp around Dublin in my very tight, frayed shoes. I found that I could live with the pain, but the effort it demanded seemed to drive me deeper and deeper into myself, destroying me as a social being. There was an American weirdo who lived full-time at the boarding house, a 70-year-old retiree from Illinois or Indiana, and when he found out about my condition, he started telling me stories about how his mother had an ingrown toenail. who spent years without care, treated him with patchwork home remedies (disinfectant swabs, cotton swabs), but never took the bull by the horns and, you know, got toe cancer, which slid onto his foot and then in her. foot, leg, then spread all over her body and finally finished with her. He loved learning the gruesome little details of his mother's death (for my own good, of course), and seeing how receptive I was to what he told me, he never got tired of telling me the story again. . I will not deny that he affected me. A nuisance had become a life-threatening scourge, and the more I hesitated to act, the bleaker my prospects became. Every time he passed the hospice on his way to the city, he looked the other way. I couldn't get the old man's words out of my head. Fate was after me and the signs of imminent death were everywhere. Once or twice I was accompanied on my forays by a 26-year-old nurse from Toronto. Her name was Pat Gray and she checked into the inn the same night as me. I fell head over heels in love with her, but it was a hopeless infatuation, a hopeless affair from the start. Not only was I too young for her, and not just too shy to express my feelings, but she was in love with someone else, Irish of course, which explains why she came to Dublin in the first place. One night, I remember, she came home from a date with her lover around half past twelve. She was still awake at that hour, scribbling on my novel, and when she saw a light coming through the crack in my door, she knocked on the door and asked to be let in. She was already in bed working with a notebook on her knees. and she laughed, her cheeks flushed with drink and bubbling with excitement. Before she could say anything, 122

she put her arms around my neck and kissed me and i thought miracle of miracles, my dream came true. But unfortunately it was just a false alarm. I didn't even get a chance to kiss her back before she pulled away from me and explained that her hers Irish hers had proposed to her that night and that she was the luckiest girl in the world. It was impossible not to be happy for her. This beautiful, calm young woman with short hair, innocent eyes and a sincere Canadian voice, she chose me as the person to share the news with. I did my best to congratulate her, hiding my disappointment after that brief and utterly unbelievable rush of anticipation, but the kiss ruined me, completely melted my bones, and it was all I could do not to make a serious mistake. If I managed to control myself, she was just turning me into a block of wood. A log is certainly polite, but it is not a suitable accompaniment for a celebration. Everything else was solitude, silence, walking. I read books in Phoenix Park, drove along the beach to Joyce's Martello Tower, walked across and across the Liffey more times than I could count. It was around the time the Watts riots were going on and I remember reading the headlines at a newsstand on O'Connell Street, but I also remember a little girl singing with a Salvation Army band one night as people walked home from work. . sad, plaintive song about human misery and the wonders of God - and that voice is still inside me, a voice so clear it makes the toughest person fall to the ground and cry and the remarkable thing is that no one paid it the slightest attention . . The rush-hour crowd rushed past her, and she stood on the corner and sang her song under the ominous dim northern lights, as alien as herself, a little bird in torn clothes singing her psalm. to broken hearts Dublin is not a big city and it didn't take me long to get my bearings. There was something compulsive about the walks she took, an insatiable urge to wander, to wander like a ghost among strangers, and after two weeks the streets became something very personal to me, a map of my inner terrain. For years I went back to Dublin every time she closed her eyes before I went to sleep. When wakefulness slipped from me and I sank into semi-consciousness, I found myself there, walking through the same streets. I have no explanation for this. Something important happened to me there, but I could never say exactly what it was. Something terrifying, I think, a fascinating encounter with my own depth, as if in the solitude of those days I had looked into the darkness and seen myself for the first time. * I started Columbia College in September and for the next four years, money was the last thing on my mind. I worked off and on at various jobs, but those years were not for planning or preparing for my financial future. They were about books, the war in Vietnam, struggling to figure out how to do what I set out to do. If I even thought about making a living, it was in an awkward and random way. At best, I imagined a kind of marginal existence, a crumb on the fringes of everyday life, the life of a starving poet. The jobs I had as a student were, however, instructive. Last but not least, they taught me that my preference for blue-collar work over white-collar work was well founded. For example, I was once hired by Board 123 in my second year

a publisher to write material for educational film strips. I had been exposed to a barrage of "audiovisual aids" in my childhood and remembered the intense boredom they invariably caused in me and my friends. Leaving the classroom and sitting in the dark for twenty or thirty minutes (like going to the movies!) was always a treat, but the awkward images on the screen, the monotone voice of the narrator, and the intermittent ping gave it away. press the button and move on to the next image soon hit us. It wasn't long before the room was filled with whispered conversations and frantic, half-stifled laughter. A minute or two later, balls of saliva began to fly. I was hesitant to inflict this boredom on another generation of children, but decided to do the best I could and see if I could provoke it. On my first day on the job, the manager told me to look at some of the company's past film strips and familiarize myself with the form. I picked one at random. It was called "Government" or "Introduction to Government," something like that. He mounted the reel in a machine and then left me alone to watch the movie. About two or three frames later, I came across a statement that alarmed me. The ancient Greeks invented the idea of ​​democracy, the text says, accompanied by a painting of bearded men in togas. That was fine, but then he went on to say (ping: cut to Capitol painting) that America was a democracy. I turned off the television, walked down the hall, and knocked on the door of the principal's office. "There's a mistake on the filmstrip," I said. “America is not a democracy. It's a republic. There's a big difference." He looked at me as if I'd just told him I was Stalin's grandson. "It's for little kids," he said, "not for college students. There is no space to go into details." "It's not a detail," I replied, "it's an important difference. In a pure democracy, everyone votes on every issue. We choose representatives to do it for us. I'm not saying it's bad. Pure democracy can be dangerous. Minority rights must be protected, and a republic does it for us. It's all in the Federalist Papers. The government must defend itself from the tyranny of the majority. Children should know that." The conversation got quite heated. I was determined to prove my point, to prove the statement on the filmstrip wrong, but he refused to accept it. He thought I was a troublemaker the moment I opened my mouth, and that was it. Twenty minutes. At work, I got fired. Much better was the job I had that summer after my freshman year: as a groundskeeper at the Commodore Hotel in the Catskills. I was hired by the New York State Employment Agency in midtown Manhattan, a massive government agency that found work for the unskilled and unfortunate at the bottom of society. As humble and low-paying as the job was, at least it offered a chance to get out of town and escape the heat. Friend Bob Perelman and I signed together, and the next morning we were shipped to Monticello, New York, by the Short Line Bus Company. It was the same setup I had seen three years ago, and our fellow travelers were the same homeless and poor people I encountered during my waiting time. tables in the summer camp. The only difference was that now I was one of them. The bus fare was deducted from his first paycheck, as was the employment agency fee, and unless he was on the job for a short time, he made no money. There were those who did not like the work and gave up after a few days. They ended up with nothing - broke 124

And a hundred miles from home, feeling betrayed. The Commodore was a crumbly little borscht. He was no match for the local competition, Concord and Grossinger, and a certain nostalgia hung over the place, a memory of more optimistic days. Bob and I arrived several weeks before the summer season and were tasked with preparing the site for a large influx of visitors in July and August. We mowed grass, trimmed bushes, picked up trash, painted walls, fixed screen doors. They gave us a little shack to live in, a rickety box less than a square meter than a beach shack, and little by little we covered the walls of our bedroom with poetry - crazy nonsense, bawdy limericks, flowery quatrains - and laughed a lot. We drank incessantly Bottles of Budweiser Chug-a-Lug beer. We drank the beer because there was nothing better to do, but given the foods we needed to eat, hops also became a necessary part of our diet. At the time, there were only about a dozen workers on the premises, giving us a low-budget deal when it came to culinary matters. The lunch and dinner menu was always the same: Chun King Chicken Chow Mein, straight from the can. Thirty years have passed and I'd still rather starve than put one more bite of that stuff in my mouth. None of this would be worth mentioning if it weren't for Casey and Teddy, the two custodians I worked with this summer. Casey and Teddy had been together for over ten years and now they were a couple, an inseparable team, a dialectical unit. Everything they did, they did together, traveling from place to place and job to job as one. They were lifelong friends, two peas in a pod, dude. Not gay, not sexually interested in each other, but friends. Casey and Teddy were classic American slackers, modern bums who looked like they'd stepped out of the pages of a Steinbeck novel, and yet they were so joyous together, so full of humor and drunkenness and good humor, that their company was irresistible. Sometimes they reminded me of a forgotten comedy duo, a troupe of clowns from the vaudeville era and the silent movie era. Laurel and Hardy's spirit had lived in them, but these two weren't bound by showbiz compulsions. They were part of the real world, playing their role on the stage of life. Casey was the right man, Teddy was the card. Casey was skinny, Teddy was round. Casey was white, Teddy was black. On their days off, they'd go out on the town together, get drunk, and then come back to eat me for dinner with identical haircuts or identical shirts. The idea has always been to spend all the money on one big spree, and to spend it in exactly the same way, penny for penny. Shirts stand out to me as a particularly loud event. They couldn't stop laughing as they emerged in these twin suits, holding their sides and pointing at each other like they just pulled a giant prank on the world. They were the flashiest, ugliest shirts imaginable, a double insult to good taste, and Casey and Teddy would laugh out loud as they designed them for me and Bob. So, Teddy entered the empty ballroom on the first floor of the main building, sat down at the piano, and began what he called his port concert. For the next hour and a half he sang non-melodic improvisations and filled the room with a storm of drunkenness and noise. Teddy was a man with many gifts, but music was not one of them. And yet he sat there, happy as a clam in the twilight, a Dada teacher at peace with himself and the world. 125

Teddy was born in Jamaica, he told me, and joined the British Army during World War II. Somewhere along the line, his ship was torpedoed. I don't know how long it was before he was rescued (minutes? hours? days?), but whenever he was found, it was an American ship that found him. Thereafter he was in the US Navy, he said, and at the end of the war he would be a US citizen. I found him a bit suspicious, but that's the story he told, and who was I to doubt him? Over the last twenty years he seemed to have done everything a man could do to pursue the full gamut of professions. Salesman, Greenwich Village street performer, bartender, Skid Row drunk. None of that mattered to him. A great uproarious laugh from Basso accompanied every story he told, and that laugh was like an endless arc to his own ridicule, a sign that the sole purpose of his speech was to mock himself. He made scenes in public places, misbehaved like a rebellious child, kept calling people's bluff. It could be tiring to be around him, but the way he caused trouble was also admirable. There was an almost scientific quality to him, as if he were running an experiment and shaking things up for the sheer pleasure of seeing where they would end up when the dust settled. Teddy was an anarchist, and since he also lacked ambition, because he didn't want what others wanted, he never had to follow any rules other than his own. I have no idea how or where he met Casey. His assistant was a less extravagant character than he was, and what I remember most about him is that he had no sense of taste or smell. Casey was involved in a bar fight a few years ago, was hit in the head and lost all olfactory function. As a result, everything tasted like cardboard. He covers his eyes and couldn't tell what he was eating. Chow mein or caviar, potatoes or pudding - there was no difference. Aside from that affliction, Casey was in excellent shape, a welterweight fighter with a New York Irish voice that made him sound like a Dead End Kid. His job was to laugh at Teddy's jokes and make sure his friend didn't go too far and end up in jail. One night that summer, Teddy was close: he stood up in a restaurant in Monticello and waved the menu as he yelled, "I'm not eating that Japanese dog food!" - but Casey put him at ease and we all managed until we finished our food. I guess it goes without saying that we didn't go to a Japanese restaurant. By objective standards, Casey and Teddy were nothing more than eccentric fools, but they made an unforgettable impression on me and I never saw them again. That was the reason for working at places like the Commodore Hotel, I think. Not that I wanted a career, but these little forays into the backwaters and shitholes of the world always produced interesting discoveries to further develop my education in ways I hadn't expected. Casey and Teddy are a perfect example. I was nineteen when I met them and the things they did that summer still capture my imagination. * In 1967, I enrolled in Columbia's freshman-abroad program in Paris. The weeks I spent there after high school whetted my appetite for the place and I wanted to go back immediately. Paris was still Paris, but I was not the same person as I was in my first 126 years.

Visit. I have spent the last two years living in a book frenzy and new worlds have poured into my head, transfusions that have changed my life and restored my blood. Almost everything that is still important to me in literature and philosophy I found for the first time in those two years. Looking back now, it's almost impossible for me to process how many books I've read. I drank them in overwhelming quantities, devoured entire countries and continents with books, I couldn't even begin to get tired of them. Elizabethan playwrights, pre-Socratic philosophers, Russian writers, surrealist poets. I read books like my brain is on fire, like my survival is at stake. One job led to another job, one thought led to another thought, and month after month, I changed my mind about everything. The show turned out to be a bitter disappointment. I went to Paris with all sorts of grandiose plans, assuming I could attend as many lectures and courses as I wanted (Roland Barthes at the Collège de France, for example), but when I sat down to discuss these possibilities with the program director, he He bluntly told me to forget them. Out of the question, he said. You have to learn French and grammar, pass certain tests, earn as many credits and half credits, spend as many hours in class here and hours there. I thought it was absurd, a curriculum for babies. It's all over, I told him. I already know how to speak French. Why come back? Because, he said, those are the rules, and that's the way it is. He was so adamant, so dismissive of me, so ready to take my enthusiasm for arrogance and think I was trying to insult him, that we immediately shut our mouths. Personally, he had nothing against the man, but he seemed intent on turning our disagreement into a personal conflict. He wanted to diminish me, crush me with his power, and the longer the conversation went on, the more I felt myself resisting. Finally there came a time when I had enough. Fine, I said, if that's the case then I'll stop. I left the show, I left the university, I left everything. And then I got up from my chair, shook his hand, and walked out of the office. It was crazy. The prospect of not having a B.A. I wasn't worried, but leaving the university meant that I would automatically lose my reprieve. With the troop buildup in Vietnam increasing at an alarming rate, I suddenly found myself in a good position to be drafted into the military. It would have been nice if I had supported the war, but I didn't. I was against it and nothing would force me to fight. If they tried to enlist me in the army, I would refuse the service. If they caught me, I would go to jail. It was a categorical decision, an absolute and unwavering position. I would not participate in the war, even if it meant ruining my life. Still, I persevered and dropped out of college. I was completely bold, without feeling the slightest hesitation or doubt, and dove in with eyes wide open. I expected to go down hard, but I didn't. Instead, I floated on air like a feather, and for the next several months I felt as free and happy as ever. I was staying in a small hotel on Rue Clément, opposite the Marché Saint-Germain, a closed market that had long since been demolished. It was a cheap but tidy house, a few steps above the fleabag I had stayed in two years before, and the young couple who ran it were extraordinarily kind to me. The man's name was Gaston (stubby mustache, white shirt, ubiquitous black apron), and he spent most of his time serving customers in the cafe downstairs, a little hole-in-the-wall that doubled as the hangout for the crowd. neighborhood and hotel reception. . this is 127

where I ate breakfast, read the paper, and got hooked on pinball. I did a lot of walking in those months, as I did in Dublin, but I also spent countless hours upstairs in my room reading and writing. Most of the work I was doing at the time has been lost, but I remember writing and translating poetry and composing a long, gruelingly complex script for a silent film (part Buster Keaton film, part philosophical tap dance). In addition to all the reading I had done in the past two years, I also went to the movies, particularly the Thalia and New Yorker theaters, which were just a short walk from Morningside Heights on Broadway. Thalia had a different dual program each day, and for just fifty cents admission to the university, I spent as much time there as I did in the classrooms at Columbia. Paris turned out to be an even better film city than New York. I became a regular at the Cinémathèque and revivalist houses on the Left Bank, and after a while I got so involved with this passion that I started toying with the idea of ​​becoming a director. I even asked about IDHEC, the Paris Film Institute, but the application forms turned out to be so long and overwhelming that I never bothered to fill them out. When I wasn't in my room or at the movies, I was browsing bookstores, eating at cheap restaurants, meeting different people, getting a dose of (very painful) gossip, and generally enjoying the choice I'd made. It is difficult to exaggerate how good these months have felt. I was excited and calm at the same time, and even though I knew my little paradise had to end, I did everything I could to prolong it, to postpone the hour of judgment until the last possible moment. I managed to hold out until mid-November. When I got back to New York, it was the middle of the fall semester at Columbia. I assumed there was no chance of reintegration as a student, but I had promised my family that I would come back and raise the matter with the university. They ended up worrying about me and I felt like I owed them a lot. After fulfilling that duty, he wanted to return to Paris and start looking for a job. To hell with the eraser, I told myself. If I end up "fugitive from justice," so be it. None of this worked as I envisioned. I made an appointment with one of the deans at Columbia, and this man was so understanding, so sincere of me, that he broke through my defense within minutes. No, he said, he didn't think I was stupid. He understood what he was doing and admired the spirit of the company. On the other hand, there is the issue of war, he said. Columbia didn't want me to join the military if I didn't want to, let alone end up in prison for refusing to serve in the military. If I wanted to go back to college, the door was open. She could start attending classes tomorrow and it would officially be like she hadn't missed a day. How are you supposed to argue with a man like that? He wasn't an employee who just did his job. He spoke too calmly and listened too carefully for that, and I soon understood that all he cared about was a sincere desire to save a 20-year-old from making a mistake, to convince someone not to ruin his life if he didn't. did. do not need. There's still time for that later, n'est-ce pas? He wasn't very old either—thirty, thirty-five maybe—and I still remember his name, though I never saw him again. Dean Platt. When the university closed due to 128 in the spring.

student strike, resigned from his job in protest of the government's handling of the matter. The next thing I heard, he had gone to work for the UN. * The troubles at Columbia lasted from early 1968 until my class graduated the following June. Normal activity virtually ceased during this period. The campus has become a war zone of demonstrations, protests and moratoriums. There were riots, police raids, exchanges of blows and factional divisions. Rhetorical excesses abounded, ideological borders were drawn, passions flowed everywhere. Every time there was a breakout, another problem would crop up and the breakouts would start all over again. In the long run nothing of great importance has been achieved. The proposed site was changed to a college high school, several academic requirements were removed, the president resigned, and was replaced by another president. That's all. Despite the efforts of thousands, the ivory tower did not collapse. Despite this, it staggered for a while, and not a few of its stones crumbled and fell to the ground. I participated in some things and withdrew from others. I helped occupy one of the buildings on campus, got beaten up by the police and spent a night in jail, but most of all I was a bystander, a compassionate guy. As much as I enjoyed participating, I found my personality inappropriate for group activities. My solitary instincts ran deep and I never made it aboard the big ship Solidarity. For better or worse, I kept paddling my little canoe, perhaps a little more desperate, a little unsure where I was going, but too stubborn to go. There probably wouldn't be time for that anyway. I plunged into rapids and it took all my strength to hold the oar. If I had backed off, I probably would have drowned. Some do. Some fell victim to their own righteousness and noble intentions, and the human loss was catastrophic. Ted Gold, a grade ahead of me, blew himself up in a West Village brownstone when the bomb he was building accidentally went off. Mark Rudd, a childhood friend and Columbia dorm neighbor, joined the Weather Underground and lived in hiding for more than a decade. Dave Gilbert, an SDS spokesman whose speeches strike me as examples of wit and intelligence, is serving a 75-year sentence for his part in the Brinks robbery. In the summer of 1969, I walked into a western Massachusetts post office with a friend who had a letter to send. As I waited in line, I studied the posters on the wall for the FBI's 10 Most Wanted Men. I met seven of them. That was the climate of my last two years in college. Despite distractions and constant agitation, I managed to write quite a bit, but none of my efforts paid off. I started and dropped two novels, wrote several plays I didn't like, worked poem after poem with rather disappointing results. My ambitions were far greater than my abilities at the moment, and I often felt frustrated, haunted by a sense of failure. The only achievement I was proud of was the French poetry that I translated, but that was secondary and not even close to what I had in mind. Still, I needn't have been completely discouraged. I ended up writing, and when I started doing articles about books and movies in the Columbia Daily Spectator, I was actually 129 years old.

I have seen my work in print quite often. You have to start somewhere I guess. I may not be moving as fast as I'd like, but at least I was moving. He was standing and walking, step by step, but he still didn't know how to walk. Looking back on those days now, I find myself in fragments. Countless battles were being fought simultaneously, and parts of me were scattered across a vast field, each fighting a different angel, a different drive, a different idea of ​​who I was. At times it made me act fundamentally atypical. I became someone I was not, I tried to put on a different skin for a while, imagining that I had reinvented myself. The brooding, brooding fabric shirt would dematerialize into a fast-talking cynic. The overzealous and literal intellectual suddenly turned around and embraced Harpo Marx as his spiritual father. I can think of several examples of this vintage trolling, but the one that best captured the spirit of the times was a little nonsense I contributed to the Columbia Review, the literary magazine for college students. For reasons that have now completely escaped my attention, I decided to create the first annual Christopher Smart Awards. I was a senior at the time, and the contest rules were posted on the back page of the fall issue. I randomly delete these phrases from the text: “The purpose of the award is to honor the great anti-men of our time... …. We take as our model Christopher Smart... the eighteenth-century Englishman who shunned the easy fame that awaited him as the inventor of couplets... for a life of drunkenness, madness, religious fanaticism, and prophetic writings. Too much he found his true path, rejecting the early promise he made to the academic poets of England, realized his true greatness. Maligned and ridiculed for the past two centuries, his reputation has gone to the mud... Christopher Smart has been relegated to the realm of the unknown. We are trying to revive his name now, at a time when there are no heroes. The purpose of the competition was to reward failure. Not all the everyday setbacks and stumbles, but monumental falls, gigantic acts of self-sabotage. In other words, he wanted to highlight the one who did less with more, who started with all the advantages, all the talents, all the hopes of worldly success and failed. Participants were asked to write an essay of at least fifty words describing their failure or the failure of someone they knew. The winner received a two-volume box set of the complete works of Christopher Smart. To the surprise of no one but myself, no application was submitted. It was a joke, of course, an exercise in literary mischief, but behind my humorous intentions there was something disturbing, something that was not funny at all. Why the compulsion to sanctify failure? Why the mocking tone and the arrogant, know-it-all attitude? I could be wrong, but now it occurs to me that they were an expression of fear, fear of the uncertain future that I had prepared for myself, and that my real motive in organizing the competition was to make myself the winner, I explained. The Bedlamites' dishonest rules were a way to hedge my bets and avoid the blows life had in store for me. Losing was winning, winning was losing, and even if the worst happened, he could still claim a moral victory. Small consolation, perhaps, but she was certainly already grasping a burning nail. Instead of expressing my fears publicly, I buried them under an avalanche of jokes and sarcasm. None of this was conscious. I tried to accept the expected defeats and strengthen myself for the battles to come. for the 130

In later years, my favorite phrase in English came from the Elizabethan poet Fulke Greville: "I write for those whom the black ox has trodden down." I met Christopher Smart. Perhaps not the real Christopher Smart, but one of his reincarnations, a living example of failed promises and tarnished literary fortunes. It was the spring of my senior year, just a few weeks before I graduated. Out of nowhere, a man appeared on the Columbia campus and went on a rampage. At first she was only vaguely aware of his presence, but occasionally little snippets of the stories circulating about him slipped into earshot. For example, he had heard that he called himself "Doc" and that he gave money to strangers with no strings attached for obscure reasons related to the American economic system and the future of humanity. With so many strange things on the air at the time, I didn't pay much attention. One night some of my friends persuaded me to take them to Times Square to see the latest Sergio Leone spaghetti western. After the movie started, we decided to end the night with some fun and headed to Cafe Metropole at Broadway and Forty-eighth Street. The Metropole was once a fancy jazz club, but now it was a shirtless go-go bar, complete with wall-to-wall mirrors, strobe lights, and half a dozen girls in sparkly thongs perched on a raised platform. danced deck platform. We took a table in one of the back corners and started drinking our drinks. After our eyes adjusted to the dark, one of my friends saw "Doc" sitting alone in the far corner of the room. My friend came over and asked him to join us and when the mysterious slightly scruffy bearded man sat next to me and muttered something about Gene Krupa and what the hell happened to this place, I took my eyes off the dancers for a while. the moment and shook hands with the legendary and forgotten novelist H.L. humes. He had co-founded the Paris Review in the 1950s, published two successful first books (The Underground City and Dying Men) and then disappeared from the scene just as he was beginning to make a name for himself. He just left it off the literary map and was never heard from again. I do not know the full story, but the extracts I have heard from him indicate that he fell on hard times and endured a long series of setbacks and hardships. He mentioned shock treatment, a ruined marriage, multiple stays in mental institutions. According to his own statements, he was forced to stop writing for physical reasons, not voluntarily. The electroshock therapy damaged his system, he said, and every time he picked up a pen, his legs began to swell, causing excruciating pain. Since the written word was no longer available to him, he had to rely on speech to convey his "message" to the world. That night he fully demonstrated how he had mastered this new medium. First at the topless bar and then on a nearly seventy-block walk down Broadway to Morningside Heights, the man spoke in a blue tone, babbling and rambling, biting at our ears in a monologue that sounded like nothing I'd ever heard before. . It was the murmur of a modern visionary neo-prophet, a relentless, passionate torrent of paranoia and brilliance, a frenetic mental journey that leapt from fact to metaphor to speculation with such speed and unpredictability that we were stunned and unable to utter a word. . . He came to New York on a mission, he told us. He had fifteen thousand dollars in his pocket, and if his theories about finance and the structure of capitalism were correct, he could use that money to overthrow the American government. 131

In fact everything was very simple. His father had just died leaving Doc the above sum as an inheritance, and instead of spending the money on himself, our friend suggested giving it away. Not all at once, and not for any particular charity or person, but for everyone, for the whole world at once. To do this, he went to the bank, cashed the check, and turned it into a wad of fifty-dollar bills. With these three hundred portraits of Ulysses S. Grant as his calling card, he would introduce himself to his fellow conspirators and launch the greatest economic revolution in history. After all, money is a fiction, a worthless piece of paper that only gains value because large numbers of people choose to value it. The system works with confidence. Not the truth or reality, but the collective belief. And what would happen if that belief was shaken, if suddenly many people began to doubt the system? In theory, the system would collapse. In short, that was the point of Doc's experiment. The $50 bills he gave to strangers weren't just gifts; They were weapons in the fight for a better world. He wanted to set an example with his extravagance, show that you can disenchant and break the spell of money. Every time he paid another sum of money, he instructed the recipient to spend it as quickly as possible. Spend, give, circulate, he said, and told the next person to do the same. A chain reaction would be set off overnight, and before you know it, so many fifty would be flying through the air that the system would go haywire. Waves would be sent out, thousands of neutron charges, even millions of different sources, would bounce through space like little rubber balls. Once they gained enough speed and momentum, they gained the force of the bullets and the walls began to crack. To what extent he really believed this I cannot say. Crazy as he was, a man of his intelligence would certainly have a foolish idea if he had listened. He never came out and said it, but I think deep down he understood what that talk was about. Of course, that didn't stop her from having fun and bragging about his plan at every opportunity, but it was more in the spirit of a crazy performance than an actual political act. H. L. Humes was not some crazed schizophrenic taking orders from the Martian command center. He was a burnt-out writer, devastated, rooted deep in his own conscience, and instead of giving up on life altogether and giving up, he concocted this little hoax to boost his morale. Money brought him an audience again, and as people watched, he was inspired, manic, the original one-man band. He rode like a jester, spun cart wheels, jumped through flames, and threw himself from cannons, and from what I could see, he was enjoying every minute. As he marched down Broadway with me and my friends that night, he put on a spectacular show. Between the cascading words, the gargalhadas and the peaks of cosmological music, he turned around and began to address strangers, stopping mid-sentence to place another fifty-dollar note in someone's hand and urge them to spend it. like there was no tomorrow. The wild ruled the streets that night and Doc was the main attraction, the Pied Piper of Chaos. Impossible not to get lost in it and I must admit that I found his performance very entertaining. But when we were nearing the end of our trip and I was about to return home, I made a serious mistake. It must have been one or two in the morning then. Somewhere to my right, I heard Doc muttering to himself. "Do any of you cats have a place to sleep?" he asked him.

he said, and because he seemed so cold and indifferent, so indifferent to the affairs of this world, I didn't think twice. "Of course," I said, "you can sleep on my couch if you want." Needless to say, he accepted my invitation. Needless to say, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. It's not that I didn't like him and it's not that we didn't get along. In fact, it went well for the first few days. Doc planted himself on the sofa and rarely moved, rarely touching the floor with the soles of his feet. Other than the occasional trip to the bathroom, all he did was sit, eat pizza, smoke pot, and talk. I bought him the pizza (with his own money) and after telling him 5 or 6 times that he had no interest in drugs, he finally got the message and offered me no more. The conversation, however, was non-stop, the same repertoire of scrambled riffs he'd unleashed the first night, but his arguments were broader now, more concrete, more focused. Hours passed and his mouth continued to move. Even when I got up and left the room, he kept talking, putting his ideas on the wall, the ceiling, the lamps, hardly noticing that he had left me. It wouldn't have been a problem if the place was a bit bigger. The apartment only had two rooms and a kitchen, and since my room was too small to accommodate anything more than a bed, my desk was placed in the living room, where the sofa was also located. With Doc permanently ensconced on the couch, it was nearly impossible for me to get any work done. The spring semester was coming to an end and I had a ton of papers to write to complete my courses and graduate, but for the first two days I didn't even bother trying. I thought I had a little leeway not to panic. Doc would be leaving soon, and as soon as he got my desk back I could get to work. However, on the morning of the third day, I realized that my guest had no intention of leaving. It's not that I intentionally exaggerated the greeting from him; The idea of ​​leaving just hadn't crossed his mind. What should he have done? I didn't have the heart to throw him out. She already felt sorry for him and didn't have the courage to take such a drastic step. The following days were extraordinarily difficult. I did my best to fix it and see if a few small tweaks could improve the situation. It might have worked out in the end, I don't know, but three or four days after I put Doc in the bedroom and occupied the living room, disaster struck. It happened on one of the most beautiful Sundays I can remember and it was no one's fault but me. A friend called to invite me to an outdoor basketball game, and instead of leaving Doc alone in the apartment, I took him with me. All went well. I played along and he sat on the field listening to the radio and barking at himself or my friends depending on if anyone was around. However, when we returned home that night, someone saw us on the street. "Aha," this person told me, "so that's where he's hiding." I never particularly liked this person, and when I told him to keep Doc's whereabouts a secret, I realized he might as well have been carrying a street lamp. Have talked. In fact, my apartment doorbell started ringing early the next morning. The campus celebrity had been met, and after the mysterious week of his absence, H.L. Humes was more than happy to concede to his followers. All day long, groups of nineteen and twenty year olds would come into my apartment, sit on the floor and listen as Doc shared his twisted wisdom with them. He was the philosopher king, the metaphysical pasha, the bohemian saint who saw through the lies of his teachers.

He had taught them and they couldn't get enough. He was deeply angry. My apartment had become a 24/7 hangout, and as much as he wanted to blame Doc, he knew it wasn't his fault. His acolytes came of his own free will, without invitations or appointments, and once the crowd began to gather, I couldn't beg him to see them off any more than I could beg the sun to stop shining. Talking was what he lived for. It was his last barrier against forgetting him, and since these children were with him now, because they sat at his feet and listened to his every word, he could temporarily indulge in the illusion that all was not right. lost to him. I had no problem with that. As far as I'm concerned, he could keep talking into the next century. I just didn't want him doing that in my apartment. Torn between pity and disgust, I came to a cowardly compromise. It happened in one of the rare lulls of the age, at a time when there were no unexpected visitors to the apartment. I told Doc that he could stay and that I would go. I had a lot of work to do, I explained, and instead of dumping him out on the street before he found another place to live, I was going to go to my mom's apartment in Newark and do my homework. He would be back in exactly one week and when he got back he hoped he would be gone. Doc listened intently as he described this plan to her. When I finished, I asked him if he understood. "I like it, man," he said in his calmer, huskier Jazzman voice, "it's great," and that was it. We kept talking about other things, and somewhere in our conversation that night he mentioned that many years ago, when he was a young man in Paris, he had occasionally played chess with Tristan Tzara. This is one of the few concrete facts that I remember. Over time, almost everything else I heard from H.L. Humes says that he disappeared. I remember what his voice sounded like, but very little of what he said. All those great verbal marathons, those forced marches towards sanity, those countless hours of listening to him discover his plans, conspiracies and secret correspondences, it all became a blur. The words are just a buzz in my brain now, an incomprehensible swarm of nothing. The next morning, as he was packing my bags and getting ready to leave, he tried to give me some money. I fired him, but he insisted, he took the fifty out of his bag like a bowler and told me to take it, that he was a good boy, that we had to "spread the wealth", and in the end I relented. impressed and accepted three hundred dollars from him. I felt terrible about it at the time and I still feel terrible about it. I wanted to stay above this business, not participate in the pathetic game he was playing, but when my principles were finally compromised, I succumbed to temptation and allowed greed to get the better of me. Three hundred dollars was a large sum in 1969, and the lure of that money turned out to be stronger than me. I put the bills in my pocket, shook Doc's hand good-bye, and ran out of the apartment. When I returned a week later, the apartment was immaculate and there was no sign of him anywhere. Doc is gone, as he had promised. I only saw him once after that. It was about a year later and he was taking the number 4 bus into town. As we were turning onto 110th Street, I saw him through the window: he was standing at the corner of Fifth Avenue and the north end of Central Park. It looked like he was in pretty bad shape. His clothes were wrinkled, he looked dirty, and his eyes had a lost and empty expression that hadn't existed before. He got into hard drugs, I told myself. Then the bus went his way and I lost sight of him. about 134

In the days and weeks that followed, I kept hoping to see him again, but never did. Twenty-five years passed, and then five or six months ago, I opened the New York Times and saw a little article on the obituary page announcing his death. * Little by little I learned to improvise, I trained myself to roll with the blows. During my last two years at Columbia, I took a series of odd freelance jobs and gradually developed a taste for the kind of literary hacking that would get me through my thirties, and that ultimately led to my downfall. I suppose there was a certain romanticism to it, a need to assert myself as an outsider and show that I could do it on my own without bowing to other people's ideas of what a good life is. My life would be good if and only if I held my guns and refused to back down. The art was sacred and following its call meant making whatever sacrifice was asked of you and maintaining your resolve to the bitter end. Knowledge of French helped. It wasn't a rare skill, but it was good enough to land some translation jobs. Artistic publications, for example, and a very boring document from the French embassy about the restructuring of his staff, which exceeded a hundred pages. One spring I was also tutoring a high school girl and driving across town every Saturday morning to talk poetry with her, and another time a friend (without pay) stopped me to join Jean Genet on an on-air podium. free and translate his speech in defense of the Black Panthers. Genet walked around with a red flower behind her ear and couldn't stop smiling the entire time he was on the Columbia campus. New York seemed to make him happy, and she handled the attention he received that day with aplomb. Not long after, I bumped into an acquaintance one night in the West End, the old student bar at Broadway and 114th Street. He told me he had just started working for a pornography company and if I wanted to try writing a smutty book , the novel would cost fifteen hundred dollars. He was more than willing to give it a try, but my inspiration waned after twenty or thirty pages. I found that there were so many ways to describe this one thing, and my supply of synonyms soon ran out. Instead, I started writing book reviews for a poorly designed publication aimed at college students. Feeling the magazine wasn't going to do much, I signed my articles under a pen name just to keep things interesting. Quinn was the name I chose for myself, Paul Quinn. I remember the pay was twenty-five dollars per review. When the lottery results were announced at the end of 1969, I was lucky with the number 297. A blind draw saved my skin, and the nightmare I had been wrestling with for several years suddenly vanished. Whom to thank for this unexpected grace? I had been spared immense pain and worry, had literally regained control of my life, and the feeling of relief was unpredictable. The prison was no longer in the picture for me. The horizon was clear on all sides and he could walk in any direction. As I traveled light, there was nothing to stop me from going as far as my legs would carry me. It was more of a coincidence that I ended up in a tanker truck for several months. You cannot work on a ship without a merchant mariner card, and you cannot buy a merchant mariner card without working on a ship. Unless you know someone who is 135

can break the circle for you, it is impossible to enter. Someone who did that for me was my mother's second husband, Norman Schiff. My mother remarried about a year after her divorce from my father, and by 1970 my stepfather and I had been good friends for almost five years. A good man with a generous heart, he has always had my back and supported my vague and impractical ambitions. His untimely death in 1982 (at the age of fifty-five) remains one of the great sorrows of my life, but as I was finishing my senior year and preparing for high school, his health was still in very good shape. . He practiced law, primarily as a labor broker, and among his many clients at the time was the Esso Seamen's Union, for which he served as legal counsel. That's how the idea came to my head. I asked him if he could get me a job on one of Esso's tankers and he told me he would look into it. And that's exactly what he did without further ado. There was a lot of paperwork to do, trips to Union House in Belleville, New Jersey, physicals in Manhattan, and then an indefinite wait for a seat on one of the ships that called in the New York area. In the meantime, I got a temporary job at the United States Census Bureau, collecting data for the 1970 Harlem census. The job consisted of going up and down stairs in poorly lit apartment lots, with batteries in two apartments and helping people to get forms. of the government. Of course, not everyone wanted to be helped, and many were suspicious of the white college student sneaking down the halls from him, but enough people welcomed me to make me feel like I wasn't completely wasting my time. I had it for about a month and then sooner than I expected the ship called. I was sitting in a dentist's chair at the time, about to have a wisdom tooth extracted. Every morning, since my name was on the list, I checked with my stepfather to let him know where he could find me that day, and he was the one who would place me at the dentist's office. The timing couldn't have been more fun. I had already had the novocaine injected into my gums and the dentist had just taken the pliers and was about to tackle my rotten tooth when the receptionist walked in and announced that he was looking for me on the phone. Extremely urgent. I jumped out of the chair, my bib still tied around my neck, and the next thing I knew, Norman was telling me that he had three hours to pack up and board the S.S. Esso Florence in Elizabeth, New Jersey. I stammered my apologies to the dentist and left. The tooth stayed in my mouth for another week. When it finally came out, it was in Baytown, Texas. * The Esso Florence was one of the oldest tankers in the fleet, a relic of days gone by. Put a two-door Chevy next to a limo and you'll get a good idea of ​​how she stacks up against the supertankers they build today. My ship, which was already in service during World War II, had covered countless thousands of nautical miles when I entered it. There were enough beds on board to accommodate a hundred men, but we only needed thirty-three of us to do the work required. This meant that everyone had their own room, a great benefit considering how 136

We had to spend a lot of time together. Other jobs allowed you to come home at night, but we were together 24 hours a day. Every time you looked up, the same faces were there. We worked, lived, and ate together, and without the opportunity for real privacy, the routine would have been unbearable. We traveled between the Atlantic coast and the Gulf of Mexico, loading and unloading jet fuel at various refineries along the way: Charleston, South Carolina; Tampa, Florida; Galveston, Texas. My initial duties were to clean the floors and make the beds, first for the crew and then for the officers. The technical term for the job was 'janitor', but in plain language the job was a combination of janitor, garbage man, and maid. I can't say I was excited about scrubbing bathrooms and picking up dirty socks, but once I got the hang of it, the job became incredibly easy. In less than a week, I've improved my cleaning skills to the point where it only takes me two to two and a half hours to complete my tasks for the day. It gave me so much free time that I spent most of my time alone in my room. I read books, I wrote, I did everything I did before, but somehow more productive, with better concentration now that there were so few distractions. In many ways, it seemed like an almost ideal existence, a perfect life. So after a month or two of this wonderful regimen, I was "broke". The ship rarely traveled more than five days between ports, and almost everywhere we docked, some crew members disembarked and others embarked. The jobs for the newcomers were distributed according to seniority. It was a strict hierarchy, and the longer you worked for the company, the more say you had in what you were paid. As a lowly man on the totem pole, he had no voice. If a vintage car wanted my job, all he had to do was ask, and that was his job. After my long winning streak, Boom finally fell on me somewhere in Texas. My successor was a man named Elmer, a fundamentalist bachelor who happened to be the oldest and most famous contractor of all. What I had done in two hours, Elmer now did in six. He was the slowest of the slow, a smug, brooding mental weight who drifted about the ship in a world of his own, totally ignored by the other crew, and in all my experience I have never met a person who ate as much as he did. he did. Elmer could stock up on mountains of food—two, three, and four servings at each meal—but what made him fascinating to watch wasn't so much the size of his appetite as the way he satiated it: small, fussy, with a keen sense of appetite. obsessive. property hungry. The best part was the clean up at the end. Once Elmer had eaten his fill of it, he spread his napkin on the table in front of him and began to pat and smooth the thin paper with his hands, slowly turning it into a flat square. He then he folded the napkin into precise longitudinal incisions and methodically divided the area in half until it was divided into eighths. In the end, the square would become a long, straight strip with all four edges lined up precisely. At that point, Elmer carefully grasped the edges, raised the napkin to his lips, and began to rub. The action was simply mental: a slow back and forth movement that lasted twenty or thirty seconds. From start to finish, Elmer's hands didn't move. They were fixed in the air as his great head swung from left to right and left again, and through it his eyes never betrayed the slightest thought or feeling. The cleaning of the lips was a persistent and mechanical process, an act of ritual purification. Cleanliness comes after godliness, Elmer once told me. To see him with that napkin was to understand that he was doing God's work. 137

I was able to closely observe Elmer's eating habits because I was pushed into the kitchen. The receptionist job quadrupled my hours and made my life more hectic in general. My duties now consisted of serving the crew (about twenty men) three meals a day, washing the dishes by hand, cleaning the canteen, and writing menus for the steward, who was usually too drunk to care for himself. My breaks were short, no more than an hour or two between meals, but my income was reduced, even though I had to work a lot more than before. My old job gave me plenty of time to work an extra hour or two at night, like scraping and painting in the boiler room or fixing rust spots on the deck, and these volunteer jobs raised my salary quite a bit. Despite the drawbacks, I found working in the canteen more challenging than sweeping floors. It was a public job, if you will, and in addition to all the fuss she now had to make, she had to be on tiptoe with the men. After all, that was my most important task: learning to deal with annoying and rude complaints, avoiding insults and giving them the best I could. Aside from Elmer, the team was a very dirty and mischievous bunch. Most of the men lived in Texas and Louisiana, and except for a handful of Chicanos, one or two blacks, and an occasional foreigner, the dominant tone on board was white, redneck, and classy. worker. There was a humorous atmosphere, filled with funny stories, lewd jokes, and lots of talk about guns and cars, but there was a deep, lurking undercurrent of racism in many of these men, and I was very careful in choosing my friends. Listening to one of your mates defend South African apartheid while you sat with him over coffee (“they know how blacks are treated down there”) doesn't cheer me up much, even though I find myself doing it. this, most of the time i hang out with the black and hispanic men around me, there was a good reason for that. As a college-educated Jew from New York, he was a complete stranger on this ship, a man from Mars. It would have been easy to make up stories about me, but that didn't interest me. If someone asked me what my religion is or where I come from, I would say. If he didn't like it, he thought it was his problem. I wouldn't hide who I am or pretend to be someone else just to avoid getting in trouble. Coincidentally the only time I had an uncomfortable enema the entire time I was there. One of the men started calling me Sammy as I walked by. He seemed to think it was funny, but since I didn't find the epithet funny, I told him to stop. The next day he did it again and again I told him to stop. When he did it again the next day, I knew polite words wouldn't do. I grabbed him by the shirt and threw him against the wall and very calmly told him that if he called me again he would kill him like that. I was surprised to hear myself speak like that. I wasn't one to act violently, and I had never made that kind of threat to anyone before, but for a brief moment, a demon possessed my soul. Fortunately, my will to fight was enough to neutralize the fight before it started. My executioner raised his hands in a gesture of peace. "It was just a joke," he said, "just a joke," and that was it. Over time, we really became friends. I loved being in the water surrounded by nothing but sky and light, the expanse of empty air. Seagulls followed us wherever we went, hovering overhead as they waited for the garbage cans to be dumped into the sea. Hour after hour they hovered patiently just above the ship, barely beating their wings until 138.

Debris flew, then plunged frantically into the foam, yelling at each other like drunks at a football game. Few joys can equal the spectacle of this foam, sitting on the stern of a great ship and contemplating the white and agitated tumult of the wake below. There's something hypnotic about it, and on quiet days, the feeling of well-being that washes over you can be overwhelming. On the other hand, bad weather also has its charms. As summer wore off and we moved into autumn, the deadlocks multiplied, bringing with them high winds and torrential rains, and now the ship seemed no safer or more solid than a child's paper boat. Tankers are notorious for breaking in half and all it takes is one fake wave to get the job done. I remember the worst stretch was when we were near Cape Hatteras in late September or early October, a 12- to 15-hour period when we were hit and battered by a tropical storm. The captain was at the helm all night and even after the worst was over and the purser told me to bring the captain's breakfast the next morning, I was almost thrown overboard when I went up on the bridge with my tray. The rain may have stopped, but the wind speed was still stormy. Working on the Esso Florence had little to do with adventure on the high seas. The tanker was essentially a floating factory, and instead of introducing me to an exotic and daring life, it taught me to think of myself as an industrial worker. Now he was one among millions, an insect fighting alongside innumerable other insects, and every task he undertook was part of the great and exhausting enterprise of American capitalism. Oil was the main source of wealth, the raw material that fed and kept the profit machine going, and I was happy to be where I was, grateful to have ended up in the belly of the beast. The refineries where we loaded and unloaded our cargo were huge, hellish structures, labyrinthine networks of hissing pipes and towers of flame, and walking through one of them at night was like stepping into your own life, your worst dream. Above all, I will never forget the fish, the hundreds of iridescent dead fish that float in the oil-saturated waters that surround the refinery docks. This was the usual welcoming committee, the spectacle that greeted us every time the tugboats towed us to another port. Ugliness was so universal, so deeply tied to the business of making money and the power that money gave to those who earned it—to the point of distorting the landscape, inverting the natural world—that I began to develop a grudging respect for it. . Get to the bottom of things, I told myself, and this is what the world looked like. Whatever you think, that ugliness was the truth. Every time we docked somewhere, he made sure to go ashore and spend time on land. I had never been south of the Mason-Dixon line, and these short detours over the mainland took me to places far less familiar or understandable than anything I found in Paris or Dublin. The South was a different country, a different American universe from the one I knew in the North. Usually I would tag along with one or two of my shipmates and make the rounds with them as they visited their usual haunts. If Baytown, Texas stands out, it's because we spend more time there than anywhere else. I thought it was a sad and seedy place. Along Main Street, a row of once-posh movie theaters had been converted into Baptist churches, and instead of proclaiming the titles of the latest Hollywood movies, the marquees now displayed incendiary quotes from the Bible. Most of the time, we ended up in sailor's bars on the side streets of the slums. They were all essentially the same: joints worn and lifeless; dark drinking holes; wet corners of 139

Forgot. Everything was always empty inside. Not a single painting on the walls, not a breath of inn warmth. There was at most a pool table, a jukebox with country and western music, and a drink menu that consisted of only one drink: beer. Once, when the ship was in drydock in Houston for minor repairs, I spent the afternoon in a Skid Row bar with a Danish tanker named Freddy, a wild man who laughed at the slightest provocation and spoke English with such a thick accent like mine. I barely understood a word he said. As we walked down the street in the blinding Texas sun, our paths crossed with a drunk couple. It was still early, but the man and woman were already so soaked, so drunk, that they must have been drinking since dawn. They staggered down the sidewalk, arms around each other, taking notes here and there, shaking their heads, bending their knees, and yet they both had enough energy to engage in a nasty, foul-mouthed argument. From the sound of their voices, I could tell they'd been at this for years: a pair of rocks stumbling around looking for their next drink, repeating the same lines forever, dragging the same old songs and dances forever. It turns out that they ended up in the same bar that Freddy and I were spending the afternoon in and, being less than ten feet from them, I was in the perfect position to watch the little drama that ensued: Der Mann leaned over and barked at the woman at the other side of the table. "Darlene," he said with a passionate accent, "bring me another beer." Darlene had just fallen asleep and it took a long moment for her to open her eyes and focus on the man. She spent another long moment, and she finally said, "What?" "Bring me a beer," the man repeated. "In a double pack." Darlene was waking up and suddenly her face lit up with one fucking adorable cheek. She clearly wasn't in the mood to be pushed. "Get it yourself, Charlie," she whispered to him. "I'm not your slave, you know that." "Dammit, woman," Charlie said. "You're my wife, aren't you? Why the hell did I marry you? Bring me the damn beer!" Darlene let out a loud, theatrical breath. You could tell she was up to something, but her intentions were still a mystery "Okay, honey," she said in the voice of a meek, silly wife, "I'll get it for you," then got up from the table and staggered over to the table. bar, Charlie sat down with a smile on her face. He looked at her face, enjoying her little masculine victory. He was the boss, of course, and no one would tell him otherwise. If you want to know who wore the pants in this family, just talk to them. A minute later, Darlene returned to the table with a new bottle of Bud. "Here's your beer, Charlie," she said, then, with a flick of her wrist, she poured the bottle's contents over her husband's head. Bubbles foamed in her hair and her eyebrows; Amber liquid ran down her face. Charlie sat up. He tossed it at her, but he was too drunk to go near her. Darlene threw her head back and laughed. "Do you like beer, Charlie?" she said. "Do you like your damn beer?" Of all the scenes I saw in these bars, nothing came close to the black comedy of Charlie's Christening, but for its general weirdness, a dive into the deepest heart of the grotesque, Big Mary's Place in Tampa, Florida, should be noted. that was a 140

a large, well-lit shopping mall, catering to the whims of stevedores and sailors, and had been in business for many years. Its features included half a dozen pool tables, a long mahogany bar, excessively high ceilings, and live entertainment in the form of nearly naked go-go dancers. These girls were the cornerstone of the operation, the element that set Big Mary's Place apart from other establishments of its ilk, and one look said they weren't hired for their looks or dancing ability. The only criteria was size. The bigger the better, Big Mary said, and the bigger you get, the more money you make. The effect was quite disturbing. It was a meat freak show, a cavalcade of jumping white bacon, and with four girls dancing simultaneously on the platform behind the bar, the number looked like a casting call for the lead in Moby-Dick. Each girl was a continent in her own right, a quivering mass of fat clad in a thong bikini, and as one layer peeled away from the other, the assault on her eyes was relentless. I don't remember how I got there, but I do clearly remember that my companions that night were two of the kindest souls on the ship (Martinez, a family man from Texas, and Donnie, a seventeen-year-old from Baton Rouge) and that they were both as amazed as me. I can still see them sitting across from me, gaping, trying their best not to laugh in embarrassment. One time Big Mary herself came and sat with us at our table. She was a beautiful airship of a woman, dressed in an orange pantsuit and with a ring on each finger, she wanted to know if we were having fun. When we assured her that it was us, she greeted one of the girls from the bar. "Barbara," she yelled, singing the word in a tinny three-pack-a-day voice, "get your fat ass over here!" Barbara came over, bright and cheerful, and laughed as Big Mary poked her in the stomach and nibbled at the luscious curls that hung from her hips. “She was skinny at first,” Mary explained, “but I got her on pretty good. she said, laughing like a mad scientist who just did a successful experiment, and Barbara couldn't agree more. As she listened to them talk, I suddenly realized that she had gotten it all wrong. I had not gone to sea. I would run away and join the circus. Another friend was Jeffrey, the sous cook (also known as the breakfast cook) from Bogalusa, Louisiana. We were born on the same day, and aside from almost-baby Donnie, we were the youngest members of the team. It was our first time and working together in the kitchen, we got to know each other reasonably well. Jeffrey was one of life's achievers: a smart, handsome, and fun-loving ladies' man with a penchant for flashy clothing, yet highly practical and ambitious, a down-to-earth schemer who used his work on the ship conscientiously to learn the ins and outs. . and cooking outlets. He had no intention of making a career with the tankers, no desire to turn to old salt. His dream was to become a chef in a fine restaurant, maybe even own that restaurant, and if nothing unexpected stopped him from doing so, I have no doubt that is exactly what he is doing today. We couldn't be more different, Jeffrey and I, but we get along great. It was only natural that we would sometimes disembark together when the ship was in port, but since Jeffrey was black and had lived in the South all his life, he knew that many of the places he visited with white crews were taboo for him. He made that perfectly clear to me when we planned our first excursion. "If you want me to go with you," he said, "you have to go where I can go." I tried to convince him that he could go wherever he wanted, but Jeffrey wouldn't accept the argument. "Maybe up to 141

North," he said. "It's different down here." I did not force the issue. When I drank beer with Jeffrey, we drank out of black bars instead of white bars. Apart from the skin color of the clientele, the atmosphere was the same. One night in Houston, Jeffrey convinced me to go clubbing with him. He never danced or went to clubs, but the idea of ​​spending a few hours somewhere that wasn't cheap appealed to me and I decided to take a chance. The club turned out to be a lively club filled with hundreds of young people, the most popular black club in the city. There was a live band on stage, psychedelic strobe lights reflected off the walls, hard liquor available at the bar. Everything was throbbing with sex, chaos and loud music. It was Texas-style Saturday night fever. Jeffrey was dressed to the teeth and within four minutes he was striking up a conversation with one of the many stunning girls buzzing around the bar and four minutes later they were on the dance floor together, lost in a sea of ​​bodies. I sat at a table and sipped my drink, the only white man in the building. No one bothered me, but I did get some strange piercing looks from some people, and when I finished my whiskey, I realized I had to stop. I called a taxi and went out to wait in the parking lot. When the driver showed up a few minutes later, he started swearing. "Damn," he said. "Shit. If I'd known you were calling from here, I wouldn't have come." "Why not?" I asked for. "Because this is the worst place in Houston," he said. "He's had six murders here in the last month. Every damn weekend someone gets shot." In the end, the months I spent on that boat seemed like years to me, time passes differently on the water, and since most of what I lived through was new to me and therefore on constant alert, I was able to accumulate a surprising amount of impressions and memories in a relatively small section of my life. Even now, I don't quite understand what he was hoping to prove by posting something like that. To unbalance me, I suppose. Or simply, just to see if I can, to see if I can hold on in a world I don't belong to, in that sense I don't think I've failed, I can't say what I achieved in those months, but at the same time I'm sure I that I did not fail I received my discharge papers in Charleston. The company provided the flight home, but you could pocket the money if you wanted and make your own travel arrangements. I decided to keep the money. The milk train took twenty-four hours and I returned with a colleague from New York, Juan Castillo, Juan was in his forties or fifties, a few years old, he was a stocky, plump man, with a large head and a face like skin and pulp. he nineteen mashed potatoes. He had just gotten off an oil tanker for the last time, and Esso had given him a gold watch in recognition of twenty-five years with the company. I don't know how many times Juan took this watch out of his pocket and looked at it on the long drive home, but each time he shook his head for a few seconds and then laughed. At one point the driver stopped to talk to us as he walked down the aisle to the car. I remember him looking very dapper in his uniform, an old-school black southern gentleman. In a haughty and slightly condescending manner, he opened the conversation by asking, "Are you going north to work in the steel mills?" Juan and I must have been a curious couple. I remember using a 142

tattered leather jacket, but other than that I can't see myself, I have no idea what I looked like or what other people saw when they looked at me. The collector's question is the only lead I have. Juan had taken pictures of his classmates to add to the family album at home and I remember standing on the deck looking at the camera as he pressed the shutter. He promised to send me a copy of the photo, but he never did. * I toyed with the idea of ​​going back to sailing on an Esso tanker, but ended up giving up. They were still sending me my pay (every other day I was on the ship I received a day's pay ashore), and my bank account was starting to look pretty solid. Over the last few months I have slowly come to the conclusion that my next step should be to leave the country and live abroad for a while. I was willing to get back on board if necessary, but I wondered if I hadn't already built up a big enough bet. The three or four thousand dollars I made on the tanker seemed enough to get me started, so I abruptly changed course and began planning a transfer to Paris instead of staying in the merchant navy. France was a logical choice, but I don't think I went there for logical reasons. The fact that I spoke French, that I had translated French poetry, that I knew and cared about many people who lived in France, certainly these things influenced my decision, but they were not decisive factors. I think what made me go there was the memory of what happened to me in Paris three years ago. I still hadn't gotten it out of my system, and since that visit was cut short because I left thinking I'd be back soon, I walked around feeling like there was something I hadn't done, I had nothing to achieve. my filling of. All I wanted now was to sit down and write. By recapturing the interiority and freedom of that earlier time, I felt like I was putting myself in the best possible position to do it. I had no intention of becoming an expatriate. Giving up the United States was not part of the plan and at no time did I think I would not return. She just needed a little breather, a chance to find out once and for all if she really was who she thought she was. What I remember most vividly from my last few weeks in New York is the parting conversation I had with Joe Reilly, a homeless man who used to hang out in the lobby of my West 107th Street apartment building. The building was a run-down nine-story building and, like most places on the Upper West Side, housed a mixed crowd. I can effortlessly evoke many of them, even after a quarter of a century. The Puerto Rican postman, for example, the Chinese waiter and the fat blonde opera singer with the Lhasa apso. Not to mention the black gay fashion designer in his black fur coat and the rowdy clarinetists whose vicious leggings seeped through my apartment walls and poisoned my nights. On the ground floor of this gray brick building, one of the apartments was divided in half, each half being occupied by a man confined to a wheelchair. One worked at the newsstand on Broadway and 110th Street; the other was a retired rabbi. The rabbi was a particularly handsome fellow, with a pointed goatee and the ubiquitous black beret, which he wore at a bold, elegant angle. He left his apartment almost every day and spent time on the 143rd floor.

Lobby, he chatted with Superintendent Arthur or with various tenants going in and out of the elevator. Once, when I entered the building, I saw him through the glass door in his usual place, talking to a bum in a long dark coat. It seemed like an odd conjunction, but from the way the bum was standing there and the way the rabbi bowed his head, it was clear they knew each other well. The tramp was a true orphan, a mangy-faced drunk in dirty clothes and cuts on his bald head, a broken, scrofulous man who looked as if he had just stepped out of a sewer. Then when I opened the door and walked into the hallway, I heard him speak. Accompanied by wild, theatrical gestures—a movement with his left arm, a finger sticking out of his right hand and pointing to the sky—he uttered a sentence, a set of words so improbable and unexpected that I couldn't make out. I don't realize it at first, I believe in my ears. "He was not a casual acquaintance!" he said, enunciating each syllable of that flowery literary phrase of his tongue with such gaiety, such haughty bravado, such pomposity that it sounded like tragic ham, taking a line from a recited Victorian melodrama. . He was pure WC Fields, but several octaves lower, with tighter control over the effects he was trying to create. WC Fields maybe mixed with Ralph Richardson, with a bombastic touch of bar encore. However you want to define it, he had never heard a voice do what that voice did. As I went to greet the rabbi, he introduced me to his friend, and thus I learned the name of that singular gentleman, the most powerful of all fallen characters, the one and only Joe Reilly. According to the rabbi who later told me the story, Joe began his life as the privileged son of a wealthy New York family and, in his heyday, owned an art gallery on Madison Avenue. That's when the rabbi first met him, back then, before Joe's breakup and collapse. By this time, the rabbi had left the pulpit and was running a music publishing company. Joe's lover was a composer, and when the rabbi published this man's work, he and Joe naturally crossed paths. Then suddenly the lover died. Joe had always had a drinking problem, the rabbi said, but now he was drinking seriously and his life was beginning to fall apart. He lost the gallery of him; his family turned their backs on him; your friends are gone. Little by little he sank into the ravine, the last hole at the bottom of the world, and according to the rabbi, he would never come out again. For him, Joe was hopeless. After that, every time Joe showed up, he would reach into my pocket and give him some change. What moved me about these encounters was that he never lowered his mask. In the elegant Dickensian language he so easily concocted, he snorted his thanks and assured me that he would reimburse me as soon as circumstances permitted. "I'm very grateful to you for this gift, young man," he said, "very grateful indeed. It's just a loan, of course, so you don't have to worry about repayment. As you may or may not know, I've had a few minor setbacks lately and your generosity will go a long way toward my recovery. A nickel there, whatever it was, but Joe never wavered in his enthusiasm, never allowed himself to realize what a pitiful number he was, dressed in rags of circus clown, his dirty body giving off the worst stench, but he insisted on maintaining his pose as a man of the world, a man of the world.

dandy was temporarily on his own. The pride and self-delusion surrounding this act were both comical and poignant, and each time she performed the ritual of giving him another alms, she struggled for balance. She never knew whether to laugh or cry, admire him or pity him. "Let me see, young man," she continued, looking at the coins she had just given him. “I have, let's see, I have here in my hand, hmmm, fifty-five cents. Add that to the eighty cents you gave me last time, and then add that, hmmm, add that to the forty cents you gave me before that, and it turns out that I owe you a total of, hmmm, let's see, a total general a dollar and fifteen cents. That was Joe's arithmetic. He just picked numbers out of thin air and hoped they would sound good. "No problem, Joe," he'd tell her. "A dollar and fifteen cents. Next time you give it to me." When I got back from the Esso ship to New York, he seemed uneasy, he had lost some ground. It seemed more hurt, and the old vigor gave way to a new weight of courage, a kind of crying, crying, despair. He collapsed in front of me one afternoon while recounting how he had been beaten up in an alley the night before. "They stole my books," he said. "Can you imagine that? The animals stole my books!" Another time, in the middle of a snowstorm, as I was leaving my ninth-floor apartment and walking down the hall to the elevator, I found him sitting alone on the stairs, his head buried in his hands. "Joe," I said, "are you okay?" He raised his head. His eyes were filled with sadness, misery and defeat. "No, young man," he said. I'm not well, not one bit." "Is there anything I can do for you?" and at this point he suddenly reached out and took my hand. Then, looking me square in the eye, he gathered his strength and said, his voice shaking with excitement, "You can put me in yours. Bring the apartment back, I'll put you to bed and let me sleep with you." The directness of his request took me completely by surprise. I was thinking more of a cup of coffee or a bowl of soup. "I can't do this," I told him. " I like women, Joe, not men. I'm sorry, but that's not what I do." What he said next remains in my memory as one of the best and most astute statements I've ever heard. Without wasting a second and without the slightest trace of disappointment or regret, he shrugged. He shrugged at my response and said in a melodious, vibrant voice, "Well, you asked me, and I told you." In mid-February 1971, I went to Paris. After that stairwell encounter, I never saw Joe again. for several weeks. Then a few days before I left, I called him, met him on Broadway. He looked so much better and the puppy dog ​​look was gone from his face. When I told him I was moving to Paris soon, he was back on track "It's strange that I mention Paris," he said, "it's actually a very timely coincidence. Not two or three days ago he was walking down Fifth Avenue, and who was he going to meet but my old friend Antoine, director of Cunard Lines. 'Joe,' he said, 'Joe, you don't look so good,' and I said, 'No, Antoine, it's true, I haven't been at my best lately,' and Antoine said he wanted something to help me, like that. say it, to help me and get me back on track. What he suggested, right there at 145 Fifth Avenue

Another day he was supposed to take me to Paris on one of his ships and put me up at the Hôtel Georges V. All expenses paid, of course, with a new wardrobe. He said that he could stay there as long as he wanted. Two weeks, two months, even two years if I wanted to. If I decide to leave, I think I'll be gone before the end of the month. That means, young man, that we will be in Paris at the same time. A nice prospect, isn't it? Expect to see me there. We drink tea, we have dinner. Just leave me a message at the hotel. On the Champs Elysees. That's where we'll meet next, my friend. In Paris, on the Champs Elysees. And then he said goodbye to me, shook my hand, and wished me a safe and happy journey. I never saw Joe Reilly again. Even before we said our goodbyes that day, I knew it was the last time I would speak to him, and when he finally disappeared into the crowd a few minutes later, it was as if he had already turned into a ghost. During all the years I lived in Paris, I thought of him every time I walked down the Champs Elysees. Even now, every time I go back there, I still do it. * My money didn't last as long as I thought it would. Within a week of arriving I found an apartment, and after paying the agent's commission, the deposit, the gas and electricity service, the first month's rent, the last month's rent and the insurance policy required by the state, I did not I had a lot left. So from the beginning, I had to make an effort to stay afloat. In the three and a half years that I lived in France, I had countless jobs, jumping from one part-time job to another, being self-employed until I turned blue. When I didn't have a job, I looked for work. When I had a job, I thought about how I could find more. Even at the best of times, I rarely made enough to feel secure, and yet despite a small loss or two, I managed to avoid complete ruin. It was, as they say, life up to date. Despite everything, I wrote constantly, and if much of what I wrote was discarded (mainly prose), much of what I wrote (mainly poetry and translations) was not. When I returned to New York in July 1974, the idea of ​​not writing was, for better or worse, unthinkable. Most of the work I received came from friends or friends of friends or friends of friends of friends. Living in a foreign country limits your options, and unless you know a few people willing to help you, it's almost impossible to get started. Not only do the doors not open when you knock, you don't even know where to look for them. I was lucky to have a few allies and eventually they all moved mountains for me. Jacques Dupin, for example, a poet whose works I have been translating for several years, became director of publications at Galerie Maeght, one of Europe's leading art galleries. Among the painters and sculptors on display were Miró, Giacometti, Chagall and Calder, to name a few. Through Jacques' intervention, I was commissioned to translate several art books and catalogues, and in my second year in Paris, when my funds were perilously close to depleting, he saved the day by providing me with a room to live in for free. . Those acts of kindness were essential and I can't imagine how I would have survived without them. Finally, I was directed to the Paris office of the New York Times. I don't remember who was responsible for the connection, but an editor named Josette Lazar 146

he began to send me translations whenever he could: articles for the Sunday Book Review, commentaries on Sartre and Foucault, this Times and that. The phone didn't ring often, and most of the time I sat at my desk, writing poetry or reading books. However, one night, he received a frantic call from a reporter stationed somewhere in Europe. "Sinyavsky defected," he said. "What should I do?" I had no idea what to do, but since none of the editors were around at that time, I thought I should tell you something. "Follow the story," I told him. "Go where you have to go, do what you have to do, but stick to history, high tide or hell." She warmly thanked him for the advice and hung up. Some jobs started out as one thing and ended up as another, like a bad stew you can't stop stirring. Just mix in a few additional ingredients and see if it doesn't taste better. A good example would be my little adventure among the North Vietnamese in Paris, which began with a harmless phone call from Mary McCarthy to my friend André du Bouchet. She asked if she knew anyone who could translate poetry from French to English and when she gave me my name, she called me and invited me to her apartment to discuss the project. It was early 1973 and the Vietnam War was still going on. Mary McCarthy had been writing about the war for several years and I had read most of her articles, which she considered among the best newspaper articles published at the time. As part of her work, she came into contact with many Vietnamese from the northern and southern halves of the country. One of them, a literature professor, was preparing an anthology of Vietnamese poetry and offered to help publish an English version in the United States. The poems had already been translated into French and the idea was to translate these translations into English. That's how my name came up, and that's why she wanted to talk to me. In her private life, Mary McCarthy was Mrs. West. Her husband was a wealthy American businessman, and her Paris apartment was a large, lavishly decorated place, filled with art, antiques, and fine furniture. Lunch was served to us by a maid in a black and white uniform. There was a porcelain bell on the table by my hostess's right hand, and each time she picked it up and gave it a little shake, the maid returned to the dining room for further instructions. There was an impressive grande dame quality to Mary McCarthy's handling of these domestic labels, but the truth is that she turned out to be everything she hoped for: shrewd, kind, unpretentious. We talked a lot that afternoon, and when I came out of her apartment a few hours later, I was loaded with six or seven books of Vietnamese poetry. The first step for me was to familiarize myself with its content. After that, the professor and I would get together and work on the anthology. I read and enjoyed the books, especially Kieu's book, the national epic. The details escape me now, but I remember being interested in some of the formal problems posed by traditional Vietnamese verse structures that have no equivalent in Western poetry. I was happy to be offered the position. Not only would they pay me well, but it seemed like I could still learn something. However, about a week after our lunch, Mary McCarthy called me to say that there was an emergency and that her friend, the teacher, had returned to Hanoi. She wasn't sure when she would return to Paris, but for the moment at least, the project was underway.

hold. As well as breaks. I pushed the books away and hoped the work wasn't dead, even though I knew it was. Several days passed and out of the blue I received a call from a Vietnamese woman who lives in Paris. "Professor so-and-so gave us her name," she said. “She told us that it can be translated into English. Is that true?" "Yes," I said, "it is true." "Great," she said. "We have a job for you." d came to me. I would have thought such a document would be translated by someone in the government, straight from Vietnamese into English, not French, and if from French, not from a hostile American living in Paris. But I didn't ask anyone any questions. I was still crossing borders. Fingers for the anthology and didn't want to ruin my chances, so I took the job. The next night, a woman came to my apartment to deliver the manuscript. She was a biologist in her mid-thirties - thin, unadorned, extraordinarily reserved in her manner. She said nothing about a fee for the job , and from her silence I deduced that there was none. Given the confusing political background of the situation (the war between our two countries, my feelings about that war, etc.), I was reluctant to pressure her to give me money." Instead, I started asking him questions about the Vietnamese poetry he had read. Eventually I got him to sit at my table with me and draw a diagram explaining the traditional verse forms that had aroused my curiosity. His sketch turned out to be very helpful, but when I asked him if I could keep it for future reference, he shook his head and rolled the paper up and put it in his pocket. I was so scared I didn't say a word. In that small gesture a whole world was revealed to me, an underground universe of fear and betrayal where even a piece of paper was suspect. Don't believe anyone; Cover your tracks; destroy evidence. Not that she was afraid of what I might do with the chart. She was acting out of habit and I couldn't help but feel sorry for her. Shame on both of us. It meant that the war was everywhere, that the war had messed everything up. The constitution was eight or ten pages long and apart from some standard Marxist-Leninist phrases ("racing dogs of imperialism," " bourgeois lackeys"), was rather dry stuff. I did the translation the next day, and when I called my biologist friend to tell her the job was done, she seemed extremely pleased and appreciative. Only then did she tell me about my payment: an invitation to dinner. "As a thank you," as she said. The restaurant was in the 5th arrondissement, not far from where I live, and I have eaten there several times. It was the simplest and cheapest Vietnamese restaurant in Paris, but also the best. The only decoration in this place was a black and white photograph of Ho Chi Minh hanging on the wall. Other jobs were simple, the essence of simplicity: teaching English to a high school boy, serving as a simultaneous interpreter (including dinner) at a small international conference of Jewish scholars, translating material by and about Giacometti for art critic David Sylvester. . Few of these jobs paid well, but they all paid well, and unless I always had large stocks of groceries in the fridge, I was rarely without a pack of cigarettes in my pocket. Even so, I could not support myself on trifles alone. They kept me going, but together they would not have been enough to sustain me for more than a few weeks, maybe a few months. I needed another source of income to pay the bills and luckily I am 148

I found one. More precisely, he found me. During the first two years that I lived in Paris, it was the difference between eating and not eating. The story goes back to 1967. During my previous field trip, an American friend introduced me to a woman I will call Madame X. Her husband, Monsieur X, was a well-known producer of old movies (epic, wacky, hustler) and it was through her that I started working for him. The first opportunity came a few months after my arrival. There was no telephone in the apartment I rented, as there was still in many Parisian apartments in 1971, and there were only two ways to contact me: by pneumatique, a quick telegram from the city center sent by post, or by the apartment. and knocking on the door. One morning, shortly after waking up, Madame X knocked on the door. "Would you like to win a hundred dollars today?" she said. The task seemed easy enough: read a script and then write a six or seven page synopsis. The only limitation was time. Somewhere in the Mediterranean, a potential sponsor of the film was waiting on a yacht and the project was supposed to be delivered to him in 48 hours. Madame X was a flamboyant and boisterous character, the first great woman I ever met. Mexican by birth, married since I was eighteen or nineteen, mother of a boy only a few years younger than me, she lived her own independent life, slipping in and out of her husband's sphere in ways I'm still too naive to admit. . she was understandable. Artistic by nature, she dabbled in painting and writing alternately, displaying talent in both fields but with little discipline or focus to take those talents very far. Her true gift was to encourage others, and she surrounded herself with artists and aspiring artists of all ages, associating with both known and unknown as a colleague and patron. Everywhere she went, she was the center of attention, the beautiful, soulful woman with long black hair, hooded robes, and jangling Mexican jewelry: temperamental, generous, loyal, with a head full of dreams. Somehow I got on her list, and because I was young and just starting out, she included me among her friends who needed nurturing, the poor and needy who needed a helping hand from time to time. There were others, of course, and some of them were invited with me that morning for the same round sum that I had been promised. A hundred dollars seems like a little now, but back then it was more than half a month's rent and she wasn't in a position to turn down an amount of that magnitude. The work would take place in X's apartment, a large and sumptuous establishment in the 16th arrondissement with numerous high-ceilinged rooms. The departure was scheduled for eleven and I arrived half an hour before. I had met each of my colleagues before. One was an American in his early twenties, a cowardly out-of-work pianist who wore women's high heels and had recently spent time in a hospital with a collapsed lung. The other was a Frenchman with decades of film experience, mainly as a second unit director. His credits included the chariot scenes in Ben-Hur and the desert scenes in Lawrence of Arabia, but he's had a rough time since those days of wealth and success: nervous breakdowns, stints in mental hospitals, jobless. He and the piano player were huge remodeling projects for Madame X, and putting me up with them was just one example of how he did it. No matter how good their intentions, they were always hampered by complex and impractical plans, a desire to kill too many birds.

with a single stone. Saving one person is hard enough, but believing that you can save the whole world at once is disappointing. There we were, the most unlikely trio ever assembled, huddled around the huge dining room table in X's huge apartment. The script in question was also gigantic. At almost three hundred pages (three times the size of a normal font), it looked like a big city phone book. Since the Frenchman was the only one with professional knowledge of cinema, the pianist and I relented and let him do the talking. First, he took a blank piece of paper and began to write down the names of the actors. Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr. followed by six or seven others. When he finished, he slapped his hands on the table with satisfaction. “See that piece of paper?” he asked. The pianist and I nodded. "Believe it or not, this little piece of paper is worth ten million dollars." He tapped the list once or twice, then pushed it away. "Ten, maybe twelve million dollars." He spoke with the utmost conviction and showed not the slightest hint of humor or irony. After a brief pause, he opened the manuscript to the first page. "Well," he said, "are we ready to start?" He almost immediately got excited. On the second or third line of the first page, he noticed that the name of one of the characters began with the letter Z. "Aha!" he said. "Z This is very important. Take care my friends. This is going to be a political movie. Mark my words." Z was the title of a Costa-Gavras film that had been a popular hit two years earlier. This movie was definitely about politics, but the script we were asked to summarize was not. It was an action thriller about smuggling. Set primarily in the Sahara desert, it featured trucks, motorcycles, various warring gangs of villains, and a series of spectacular explosions. The only thing that set it apart from thousands of other movies was its length. We had been working for about a minute and a half and the pianist had already lost interest. He was looking at the table and chuckling as the Frenchman continued to ramble, reeling from one absurdity to another. Suddenly, without transition or introduction, the poor fellow began to talk about David Lean and recalled various philosophical discussions he had had with the director fifteen years before, then suddenly the recollection ceased, he got up from the table and walked down the hall. the room, settling in. the pictures on the walls. When he finished the task, he announced that he would go to the kitchen to get a cup of coffee. The pianist shrugged. "I think I'll play the piano," he said, and walked away again. While he was waiting for his return, I started reading the script. I couldn't think of anything else, and by the time I realized none of them were coming back, it had almost worked. Finally, one of Monsieur X's employees entered the room. He was a good-natured young American who was also a special friend of Madame X's (the complexity of the house was unfathomable) and he assigned me to do the job myself, ensuring that if I could do it, I would produce a passable piece. I work at seven o'clock, every three hundred dollar salary would be mine. I told him he would do the best he could. Before I ran out of there and went home with my typewriter, he gave me some excellent advice. "Just think about it," he said. "It's the movies, not Shakespeare. Make it as vulgar as possible." 150

I ended up writing the blurb in the corny, overheated language of upcoming Hollywood attractions. If they wanted vulgarity, I would give them vulgarity. I'd seen enough movie trailers to know what they sounded like, and digging up every hackneyed phrase I could think of, piling one excess upon another, I whittled the story down to seven pages of nonstop, frenetic action, a bloodbath in vibrant Technicolor. prose. I finished writing at half past five. An hour later, a car and driver came downstairs to take my girlfriend and me to the restaurant where Madame and Monsieur X had invited us for dinner. Once we got there, I was to deliver the pages to him personally. Monsieur X was a short, enigmatic man in his late fifties. Of Russian-Jewish origin, he spoke several languages ​​with equal fluency, switching many times from French to English to Spanish in a single conversation, but always with the same heavy accent, as if he wasn't going to end up feeling at home. in any of them. He has been producing movies for over thirty years, supporting good movies and bad movies, big movies and small movies, arthouse movies and junk movies in a career of countless ups and downs. Some made him a lot of money, others put him miserably in debt. I had only seen him a few times before that night, but he always struck me as a dark person, a man who threw things to the edge of the blackboard: cunning, hidden, unrecognizable. Even as he was talking to you, you could feel that he was thinking about something else and making mysterious calculations that might have something to do with what he was saying. It's not that they didn't, but at the same time it would be a mistake to assume that they did. That night at the restaurant, he was visibly nervous when I arrived. A potentially lucrative business hinged on the work of one of his wife's artist friends, and he was far from optimistic. He had barely settled me into my seat when he asked me to see the pages he had written. While the rest of us at the table chatted, Monsieur X sat quietly, hunched over and reading through my stiff, flowery heels. Little by little, a smile formed on his lips. He began to nod to himself as he turned the pages, and once or twice he was heard muttering the word "fine" to himself. However, he did not look up. Only when he got to the last sentence did he finally raise his head and announce the verdict to me. "Excellent," he said. "This is exactly what he wanted." The relief in his voice was almost palpable. Madam X said something about how he had told her and he confessed that he had doubts about him. "I thought it was too literary," he said. "But that's good. That's exactly right." After that, he was very excited. We were in a big, flashy restaurant in Montmartre and immediately he started snapping his fingers at the flower girl. She ran to our table and Monsieur X bought a dozen roses, which he gave to my friend as a gift. gift. an impromptu gift He then he reached into her shirt pocket, took out her checkbook and wrote me a check for three hundred dollars. It was the first check I had seen from a Swiss bank. I was glad I delivered. the merchandise under pressure, glad to have won my three hundred dollars, glad to have been dragged into the absurd events of the day, but when we left the restaurant I went back to my apartment on rue Jacques Mawas. I assumed the story was It never occurred to me that Monsieur X 151

He has other plans for me. One afternoon the following week, however, as I was sitting at my desk working on a poem, I was interrupted by a loud knock at the door. He was one of the Monsieur X' Gofers, an elderly gentleman whom I had seen hanging around the house on my visits but never had the pleasure of speaking to him. He wasted no time in going straight to the point. Are you Paulo Auster? he asked him. When I told him it was me, he informed me that Mr. X wanted to see me. Yeah? I asked. Right now, he said. There's a taxi waiting downstairs. It was a bit like being arrested by the secret police. I think I could have declined the invitation, but the atmosphere of night and fog intrigued me and I decided to accompany them to see what would happen. In the taxi, I asked my partner why he was called that, but the old man just shrugged. Monsieur X told him to take me back home and he did. His job was to obey orders, not ask questions. So I was left in the dark, and when I personally thought about the question, the only answer I could come up with was that Mr. X was no longer satisfied with the work I had done for him. When I entered his apartment, I expected him to ask me for the money. He was wearing a patterned suit jacket with satin lapels, and when I walked into the room where I was supposed to be waiting for him, I noticed him rubbing his hands together. I had no idea what that gesture meant. “Last week,” he said, “you did good deeds for me. Now I want to close deals." That explained his hands. It was the gesture of a man out to do business, and suddenly, from the wry, torn manuscript I mended for him the other day, it looked like he was about to do business with Monsieur X. He immediately had at least two jobs. me and, if all went well, others would follow. I needed the money and I took it, but with some caution. I entered a realm I didn't understand, and if I didn't keep my sanity, I realized that strange things could be on my way. I don't know how or why I knew this, but I did. When Monsieur X started talking about casting me in one of his upcoming films, a daring adventure story that would require fencing and riding lessons, I balked. "Let's see," I said. "The fact is that I'm not very interested in acting." Apparently, the man on the yacht enjoyed my blurb as much as Monsieur X. Now, wanting to take things to the next level, he provided a French-to-French translation of the English script in order. That was the first task. The second job was a little less cut and dry. Madame X is working on a play, Monsieur X tells me, and has agreed to finance a production at the Round House Theater in London next season. The play was about Quetzalcoatl, the mythical feathered serpent, and since much of it was written in verse, and since many of those verses were written in Spanish, I wanted me to put it in English and make sure the drama was playable. . Fine, I said, and so off we went. I did both jobs, everyone was happy, and two or three months later, Madame X performed the play in London. It was a vain production, of course, but the reviews were good and the play was generally well received. A British publisher attended one of the performances and was so impressed with what he saw that he suggested that Madame X adapt the play into a prose narrative that he would publish as a book. 152

This was the point where things got complicated between Monsieur X and me. Madame X did not have the courage to write the book herself and he believed that I was the only person on earth who could help her. He could have accepted the job under other circumstances, but since he also wanted me to go to Mexico to do the job, I told him he wasn't interested. I never understood why the book had to be written in Mexico. Search, local color, something like that, I'm not sure. I liked Madame X, but dating her indefinitely didn't seem like a good idea. I didn't even have to think about Monsieur X's offer. I immediately declined, thinking that would settle the matter once and for all. The facts have shown me otherwise. True indifference has power, I learned, and my refusal to take the job infuriated Monsieur X and him. He wasn't used to people saying no to him and he was determined to change my mind. In the months that followed, he launched an all-out campaign to erode my resistance, surrounding me with letters, telegrams, and promises of ever-increasing sums of money. In the end, I reluctantly gave up. As with every other bad decision I've made in my life, I acted against my better judgment and allowed secondary considerations to cloud the clarity of my instincts. What mattered in this case was money. I was having a hard time, falling desperately behind in my fight to stay solvent, and Monsieur X's offer had become so great, it would solve so many of my problems at once, that I convinced myself to embrace the wisdom of compromise. . I thought it was smart. After stepping off my pedestal, I set my terms in the harshest terms imaginable. I was going to Mexico for exactly one month, I told him, no more, no less, and I wanted the full payment in cash before I left Paris. It was my first time negotiating anything, but I was determined to protect myself and refused to back down on any of these points. Monsieur X wasn't thrilled with my stubbornness, but he understood that he had gone as far as I could and gave in to my demands. The same day that I left for Mexico, I deposited $2,500 into my bank account. Whatever happens in the next month, at least he wouldn't be broke when he got back. I expected something to go wrong, but not as badly as they did. Without repeating the whole complicated story (the man who threatened to kill me, the schizophrenic girl who thought I was a Hindu god, the drunken, suicidal misery that permeated every house I entered), the thirty days I spent in Mexico, some one of the worst and most disturbing days of my life. Madam X had been there for a few weeks when I arrived and I quickly realized that she was in no condition to work on the book. Her boyfriend had just left her and this love drama plunged her into deep despair. Not that he blamed her for her feelings, but she was so distraught, so distracted by her pain, that the book was the last thing on her mind. What should she have done? I tried to talk her down, I tried to get her to sit down with me and discuss the project, but she just wasn't interested. Every time we tried, the conversation quickly drifted to other topics. She kept breaking down and crying. We are still trapped. After several such attempts, I understood that the only reason she was upset was because of me. I knew they were paying me to help her and I didn't want to let myself down, I didn't want to admit that she had come here for nothing. That was the essential flaw in the arrangement. Assuming that a book can be written by a non-writer is a depressing proposition in itself, but agreeing with it 153

this is possible, and as long as whoever wants to write the book has someone else to help with the writing, maybe with a lot of work and dedication the two of you will come to an acceptable conclusion. On the other hand, if the non-writer doesn't want to write a book, what good is any other? That was the dilemma I found myself in. He was willing to help Madame X write her book, but he couldn't help her unless she wanted to write it, and if he didn't, he had no choice but to sit and wait for her to do it. So I sat and waited in the small town of Tepotzolán, hoping that Madame X would wake up one morning and discover that she had a new outlook on life. Living with the sister of Madame X (whose unhappy marriage with an American was dying), she spent my days walking unheedingly through the populated city, stepping on the ridges, swatting flies off their faces and oiling treats to drink a beer with the drunken residents to drink. . My room was in a plastered annex on her brother's property, and I slept under a muslin mosquito net to protect me from tarantulas and mosquitoes. The crazy woman kept turning up with one of her friends, a Central American Hare Krishna with a shaved head and an orange robe, and boredom washed over me like a tropical disease. I wrote a short poem or two, but otherwise languished, unable to think, gripped by a persistent and indescribable fear. The news from abroad was also bad. An earthquake killed thousands of people in Nicaragua, and my favorite baseball player, Roberto Clemente, the most elegant and electrifying artist of his generation, crashed into a small plane that was trying to deliver emergency aid to the victims. If anything pleasant emerges from the miasma and drowsiness of this month, it's the hours I spent in Cuernavaca, the glittering little town Malcolm Lowry wrote about in Under the Volcano. There I was accidentally introduced to a man who was described to me as the last living descendant of Moctezuma. He was a tall, handsome gentleman of about sixty, with impeccable manners and wearing a silk scarf around his neck. When I finally got back to Paris, Monsieur X arranged to meet me in a hotel lobby on the Champs Elysées. Not the Hôtel Georges V, but another one just opposite. I don't remember why he chose this place, but I think he had something to do with a date he made there before mine, simply for convenience. In any case, we don't talk in the hotel. As soon as I showed up, he walked me out and pointed to his car, which was waiting for us outside the driveway. It was a beige Jaguar with leather upholstery and the man behind the wheel was wearing a white shirt. "We talked inside," said Monsieur X. "He's more private." We sat in the back seat, the driver started the engine, and the car stopped at the curb. "Just drive," Monsieur X told the driver. I suddenly felt like I had landed in a gangster movie. Most of the story was already known, but he wanted me to give him the full account, an autopsy of the failure. I did my best to describe what had happened and expressed on more than one occasion how sorry I was that things didn't work out, but since Madame X's heart was no longer in the book, I said there wasn't much I could do to motivate her. she. . Monsieur X seemed to take it all in stride. From what I could tell, he wasn't angry or particularly disappointed. However, just when he thought the interview was over, he brought up the subject of my payment. When he didn't get anything, he said it was only fair that he pay him back, right? No, I said, that didn't feel right at all. A deal is a deal and I went to Mexico in good faith and turned 154

my part of the deal No one ever suggested that I write the book for Madam X. I was supposed to write with her, and if she didn't want to do the job, it wasn't my job to make her do it. That's exactly why I asked for the money in advance. I was afraid something like this would happen, and I needed to know that no matter how things turned out, I would be paid for my time. He saw the logic of my reasoning, but that didn't mean he was ready to back down. All right, she said, keep the money, but if you want to keep working for me, you'll have to do a few more jobs to pay off. In other words, instead of asking me to pay him back in cash, he wanted me to pay him back at work. I told him that was not acceptable. I told him that our account was covered, that I didn't owe him anything, and that if he wanted to hire me for other services, he would have to pay me for those services. Needless to say, this was not acceptable to him. I thought you wanted a part in the movie, she said. I never said that, I replied. Because if you do, he continued, we have to clear that up first. Again I told him that there was nothing to clarify. Very well, he said, if that's what you think, then we have nothing more to say to each other. And with that comment he walked away from me and told the driver to stop the car. By then, we had been driving for about half an hour, slowly wandering towards the outer limits of Paris, and the area where the car stopped was unfamiliar to me. It was a cold January night and I had no idea where he was, but the call ended and I had no choice but to say goodbye to him and get out of the car. If I remember correctly, we didn't even shake hands. I went out to the sidewalk, closed the door and the car drove away. And that was the end of my film career. * I stayed in France for another eighteen months, half in Paris and half in Provence, where my girlfriend and I worked as managers on a farm in the north of the Var. When I returned to New York, I had less than ten dollars in my pocket and no concrete plans for the future. I was 27 years old with nothing to produce but a book of poetry and a handful of obscure literary essays, and I was no closer to solving the money problem than I had been before I left the United States. To further complicate matters, my girlfriend and I decided to get married. It was an impulsive move, but with so much about to change, we thought why not change everything at once? I immediately started looking for a job. I made calls, I followed leads, I went to interviews, I explored every option I could. I tried to play it safe, and after all the ups and downs I had been through, all the hairpin turns and desperate bottlenecks that had trapped me over the years, I was determined not to repeat my old mistakes. I had learned my lesson, I told myself, and this time I would take care of business. But I didn't and I didn't. Despite all my lofty intentions, I turned out to be incorrigible. It's not that I couldn't find a job, but instead of taking the full-time position I was offered (as a junior editor at a major publisher), I decided to take a part-time job for half the salary. I had sworn to swallow my medicine, but as soon as the spoon came towards me, I closed my mouth. Until it happened, I had no idea that I was 155 years old.

I would fight like that, I have no idea how stubbornly I would fight. Against all odds, I still didn't seem to have given up the vain and foolish hope of surviving on my own terms. A part-time job seemed like a good solution, but even that wasn't enough. I wanted complete independence, so when a freelance translation job finally came along, I quit my job and started my own business again. From start to finish, the experiment lasted just seven months. As brief as that period was, it was the only time in my adult life that I ever earned a regular paycheck. In all respects the work I found was excellent. My boss was Arthur Cohen, a man with lots of interests, lots of money, and a world-class mind. A writer of novels and essays, a former editorial director, and avid art collector, he had recently started a small business to burn off his excess energy. Part workhorse, part serious business venture, Ex Libris was a rare book company that specialized in publishing on 20th-century art. Not books about art, but manifestations of art itself: magazines of the Dada movement, for example, or books designed by members of the Bauhaus, or photographs by Stieglitz, or an edition of Ovid's Metamorphoses illustrated by Picasso. As advertised on the back of each Ex Libris catalogue: “Books and magazines in original editions documenting 20th-century art: Futurism, Cubism, Dada, Bauhaus and Constructivism, De Stijl, Surrealism, Expressionism, Post-War art, as well as such as architecture, typography, photography and design.” Arthur was starting the operation when he hired me as his sole employee. My main job was to help him write the Ex Libris catalogs, which came out twice a year and were just over a hundred pages long. Other duties included writing letters, preparing catalogs for mass mailings, fulfilling orders, and preparing tuna fish sandwiches for lunch. He would spend mornings at home working alone, and at noon he would walk down the stairs to Riverside Drive and catch the number 4 bus to the office. He had rented an apartment in a brownstone on East 69th Street to store Ex Libris holdings, and the two rooms were filled with thousands of books, magazines, and printouts. Stacked on tables, installed on shelves, stacked in cabinets, these precious items filled the entire room. I spent four or five hours there every afternoon and it was a bit like working in a museum, a little sanctuary for the avant-garde. Arthur worked in one room and I in the other, each of us seated at a desk while we perused the items for sale and meticulously prepared our catalog entries on large five-by-seven index cards. Everything related to French and English was given to me; Arthur took care of the German and Russian materials. Typography, design and architecture were his domains; I was responsible for everything literary. There was a certain amount of dusty precision to the work (measuring books, checking for errors, providing provenance where necessary), but many of the elements were quite exciting to hold, and Arthur even gave me free rein to give my opinion from time to time. when. he shot humor when he felt like it. Some examples from the second catalog should give an idea of ​​the activity: 233. DUCHAMP, M. & HALBERSTADT, V. L'Opposition et les cases conjuguées sont réconciliées par M. Duchamp et V. Halberstadt. Editions of L'Echiquier. Street. Germain-en-Laye and Brussels, 1932. Parallel text in German and English on the left-hand pages. 112 pages numbered twice, with 2-color illustrations. 9 5/8×11″. Form 156

paper covers The famous book on chess written and drawn by Duchamp. (Black, p. 589). Despite being a serious text devoted to a real chess problem, it remains so obscure as to be practically worthless. Schwarz quotes Duchamp as saying: “The endings around which this fact revolves are of no interest to any chess player; and that's the funniest part. Only three or four people in the world are interested in this, and they are the ones who have tried the same research approaches that Halberstadt and I have since we wrote the book together. Chess champions never read this book because the problem it poses never comes up more than once in a lifetime. These are possible final problems, but they are so rare that they are almost utopian” (p. 63). $1,000.00 394. (STEIN, GERTRUDE). Testimony: Against Gertrude Stein. Texts by Georges Braque, Eugene Jolas, Maria Jolas, Henri Matisse, André Salmon, Tristan Tzara. Serve Press. The Hague, February 1935. (Transition Booklet No. 1; Supplement to Transition 1934-1935; No. 23). 16 pp. 5 11/16 × 8 7/8″. Printed paper envelopes. stapling Given the great Stone revival of the 1970s, there is no denying the enduring value of this booklet. It serves as an antidote to literary self-interest and is itself an important document in the history of literature and art. Motivated by the factual inaccuracies and distortions in the Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, Transition has created this forum to allow some of the characters featured in Miss Stein's book to refute her description of them. The verdict appears to be unanimous. Matisse: "In short, it is more like a harlequin costume, the individual parts of which, more or less invented by her, were tastelessly sewn together and unrelated to reality." Eugene Jolas: "Alice B Toklas's autobiography could, with its bright, hollow bohemian style and egocentric distortions of it, one day become a symbol of the decline that hangs over contemporary literature." Braque: "Miss Stein understood nothing of what was going on around her." Tzara: "Underneath the 'baby' style, which is quite comfortable when it comes to laughing at the cracks of envy, it is easy to discern a mind so crude, accustomed to the stratagems of the lowest literary prostitution, that I don't find it necessary insist on the existence of a clinical case of megalomania." Salmon: "And what a mess! What a misunderstanding of the time! Fortunately there are others who have described it better." Finally, the work of Maria Jolas is particularly notable for its detailed description of the early days of the Transition This booklet was not originally available separately $95.00 437 GAUGUIN, PAUL No No Travel to Tahiti Les Editions G. Crès & Cie. Paris, 1924. 154 p. ., illustrated with 22 woodcuts after Paul Gauguin by Daniel de Monfreid. 5 3/4 × 7 15/16". Illustrated paper covers on paper. This is the first definitive edition, including introductory material and poems by Charles Morice. Chronicling Gauguin's First Two Years in Tahiti, notable not only for its significant biographical revelations about him, but also for its profound anthropological approach to a foreign culture. Gauguin follows Baudelaire's persuasive maxim, "Dites, qu 'avez vous vu?", and the result is this visual marvel. : a Frenchman at the height of

Colonialism, traveling to an "underdeveloped country" not to conquer or to transform, but to learn. This experience is the central event in Gauguin's life, both as an artist and as a person. Also: Noa Noa, translated into English by O.F. It is. Nicholas L. Brown. New York, 1920. (Fifth printing; first printing 1919). 148 pp. + 10 reproductions of Gauguin. 5 5/16 × 7 13/16″. Paper and cloth on boards. (Some minor staining in French edition; slight wear to spine in French and English editions.) $65.00 509. RAY, MAN. Mister. and Mrs. Woodcutter. United Edition. No Place, 1970. Unnumbered pages; with 27 original photographs and 1 engraving signed and numbered by Man Ray. 10 1/2 × 11 7/8″. Leather-bound cardboard pages edged with gilt; Box inlaid with leather and marble. One of the strangest of Man Ray's many strange jobs. The Lord. imaginable poses. In a way, this book is best described as a sexual guide for the people of the forest. From an edition of only 50, this is number 31, signed by Man Ray. All photographs are original by the artist and bear his signature. An original, numbered and signed engraving that Man Ray made especially for this edition is inserted. $2,100.00 Arthur and I got along well, without stress or conflict, and we worked together in a friendly and ongoing environment. If I had been a slightly different person, I could have kept this job for years, but after a few months, when I saw that I wasn't, I got bored and restless. I enjoyed perusing the material I had to write about, but I did not have a collector's mind and could never feel the proper admiration or reverence for the things we sold. For example, if you sit down to write about the catalog that Marcel Duchamp designed for the 1947 Surrealist exhibition in Paris, the one with the rubber breast on the cover, the famous fake nude, the one with the warning "Prière de Toucher" ("Touch") - and finds this catalogue, protected by several layers of bubble wrap, which was wrapped in heavy brown paper, which was placed in a plastic bag, and can't help but pause. for the moment and wondering if Prière de toucher is not wasting time. Duchamp's imperative is an obvious play on signs seen all over France: Prière de ne pas toucher (Do not touch). He turns the ad over and asks us to pet the thing he made. And what could be better than that smooth, perfectly shaped chest? Don't worship them, he says, don't take them seriously, don't worship that frivolous activity we call art. 27 years later, the warning is reversed again. The bare chest was covered. The thing to be touched becomes inviolable. The prank became a very serious matter, and once again, money has the last word. This is not to criticize Arthur. No one loved these things more than he did, and if the catalogs we sent out to potential customers were vehicles of commerce, they were also works of science, rigorous documents in their own right. The difference between us was not that I understood the problems better than he (actually, I was 158

quite the opposite), but that he was a businessman and I was not, which explained why he was the boss and I only made a few dollars an hour. Arthur liked making a profit, he liked the pressure and power of running the business and leading it to success, and while he was also a man of great sophistication and sophistication, a true intellectual, working in and for the world of lived ideas , there was no denying that he was a shrewd businessman. Apparently, a spiritual life was not incompatible with the pursuit of money. I understood myself well enough to know that such a thing was not possible for me, but now I saw that it was possible for others. Some people didn't have to choose. They did not need to divide the world into two separate camps. In fact, you could live in both places at the same time. A few weeks after I started working for him, Arthur referred me to a friend who was looking for a short-term job. Arthur knew I could use the extra money and I cite this small favor as an example of how well he treated me. The fact that the friend is Jerzy Kosinski and I have to edit the manuscript of Kosinski's latest book at work makes the episode a bit more conversation-worthy. Intense controversy has surrounded Kosinksi in recent years, and since much of it stemmed from the novel he was working on (Cockpit), I feel I must add my testimony to the tally. As Arthur explained to me, the task was simply to check the manuscript and make sure the English was correct. Since English was not Kosinski's first language, it seemed reasonable to me that he proofread the prose before sending the book to the publisher. What I didn't know was that other people had worked on the manuscript before me: three or four other people, depending on which account you read. Kosinski never mentioned this earlier help to me, but the problems the book still had weren't because the English didn't sound like English. The flaws were more fundamental than that, more in the book itself than in the way the story was told. I corrected a few sentences here, changed a few words there, but the novel was essentially complete when the manuscript was delivered to me. On my own, I could have finished the job in a day or two, but since Kosinski didn't want to take the manuscript out of the house, I had to go to his apartment on West Fifty-seventh Street to finish the job. and since he constantly buzzed around me, interrupting me every twenty minutes with stories, anecdotes, and nervous gossip, the job dragged on for seven days. I don't know why, but Kosinski seemed terribly eager to impress me, and the truth is that he did. He was so nervous, so strange and manic in his behavior, that I couldn't help but be impressed. What made these interruptions doubly strange and bewildering was the fact that almost every story he told me was also in the book he had written, the same novel that was spread out before me when he came into the room to talk. . How he planned his escape from Poland, for example. Or how he was wandering around Times Square at two in the morning disguised as a Puerto Rican undercover cop. Or how he would occasionally turn up at expensive restaurants in a fake military uniform (made for him by his tailor and not representing any identifiable rank, country, or branch of service), but because that uniform looked good, and because it came with countless medals and studs. with stars. , the reverent maitre d' assigned her to the best table in the house, no reservation, no tip, not even a glance. The book was supposed to be fiction, but when Kosinski told me these stories, he presented them as facts, real events from his life. Did he know the difference? I'm not sure, I can't even begin to guess, but 159

If I had to answer, I would say yes. He seemed too smart, too intelligent, aware of himself and his effect on others, not to like the mess he was making. The common theme in the stories, after all, was deception, deceiving people, and from the way he laughed when he told them this, as if he were bragging, as if revealing his own cynicism, I got the feeling that maybe it was just joking who flattered me with flattery to test the limits of my credulity. Possibly. And maybe not. All I know for sure is that Kosinski was a man of labyrinthine complexity. When rumors circulated about him in the mid-1980s and magazine articles alleging plagiarism, ghostwriting, and false claims about his background surfaced, I was not surprised. Years later, when he took his own life by suffocating with a plastic bag, it was me. He died in the same apartment where I worked for him in 1974, in the same bathroom where I washed my hands and used the toilet. I only have to think about it for a moment and I can see everything. For the rest, my months in Ex Libris passed without problems. Not much happened, and since most business was done by mail, it was rare for someone to enter the apartment and disturb our work. However, later that afternoon, while Arthur was running an errand, John Lennon knocked on the door and asked to see the photos of Man Ray. "Hello," he said, holding out his hand, "I'm John." "Hello," I said, taking my hand and squeezing it tightly, "it's Paul." From the cabinets, Lennon stopped in front of the Robert Motherwell canvas hanging on the wall next to Arthur's desk. There wasn't much to say about the image—two straight black lines on a broad orange background—and after studying it for a few moments, he turned to me and said, "Seems like a lot of work, huh?" in the art world, I found it refreshing to hear him say that. Arthur and I parted on good terms, with no hard feelings on either of us. I made it a point to find a replacement for myself before I left, and that made my departure relatively easy and painless. We kept in touch for a while, calling each other from time to time to update, but eventually we lost touch and when Arthur died of leukemia a few years ago, I couldn't even remember the last time I was with him. Then came Kosinski's suicide. Add that to the assassination of John Lennon over a decade ago, and almost everyone connected to the months I spent in that office is gone. Even Arthur's friend Robert Motherwell, the artist responsible for the bad painting he caused. Lennon's comment is no longer with us. There comes a certain point in your life when you discover that you spend your days with the dead as well as the living. * The next two years were very busy. Between March 1975, when I stopped working at Ex Libris, and June 1977, when my son was born, I published two more books of poetry, wrote several one-act plays, published fifteen or twenty critical pieces, and translated half a dozen books. . . with my wife Lidia Davis. These translations were our main source of income and we worked together as a team, 160

earn so many dollars per thousand words and take any job offered to us. With the exception of one book by Sartre (Life/Situations, a collection of essays and interviews), the books we were given by publishers were dull, undemanding works, ranging in quality from not very good to downright poor. Money was bad, too, and though our rate went up from book to book, when broken down by the hour, we were only a penny or two above minimum wage. The key was to work fast, get the translations done as fast as possible and never lose your breath. There are certainly more inspiring ways to earn a living, but Lydia and I approach these jobs with great discipline. A publisher gave us a book, we split the job in two (the book was literally torn in half when we only had one copy) and set a daily quota. Nothing was allowed to disturb this number. There were so many pages to do every day, and every day, whether we wanted to or not, we would sit down and do them. Turning burgers would have been just as lucrative, but at least we were free, or at least we thought we were free, and I've never regretted quitting my job. For better or for worse, I decided to live like this. Between translating for money and writing for myself, there was hardly a time during those years when I wasn't at my desk, putting words to paper. I didn't write reviews for money, but I did get paid for most of the articles I published, and that helped supplement my income to some extent. Still, it was a struggle to survive, and from month to month we were nothing more than a brief dry spell of true poverty. Then, in the fall of 1975, after only six months of walking a tightrope together, my luck changed. I received a $5,000 grant from the Ingram Merrill Foundation, and for a brief period of time, the worst of the pressure was lifted. The money was so unexpected, so tremendous in its impact, that I felt as if an angel had fallen from heaven and kissed my forehead. John Bernard Myers was primarily responsible for this stroke of luck. John did not give me the money out of his own pocket, but he was the one who told me about the foundation and encouraged me to apply for the scholarship. The real benefactor, of course, was the poet James Merrill. In the most discreet and unobtrusive way, he shared his family's wealth with other writers and artists for many years, hiding behind his middle name to hide his incredible generosity. A committee met every six months to review new entries and award prizes. John was the secretary of the committee and although he did not participate in the selection of the recipients, he did participate in the meetings and knew what the members thought. Nothing is certain, he said, but I suspected they would be inclined to support my work. So I made a selection of my poems and sent them. At the next mid-year meeting, John's hunch proved correct. I don't think I've ever met a funnier or more exuberant person than John. When I met him in late 1974, he had been an integral part of the New York scene for the last thirty years, most notably as director of the Tibor de Nagy Gallery in the 1950s, but also as co-founder of Artists. Theater. , editor of several short-lived literary magazines, and a versatile advocate and entrepreneur of young talent. John was the first to give major shows for artists such as the Red Grooms, Larry Rivers, Helen Frankenthaler, and Fairfield Porter, and published early books by Frank O'Hara, John Ashbery, and other New York School poets. The pieces he produced were collaborations between many of these poets and painters-O'Hara and Rivers, for example, or James Schuyler and 161

Elaine de Kooning, who writes the lyrics and the other designs the sets. The Artists Theater didn't do much at the box office, but John and his partner kept it going for years, and before there was Off Broadway, it was pretty much the only experimental theater in New York. What sets John apart from all the other retailers, publishers, and producers I know is that he wasn't worried about money. In truth, he probably wasn't much of a businessman, but he did have a genuine passion for art in all its forms, strict standards, an open mind and an immense hunger for different, challenging and new work. He was a tall man of six, three or six and four, and the physicality of him always made me think of John Wayne. But this John, though he was proudly and unabashedly homosexual, while gleefully mocking himself with all sorts of meek gestures and outlandish poses, while amusing himself with silly jokes and ridiculous songs, and a whole repertoire of childish humor was nothing like with this other Juan. It's not a tough guy for him. This John was full of enthusiasm and benevolence, a man who had dedicated his life to good things and had his heart on his sleeve.* When I met him, he was starting a new magazine, “in words and pictures,” called Parenthesis. I don't remember who suggested I send him my work, but I did, and John has made sure to run something of mine in almost every issue ever since. Later, when he dissolved the magazine and began publishing books, the first title on the list was a collection of my poems. John's belief in my work was absolute and he supported me at a time when few people knew he was alive. For example, in the endnotes to Parenthèse 4, hidden among the dry accounts of the contributors' past achievements, he himself declared: "Paul Auster caused a stir in the literary world with his brilliant analysis of the work of Laura Riding Jackson. , for his Essays on Painting French Women and their Poetry". It didn't matter that that statement wasn't true, that John was the only one paying attention. Someone had my back, and in those early days of struggle and uncertainty, when not much was happening, that encouragement made all the difference. John was the first person to stand up for me, and I've never stopped being grateful to him for that. When the bag arrived, Lydia and I got back on the road. We sublet our apartment. and we headed to the Laurentian Mountains in Quebec, hid out at a painter friend's house for a few months while he was away, then went back to New York for a week or two and then packed up again and took a road trip . train to San Francisco. We eventually settled in Berkeley, renting a small, functional apartment not far from the university, and lived there for six months. We weren't in a position to stop translating, but now the pace was less hectic and that allowed me to spend more time on my own work. I continued to write poetry, but new impulses and ideas also arose, and soon I was writing a play. That led to another work, which led to another work, and when I got back to New York that fall, I showed them to John. I didn't know what to make of what he had written. The pieces appeared unexpectedly and the results were very different from anything he had done before. When John told me that he liked him, I felt that he might have taken a step in the right direction. The last thing on his mind was to do anything with them in a practical sense. I hadn't thought of running them, I hadn't thought of publishing them. For me, they were little more than parsimonious, minimalist exercises, a first stab at something that may or may not become a reality. When Juan said that 162

I wanted to take the longer piece and direct it, it totally baffled me. No one was to blame for what happened. John chimed in with his usual enthusiasm and energy, but things kept going wrong, and after a while it seemed like we weren't putting on a play, but trying to demonstrate the indestructible power of Murphy's Law. A director and three actors were found, and a reading was to be held soon after to mobilize financial support for the production. At least that was the plan. It didn't help that the actors were young and inexperienced and not up to the task of delivering their lines with genuine conviction or emotion, but worse was the audience that came to hear them deliver those lines. John had invited a dozen of his wealthiest art-collector friends, and none of these potential patrons were under sixty or had the slightest interest in the theater. He hoped the play would seduce them, subdue their hearts and minds with such overwhelming finality that they'd have no choice but to reach into their pockets and pull out their checkbooks. The event was held in a posh apartment on the Upper East Side and my job was to charm these wealthy guests, smile and chat and reassure them that they were putting their money on the right horse. The problem was that he had no talent for smiling and talking. I arrived in a state of extreme tension, nervous to the point of nausea, and quickly downed two bourbons to ease the knot in my stomach. The alcohol had the exact opposite effect, and when the reading began I was in the throes of a mind-blowing, cerebral seizure that became more and more excruciating as the night wore on. The play progressed, and from start to finish the rich sat in silence, utterly impassive. The lines I thought were funny didn't elicit the slightest laugh. They were bored with the jokes, oblivious to the pathos, bewildered by the whole thing. In the end, after some grim and shallow applause, all I could think of was how to get out of there and hide. My head cracked in pain. I felt stabbed and humiliated, unable to speak, but I couldn't let John down, so for the next half hour I listened to him talk about the play to his confused friends, doing my best not to pass out on the carpet. John acted bravely, but every time he asked me for help, all he could do was look at my shoes and mutter a short, unintelligible comment. Eventually, by the way, I blurted out a lame apology and left. A lesser man would have given up after such a defeat, but John was not intimidated. Not a penny of help came out of that horrible night, but he went ahead and began cobbled together a new plan, squandering his dream of theatrical fame in favor of a more humble and practical approach. If we couldn't afford a proper theater, he said, we'd settle for something else. The play was all that mattered, and even if the edition was limited to a single invitation-only performance, there would be a performance of my play. If not for me, he said, and if not for him, at least for his friend Herbert Machiz, who died that summer. Herbert staged the plays at the old Artists Theater and, having been a partner of John's for twenty-five years, John was determined to revitalize the theater in Herbert's memory, if only for one night. A man who owned a restoration studio on East Sixty-ninth Street offered John the use of his premises. It turns out to be just a block from the Ex Libris office, an interesting if minor coincidence, but more importantly, the garage where John's friend now worked out of Mark Rothko's studio in his previous incarnation. Rothko had committed suicide there in 1970, and now, less than seven years old, 163

later my work would be represented in the same room. I don't want to sound overly superstitious, but considering how things turned out, it seems like we were cursed because no matter what any of us did or didn't do, the project was doomed. Preparations began. The director and the three actors worked hard and little by little the performances improved. I wouldn't go so far as to call them good, but at least they weren't an embarrassment anymore. One of the actors stood out from the rest, and as rehearsals progressed, I began to pin my hopes on him, praying that his wit and daring would bring the production to a reasonably competent level. A date for the presentation was set in early March, invitations were sent out and arrangements were made for 150 folding chairs to be delivered to the warehouse. I should have known better, but I was actually starting to get optimistic. Then, just a few days before the big night, the good actor came down with pneumonia, and without a cast replacement (how could he?), it looked like the show would have to be cancelled. But the actor, who put weeks of time and effort into rehearsals, wasn't about to give up. Despite the fever, despite coughing up blood just hours before the game was to begin, he scrambled out of bed, refilled his system of antibiotics, and staggered in on time. It was the noblest of noble gestures, the brave act of a born soldier, and I was impressed by his courage-no, more than impressed: full of admiration-but the sad truth was that he was in no condition to do what he wanted. wanted to. he intended to. Everything that shone in rehearsals suddenly lost its shine on him. The acting was flat, the timing was wrong, scene after scene flopped. I stood at the back of the room and watched, helpless to do anything. I watched my little piece die in front of a hundred and fifty people and I couldn't lift a finger to stop it. Before I put the whole miserable experience behind me, I sat down and reviewed the piece. The performances were only part of the problem, and I had no intention of shifting responsibility for what happened onto the director or the actors. The piece was very long, I noted, very jagged and fuzzy, and required radical surgery to fix. I started cutting and trimming, removing anything that looked flimsy or superfluous, and when I was done, half the piece was gone, one of the characters was removed, and the title changed. I typed up this new version, now called Laurel and Hardy Go to Heaven, put it in a folder with the other two tracks I had written (Blackouts and Hide and Seek) and put the folder in my desk drawer. My plan was to keep it there and never look in the drawer again. * Three months after the game failed, my son was born. Seeing Daniel come into the world was for me a moment of supreme happiness, an event of such magnitude that even when I collapsed and cried when I saw his little body and held it in my arms for the first time, I understood that the world had changed, that it had happened. from one state of being to another. Parenthood was the dividing line, the great wall between adolescence and adulthood, and now I was on the other side forever. I was happy to be there. Emotionally, spiritually, and even physically, he didn't want to be anywhere else and was fully prepared to accept the demands of life in this new place. However, financially he was not prepared for anything. you 164

I paid the toll to climb that wall and when I got to the other side my pockets were almost empty. Lydia and I had already moved from New York to a house about two hours from the Hudson River, and that's when the hard times finally began. The storm lasted eighteen months, and when the wind died down enough for me to climb out of my hole and inspect the damage, I saw that everything was gone. The entire landscape was leveled. Moving out of town was the first step in a long series of misjudgments. We thought that we could live with less money in the country, but the fact is that we could not. Car bills, heating bills, home repairs, and pediatrician bills ate up all the benefits we could have hoped for, and soon we were working so hard to make ends meet that there was no time for anything else. In the past, I could always set aside a few hours a day to develop my poetry and writing projects after spending the first part of the day working for money. Now that our need for money increased, I had less time for my own work. I started losing a day, then two days, then a week, and after a while I lost my writing groove. When I had some time to myself, I was too tense to write very well. Months passed and every sheet of paper that the pen touched ended up in the trash. At the end of 1977 I felt trapped and was desperately searching for a solution. I spent my whole life avoiding the subject of money and now all of a sudden I couldn't think of anything else. I dreamed of miraculous reversals, millions of lotteries falling from the sky, outrageous get-rich-quick schemes. Even the matchbox advertisements were beginning to exert a certain fascination. "Earn money growing worms in your basement." Now that I've lived in a house with a basement, don't think I wasn't tempted. My old way of doing things had ended in disaster, and I was ripe for new ideas, a new way of approaching the dilemma that had dogged me all along: how to balance the needs of the body with the needs of the soul. The terms of the equation remained the same: time on one side, money on the other. I bet I could do both, but after years of trying to feed first one mouth, then two mouths, then three mouths, I finally lost. It wasn't hard to understand why. I had put too much of myself into work to earn time and too little into work to earn money, with the result that now I had nothing. At the beginning of December, a friend from the city came to visit us for a few days. We had known each other since college, and he, too, had become a struggling writer, another Columbia grad with no weed to piss on. In fact, he had it even harder than me. Most of his work was unpublished and he made a living hopping from one miserable temp job to another, aimlessly traveling across the country in search of weird and decadent adventures. He had recently landed in New York and was working at a toy store somewhere in Manhattan, part of the brigade of surplus helpers who work behind the counters during the holiday shopping season. I picked him up at the train station and during the half hour ride home we talked mostly about toys and games, the things he sold in the shop. For reasons that still baffle me, this conversation cleared a small pebble that was stuck somewhere in my subconscious, an obstacle that was lying over a small hole in memory, and now that I am looking at that hole again, I have found something that had . He's been missing for a while, almost twenty years. When I was ten or twelve years old, I invented a game. With a normal deck of 52 cards, I had 165 down

in my bed one afternoon, wondering how I could play baseball with them. As I continued to talk to my friend in the car, the game came back to me. I remembered everything: the basic principles, the rules, the entire structure to the smallest detail. Under normal circumstances, he probably would have forgotten again. But I was a desperate man, a man with my back against the wall, and I knew that if I didn't think of something fast, the firing squad would shower my body with bullets. A stroke of luck was the only way out of my situation. If he could find a good amount of money, the nightmare would suddenly stop. I could bribe the soldiers, leave the prison yard, and go home to be a writer again. When translating books and writing magazine articles was no longer enough, I owed it to myself and my family to try something else. Well, people bought games, right? What if I could turn my old baseball game into something good, something really good, and sell it? Maybe I was lucky and found my bag full of gold. It almost sounds like a joke now, but he was serious. I knew my chances were slim to none, but once the idea took hold, I couldn't break free. Crazier things happened, I told myself, and if I wasn't willing to put in a little time and effort to try, what a fucking coward was I? The game of my childhood was organized around a few simple operations. The pitcher turned the cards over: any red card from ace to 10 was a strike; Any black card from ace to 10 was a ball. If a face card was turned over, it meant the batter swung. The explorer then turned over a card. Everything from the ace to the 9 was an out, and each out corresponded to the defensive player's position numbers: pitcher = ace(1); receiver = 2; first base = 3; Second base = 4; third base = 5; short stop = 6; Left field = 7; Midfielder = 8; Right fielder = 9. For example, if the batter threw a 5, that meant the third baseman was out. A black 5 indicated a ball on the ground; a red 5 indicates a ball hit in the air (diamond = pop-up; heart = line drive). For balls hit out of bounds (7, 8, 9), black indicates a flat ball, red indicates a deep ball. Roll a 10 and you get a single. A jack was a double, a queen was a triple, and a king was a home run. It was difficult but quite effective, and although the distribution of hits was mathematically incorrect (there should be more singles than doubles, more doubles than home runs, and more home runs than triples), the games were often close and exciting. More importantly, the final results resembled the results of actual baseball games (3-2, 7-4, 8-0) and not football or basketball games. The basic principles were solid. All I had to do was get rid of the default deck and create a new deck. This would allow me to make the game statistically correct, add new elements of strategy and decision making (tabs, stolen bases, sacrifice flies) and take it to a higher level of subtlety and sophistication. The job consisted mostly of finding the right numbers and playing around with the math, but I was well versed in the intricacies of baseball and it didn't take me long to find the right formulas. I played game after game after game and after a few weeks there were no more adjustments to make. Then came the boring part. After drawing the cards (two decks of 96 cards each), I had to sit down with four fine point pens (one red, one green, one black, one blue) and draw the cards by hand. I don't remember how many days this task took me, but when I got to the end I felt like I had never done anything else. The design was nothing special, but since I had no experience with 166

or talent as a designer, that was to be expected. I strove for a clear and usable presentation, something that could be read at a glance and not confuse anyone, and considering there was so much information to put on each card, I think I achieved at least that. Beauty and elegance can come later. If someone showed enough interest to want to make the game, the problem could be escalated to a professional designer. At first, after much back and forth, I called my little idea Action Baseball. Once again my stepfather came to the rescue. It turned out that he had a friend who worked for one of the largest and most successful toy companies in the United States, and when I showed this man the game, he was impressed and thought that he had a real chance of attracting someone. At the time, he was still working on the cards, but he encouraged me to get the game fixed up as soon as possible and get it to the New York Toy Fair, which was only five or six weeks away. I had never heard of it, but it was by all accounts the biggest annual event in the industry. Every February, companies from around the world gather at the Toy Center at 23rd Street and Fifth Avenue to showcase their products for the upcoming season, learn about the competition's plans and plan for the future. What the Frankfurt Book Fair is to books and the Cannes Film Festival to movies, the New York Toy Fair is to toys. My stepfather's friend did everything for me. He arranged for my name to be added to the "Inventors" list, qualified me for a badge and trade show pass, and as if that weren't enough, he made an appointment for me to meet with the president of his company, at nine. in the morning of the first day of the fair.


I was grateful for the help, but at the same time I felt like someone who had just booked a flight to an unknown planet. I had no idea what to expect, no map of the location, no guide to help me understand the habits and customs of the creatures I would be talking to. The only solution I could think of was to wear a jacket and tie. The tie was the only one I had and it hung in my closet for emergencies at weddings and funerals. Business meetings can now be added to the list. I must have looked ridiculous when I walked into the toy center this morning to get my badge. He was carrying a briefcase, but it only contained the game, which was kept in a cigar box. That was all he had: the game itself, along with several duplicate copies of the rules. I was about to go in and talk to the president of a multi-billion dollar corporation and 168

He didn't even have a business card. Even at this early hour, the place was packed with people. Everywhere you looked there were endless rows of corporate booths, booths decorated with puppets and puppets, fire trucks, dinosaurs, and aliens. All the children's entertainment and gadgets they had always dreamed of were gathered in this room, and there was not a single one that did not hiss, tinkle, hiss, hoot, or roar. As I walked through the noise, it occurred to me that the briefcase tucked under my arm was the only silent object in the building. Computer games were all the rage this year, the biggest thing in the world of toys since jack-in-the-box, and I was hoping to strike it rich playing an old-fashioned deck of cards. Maybe it would, but it wasn't until I walked into this noisy house of fun that I realized how likely it was that I wouldn't. My conversation with the president of the company turned out to be one of the shortest meetings in the annals of American business. The man's rejection of my work didn't bother me (he was prepared for it, expecting bad news), but he did it so coldly, with so little respect for human decency, that it still pains me to think about it. He wasn't much older than me, this CEO, and with his superbly cut, elegant suit, his blue eyes and blond hair, and his hard, expressionless face, he looked and acted like the leader of a Nazi spy ring. He barely shook my hand, barely said hello, barely acknowledged that he was in the room. No small talk, no pleasantries, no questions. "Let's see what you got," he said dryly, so I reached into my briefcase and pulled out the cigar box. Contempt flashed in his eyes. It was as if he had given her dog shit and asked her to smell it. I opened the box and took out the cards. At that moment I could see that all hope was gone, that I had already lost interest, but there was nothing left but to go ahead and play the game. I shuffled the decks, said something about reading the three layers of information in the cards, and got to work. A batter or two into the first half of the first inning, he got up from his chair and held out his hand to me. Since he hadn't said a word, he had no idea why he wanted to shake my hand. I kept turning the cards over, describing the action as it unfolded: ball, hit, swing. "Thank you," the Nazi said, finally taking my hand. He still couldn't understand what was happening. "Are you saying you don't want to see anything else?" I said. "I didn't even get a chance to show you how it works." "Thank you," he said again. "You can go now." Without another word, he turned and left me with my cards still scattered on the table. It took me a minute or two to put everything back in the cigar box, and in those same sixty or ninety seconds that I hit rock bottom, I hit what I still think of as the rock bottom of my life. Somehow I managed to regroup. I went to have breakfast, steeled myself and went back to the carnival for the rest of the day. One by one, I visited every game company I could find, shaking hands, smiling, knocking on doors, showing off the wonders of action baseball to anyone who wanted to spend ten or fifteen minutes with me. The results were uniformly disappointing. Most big companies had stopped working with independent inventors (lots of lawsuits), and small companies wanted to have pocket computer games (beep-beep) or stay away from sports (poor sales). At least these people were educated. I found some comfort in that after the sadistic treatment I received that morning. Sometime in the afternoon, exhausted from hours of useless work, I stumbled upon a company that specialized in card games. They had produced only one 169

game so far, but this one was a huge hit and now they were on the market for a second. It was a small, low-budget company run by two guys from Joliet, Illinois, a backyard business without the corporate trappings and fancy advertising methods of the other companies at the fair. That was an auspicious sign, but best of all, both partners admitted to being avid baseball fans. They weren't doing much at the time, just sitting at their little stall munching on the fat and when I told them about my game they seemed more than happy to check it out. Not just a look, but a comprehensive consideration: sit down and play a full nine-inning contest all the way to the finish. If I had manipulated the cards, the results of the game I played with them couldn't have been more exciting and realistic. It was hard all the time, the tension took over all the fields, and after eight and a half innings of threats, exchanges and two outs with the bases loaded, the score was two to one. The Joliet boys were the home team and when they got to the final round of batting they needed one run to tie and two to win. The first two batters did nothing and soon ran out of runners on base. However, the resulting batter opted to keep them alive. Then, to everyone's surprise, the next batter, with a two-ball, two-strike count, hit a game-winning home run. He couldn't have asked for more. A two-run home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning to steal the win in the final field. It was a classic baseball thriller, and when the man from Joliet turned over the last card, his face lit up with an expression of pure, unmistakable joy. They wanted to think about it, they told me, think a little before giving me an answer. Of course, they would need a platform to study on his own, and I told them I would send Joliet a Xerox color copy as soon as possible. So we left it at that: shaking hands and exchanging addresses, promising each other we'd get in touch. After all the dark and demoralizing events of that day, there was suddenly cause for hope, and I left the toy fair with the idea that I might actually achieve something with my crazy plan. Color copying was a new technique at the time and it cost me a small fortune to make the copies. I don't remember the exact amount, but I think it was over a hundred dollars, maybe even two hundred. I sent them the package and prayed that they would reply soon. Weeks passed, and as I struggled to focus on the other work I had to do, I began to realize that disappointment was about to happen. Enthusiasm meant speed, indecision meant delay, and the more they hesitated, the worse the odds. It took almost two months for them to respond, and until then I didn't even have to read the letter to know what it said. What struck me was its brevity, its complete lack of personal warmth. I spent almost an hour with them, felt that I had entertained them and piqued their interest, but their refusal was just a dry, poorly written paragraph. Half the words were misspelled and almost every sentence contained a grammatical error. It was a shameful document, a letter written by fools, and when my sorrow eased a little, I was ashamed that I had judged her so rudely. Put your trust in fools and you'll end up fooling yourself Still, I wasn't ready to give up. I had gone too far for a setback to throw me off course, so I put my head down and ran forward. Until I exhausted all possibilities, I felt compelled to move on, to end it all badly. My in-laws put me in touch with a man who worked for 170

Ruder and Finn, a well-known New York public relations firm. He loved the game, he seemed very excited when I showed it to him and went out of his way to help. That was part of the problem. Everybody liked action baseball, there were enough people to keep me from giving up, and with a nice, friendly, well-connected man like that defending me, there was no point in giving up. My new ally's name was George, and he was account manager at General Foods, one of Ruder and Finn's biggest clients. His plan, which I thought was great, was for General Foods to put Action Baseball on the box of Wheaties as a special coupon offer. (“Hey kids! Just mail in two packs of Wheaties and a check or money order for $3.98 and this awesome game could be yours!”) George suggested to them, and for a while it seemed like it would happen. . Wheaties was brainstorming a new ad campaign and thought this might be the solution. This did not happen. Instead, they chose the Olympic decathlon champion, and for the next few million years, every package of Wheaties was emblazoned with an image of Bruce Jenner's smiling face. You really can't blame them. It was the breakfast of champions, after all, and they had a certain tradition to uphold. I never knew how close George came to realizing his idea, but I have to admit (with some reluctance) that I still have a hard time looking at a bag of Wheaties without feeling a slight sting. George was almost as disappointed as I was, but now that he had the virus, he wasn't going to stop trying. He knew someone in Indianapolis who was involved with the Babe Ruth League (in what capacity I forgot) and thought something good might happen if I contacted this man. The game was duly shipped back to the Midwest, and then another extremely long silence ensued. As the man hastily explained to me when he finally wrote, he wasn't entirely responsible for the delay: "I'm sorry to acknowledge your June 22nd letter and your game, Action Baseball, so late. destroyed our offices. I've been working since home ever since and I only got my mail about ten days ago. with much regret, in the most polite expressions), I scarcely flinched. “Your game is undoubtedly unique, innovative and interesting. There may be a market for it, as it's the only no-frills tabletop baseball game that gets you going the fastest, but the consensus here is that without the big leagues and their stats, the established competition is second to none," exclaimed George to break the news.barrier and thanked him for the help, but that's enough, I told him, and he shouldn't waste any more time on me.Things stalled for a few months after that, but then another lead came along and I took my spear and set off again. As long as there was a windmill in sight, I was ready to fight it. I no longer had the slightest hope, but I couldn't let go of the stupidity that had started. My stepfather knew a man that he had invented a game, and since that game made him a lot of money, I thought it prudent to contact him for advice. We met in the lobby of the Roosevelt Hotel, not far from Grand Central Station. He was an eloquent con man in his forties, a thoroughly unpleasant man with all sorts of deceit and tricks up his sleeve, but I have to admit there was a certain panache to his talk. "Mail order business," he said, "that's the problem. Walk up to a big league star, take him to 171

Support the game for a share of the proceeds and place ads in all baseball magazines. When enough orders come in, use the money to produce the game. If not, give me my money back and stop." "How much would something like this cost?" I asked. “Twenty, twenty-five thousand dollars. Minimal." "I can't think about it too much," I said. "Not even if my life depended on it." "So you can't do that, can you?" "No, I can't. I just want the game "Sell it to a company. That's all I ever thought about: earn some royalties from the copies sold. I wouldn't be able to start my own business." finally realizing the jerk I was talking to, "You screwed up and now you want someone to flush your chain." I wouldn't have meant it that way, but I wasn't arguing with him. find a "mail agent" to talk to businesses for me, I had no doubt that he was pointing me in the right direction. Until then, I did not even know of the existence of such people. He referred me to someone who must have been particularly good, and I called him the next day. That turned out to be my last game, the final chapter in the whole convoluted saga. He talked to me at a thousand an hour, describing conditions and percentages, what to do and what not to do, what to expect and what to avoid. It sounded like your standard babble, an angry condensation of years of hard hitting and ferocious maneuvering, and I couldn't get a word out for the first few minutes. Then he finally stopped to catch his breath and asked me about my game. "It's called Action Baseball," I told him. "Did you say baseball?" she said. "Yeah, baseball. You flip the cards. It's very realistic and you can play a full nine inning game in about fifteen minutes." "Sorry," she said, "no sports games." "What do you mean?" "You guys are losers. You don't sell and nobody wants you. I wouldn't touch your game with a 10-foot post." This happened to me. With the woman's scathing statement still ringing in my ears, I hung up, put my cards away, and stopped thinking about her forever.* I gradually reached the end of my tether. , I understood that action baseball was nothing more than a long shot. Trusting him as a source of money would have been an act of self-deception, a ridiculous mistake. I worked on it for a few more months, but that final effort took only a small fraction of the time. Deep down, I had already accepted defeat, not just in the game, not just in my timid foray into business, but in all my principles, my lifelong attitude toward work, money, and pursuit. of time. Time no longer counted. I needed it to write, but now that I was a former writer, a writer who only wrote to crumple up paper and throw it away, I was ready to give up the fight and live like everyone else. Nine Years of Independent Poverty I Was 172

I got burned I tried to save myself by inventing the game, but no one wanted the game, and now I was back where I was, only worse, just more burned out than ever. At least the game had given me an idea, a fleeting glimmer of hope, but now I too was out of ideas. The truth is that I had fallen into a deep, dark hole and the only way out was to find a job. I made phone calls, wrote letters, drove into town for interviews. Teaching jobs, journalist jobs, editorial jobs, it didn't matter what it was. As long as the job came with a weekly paycheck, he was interested. Two or three things almost went right, but in the end it didn't. I won't go into depressing details now, but several months passed without any tangible results. I was even more confused, my mind nearly paralyzed with worry. I had completely given up, given up on every point I had defended over the years, and yet I was stalling, losing ground with every step I took. Then, out of the blue, a $3,500 grant from the New York State Council on the Arts came along, and I was hit with an unexpected wind. It wouldn't take long, but it was something, long enough to postpone Judgment Hour for another minute or two. Not long after, as I was lying in bed one night fighting insomnia, a new idea struck me. Maybe not an idea, but a thought, a little idea. I had read a lot of detective fiction that year, mostly from the recalcitrant American school, and in addition to finding in them good medicine, a balm for chronic stress and anxiety, I developed an admiration for some of the practitioners of the detective genre. . The best were simple, humble writers who not only had more to say about American life than most so-called serious writers, but also seemed to write smarter, clearer sentences. One of the common tricks of these stories was the apparent suicide that turns out to be murder. Time after time, a character would seemingly die by his own hand, and at the end of the story, after all the tangled threads of intrigue had finally been unraveled, it turned out that the villain was responsible for the character's death. . I thought, why not reverse the trick and turn it around? Why not a story in which an apparent murder turns out to be a suicide? As far as I could see, no one had ever done this. It was just idle speculation, a stroke at two in the morning, but I couldn't sleep, and as my heart began to race and pound in my chest, I continued to think some more, trying to calm myself. In your sleep, make up a story that fits my curvy premise. I had no interest in the results, just looking for a sedative to calm my nerves, but a piece of the puzzle clicked and when I fell asleep it had carved the gritty plot of a crime thriller. It occurred to me the next morning that maybe sitting down and writing the damn thing wasn't such a bad idea. It wasn't like he had anything better to do. I hadn't written a decent syllable in months, couldn't get a job, and my bank account was nearly empty. If I could put together a half-decent detective story, I'm sure I could make some money. He no longer dreamed of sacks of gold. Just an honest wage for an honest day's work, a chance to survive. I started in early June and by the end of August I had completed a manuscript of just over three hundred pages. The book was an exercise in pure imitation, a conscious attempt to write a book that would sound like other books, but just because I wrote it for money doesn't mean I didn't like it. As an example of the genre, it sounded no worse than many others I've read, much better than some. it was good enough to be 173

posted anyway, and that was all I wanted. My only ambition for the novel was to collect it and pay as many bills as possible. Once again, I ran into problems right away. I did everything in my power to prostitute myself, selling my products at rock-bottom prices, but no one wanted me. In this case, the problem wasn't so much what I was trying to sell (such as the game) but my incredible ineptitude as a seller. The only publishers I knew of were the ones who hired me to translate books, and they weren't qualified to judge popular fiction. They had no experience with it, had never read or published books like mine, and were unaware that such a thing as crime fiction existed, let alone the different sub-genres in the field: private crime fiction, procedural crime, etc. . I submitted my manuscript to one of these publishers, and when he finally started reading it, his response was surprisingly enthusiastic. "That's good," he said, "pretty good. Just throw out the detective stuff and you've got a great psychological thriller." “But that's the point,” I said, “it's a detective story. "Maybe," he said, "but we don't publish detective stories. Check it out and I guarantee we'll be interested. Changing the book may have interested you, but not me. I had written it in a specific way for a specific purpose, and it would be absurd." dissect it now. I realized I needed an agent, someone to review the novel for me while I took care of more pressing matters. The problem was, I had no idea how to find one. After all, poets don't have agents. Translators don't have agents. Book reviewers who make two or three hundred dollars an article don't have agents. I had lived my life in the outlying provinces of the literary world, far from the centers of commerce where books and money mean one. for the other, and the only people I knew were young poets whose works were published in small, small, nonprofit magazines Printers and various other oddballs, misfits, and outcasts came. There was no one to turn to for help, not a bit of knowledge or information available to me. If so, I was too dumb to know where to find it. Coincidentally, an old school friend mentioned that his ex-wife ran a literary agency, and when I told him about my manuscript, he asked me to send it to him. I did, and after waiting almost a month for a response, I was rejected. There wasn't enough money for something like that, he said, and it wasn't worth it. No one reads private detective novels anymore. They were outdated, an old hat, a loss-making business in every way. It was identical, word for word, to the speech the matchmaker had given me less than ten days ago. * Eventually, the book was published, but that didn't happen until four years later. Meanwhile, all sorts of catastrophes happened, one twist followed another, and the last thing on my mind was the fate of my pseudonymous boiler. My marriage ended in November 1978 and the manuscript of the financial novel was placed in a plastic bag, almost lost and forgotten due to several changes of address. Just two months later, my father died, suddenly, unexpectedly, never having been sick a day in his life, and for many weeks I spent most of my time dealing with real estate, running his affairs, unanswered questions for tie. His death hit me hard, causing me immense pain.

The sadness inside of me and whatever energy I had to write was always writing about him. The terrible irony was that he had left me something in his will. It wasn't a huge amount in terms of inheritance, but it was more money than I had ever had before and it helped me transition from one life to another. I returned to New York and continued writing. Finally, I fell in love and married again. Everything changed for me in those four years. Sometime in the middle of this period, in late 1980 or early 1981, I received a call from a man I had met before. He was a friend of a friend, and since the meeting had taken place a good eight or nine years ago, she could barely remember who he was. He announced that he planned to start a publishing house and asked if he had a manuscript for him to review. It wouldn't be just another small print shop, he explained, but a real business, a commercial operation. Hmmm, I said, remembering the plastic bag in the back of my bedroom closet, if that's the case, maybe I have something for you. I told him about the crime novel and when he said he would be interested in reading it I made a copy and sent it to him this week. Unexpectedly, he liked it. Even more unexpectedly, he said that he wanted to go ahead and throw it. He was happy, of course, happy and amused, but also a little worried. It almost seemed too good to be true. Publishing books wasn't supposed to be that easy, and I wondered if there wasn't a problem somewhere. As I noted, he ran the company from his Upper West Side apartment, but the contract I received in the mail was a real contract, and after reviewing it and deciding the terms were acceptable, I realized I had no reason not to sign. that. that. Of course, there was no down payment, no money up front, but the royalties would start with the first copy sold. I thought this was normal for a new publisher just starting out, and since they had no investors or serious financial backing, they couldn't spend the money they didn't have. Needless to say, his business didn't exactly qualify as a commercial operation, but he hoped it did, and who was I to give him hope? He managed to get a book published (a paperback reprint) nine months later, but my novel took almost two years to produce. By the time it went to print, it had lost its distributor, was broke, and as dead as a publisher. A few copies made it to some New York bookstores, delivered personally by the publisher, but the rest of the print run was left in boxes and dust collecting on a warehouse floor somewhere in Brooklyn. As far as I know, the books are still there. Having gotten this far with the deal, I felt I had to give it one last try and see if I could close it once and for all. Since the novel was 'published', a hardcover edition was no longer an option, but there were still paperback publishers to consider and I didn't want to walk away from the book until they had a chance to reject it. I was looking for an agent again and this time I found the right one. He submitted the novel to an Avon Books publisher and three days later it was accepted. It's that simple, in no time. They offered me an advance of two thousand dollars and I accepted. No haggling, no counter offers, no complicated negotiations. I felt validated and no longer cared about the details. After splitting the advance with the original publisher (per the contract), I was left with $1,000. I subtracted the agent's ten percent commission and I ended up making a total of nine hundred dollars. 175

A lot about writing books to make money. Both for sale. 1996 * For a vivid account of his adventures, see John's Tracking the Marvelous: A Life in the New York Art World, published by Random House in 1983. TRUE STORIES

the red notebook

1 In 1972, a good friend of mine got into trouble with the law. She was in Ireland that year, living in a small town not far from the city of Sligo. I was visiting the day a plainclothes detective came to her house and served her with a summons to appear in court. The accusations were so serious that a lawyer was required. My friend asked and got a name, and the next morning we cycled into town to meet this person and discuss the case. To my surprise, she worked for a company called Argue and Phibbs. This is a true story. If anyone doubts me, I encourage them to visit Sligo and see for themselves whether or not I made it up. I have reveled in these names for the last twenty years, but while I can prove that Argue and Phibbs were real men, the fact that one name should have been associated with the other (to make an even more delicious joke, a - out shipment of the legal profession) is something I still find hard to believe. As far as I know (three or four years ago), the company is still thriving. 2 The following year (1973), I was offered a job as a caretaker on a farm in the south of France. My girlfriend's legal issues are behind us, and with our on-off romance seeming to be back on track, we decided to team up and take on the job together. At that point, both of us had run out of money, and without this offer we would have been forced to return to the United States, which neither of us was ready to do. It was a strange year. On one side, the place was beautiful: a large 18th-century stone house surrounded on one side by vineyards and on the other by state forest. The nearest town was two kilometers away, but it was inhabited by 176

no more than forty people, none of whom were less than sixty or seventy years of age. It was an ideal place for two young writers to spend a year, and L. and I worked hard there and accomplished more in this house than either of us thought possible. On the other hand, we lived on the brink of permanent catastrophe. Our boss, an American couple living in Paris, sent us a small monthly salary (fifty dollars), a lump sum for gas for the car, and money to feed the two farmers who were part of the household. In short, it was a generous arrangement. We didn't have to pay rent, and even if our salary wasn't enough to live on, we had a head start on monthly expenses. We wanted to earn the rest with translations. Before leaving Paris and settling in the country, we had taken on a series of jobs to make ends meet for the year. What we had overlooked was that publishers are often slow to pay their bills. We also forget to keep in mind that checks sent from one country to another can take weeks to clear and that bank fees and exchange rates reduce the value of these checks. Since L. and I did not leave room for mistakes or miscalculations, we often found ourselves in a rather hopeless situation. I remember violent waves of nicotine, my body numb with desire as I crawled between sofa cushions and behind cabinets in search of loose change. For eighteen cents (about three and a half cents) you could buy Parisian cigarettes, sold in packs of four. I remember feeding the dogs thinking they ate better than me. I remember conversations with L. in which we seriously considered opening a can of kibble and having dinner. Our only other source of income this year came from a man named James Sugar. (I don't want to harp on metaphorical names, but facts are facts and I can't help it.) Working as a photographer for National Geographic, Sugar came into our lives because he was working with one of our employers on an article. about the Region. For several months he photographed all of Provence in a rented car that his magazine made available to him and whenever he was in our wooded area he would spend the night with us. Since the magazine also provided him with an expense report, he graciously passed us the money allotted to him for hotel expenses. If I remember correctly, the sum was fifty francs a night. In fact, L. and I became its private owners, and because Sugar was such a lovely man, we were always glad to see him. The only problem was that we never knew when he was going to show up. He never called ahead and most of the time there were weeks between visits from him. So we learned not to count on Mr. Sugar. He came out of nowhere, pulled up in front of the house in his bright blue car, stayed a night or two, then disappeared. Every time he left we thought it would be the last time we would see him. The worst times for us were in late winter and early spring. The checks didn't come, one of the dogs was stolen and little by little we ate the food in the kitchen. We ended up with nothing more than a bag of onions, a bottle of cooking oil, and some wrapped pie crust someone bought before we moved in, a stale holdover from the previous summer. L. and I lasted all morning until afternoon, but by half past two we were already hungry and went to the kitchen to prepare our last meal. Considering the few items we had to work with, an onion pie was the only dish that made sense. After our drink reached an apparently adequate duration of 177

Little by little we take it out, put it on the table and search for it. Against all odds, we both found it delicious. I think we went so far as to say it was the best meal we've ever eaten, but it was definitely a ploy, a feeble attempt to keep our spirits up. However, once we chewed some more, the disappointment began. Reluctantly, very reluctantly, we had to admit that the cake was undercooked, that the center was still too cold to eat. There was nothing else to do but put it in the oven for another ten or fifteen minutes. Given how hungry we were and our newly activated salivary glands, it wasn't easy for us to give up the cake. To calm our impatience, we took a short walk, thinking that time would pass faster if we got away from the good smells of the kitchen. From what I remember, we went around the house once, maybe twice. Maybe we had been talking intensely about something (I don't remember), but no matter how much happened and how long we were gone, when we got back to the house, the kitchen was full of smoke. We ran to the oven and took out the cake, but it was too late. Our food was dead, had been incinerated, burned to a charred, blackened mass, and not a scrap could be recovered. It seems like a funny story now, but it wasn't at all back then. We had fallen into a dark hole and none of us could think of a way out. I doubt that in all the years I struggled to be a man there was a time when I was less inclined to laugh or joke. This really was the end, and it was a horrible, terrifying place to be. This was at four in the afternoon. Less than an hour later, Mr. Lost Sugar suddenly appeared and drove toward the house in a cloud of dust, gravel, and crunching earth around him. If I think about it carefully, I can still see the goofy, naive smile on his face when he got out of the car and waved. It was a miracle It was a true miracle and I was there to see it with my own eyes, to experience it firsthand. Until then I thought these things only happened in books. Sugar invited us to dinner that night at a two-star restaurant. We ate heartily and well, emptied several bottles of wine, laughed ourselves to death. And yet, as delicious as the food was, I can't remember anything. But I never forgot the taste of onion pie. 3 Shortly after my return to New York (July 1974), a friend told me the following story. It is set in Yugoslavia, in the last months of World War II. S.'s uncle was a member of a Serbian guerrilla group fighting against the Nazi occupation. One morning, he and his companions woke up surrounded by German troops. They were holed up on a farm somewhere in the country, with a foot of snow on the ground, and there was no escape. Not knowing what else to do, the men decided to cast lots. Their plan was to leave the farm one by one, run through the snow and see if they could get to safety. According to the result of the draw, S.'s uncle should come third. He watched through the window as the first man ran out into the snow-covered field. Machine gun fire was heard throughout the forest, and the man was 178 years old.

reduce. A moment later, the second man ran out and the same thing happened. The machine guns fired and he fell dead in the snow. Then it was my friend's uncle's turn. I don't know if he hesitated at the door, I don't know what thoughts went through his head at that moment. All they told me was that he broke into a run and ran through the snow with all his might. He looked like he was going to run forever. Then suddenly he felt a pain in his leg. A second later, overwhelming heat spread through his body and a second later he lost consciousness. When he woke up, he found himself lying on his back in a farmer's cart. He had no idea how much time had passed, no idea how he had saved himself. He had just opened his eyes, and there he was, stretched out in a horse or mule cart along a country road, looking into the back of a farmer's head. He studied the back of his head for a few seconds, then loud explosions began to go off from the forest. Too weak to move, he kept looking at the back of his head, then suddenly disappeared. He just flew out of the farmer's body, and where before there was a whole man, now there was a headless man. More noise, more confusion. I can't say whether the horse pulled the cart or not, but within minutes, maybe even seconds, a large contingent of Russian troops rolled down the road. Jeeps, tanks, dozens of soldiers. When the commander saw S.'s uncle's leg, he quickly sent him to an infirmary set up in the neighborhood. It was just a rickety wooden shack, maybe a chicken coop or outbuilding on a farm. There, the Russian army doctor pronounced the rescue of the leg. He was badly damaged, he said, and will have to cut him out. My friend's uncle started screaming. "Don't cut my leg off," he yelled. "Please, I beg you, don't cut off my leg!" But nobody listened to him. The paramedics strapped him to the operating table, and the doctor took the saw. Just as he was about to pierce the skin of the leg, there was another explosion. The roof of the infirmary collapsed, the walls collapsed, the whole place was devastated. And again S.'s uncle lost consciousness. When he woke up this time, he found himself lying on a bed. The sheets were clean and soft, the room smelled good, and his leg was still attached to his body. A moment later, he looked at the face of a beautiful young woman. She smiled at him and fed him broth with a spoon. Not knowing how it happened, they rescued him again and took him to another farm. After S. regained consciousness, S.'s uncle was not sure if he was alive or dead for a few minutes. It seemed to him possible that he had woken up in heaven. He stayed home during his recovery and fell in love with the beautiful young woman, but that romance never came to fruition. He wishes he could say why, but S. never let me know the details. What I do know is that his uncle got the leg, and that after the war ended he moved to the United States to start a new life. Somehow (the circumstances are not clear to me) he ended up working as an insurance salesman in Chicago. 4 L. and I got married in 1974. Our son was born in 1977, but from the following 179

year our marriage ended. None of it is relevant now, except to set the stage for an incident that occurred in the spring of 1980. We both lived in Brooklyn at the time, three or four blocks apart, and our son divided his time between the two of us. in apartments. One morning I had to stop by L.'s house to pick up Daniel and take him to kindergarten. I don't remember if I entered the building or if Daniel went downstairs himself, but I clearly remember that as we were leaving together, L. opened the window of his third-floor apartment to let me see something to throw away. Money in. Why she did this is also forgotten. She maybe she wanted me to fill a meter, maybe she should text him, I don't know. All that remains is the open window and the image of a coin flying through the air. I see it so clearly that it's almost as if she was studying the photos from that moment, as if it were part of a recurring dream that I've had ever since. But the coin hit a tree branch and its downward arc in my hand broke. It bounced off the tree, landed silently somewhere nearby, and then disappeared. I remember bending down and searching the sidewalk, digging through the leaves and branches at the base of the tree, but the coin was nowhere to be seen. I can move this event to early spring because I know I saw a baseball game at Shea Stadium later that day, the start of the season. A friend of mine was offered tickets and he generously invited me to go with him. He had never been to an opening game before and I remember the occasion well. We arrived early (something to pick up the tickets at a specific box office) and when my friend went to close the transaction he was waiting for him in front of one of the entrances to the stadium. There was not a single soul there. I went into a small alcove to light a cigarette (it was windy that day) and there, less than two inches from my feet, was a dime on the floor. I bent down, picked it up and put it in my pocket. As ridiculous as it sounds, I was pretty sure it was the same coin I lost that morning in Brooklyn. 5 In my son's kindergarten lived a girl whose parents divorced. I especially liked her father, a struggling painter who made a living doing architectural renderings. Her paintings were very beautiful, I thought, but she never had much luck convincing dealers to support her work. The only time she had an exhibition, the gallery closed immediately. B. was not a close friend, but we enjoyed each other's company, and every time she saw him, she would return home with renewed admiration for her steadiness and inner calm. He was not a man to complain or feel sorry for himself. As bleak as the last few years were—endless money woes, lack of artistic success, eviction threats from the landlord, problems with his ex-wife—none of it seemed to derail him. He painted with the same passion as always and, unlike so many others, he never expressed bitterness or envy towards less talented artists who did better than him. When he wasn't working on his own canvases, he would sometimes go to the Metropolitan Museum and make copies of the old masters. I remember a Caravaggio that he did once that I found absolutely remarkable. It was not so much a copy as a replica, a 180

exact duplication of the original. During one of these museum visits, a Texas millionaire saw B. at work and was so impressed that he commissioned him to make a copy of a Renoir painting, which he gave to his fiancée. B. was extraordinarily tall (1.90 or 1.90), handsome and well educated, traits that made him especially attractive to women. Once he got over the divorce and recovered, he had no problem finding a partner. He only saw him two or three times a year, but each time there was a different woman in his life. They were all obviously mad at him. One only had to see them look at B. to know how they felt, but for one reason or another, none of these affairs lasted long. After two or three years, B.'s owner finally carried out his threats and evicted him from his penthouse. B. moved out of town and I lost contact with him. A few more years passed, and then one night B. returned to town for a dinner party. My wife and I were also there, and knowing that B. was getting married, we asked him to tell us how he met his future wife. About six months earlier, he said, he spoke to a friend on the phone. This friend was worried about him and after a while began to scold B. for not remarrying. They've been divorced for seven years, he said, and in that time they could have settled with any of a dozen attractive and notable women. But no one is good enough for you, and you rejected them all. What's wrong with you, B? What the hell you want? I'm not missing anything, said B. I just haven't found the right person, that's all. At the speed you're going, you never will, replied the friend. I mean, have you ever met a woman who is close to what you're looking for? She names one. I challenge you to name just one. Startled by the vehemence of his friend, B. paused to consider the question carefully. Yes, he said he finally, there was one. A woman named E., whom he had known as a student at Harvard more than twenty years ago. But she was dating another man at the time and he was dating another woman (his future ex-wife) and nothing developed between them. He has no idea where E. is now, he said, but if he could meet someone like her, he wouldn't hesitate to marry again. That was the end of the conversation. B. had not thought of this woman for over ten years before mentioning her to his friend, but now that he was back in her thoughts, it was hard for her to think of anything else. He thought of her constantly for the next three or four days, unable to shake the feeling that her only chance for happiness had been lost many years ago. Then, almost as if the intensity of those thoughts sent a signal to the world, one night the phone rang and there was E on the other end of the line. B. kept her on the phone for more than three hours. He barely knew what he was saying, but he kept talking after midnight, understanding that something important had happened and he couldn't let her get away again. After graduating from high school, E. joined a dance company and has devoted herself exclusively to her career for the past twenty years. She had never been married, and now that she intended to retire as an artist, she called up old friends from the past and tried to reconnect with the world. She had no family (her parents were 181

died in a car accident as a child) and was raised by two aunts, both now deceased. B. made an appointment with her for the following night. Once together, it didn't take him long to discover that her feelings for her were as strong as he'd imagined. He fell in love with her again and a few weeks later they were engaged. To make the story even more perfect, E. turned out to be independently rich. His aunts were wealthy, and after her death, she inherited all of his money, which meant that B. had not only found true love, but the overwhelming money problems that had plagued him for so many years. years had suddenly disappeared. Suddenly. A year or two after their marriage, they had a son. According to the latest incident report, the mother, father and baby are doing well. 6 In the same way, although for a shorter period of time (several months instead of twenty years), another friend, R., told me about a certain out-of-date book that he tried unsuccessfully to search through bookstores and catalogs by rummaging through them. some supposedly notable works he was dying to read and how one afternoon, while passing through the city, he took a shortcut through Grand Central Station and the stairs leading to Vanderbilt Avenue and saw a young woman holding a book in front of him The marble railing was the very book he was trying so desperately to find. Although not one to converse with strangers, R. was too surprised by the coincidence to remain silent. "Believe it or not," he told the young woman, "I've been looking everywhere for this book." "It's wonderful," replied the young woman. "I just read." "Do you know where I can find another copy?" asked R. "I can't tell you how much that would mean to me." “This is for you,” the woman replied. "But it's yours," said R. "It was mine," the woman said, "but I'm done with it. I came here today to give it to you." 7 Twelve years ago, my wife's sister moved to Taiwan. Her intention was to learn Chinese (which she now speaks with impressive fluency) and earn a living by teaching English to native Chinese speakers in Taipei. That was about a year before I met my wife, who was a graduate student at Columbia University at the time. One day my future sister-in-law was talking to an American friend, a young woman who had also gone to Taipei to learn Chinese. The conversation turned to her families at her home, which led to the following exchange: “I have a sister who lives in New York,” my soon-to-be sister-in-law said.

"Me too," replied her friend. "My sister lives on the Upper West Side." "Mine too". "My sister lives on West 109th Street." "Believe it or not, so is mine." "My sister lives at 309 West 109th Street." "Mine too!" "My sister lives on the second floor at 309 West 109th Street." The friend took a deep breath and said, "I know it sounds crazy, but so is mine." It's hard to imagine two cities further apart than Taipei and New York. They are at opposite ends of the earth, separated by a distance of more than ten thousand miles, and when it is day on one, it is night on the other. As the two young women from Taipei marveled at the incredible connection they had just discovered, they realized that their two sisters were probably asleep at the time. On the same floor of the same building in northern Manhattan, the two slept in their own apartment, unaware of the conversation that was taking place on the other side of the world about them. Although they were neighbors, it turned out that the two sisters did not know each other in New York. When they finally met (two years later), neither of them lived in that building anymore. Siri and I were married at the time. One night, on the way to an appointment, we stopped at a Broadway bookstore to browse for a few minutes. We must have wandered through different hallways, and because Siri wanted to show me something, or because I wanted to show her something (I don't remember), one of us said the other's name out loud. A second later, a woman came running towards us. "You are Paul Auster and Siri Hustvedt, aren't you?" she said. “Yes,” we said, “that's exactly what we are. How did you know?" The woman then explained that her sister and Siri's sister studied together in Taiwan. friends. 8 Three summers ago, a letter arrived in my mailbox. It arrived in an oblong white envelope, addressed to someone whose name did not know: Robert M. Morgan of Seattle, Wash. Several postage stamps were affixed on the front: "Not Delivered," "Cannot Forward," "Return to Author." Mr. Morgan was crossed out with a pen and someone wrote Not in this direction next to him.In the same blue ink, an arrow pointed to the upper left corner of the envelope accompanied by the words "Return to Sender."Assuming the courier had made a mistake, I checked the upper left corner to see who the sender was. There, to my utter astonishment, I discovered my own name and address. In addition, this information was printed on a special shipping label (one of these labels can be ordered in packs of two hundred from Matchbox Advertising). of my name was correct, the address was my address, and yet the fact was (and is) that I have never owned or ordered a set of printed address labels in my life. 183

Inside was a one-line typed letter that began: "Dear Robert, Regarding your letter of July 15, 1989, I can only say that, like other authors, I frequently receive letters about my work." pretentious style, punctuated with quotes from French philosophers, and with an undertone of arrogance and self-indulgence, "Robert" for ideas he developed for one of my novels, a college course in contemporary fiction. It was a derogatory letter, the kind of letter I would never write to anyone, but it was signed with my name. The handwriting didn't look like mine, but that was a small consolation. Someone was trying to impersonate me, and to my knowledge they still do. A friend suggested that this was an example of "mail art". Knowing that the letter could not be delivered to Robert Morgan (since such a person did not exist), the author of the letter directed his comments to me. But that would put undue trust in the United States. The post office does, and I doubt that someone who would go to the trouble of asking for postage labels in my name and then sit down to write such an arrogant and pompous letter would leave anything to chance. Or would I? Perhaps the smart ones in this world think that everything will always work out for the best. I have little hope of getting to the bottom of this little mystery. The prankster did a good job of covering his tracks and hasn't been heard from since. What surprises me about my own behavior is that I didn't throw the letter away, even though it still gives me the creeps every time I look at it. A sane man would have thrown that thing away. Instead, for reasons I don't understand, I've kept it on my desk at work for the past three years, making it a staple among my pens, notebooks, and erasers. Maybe I'll keep it there as a monument to my own folly. Maybe it's a way of reminding myself that I know nothing, that the world I live in will forever elude me. 9 One of my closest friends is a French poet named C. We have known each other for over twenty years, and although we don't see each other often (he lives in Paris and I live in New York), the bond between us remains strong. It's a kind of brotherly bond, like we were brothers in a past life. C. is a man of many contradictions. Open and closed to the world, he is a charismatic figure with many friends everywhere (legendary for his kindness, his humor, his brilliant conversation) and yet someone wounded by life and who struggles to do the simple tasks that most of people assume. Granted. An extraordinarily gifted poet and thinker about poetry, C., however, is shackled by frequent writer's block, morbid self-doubt, and surprisingly (for someone so generous, so devoid of pettiness) the ability to write extensively. . constant grudges and arguments, usually over a trifle or some abstract principle. No one is more universally admired than C., no one is more talented, no one more willing to be in the spotlight, and yet he has always done his best to marginalize himself. Since separating from his wife many years ago, he has lived alone in a series of small one-room apartments, subsisting on next to no money and only odd jobs, publishing little and refusing to write a single word of criticism, though he reads everything and more. on contemporary poetry known as 184

no one in France. For those of us who love him (and there are many of us), C. is often a cause for concern. Just as we respect them and care about their well-being, we also care about them. He had a difficult childhood. I can't say how much this explains anything, but the facts shouldn't be overlooked. Apparently his father ran off with another woman when C. was a young child, and thereafter my friend was raised by his mother, an only child with no family. I never met C.'s mother, but she is a bizarre character in every way. She went through a series of romantic relationships throughout C.'s childhood and adolescence, each with a man younger than the last. When C. left home at age 21 to join the army, his mother's boyfriend was barely older than him. In recent years, the central goal of his life has been a campaign to promote the canonization of a certain Italian priest (whose name now escapes me). She plagued Catholic authorities with countless letters defending the man's sainthood, at one point even commissioning an artist to create a life-size statue of the priest, which now stands in her garden as a permanent testament to its cause. Although he is not a father, C. became a kind of pseudo-father seven or eight years ago. After a fight with the girlfriend (during which they temporarily broke up), the girlfriend had a brief affair with another man and became pregnant. The affair ended almost immediately, but she decided to have the baby herself. She was born a girl and although C. is not her real father, she loves her from the day she was born and adores her as if she were her own flesh and blood. One day about four years ago, C. visited a friend. In the apartment was a Minitel, a small computer provided free of charge by the French telephone company. Among other things, the Minitel contains the address and telephone number of everyone in France. As C. sat and played with his friend's new machine, it suddenly occurred to him to look up his father's address. She found him in Lyon. Returning home later that day, she put one of her books in an envelope and mailed it to the Lyon address, her first contact with her father in more than forty years. None of it made sense to him. Until he found himself doing these things, it never occurred to him that he wanted to do them. That same night, in a cafe, he met another friend - a psychoanalyst - and told her about these strange and unexpected acts. It was as if he felt his father calling him, she said, as if some mysterious power had been unleashed within him. Considering that he had absolutely no recollection of the man, he couldn't even begin to guess when they'd last seen each other. The woman thought for a moment and said, "How old is L.?" referring to C's friend's daughter. "Three and a half years old," C replied. I bet the last time she saw her dad she was three years. Years and a half. I say this because you love L so much. You identify so much with her and you relive your life through her.” A few days later a reply came from Lyon: a warm and totally kind letter from C's father. After thanking C for the book, he told her how proud he was to know that his son had become a writer. , the package was sent on her birthday and she was moved by the symbolism of the gesture.

All of this was at odds with the stories C. had heard growing up. According to her mother, her father was a monster of selfishness who left her as a "whore" and never wanted anything to do with her son. C. believed these stories and therefore avoided any contact with her father. Now, because of that letter, she no longer knew what to believe. She decided to return to writing. The tone of her answer was guarded, but it was an answer nonetheless. Within a few days she received another reply, and this second letter was as warm and kind as the first. C. and her father began to exchange letters. It took a month or two, and finally C. considered traveling to Lyon to meet her father face to face. Before she could make any concrete plans, she received a letter from her father's wife saying that her father had died. He had been ill for some years, he wrote to him, but his recent correspondence with C. made him very happy and his last days were filled with optimism and joy. It was at this time that I first heard about the incredible changes that had taken place in C's life. As he sat on the train from Paris to Lyon (on his way to see his "stepmother" for the first time), he wrote to me a letter telling me the story of the previous month. His handwriting reflected every bump in the tracks, as if the speed of the train was an exact reflection of the thoughts running through his mind. As he said somewhere in that letter, "I feel like I've become a character in one of your novels." His father's wife could not have been nicer to him on this visit. Among other things, C. learned that his father had suffered a heart attack on the morning of his last birthday (the same day that C. looked up his address on the Minitel) and that C. was exactly three years old when his parents divorced. half year ago. years. Then his stepmother told her the story of his life from his father's perspective, which contradicted everything his mother had already told her. In this version, it was his mother who abandoned his father; it was his mother who forbade his father to see him; it was his mother who broke his father's heart. She told C. how his father had come into the schoolyard when he was a little boy to look at him through the fence. C. remembered this man, but not knowing who he was, he was afraid. C.'s life has now become two lives. There was version A and version B, and both were your story. He lived both equally, two truths nullifying each other, and all the time, without knowing it, he was caught in the middle. His father owned a small stationery store (the usual supply of paper and stationery, plus a rental library of popular books). The business gave him a living, but not much else, and the property he left behind was quite modest. However, the numbers are not important. Crucially, C.'s stepmother (an elderly woman at the time) insisted on splitting the money 50-50 with him. There was nothing in her will that required her to do it, and she morally should not have parted with a penny of her husband's life savings. She did it because he wanted her, because sharing her money made her happier than keeping it to herself. 10


When I think about friendship, especially how some friendships last and others don't, I remember that in all the years I've driven, I've only had four flat tires, and each time the same person was in the car with me (in three different countries spread over a period of eight or nine years). J. was a friend from college, and while there was always a tinge of unease and conflict in our relationships, we stayed close for a while. One spring when we were college students, we borrowed my dad's old truck and drove out into the Quebec desert. The seasons change more slowly in this part of the world and winter is not over yet. The first flat tire was no problem (we were given a spare), but when a second tire blew out less than an hour later, we were stuck in the cold, desolate landscape for most of the day. At the time, I considered the incident bad luck, but four or five years later, when J. came to France to visit the house where L. and I worked as caretakers (in a miserable, lethargic state of depression and self-pity). , not knowing that he had passed the welcome of him with us), the same thing happened. We drove to Aix-en-Provence for the day (about a two hour drive) and when we returned later that night on a dark back street we had another apartment. Just a coincidence, I thought, and then put the event out of my mind. But then four years later, in the last months of my marriage to L., J. visited us again, this time in upstate New York, where L. and I lived with little Daniel. At one point, J. and I got in the car to go to the store to shop for dinner. I pulled the car out of the driveway, turned it onto the rutted dirt road, and walked to the side of the road to look left, right, and left before continuing. At that moment, while waiting for a car to pass, I heard the unmistakable hiss of escaping air. Another flat tire and this time we didn't even leave the house. J. and I laughed, of course, but the truth is that our friendship never quite got over that fourth flat tire. I'm not saying the floors separated us, but in a perverse way they were a symbol of how things had always been between us, the mark of an incomprehensible curse. I don't want to exaggerate, but even now I can't dismiss these pricks as useless. Because the fact is that J. and I have lost touch and we haven't spoken in over ten years. 11 In 1990 I returned to Paris for a few days. I stopped by a friend's office one afternoon to say hello and was introduced to a Czech woman in her forties or fifties, an art historian who happened to be a friend of my friend. I remember that she was an attractive and vivacious person, but since she was already leaving when I entered, I did not spend more than five or ten minutes in her company. As usual in these situations, we didn't talk about anything important: a city in the United States we both knew, the subject of a book she was reading, the weather. So we shook hands with her, she walked out the door, and I never saw her again. After she left, the friend of hers whom she was going to visit leaned back in her chair and said, "Would you like to hear a good story?" "Of course," I said, "I'm always interested in good stories." friend a lot," she continued, "so don't get the wrong idea. I'm not trying to gossip about them. It's just that I feel like you have a right to know that. 187

"Are you sure?" "Yes, I'm sure. But you have to promise me one thing. If you write the story, you won't be able to name anyone." "I promise," I told him. And then my friend let me in. about the secret. From start to finish, it couldn't have taken him more than three minutes to tell the story I'm about to tell. The woman I just met was born in Prague during the war. When she was born, her father was captured, conscripted into the German army, and sent to the Russian front. She and her mother never heard from him again. They had no letters, no news that he was alive or dead, nothing. The war simply swallowed him up, and she disappeared without a trace. Past years. The girl grew up. She graduated from university and became a professor of art history. According to my friend, in the late 1960s, during the Soviet repression, she had problems with the government, but I never realized exactly what kind of difficulties. Given the stories I know of what happened to others during that time, it's not too hard to guess. At some point she was allowed to teach again. In one of her classes there was an exchange student from the GDR. She and this young man fell in love and ended up getting married. Not long after the wedding a telegram arrived announcing the death of her husband's father. The next day, she and her husband traveled to East Germany to attend the funeral. Once there, in any city, she found out that her late father-in-law had been born in Czechoslovakia. During the war, the Nazis captured him, he infiltrated the German army and was sent to the Russian front. Miraculously, he managed to survive. However, instead of returning to Czechoslovakia after the war, she settled in Germany under a new name, married a German woman, and lived there with her new family until the day she died. The war gave her a chance to start over and it seems she has never looked back. When my friend's friend asked what that man was called in Czechoslovakia, she understood that he was her father. Which obviously meant that the man she married was also her brother, since her husband's father was the same. 12 One afternoon many years ago, my father's car stopped at a red light. A terrible storm hit, and just as his engine died, lightning struck a large tree by the side of the road. The tree trunk snapped in two, and as my dad struggled to get the car back into gear (unaware the top half of the tree was about to fall), the driver of the car behind him saw what was about to happen. to happen. he stepped on the accelerator and pushed my father's car into the intersection. A moment later, the tree crashed to the ground and landed in the exact spot where my dad's car was. What almost meant the end of him turned out to be just a small chance, a brief episode in the continuation of his life story. A year or two later, my father was working on the roof of a building in Jersey City. Somehow (I wasn't there) he slipped off the ledge and threw 188

fall on the ground. She once again headed for certain catastrophe, and once again she was saved. A clothesline broke his fall and he emerged from the accident with only a few bumps and bruises. Not even a concussion. Not a single broken bone. That same year, our neighbors across the street hired two men to paint their house. One of the workers fell from the roof and died. The girl who lived in this house was my sister's best friend. One winter night, the two of them went to a costume party (they were six or seven years old and I was nine or ten). It was agreed that my father would pick her up after the party and when the time came I went with him in her car to keep her company. It was bitterly cold that night, and the roads were covered in treacherous sheets of ice. My father drove carefully and we made the trip there and back without incident. However, when we stopped in front of the girl's house, several unlikely events happened at once. My sister's friend was dressed as a fairy princess. To complete the look, she borrowed a pair of heels from her mother, and as her feet swam in these shoes, every step she took became an adventure. My father stopped and got out of her to escort her to the front door. He was in the back with the girls, and in order to let my sister's friend out, I had to go first. I remember standing on the curb when she got up from the seat, and as soon as she got out, I noticed the car started to roll backwards, either because of the ice or because my dad forgot to call 911, put on the brakes (I don't know ), but before I could tell my dad what was happening, my sister's friend hit the sidewalk with her mom's high heels and slipped. She slid under the car, which was still moving, and there she was, about to get crushed by the wheels of my dad's Chevy. As far as I remember, she didn't make a sound. Without thinking, I threw myself to the curb of her, grabbed her right hand and with a quick gesture I dragged her towards the sidewalk. A moment later, my dad finally noticed that the car was moving. He jumped into the driver's seat, slammed on the brakes, and brought the machine to a stop. From start to finish, the entire chain of mishaps couldn't last more than eight or ten seconds. For years I walked around feeling like this was my prime. I saved someone's life, and looking back, I've always been amazed at how quickly I acted, how confidently I moved at the critical moment. I kept seeing the rescue in my head; I kept reliving the feeling of pulling this girl out from under the car. Approximately two years after that night, our family moved to another house. My sister lost contact with her friend and I didn't see her for another fifteen years. It was June and my sister and I were back in town for a short visit. By chance, your old friend stopped by to say hello. She was now an adult, a twenty-two year old who had graduated from college earlier this month, and I must say she was a little proud to see that she had made it to adulthood in one piece. I casually mentioned the night I pulled them out from under the car. I was curious how well she remembered her brush with death, but it was clear from the look on her face when I asked the question that she didn't remember anything. An empty look. A slight frown. A shrug. She didn't remember anything! That's when I realized she didn't know the car was moving. She didn't even know that she was in danger. The entire incident happened in the blink of an eye: ten seconds of her life, meaningless time, and none of it left the slightest trace on her. for me 189

On the other hand, those seconds were a formative experience, a unique event in my inner story. What amazes me the most is admitting that I'm talking about something that happened in 1956 or 1957, and that the girl from that night is already forty years old. 13 My first novel was inspired by a wrong number. One afternoon I was sitting alone in my Brooklyn apartment, sitting at my desk trying to work, when the phone rang. If I'm not mistaken, that was in the spring of 1980, just days after I found the coin in front of Shea Stadium. I answered the phone and the man on the other end asked if he was speaking to the Pinkerton Agency. I said no, he dialed the wrong number and hung up. So I went back to work and quickly forgot about the call. The following afternoon, the phone rang again. It turned out to be the same person asking the same question I had been asked the day before: "Is this the Pinkerton Agency?" Again I said no and hung up again. However, this time I began to think about what would have happened if I had said yes. What if I pretend to be a Pinkerton Agency detective? He was wondering. What if I actually take the case? To be honest, I felt like I missed a rare opportunity. If the man called again, I told myself that I would at least talk to him for a while and try to figure out what was going on. I waited for the phone to ring again, but the third call never came. From there, the wheels in my head began to turn and, little by little, a whole world of possibilities opened up to me. By the time I sat down to write City of Glass a year later, the wrong number had become the book's defining event, the mistake that started the whole story. A man named Quinn receives a call from someone who wants to speak to Paul Auster, the private investigator. Like me, Quinn tells the person he's calling that he dialed the wrong number. The next night it happens over and over again. Quinn hangs up. Unlike me, however, Quinn still has a chance. When the phone rings again on the third night, he plays along with his caller and takes over the case. Yes, he says he, I'm Paul Auster, and that's where the madness begins. Above all, I wanted to stay true to my original impulse. If I hadn't held on to what really happened, I felt there was no point in writing the book. That meant including me in the plot of the story (or at least someone like me using my name), and it also meant writing about detectives who weren't detectives, about impersonations, about mysteries that couldn't be solved. For better or worse, I felt like I had no choice. All very well. I finished the book ten years ago and have been busy ever since with other projects, other ideas, other books. However, less than two months ago I learned that books are never finished, that it is possible that stories without an author continue to be written. I was alone in my Brooklyn apartment that afternoon, sitting at my desk trying to work when the phone rang. It was a different apartment than he had in 1980, a different apartment with a different phone number. I took the 190

phone and the man on the other end asked if he could speak to Mr. Quinn. He had a Spanish accent and I didn't recognize the voice. For a moment I thought that he might be one of my friends trying to pull a leg on me. "Mr. Quin?" I said. "Is this a joke or what?" No, it wasn't a joke. The man was serious. He needed to speak to Mr. Quinn and I, could we put him on the phone? Just for me to ask him to spell the name just to be sure. The accent of the person he called was quite strong and he hoped that he would want to talk to Mr. Reina. But I wasn't so lucky. "Q-U-I-N-N," the man replied. I was suddenly afraid, and for a moment or two I couldn't get a word out of my mouth. "Sorry," I finally said, "there's no Mr. Quinn here. You dialed the wrong number." ... Like everything I wrote in that red notebook, it's a true story 1992 Why write?

1 A German friend recounts the circumstances that led to the birth of her two daughters. Nineteen years ago, pregnant and several weeks late, A. she sat on the living room sofa and turned on the television. Luckily, the opening credits of a movie were about to roll. It was The Nun's Story, a 1950s Hollywood drama starring Audrey Hepburn. Glad for the distraction, A. went to watch the movie and was immediately hooked. She went into labor in the middle. Her husband took her to the hospital and she never found out how the movie ended. Three years later, pregnant with her second child, A. She sat down on the sofa and turned the television back on. She was showing another movie, and again it was The Nun's Story with Audrey Hepburn. Even more remarkable (and A. was very emphatic on this point) is that he had turned on the movie at the very moment that it had stopped three years earlier. This time, he managed to see the movie to the end. Less than fifteen minutes later, her water broke and she went to the hospital to give birth for the second time. These two daughters are the only daughters of A. The first birth was extremely difficult (my girlfriend barely made it and she was ill for many months), but the second birth was smooth and uneventful. two


Five years ago, I was spending the summer in Vermont with my wife and children, renting a secluded old-fashioned farmhouse on top of a mountain. One day, a woman from the neighboring village came to visit her with her two children, a four-year-old girl and an eighteen-month-old boy. My daughter Sophie had just turned three and she and the girl loved to play together. My wife and I sat in the kitchen with our guest and the kids ran out to have fun. Five minutes later there was a loud crash. The boy entered the hall at the end of the house, and since my wife had placed a vase of flowers in that hall just two hours before, it was not difficult to guess what had happened. I didn't even have to look to know that the floor was littered with broken glass and puddles of water, along with the stems and petals of a dozen scattered flowers. He was angry. Damn boys, I told myself. Damn people with their damn clumsy children. Who gave them the right to pass without knocking first? I told my wife that I would clean up the mess, and as she and our visitor continued to talk, I grabbed a broom, dustpan, and some towels and headed to the front of the house. My wife had placed the flowers on a log that was just below the railing. This staircase was particularly steep and narrow, and there was a large window no more than four feet from the bottom step. I mention this geography because it is important. Where things were has a lot to do with what happened next. I was in the middle of cleaning when my daughter left her room and went to the second floor landing. I was close enough to the bottom of the stairs that I could see her (a few steps back and she would be out of sight) and in that brief moment I saw that she had a smug, utterly happy expression on her face that filled my half. old with such overwhelming joy. Then a moment later, before he could even greet her, she stumbled. The toe of her slipper hit the ground and just like that, without a cry or warning, she was shot into the air. I'm not implying that she fell or tripped or went down the steps. What I mean is that she flew. The shock of the trip literally hurled her into space, and I could see from her flight path that she was heading straight for the window. What did I do? I don't know what I did she was on the wrong side of the railing when I saw her stumble, but when she was halfway between the landing and the window, I was standing on the bottom step of the stairs. How did I get there? It was only a few meters, but it seems difficult to cover that distance in this time, which is almost no time. Still, she was there, and by the time I got there, I looked up, opened her arms, and hugged her. 3 I was fourteen years old. For the third year in a row, my parents sent me to a summer camp in upstate New York. I spent most of my time playing basketball and baseball, but being a co-ed camp there were other activities as well: late-night get-togethers, awkward first-girl fights, panty raids, the usual teenage antics. I also remember smoking cheap cigars in the luxurious "French" beds and huge water balloon fights. 192

None of that matters. I just want to emphasize how vulnerable the age of fourteen can be. You are no longer a child, you are not yet an adult, you are tottering between what you were and what you will be. In my case, I was young enough to believe I had a legitimate shot at playing in the major leagues, but old enough to question the existence of God. He had read the Communist Manifesto, but still enjoyed watching cartoons on Saturday mornings. Every time I saw my face in the mirror, I felt like I was looking at someone else. There were sixteen or eighteen children in my group. Most of us have been together for several years, but we've also had a few newcomers this summer. One was called Ralph. He was a quiet kid not much keen on dribbling basketballs or hitting the cut man, and while no one made it especially difficult for him, he had trouble fitting in. He had failed a few subjects that year and most of his free time was supervised by one of his tutors. It was kind of sad and I felt sorry for him, but not too much, not enough to lose sleep over it. Our advisors were all New York college students from Brooklyn and Queens. Wise basketball players, future dentists, accountants and teachers, city kids to the core. Like most true New Yorkers, they insisted on calling the dirt "soil," even when all that lay beneath their feet was grass, pebbles, and dirt. The trappings of traditional summer camp life were as foreign to them as the I.R.T. it's for a farmer in Iowa. Canoes, ropes, mountaineering, tent building, campfire singing weren't on his list of worries. They could teach us the intricacies of picking and boxing for rebounds, but otherwise they were mostly whining and cracking jokes. So imagine our surprise when one afternoon our adviser announced that we were going on a hike in the woods. He had been struck by an inspiration and he didn't want anyone to talk him out of it. Enough basketball, he said he. We are surrounded by nature and it is time to take advantage of it and start acting like real campers, or words for that matter. And so, after the rest period after lunch, the whole band of sixteen or eighteen young men, together with two or three counselors, set off for the forest. It was late July 1961. I remember everyone was in a good mood, and about half an hour into the walk most people agreed that the trip was a good idea. Of course, no one had a compass or any idea where we were going, but we were all having fun and if we got lost, what difference would it make? Sooner or later we would find our way back. Then it started to rain. At first it was hardly noticeable, a few light drops falling between the leaves and branches, nothing to worry about. We kept walking, not wanting a bit of water to spoil our fun, but a few minutes later it really started to fall. Everyone got drenched and the councilors decided we should turn around and head back. The only problem was that no one knew where the camp was. The forest was dense, full of clumps of trees and thorny bushes, and we had chosen our path here and there, abruptly changing direction to continue. Adding to the confusion, it became difficult to see. The forest was dark at first, but as it rained and the sky darkened, it became more like night than three or four in the afternoon. Then the thunder began. And after the thunder came the lightning. The storm was just overhead and it turned out to be the summer storm that ended the entire summer of 193.

storms I have never experienced weather like this before or since. The rain fell so hard it hurt; Every time the thunder exploded, you could feel the noise vibrating through your body. Right after that, lightning came, dancing around us like spears. It was as if the weapons had materialized out of nowhere: a sudden flash that turned everything a brilliant, ghostly white. The trees were hit and the branches began to burn. Then it would go dark again for a moment, there would be another crack in the sky, and the glow would return to another place. Of course, the lightning scared us. It would be foolish not to be afraid, and in our panic we try to run away from it. But the storm was very strong and, wherever we went, more lightning struck us. It was a wild run, a wild run in a circle. Then suddenly someone discovered a clearing in the forest. A brief discussion ensued as to whether it was safer to go outside or stay deeper under the trees. He won the opening vote and we all ran into the clearing. It was a small meadow, probably a pasture, belonging to a local farm and to get there we had to crawl under a barbed wire fence. One by one, we lie on our stomachs and make our way. I was in the middle of the line, right behind Ralph. Just as he passed under the barbed wire, there was another flash. I was two feet away, but with the rain beating against my eyelids, I was having a hard time understanding what had happened. All he knew was that Ralph had stopped moving. I guessed he was in a daze, so I crept past him under the fence. When I was on the other side, I grabbed his arm and pulled. I'm not sure how long we stayed in this area. I would estimate an hour and the entire time we were there we were bombarded with rain, thunder and lightning. It was a storm torn from the pages of the Bible and it went on and on like it would never end. Two or three children were struck by something, maybe lightning, maybe lightning when it fell to the ground next to them, and the meadow began to fill with their moans. Other children cried and prayed. Still others, fear in their voices, tried to offer good advice. Get rid of all metal, they said, metal attracts lightning. We all take off our seatbelts and throw them away from us. I don't remember saying anything. I don't remember crying. Another boy and I were busy taking care of Ralph. He was still unconscious. We rub his hands and arms, we hold his tongue so he doesn't swallow, we tell him to hold it. After a while, his skin began to take on a bluish tint. His body felt colder to the touch, but despite the mounting evidence, it never occurred to me that he wouldn't return. After all, he was only fourteen, and what did I know? I had never seen a dead man. It was the barbed wire, I guess. The other children struck by lightning were deaf and had pain in their extremities for about an hour and then recovered. But Ralph was under the fence when lightning struck and he was instantly electrocuted. Later, when they told me he was dead, I found out he had an eight-inch burn on his back. I remember trying to process this news and telling myself that life would never be the same for me again. Strangely, I didn't think I was next to him when this happened. I didn't think a second or two later and it would have been me. What I thought was bite your tongue and look 194

your tooth. His mouth was twisted in a slight grimace, and with his lips partially parted, I spent an hour staring at the tips of his teeth. Thirty-four years later, I still remember her. And her eyes half closed, half open. I also remember those. 4 Not many years ago I received a letter from a lady who lives in Brussels. In it she told me the story of a friend she has known since childhood. In 1940, this man enlisted in the Belgian army. When the country fell to the Germans that same year, he was captured and sent to a prisoner of war camp. He remained there until the end of the war in 1945. The prisoners were allowed to correspond with Red Cross officials in Belgium. The man randomly received a pen pal, a Brussels Red Cross nurse, and for the next five years, he and this woman exchanged letters every month. Over time, they quickly became friends. At a certain point (I'm not exactly sure how long it took) they understood that something more than just a friendship had developed between them. The correspondence continued, growing closer with each exchange, and they finally declared their love for each other. Was such a thing possible? They had never seen each other, never spent a minute in each other's company. After the end of the war, the man was released from prison and brought back to Brussels. He met the nurse, the nurse met him, and no one was disappointed. They got married soon after. past years. They had children, they got older, the world became a little different. The son completed his studies in Belgium and went to Germany to do his doctorate. At university, he fell in love with a young German woman. He wrote to her parents and told them that he intended to marry them. Parents on both sides couldn't be happier for their children. The two families agreed to meet and on the agreed day the German family showed up at the Belgian family's house in Brussels. When the German father entered the room and the Belgian father rose to greet him, the two looked at each other and recognized each other. Many years passed, but neither of them doubted who the other was. Once in a lifetime, they saw each other every day. The German father had been a guard in the prison camp where the Belgian father had spent the war. As the woman who wrote me the letter hastened to add, there was no break between them. As scandalous as the German regime may have been, the German father did nothing in those five years to incite the Belgian father against him. Whatever the case, these two men are now the best of friends. The greatest joy in their lives is their grandchildren. 5 I was eight years old. At that point in my life, nothing was more important to me than baseball. My team was the New York Giants, and I watched these men in black and orange caps with all the devotion of a true believer. Even now, when I remember this team that no longer exists, playing in a stadium that no longer had 195

exists, I can name almost every player on the list. Alvin Dark, Whitey Lockman, Don Mueller, Johnny Antonelli, Monte Irvin, Hoyt Wilhelm. But none was greater, none more perfect or more lovable than Willie Mays, the fiery Say-Hey Kid. That spring, I was taken to my first major league game. My parents' friends had boxes at the Polo Grounds, and one night in April a group of us went to see the Giants play the Milwaukee Braves. I don't know who won, I can't remember a single detail of the game, but I do remember that after the game my parents and their friends sat in their chairs and talked until all the other spectators left. It was already getting late that we had to cross the diamond and go through the midfield exit, which was the only one left open. Coincidentally, this exit was just below the players' changing rooms. As we got closer to the wall, I saw Willie Mays. There was no mistaking who he was. It was Willie Mays, out of uniform now and standing less than ten feet from me in his street clothes. I managed to get my legs closer to him and then, using all my courage, I forced a few words out of my mouth. "Mr. Mays," I said, "could I have his autograph, please?" He must be twenty-four years old, but I couldn't find his first name. His answer to my question was brusque. but kind Sure, boy, sure," he said. "Have you got a pencil?" My father if he could lend me his. He didn't have one either. Neither did my mother. Nor any of the other adults. It just so happened that the great Willie Mays just stood there and watched silently. When it became clear that no one had something to write in the group, he turned to me and shrugged "sorry kid" he said "i don't have a pencil, i can't sign autographs" and then he walked out of the stadium into the night i didn't want to cry but the tears were running down my face and I couldn't help it. Worse, I cried all the way home in the car. Yes, I was devastated with disappointment, but I was also mad at myself for not being able to control those tears. I wasn't a baby. I had eight years old and big boys shouldn't cry for me. For these things. Not only did I not have Willie Mays's autograph, I had nothing else. Life tested me and I failed in every way. After that night, I started carrying a pencil with me wherever I went. I got used to never leaving the house without a pencil in my pocket. Not that I had any specific plans for this pen, but I didn't want to be caught off guard. I was caught empty-handed once, and I wouldn't let that happen again. Last but not least, the years have taught me one thing: if you have a pencil in your pocket, chances are you'll be tempted to start with it one day. As I like to tell my children, I became a writer. Accident report 1995 196

1 When A. was a young woman in San Francisco, just beginning her life, she went through a period of despair, almost madness. In a matter of weeks, she was fired from her job, one of her best friends was killed when her home was broken into at night, and A.'s beloved cat became seriously ill. I don't know the exact nature of the disease, but it seemed to be fatal and when A. took the cat to the vet, he told her that the cat would die within a month unless a specific operation was performed. She asked how much the surgery would cost. She added up her various fees and the total came to three hundred and twenty-seven dollars. A. did not have that much money. Her bank account was nearly empty, and for the next few days she walked around in a state of extreme anguish, alternating between thinking about her dead friend of hers and the impossible amount it would take to keep her cat from dying. : three hundred and twenty seven. dollars her One day she was driving through the mission and stopped at a red light. Her body was there, but her mind was elsewhere, and in the space between them, in that little space that no one has fully explored but where we all sometimes live, she heard the voice of her murdered friend. she. Don't worry, her voice said. Don't worry. Things will get better soon. The traffic light turned green, but A. was still under the spell of this auditory hallucination and she did not move. A moment later, a car struck her from behind her, breaking one of her taillights and shattering her fender. The man who was driving this car turned off the engine, got out of the car and walked towards A. She apologized for doing such a stupid thing. No, said A., it was my fault. The light turned green and I did not drive. But the man insisted that he was to blame. When he discovered that A. did not have comprehensive insurance (she was too poor for such luxuries), he offered to pay for the damage to her car. Make an estimate, she said, and send me the invoice. My health insurance covers this." A. continued to protest, telling the man that he was not responsible for the accident, but that she would not take no for an answer, and finally relented. She took the car to a repair shop and asked the mechanic to estimate the cost to repair the fender and taillight. When she returned a few hours later, he handed her a written quote. Give or take a penny or two, the total was exactly three hundred and twenty-seven dollars. 2 W., the friend from San Francisco who told me this story, has been making movies for twenty years. His latest project is based on a novel that tells the adventures of a mother and her teenage daughter. It is a work of fiction, but most of the events in the book come directly from the author's life. The author, now a grown woman, was once his teenage daughter, and the mother in the story, who is still alive, was his real mother. W.'s film was filmed in Los Angeles. A famous actress was hired to play the role of 197

from his mother, and as W. told me on a recent visit to New York, filming went smoothly and production was completed on schedule. However, when he started editing the film, he decided that he wanted to add a few more scenes, which he felt would improve the story a lot. One included a photo of her mother parking her car on a residential street. The local manager searched for a suitable street, and eventually one was chosen, apparently at random, since one street in Los Angeles looks more or less like any other. On the agreed morning, W., the actress and the film crew met in the street to film the scene. The car the actress was supposed to be driving was parked in front of a house, no specific house, just one of the houses on that street, and my friend and his lead actress were on the sidewalk, discussing the scene and possible ways to get closer. . His door to that house opened and a woman ran out. She seemed to be laughing and screaming at the same time. Distracted by emotion, W. and the actress stopped talking. A screaming, laughing woman ran across the front lawn and headed straight for them. I don't know the size of the lawn. W. forgot to mention this detail in telling the story, but in my eyes I consider it large, which would have given the woman considerable distance before she could reach the sidewalk and announce who she was. It seems to me that that moment deserves to be prolonged, if only for a few seconds, because what was supposed to happen was so improbable, so far-fetched in its defiance of all odds, that we want to savor it for a few extra seconds before letting go. . The woman running across the lawn was the writer's mother. As a fictional character in her daughter's book, she was also his real mother, and now he met the woman who played this fictional character in a movie based on the book in which her character appeared. She was real, but she was also imaginary. And the actress who played her was both real and imagined. There were two of them on the sidewalk that morning, but there was only one there. Or maybe it was the same thing twice. From what my friend told me, when the women finally understood what had happened, they hugged and hugged each other. Last September 3 I had to go to Paris for a few days and my editor booked me a small hotel on the left bank. It is the same hotel that they use for all of their writers and I have stayed there several times in the past. Aside from its convenient location, in the middle of a narrow street near Boulevard Saint-Germain, there's nothing remotely interesting about this hotel. Its prices are modest, its rooms are cramped, and it is not mentioned in any guidebook. The people who run it are nice enough, but it's just a boring, run-of-the-mill hole in the wall and apart from a few American writers who share the same French publishing house as me, I've never met anyone who hasn't stayed there. . . I mention this fact because the darkness of the hotel is part of the story. Unless we stop for a moment to consider how many hotels there are in Paris (which attracts more visitors than any other city in the world) and then consider how many rooms there are in those hotels (thousands, tens of thousands, no doubt), the El full meaning of what happened to me last year will not be understood. I arrived at the hotel late, over an hour late, and checked in at 198

the reception. I went up right after that. Just as I was putting my key in my bedroom door, the phone started ringing. I went inside, dumped my bag on the floor, and reached for the phone, which was in a niche in the wall next to the bed, about the height of the pillow. Since the phone was in front of the bed, the cord was short, and the only chair in the room was out of reach, you had to sit on the bed to use the phone. I did, and as I was talking to the person on the other end of the line, I noticed a piece of paper under the table on the other side of the room. If he had been anywhere else, he would not have been able to see it. The dimensions of the room were so narrow that the distance between the desk and the foot of the bed did not exceed four or four feet. From my vantage point at the head of the bed, I was in the only place that offered a low enough angle to the floor to see what was under the table. Finished the conversation, I got out of bed, crouched under the desk and picked up the paper. Curious, of course, always curious, but by no means expecting to find something out of the ordinary. The paper turned out to be one of those little message forms that slide under the door of European hotels. To—— and From——, the date and time, and then an empty square below for the message. The form was folded in three, and on the outer fold was the name of one of my closest friends in block letters. We don't see each other much (O. lives in Canada), but we have had many unforgettable experiences together and there has never been more than the greatest affection between us. I was delighted to see his name on the message form. We hadn't talked in a while and I had no idea that he would be in Paris when I was there. In those first moments of discovery and incomprehension, I assumed that O. somehow found out about my arrival and called the hotel to leave me a message. The note was delivered to my room, but whoever brought it carelessly placed it on the edge of the table and tossed it to the floor. Or that person (the maid?) accidentally dropped it while he was preparing the room for my arrival. Either way, neither explanation was very plausible. The angle was wrong, and if someone hadn't kicked the note after it hit the floor, the paper couldn't have been that far from the table. I was already rethinking my hypothesis when I remembered something more important. O's name was on the outside of the message form. If the message was for me, my name would be there. The recipient was the one whose name was supposed to be on the outside, not the sender, and if my name wasn't there, it certainly wouldn't be anywhere else. I opened the message and read it. The sender was someone I had never heard of, but the recipient was actually O. I ran downstairs and asked the receptionist if O. was still there. It was obviously a stupid question, but I asked it anyway. How could O. be there when he was no longer in his room? I was there now, and O's room was no longer his but mine. I asked the employee what time he left. An hour ago, the clerk said. An hour ago he was stuck in a traffic jam in a taxi on the outskirts of Paris. If he had arrived at the hotel on time, he would have found O. just as he was walking out the door. 1999 means nothing 199

1 We meet him from time to time at the Carlyle Hotel. It would be an exaggeration to call him a friend, but F. was a good acquaintance and my wife and I always waited for him when he called to say he was in town. A bold and prolific French poet, F. was also one of the world's leading authorities on Henri Matisse. Such was his reputation that a major French museum asked him to organize a major exhibition of Matisse's work. F. was not a professional healer, but he threw himself into his work with tremendous energy and skill. The idea was to collect all of Matisse's paintings from a given five-year period in the middle of his career. There were dozens of canvases, and since they are scattered in private collections and museums around the world, it took F. several years to prepare the exhibition. In the end, there was only one work that was not found, but it was crucial, the centerpiece of the entire exhibition. F. could not locate the owner, he did not know where he was, and without this canvas, years of travel and hard work would have been wasted. For the next six months, he dedicated himself exclusively to finding this painting, and when he found it, he realized that it had been only a few feet from him the whole time. The owner was a woman who lived in an apartment in the Carlyle Hotel. The Carlyle was F's favorite hotel and he stayed there whenever he was in New York. In addition, the woman's apartment was just above the room that F. had always reserved for him, just one floor above. Which meant that every time F. went to bed in the Carlyle Hotel wondering where the missing painting might be, it was hanging on the wall right above his head. Like a picture from a dream. 2 I wrote this paragraph last October. A few days later, a friend called me from Boston to say that a poet he knew was not well. This man, now in his sixties, has spent his life in the far reaches of the literary solar system: the sole inhabitant of an asteroid orbiting a tertiary moon of Pluto, visible only through the most powerful telescope. I never met him, but I read his work and always imagined him living on his little planet as a modern little prince. My friend told me that the poet's health was deteriorating. He was receiving treatment for his illness, he had no money and they threatened to evict him from his house. In order to quickly raise some money to rescue the poet from his troubles, my friend had the idea of ​​producing a book in his honor. He solicited contributions from several dozen poets and writers, assembled them into an attractive limited-edition volume, and sold copies by subscription only. He supposed that there were enough book collectors in the country to secure a considerable profit. As soon as the money arrived, everything would be handed over to the sick and struggling poet. 200

He asked if I had a page or two to give him and I mentioned the story I had just written about my French friend and the lost painting. I faxed him that morning and he called me a few hours later to say that he liked the piece and wanted to include it in the book. I was glad I did my part, and when the matter was resolved, I immediately forgot about it. Two nights ago (January 31, 2000), I sat down with my 12-year-old daughter for dinner in our Brooklyn home and helped her with her math homework: a huge list of problems involving negative and positive numbers. My daughter isn't much interested in math, and when we finished converting subtractions to additions and negatives to positives, we talked about the music recital she had put on at her school a few nights before. She had sung "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face," the old Roberta Flack number, and now she was looking for another song to prepare for the spring concert. After brainstorming a few ideas, we both decided that she should do something upbeat and fast this time, instead of the slow and painful ballad she had just performed. Without warning, she jumped out of her chair and began singing the lyrics to "It don't mean a thing if you don't have that swing." I know that parents tend to exaggerate their children's talents, but I have no doubt that her performance in this song was remarkable. Dancing and vibrating as the music poured out of her, she took her voice to places she had never been before, and as she felt it herself, she could feel the power of her own playing, starting anew immediately. After finishing. She then she sang again. And then again. For fifteen or twenty minutes the house was filled with ever more beautiful and exultant variations of a single unforgettable movement: Nothing means anything if it doesn't have that verve. The next afternoon (yesterday) she brought the mail at about two o'clock. It was a sizable bunch of them, the usual mix of important things and business. A small poetry publisher in New York had sent me a letter and I opened it first. Unexpectedly, it contained proof of my contribution to my friend's book. I read the article again, proofread it once or twice, and then called the publisher who was producing the book. His name and his phone number were on a cover letter from the publisher, and after a brief conversation, I hung up and flipped through the rest of my correspondence. Embedded in the pages of my daughter's new issue of Seventeen Magazine was a slim white package sent from France. Flipping it over to see the return address, I saw that it was from F., the same poet whose experience with the missing painting inspired me to write the short text I've just read for the first time since it was composed in October. What a coincidence, I thought. My life has been filled with dozens of strange events like this, and no matter how hard I try, I can't break free. What in the world keeps me wrapped up in such nonsense? So I opened the package. Inside was a slim book of poetry, what we would call several; what the French call plate. It was only thirty-two pages long and was printed on fine, elegant paper. As I was leafing through it, skimming a sentence here and there, and immediately recognizing the exuberant, frenetic style that characterizes all of F.'s work, a small piece of paper fell out of the book and flew onto my desk. It was no more than two inches long and half an inch high. I 201

I had no idea what that was. She had never before found a misplaced note in a new book and, unless it was to serve as some kind of refined microscopic marker to do justice to the refinement of the book itself, it looked as if it had been placed there accidentally. I picked up the missing rectangle from my desk, turned it over, and saw that there was something written on the other side: eleven short words arranged in a single row of typewriters. The poems were written in French, the book was printed in France, but the words on the note that fell out of the book were in English. They formed a sentence, and that sentence was: It doesn't mean anything if it doesn't have that strength. 3 Having come this far, I cannot resist adding one more link to this chain of anecdotes. As I wrote the last words of the first paragraph in the second paragraph reprinted above (“living on his little planet as a modern little prince”), I remembered that The Little Prince was written in New York. Few know it, but after Saint-Exupéry was demobilized after the French defeat in 1940, he came to the United States and lived for a time at 240 Central Park South in Manhattan. There he wrote his famous book, the most French of all French children's books. Le Petit Prince is required reading for nearly every French-speaking high school student in America, and like many before me, it was the first book I read in a language other than English. I read more books in French. After all, when I was young I made a living translating French books, and at one point I lived in France for four years. There I met F. for the first time and got to know his work. It may seem like an odd statement, but I think it's safe to say that if I hadn't read Le Petit Prince as a teenager in 1963, I never would have been able to receive F.'s book thirty-seven years later. By that I also mean that I never would have discovered the mysterious piece of paper that said It Means Nothing if it weren't for that swing. 240 Central Park South is a strange, misshapen building on the corner facing Columbus Circle. Construction was completed in 1941, and the first tenants moved in just before Pearl Harbor and the United States' entry into the war. I don't know the exact date when Saint-Exupéry settled there, but he must have been one of the first to live in this building. In one of those weird anomalies that mean absolutely nothing, so did my mom. She moved there from Brooklyn with her parents and his sister when she was sixteen and didn't move until she married my father five years later. It was an extraordinary move for the family, from Crown Heights to one of the most elegant addresses in Manhattan, and I am led to believe that my mother lived in the same building where Saint-Exupéry wrote The Little Prince. Last but not least, I am touched by the fact that she had no idea the book was written, nor who the author was. She also did not know of her death some time later when her plane crashed in the last year of the war. Around the same time, my mother fell in love with an aviator. Coincidentally, he too was killed in the same war. My grandparents lived at 240 Central Park South until her death (my grandmother in 1968; my grandfather in 1979), and many of my best childhood memories are in her apartment. My mother moved to New Jersey after she married my father, and we moved houses several times during my early years, 202

but the New York apartment has always been there, a fixed point in an unstable universe. There I stood by the window and watched the traffic swirling around the Christopher Columbus statue. There my grandfather did his magic tricks for me. It was there that I realized that New York is my city. Like my mother, his sister moved out of the apartment when she got married. Not long after (early 1950s), she and her husband moved to Europe, where they lived for the next twelve years. As I reflect on the various decisions I have made in my own life, I have no doubt that her example inspired me to move to France in my early twenties. When my aunt and uncle returned to New York, my little cousin was eleven years old. I only met him once. His parents sent him to the French lycee, and due to inconsistencies in our respective backgrounds, we ended up reading The Little Prince at the same time, even though our age difference was six years. None of us knew at the time that the book was written in the same house where our mothers lived. After returning from Europe, my cousin and his parents moved into an apartment on the Upper East Side. For the next few years, he got his hair cut every month at the Carlyle Hotel's barbershop. GOTHAM MANUAL 2000

From Double Game, by Sophie Calle THE RULES OF THE GAME In his novel Leviathan, Paul Auster thanks me for allowing him to mix fact with fiction. And in fact, on pages 60 to 67 of his book, he uses a series of episodes from my life to create a fictional character named Maria. Intrigued by this doppelganger, I decided to turn Paul Auster's novel into a game and create my own mix of fact and fiction. I Maria's life and how it influenced Sofia's life. In Leviathan, Maria goes through the same rituals as me. But Paul Auster put some rules of his own invention into his portrayal of Maria. To get closer to Maria and me, I decided to read the book. II


Sophie's life and how it influenced Maria's life. The rituals that Auster "borrowed" from me to mold María are: The Wardrobe, The Striptease, Consequences..., Suite Vénitienne, The Detective, The Hotel, The Diary and The Birthday Ceremony. Leviatán gives me the opportunity to present those artistic projects that inspired the author and that Maria and I now share. III One of the many ways to mix reality with fiction or try to become a character in a novel. Since Auster made me the subject of Leviathan, I imagined switching roles and making him the author of my actions. I asked him to create a fictional character that he would try to emulate. Instead, Auster sent me "Personal Instructions for SC on How to Improve Life in New York City (Because She Asked...)". I followed your instructions. This project is titled Gotham Handbook. Gotham Handbook Personal Instructions for S.C. to improve life in New York (Because she asked for it...) SMILE Smile when the situation doesn't require it. Smile when you're angry, when you're miserable, when you feel bad in the world, and see if it makes a difference. Smile at strangers on the street. New York can be dangerous, so you have to be careful. If you prefer, smile only at strange women. (Men are beasts and don't be misunderstood). Still, smile at people you don't know as often as possible. Smile at the bank clerk handing you your money, the waitress handing you your food, the person sitting across from you at the IRT. See if someone smiles at you. Track the number of smiles you receive every day. Don't be disappointed if people don't smile at you. Treat every smile you receive as a precious gift. TALK TO STRANGERS There will be people who will talk to you after you smile at them. You should expect flattering comments. Some of these people will talk to you because they feel confused, threatened, or offended by your kindness. ("Do you have a problem, ma'am?") Dive into 204

immediately with a disarming compliment. "No, I was just admiring your nice tie." Or "I love your dress." Others will speak to you because they are gentle souls who are happy to respond to human offers that come their way. Try to keep these conversations for as long as possible. It doesn't matter what you're talking about. The most important thing is to give and to make sure that some kind of real contact is made. When you run out of words to say, bring up the subject of weather. Cynics consider this a hackneyed topic, but the fact is that no topic makes people talk faster. Stop and think about it for a moment, and you'll begin to see a metaphysical, even religious, quality to this concern with wind chill factors and snowdrifts in Central Park. Weather is the great balance. Nobody can do anything about it and it affects us all equally: rich and poor, black and white, healthy and sick. The weather makes no difference. When it rains on me, it rains on you too. Unlike most problems we face, it is not a man-made condition. It comes from nature or from God or whatever you want to call the forces in the universe that we cannot control. Discussing the weather with a stranger means shaking hands and putting down your arms. It is a sign of good will, a confirmation of common humanity with your interlocutor. With so much that separates us, with so much hate and discord in the air, it's good to remember the things that unite us. The more we insist on dealing with strangers, the better the town's morale will be. Beggars and vagabonds, I am not asking you to reinvent the world. I just want you to think more about the things around you than about yourself, at least when you are outside and walking down the street. Don't ignore the unhappy. They are everywhere, and a person can get so used to seeing them that he begins to forget they are there. Do not forget. I am not asking you to give all your money to the poor. Even if you did, poverty would still exist (and you would have another member in your ranks). At the same time, it is our responsibility as human beings not to harden our hearts. Action is required, no matter how small or hopeless our gestures may seem. Get some bread and cheese. Make three or four sandwiches every time you leave the house and keep them in your bag. Whenever you see a hungry person, give them a sandwich. Buy cigarettes too. The popular belief is that cigarettes are bad for your health, but what the popular belief overlooks is that they also bring great comfort to the people who smoke them. Don't give just one or two. Donation of complete packages. If you find that your pockets can't fit enough sandwiches, go to the nearest McDonald's and buy as many food stamps as you can. Pass out these coupons when you run out of cheese sandwiches. You may not like McDonald's food, but most people do. Considering the alternatives, they offer good value for money. These coupons are especially useful on cold days. The hungry man can not only fill his stomach, he can also go somewhere and warm himself. 205

If you can't think of anything when you give the coupon to the hungry person, talk about the weather. GROW A PLACE It's not just people who are underserved in New York. things are also neglected. I don't just mean big things like bridges and subway tracks, but small and almost imperceptible things that are right in front of our eyes: pieces of sidewalk, walls, park benches. Look closely at the things around you and you will see that almost everything is falling apart. Choose a place in the city and start making it yours. It doesn't matter where and it doesn't matter what. A corner, a subway entrance, a tree in the park. Take this place as your responsibility. keep it clean fix it. Think of it as an extension of who you are, part of your identity. Be as proud of it as you are of your own home. Go to his seat at the same time every day. He spends an hour observing everything that happens to him and he follows everyone who passes or stops or does something there. Take notes, take photos. Write down these daily observations and see if you learn anything about the people, the place, or yourself. Smile at the people who arrive there. If possible, talk to them. If nothing comes to mind, start talking about the weather. Mar 5, 1994 THE STORY OF MY TYPEWRITER (with Sam Messer)

Three and a half years later I returned to America. It was July 1974, and that first afternoon in New York, as I was unpacking, I discovered that my little Hermes typewriter had been destroyed. The cover was broken, the keys mangled and bent, and there was no hope that it could be repaired. He had no money to buy a new typewriter. I rarely had a lot of money back then, but at the time I was broke. A few nights later, an old college friend invited me to his apartment for dinner. At one point in our conversation I mentioned to him what had happened to my typewriter and he told me that he had one in the closet that he no longer used. It was given to him as a high school graduation present in 1962. If he wanted it, 206

buy from him, he said, would you like to sell to me. We agreed on a price of forty dollars. It was a handheld Olympic device made in West Germany. This country no longer exists, but since that day in 1974, every word I have written has been typed on this machine. * I didn't think much of it at first. A year went by, ten years went by, and not once did I find it strange, or even remotely unusual, to work with a manual typewriter. The only alternative was an electric typewriter, but I didn't like the noise these machines made: the constant hum of the motor, the hum and rattle of loose parts, the pounding pulse of alternating current vibrating between my fingers. I preferred the silence of my Olympia. It felt comfortable, it ran smoothly, it was reliable. And when he wasn't hitting the keyboard, he was silent.




Best of all, it seemed to be indestructible. I was relieved of all maintenance except changing the ribbons and occasionally brushing paint buildup off the keys. Since 1974 I have changed the roller twice, maybe three times. I haven't taken it to the store to get it cleaned more times than I have voted in presidential elections. I never had to change any part. The only serious trauma he sustained was in 1979, when my two-year-old son broke his carriage return arm. But that wasn't the typewriter's fault. I was desperate for the rest of the day, but the next morning I took him to a shop on Court Street and had him re-weld the arm. There is now a small scar at this point, but the operation was successful and the arm has been stable ever since. 210

* It makes no sense to talk about computers and word processors. At first I was tempted to buy one of these wonders for myself, but many friends have told me horror stories about how they pushed the wrong button and ruined a day, or a month of work, and I heard many warnings before mistakes could happen. sudden. that could erase an entire manuscript in less than half a second. I was never good with machines and I knew that if I pushed the wrong button, I would eventually push it. So I stuck with my old typewriter and the 1980s turned into the 1990s. Gradually all my friends switched to Macs and IBMs. He was beginning to look like an enemy of progress, the last remaining pagan in a world of digital converts. My friends made fun of me for resisting the new ways. When they didn't call me petty, they called me a stubborn old reactionary. I did not care. What was good for her wasn't necessarily good for me, I said. Why should she change when she was perfectly happy the way she was? Until then, I had not been particularly attached to my typewriter. It was simply a tool that allowed me to do my job, but now that it had become an endangered species, one of the last surviving artifacts of twentieth-century Homo scriptorus, I was beginning to develop a fondness for it. Like it or not, I realized that we share the same past. As time passed, I realized that we also had the same future. Two or three years ago, sensing the end was near, I went to Leon, my local stationery store in Brooklyn, and asked him to place an order for fifty typewriter ribbons. He had to call for days to get such a large order. Some of them, he told me later, were sent from Kansas City. I use these ribbons as gently as I can, tapping them until the ink on the page is barely visible. When stocks run out, I have little hope that there will be any ribbons left. * It was never my intention to make a heroic figure out of my typewriter. This is the work of Sam Messer, a man who one day entered my house and fell in love with a machine. There is no explanation for the passions of artists. The affair has been going on for several years now and I suspected from the beginning that the feelings were mutual.




Messer rarely leaves without a sketchbook. He draws constantly, hitting the page with quick, angry movements, raising his eyes from his pad every two seconds to squint at the person or object in front of him, and every time you sit down to eat with him, do so with the understanding that you also pose for your portrait. We've been through this routine so many times in the last seven or eight years that I don't think about it anymore. I remember pointing the typewriter at him on his first visit, but I don't remember what he said. A day or two later he returned home. I wasn't there that afternoon, but he asked my wife to come down to my office and look at the typewriter again. God knows what he was doing down there, but I'm 214

he never doubted that the typewriter was speaking to him. I think he even managed to convince you to bare your soul when the time came. * She has returned several times since then, and each visit has produced a new wave of paintings, drawings, and photographs. Sam usurped my typewriter and gradually transformed an inanimate object into a being with personality and presence in the world. The typewriter now has moods and desires, expressing dark rage and exuberant joy, and trapped inside the metallic gray body of him, you could almost swear you can hear a heartbeat. I have to admit that I find all of this disturbing. The photos are brilliantly done and I'm proud of my typewriter for proving such a valuable item, but at the same time Messer has forced me to look at my old partner in a new way. I'm still adjusting, but now when I look at one of these paintings (two of which hang on my living room wall), I have a hard time thinking about my typewriter. Slowly but surely, he became a he. * We have been together for more than a quarter of a century. Wherever I go, the typewriter goes with me. We live in Manhattan, Upstate New York, and Brooklyn. We traveled together to California and Maine, to Minnesota and Massachusetts, to Vermont and France. During that time, I wrote with hundreds of pens and pencils. He owned multiple cars, lived in multiple refrigerators, and lived in multiple apartments and houses. I've spent dozens of pairs of shoes, shipped dozens of sweaters and jackets, lost or given watches, alarm clocks, and umbrellas. Everything breaks, everything wears out, everything loses its meaning in the end, but the typewriter is still with me. It is the only item I have today that I had 26 years ago. In a few months it will be with me exactly half of my life. * Worn and outdated, a relic of a time that is quickly fading from memory, the damn thing never left me. Though I remember the 9,400 days we spent together, now he sits across from me and stammers out his familiar song. We are in Connecticut for the weekend. It's summer, and the morning outside the window is warm, green and beautiful. The typewriter is on the kitchen table and my hands are on the typewriter. I looked letter by letter as I wrote these words. July 2, 2000 NORTHERN LIGHTS 215

Pages for Kafka on the 50th anniversary of his death

He goes to the promised land. Namely: he moves from place to place, constantly dreaming of stopping. And as he pursues that desire to stop, what matters most to him, he doesn't stop. wanders That is to say: without the slightest hope of getting anywhere. He is not going anywhere. And yet he always goes. Invisible to himself, he gives in to the stirring of his own body, as if he could follow the trail of what he refuses to lead. And through the blindness of the path he has chosen against himself, against himself, with its detours, detours and turns, the step of him, always one step ahead of nothing, he invents the path he has taken . It's his way and only him. And yet he is never free on this path. Because everything he left behind still anchors him to the starting point, he makes him regret having taken the first step, he robs him of the certainty that the departure was the right one. And the further he gets from where he started, the more doubts he has. His doubt accompanies him, like his breath, like his breath between each step -restless, oppressive- so that no true rhythm can be maintained, no single time. And the more his doubt goes with him, the closer he feels to the source of that doubt, so that, in the end, the distance between him and what he has left behind allows him to see what is behind him: what he is. no and could have been. But that thought brings him neither comfort nor hope. For the fact is that he left all these things behind, and in all these things, now left to absence, to the longing born of absence, he might have found himself one day, realized himself giving to the one who gave him the Law obeyed to dwell . , and that now he transcends walking. All this conspires against him, so that at every moment, even as he continues on his way, he feels that he must direct his gaze from a distance, like a bait, to the movement of his feet that appear below and disappear for him, on the road itself. , his dust, the stones that obstruct his path, the sound of his feet hitting him, and he obeys this feeling as if it were a penance, and he who had espoused the distance before him In relation to himself, becomes the innermost of all. that he is near. What he can touch, he delays, examines, describes with a patience that exhausts and oppresses him every moment, so that as he advances, he questions this path and questions every step he wants to take. Whoever lives to find the invisible becomes an instrument of the visible: whoever wants to undermine the earth becomes a speaker of its surfaces, a measurer of its shadows. So whatever he does, he does it for the sole purpose of undermining himself, undermining his strength. When it comes to moving on, he will do everything in his power not to move on. And yet he will carry on. Because even though he stays, he can't root 216

per se. No pause evokes a place. But he also knows it. Because he what he wants, he doesn't want. And if your journey has an end, it will only be to find yourself where you started. he wanders along a path that is not a path, in a land that is not his own, exiled in his own body. What he is given he will reject. Whatever is put in front of him, he will turn his back. He will refuse to yearn better for what he has denied himself. Because entering the promised land means despairing of approaching it. So he keeps everything at a distance, all his life, and he's closest to getting there when he's furthest from his goal. And yet he continues. And from one step to the next he finds nothing but himself, not even himself, but the shadow of what he will become. Because in the smallest stone that he touches he recognizes a fragment of the promised land. Not even the promised land, but the shadow of it. And between shadow and shadow lives the light. And not just any light, but this light, the light that grows within him endlessly as it walks in his path. 1974 The death of Sir Walter Raleigh

The tower is made of stone and the solitude is made of stone. It is a man's skull around a man's body, and it is thought. But no thought will reach the other side of the wall. And the wall will not collapse even against the hammer of a human eye. Because the eyes are blind, and if they see, it is because they have learned to see where there is no light. Here there is nothing but thought, and there is nothing. Man is a stone that breathes and will die. The only thing that awaits him is death. So the question is life or death. And the theme is death. Whether the man who lives really lived until death, or whether death is only the moment when life ends. This is an argument from act, and therefore an act that refutes the argument from any word. Because we can never say what we want to say, and what is said is said knowing that failure. All this is speculation. One thing is certain: this man will die. The tower is impenetrable and the depth of the stone is limitless. But thought still determines its own limits, and the thinking man can sometimes surpass himself, even if he gets nowhere. He can reduce himself to a stone or write the history of the world. Where there is no possibility, everything becomes possible again. So Raleigh. Or he lived life as a suicide pact with himself. And if there is an art -if it can be called art- of life or not. He takes everything from a man and that man will continue to exist. If he could live, he would be able to die. And when there is nothing left, he will know how to face the wall. it is death. And we say "death" as if we were saying what we cannot know. And yet we know, and we know that we know. Because we believe that this knowledge is irrefutable. It is a question that has no answer and that will lead us to many 217

Questions that, in turn, take us back to what we cannot know. Then we can ask what we are going to order. Because the issue is not just life or death. It is death and it is life. In each moment there is the possibility of what is not. And from every thought an opposite thought is born. From death you will see an image of life. And from one place there will be blessings from another place. America. And at the frontier of thought, where the new world annihilates the old, a place is invented to take the place of death. He has already touched your back, and the image of him will haunt you to the end. It is paradise, it is the garden before the fall, and it evokes a thought beyond human comprehension. And this man will die. And he will not only die, he will be killed. An ax will chop off your head. This is how it starts. And so it ends. We all know that we are going to die. And if there is a truth by which we live, it is that we die. But we may well wonder how and when, and we may well wonder if chance is not the only god. The Christian says no and the suicide says no. Each one of them says that he can choose, and each one of them chooses by faith or lack thereof. But what about the man who neither believes nor disbelieves? He will throw himself into life, enjoy life to the fullest, and then come to the end. Because death is a true wall, and behind that wall no one can pass. Therefore, we will not ask if someone can vote or not. One can choose and one cannot. It depends on who and why. Therefore, at first we have to find a place where we are alone and at the same time together, that is, the place where we stop. There is the wall and there is the truth we face. The question is: when do you see the wall? See the facts. Thirteen years in the Tower and then the last trip west. Whether or not he was guilty (and he was not) has nothing to do with the facts. Thirteen years in the tower and a man begins to learn what loneliness is. He will learn that he is only a body and he will learn that he is only a spirit and he will learn that he is nothing. He can breathe, he can walk, he can talk, he can read, he can write, he can sleep. He can count the stones. He could be a breathing stone, or he could write the history of the world. But at all times he is a prisoner of others, and his will is no longer his. Only his thoughts belong to him, and he is as alone with them as he is with the shadow he has become. But he is alive. And he not only lives, he lives to the fullest, what his limits allow him. And beyond them. Well, an image of death, however, will drive you to find life. And yet nothing has changed. Because the only thing that awaits him is death. But that is not all. And the facts need further consideration. Because the day is drawing near when he will be able to leave the Tower. He has been set free, but he is still not free. A full pardon is only granted on the condition that he achieves something that is simply impossible to achieve. Already a victim of the lowest political intrigue, target of crazed justice, he will have his last adventure and create his greatest failure as sadistic entertainment for his captors. Once called a fox, he is now like a mouse in a cat's mouth. The king instructs him: he sees where the Spanish have a right, steals their gold, and does not anger them or incite them to retaliate. Any other man would have laughed. Accused of conspiring with the Spanish thirteen years ago and taking him to the Tower as a result, he is now ordered to do something to have the very charges he was found guilty of in 218 dismissed.

first place. But he doesn't laugh. You have to assume that he knew what he was doing. Either he believed that he could do what he set out to do, or the pull of the new world was so strong that he couldn't resist. In any case, it doesn't matter now. Everything that could go wrong for him did go wrong, and the trip was a disaster from the start. Returning to the world of men after thirteen years of solitude is not easy, especially in old age. And now he is an old man, in his sixties, and the prison reverie in which he watched his thoughts transform into his most glorious actions crumbles before his eyes. The garrison rebels against him, there is no gold, the Spanish are hostile. The worst: your son is murdered. He takes everything from a man and that man will continue to exist. But one person's everything is not another's, and even the strongest person will have a place of greater vulnerability within. For Raleigh, that place is occupied by his son, who is both the symbol of his greatest strength and the seed of his downfall. To all things outward, the boy will bring misfortune, and though he is a child of love, he remains living proof of lust: the wild heat of a man willing to risk everything to answer his body's call. But that pleasure is still love, and a love that seldom speaks more clearly of a person's value. Because no one flirts with a queen's lady unless he is willing to destroy his position, his honor, her name. These women are the Queen's own person, and no man, not even the most popular, may approach or possess them without royal consent. And yet he shows no signs of remorse; he does everything well that he did. Because shame doesn't have to bring shame. He loves the woman, he will continue to love her, she will become the substance of her life. And in this first prophetic exile his son is born. The child is growing. And he grows wild. The father cannot do more than resent, warn, let himself be warmed by the fire of his flesh and his blood. He writes an extraordinary exhortation to the boy, both a random chant and a rage against the inevitable, telling him that if he doesn't fix himself he'll end up at the end of a rope, and the boy leaves for Paris. with Ben Jonson in a colossal revelry. Dad can't do anything about it. It's all a matter of waiting. When he is finally able to get out of the tower, he takes the boy with him. He needs the comfort of his son and he needs to feel like a father. But the boy is killed in the jungle. Not only does he come to the end that his father predicted for him, but the father himself has become the ignorant executioner of his own son. And the death of the son is the death of the father. Because this man is going to die. The trip failed, the thought of mercy does not even occur to him. England means the ax and the glorious triumph of the king. The wall has been hit. And yet it comes back. To a place where the only thing that awaits you is death. He returns when everything tells her to run for his life or die by his own hand. After all, you can always choose your moment. But he comes back. So the question is, why cross an entire ocean just to have a date with death? We may well speak of madness as others have. Or we can also talk about courage. But it doesn't matter what we say. Because this is where words fail. And if we get to say what we want to say, he will continue saying it knowing that we failed. Therefore, all of this is speculation. If there is an art of living, then the person who lives life as an art becomes 219

have a sense of their own beginning and end. And furthermore, you will know that your end is in its beginning and that each breath you take will only bring you closer to that end. He will live, but he will also die. Because no work remains unfinished, not even the one that has been abandoned. Most men give their lives for him. They live until they live no more, and that is what we call death. Because death is a real wall. A man dies and therefore is no longer alive. But that doesn't mean it's death. Because death is only in seeing death and living death. And we can truly say that only the man who lives his life to the fullest can see his own death. And we are really allowed to say what we are going to say. Because this is where words fail. Each man approaches the wall. A man turns around and ends up getting hit in the back. Another is blinded by the mere thought and spends his life groping with fear. And another sees it from the beginning and, although his fear is not less, he will learn to face it and go through life with his eyes open. Every action will count; Until the last act, because nothing else will matter to you. He will live because he can die. And he will touch the wall. So Raleigh. Or the art of living as the art of death. Hence England, and hence the axe. Because the issue is not just life or death. it is death. And it is life. And we are really allowed to say what we are going to say. 1975 Aurora Borealis The paintings of Jean-Paul Riopelle

PROGRESS OF THE SOUL At the limit of man, the earth will disappear. And all that is seen from the earth will be lost to the man who comes to this place. His eyes will be opened on the earth and wisdom will cover man. Because this is the edge of the earth, and therefore a place where no man can be. Nowhere. As if that was a start. Because even here, where the earth escapes any witness, a landscape will emerge. That is to say, there is never anything where a man has gone, not even in a place where everything has disappeared. Because he can't be anywhere until he's nowhere, and the moment he starts to lose himself, he'll find out where he is. That's why he goes to the ends of the earth, even when he's in the middle of life. And when he is in this place, it is only because he wants to be here, at the edge of himself, as if that edge were the nucleus of another, more secret beginning in the world. He will find himself in his own disappearance, and in that absence he will discover the earth, even at the edge of the earth. 220

THE SPACE OF THE BODY So there is no need except the need to be here. As if he, too, could pass into life and place himself among the things that are below him: a single thing, even the smallest, of all that he is not. This desire exists and it is inalienable. As if he could find himself in the world if he opened his eyes. A forest. And in this forest a tree. And on this tree a leaf. A single leaf spinning in the wind. This sheet and nothing else. to see the thing Being seen: as if he could be here. But the eye was never enough. Not only can you see, you cannot tell how to see. Because when a single leaf turns, the whole forest turns around it. And who turns He wants to see what he is. But nothing, not even the smallest thing, stopped for him. Because a leaf is not just a leaf: it is the earth, it is the sky, it is the tree from which it hangs in the light of a certain hour. But it is also a leaf. That is, it is what moves.


Therefore, it is not enough for him to simply open his eyes. If he wants to see, he must first move towards the thing that moves. Seeing is a process that involves the whole body. And although he begins as a witness to what is not, after the first step he becomes a participant in a movement that knows no boundaries between the self and the object. Distances: What the rapidity of the eye discovers, the body must track in experience. There is this distance that must be overcome and each time it is a new distance, another space that opens before the gaze. Because no two sheets are the same. He must, then, feel his feet on the ground: and, with a patience that is the instinct of breath and blood, learn that the same ground is also the destiny of the blade. 222

DISAPPEAR Start again. And every time it starts it's like it's never lived before. Painting: or the desire to disappear in the act of seeing. That is, to see the thing that is, and to see it for the first time each time, as if it were the last time he saw it. On the edge of yourself: fighting for almost nothing. To breathe the white of the far north. And all this is lost to be reborn from that emptiness in the place where desire takes it and dismembers it and scatters it back to earth. Because when he's here, he's nowhere. And time does not exist for him. It suffers no duration, no continuity, no history: time is nothing more than an alternation between being and non-being, and the moment he begins to feel time pass within him, he knows that he is no longer alive. The self flashes in an image of itself and the body traces a movement that it has traced a thousand times before. This is the curse of memory, or the separation of the body from the world. If you are going to start, you must transport yourself to a place beyond memory. Once a gesture is repeated, a path is discovered, the act of living becomes a kind of death. The body must be emptied of the world to find the world, and everything must disappear before it can be seen. The impossible is what allows him to breathe, and if there is life in him it is only because he is willing to risk his life. That's why he pushes his limits. And the moment he no longer knows where he is, the world can start anew for him. But there is no way to know this in advance, there is no way to foresee this miracle, and between each misstep, each interval of waiting, there is terror. And not only terror, but the death of the inner world. THE END OF THE EARTH Fatigue and fear. The infinite beginning of time in the body of a man. blindness in middle age; Blindness, in the solitude of a single body. No problem. Or rather, everything begins to be nothing. And the world is so far from him that in all he sees of the world he finds nothing but himself. Void and immobility for as long as it takes to kill him. Here, in the midst of life, where the density of things seems to suffocate the possibility of life, or here, in the place where memory inhabits it. There is no choice but to leave. Closing the door behind him and invading himself to the ends of the world. The forest. Or a distortion of time in the heart, as if there was a place where a man could stay. The target opens before him, and when he sees it, it will not be with the eyes of a painter, but with the body of a man who fights for his life. Little by little everything is forgotten, but not by an act of will: a person can discover the world only because he has to, and for the simple reason that his life depends on it. So look at it as a way of being in the world. And knowledge as a force that arises from within. Because after being nowhere, he'll eventually find himself so close to things that he won't even be in them. 223

Relations. I mean, the forest. It begins with a single sheet: the thing to be seen. And because there is one, there can be all. But before there is anything, there must be the desire and the joy of a desire that pushes you to the limit. Because in this place everything is connected; and he is also part of this process. So you have to move. And as you move, you'll start to figure out where he is. NATURE No painting better captures the spirit of natural abundance than this one. Because this painter understands that the body is seeing, that without movement there is no seeing, he manages to transport himself to the greatest distances - and arrive at a place of proximity and intimacy where everything that is free can be what it is. To look at one of these paintings is to enter into it: to become a field of forces made not only of things, but also of the movement of things, their displacement and their harmony. Because it is about a man who knows the forest, and the almost inhuman energy of these canvases does not speak of an abstract program of integration with nature, but of a tangible need to be present that if life could only be lived in the fullness of that wish. As a result, this work not only reflects the natural landscape. It is the record of an encounter, of a process of penetration and interdependence and, as such, the portrait of a man outside of himself, a painter who paints while breathing. He never sought only to create beautiful objects, but to make life possible in the act of painting. Because of this, he always avoided easy solutions, and whenever he noticed that his job was becoming automatic, he would stop working altogether, as long as he memorized his job to block his access to the screen. In fact, each burst of activity is a new beginning, the fruit of a period of unlearning the art of painting that allowed him to rediscover the world. His art is knowledge and innocence, and the eternal freshness of his work comes from the fact that painting is not something he makes and then throws away, but a necessary struggle to maintain his own life. It is the very essence of man. 1976 CRITICAL EXHAUST

the art of hunger

It seems less important to me to defend a culture that has existed for 224 years

He never prevented a man from starving to death by extracting from so-called culture ideas whose compelling force is identical to that of hunger. Antonin Artaud A young man arrives in a city. He has no name, no house, no job: he came to the city to write. He writes. Or more precisely, he does not write. He is hungry. The city is Christiania (Oslo); The year is 1890. The young man wanders the streets: the city is a maze of hunger and all his days are the same. He writes unsolicited articles for a local newspaper. He worries about the rent, the clothes falling apart, the difficulty finding his next meal. he suffers. He almost went crazy. He is never more than one step away from collapse. Yet he writes. He occasionally manages to sell an item to temporarily recover from his misery. But he is too weak to write consistently and can rarely finish the pieces he starts. Unsuccessful works by him include an essay titled "Crimes of the Future," a philosophical treatise on free will, an allegory of a bookstore fire (books are brains), and a medieval play, "The Sign of the Cross." . inevitable: he must eat to write. But if he doesn't write, he doesn't eat. And if he can't eat, he can't write. He does not know how to write. He writes. He does not write. He wanders the streets of the city. He speaks only in public and drives people away from him. When he accidentally finds money, he donates it. They kick him out of his room. He eats and then vomits everything. He once had a brief flirtation with a girl, but nothing came of it except humiliation. He is hungry. He curses the world. He doesn't die. He ends up boarding a ship for no apparent reason and leaves town. * These are the skeletons from Knut Hamsun's first novel, Famine. It is a work without plot, plot and -except for the narrator- character. By 19th century standards, it's a play where nothing happens. The radical subjectivity of the narrator effectively removes the central concerns of the traditional novel. Like the hero's plan to take an "invisible detour" by tackling the problem of space and time in one of his essays, Hamsun manages to refer to historical time, a fundamental ordering principle of nineteenth-century fiction, to which there are to give up He simply gives us an account of the hero's worst battles against hunger. Other less difficult moments, when the hunger is satisfied - although they can last up to a week - are transmitted in one or two sentences. Historical time is extinguished in favor of interior duration. With only a random beginning and a random ending, the novel faithfully maps the whims of the narrator, tracing each thought from its mysterious beginning through all its intricacies until it dissolves and the next thought begins. What happens can happen. This novel cannot even claim redeeming social value. While hunger puts us in the grip of misery, he offers no analysis of that misery, no call for political action. Hamsun, who became a fascist in old age during World War II, never bothered with the problems of class injustice, and his hero, like Dostoevsky's Raskolnikov, is less an outsider than a monster of intellectual arrogance. . Pity plays no role in hunger. The hero suffers, but only because he chose 225

Suffer. Hamsun's art is such that it strictly prevents us from feeling sympathy for his character. From the very beginning, it is clear that the hero does not need to starve. There are solutions, if not in the city, at least on the move. But fueled by an obsessive and suicidal pride, the young man's actions always reveal a disregard for his own interests. I began to run as a punishment, crossing street after street, pushing myself with inward contempt, yelling at myself silently and furiously when I tried to stop. Thanks to those efforts, I ended up on Pile Street. When I finally stopped, almost crying with rage for not being able to continue walking, my whole body trembled and I threw myself onto a balcony. "Not so fast!" I said. And to torment myself, I got up again and forced myself to stay there, laughing at myself and enjoying my own exhaustion. Finally, after a few minutes, I nodded, giving myself permission to sit down; However, I chose the most uncomfortable spot on the stairs.* He seeks the hardest part of himself, courting pain and adversity as other men seek pleasure. He starves, not because he has to, but because of an internal compulsion, as if he wanted to go on a hunger strike against himself. Before the book begins, before the reader becomes the privileged witness to his fate, the hero's course of action is set. A process is already underway, and even if the hero can't control it, that doesn't mean he doesn't know what he's doing. I was aware all the time that I was helplessly indulging my crazy whims... Despite my distance from myself at the time, and though it was nothing more than a battlefield for unseen forces, I was aware of every detail of what was happening around me. After withdrawing into near-total solitude, he became the subject and object of his own experiment. Hunger is the means by which this splitting occurs, the catalyst, so to speak, of altered consciousness. I had discovered very clearly that whenever I starved myself too much, my brain seemed to slip silently out of my head, leaving me empty. My head became light and floating, I no longer felt its weight on my shoulders... But if it's an experiment, it has nothing to do with the scientific method. There are no controls, no stable reference points, just variables. This separation of mind and body cannot be reduced to a philosophical abstraction either. We are not here in the realm of ideas. It is a physical condition that arises in extreme conditions. mind and body weaken; The hero has lost control of his thoughts and actions. And yet, he insists on controlling his destiny. This is the paradox, the circular logic game that unfolds on the pages of the book. It is an impossible situation for the hero. Because he willingly put himself on the brink of danger. Giving up hunger wouldn't mean victory, it would just mean game over. He wants to survive, but only on his own terms: survival that confronts him with death. he is fasting but not in the way that he would fast a Christian. He does not deny earthly life in anticipation of heavenly life; he simply refuses to live the life he has been given. 226

And the longer he continues his fast, the more death intrudes on his life. Approaching death, he crawls to the edge of the abyss and hangs there, unable to go forward or back. The hunger that opens the void has no power to seal it. A brief moment of Pascalian terror became permanent. So your fast is a contradiction. Clinging to it would mean death, and death would end the fast. Therefore, he must stay alive, but only to the extent that it keeps him on the brink of death. It resists the idea of ​​the end for the sake of maintaining the permanent possibility of the end. Since his fast does not set a goal or offer a promise of salvation, his contradiction must remain unresolved. As such, it is an image of despair generated by the same self-consuming passion as sickness to death. The soul, in its despair, seeks to devour itself and, since it cannot, precisely because it is desperate, it sinks deeper into despair. Unlike religious art, where humiliation can play a purifying role (for example, meditative poetry of the seventeenth century), hunger simply simulates the dialectic of salvation. In Fulke Greville's poem "Down in the Depth of Mine Inequity", the poet can behold a "fatal mirror of transgression" that "shows man the fruit of his degeneracy", but he knows that this is only the first step in a double process, because in this mirror Christ reveals himself "dying for the same sins / And from this hell, from which I feared freedom, comes..." In Hamsun's novel, however, once the depths are plumbed, the mirror remains of meditation. empty. He bends down and no god will come to save the young man. You can't even rely on the social convention props to support you. He has no roots, he has no friends, he has no goal. Order disappeared for him; everything became accidental. His actions are inspired only by whim and irrepressible desire, the tired frustration of anarchic discontent. He pawns his vest to give alms to a beggar, hires a carriage in search of a fictitious acquaintance, knocks on strangers' doors, and keeps asking passing policemen the time just because he feels like it. However, he does not revel in these actions. They remain deeply disturbing to him. As he desperately tries to stabilize his life, put an end to his wanderings, find a room, and adjust to his writing, he grows frustrated at the speed he's set in motion. Once the famine sets in, he will not abandon his ancestral victim until his lesson has become unforgettable. The hero is taken against his will by a force created by himself and forced to comply with his demands. He loses everything, including himself. He reaches the bottom of a godless hell and the identity disappears. It is no coincidence that the hero of Hamsun does not have a name: over time, he really loses his ego. The names he gives himself are all inventions that he spontaneously conjured up. He can't tell who he is because he doesn't know. Your name is a lie, and with that lie the reality of your world disappears. He peers into the darkness that hunger has created for him, and what he finds is a void of words. For him, reality became a mixture of names without things and things without names. The connection between the self and the world has been broken. I stood for a moment and looked into the darkness, this thick substance of darkness that had no foundation that I couldn't understand. My thoughts couldn't understand something like that. There seemed to be an immeasurable darkness and I felt its presence overwhelm me. I closed my eyes and began to sing softly, rocking from side to side.

in the bunk to amuse myself, but to no avail. The darkness captured my brain and did not give me a moment's rest. What if I myself dissolved into the darkness, became it? At the moment when he is most afraid of losing control of himself, he suddenly imagines that he has invented a new word: Kubooa, a word without language, a word without meaning. I had reached the blissful madness of hunger: I was empty and painless, and my mind was out of control. She tries to find a meaning for his word, but only finds what it doesn't mean, which is not "God", not "Tivoli Gardens", not "Cattle Show", not "Lock", not "Sunrise". . . , neither "emigration", nor "tobacco factory", nor "thread". No, the word was supposed to mean something spiritual, a feeling, a state of mind, if I could understand that? And I thought and thought about finding something spiritual. But he can not. Voices that are not his own begin to disturb him, to confuse him, and he sinks deeper and deeper into chaos. After a violent attack in which he fantasizes about dying, everything falls silent, with no sound other than his own voice, sliding down the wall. This episode is perhaps the most painful in the book. But it's just one of many examples of the hero's speech disorder. Throughout the story, most of his pranks take the form of lies. He retrieves his lost pencil from a pawnshop (he had accidentally left it in the pocket of a vest he had sold) and tells the owner that it was with that same pencil that he wrote his three-volume treatise on philosophical consciousness. . A smaller pencil, he admits, but is sentimentally attached to it. He tells an old man on a park bench the fantastic story of a Mr. Happolati, the inventor of the electric prayer book. When he asks a vendor to pack up his latest possession, a tattered green blanket that he's embarrassed to carry out in the open, he explains that it's not really the blanket he wants to pack, but the priceless pair of vases he's stuffed inside the box. blanket. Not even the girl he's courting is immune to this kind of fiction. He makes up a name for her, a name he likes because of her beauty, and refuses to call her anything else. These lies have meaning beyond the farce of the moment. In the realm of language, the lie has the same relation to truth that evil has to good in the realm of morality. This is the convention and it works if we believe in it. But the hero of Hamsun no longer believes in anything. For him, the lie and the truth are one. Hunger has driven him into darkness and there is no turning back. This equation of language and morality becomes the core of the final episode of Hunger. My brain cleared, I understood that I was on the verge of a total collapse. I braced my hands against the wall and stepped away from her. The street kept dancing. I started to swallow in anger and fought against my collapse with all my might, fighting very hard not to fall. I didn't want to fall, I wanted to die on my feet. The shopping cart of a grocery wholesaler passed by and I saw that it was full of 228

Potatoes, but out of rage, out of sheer obstinacy, I decided that it wasn't potatoes, it was cabbage, and I swore fiercely that it was cabbage. I listened very well to my own words, and I swore that lie over and over again, willingly swearing it just to have the glorious satisfaction of perjuring so blatantly. I got drunk on this great sin, raised three fingers in the air and with trembling lips swore in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit that they were cabbages. And that's the end. The hero now has only two options: live or die; and he chooses to live. He said no to society, not to God, not to his own words. He leaves town later that same day. There is no longer any need to continue the fast. Your work is done. * Famine: or, a portrait of the artist when he was young. But it's a lesson that bears little resemblance to the early struggles of other writers. Hamsun's hero is not Stephen Dedalus, and there is hardly a word in Hunger about aesthetic theory. The world of art was translated into the world of the body, and the original text was abandoned. Hunger is not a metaphor; it is the crux of the problem. While others like Rimbaud, with his program of voluntary sensory confusion, have made the body an aesthetic principle in its own right, Hamsun's hero categorically refuses to use its deficiencies for his own benefit. He is weak, he has lost control of his thoughts, and yet he continues to seek clarity in his writing. But hunger affects both his prose and his life. Although he is willing to sacrifice everything for his art, to expose himself to the worst forms of humiliation and misery, all he has really done is make it impossible for him to write. You can't write on an empty stomach, no matter how hard you try. But it would be a mistake to write off the famine heroes as fools or lunatics. Despite the evidence, he knows what he's doing. He doesn't want to succeed. He wants to fail. Something new is happening here, in Hunger a new thought about the nature of art is proposed. Above all, it is an art indistinguishable from the life of the artist who makes it. It is not an art of autobiographical excess, but an art that is a direct expression of the effort to express oneself. In other words, an art of hunger: an art of need, need, desire. Certainty gives way to doubt, form gives way to process. There must be no arbitrary order, and yet, more than ever, there is an obligation to create clarity. It is an art that begins with the knowledge that there are no right answers. That's why it's important to ask the right questions. You find them by living them. Quoting Samuel Beckett: what I say does not mean that form will cease to exist in art. It simply means that there will be a new form, and that form will be one that allows for chaos and does not try to say that chaos is really something else... Finding a form that accommodates disorder, which is now the artist's task.* Hamsun portrays this artist in the early stages of his development. But in Kafka's short story The Hunger Artist, the aesthetics of hunger receives its greatest attention.

careful crafting. Here, the contradictions of the fasting of the hero of Hamsun, and the artistic impasse to which it leads, are combined in a parable about an artist whose art is fasting. The hunger artist is an artist and not an artist. Although he wants his performances to be admired, he insists that they should not be admired because they have nothing to do with art. He only chose to fast because he could never find the food he liked. Therefore, his performances are not spectacles for the amusement of others, but the resolution of a private despair that he allows others to see. Like the hero of Hamsun, the hunger artist has lost control of himself. Other than the theatrical art of sitting in his cage, his art is no different from his life, even from what his life would have been like if he had not become an artist. He doesn't try to please anyone. In fact, his achievements cannot even be understood or appreciated. No one could watch the hunger artist uninterrupted day and night, and therefore no one could prove firsthand that the fast was really severe and continuous; only the artist himself could know; therefore, he must be the only perfectly satisfied spectator of his own fast. However, this is not the classic tale of the misunderstood artist. Because the nature of fasting defies comprehension. Knowing immediately that it is impossible and doomed to failure, it is a process that walks asymptotically towards death, destined not to produce fruits or destruction. In Kafka's tale, the starvation artist dies, but only because he renounces his art does he abandon the restrictions imposed on him by his manager. The Hunger Artist goes too far. But that is the risk, the danger inherent in every act of art: you have to be willing to give your life. Ultimately, the art of hunger can be described as existential art. It is a way of facing death, and by death I understand death as we live it today: without God, without hope of salvation. Death as an abrupt and absurd end of life. I don't think we've gone any further. In fact, we may have been here a lot longer than we'd like to admit. In all that time, however, few artists managed to recognize him. It takes courage, and few of us would be willing to risk everything for nothing. But that's exactly what happens in Hunger, a novel from 1890. Hamsun's character systematically rids himself of any belief in any system, ultimately coming to nothing due to self-inflicted starvation. Nothing keeps him going and yet he continues. He goes straight to the 20th century. 1970 * All quotes are from Robert Bly, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1967. * From an interview with Tom Driver, "Beckett at the Madeleine", Columbia University Forum, Summer 1961. New York Babel


In the preface to his novel Le Bleu du Ciel, Georges Bataille makes an important distinction between books written for experimentation and books written out of necessity. Literature, Bataille argues, is essentially a destructive force, a presence in the face of "fear and trembling" that can reveal to us the truth of life and its boundless possibilities. Literature is not a continuum, but rather a series of gaps, and the books that mean the most to us are often those that go against the prevailing understanding of literature at the time they were written. Bataille speaks of "a moment of anger" as the spark that ignites all great works: it cannot be induced by an act of will and its source is always extraliterary. "How can we," says he, "linger over books that we believe the author was not forced to write?" Assertive experimentation is often the result of a genuine desire to break down the barriers of literary convention. But most of the avant-garde works do not survive; against their will, they remain prisoners of the very conventions they are trying to destroy. The poetry of Futurism, for example, which caused such a stir in its day, is now read by almost no one except the scholars and historians of the time. On the other hand, certain writers who played little or no role in the literary life around them—Kafka, for example—were gradually recognized as essential. The work that revives our sense of literature, that gives us a new sense of what literature can be, is the work that transforms our lives. It often feels improbable, like it came out of nowhere, and because it's ruthlessly out of the norm, we have no choice but to make a new place for it. Le Schizo et les Langues by Louis Wolfson* is one such book. Not only is it unlikely, it's completely unlike anything that has ever existed. To say that it is a work written outside of literature is not enough: its place is, in fact, outside of language itself. Written in French by an American, it has little meaning unless considered an American book: for reasons that will become clear, it is also a book that excludes any possibility of translation. He hovers somewhere in the balance between the two languages ​​and nothing will ever save him from this precarious existence. Because what is presented to us here is not simply the case of a writer who chose to write in a foreign language. The author of this book wrote in French precisely because he had no choice. It is the result of raw necessity, and the book itself is nothing less than an act of survival. Louis Wolfson is schizophrenic. He was born in 1931 and lives in New York. Lacking a better description, he would describe his book as a kind of third-person autobiography, a contemporary memoir in which he recounts the facts of his illness and the extremely bizarre method he developed to cope with it. Wolfson describes himself as "the schizophrenic student of languages," "the crazy student," "the crazy student of idioms," and employs a narrative style that has both the dryness of clinical narrative and the wit of fiction. There is no trace of delusion or "madness" anywhere in the text: each passage is clear, direct, factual. As we read, wandering through the labyrinth of the author's obsessions, we sympathize with him, identify with him, as we identify with the eccentricities and torments of Kirilov or Molloy. Wolfson's problem is the English language, which has become unbearable and he doesn't want to speak or listen. I was in and out of the mental 231

Institutions for more than ten years, he staunchly resists any cooperation with doctors and is now, at the time of writing the book (late 1960s), living in the cramped, middle-class apartment of his mother and stepfather. He spends his days sitting at his desk studying foreign languages—mainly French, German, Russian, and Hebrew—and guarding against any possible onslaught of English by sticking his fingers in his ears or listening to foreign-language broadcasts on his transistor radio. with two earphones or a finger in one ear and one earphone in the other. Despite these precautions, however, he sometimes cannot repel the intrusion of the English, for example, when his mother bursts into his room and yells at him in her high-pitched, high-pitched voice. The student realizes that he cannot simply drown out English by translating it into another language. Converting an English word to its foreign equivalent leaves the English word intact; it has not been destroyed, just cast aside, still waiting to threaten you. The system he's developing in response to this problem is complex, but not hard to follow once you get the hang of it, since it's based on a consistent set of rules. Based on the different languages ​​he has studied, he is able to convert English words and phrases into phonetic combinations of foreign letters, syllables, and words that form new linguistic units that resemble English not only in meaning but also in sound. His descriptions of these verbal acrobatics are very detailed, often up to ten pages long, but perhaps the end result of one of the simpler examples gives an idea of ​​the process. The phrase "Don't trip over the cord!" is changed as follows: "No" becomes German "Tu'nicht", "trip" becomes the first four letters of French "trébucher", "over" becomes German "über", " the" becomes si from Hebrew "èth hé" and "wire" becomes German "zwirn", whose middle three letters correspond to the first three letters of the English word "Tu'nicht tréb über èth hé zwirn" . At the end of this section, Wolfson writes, tired but satisfied with his effort: "If the schizophrenic did not feel a sensation of joy for having found those foreign words that day to crush another word of his mother tongue (because perhaps he was not capable of feel that feeling), she certainly felt much less miserable than usual, at least for a while."* However, the book is much more than a catalog of these transformations. Shapes define their purpose, but the real substance is elsewhere. part, in the human situation and everyday life surrounding Wolfson's preoccupation with language. Wolfson's eye for detail is eerily precise, and every nuance of his observations, be it the prison atmosphere in the reading room in the Forty-second Street Public Library, the anxieties of a high school dance, the prostitute scene in Times Square, or a conversation with the father on a bench in a city park, is delivered with care and sovereignty. A strange movement of objectification is constantly at work, and much of the fascination of prose comes from this distance, which acts as a kind of lure, drawing us back to what is written. By treating himself in the third person, Wolfson manages to create a space between himself and himself to prove to himself that he exists. The French language serves essentially the same function. By looking at his world through a different lens, by transforming his world, which is walled in English, into another language, he is able to see it with new eyes, in a way less oppressive to him.

him as if he could influence him to some extent. His evocative power is devastating, and in his flat, monotonous style he manages to paint a picture of life among poor Jews so horribly comic and vivid that it compares with the opening passages of Céline's Death in Ratios. There seems to be no doubt that Wolfson knows what he is doing. His intentions are not aesthetic, but in his patient determination to record it all, to record the facts as accurately as possible, he has exposed the sheer absurdity of his situation, which he can often face with wry indifference and surliness. His parents divorced when he was four or five years old. His father lived most of his life on the fringes of the world, unemployed, living in cheap hotels and hanging out in restaurants smoking cigars. He claims that his marriage was carried out "with a pig in hand", as it was only later that he discovered that his wife had a glass eye. When he finally remarries, her second husband disappears after her wedding to hers her diamond ring, only to be tracked down and imprisoned by her after getting off a plane a thousand miles away. His release was only granted on the condition that he be reunited with his wife. His mother is the stifling, commanding presence of the book, and when Wolfson speaks of his "Langue Maternelle" it is clear that his dislike of English is directly related to his dislike of his mother. She is a grotesque figure, a monster of vulgarity, scoffing at his son's language studies, insisting on speaking English with him, and insisting on doing the exact opposite of what would make life bearable. He spends much of his free time playing popular songs on an electric organ at full volume. Sitting on his books, with his fingers in his ears, the student sees his desk lamp start to rattle, he feels the whole room vibrate to the rhythm of the piece, and as soon as the deafening music penetrates him, he automatically thinks that the English lyrics to songs that drive him to raging despair. (Half a chapter is devoted to his translation of the words Good Night Ladies.) But Wolfson never really judges her. He just describes. And if from time to time he allows himself a discreet smile, it seems to be his right. "Of course, his optic weakness did not seem to affect the ability of his speech organs in any way (perhaps it was even the other way around), and he spoke, at least most of the time, in a very high-pitched and even creaky voice, although he was perfectly capable of whispering into the phone when secretly, that is, without his knowledge, he wanted to commit his son to a psychiatric ward.” language), the student suffers from it in his role as breadwinner for the family. book, his verbal activities are counterbalanced by his obsession with food, food, and the possible contamination of his food.He vacillates between a violent disgust for food, as if this was fundamentally contrary to his language work, and terrifying orgies of gluttony that nauseates him for hours.Every time he walks into the kitchen, he arms himself with a strange book, repeats out loud some strange phrases he has memorized, and forces himself not to read the English labels on packages and cans. He keeps reciting one of the phrases, like a magical incantation to ward off evil spirits, and opens the first package he finds: it contains the easiest foods to eat, which generally have the lowest nutritional value. .

—and begins to put the food in her mouth, careful not to touch her lips, which she thinks must be infested with parasite eggs and larvae. After such attacks, she is filled with self-reproach and guilt. As Gilles Deleuze suggests in the book's preface: “Her guilt for him is no less when he ate than when he listened to his mother talk about him. It's the same fault. I think that's where Wolfson's private nightmare with certain universal questions about language ends. There is a fundamental connection between speech and food, and it is by exaggerating Wolfson's experience that we can see how deep this relationship runs. Language is an oddity, an anomaly, a secondary biological function of the mouth, and myths about language are often associated with the idea of ​​food. Adam is given the power to name the creatures of Paradise and is later expelled for eating from the tree of knowledge. Mystics fast to prepare to receive the Word of God. The body of Christ, the Word made flesh, is eaten in Holy Communion. It is as if the vital function of the mouth, its role in eating, were transferred to language, since language creates us and defines us as human beings. Wolfson's fear of food, the guilt he feels over his self-indulgent antics, are an admission of his betrayal of the task he has set himself: to find a language he can live with. Food is a compromise because he sustains it in the context of a world already discredited and unacceptable. In the end, Wolfson's search is undertaken with the hope that one day he will be able to speak English again, a hope that sometimes slips through the pages of the book. The invention of his transformation system, the writing of the book itself, are part of a slow progression beyond the hermetic agony of his disease. Refusing to let anyone heal him, forcing himself to face his own problems, to face them alone, he feels a growing awareness of the possibility of living among others, of breaking free from his one-man language and entering a man's language. The book he created out of that struggle is hard to pin down, but it shouldn't be dismissed as a therapeutic exercise, just another document on mental illness to put on the shelves of medical libraries. Gallimard, it seems to me, made a serious mistake in publishing Le Schizo et les Langues as part of a series on psychoanalysis. By labeling the book, they have somehow tried to tame the rebellion that gives the book its extraordinary power to mitigate "the moment of wrath" that permeates all of Wolfson's writing. On the other hand, even if we avoid the trap of considering this work as nothing more than a case report, we would still be hesitant to judge it by established literary standards and look for parallels with other literary works. Wolfson's method bears some resemblance to the elaborate wordplay in Finnegans Wake and Raymond Roussel's novels, but to insist on this similarity would be to miss the heart of the book. Louis Wolfson is outside of literature as we know it, and to do him justice we must read him on his own terms. Only then can we discover his book for what it is: one of those rare works that can change our perception of the world. 1974 234

* Published by Editions Gallimard in 1971. Foreword by Gilles Deleuze. * My translation. dada bones

Of all the early avant-garde movements, Dada is the one that continues to speak to us the most. Although his life was short - beginning in 1916 with the evening shows at the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich and effectively, if not officially, ending in 1922 with the riotous demonstrations in Paris against Tristan Tzara's play Le Coeur à gaz - his spirit did not fully remain in overcame the distance of history. Even today, more than fifty years later, not a season goes by without a new book or exhibition on Dadaism, and we follow the issues they raised with more than scholarly interest. Because Dadaist themes continue to be our themes, and when we talk about the relationship between art and society, art versus action and art as action, we cannot fail to resort to Dadaism as a source and model. We don't want to know it just for ourselves, but because we think it helps us understand our own present moment. Hugo Ball's Diaries are a good place to start. A key figure in the founding of Dada, Ball was also the first defector from the Dada movement, and his notes for the years between 1914 and 1921 are an extremely valuable document.* Flight Out of Time was originally published in Germany in 1927. before Ball's death from stomach cancer at age 41, and consists of excerpts taken from Ball's diaries and edited with clear and partial deference. Less a self-portrait than an account of his inner progress, a spiritual and intellectual balance, it proceeds strictly dialectically from entry to entry. While biographical details are few and far between, the mere adventure of thought is enough to keep us glued. Because Ball was a sharp thinker; as an early participant in Dada, he is perhaps our best witness to the Zurich group, and since Dada marked only one stage in its complex development, looking at it through his eyes gives us a kind of perspective we didn't have before. Hugo Ball was a man of his time, and his life seems to embody in an extraordinary way the passions and contradictions of European society in the first quarter of this century. he studied the work of Nietzsche; expressionist theater director and playwright; left-wing journalist; variety pianist; Poet; novelist; author of works on Bakunin, the German intelligentsia, early Christianity, and the writings of Hermann Hesse; convert to Catholicism: at one time or another he seems to have touched on almost every political and artistic concern of the day. And yet, despite his many activities, Ball's attitudes and interests were remarkably consistent throughout his life, and in the end his entire career can be seen as a concerted, even feverish attempt to base his existence on a fundamental truth, a unique and absolute truth. truth reality. Too much of an artist to be a philosopher, too much of a philosopher to be an artist, too concerned with the fate of the world to think only of personal salvation, and yet too introspective to be an effective activist, Ball struggled to find solutions that could somehow satisfy your needs. internal and external needs, and even in the deepest solitude he never saw himself isolated from the society that surrounded him. He was a man for whom everything was very difficult, whose confidence was never repaired, and whose moral integrity he made it 235

capable of cheeky idealistic gestures that are far from corresponding to his delicate nature. It is enough to examine the famous photograph of Ball reciting a sound poem at the Cabaret Voltaire to understand it. He's dressed in an absurd costume that makes him look like a cross between the Tin Man and a deranged bishop, and he peers out from under a tall warlock hat with an expression of overwhelming horror. It's an unforgettable expression, and in that image of him we have a kind of parable of his character, a perfect representation of inside and outside, darkness and darkness. In the foreword to Flight Out of Time, Ball presents the reader with a cultural autopsy that sets the tone for all that follows: "This was the world and society in 1913: life is totally limited and fettered... The question that burns day and night is this: Is there somewhere a force strong enough and, more important, vital enough to put an end to this state of affairs? Elsewhere, in his Lecture on Kandinsky of 1917, he expresses these thoughts with even greater urgency: "An age-old culture is crumbling. There are no more pillars or supports, no more foundations; everything has collapsed... The meaning of the world is gone." These sentiments are not new to us. They confirm our perception of the intellectual climate in Europe at the time of the First World War and reflect much of what we now take for granted. in the formation of modern sensibility.What is unexpected, however, is what Ball says one a little later in the prologue: "It might seem that the philosophy was taken up by the artists; as if the new impulses came from them; as if they were the prophets of rebirth. When we say Kandinsky and Picasso, they are not referring to painters, but to priests, not artisans, but creators of new worlds and new paradises." Dreams of total regeneration could coexist with the darkest pessimism, and for Ball this was not a contradiction: both attitudes belonged to the same approach. Art was not a way to get away from the world's problems, it was a way to solve them. In his most difficult years, it was this belief that led Ball from his early theatrical works - "Only the theater is capable of creating the new society" - to his Kandinsky-influenced formulation "the union of all means and forces artistic pursuits." "and beyond his dada activities in Zurich. The seriousness of these musings, as detailed in the diaries, helps dispel some myths about dada's beginnings, most notably the notion that dada was little more than the talk of a group of runaway second-year recruits. a kind of rebellious Marx Brothers madness that makes perfect freedom possible... It can almost be said that when you believe in an object or cause it ends, that object or cause returns to chaos and becomes common property. But there may need to be determined and violently induced chaos, and therefore a total withdrawal of faith, before a whole new edifice can be erected on an altered foundation of belief in the old humanist ideals as an affirmation of individual dignity in an age that shapes mechanics. , as a simultaneous expression of despair and hope. Ball's special contribution to cabaret shows, his sound poems or "wordless poems" confirm this. Although he left out ordinary language, he had no intention of destroying language itself. In his almost mystical desire to recapture what he felt to be prelapsarian speech, Ball saw in this new, purely emotional language

form of poetry a way of capturing the magical essence of words. “In these phonetic poems we completely renounce the language that journalism has abused and corrupted. We must return to the innermost alchemy of the word...” Ball withdrew from Zurich just seven months after the opening of Cabaret Voltaire, partly out of exhaustion and partly out of disappointment with the development of Dadaism. His conflict was mainly with Tzara, whose goal was to make Dada one of many international vanguard movements. As John Elderfield sums up in his introduction to Ball's diary: "And once he was gone, he felt he saw a certain 'dada arrogance' in what they had done. He believed they eschewed conventional morality to emerge as new men, embracing irrationalism." as a way towards the "supernatural", that sensationalism was the best way to destroy the academic. He began to doubt all this - he was ashamed of the confusion and eclecticism of cabaret - and saw a safer path in the isolation of the time. and a more honest path to these personal goals..." However, a few months later, Ball returned to Zurich to attend the Dada Gallery events and give his important lecture on Kandinsky, but before long he was back in rivalry with Tzara, and this moment in which the break was definitive. In July 1917, under Tzara's leadership, Dada was officially launched as a movement, complete with its own publications, manifestos, and publicity campaign. Tzara was a tireless organizer, a true avant-garde in the style of Marinetti, and eventually, with the help of Picabia and Serner, led Dada away from the original ideas of Cabaret Voltaire, from what Elderfield rightly calls "the first of the denials." of the construction". in the spirit of anti-art. A few years later there was another split in the movement, and Dada split into two factions: the German group, headed by Hulsenbeck, George Grosz and the Herzefelde brothers, which was predominantly political, and the Tzara group, which moved in 1920 to Paris. and represented aesthetic anarchism, which eventually evolved into surrealism. By giving Dada his identity, Tzara also robbed him of the moral purpose he sought under Ball. By turning it into a doctrine and embellishing it with a set of programmatic ideals, Tzara has led Dada to self-contradiction and impotence. What had been Ball's genuine cry from the bottom of his heart against all systems of thought and action became one organization among others. The anti-art attitude, which paved the way for endless ridicule and attacks, was basically an inauthentic idea. However, the art opposed to art is art; you cannot have both at the same time. As Tzara wrote in one of his manifestos, "the true Dadaists are against Dada." The impossibility of establishing this as dogma is obvious, and Ball, who had the foresight to recognize this contradiction from the start, left as soon as he saw signs that Dada was becoming a movement. For others, however, dada has become a kind of bluff taken to the extreme. But the real motivation was gone, and when Dada finally died, it wasn't so much the battle he fought as his own inertia. On the other hand, Ball's position seems no less valid today than it was in 1917. From what we can see, there were several different periods and divergent trends in Dadaism, the time of Ball's involvement remains, in my opinion, the time of the greatest strength of Dadaism, the time that speaks to us most convincingly today. This is perhaps a heretical view. But if we consider how Dada petered out under Tzara, how it succumbed to the decadent barter system of the bourgeois art world and brought about the 237

As with the public whose favor it sought, this branch of Dada must be seen as a symptom of the essential weakness of art in modern capitalism: imprisoned in the invisible cage of what Marcuse called "repressive tolerance." But since Ball never saw Dada as an end in itself, he remained flexible and was able to use Dada as an instrument for higher goals, for a true critique of the times. For Ball, Dada was just the name of a kind of radical doubt, a way to shake off all existing ideologies and begin to examine the world around him. As such, Dada's energy never runs out: it is an idea whose time is always the present. Ball's eventual return to the Catholicism of his childhood in 1921 is not as far-fetched as it might seem. It doesn't represent a real change in his thinking and, in many ways, can be seen as just another step in his evolution. If he had lived longer, there is no reason to believe that he would not have undergone more metamorphoses. In his diaries we discover a constant overlapping of thoughts and concerns, so that, for example, references to Christianity continue to appear even in the Dada era ("I don't know if, despite Wilde and Baudelaire, we are going beyond the limits of all our efforts; or if we don't want to stay just romantic. There are probably other ways to achieve the miracle and other forms of resistance - asceticism, for example the church") and in the period of its most serious Catholicism there is a preoccupation with mystical language , which clearly resembles the sound poem theories of his Dada period. As he notes in one of his last entries in 1921: "The socialist, the esthete, the monk: all three agree that modern bourgeois education must be destroyed. The new ideal will take its new elements from all three." . Ball's short life was a constant effort to synthesize these different views, if we consider him an important personality today, it is not because he found a solution, but because he knew how to clearly name the problems confronting the world, Hugo Ball became stands out as one of the exemplary spirits of the time. 1975 * Escape from Time: A Dada Journal edited by John Elderfield and translated by Ann Raimes (Viking Press, 1975). Truth, Beauty, Silence

Laura Riding was still in her late thirties when she published her 477-page The Complete Poems in 1938. At an age when most poets are just beginning to blossom, she has already reached full maturity, and her literary achievements list to today is awesome. her: nine volumes of poetry, several collections of critical essays and fiction, a long novel, and the founder of a small publishing house, Seizin Press. As early as 1924, shortly after graduating from Cornell University, The Fugitive called her "the discovery of the year, a new figure in American poetry," and later, in Europe, during her close and tempestuous relationship with Robert Graves, it also became a major force in the international vanguard. Apparently the young Auden was so influenced by her poetry that Graves felt compelled to write him a letter from her berating him.

for their flagrant imitations of Laura Riding and the method of precise textual criticism developed in A Survey of Modernist Poetry (written in collaboration with Graves) directly inspired Empson's Seven Types of Ambiguity. So after 1938, nothing. No more poems, no more stories, no more essays. As time passed, Laura Riding's name was almost completely forgotten, and to a new generation of poets and writers, it was as if she had never existed. She was not heard from again until 1962, when she agreed to read some of her poetry for a BBC program and to comment on the philosophical and linguistic reasons for her break with her poetry. Since then there have been several print editions and now, most recently, the publication of two books: a selection of her poems, preceded by a further discussion of her attitude towards poetry, and The Telling, a work of prose that she described as "staff". gospel'. Of course, Laura Riding is back. Although she has not written poetry since 1938, her new work in The Telling is closely related to her earlier writings and, despite her long public silence, her career is perfect. Laura Riding and Laura (Riding) Jackson, the married name she now goes by, are mirror images of each other in many ways. Each tried to actualize some kind of universal truth in language, a way of speaking that would somehow reveal to us our essential humanity: "a linguistically prescribed ideal, the degree of fulfillment of which is an express degree of fulfillment of the hope contained in its being, for us in it "understand, like a human being" - and if that ambition sometimes seems a bit pompous, it has nevertheless remained constant. The only thing that has changed is the method. In 1938, Laura Riding was convinced that that poetry was the best way to achieve that goal.He has since changed his mind and has not only abandoned poetry, but now sees it as one of the main obstacles on the path to linguistic truth. The attention when we turn to her own poetry is her consistency of purpose and style. Laura Riding seems to have known where she was going from the start, and her poems are not meant to be read as isolated texts but as connected parts of a vast poetic project. . We need to better learn what we are and what we are not. We are not the wind. We are not all the wandering moods that tempt us into dizzying homelessness. We need to better distinguish between ourselves and strangers. There is much that we are not. There are many things we don't need to be. (from "O Porquê do Vento") This is the essential cavalcade: the abstract level of discourse, the insistence on asking ultimate questions, the tendency toward moral admonition, the speed and clarity of thought, the unexpected juxtapositions of words, as in amazing homeless phrase. The physical world is hardly present here, and when it is mentioned it appears only as a metaphor, a kind of shorthand language to indicate ideas and mental processes. The wind, for example, is not really wind, but an expression of the mutable, a reference to the idea of ​​flow, and we only feel its effect as an idea. The poem itself is more of an argument than an expression of feeling or an invocation of personal experience, and its movement is towards generalization, towards the enunciation of what the poet believes to be a fundamental truth. "We are not the wind." In other words, we are what does not change. for laura239

Riding, that is the condition of your project; it cannot be proven, but it still acts as the guiding principle of all his work. Poem after poem, we see her trying to skin the world to find an absolute and impregnable dwelling place, and as the poems are rarely based on a physical perception of that world, they strangely tend to exist in a purely emotional state. mood created by the fervor of this metaphysical quest. And yet, despite the great seriousness of the poetry, there are moments of sharp wit that remind us of Emily Dickinson: Then follows a description of an interval called Death by the Living. But I will speak of it as a brief illness. It only lasted from not being sick to not being sick. It happened by chance: I met God. "What?" she said, "you?" "What," I said, "you?" understands the particular types of problems they are trying to solve. Laura Riding gives us almost nothing to look at, and this lack of sensual imagery and detail, from any real surface, is surprising at first. We feel blind. But that's what she wanted and she plays an important role in the themes that she develops. She doesn't want to see so much as to think about what is visible. You pretended to see. I pretended that you had seen it. * There was nothing to see. What can be seen is not a vision. You made it a sight to behold. It is not a vision and that was the cause. Now, having seen, let us close our eyes, and a dark benediction passes beneath us, a quick and slow benediction that we have seen and said and done, neither worse nor better. (from “Blessing”) Only the poet's voice seems to be present here, and only gradually, when we “close our eyes”, do we begin to listen to it with particular attention, becoming extremely sensitive to its nuances. Malebranche said that attention is the natural prayer of the soul. In her best poetry, I think Laura Riding takes us into a state of rapt listening, to a voice to which we give our full attention, so that we readers can participate in the development of the poem. The voice speaks less loudly than it thinks, following the complex thought process in a way that we internalize almost immediately. Few poets have managed to manipulate abstraction so convincingly. Freed from embellishment and reduced to essentials, the poems are revealed as a kind of rhetoric, a pure system of argument that works like music, creates a game of themes and counter-themes and provides the same formal pleasure that music provides. And talking in conversation disappears like time in time. The ring changes due to foolish assumptions, conversation after conversation, until there is nothing left to say but the truth, the eternal monologue, and no speaker to deny it but himself. (from The Talking World) 240

However, these strengths can also be weaknesses. For, in order to maintain the high level of intellectual precision necessary for the poems to succeed, Laura Riding was forced to adopt a kind of poetic daring, and she often lost more than she gained. Finally, we verify that the reasons for her break with poetry are inherent in her own poems. As much as we admire her work, we feel that something is missing, that she is not really capable of expressing the full range of experiences that she claims to express. The origin of this deficiency resides, paradoxically, in his conception of language, which in many aspects is at odds with the very idea of ​​poetry: Come, words, far from mouths, far from tongues in mouths and merciless hearts in tongues and mouths in careful minds - Come, words, though, where. The meaning is not thickened With the irritating substance of the voice... (from "Come, Words, Away") This is a self-defeating desire. Poetry, if nothing else, is the kind of language that forces words to stay in the mouth, the way we can better experience and understand "the irritating substance of the voice." There's something very cold about Laura Riding's approach to winning our sympathy. If the truth in the language you are looking for is a human truth, wanting that truth to the detriment of what is human seems contradictory. But by trying to deny language its physical properties, by refusing to acknowledge that language is an imperfect tool of imperfect creatures, this seems to be exactly what it is doing. In the prologue to the Complete Poems of 1938, at the time of her most ardent adherence to poetry, we can see this desire for transcendence as the engine of her work. “I will give you,” he writes, “poems written for all the reasons for poetry, poems that are also a record of how, through the gradual integration of the reasons for poetry, existence in poetry becomes more real than existence in poetry. was. – more genuine because better, better because more true.” Thirty years later, he uses the same terms to justify his equally passionate opposition to poetry: "For a poet, the mere composition of a poem can solve the problem of the truth that it seems... But only a problem of art is solved in the poetry. . Art, whose honesty must operate through artifice, cannot help but betray the truth. Poetic art betrays truth more and more delicately than art of any other kind, for the spoken word is its exclusive medium…” For all their grandeur and intensity, these claims remain strangely vague. Because the truth to which reference is made is never really defined but as something beyond time, beyond art, beyond the senses. Such conversation seems to keep us afloat in a vast realm of Platonic idealism, and it's hard for us to know where we are. At the same time, we are not convinced. No statement is very credible to us as a statement about poetry because none of them are really about poetry. Laura Riding is clearly interested in problems that go beyond the realm of poetry, and by treating these problems as if they were the exclusive subject of poetry, she only confuses the issue. She did not renounce poetry because of an objective inadequacy of poetry itself -because it is no more or less adequate than any other human activity-, but because poetry as she imagined it, she could no longer say what she wanted to say. She now feels that she has "reached the edge of poetry". But what really happened, it seems, is that she reached her own limit in poetry. 241

It is appropriate, therefore, that since 1938 her work has been largely devoted to a more general study of language, and when we come to The Telling we find a more in-depth discussion of many of the very questions she tried to raise in her poetry. The book, which does not fall into any established literary category, is clearly Talmudic in structure. “The Telling” itself is a short text of less than fifty pages, divided into numbered paragraphs, originally written for a 1967 edition of Chelsea magazine. For this “central text”, written in dense and highly abstract prose, almost completely free from external sources. References, she has added a series of comments, comments on comments, notes, and addenda that supplement many of the above conclusions and address various literary, political, and philosophical issues. It's an incredible display of consciousness confronting and examining itself. Starting from the idea that "the human extreme is marked at the linguistic extreme", he pursues an ideal of the "perfect human use of words" (as opposed to the "perfect artistic use of words"), with which he wants to reveal the nature essential of being She again, or rather, she aspires to the absolute, to an unshakable and unified vision of the world: '...the nature of our being is not known as we know time, which is by the sense of the moment. The weather is all change, while our being in its human nature is all is known only by a sense of constant. Although Laura (Riding) Jackson brackets her former poetic self, in The Telling the successful continuation of her efforts as a poet: "Speak as I speak in it, say the things I say in it, which is part of my hope as a poet". that she confronts in the rest of the book: there's something to be said about us that we've all been waiting for. In our willful ignorance, we rush to listen to stories of ancient human life, new human life, imagined human life, greedy for something to pass the time of unanswered curiosity. We know that we are explainable and inexplicable. Many of the lesser things that concern us have been said, but the greater things have not been said; and nothing can take its place. Everything we learn about what we are not, but about knowing ourselves because it is from our universal world, will also leave the void as void. Until the lost story is told by ourselves, nothing more than what is told will suffice: we will wish it in silence. What immediately strikes us here is the brilliance of the writing itself. The quiet urgency and strong, melodious phrases urge us to keep listening. It seems that we are hearing something radically different from anything we have heard before, and of such fundamental importance that it would be in our interest to pay close attention to what follows. "We know that we are explainable and unexplained." In the following sections we will see why the various human disciplines (science, religion, philosophy, history, poetry) have not and cannot explain to us. Suddenly everything is swept aside; the way seems clear for a whole new way of dealing with things. And yet, when he gets to the point where he offers his own explanations, we are faced once more with the mysterious and incredible Platonism we had encountered before. Finally, it seems that she is rejecting the myth-forming tendencies of earlier thought, only to introduce another myth of her own invention: a memory myth, a belief in the ability of human beings to remember a past time of wholeness by nature. existence. of the individual self. . in front. “May our multiplicity become integral. 242

May we see in each other the universe that was once one become one again." And elsewhere: “Yes, I think we remember our upbringing! – carry in us the memory of knowledge. By remembering it, we come to understand that there was a pre-existence from which existence became what we would be. The problem is not that we doubt his belief. In fact, we feel that she is trying to tell us about a real mystical experience; what we find hard to accept is that she assumes that this experience is accessible to everyone. Maybe be. But we have no way of knowing, and we would have no way of testing it, even if we did. Laura (Riding) Jackson speaks of this purely personal experience in rigorous and objective terms and, consequently, mixes two types of irreconcilable discourses. Her particular perceptions have been projected onto the world at large, so that when she looks at that world, she believes that she has seen confirmation of her discoveries. But no distinction is made between what is stated as fact and what is verifiable as fact. As a result, they have nothing in common with us and we find no point in staying with her in her faith. Still, it would be a mistake to simply dismiss the book. If The Telling ultimately falls short of its promises, we still value it for the exceptional quality of its prose and the innovations of its form. The sheer vastness of her ambitions makes for exciting work, even when it's most bewildering. More importantly, what it reveals, in retrospect, about Laura Riding's earlier work as a poet is crucial for us. Because in the end she will be read and remembered as a poet. Whatever objections we may raise to her approach to her poetry in general, it would be hard not to recognize her as a great poet. We don't have to agree with her to admire her. Roses are buds and beautiful, A petal is inclined to adventure. The roses are full, all the petals face forward, beauty and power are indistinguishable. The roses are swollen, afraid of life, young death on their faces. Then comes stagnation and failure and failure, but no one says, "A rose is dead." But people die: it is said, it is seen. For a man it is a late adventure; His death, a spasmodic outpouring Of measures and reckless miles. There are no tears for the roses: They flee before the race is called. And for man there is no pity but his will: Let him do his will and be done. The mercy of the truth - must be true. (from The Last Covenant) In one of the companion chapters to The Telling, Extracts From Communications, she discusses the relationship between the writer and her work in a way that seems to express her aspirations as a poet. “If what you write is true, it is not because of what you are as a writer, but because of what you want to be. There can be no literary equivalent of the truth. In writing, if truth is the quality of what is said, narrated, then this is not a literary achievement: it is a simple human achievement ". a good poem. It is an idea that lies on the edge of our literary consciousness and places poetry in an essentially moral framework. As a poet, Laura Riding has followed this principle until she "reached a critical point at which the separation between craft and faith became absolute." In composing poetry, she reasoned, the demands of art would always outweigh the demands of truth. Beauty and truth. It's the old Question, come back to our lair. Laura riding 243

here the poetic career sacrificed in a choice between the two. But whether you actually answered the question, as you seem to think, is an open question. What we do have are the poems she left behind and it is perhaps not surprising that they appeal to us primarily for their beauty. We cannot call Laura Riding a forgotten poet, because she was the cause of her own neglect. But after more than thirty years of absence, these poems hit us with the full force of rediscovery. 1975 From Pastels to Stones A Note on Beckett's French

Mercier and Camier was Samuel Beckett's first novel written in French. It was completed in 1946 and stood from its publication until 1970. It is also the last of his longer works to be translated into English. Such a long delay seems to indicate that Beckett doesn't like the job very much. If he had not received the Nobel Prize in 1969, Mercier and Camier probably would not have appeared. This reluctance on Beckett's part is somewhat confusing, for while Mercier and Camier is clearly a transitional work, simultaneously harking back to Murphy and Watt and looking forward to early 1950s masterpieces, nonetheless it is a brilliant work with its own strengths and charm. , which are not repeated in any of Beckett's other six novels. Even when he's not at his best, Beckett is Beckett, and reading him is like reading no one else. Mercier and Camier are two middle-aged men who decide to leave everything behind and go on a journey. Like Flaubert's Bouvard and Pécuchet, like Laurel and Hardy, like the other "pseudo-couples" in Beckett's work, they are not so much separate characters as two elements of a tandem reality, and neither could exist without the other. The purpose of his trip is never stated, nor is his destination made clear. "They had consulted at length before embarking on this journey, and as calmly as they could, they weighed the benefits expected of them, the evils they had to fear, and continued to weigh the dark side and the rosy side. The gains from these debates were do not venture lightly into the unknown.” Beckett, the master of the comma, succeeds in these few sentences in erasing all scoring opportunities Very simply, Mercier and Camier arrange a meeting, meet (after a painful confusion) and set off, but cross the limits of the city twice is not enough. It does not prevent the book from moving forward. Because the book is not about what Mercier and Camier do, but about what they are. Nothing happens. Or, more precisely, what happens. No Armed with the vaudeville accessories of an umbrella, a jacket and a raincoat, the two heroes roam the city and the surrounding countryside, encountering various objects and personalities: stopping often and for long periods of time in a selection of bars and spaces public.

put; they partner up with a kind-hearted prostitute named Helen; they kill a policeman; They gradually lose what few possessions they have and move away. These are the external events, all told with precision, with humor, elegance and pathos, and interspersed with some beautiful descriptive passages ("The sea is not long, barely visible besides two vouchers disappearing to the east, pale pedestal as pale as the pale wall from the sky"). But the real substance of the book lies in the conversations between Mercier and Camier: If we have nothing to say, said Camier, let us say nothing. We have things to say, said Mercier. So why can't we say? camer said. We can't, said Mercier. So let's keep quiet, said Camier. But let's try it, said Mercier. In a famous passage from Speaking of Dante, Mandelstam wrote: "Hell, and especially Purgatory, glorifies the human walk, the measure and rhythm of the walk, the foot and its shape... In Dante, philosophy and poetry are always on the move, "always further from your feet. Even stillness is a multiplicity of accumulated movement; creating a place where people can stand and talk is like climbing a mountain." Beckett, one of Dante's best readers, learned these lessons to the fullest. , sunk in the depth of words, a silent metronome is beating the rhythms of the wanderings of Mercier and Camier - the pauses, the hiatuses, the sudden changes of conversation and description - do not break this rhythm, but are under its influence (already firmly established), so they are not disturbing, but counterpoints and gratifying. An eerie stillness seems to surround each sentence of the book, a kind of heaviness or stillness, so that between each sentence the reader feels the passage of time, the steps that move even when nothing is said. They sat at the bar talking intermittently about this and that, as was their habit. They spoke, kept silent, listened to each other, stopped listening to each other, each one as they pleased or as they were internally commanded." This notion of time is, of course, directly related to the notion of time, and it seems no coincidence that Mercier and Camier Waiting for Godot in Beckett's play immediately precedes it. In a way, it can be seen as a warm-up for the play. The vaudeville joke perfected in dramatic works is already here. present in the novel: what will it be? said the bartender. If we need you, we'll tell you, said Camier. to be told the bartender. The same as before, said Mercier. They haven't been served yet, said the bartender. The same as this gentleman, said Mercier. The bartender also looked at Camier's empty glass, said Camier. I never knew, said Mercier. But while Waiting for Godot is carried on by the implicit drama of Godot's absence, an absence that dominates the scene as much as any presence, Mercier and Camier walk in the void. From one moment to the next it is impossible to predict what will happen. Without tension or intrigue, the action seems to take place in a setting of almost total silence, and what is said is said at the moment when there is nothing more to say. The rain dominates the book, from the first paragraph to the last sentence ("And he heard better in the dark too, he heard the sounds that the long day had hidden from him, like human whispers and rain on water"). – an endless Irish rain that acquires the status of a metaphysical idea and creates an atmosphere that oscillates between boredom and 245

Anxiety between bitterness and joy. As in the play, tears are shed, but more from the knowledge of the futility of tears than from the need to get rid of the pain. Likewise, laughter is just what happens when tears are shed. Everything goes on and slowly fades in the stillness of time and, unlike Vladimir and Estragon, Mercier and Camier must endure without hope of salvation. I think the key word in all of this is expropriation. Beckett, who starts with little, ends up with even less. The movement in each of his works is towards a kind of relief through which he takes us to the limits of experience, to a place where aesthetic and moral judgments become inseparable. This is the path of the characters in his books, and it was also his own evolution as a writer. From the lush, twisted, gleeful prose of More Pricks than Kicks (1934) to the grim nakedness of The Lost Ones (1970), he's getting ever closer to the bone. Arguably his decision thirty years ago to write in French was the defining event of this breakthrough. It was an almost unimaginable feat. But then again, Beckett is not like other writers. Before he could truly find himself, he had to leave behind what came easiest to him and fight his own establishment as a fashion designer. Apart from Dickens and Joyce, there is perhaps no English writer of the last hundred years who has equaled Beckett's early prose for strength and intelligence; Murphy's language, for example, is so compact that the novel has the density of a short letter. Switching to French (a language Beckett commented "has no style"), he gladly started anew. Mercier and Camier is at the very beginning of this new life, and it is interesting to note that in this English translation Beckett edited almost one fifth of the original text. Phrases, sentences, entire sections were thrown out and what we got is actually an edit and a translation. However, this manipulation is not difficult to understand. Lots of echoes remain, lots of elaborate and clever flourishes from the past, and while a considerable amount of excellent material has been lost, Beckett apparently didn't think it was good enough to keep. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, Mercier und Camier is an almost impeccable work. As with all of Beckett's own translations, this version is not so much a literal translation of the original as it is a recreation, a "return" of the book into English. No matter how pared down your French style, there is always something extra added to English interpretations, a slight change in diction or nuance, an unexpected word that appears at just the right time, reminding us that English is, at best, of the cases, , however, Beckett's homeland. George, Camier said, five sandwiches, four wrapped and one on the side. Look, he said, turning politely to Mr. Conaire, I think of everything. Because the one I'm eating here will give me the strength to go back to the other four. Sophistication, said Mr. Conaire. You go with all five, wrap it up, pass out, open it up, take one out, eat it, recover, move on with the others. Despite the backlash, Camier began to eat. You will pamper him, said Mr. Conaire. Pie yesterday, sandwiches today, crusts tomorrow, and rocks Thursday. Mustard, said Camier. This one has a freshness that surpasses the French. "Sophistic" for "raisonnement du clerc", "crusts" for "pain sec" and the assonance with "senf" in the next movement 246

Give the exchange an even more satisfactory cleanliness and economy than the original. Everything is reduced to the minimum; not a syllable is out of place. We go from cakes to bricks, and side by side, Beckett builds a world out of nothing. Mercier and Camier go on a journey and go nowhere. But every step of the way, we want to be right where they are. How Beckett accomplishes this is a mystery. But, as in all of his work, less is more. 1975 The poetry of exile

A Romanian-born Jew who wrote in German and lived in France. A victim of World War II, a survivor of the extermination camps, she committed suicide before she was 50 years old. Paul Celan was a poet in exile, an outsider even in the language of his own poetry, and while his life was exemplary in its pain, a paradigm of mid-century Europe's destruction and rejection, his poetry is defiantly idiosyncratic. , always and absolutely from him. In Germany he is regarded as the equal of Rilke and Trakl, heirs to Hölderlin's metaphysical poetry, and elsewhere his work receives similar praise, leading to claims such as George Steiner's recent comment that Celan was "almost certainly the greatest European poet of the time of 1945". .” At the same time, Celan is an extremely difficult, dense and dark poet. He demands a lot from a reader, and in his later works his statements are so dwarf that it is almost impossible to fully understand him, even after much reading. Incredibly intelligent Driven by dizzying linguistic power, Celan's poems seem to explode off the page, and meeting them for the first time is a memorable event. It's the same strangeness and excitement one feels when discovering the work of Hopkins or Emily Dickinson. ., Bucovina, where Celan Paul Anczel was born in 1920, was a multilingual area once part of the Habsburg Empire. In 1940 it was annexed by the Soviet Union under the Hitler-Stalin Pact, occupied by Nazi troops the following year , and recaptured by the Russians in 1943. Celan's parents were deported to a concentration camp in 1942 and did not return. Celan, who managed to escape, was placed in a forced labor camp until December 1943. In 1945 he went to Bucharest, where he worked. As a translator and editor, he then moved to Vienna in 1947 and finally settled in Paris in 1948, where he married and became a professor of German literature at the Ecole Normale Supérieure. His oeuvre includes seven volumes of poetry and translations of more than two dozen foreign poets, including Mandelstam, Ungaretti, Pessoa, Rimbaud, Valéry, Char, du Bouchet, and Dupin. Celan came late to poetry and his first poems were not published until he was thirty. Therefore, all of his works were written after the Holocaust, and his poetry is marked throughout his memory. The unspeakable results in a poetry that repeatedly threatens to cross the limits of what can be said. Because Celan did not forget anything, he did not forgive anything. The death of his parents and his own experiences during the war are recurring and obsessive themes that run through all of his work. 247

With names sprinkled by each exile. With names and seeds, with names submerged in all the cups that are filled with your royal blood, man, - in all the cups of roses in the Great Ghetto from where you look at us, immortal with so many deaths that messages died in the morning. (from "Krönt...", 1963, translated by Michael Hamburger) Even after the war, Celan's life remained unsettled. He suffered intensely from feelings of persecution, which led to repeated nervous breakdowns in his later years, and finally to suicide in 1970, when he drowned in the Seine. A tireless writer who produced hundreds of poems during his relatively short life as a writer, Celan poured all his sadness and anger into his work. There is no poetry more angry than his, there is no poetry so purely inspired by bitterness. Celan never stopped facing the dragon of the past, and in the end, he swallowed it. * "Todesfuge" (Flight from Death) is not Celan's best poem, but it is arguably his most famous poem, the work that established his reputation. By the late 1940s, just a few years after the end of the war, and in stark contrast to Adorno's rather silly comment about the "barbarism" of post-Auschwitz poetic writing, "Todesfuge" was making a considerable impact. in German readers, both because of the direct mention of the concentration camps, and because of the terrible beauty of its form. The poem is literally a fugue composed of words, and its beats, repetitions, and rhythmic variations mark a terrain no less delimited, no less autonomous than a prison surrounded by barbed wire. It is just under two pages long and begins and ends with the following stanzas: Black milk at dawn, we drink at sunset, we drink at noon, and at dawn, we drink at night, we drink and drink, digging a pit in the air. , so that there is room for everyone A man lives in the house he plays with the snakes he writes them he writes when it gets dark in Germany her golden hair Margarete writes and goes out and the stars shine he hisses at her dog she hisses at her Jews she makes them dig a hole in the earth tells us to play for the dance * black milk of dawn we drink you at night we drink you at noon death is a teacher of germany we drink you at dusk and at dawn we drink and drink your death is a master of germany your eye is blue shoots you with lead bullets your aim is true a man lives in the house his hair is golden margaret puts his dogs on us gives us a grave in the air plays with snakes and dreams of death he is a teacher from Germany his golden hair Margarete his gray hair Sulamite (trans. Joachim Neugroschel) Despite the great control of the poem and the formal sublimation of an incredibly emotional subject, "Todesfuge" is one of Celan's most explicit works. in the sixties 248

he even objected, denying permission to reprint it in other anthologies, feeling that his poetry had progressed to a stage where Escape from Death was too obvious and superficially realistic. In this context, however, elements common to many of Celan's works can be discovered in this poem: the tense energy of language, the objectification of private anguish, the unusual distance between emotion and image. As Celan himself said in an early commentary on his poetry: “What counts for this language…is precision. It does not glorify, it does not 'compose', it names and composes, it tries to calibrate the sphere of the given and the possible.” This idea of ​​the possible is central to Celan. In this way, one can begin to delve into the imagination of his poem, into his vision of reality. Due to the apparent paradox of another of his statements – “Reality is not. You have to seek it out and conquer it” – can be misleading, unless one already understands the search for the real that permeates Celan's poetry. Celan does not advocate a retreat into subjectivity or the construction of an imaginary universe. On the contrary, he marks the distance that the poem must travel and defines the ambiguity of a world where all values ​​have been subverted. Speak, but keep the yes and no undivided, and give your saying this meaning: give it the shadow. Give it enough shade, give it as much shade as you know it was treated between noon and noon to midnight. Look around you - see how everything jumps alive, where is death! vivacious! Truly speaks who speaks the shadow. (from "Speak, You Too", translated by Michael Hamburger) In a public address Celan gave in the city of Bremen in 1958, after he had received a major literary award, Celan spoke of language as what has stayed with him ever since. so. it was war, although it had to go through the "thousand darkness of mortal speech." "In this language," said Celan, that is, German, the language of the Nazis and the language of his poems, "I tried to write poetry to glimpse reality." in the sea with the hope of one day reaching the beach, "perhaps the beach of the heart". 'Poems', he continued, 'also in this sense they are on the move: they are going towards something. For what reason? To an open place that can be lived in, to an addressable you, perhaps to an addressable reality”. Thus, the poem is not a transcription of a world already known, but a process of discovery, and for Celan writing is an act of risk. Celan wrote not just to express himself, but to find his way in his own life and position himself in the world, and it is this sense of need that is communicated to the reader. These poems are more than literary artifacts. They are a means to stay alive. In a 1946 essay on Van Gogh, Meyer Schapiro refers to the notion of realism in a way that can be applied to Celan as well. "I do not mean realism in the repulsive and narrow sense that it has acquired today," writes Professor Schapiro, "...a human being and therefore is the necessary basis of art." He then quotes a phrase from one of Van Gogh's letters – “I am afraid to run away from the possible…” – and comments: “The fight against the perspective that reduces 249

a single object before his eyes, makes him larger than life. The application of pigment is partly a reflection of that attitude, a desperate effort to preserve the tangible matter of the things in the image and to create something equally solid and concrete on the canvas." Celan, whose life and attitude toward his art parallel those of Van Gogh, used language not unlike Van Gogh's use of color, and his work is strikingly similar in spirit.* Not even Van Gogh's stroke nor Celan's syntax are strictly representative, since in the eyes, the "objective" world is intertwined with their perception. There is no reality that can be posed without simultaneously trying to penetrate it, and the work of art as a continuous process attests to this desire. Just as Van Gogh's painted objects acquire a concreteness "as real as reality," Celan treats words as if they had the density of objects and gives them a substance that makes them part of the world, his world, and not just his. mirror. . Celan's poems defy simple exegesis. They are not linear progressions, moving from word to word, from point A to point B. Rather, they present themselves to the reader as intricate webs of semantic density. Linguistic puns, indirect personal references, intentionally false quotes, bizarre neologisms: these are the threads that unite Celan's poems. It is not possible to follow him, follow each of his steps. The person is guided more by a sense of tone and intent than by verification of the text. Celan doesn't speak explicitly, but he never fails to be clear. There is nothing accidental in his work, nor unnecessary elements that obscure the perception of the poem. He is read with his skin, as if by osmosis, unconsciously absorbing nuances, connotations, syntactic twists that are in themselves both the meaning of the poem and its analytical content. Celan's compositional style is not unlike Joyce's in Finnegans Wake. But if Joyce's art was one of accumulation and expansion - a spiral that turns towards infinity - Celan's poetry continually collapses, denies its own premises and repeatedly reaches zero. We are in the world of the absurd, but we were led there by a mind that refuses to accept it. Consider the following poem 'Long', one of Celan's last poems - and a typical example of the difficulties a reader faces in dealing with Celan - overgrown we lie together, autumn crocuses, the timeless abounds between our breathing eyelids. , the pair of blackbirds hanging next to us, below our floating white companions above, our metastases. The German text, however, reveals things that inevitably elude translation: Kindred, heathenly close: greater than death we lie together, the eternal swarms under your breathing eyelids, the pair of blackbirds flit beside us, beneath our moving whites. along with us metastases. Heidegangerisch in the first line is an inevitable allusion to Heidegger, who in many ways was close to Celan but sided with 250 as a Nazi supporter.

the murderers. Celan visited Heidegger in the 1960s, and although it is not known what they said to each other, it can be assumed that they discussed Heidegger's position during the war. The reference to Heidegger in the poem is underlined by the use of some key words from his philosophical writings: Nahe, Zeit, etc. This is Celan's way: he does not mention anything directly, but instead weaves their meanings into the fabric of the poem's language, creating a space for the invisible, as thought accompanies us as we move across a landscape. Further down, in the third stanza, are the two blackbirds (the protagonists of fairy tales who speak in riddles and bring bad news). In German, it reads Amsel, reflecting the sound of Celan's own name, Anczel. At the same time, he is reminded of Günter Grass's novel Hundejahre, which chronicles the love-hate relationship between a Jew and a Nazi during the war. The Jewish character in the story is named Amsel, and throughout the book, to quote George Steiner again, "there is a deadly imitation of Heidegger's metaphysical jargon." / companions above" a reference to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust: the smoke from corpses burned in crematoria. From early poems like "Todesfugue" ("He gives us a grave in the air") to later poems like "Largo", the dead Jews in Celan's work inhabit the air we are condemned to breathe: souls in smoke, turned to dust, nothing at all – "our / goal / stasis", first cause and ultimate effect of an entire cosmology. Celan is essentially a religious poet and, though he speaks in a helpless voice, never gives up the struggle to make sense of the meaningless to confront his own Judaism, blasphemy and irony take the place of pity, forms are imitated of justice, they are inverted, subverted, they make themselves speak biblical phrases against themselves, but with this Celan comes closer to the origin of his despair, to the absence that lives at the heart of all things.Much has been said about the Celan's "negative theology". This is most clearly expressed in the opening stanzas of the "Psalm": No one kneads us from earth and clay, no one speaks to our dust. Nobody. Laudemuste, nobody. Webloom would come to you: for you. We were nothing, we are and we will be, everything flourishes: this nothing, this nobody's rose and new territory. The long lines and wide breathing of the early poems give way to an almost breathless, elliptical style, in which words are divided into individual syllables, unorthodox phrases are invented, and the natural reductionist vocabulary of the early books is inundated with references to science. technology and political events. These short, mostly untitled poems are moved by lightning-fast insight, and their message, as Michael Hamburger aptly put it, "is both more poignant and more private." There is a sense of shrinking and expanding around him, as if, traveling to the innermost corners of himself, Celan has somehow disappeared, connecting with the larger forces beyond him as he sinks deeper and deeper into himself. its isolation. The sun passed over the dark gray desert. A treetop thought meets the hue of light: There are still songs to sing beyond humanity. 251

(trans. Joachim Neugroschel) In poems like this, Celan risks so much that he has to overcome himself to reconcile, and he pushes his life into the void to cling to his identity. It is an impossible fight doomed from the start. Because poetry cannot save the soul or bring back a lost world. It simply affirms what is given. In the end, it seemed, Celan's despair became too great to bear, as if the world somehow no longer existed for him. And when there was nothing left, there could be no more words. You were my death: I was able to hug you when everything fell apart. (trans. by Michael Hamburger) 1975 * Celan refers to Van Gogh in several of his poems, and the affinity between the poet and the painter is very strong: both began as artists in their late twenties after some experiences that marked deeply the rest of his life; both produced productively and at breakneck speed, as if they depended on work for their survival; both went through debilitating mental breakdowns that led to incarceration; both committed suicide, foreigners in France. * I am grateful to Katharine Washburn, a conscientious Celan reader and translator, for her help in deciphering the German text of this poem and for possible references. innocence and memory

From his first major poems, written in the trenches of World War I, to the last poems of his old age, Giuseppe Ungaretti's work is a long record of his acceptance of death. Cryptic in expression, narrow-minded in anger, and built on imagery derived solely from the world of nature, Ungaretti's poetry manages to avoid the predictable and, despite the limitations of his style, leaves an impression of almost limitless energy and invention. . Not a word in Ungaretti's work is taken lightly -"If I/ find my stillness in it/ a word/ it pierces my life/ like an abyss"- and precisely from that containment comes the strength of his poetry. . For a man who wrote for more than fifty years, Ungaretti published very little before his death in 1970, and his collection of poetry does not exceed hundreds of pages. Like Mallarmé before him (though in very different ways), Ungaretti's poetic source is stillness, and in one way or another all of his work is an expression of the inexhaustible difficulty of expression itself. your words on the page, that even the strongest words are in constant danger of being destroyed. Born in 1888, Ungaretti belonged to an acclaimed generation of modern writers that included Pound, Joyce, Kafka, Trakl, and Pessoa. As with them, his importance is measured not only by his own achievement, but also by his impact on the literary history of their language. Before Ungaretti, there was no modern Italian poetry. When his first book Il Porto Sepolto (The Buried Port) was published in 1916 in a print run of 80 copies, there were 252

seemed to have fallen from the sky without precedent. These short, fragmentary poems, sometimes little more than notes or inscriptions, heralded a definitive break with the late-19th-century conventions that still dominated Italian poetry. The dire realities of war demanded a new mode of expression, and for Ungaretti, who was finishing his poetic apprenticeship, the front was a training ground that taught the futility of all compromise. Watch Cima Quattro, December 23, 1915 Thrust beside a murdered comrade all night, his snarling mouth turned to the full moon, the swelling of his hands invading my silence. I wrote love letters In Italian poetry of this period, Ungaretti was not a poetic rebel, and his work did not display the spirit of confident sabotage that characterized the Futurists and other avant-garde groups. The break with the past was not a departure from literary tradition, but a way of affirming his connection to a more distant and living past than that represented by his immediate predecessors. He simply cleared the ground between himself and what he felt were his true sources and, like all original artists, created his own tradition. In later years this led to extensive critical work and translations of numerous foreign poets, including Góngora, Shakespeare, Racine, Blake, and Mallarmé. Ungaretti's need to invent this poetic past can perhaps be attributed to the unusual circumstances of his youth. By the double coincidence of his birthplace and the nature of his upbringing, he was freed from many of the constraints of a purely Italian upbringing, and although he was descended from the old Tuscan peasantry, he did not set foot in Italy until he was twenty. . four his father, born in Lucca, emigrated to Egypt to work on the construction of the Suez Canal and, at the time of Ungaretti's birth, owned a bakery in the Arab neighborhood of Moharrem Bay in Alexandria. Ungaretti attended French schools and his first real encounter with Europe was in Paris a year before the war, where he met Picasso, Braque, De Chirico and Max Jacob and became good friends with Apollinaire. (In 1918 he was posted to Paris at the time of the Armistice and arrived at Apollinaire's house moments after his death with the latter's favorite Italian cigars.) Apart from his service in the Italian army, Ungaretti did not live in Italy until 1921, long after she had found her way as a poet. Ungaretti was a cultural hybrid, and elements of his colorful past are constantly blended into his work. Nowhere is this expressed more succinctly than in 'I fiumi' ('The Rivers') (1916), a long poem that ends: 'I have passed through the seasons of my life. These are my Labrador rivers and my father and my mother This is the Nile that saw me born and grow, burning with ignorance in its vast plains Every river, now it is night, my life seems like a crown of shadows 253

In early poems like this one, Ungaretti manages to capture the past in the form of the eternal present. Time exists less as duration than as accumulation, as a collection of discrete moments that can be relived and brought to light near the present. Innocence and Memory - the title of the French edition of Ungaretti's essays - are the two contradictory aspirations embedded in his poetry, and all of his work can be seen as a constant effort to renew itself without destroying his past. What worries Ungaretti the most is the search for spiritual self-definition, a way of discovering one's own essence beyond the reach of time. It is a drama represented between the forces of permanence and impermanence, and its fundamental fact is human mortality. As in the war poem Watch, Ungaretti experiences life most fully in the face of death, and in a commentary on another of his poems he describes this process as "...being out of zero. Terrible conscience." If this poetry can be described as fundamentally religious in nature, the sensibility that informs the poems is never monastic, and the denial of the flesh is never offered as a solution to spiritual problems. contradictions, a "man of pain" as he calls himself in one of his poems, but also a man of great passions and desires who sometimes seems to be caught in the "appearance of promiscuity" and is capable of writing of " ... the mare of his loins / that plunges him into torment / in my singing arms." His obsession with death, therefore, does not stem from morbid self-pity or a search for life after death, but rather of an almost savage will to live, and Ungaretti's robust sensuality, his unwavering grasp of the world of physical things, make his poems tense with the conflict between the relentless forces of love and vanity. In his latest work, a Starting with the second great collection, Sentimento del Tempo (1919-35), the distance between the present and the past grows and finally becomes an abyss that can hardly be bridged by acts of will or grace. As in Pascal, as in Leopardi, the perception of emptiness translates into the central metaphor of insatiable torment facing an indifferent universe, and if you want to understand Ungaretti's conversion to Catholicism in the late 1920s, you have to see it. in the light of this "terrible conscience". "La Pietà" (1928), the long poem that most clearly marks Ungaretti's conversion, is also one of his somber works and contains these lines, which can be read as a gloss on the particularity of Ungaretti's anguish: banished to me of life And will you banish me from death? Perhaps the man is even unworthy of hope. Also dry up the source of regret? What good is sin if it no longer leads to purity? The flesh hardly remembers that it was once strong. Worn and wild - the soul. God, look at our weakness. We want certainty. Not content to remain on safe ground, without the consolation of "certainty," he constantly pushes himself to the edge of the abyss, threatening himself with the image of his own extinction. But instead of driving him to despair, these acts of 254

metaphysical risk seems to be the source of enduring strength. In poems like "A morte premeditada", a sequence that serves as the center of all the Sentimento del Tempo, and almost all the poems in his next collection, Il Dolore (The Grief) (1936-1947), above all the Poema Poder , written about the death of his son, You Shattered – Ungaretti's determination to place himself at the extremes of his own consciousness paradoxically allows him to heal himself from the fear of those limits. Through the power and precision of his meditative vision, Ungaretti manages to transcend what, in a lesser poet, would mean little more than an inventory of private sorrows and anguish: the poems remain objects beyond the self because the self within them will not be treated. with. . as an example of the whole self or the self in general. At all times it is possible to feel the presence of the man himself in the work. As Allen Mandelbaum observes in the preface to his translations: “Ungaretti's self is serious and slow, more intense than expansive; and his desire derives its drama precisely from the fact that I am not an accidental center of despair but a heavy soma, by earthly standards, a solid, resistant, substantial object, unwanted but desired, not dreamed of but "unearthed." . .” In the poetry of his later years, Ungaretti's work reaches a startling climax in the single image of the Promised Land. It is the promised land of Aeneas and the Bible, Rome and the desert, and the personal and historical tones of these last great poems - "Canzone", "Chorus Describes Dido's Moods", "Palinurus Recitative". ' and 'Final Choruses for the Promised Land' - refer to all of Ungaretti's previous works as if to give them their definitive meaning. For him, returning to a Virgilian environment at the end of his career represents a kind of poetic return, just as the desert revives the landscape of his youth, to leave him in a final and permanent exile: we cross the desert with traces of some previous image. before his eyes, This is all a living man knows of the promised land. Written between 1952 and 1960, the "Final Choruses" were published in Il Taccuino del Vecchio (Old Man's Notebook) and reformulate all the essential themes of his work. Ungaretti's universe remains the same, and in a language slightly different from that of his earlier poems, he prepares for his death, his real death, the last possible death for him: the dragon falcon grabs me with its blue talons the upper part of the sun. He drops me on the sand next to the crows' food. No longer will I carry mud on my shoulders, The fire will find me clean, The cackling beaks, The stinking jaws of jackals. Then, as he scours the sand with his stick, the Bedouin points to a white, very white bone. 1976 * All quotes are translated by Allen Mandelbaum and appear in his Selected Poems of Giuseppe Ungaretti, published by Cornell University Press in 1975. Book of the Dead


In recent years, no French writer has received greater critical attention and praise than Edmond Jabès. Maurice Blanchot, Emmanuel Levinas, and Jean Starobinski wrote extensively and enthusiastically about his work, with Jacques Derrida bluntly and unashamedly remarking that "nothing has been written in France in the last ten years that does not have a precedent somewhere in the world." the letter of Jabes.” Beginning with the first volume of Le Livre des Questions, published in 1963, and continuing with the other volumes in the series*, Jabès has created a mysterious new generation of literary works, as dazzling as they are difficult to define. Neither a novel nor a poem, neither an essay nor a play, O Livro das Questões is a combination of all these forms, a mosaic of fragments, aphorisms, dialogues, songs and commentaries that move incessantly around the central question of the book: how say something. You can't talk. The theme is the Jewish Holocaust, but it is also the theme of literature itself. In an astonishing leap of imagination, Jabès treats them as one: I told you about the difficulty of being a Jew, which is the same as the difficulty of writing. For Judaism and scripture they are the same wait, the same hope, the same weariness. Born in 1912 to wealthy Egyptian Jewish parents, Jabès grew up in the French-speaking community of Cairo. His first literary friendships were with Max Jacob, Paul Eluard and René Char, and in the 1940s and 1950s he published several small volumes of poetry, later collected in Je batis ma demeure (1959). Until then, his reputation as a poet was solid, but since he lived outside of France, he was not well known. The Suez Crisis of 1956 changed everything for Jabès, both in his life and in his work. Forced by the Nasser regime to leave Egypt and settle in France, thus losing his home and all his belongings, he experienced the burden of being a Jew for the first time. Until then, his Judaism was no more than a cultural fact, a contingent element of his life. But now that he suffered just because he was Jewish, he had become the Other, and that sudden sense of exile became a basic metaphysical self-description. Difficult years followed. Jabès got a job in Paris and was forced to do most of his writing on the subway to and from work. When his collection of poetry was published by Gallimard shortly after his arrival, the book was less a proclamation of what was to come and more a way of drawing the lines between his new life and his past. now unrecoverable. Jabès began to study Jewish texts—the Talmud, the Kabbalah—and while this reading did not herald a return to the religious precepts of Judaism, it offered Jabès the opportunity to reaffirm his connection to Jewish history and thought. More than the main source of the Torah, it was the rabbinical writings and the commentaries of the diaspora that moved Jabès, who came to see in these books a strength typical of the Jews, which was translated almost literally into a kind of survival. In the long interval between the exile and the coming of the Messiah, the people of God became the people of the Scriptures. For Jabès, this meant that the book had acquired all the weight and importance of a homeland. The Jewish world is based on the written law, on a logic of words that cannot be denied. 256

Thus, The Land of the Jews is on the scale of their world because it is a book... The Homeland of the Jews is a sacred text in the midst of the commentaries it produced... At the heart of the Book of Questions is a story: the separation of two young lovers, Sarah and Yukel, during the time of the Nazi deportations. Yukel is a writer, called a "witness", who acts as Jabès's alter ego and whose words are often indistinguishable from his own; Sarah is a young woman who is sent to a concentration camp and goes crazy. But the story is never really told and doesn't feel like a traditional narrative at all. On the contrary, it is alluded to, commented on and occasionally explodes in the passionate and obsessive love letters exchanged between Sarah and Yukel, which seem to come out of nowhere like disembodied voices, articulating what Jabès calls a “collective cry”. . .the eternal cry.” Sarah: I wrote to you. I write to you I wrote to you I write to you I take refuge in my words, in the words that my pen cries. While I speak, while I write, my pain is less acute. I connect with each syllable to the point of being just a body of consonants, a soul of vowels. It's magic I write his name and he becomes the man I love... And Yukel, at the end of the book: And I read you, through your dress and your skin, through your flesh and your blood. I read to Sarah that through every word of our language, through every wound of our race, you were mine. I read how the Bible is read, our history and the history that can only be yours and mine. This story, which is the "central text" of the book, is subject to extensive and indescribable Talmudic-style commentary. One of Jabès' most original games is the invention of imaginary rabbis who participate in these conversations and interpret the text with their sayings and poems. His comments, which refer mainly to the problem of writing the book and the nature of the word, are elliptical, metaphorical, and provide a beautiful artistic counterpoint to the rest of the work. "He is Jewish," said Reb Tolba. "He is leaning against a wall and watches the clouds go by." “The Jew does not need clouds,” replied Reb Jale. "He counts the steps between him and his life." Since the story of Sarah and Yukel is not told in its entirety because, as Jabès suggests, it cannot be told, the commentaries are in a way an examination of a text that is not written. Like the hidden god of classical Jewish theology, the text only exists by virtue of its absence. “I know you, Lord, to the extent that I don't know you. because you are the one who is to come”. Reb Lod So what happens in the Book of Questions is the writing of the Book of Questions, or rather the attempt to write it, a process that the reader, with all his groping and hesitating, can witness. . Like the narrator of Beckett's The Unnamable, 257

cursed for "the inability to speak [and] the inability to remain silent," Jabès's narrative goes nowhere except by spinning round and round on itself. As Maurice Blanchot noted in his excellent essay on Jabès: "Writing...must be done in the act of self-interruption." spaces, then by comments in parentheses, divided by italics and italics in parentheses, so that the reader's eye never gets used to a single, unbroken field of view. The book is read intermittently, exactly as written. At the same time, the book is very structured, almost architectural. Divided carefully into four parts, "On the Threshold of the Book", "And You Will Be in the Book", "The Book of the Absent" and "The Book of the Living", it is treated as if by Jabès it were a physical place and as as soon as we cross its threshold we enter a kind of enchanted kingdom, an imaginary world kept in fluctuating animation. As Sarah writes at one point: "I don't know where I am anymore. I know. I'm nowhere here." Mythical in its dimensions, for Jabès the book is a place where the past and the present meet and dissolve. It doesn't seem entirely unusual for ancient rabbis to converse with a contemporary writer that images of stunning beauty can stand side by side with descriptions of the greatest devastation, or that the visionary and the mundane can coexist on the same page. From the beginning, when the reader meets the author on the threshold of the book, we know that we are entering a space unlike any other "What happens behind that door?" "A book loses its leaves." "What is the story of the book?" "The awareness of a scream". "I saw the rabbis come in." in small groups to give us their opinion." "Have you read the book yet?" "You are reading it." "Did you come to enjoy it?" "You anticipated the book. Are you ready for this. Do you know the characters? “You know our martyrs. "Where is the book set?" "In the book." "What you are?" "I am the guardian of the house." "Where are you from?" "I was wandering... The book "begins with difficulties - the difficulties of being and writing - and ends with difficulties." There are no answers. Neither can any answer be given, for the same reason that the "Jew," as one of the imaginary rabbis says, "answers every question with another question." Jabès conveys these ideas with wit and eloquence that

often recalls the logical parting of the hair – pilpul – of the Talmud. But he is never fooled by the illusion that his words are more than "grains of sand blown by the wind." At the heart of the book is nothingness. "Our hope is knowledge," said Reb Mendel. But not all of his students agreed with him. "First we must agree on the meaning they give to the word 'knowledge,'" said the oldest of them. "Knowledge is asking," replied Reb Mendel. “What are we going to get out of these questions? What do we have of all the answers that only lead to more questions, since the questions arise from unsatisfactory answers? asked the second disciple. "The promise of a new question," replied Reb Mendel. “There will come a time,” the senior continued, “when we have to stop asking questions. Either because there is no possible answer, or because we cannot ask any more questions. So why should we start? "You see," said Reb Mendel, "at the end of a discussion there always remains a crucial question." "To question is to walk the path of despair," continued the second disciple. “We will never know what we are trying to learn.” Although Jabès' images and sources are largely Jewish, The Book of Questions is not a Jewish work to the extent that Paradise Lost could be considered a Christian work. Although Jabès is, to my knowledge, the first modern poet to consciously appropriate the forms and idiosyncrasies of Jewish thought, his relationship to Jewish doctrine is more emotional and metaphorical than one of strict adherence. The book is his central image, but it is not only the book of the Jews (the spirals of commentary on commentary in the Midrash), but also an allusion to Mallarmé's ideal book (the book that contains the world and infinitely envelops it). ). be). Finally, Jabès's work must be seen as part of the continuing French poetic tradition that began in the late 19th century. What Jabès has done is merge this tradition with a certain type of Jewish discourse, and he has done it with such conviction that the marriage between the two is almost imperceptible. The Book of Questions arose because Jabès, as a writer, was discovering himself as a Jew. Similar to an idea by Marina Tsvetaeva - "In this most Christian of all worlds / all poets are Jews" - this equation is at the heart of Jabès's work, the nucleus from which everything else springs. For Jabès, nothing can be written about the Holocaust without first questioning the writing itself. If language is to be pushed to the limit, the writer must condemn himself to an exile of doubt, to a desert of uncertainty. What he has to do is create a poetics of absence. The dead cannot be brought back to life. But they can be heard and their voices live on in the book. 1976 * Le Livre de Yukel (1964), Le Retour au Livre (1965), Yaël (1967), Elya (1969), Aély (1972), El, ou le dernier livre (1973), followed by three volumes Le 259

Similarities book. There are four books available in English, all excellently translated by Rosmarie Waldrop: The Book of Questions, The Book of Yukel, Return to the Book (Wesleyan University Press), and Elya (Tree Books). Reznikov ×2

1. THE TURNING MOMENT Charles Reznikoff is a poet of the eyes. Crossing the threshold of his work is delving into the prehistory of matter, exposing oneself to a world where language has not yet been invented. In his poetry, before speaking there is always seeing. Each poetic expression is an emanation of the eye, a transcription of what is visible in the crude and indecipherable code of being. The act of writing is, then, less an ordering of the real than a discovery of the real. It is a process of placing oneself between things and the names of things, a way of watching over this stillness of silence and allowing things to be seen and, henceforth, named, as if it were the first time. The poet who is born first is also the last. He is Adam, but he is also the end of all generations: the silent heir to the builders of Babylon. Because it is he who must learn to speak with his eyes and cure himself of seeing with his mouth. The poem, then, not as a narrative, but as an act of apprehension. You can never assume that the world exists. It arises only in the act of moving towards it. Esse est percipii: No American poet adhered so faithfully to Berkeley's formula as did Reznikoff. It is more than the guiding principle of his work: it is embedded in the work and contains the full force of moral dogma. Reading Reznikoff means understanding that nothing can be taken for granted: we are not in the middle of an already established world, we are not automatically appropriating our environment at birth. Each moment, each thing must be conquered, uprooted from the confusion of inert matter by a steady gaze, a purity of perception so intense that the effort itself acquires the value of a religious act. The board has been cleaned. It is up to the poet to write his own book. Short poems, many of them only one sentence long, constitute the core of Reznikoff's work. Although his oeuvre includes fiction, biographies, drama, long narrative poems, historical meditations, and documentary poems, these short texts are the primary texts of Reznikoff's imagination: everything else flows from them. Noted for their precision and simplicity, they also contradict normal assumptions about what a poem should be. Consider these three examples: April The sharp lines of blurred branches with buds. Moonlit night The shadows of the trees lie in black puddles on the lawn. The Bridge on a Cloud Bones of Steel. The point is that it doesn't make sense. At least not in the traditional sense. These poems do not seek to emphasize universal truths, impress the reader with his artistry, or invoke the ambiguities of the human experience. Your goal is simply clarity. See and speak. And yet the haunting modesty of these poems should not blind us to the audacity of his ambition. For even in these smallest poems 260

the core of Reznikoff's poetics is there. It is both an ethics of the poetic moment and a theory of writing, and its message does not change in any of Reznikoff's works: the poem is always something more than a mere construction of words. So art for the sake of something, which means that art is almost an accidental byproduct of the effort to make it. In any case, the poem must be an effort of perception, it must be a movement outwards. It is not so much a way of expressing the world as a way of being in the world. Merleau-Ponty's account of contemplation in The Phenomenology of Perception is an almost accurate description of the process taking place in a poem by Reznikoff: ...and not just the milestones I discover for the first time, it traces itself the birth of intelligence and some element of it has creative genius: for me to recognize the tree as a tree, it is necessary that, under this familiar meaning, the instantaneous arrangement of the visible scene begin from the beginning, as on the first day of the kingdom. vegetable, to outline the individual idea of ​​this tree. Imagination, yes. But only as a source, not as a method. Reznikoff does not wish to use the image as a means of transcendence, to make it tremble indescribably in some ethereal realm of the mind. The progression from Symbolism to Imaginism and Objectivism is a series of shortcuts rather than a straight line. What Reznikoff learned from the imaginists was the value, the power, of the image itself, without the veneer of ego claims. The poem in Reznikoff's hands is more an act of imagination than imagination. His impulse moves away from the metaphor and towards the tangible, a desire to apprehend what is and not the only thing possible. A poem that corresponds to the measure of the perceived world, neither greater than this world nor less than it. “I see something,” Reznikoff explained in a 1968 interview with L. S. Dembo, “and I write as I see it. I refrain from commenting on the treatment. Now, when I do something that moves me, when I've captured the subject well, someone comes along and gets moved too, and another comes along and says, "What the hell is that?" And maybe both are right. If the main duty of the poet is to see, there is a similar, though less obvious, instruction for the poet: the duty not to be seen. The Reznikoff equation, which corresponds to invisibility, can only be established by resignation. To see, the poet must become invisible. He must disappear, erase himself into anonymity. I like the noise of the street, but me, separated and alone, next to an open window and behind a closed door. * I am alone, and I am glad to be alone; I don't like people hanging around so late; walking slowly through the leaves that fell on the sidewalks after midnight. I don't like my own face in the mirrors of slot machines in front of closed stores. It seems no coincidence that most of Reznikoff's poetry has its roots in the city. Because only in the modern city can the seer remain invisible, position himself in space and remain transparent. Even if he becomes part of the landscape that he entered, he is still a stranger. so objectivist. Namely - to create a world 261

around him, seeing how a stranger would. It is the thing itself that matters, and what is seen cannot come to life until the seer is gone. There can never be a move towards ownership. Seeing is the effort to create presence: to possess something is to make it disappear. And yet it is as if every act of seeing is an attempt to create a connection between what you see and what is seen. As if the eye were the means by which the stranger could find his place in the world to which he was banished. Because building the world is above all building and recognizing relationships. Discovering something and isolating it in its uniqueness is only a beginning, a first step. The world is not just a collection, it is a process, and every time the eye enters this world, it participates in the life of all the different things that pass before it. While objectivity is the premise, subjectivity is the tacit organizer. As soon as there is more than one thing, there is memory, and because of memory there is language: what is born in the eye and yet beyond. Inside and out than the poem. In his 1968 interview with Dembo, Reznikoff went on to say, "I think the world is too big, and I certainly can't vouch for all that. I can only vouch for my own feelings; I can only say what I want." I have seen and heard and I try to say it in the best possible way, and if you come to the conclusion that what I saw and heard makes you feel like me, then the poem is a success. New York was Reznikoff's home. It was a city he knew as well as a lumberjack knows his forest, and in his prime he walked ten to twenty miles a day from Brooklyn to Riverdale and back. Few poets have had such a deep feeling. Through city life, and in dozens of short poems, Reznikoff captures the strange and fleeting beauties of the urban landscape. On this smoky winter morning, don't despise the green jewel among the branches, because it's a traffic light. honeycombs of light, the buildings of Manhattan, as you cross the bridge in this cold twilight.* Rails on the subway, how lucky you were to know when you were ore on earth, now the electric lights shine on you.But Reznikoff's attention is not He is only fascinated by the objects that can be found in the city, he is also interested in the people who crowd the streets of New York, and no encounter, however brief, is too insignificant to escape his notice, too mundane to become a source of revelation. These two examples among many possibilities: I was walking down Forty-second Street at dusk. Across the street was Bryant Park. Two men were walking behind me and I was able to hear some of their conversations: “What you have to do”, one of them told his companion, “is decide what you want to do and then do it. Stay tuned! And in the end you will surely succeed.” I turned to look at the speaker who was giving me such good advice, and was not surprised to see that he was old, but his companion, to whom the advice was so earnestly given, was the same age; and then the big clock on a building in front of Parque 262

began to glow. * The homeless man with torn shoes and dirty, wrinkled clothes -dirty hands and dirty face- takes a comb out of his pocket and carefully combs his hair. The feeling that arises from these glimpses of city life is almost the same as looking at a photograph. The Cartier-Bresson "defining moment" is perhaps the most crucial insight to remember in this context. The most important thing is the will: you cannot go out into the street expecting to write a poem or take a photo, but you have to be willing to do it whenever the opportunity presents itself. Since the "work" can only come into being when the world gives it to you, you must constantly look at the world, constantly do the work that leads to a poem, even if no poem comes out of it. Reznikoff walks through the city, not "with his head in the clouds" like most poets, but with open eyes, an open mind, energy focused on taking in the life around him. He enters it precisely because he is separated from it. And hence this paradox that is at the heart of the poem: situating the reality of this world and then entering it, even though it is locked in all its doors. The poet as a lonely wanderer, as a man in a crowd, as a faceless scribe. Poetry as art of loneliness. However, it is more than just loneliness. It is exile and a way of dealing with exile that somehow manages to leave the state of exile intact for better or worse. Reznikoff was not only an outsider by temperament, nurturing those aspects of himself that tended to perpetuate his sense of isolation, but he was also born into a state of otherness and, as a Jew, the son of Jewish immigrants to America, which was always too . The community he had was always more ethnic than national (his dream of him as a poet was to cross the country on foot, stopping at synagogues along the way to read his works, food and lodging). If his poetry about the city, his American poetry, so to speak, floats on the surface of things, on the skin of everyday life, in his poems on Jewish identity he allows himself a certain lyrical freedom to become a lieder singer. . Let other peoples come like streams flooding a valley, leaving behind corpses, uprooted trees and fields of sand: we Jews are trampled like dew on every blade of grass today and here tomorrow morning. And yet, despite this deep connection to the Jewish past, Reznikoff never deludes himself into thinking that he can transcend the essential loneliness of his condition simply by professing his Judaism. Because he was not only banned, but twice: as a Jew and also as a Jew. How difficult is Hebrew for me: even the Hebrew for mother, bread, sun is strange. How far am I banished, Zion. * The Hebrew of your poets, O Zion, is like oil on a burn, cool as oil; after work, the smell of the flowering hedge in the street at night. Like Solomon, I married and married the tongue of strangers; there is no one like you, Shulamite. It's a precarious position to say the least. Neither fully assimilated nor fully unassimilated, Reznikoff occupies the unstable middle ground between two worlds and is 263

he was never able to claim any of them as his own. Despite this, and no doubt precisely because of this ambiguity, it is extremely fertile ground, leading some to see him primarily as a Jewish poet (whatever the term means) and others to see him as an all-American poet ( whatever term is used). it could mean). be). mean). And yet I think it's safe to say that, in the end, both statements are true, or neither is true, which probably amounts to the same thing. Reznikoff's poetry is what Reznikoff is: the poetry of an American Jew, or, if you will, a hyphenated American, an American Jew, the two terms are not so equivalent as if they were combined into an entirely different third term: the state of being in two places at once, or simply the state of being nowhere. We just have to look at the evidence. There are a surprising number of poems on Jewish themes in the two volumes of The Complete Poems (1918-75) recently published by Black Sparrow Press. Poems not only about the life of Jewish immigrants in New York, but also long narratives about various episodes of ancient and modern Jewish history. A list of some of these titles gives a good idea of ​​Reznikoff's concerns: King David, Jeremiah in the Stocks: An Arrangement of the Prophecies, The Synagogue Defeated: Anno 1096, Palestine under the Romans, The Fifth Book of Macabees. "Jews in Babylon". Together, these poems comprise more than 100 pages of the roughly 350-page two volumes, or nearly a third of his complete works. Given the kind of poetry for which he is best known, the sparse urban texts, transcriptions of immediate sensual data, it is strange that he should have devoted so much of his life as a writer to works inspired by books. Reznikoff, the least pretentious of all poets, never shows any inclination toward the erudite acrobatics of some of his contemporaries—Pound, say, or Olson—and yet much of his writing is strangely in direct response, almost an her translation, to your reading In another twist, these poems, dealing with seemingly distant subjects, are among his most personal works. To make it schematic, a simplified explanation would be the following: America is Reznikoff's present, Judaism is his past. After all, for him, immersing himself in Jewish history is nothing more than stepping on the streets of New York. In any case, it's an attempt to come to terms with who he is. However, the past cannot be directly perceived, but only experienced through books. So when Reznikoff writes about King David or Moses or any other biblical figure, he's practically writing about himself. Even in his lightest moments, this concern for his ancestors is always with him. God and Messenger The sidewalk is desolate like the mountain on which God spoke to Moses – suddenly on the street the bumper of a car shone against my legs. The point is that the Jewish Reznikoff and the American Reznikoff cannot be separated. Every aspect of his work must be read in the context of the work as a whole, because in the end each angle lives in all the others. The tree in the decaying street, the pods hanging motionless from its bare, symmetrical branches, but if, like God, a century were the twinkling of an eye to us, we would see the frenzy of growth. In other words, the eye is not enough. Even what is seen cannot really be seen. the 264

The human perspective that constantly pushes us to a place where "only the narrow present is alive" is an eternal exile, an exclusion from the fullness of human possibility. The fact that Reznikoff, who insists so much on this human perspective in all of his work, is at the same time aware of his limitations, gives his work a reflective quality, an element of doubt that permeates even the most poetic. simple. Despite all his apparent simplicity, Reznikoff is by no means a primitive. A reductionist perhaps, but a very refined one, who, like a skilled craftsman, repeatedly manages to make us forget that every poem is the product (as he put it in one play) of 'hunger, stillness and sweat'. But in Reznikoff's work one finds a bridge between time and eternity, a link between God and man, precisely where man is most strongly compelled to abstain from the demands of the self: in the idea of ​​law. The law in the Jewish sense of the word and by extension in the English sense. Testimony is a work where reading became seeing: "Note: All that follows is based on state statutory records." What Reznikoff observed, brought to life, is the word, the language of the people. Thus, the act of witnessing became synonymous with the act of creation, and carrying its burden. "Now suppose that in court," Reznikoff Dembo said in his interview, "you're testifying in a negligence case. You can't take a position and say, 'The man was negligent.' That's a factual conclusion. What you would have to saying is how the man acted. Did you stop before crossing the street? He looked. The judges of whether or not you are negligent in this case are the jury, and the judges of what you say. as a poet are the readers, that is, there is an analogy between testifying in court and testifying as a poet.” Trained as a lawyer (although he never practiced as a lawyer) and for many years as a researcher for a legal encyclopedia, Reznikoff explored the workings of the law not only as a description of the poetic process , but also as an aesthetic ideal of a writer, he explains how studying law helped to discipline him as a poet: I saw that the expensive machines that cost me four years of hard work as a lawyer and that I considered useless to write: open curious sentences to see the exact meaning ; Weighing words, choosing only those with meat for my purposes and throwing away the rest as empty shells, I was also able to examine each word and each sentence as in a document or a judge's sentence and also hear tones and overtones, only the concise, the necessary, the clear and simple remain Testimonial: The United States Recitative (1885-1915) is perhaps Reznikoff's most important achievement as a poet. A quietly surprising work, in a style so deceptive it could easily be mistaken for a document rather than a work of art, it is as much a kaleidoscopic glimpse of American life as it is ultimate proof of Reznikoff's poetic principles. Made up of small self-contained bits, each a distillation of an actual court case, the overall effect is nonetheless remarkably coherent. Reznikoff has no lessons to teach, no ax to sharpen, no ideology to uphold: he just wants to present the facts. For example: at the time of his marriage, Andrew was worth about fifty thousand dollars; Polly had nothing. “He got into the mine and hopefully he would fall and break the 265

Neck. I just hate it. I shudder when he touches me." “Andy, I am going to write you a letter that may seem harsh: you know that I do not love you as I should, and I know that I never will. Don't you think it's better to divorce me? If so, I won't. I need to sell the house in Denver that you gave me and I'll give you back the ranch in Delta. Polly. * Jessie was eleven years old, although some say fourteen, and she was taking care of a child who was just beginning to walk, and suddenly the child took off her diaper and placed her on a hot coal where she was baking coal cakes. ; the girl screamed and she hit her chin. It would be hard for a poet to become more invisible than Reznikoff in this book. To find a comparable approach to reality, one would have to go back to the great prose writers of the beginning of the century. As in the case of Chekhov or the early Joyce, the goal is to let events speak for themselves, choosing the detail that says it all, leaving as little as possible unsaid. Paradoxically, this type of containment requires an open-mindedness available to few: the ability to accept what is given, to witness human behavior and not succumb to the temptation of becoming a judge. Testimony's success is even more remarkable when placed alongside Holocaust, a much less satisfying work based on many of the same techniques. Using the US government publication Trials of the Criminals before the Nuremberg Tribunal and the records of Eichmann's trial in Jerusalem, Reznikoff attempts to cover the extermination of the Jews in Germany in the same dispassionate documentary style he used to examine the buried human dramas. . in US court records. I think the problem is one of scale. Reznikoff is a master of the everyday; He understands the seriousness of small events and has an incredible sympathy for the lives of ordinary people. In a work like his Testimony he is able to present the facts to us in such a way that we can understand them at the same time; the two gestures are inseparable. In the case of the Holocaust, however, we all know the facts in advance. The Holocaust, which is precisely the unknowable, the unthinkable, requires a treatment beyond the facts in order for us to understand it, assuming that such a thing is even possible. Like Peter Weiss's 1960 play The Inquiry, Reznikoff's poem adamantly refuses to pass judgment on the atrocities he describes. However, this is false objectivity, as the poem does not tell the reader, "Decide for yourself," but instead says that the decision has already been made and that the only way to deal with these things is to remove your stance. inherently emotional. . . The problem is that we can't remove them. This attitude is a necessary starting point. However, the Holocaust is instructive because it shows us the limitations of Reznikoff's work. I'm not talking about faults, but about borders, those things that delimit and describe a space, that create a world. Reznikoff is essentially a quote poet. You don't get the impression of poetry immersed in language, but of something that happens before language and enters the scene at the precise moment that language is discovered - and gives it an impeccable, sophisticated style, almost rigid in its commitment. to 266

say exactly what you mean. If there were one word to describe Reznikoff's work, it would be humility, both towards the language and towards himself. I'm afraid of the nonsense I've said. I must die in silence, strengthen myself through silence. Life must not have been easy for Reznikoff. During the many years that he devoted himself to writing poetry (his first poems of his were published in 1918 when he was twenty-four years old and he continued to publish them until his death in early 1976), he suffered such complete neglect that it was almost scandalous. Forced to publish most of his books in private editions (many of them self-printed), he too faced constant pressure to earn a living. After working all day doing what I do for a living, he was tired. Now my own work has lost another day, I thought, but I started slowly, and slowly my strength returned to me. The tide probably comes in twice a day. It wasn't until the late 1960s that Reznikoff received any degree of recognition. New Directions published a book of selected poems by him, By The Waters of Manhattan, followed a few years later by the first volume of Testimony. But despite the success of those two books, and a growing audience for his works, New Directions saw fit to remove Reznikoff from its list of authors. More years passed. Then in 1974 Black Sparrow Press published By The Well of Living & Seeing: New & Selected Poems 1918-1973. More importantly, he committed to the long-awaited project of reprinting all of Reznikoff's work. Under Seamus Cooney's intelligent and sensitive editing, the sequel thus far includes the two volumes of Complete Poems, Holocaust, The Manner Music (a posthumous novel), the first two volumes of Testimony, and will include additional volumes of Testimony and a book of plays. .collected Although Reznikoff lived his life in obscurity, there was never the slightest hint of resentment in his work. He was too proud for that, too busy with the job itself, to worry too much about his fate in the world. Even if people were slow to listen to someone who spoke softly, he knew that they would eventually listen. Te Deum I do not sing to victories, I do not have them, but to the common sun, to the breeze, to the immensity of spring. Not for the win, but for the day's work, doing my best, not for a place on the podium, but at the common table. 1974; 1976; 1978 2. "That reminds me of something that happened to my mother once..." In 1974, Anthony Rudolf asked me to contribute an article to the London magazine European Judaism for an issue commemorating Charles Reznikoff's eightieth birthday. He had lived in France for the past four years, and the short article I sent on Reznikoff's work was the first thing I wrote after returning to the United States. It felt like an appropriate way to mark my return. I moved into an apartment on Riverside Drive at the end of the summer. After I finished the article, I found out that Reznikoff lived nearby on West End Avenue, and I sent 267

him a copy of the manuscript along with a letter asking if it would be possible for us to meet. Several weeks passed with no response. I was supposed to get married on a Sunday in early October. The ceremony would take place in the apartment around noon. At eleven, shortly before the guests arrived, the phone rang and an unknown voice asked to speak to me. "This is Charles Reznikoff," the voice said in a singsong tone repeated with irony and obvious good humor. Of course he was delighted and flattered by the call, but I explained that it would be impossible for me to talk at this time. He was about to get married and couldn't form a coherent sentence. Reznikoff was amused by this and burst out laughing. "I never called a man on my wedding day!" he said. "Mazel tov, Masel tov!" We agreed to meet at his apartment the following week. So I hung up and walked down the hall. Reznikoff's apartment was on the twenty-second floor of a large building complex with a wide, unobstructed view of the Hudson and sunlight streaming through the windows. I arrived in the middle of the day and with a bit of a stale breadcrumb ahead of me and endless cups of coffee to drink, I ended up staying three or four hours. I was so impressed by the visit that it is still with me, almost a decade later. I've known some good storytellers in my life, but Reznikoff was the champion. Some of his stories that day lasted thirty or forty minutes, and no matter how much he seemed to deviate from the point that he was supposed to be trying to make, he was in complete control. He had the patience to tell a good story and the ability to savor every little detail as it came along. What at first seemed like an endless series of wanderings, a kind of aimless pilgrimage, turned out to be the elaborate and systematic construction of a circle. For example: Why did you come back to New York after living in Hollywood? A myriad of small incidents followed: meeting a certain man's brother on a park bench, the color of someone's eyes, an economic crisis in some country. Fifteen minutes later, just as I was beginning to feel hopelessly lost and convinced that Reznikoff was lost, too, he slowly walked back to square one. Then he announced with great clarity and conviction: "This is why I left Hollywood." In hindsight, it all made sense. I heard stories about his childhood, his abortive career as a journalist, his law studies, his work as a hatter for his parents, and how he wrote poetry on a Macy's bench while waiting his turn to give. program patterns. There were also stories of his wanderings, in particular his journey from New York to Cape Cod (on foot!), which he made when he was in his sixties. The most important thing, he explained, is not to go too fast. Only by forcing himself to maintain a pace of less than two miles per hour could he be sure of seeing everything he wanted to see. When I visited him that day, I brought him a copy of my first book of poetry, Unearth, which had just come out. It reminded me of a Reznikoff anecdote that seems significant to me, especially considering the terrible neglect that his work has suffered for so many years. His first book, he told me, was published in 1918 by Samuel Roth (who later became famous for his pirated copies of Ulysses and his role in the 1933 Joyce book trial). The leading American poet of the day was Edwin Arlington Robinson, and Reznikoff had sent him a copy of the book, hoping for a sign of encouragement from the great man. One afternoon, Reznikoff visited Roth at his bookstore and

Robinson entered. Roth came over to greet him, and Reznikoff, standing in the back corner of the store, witnessed the scene that followed. Pointing proudly to the copies of Reznikoff's book on display, Roth asked Robinson if he had read the work of this handsome young poet. "Yeah, I read the book," Robinson said in a harsh, hostile voice, "and I thought it was rubbish." "And then," Reznikoff told me in 1974, "I never met Edwin Arlington Robinson." I put on my coat and started to leave, Reznikoff said something about the article he had sent him. Written in an extremely dense and enigmatic style, it dealt with themes that Reznikoff himself had probably never consciously considered, and had no idea how he would react. His silence about it during our long conversation made me suspect that he didn't like him. "About your article," he said almost casually. "It reminds me of something that happened to my mother once. One day, a stranger approached her on the street and very kindly and gently complimented her on her beautiful hair. Well, you have to understand that my mother was never proud of her. her hair and didn't consider it one of her best features. But because of this stranger's comment, she spent the rest of the day in front of the mirror, cleaning and combing her hair and admiring it. That's exactly what her article did for I Was in Front of the Mirror All Afternoon mirror admiring myself." * A few weeks later I received a letter from Reznikoff about my book. It was full of praise, and the many quotes from the poems convinced me that he meant what he said, that he really did sit down and read the book. Nothing could have meant more to me A few years after Reznikoff's death, I received a letter from La Jolla, written by a friend who works at the University of California Library's Archive of American Poetry, where the items had recently been sold. from Reznikoff. Reznikoff's copy of Unearth. Surprisingly, the book was full of little notes in the margins, as well as the accents that Reznikoff had placed on the poems in order to scan them correctly and understand their rhythm. Powerless to do or say anything, I thanked him from the other side of the grave. Wherever Edwin Arlington Robinson is now, you can be sure that his rooms are not as good as Charles Reznikoff's. 1983 Bartlebooth's Folly

Georges Perec died in 1982 at the age of 46, leaving behind a dozen books 269

and a brilliant reputation. In the words of Italo Calvino, he was "one of the most unique literary figures in the world, a writer like no other." It took us a while to understand this, but now that his major work has finally been translated into English, Life: A User's Manual (1978), it will be impossible for us to imagine contemporary French writing in the same way again. Born in Poland to a Jewish family that emigrated to France in the 1920s, Perec lost his father in the 1940 German invasion and his mother in the 1943 concentration camps. "I have no childhood memories." he wrote later. His literary career began early and at the age of 19 he was already publishing critical notes in the NRF and Les Lettres Nouvelles. His first novel, Les Choses, won the Renadot Prize in 1965, and from then until his death he published about one book a year. Given his tragic family history, it might surprise you to learn that Perec was primarily a comic book writer. In fact, for the last fifteen years of his life, he was an active member of the Oulipo, a strange literary society founded by Raymond Queneau and the mathematician François le Lionnais. This workshop on potential literature (Ouvroir de Littérature Potentialenielle) proposes all kinds of crazy operations to writers: the S-7 method (rewriting famous poems by replacing each word with the seventh that follows it in the dictionary), the lipogram (eliminating the use of one or more letters in a text), acrostics, palindromes, permutations, anagrams and a host of other "literary restrictions". As one of the leaders of this group, Perec once wrote an entire novel of more than 200 pages without using the letter "e"; This novel was followed by another in which the "e" is the only vowel that appears. The gymnastics of speech of this type seemed natural to him. In addition to his literary work, he created a notoriously difficult weekly crossword puzzle for Le Point magazine. To read Georges Perec you have to be willing to get into the spirit of the game. His books are full of intellectual trappings, allusions and secret systems, and while they are not necessarily profound (in the sense that Tolstoy and Mann are), they are immensely entertaining (in the sense that Lewis Carroll and Laurence Sterne are entertaining). . For example, in Chapter 2 of Life, Perec refers to "the sheet music of a famous American song, 'Gertrude of Wyoming' by Arthur Stanley Jefferson." By sheer coincidence, I knew that Arthur Stanley Jefferson was the real name of comedian Stan Laurel, but just because I caught that reference doesn't mean I didn't miss thousands of others. For those interested in mathematics, there are magic squares and chess moves to discover in this novel, but the fact that I couldn't find them didn't stop me from enjoying the book. Those who have read a lot will no doubt recognize passages that quote, directly or indirectly, other writers: Kafka, Agatha Christie, Melville, Freud, Rabelais, Nabokov, Jules Verne and many others, but not recognizing them should not be considered a shortcoming. . Like Jorge Luis Borges, Georges Perec had a mind that was a repository of strange knowledge and impressive erudition, and half the time the reader can't be sure if he's being duped or enlightened. It probably won't matter in the long run. What attracts in this book is not Perec's wit but the dexterity and clarity of his style, a fluid language that manages to maintain interest through endless lists, catalogs and descriptions. Perec had an extraordinary gift for articulating the nuances of the material world, and in his hands even a 270

A wormy table can become an object of fascination. "Having done this, he thought to dissolve the remains of the original wood to reveal in it the fabulous aborescence, that precise record of the life of the worms in the mass of wood: a static mineral accumulation of all the movements that make up their blind existence. , the very... unwavering determination that traced their tenacious itineraries, the faithful materialization of everything they ate and digested while they expelled from their dense environment the invisible elements they needed for their survival, the explicit, visible and immeasurably disturbing image of the advances interminable that combined the wildest forest in an imperceptible network of crumbling galleries.” Life: A User's Manual is built like a giant puzzle: Perec occupies a single apartment building in Paris and, in ninety-nine short chapters (along with a preamble and an epilogue), provides a thorough description of each room and the stories of each room. life. of each occupant, past and present. It is said that we witnessed the creation of a painting by Serge Valène, an elderly artist who has lived in the building for fifty-five years. "In the last months of his life, the artist Serge Valène had the idea of ​​a painting that would trace his entire existence: everything his memory had recorded, all the sensations that flooded him, all his fantasies, his passions, his hatred would be captured on a canvas, a compendium of small pieces, the sum of which would be your life. What emerges is a series of independent but interconnected stories. All of them are vividly narrated and range from the bizarre to the realistic. There are stories of murder and revenge, stories of intellectual obsession, humorous stories of social satire and (almost unexpectedly) a multitude of psychologically penetrating stories. For the most part, Perec's microcosm is populated by a motley mix of oddballs, passionate collectors, antiquarians, miniaturists, and half-assed scholars. , an eccentric English millionaire whose crazy and meaningless 50-year project serves as a metaphor for the book as a whole. As a young man, he realizes that his wealth has condemned him to a life of boredom and decides to study watercolor art with Serge Valène for ten years. Despite having no aptitude for painting, he finally reaches a satisfactory level of proficiency, so, accompanied by a servant, he embarks on a twenty-year circumnavigation voyage with the sole intention of painting watercolors of five hundred different ports and seaports. . Once he finishes one of these paintings, he sends it to a man in Paris named Gaspard Winckler, who also lives in the house. Winckler is an experienced puzzle maker that Bartlebooth hired to turn the watercolors into 750-piece puzzles. The puzzles are made one by one over twenty years and are kept in wooden boxes. Bartlebooth returns from his travels, settles in his apartment, and methodically begins to put the puzzles together in chronological order. Through a specially developed complex chemical process, the edges of the puzzle pieces are glued together so that the seams are no longer visible, restoring the watercolor to its original integrity. The new watercolor is then separated from its wooden base and sent back to the place where it was created twenty years before. There, by arrangement, it is dipped in a cleaning solution that removes all traces of paint, leaving Bartlebooth with a clean, unwritten sheet of paper. In other words, he is left with nothing, as he started. The project, however, does not

it went according to plan. Winckler made the puzzles too hard and Bartlebooth doesn't live long enough to solve all five hundred. As Perec writes in the last paragraph of chapter ninety-nine: “It is June twenty-third, nineteen seventy-five and it is eight o'clock at night. Sitting in front of his puzzle, Bartlebooth has just died. On the tablecloth, somewhere in the twilight sky of puzzle 439, the black hole of the only unfilled piece has an almost perfect X shape. Man between his fingers, in the shape of a W." Like many other Life issues, the bizarre Bartlebooth saga can be read as (sort of) a parable of the human mind's efforts to impose arbitrary order on the world. Time and time again, Perec's characters are betrayed, deceived, and thwarted in his plans, and if there is a darker side to this book, perhaps it is this emphasis on the inevitability of failure. Even a self-destructive project like Bartlebooth's cannot be completed, and when we discover in the epilogue that Valène's huge painting (which is basically the book we just read) was nothing more than a preliminary sketch, we know to realize that Perec Don't get rid of the insanity of its characters. It is this feeling of self-mocking that transforms a potentially terrifying novel into a welcoming work, a book that, for all its haste and whimsy, ends up winning us over with the warmth of its human understanding. 1987 Prefaces

jacques dupin

It is not easy to become friends with the poetry of Jacques Dupin. Uncompromisingly hermetic in his attitude and rigorously concise in his expression, he demands that we delve into our knowledge rather than read it. Because the nature of the poem has undergone a metamorphosis, and to find it on its own ground we must change the nature of our expectations. The poem is no longer a record of feelings, a song or a meditation. On the contrary, it is the field of mental space where a struggle is allowed to unfold: between the destruction of the poem and the search for the possible poem, because the poem can only be born when all the possibilities of its life are destroyed. Dupin's work is the fruit of this contradiction, which exists in a confined space, like an invisible seed embedded in the center of the stone. The struggle is not a simple conflict between this and that, or to destroy or to create, or to speak or to be silent - it is about destroying to create, and awakening in silence in the Word until the last living moment in which the word begins to crumble under the pressure exerted on him. 272

What I see and what I don't say scares me. What I say and I don't know sets me free. don't give me up Dupin deliberately accepted these hardships, choosing poverty and the rigors of denial over comfort. Because he is not concerned with subjugating his environment by a vain idea of ​​domination, but rather harmonizing with it, relating to it and finally living in it, the poetic operation becomes a process in which he unloads his clothes, his tools and his possessions to embrace the fullness of being in nakedness. In this sense, the poem is a kind of spiritual purification. But if a monk can earn worldly poverty, knowing that this will bring him closer to his god, Dupin can give himself no such guarantees. He takes on the anguish of those around him to end her separation from her, but there is no sign of him guiding him and nothing to guarantee her salvation. But despite this severity, or perhaps because of it, his work contains an unusual richness. This is due, at least in part, to the fact that all of his poetry sits in a landscape firmly rooted in the tangibility of reality. The problems he confronts are never abstract, but are presented in and through this landscape and ultimately cannot be separated from it. The universe that he creates is an alchemical journey through the elements, the transfiguration of the apparently indivisible through the word. Like the cosmic equivalents revealed in Presocratic fragments, it is a universe where language and metaphor are synonymous. Dupin has not made nature his object, he carries it within himself, and when he finally speaks it is with the force of what it already contains. Like Rilke, he finds himself in his environment. His voice not only evokes the presence of things, but also gives them the power of language. But whereas Rilke is generally passive in his relation to things-he tries to isolate the thing and penetrate its essence in a transcendent stillness-Dupin is active and sees things in his connection as constantly changing. Break, recover and thus rebuild. In the forest, we are closer to the woodcutter than to the lone walker. No innocent contemplation. There are no tall forests, pierced by sunlight and birdsong, but your hidden future - wooden ropes. Everything is given to us, except that violence is broken, almost destroyed, to destroy us. The lonely wanderer is Dupin himself, and each poem turns out to be an account of his movements over the ground he has carved for himself. Dominated by rocks, mountains, farm tools and fire, the geography is cruel, built with the humblest materials, and the human presence in it can never be underestimated. He has to be earned. Wishing to join what a place forbids and find a home there, Dupin's poem is always on the other side: the limit of human passage, the result of an earthquake. Above all, it is an exam. Where all is silent, where everything seems to exclude him, he can never be sure where his footsteps will take him, and the poem can never be followed systematically. It comes to life suddenly and without warning in unexpected places and in unknown ways. Between each flash there is patience, and in the end it is what animates the landscape - the tenacity to bear it - even when nothing is offered to us. At the limit of power, a naked word. The poem arises only by choosing the most difficult path. All advantages must be suppressed and all stratagems discarded to reach this limit: an endless series of destruction to reach a point where the poem can go no further.

no longer destroyed. Because the poetic word is essentially the creative word, and yet one word among others, burdened with the weight of habit and the layers of dead skin that must be shed before it can regain its true function. Violence is necessary and Dupin is up to it. But the fight is waged for an objective that goes beyond violence: finding a habitable space. Most of the time, he will fail, and even if he doesn't, success will bring his own restlessness. The torch that lights the abyss, that seals it, is itself an abyss. The force of which Dupin speaks is not the force of transcendence, but of immanence and realization. The gods have disappeared and there is no way to claim to recover the divine Logos. Faced with an unknown world, poetry cannot do more than create what already exists. But that says a lot. Because if things can be recovered from the brink of absence, there is the possibility of giving them back to people through it. 1971 Andre du Bouchet

... this irreducible sign - meaningless - ... an incomprehensible word, Cassandra's word, a word from which no lesson can be learned, a word, forever and ever, that is said not to say nothing... Hölderlin aujourd' hui (lecture given in March 1970 in Stuttgart on the occasion of Hölderlin's 200th birthday) (that joy... that comes from nothing...) Qui n'est pas tourné vers nous (1972 ) Born from the deepest and damned silence living without hope of life (I found myself / free / and without hope), André du Bouchet's poetry is, ultimately, an act of survival. Beginning with nothing and ending with nothing but the truth of his own struggle, du Bouchet's work chronicles an obsessive and utterly reckless attempt to access the self. It is a project of uncertainty, silence and resistance, and perhaps no contemporary poetry is more reluctant to give in to euphemisms. Reading Du Bouchet means going through a process of displacement: here, we discover, that he is not here, and the body, even the physical presence in the poems, is no longer in possession of itself, but moves as if in the distance. , where he seeks to meet the inevitability of his own disappearance (... and the stillness that claims us like a vast field). "Here" is the limit we reach. From this moment on, to be in the poem is to be nowhere. * A body in space. And the poem, as natural as this body. In space: this emptiness, this nowhere between heaven and earth, which is rediscovered at every step. Because wherever we are, the world is not. And wherever we go, we'll meet again

we move in front of us, as if the world were there. The distance that makes the world appear is also what separates us from the world, and although the body moves incessantly through this space, as if trying to catch it, the process starts anew at each step. We are moving towards an infinitely distant point, a goal that can never be reached and, not in the end, this path itself becomes a goal, so that just continuing ahead will be a way of being in the world, even when the world is behind of us. remains. There is no hope in it, but there is no despair either. Because what keeps du Bouchet, in an almost mysterious way, is the longing for a possible future, even knowing that it will never happen. And yet out of that terrible knowledge comes a kind of joy, a joy that is born out of nowhere. * However, Du Bouchet's work will seem difficult to many readers approaching it for the first time. Devoid of metaphor, almost devoid of imagery, and generated by an abrupt, paratactic syntax of brevity, his poems eliminated almost all the props poetry students are taught to look for: the very pitfalls poetry always seemed to reckon with. to disappear. . ahead - and this sudden opening of distances will seem disconcerting, even terrifying, despite the lessons buried in earlier poets such as Hölderlin, Leopardi and Mallarmé. In the world of French poetry, however, du Bouchet performed a linguistic operation no less important than that of William Carlos Williams in America, and against the rhetorical inflation that is the bane of French writing, his extremely restrained poems brought out All the freshness of French French poetry. natural objects his work, first published in the early 1950s, became the model for a whole generation of post-war poets, and there are few young poets in France today who do not bear traces of the influence from him. What on first or second reading may seem like an almost fragile sensibility gradually emerges as a vision of supreme power and purity. Because the poems themselves can only be truly felt when one harnesses the power of the stillness that is at their source. It is a silence that equals the force of any word. 1973 Black on White New Paintings by David Reed

The painter's hand has rarely taught us the paths of the hand. When we look at a painting, we see an accumulation of gestures, layers and modeling of materials, the desire for the inanimate to come alive. But we don't see the hand itself. As the deist god, he seems to have withdrawn from his own creation or disappeared into the density of the world he created. It does not matter if the painting is figurative or abstract: we find the work as an object and, therefore, the surface 275

it remains independent of the will behind it. In David Reed's new paintings, this is reversed. Suddenly, the hand became visible to us, and with each horizontal stroke drawn on the screen, we can see this hand so clearly that it seems to be moving. By itself alone, faithful to the demands of the movement it produces, the hand is no longer a means to an end, but the substance of the object it creates. Because each stroke that we obtain here is unique: there is no going back, no shape, no pauses. The hand moves across the surface in a single uninterrupted gesture, and when that gesture is complete, it is untouchable. The finished work is not a representation of this process, it is the process itself and it wants to be read and not just observed. Consisting of a series of cocoon-shaped brush strokes running the length of the canvas, each of these paintings resembles a giant wordless poem. Our eyes follow its movement as we follow a poem across a page, and just as the line of a poem is a unit of breath, the line of a painting is a unit of gesture. The language of these works is the language of the body. Some people will probably try to see them as examples of minimalist art. But that would be a mistake. Minimalist art is control art aimed at the rigorous arrangement of visual information, while Reed's paintings are designed to sabotage the idea of ​​a predetermined outcome. It is this high degree of spontaneity within a deliberately limited framework that produces such a harmonious coupling of physical and intellectual energies in his work. No two paintings are or can be exactly the same, although each painting starts from the same point, with the same basic assumptions. Because however regular or controlled the gesture may be, its field of action is unstable, and in the end chance decides the result. Since the white background is still wet when the horizontal strokes are applied, the painting can never be fully calculated in advance and the image is always subject to gravity. In a certain sense, then, all painting is born of a conflict between opposing forces. The horizontal line tries to order the chaos of the background and thus deforms while the white color is installed. It would certainly be an exaggeration to interpret this as a parable of man against nature. And yet, as these paintings evolve over time and our reading necessarily takes us through their entire history, we can reenact this conflict over and over again as we reach the present. What remains is the drama: and we begin to understand that these works are essentially the message of that drama.


In the last sentence of Maurice Blanchot's novel Death Sentence, the anonymous narrator writes: "And more than that, let me try to imagine the hand that wrote these pages: and when I can see them, perhaps reading will become a chore." . he would be. ." for him." David Reed's new work is an expression of this will in the field of painting, by allowing us to imagine his hand, by allowing us to see his hand, he has exposed us to the serious task of seeing: how we see and what we see. , and how what we see in a painting is different from what we see in other places. It took a lot of courage to do that. Because it takes the artist out of the shadows and leaves him nowhere else but in the painting itself, and for us to be able to see one of those works, we have no choice but to go in with it.

1975 French poetry of the 20th century

I French and English form a single language. Wallace Stevens That's true: without the arrival of William and his armies on English soil in 1066, the English language as we know it would never have existed. For the next three hundred years, French was the language spoken at the English court, and it wasn't until the end of the Hundred Years' War that it finally became clear that France and England would not become one country. Even John Gower, one of the first to write in colloquial English, wrote much of his work in French, and Chaucer, the greatest of the early English poets, devoted much of his creative energies to a translation of Le Roman de la rose and found its first models in the work of the French Guillaume de Machaut. French should not be seen simply as an "influence" on the development of the English language and literature; French is part of English, an irreducible element of its genetic makeup. Old English literature is full of evidence of this symbiosis, and it would not be difficult to compile a long catalog of borrowing, homage, and theft. For example, William Caxton, who introduced printing to England in 1477, was an amateur translator of medieval French works, and many of the first books printed in Britain were English versions of French novels and chivalric tales. For the printers working for Caxton, translation was a normal and accepted part of their duties, and even the most popular English-language work published by Caxton, Thomas Malory's Morte d'Arthur, was itself a search for Arthurian legends in the sources. he warns the reader no less than fifty-six times throughout his narrative that the "French book" is his guide. Over the next century, as English established itself as a language and literature, Wyatt and Surrey, two of the most brilliant pioneers of English poetry, found inspiration in the works of Clément Marot and Spenser, the great poet of the next generation. not only did he assume the title of his Shepheardes Calander de Marot, but two sections of the work are direct imitations of the same poet. More importantly, Spenser's seventeen-year-old attempt to translate Joachim du Bellay (The Visions of Bellay) is the first sequence of sonnets to be produced in English. His later revision of this work and du Bellay's translation of another set, Ruines of Rome, were published in 1591 and are among the great works of the day. However, Spenser is not the only one showing traces of the French. Almost all Elizabethan sonnet writers drew inspiration from the Pléiade poets, and some of them (Daniel, Lodge, Chapman) even went so far as to claim translations of French poets as their own works. Outside the realm of poetry, the impact of Florio's translation of Montaigne's Essays on Shakespeare is well documented, 278

and it may be a good reason to make the connection between Rabelais and Thomas Nashe, whose 1594 prose tale The Unfortunate Traveler is generally regarded as the first novel written in English. In the more familiar terrain of modern literature, French continues to exert a strong influence on English. Despite Southey's wonderfully ridiculous observation that poetry is as impossible in French as it is in Chinese, English and American poetry of the last hundred years would have been unthinkable without the French. Beginning with Swinburne's 1862 article in The Spectator on Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du Mal and the first translations of Baudelaire's poetry into English in 1869 and 1870, modern British and American poets looked to France for new ideas. Saintsbury's article in an 1875 edition of The Fortnightly Review is exemplary. "It was not only admiration for Baudelaire that should be encouraged in English readers," he wrote, "but also imitation of Baudelaire that should be encouraged, at least as seriously, in English writers." Over the years, many English poets, largely inspired by Théodore de Banville, began to experiment with French verse forms (ballads, lays, virelays, and rondeaux), and Gautier's ideas of "art for its own sake." art" were an important source of Pre-Raphaelite. Movement in England. In the 1890s, with the advent of the Yellow Book and the Decadents, the influence of the French Symbolists spread. In 1893, for example, Mallarmé was invited to teach at Oxford, a sign of the esteem he enjoyed in the eyes of the English. It is also true that little material was produced in English during this period as a result of French influences, but the way was opened for the discoveries of two young American poets, Pound and Eliot, in the first decade of the new century. Each encountered the French independently, and each was inspired to write a type of poetry never before seen in English. Eliot later wrote that "...the kind of poetry I needed to teach me to use my own voice did not exist in England and could only be found in France." The development of English poetry was achieved by stealing from the French". and Ezra Pound's 1913 article in Poetry (Chicago) did much to promote this new reading of French Independent of the Imagists, Wilfred Owen spent several years in antebellum France and was in close contact with Laurent Tailhade, a poet admired by Pound and his circle.Eliot's reading of French Poets began as early as 1908, while he was still a student at Harvard, and barely two years later he was in Paris, reading Claudel and Gide and attending Bergson's lectures at the Collège de France.By the time of the Armory Show in 1913, the most radical trends in French art and literature had arrived in New York and found a home with Alfred Stieglitz and his gallery at 291 Fifth Avenue. Many of the names associated with American and European modernism became part of this Paris-New York connection: Joseph Stella, Marsden Hartley, Arthur Dove, Charles Demuth, William Carlos Williams, Man Ray, Alfred Kreymborg, Marius de Zayas, Walter C. Arensberg. , Mina Loy, Francisco Picabia 279

and Marcel Duchamp. Influenced by Cubism and Dada, by the Futurism of Apollinaire and Marinetti, numerous magazines carried the modernist message to American readers: 291, The Blind Man, Rongwrong, Broom, New York Dada, and The Little Review, which was born in Chicago on Born in 1914, he lived in New York from 1917 to 1927 and died in Paris in 1929. Reading the list of contributors to The Little Review, one understands the extent to which French poetry had penetrated the American scene. Alongside the work of Pound, Eliot, Yeats, and Ford Madox Ford and his most famous contribution, James Joyce's Ulysses, the magazine published Breton, Éluard, Tzara, Péret, Reverdy, Crevel, Aragon, and Soupault. Beginning with Gertrude Stein, who arrived in Paris long before World War I, the history of American writers in Paris during the 1920s and 1930s is almost identical to the history of American writing itself. Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, Sherwood Anderson, Djuna Barnes, Kay Boyle, ee Cummings, Hart Crane, Archibald MacLeish, Malcolm Cowley, John Dos Passos, Katherine Anne Porter, Laura Riding, Thornton Wilder, Williams, Pound, Eliot, Glenway Wescott, Henry Miller, Harry Crosby, Langston Hughes, James T. Farrell, Anais Nin, Nathanael West, George Oppen: all of these and others have visited or lived in Paris. The experience of those years so completely permeated the American consciousness that the image of the starving young writer apprentice in Paris has become one of our enduring literary myths. It would be absurd to assume that each of these writers was directly influenced by the French. But it would be equally absurd to assume that they went to Paris just because it was a cheap place to live. American and French writers were published in the most serious and vigorous periodical of the time, Transition, and the dynamism of this exchange led to what is probably the most fruitful period of our literature. Even the absence of Paris does not necessarily exclude interest in things French. The most Francophile of all our poets, Wallace Stevens, never set foot in France. Since the 1920s, American and British poets have consistently translated their French counterparts, not just as a literary exercise, but as an act of discovery and passion. Consider, for example, these words from John Dos Passos's preface to his 1930 Cendrars translations: "...A young man beginning to read verse in the 1930s will find it difficult to discover that this method of putting words together has become recently used, he went through a period of manhood, intense experimentation, and meaning in everyday life... To this hypothetical young man, and to the jumble of humanists, stuffed shirts in editorial chairs, anthology compilers and award-winning poets, sonnet writers and book lectures readers, I think it was worth trying to personalize these cheerful and informal everyday poems of Cendrars into English..." O T. S. Eliot, who in the same year presented his translation of the Anabasis of Saint-John Perse: " I think this is a document of the same importance as the later work of James Joyce, as valuable as Anna Livia Plurabelle. And that is a high estimate indeed." Or Kenneth Rexroth, in the preface to his 1969 Reverdy translations: "Of all the modern poets in Western European languages, Reverdy has undoubtedly been the most important influence on my own work, incomparably more than any in English or American, and I have known and loved your work ever since I first read Les Épaves du ciel as a child.” As the list of translators included in this book shows, many of the most important contemporary American and British translators have worked together.

Blackburn, Bly, Kinnell, Levertov, Merwin, Wright, Tomlinson, Wilbur, just to name a few of the more well-known names. It would be difficult to imagine their work if the French did not somehow touch them. And it would be even more difficult to imagine the poetry of our own language if these poets were not part of it. So, in a way, this anthology is about American and British poetry, as well as French poetry. Its aim is not only to present the works of French poets in French, but also to offer translations of these works as reinvented and performed by our own poets. As such, it can be read as a chapter in our own poetic history. II The French tradition and the English tradition at this moment collide. French poetry is more radical, more total. He inherited in an absolute and exemplary way the legacy of European romanticism, a romanticism that begins with William Blake and the German romantics like Novalis and culminates via Baudelaire and the symbolists in 20th-century French poetry, particularly surrealism. It is a poetry in which the world becomes writing and language doubles the world. Octavio Paz On the other hand, one thing is also certain: if for a hundred years British and American poets have shown a constant interest in French poetry, enthusiasm for the French is often tempered by a certain reluctance, even hostility, towards literary poetry. and intellectual. practices in France. This is more true for the British than for the Americans, but the American literary establishment remains strongly Anglophile. One need only compare mainstream philosophy, literary criticism, or novel writing to see the yawning gulf between the two cultures. Many of these differences lie in the differences between the two languages. Although English is largely derived from French, it still retains its Anglo-Saxon origins. In contrast to the seriousness and content found in the works of our greatest poets (eg Milton or Emily Dickinson), who embody an awareness of the contrast between strong Anglo-Saxon emphasis and nimble French/Latin terminology, and constantly pitting one against the other, French poetry often seems almost weightless to us, made up of ethereal hints of lyricism and little else. French is inevitably a better medium than English. But that doesn't mean it's weaker. While English literature demarcated the world of tangibility, concrete presence, and superficial chance as its territory, the French literary language was largely a language of essences. For example, while Shakespeare names over 500 flowers in his plays, Racine sticks to the word "flower." In total, the French playwright's vocabulary consists of about 1,500 words, while in Shakespeare's plays the word count exceeds 25,000. The contrast, as Lytton Strachey has observed, is between 'understanding' and 'concentration'. "Racine's great aim," wrote Strachey, "was to create a work of art neither extraordinary nor complex, but impeccable; he did not want to matter or be impertinent. His idea of ​​drama was something quick, inevitable; action taken in crisis, without redundancies, no matter how interesting, uncomplicated, no matter how suggestive, no trivialities, no matter how beautiful, but simple, intense, powerful and magnificent, with nothing like its own essential power." More recently, the poet Yves Bonnefoy has described English as a "mirror" and 281

French as "sphere", one Aristotelian in his acceptance of what is given, the other Platonic in his willingness to assume "another reality, another realm". Samuel Beckett, who spent most of his life writing in both languages ​​and translating his own works from French to English and from English to French, is possibly our most credible witness to the possibilities and limitations of the two languages. In one of his letters from the mid-1950s, he complained about his difficulties in translating fin de partie (end of the game) into English. A particular problem was the line that Clov directed at Hamm: "Il n'y a plus de roues de bicyclette." In French, Beckett claimed, the line conveyed the meaning that bicycle wheels had ceased to exist as a category, that there were no more bicycle wheels in the world. However, the English equivalent "No more bicycle wheels" simply meant that there were no more bicycle wheels, that there were no bicycle wheels where they were. Beneath the apparent similarity hides a world full of differences. Just as the Eskimos have over twenty words for snow (a commonly cited example), which means they can experience snow in a much more nuanced and inventive way than we can (literally, see things we can't see), the French they live in their language in a way that is a little different from the way we live in English. No judgment is associated with this comment. Whereas bad French poetry tends to lapse into almost mechanical abstractions, bad English and American poetry tends to be very realistic and cumbersome, bogged down in platitudes and platitudes. There is little choice between the two evils. But it is useful to remember that a good poem in French is not necessarily the same as a good poem in English. The French have had their academy for over three hundred years. It is an institution that expresses and helps maintain a concept of literature far greater than anything we have known in England or America. Officially, this resulted in the removal of the literary from the realm of the mundane, while English and American writers generally found themselves more comfortable in the flow of the mundane. But paradoxically, because they have an established tradition to oppose, French poets tend to be more rebellious than their British and American counterparts. The pressure to conform resulted in a vigorous anti-tradition that, in many ways, actually usurped the established tradition as dominant in French literature. Beginning with Villon and Rabelais, through Rousseau, Baudelaire, Rimbaud and the cult of the Poète Maudit, through the 20th century with Apollinaire, the Dada movement and the Surrealists, the French systematically and defiantly attacked the accepted notions of their own culture, mainly because they were sure that such a culture existed. The lessons of this anti-tradition have been so fully assimilated that they are now taken more or less for granted. Pound's and Eliot's keen interest in French poetry (and in Pound's case, poetry in other languages ​​as well), on the other hand, can be read less as an attack on Anglo-American culture than as an attempt to create a tradition. to create a past that somehow fills the void that the American novelty would fill. The impulse was essentially conservative in nature. With Pound, it degenerated into fascist talk; with Eliot, on Anglican piety and an obsession with the concept of culture. However, it would be wrong to postulate a simple dichotomy between radicalism and conservatism and

all the French in the first category and all the English and Americans in the second. The most subversive and innovative elements of our literature have often turned up in the most unlikely places and then been absorbed into the broader culture. Nursery rhymes, which are an essential part of early childhood education for all English-speaking children, do not exist as such in France. Even the great works of Victorian children's literature (Lewis Carroll, George Macdonald) have no equivalent in French. As for America, it has always had its own indigenous Dada spirit, which persists as a natural force without the need for manifestos or theoretical foundations. Buster Keaton and W. C. Fields, Ring Lardner's sketches, Rube Goldberg's drawings certainly match the caustic exuberance of everything being done in France at the same time. As Man Ray (American by birth) wrote to Tristan Tzara from New York in 1921 about the expansion of the Dada movement in the United States: “Cher Tzara: Dada cannot live in New York. All New York is Dada and admits of no rival…” Nor should it be assumed that 20th-century French poetry exists as a comfortable, independent entity. Far from being a unified body of work perfectly established within the borders of France, the French poetry of this century is varied, turbulent, and contradictory. There is no typical case, just a horde of exceptions. The fact is that many of the most original and influential poets were born in other countries or lived a significant part of their lives abroad. Apollinaire was born in Rome of Polish and Italian descent; Milosz was Lithuanian; Segalen spent his most productive years in China; Cendrars was born in Switzerland, composed his first major poem in New York, and rarely stayed in France long enough to collect mail from him until he was fifty; Saint-John Perse was born in Guadeloupe, worked for many years as a diplomat in Asia, and lived almost exclusively in Washington, DC from 1941 until his death in 1975; Supervielle was Uruguayan and spent most of his life between Montevideo and Paris; Born in Romania, Tzara came to Paris via Dada adventures at Zurich's Cabaret Voltaire, where he often played chess with Lenin; Jabès was born in Cairo and lived in Egypt until he was 45 years old; Césaire is from Martinique; du Bouchet is half American and educated at Amherst and Harvard; and almost all the younger poets in this book have lived for some time in England or America. The stereotypical view of the French poet as a creature of Paris, as a xenophobic harbinger of French values, simply does not apply. The more one studies the work of these poets, the more reluctant one becomes to make generalizations about them. After all, the only thing that can be said for sure is that everyone writes in French. An anthology is, therefore, a kind of trap that tends to prevent our access to the poems, at the same time that it makes them accessible to us. By bringing together the works of so many poets in a single volume, one is tempted to view the poets as a group, to drown them as individuals in the great pot of literature. Thus, even before being read, the anthology becomes a kind of cultural dinner, some national dishes served on a plate for general consumption, as if to say: “Here is French poetry. WITH THE. It's good for you." Approaching poetry in this way misses the point entirely, as it allows you to avoid looking directly at the poem on the page. And that, after all, is the main duty of the reader: the last word on Its theme is nothing more than a first word, a threshold to a new space.III 283

In the end you are tired of this old world. Guillaume Apollinaire The logical starting point for this book is Apollinaire. Although he is not the greatest of the included poets, nor the first to write in a consciously modern language, he seems to embody the aesthetic aspirations of the first part of the century more than any other artist of his time. In her poetry, which ranges from graceful love lyrics to daring experiments, from rhyme to free verse to "form" poems, she reveals a new sensibility, at once committed to the forms of the past and passionate about the world. of the automobile. planes and movies. A tireless promoter of cubist painters, he was the figure around which many of the best artists and writers gathered, and poets like Jacob, Cendrars or Reverdy formed an important part of his circle. The work of these three, along with that of Apollinaire, has often been called cubist. Although there are great differences between them, both in methods and in tone, they share a certain point of view, particularly in the epistemological foundations of the work. Simultaneity, juxtaposition, a keen sense of the robustness of the real: these are qualities found in all four, and each one exploits them for different poetic purposes. More crude and voluptuous at the same time than Apollinaire, Cendrars observed that "everything moves around me", and his work oscillates between the two implicit solutions in this statement: on the one hand, the exuberant jingle of sensations in works such as Dezenove Elastic Poems , and on the other hand, the instantaneous realism of his travel poems (originally titled Kodak, but changed to Documentaires under pressure from the production company of the same name) – as if each of these poems were the record of a single, enduring moment. no longer than it lasts, on a camera shutter release to click. In the case of Jacob, whose most enduring work is included in his 1917 collection of prose poems The Dice Cup, the impulse is toward anti-lyrical comedy. His language repeatedly breaks into the playful (play on words, parodies, satires) and unmasks the deception of appearances with the greatest joy: nothing is what it seems, everything is subject to metamorphosis and changes always occur unexpectedly, The speed of light. In contrast, Reverdy uses many of these principles, but for much more sinister purposes. Here an accumulation of fragments is synthesized into a completely new approach to the poetic image. “The image is a pure creation of the mind”, wrote Reverdy in 1918. “It does not arise from a comparison, but from a confrontation of two more or less distant realities. The more distant and true the relationship between the two juxtaposed realities, the stronger the image becomes, the greater its emotional power and its poetic reality. Combining intense interiority with a proliferation of sensual data, Reverdy's strange landscapes bear the marks of a continual search for an impossible totality. Almost mystical in their effect, his poems, however, are anchored in the trifles of everyday life; in his calm, sometimes monotonous music, the poet seems to evaporate, to disappear into the enchanted land that he created. The result is beautiful and haunting at the same time, as if Reverdy had emptied the space of the poem to let the reader inhabit it. Sometimes a similar atmosphere is created by Fargue's prose poems, whose work predates any of the other poets listed here. Fargue is the foremost modern poet of Paris, and half of his writings are about the city itself, in its tender, lyrical configurations of memory and perception, which retain an echo of

Predecessor, there is an attention to detail combined with a rigorous subjectivity that transforms the city into a vast interior landscape. The witness poem is at the same time a poem of memory, as if the world was reflected in its solitary origin in a solitary vision and then reflected again as an exterior vision. There is also a hint of the late 19th century in Larbaud, a close friend of Fargue's. AO Barnabooth, the reputed author of Larbaud's Best Book of Poetry (the 1908 first edition deliberately omitted Larbaud's name from the cover), is a wealthy 24-year-old South American, naturalized citizen of New York, orphan, world traveler. , a very sensitive and melancholic young man, a more likeable and good-natured version of the traditional dandy hero. As Larbaud later explained, he wanted to invent a poet “sensitive to the diversity of races, peoples, and countries; who could find the exotic anywhere...; witty and 'international', in a word, someone capable of writing like Whitman, but in a light vein, giving him that touch of light-hearted comic irresponsibility that Whitman lacks. almost euphoric delight in the sensations of the trip: "I experienced for the first time all the joy of living / In a compartment of the Nord Express..." Of Barnabooth André Gide wrote: "I love his haste, his cynicism, his gluttony These poems, dated here and there and everywhere, they are as thirsty as a wine list... In this particular book, every image of sensation, however true or dubious, is validated by the speed with which it becomes replaced. ." Saint-John Perse's work also bears a striking resemblance to Whitman's, both in the nature of his stanza and in the cumulative, rippling power of his long syntactic breaths. If Larbaud tames Whitman in a sense, Saint-John Perse it takes him beyond universalism. in search of great cosmic harmonies. The poet's voice has a mythical scope, as if with the thunderous and exuberant rhetoric he had been created only to conquer the world. Unlike most poets of his generation, who made their peace with temporality and used the notion of change as the premise of their work, Saint-John Perse's poems are driven by an almost platonic impulse to seek the eternal. In this sense, too, Milosz stands alongside his contemporaries, mystics and alchemists, Milosz mixes Catholicism and Kabbalah with what Kenneth Rexroth called "apocalyptic sensualism", and his work is largely inspired by the treatment numerology of names, transpositions of letters, anagrammatic and achronic combinations, and other linguistic practices of the occult. But, as with Yeats's poetry, the poetry itself transcends the limitations of its sources, revealing, as John Peck has remarked, "a haunting range of sentiment in which personal melancholy is also melancholy for a dark age." , that long hour before the first." light". when shadows fall apart.'” Another poet who defies categorization is Segalen. Like Larbaud, who wrote his poems through an imaginary character; like Pound, whose translations rank oddly among his best and most personal works , Segalen took this selfless impulse a step further and wrote behind the mask of another culture. The poems found in Stèles are not translations or imitations, but French poems written by a French poet as if he were Chinese. There is no attempt to mislead by part of Segalen; He never intended these poems to be anything other than original works. What on first reading may appear to be a kind of literary exoticism, upon closer examination, turns out to be poetry of solid and universal interest. Freeing itself from the limitations of 285

By eluding his own historical moment, Segalen was able to explore a much larger territory in his own culture: to discover, in a sense, the part of himself that was a poet. The Jouve case is no less unusual in many respects. A supporter of the Symbolists in his youth, Jouve published a series of volumes of poetry between 1912 and 1923. What he described in 1924 as a "moral, spiritual, and aesthetic crisis" led him to break with all his early work and never allow it to be republished. . Over the next forty years, he wrote an extensive work: his entire poems number over a thousand pages. Deeply Christian, Jouve is primarily concerned with the theme of sexuality, both as a transgression and as a creative force-"the beautiful force of human eroticism"-and his poetry is the first in France to embrace the Freudian methods of served psychoanalysis. It is poetry without predecessors and without successors. Although his work fell into oblivion during the period dominated by Surrealism, meaning that recognition of Jouve's achievement was delayed by almost a generation, he is now considered one of the most important poets of half a century. Supervielle was also influenced by the Symbolists when he was young, and of all the poets of his generation, he is perhaps the purest lyric poet. A poet of space, of the natural world, Supervielle writes from a position of supreme innocence. “To dream is to forget the materiality of one's own body,” he wrote in 1951, “and to confuse to some extent the external and internal worlds... People are sometimes surprised at my admiration for the world. This is due to both the consistency of my dreams and my poor memory. They both take me from surprise to surprise, forcing me to marvel at it all.” This marvel perhaps best describes the work of these first eleven poets, all of whom began writing before World War I. However, the poets of the next generation, who came of age during the war, were denied the possibility of such innocent optimism. The war was not simply a conflict between armies, but a deep crisis of values ​​that transformed the European consciousness, and the younger poets, who had absorbed the lessons of Apollinaire and his contemporaries, were forced to respond in some way to this crisis. , which was unheard of. As Hugo Ball, one of the founders of Dada, noted in his diary in 1917: “An ancient culture is crumbling. There are no more pillars or supports, there are no more foundations, they have all been blown up... The meaning of the world has disappeared.” The Dada movement, which arose in Zurich in 1916, was the most radical response to this sense of spiritual collapse. Faced with a discredited culture, the Dadaists questioned every assumption and ridiculed every belief in that culture. As artists, they attacked the very concept of art, turning their anger into a kind of subversive self-doubt filled with biting humor and rampant self-contradiction. "The true Dadaists are against Dada," Tzara wrote in one of his manifestos. It was about not taking anything at face value and not taking anything too seriously, especially yourself. The Socratic ironies of Marcel Duchamp's art are perhaps the purest expression of this attitude. In the field of poetry, Tzara was no less intelligent or impetuous. This is his recipe for writing a dadaist poem: “Get a newspaper. Take a pair of scissors. Choose an article that should be as long as you want your poem to be. Cut the item. Then carefully cut out each of the words that make up this article and put them in a pocket. Shake gently. So take 286

each piece, one by one. Carefully copy them in the order they came out of the bag. The poem will resemble you. And there you are, an infinitely original writer, with a charming sensibility that transcends common understanding. If this is random poetry, it should not be confused with the aesthetics of random composition. The method proposed by Tzara is an attack on the sacredness of poetry and does not pretend to rise to an artistic ideal. Its function is purely negative. This is anti-art in the first incarnation of it, the "anti-philosophy of spontaneous stunts." Tzara moved to Paris in 1919 and introduced Dada to the French scene. Breton, Aragon, Éluard and Soupault became participants in the movement. Inevitably, it did not last more than a few years. An art of total denial cannot survive, because its destructiveness must ultimately include itself. However, Surrealism was made possible by Dada ideas and attitudes. "Surrealism is a purely psychic automatism," Breton wrote in his first manifesto of 1924, "whose aim is to express, orally, in writing, or otherwise, the actual process of thought and the dictates of thought, without exercising any external control." .of reason and apart from any aesthetic or moral interest, surrealism is based on the belief in the superior reality of certain previously neglected forms of association, in the omnipotence of the dream and in altruistic speculation.” Movement The surrealists equated the Rimbaud's cry to change life with Marx's call to change the world and sought to push poetry, in the words of Walter Benjamin, "to the extreme limits of possibility. To blur the lines between life and art and to use the art methods to explore the possibilities of human freedom To quote Walter Benjamin again in his prospective essay on the Surrealists, published in 1929: “Since Bakunin, Europe has lacked a radical concept of freedom. The surrealists have one. They are the first to liquidate the liberal-moral-humanist ideal of freedom, because they are convinced that "the freedom that can only be bought with a thousand harsh sacrifices on this earth must be enjoyed in all its fullness without restrictions, a kind of programmatic Calculation while it lasts.'” As a result, Surrealism was closely associated with the politics of the revolution (one of its newspapers even carried the title Surrealism in the Service of the Revolution), constantly flirted with the Communist Party, and in the era of the Front Popular played the role of supporter, although they refuse to submerge their identities in that of pure politics. Constant disputes over principles shaped the history of the Surrealists, with Breton occupying the middle ground between the activist and aesthetic wings of the group, frequently changing positions to maintain a consistent program for Surrealism. Of all the poets associated with the movement, only Péret remained faithful to Breton. Soupault, naturally averse to literary movements, lost interest in 1927. Both Artaud and Desnos were excommunicated in 1929: Artaud for opposing the political interests of Surrealism and Desnos for allegedly compromising his integrity by working as a journalist. Aragon, Tzara and Éluard joined the Communist Party in the 1930s. Queneau and Prévert parted ways amicably after a brief meeting. Daumal, whose work was recognized by Breton as part of the Surrealist interests, declined the invitation to join the group. Char, ten or twelve years younger than most of the original members, was an early follower, but later broke with the movement and did the best of it during and after the war. Ponge's connection was peripheral, and in some ways Michaux was the strongest.

Surrealist of all French poets, he never had anything to do with the group. The same confusion exists when examining the work of these poets. If "purely psychic automatism" is the basic principle of Surrealist composition, only Péret seems to have strictly adhered to it when writing his poems. Interestingly, his work is the least resonant of all the Surrealists, notable more for its comic effects than for revealing the "convulsive beauty" that Breton saw as the goal of Surrealist writing. Even in Breton's poetry, with its abrupt changes and unexpected associations, there is an undercurrent of consistent rhetoric that unites the poems as densely grounded objects of thought. With Tzara, too, automatism serves almost as a rhetorical device. It is a method of discovery, not an end in itself. In his best work, particularly the long and multifaceted Approximate Man, a flow of images is organized through repetition and variation in an almost systematic engagement that propels itself like a musical composition. Soupault, on the other hand, is clearly a conscientious craftsman. Though limited in scope, his poetry exhibits a charm and humility lacking in the works of other Surrealists. He is a poet of intimacy and pathos, strangely reminiscent of Verlaine at times, and if his poems lack the extravagance found in Tzara and Breton, they are more directly accessible, more purely lyrical. For the same reason, Desnos is a poet of simple language, whose work often reaches an astonishing lyrical intensity. His work ranges from early linguistic experiments—skillful and often dazzling exercises in wordplay—to highly moving free verse love poems, longer narrative poems, and works in traditional forms. In an essay published just a year before his death, Desnos described his work as an attempt to "fuse popular language, even the most colloquial, with an indescribable 'atmosphere'; with vigorous use of imagery to appropriate realms." that remain... ... incompatible with that diabolical and tormenting poetic dignity that incessantly oozes from languages..." In Éluard, possibly the greatest of Surrealist poets, the love poem receives metaphysical status. His language, as clear as Ronsard's, is built on extremely simple syntactic structures. Éluard uses the idea of ​​love in his work to reflect the poetic process itself - as a way of escaping and understanding the world. It is this irrational part of man that unites the interior with the exterior, rooted in the physical but transcendent matter, creating that uniquely human place where man can discover his freedom. The same themes are present in Éluard's later works, particularly in the poems written during the German occupation, in which this notion of freedom is transferred from the individual to that of a whole. people. If Éluard's work can be read as a continuous whole, Aragón's career as a poet is divided into two well-differentiated periods. Perhaps the most militant and provocative of the French Dadaists, he also played an important role in the development of Surrealism and was the group's most active theoretician after Breton. Attacked by Breton in the early 1930s for the increasingly propagandistic tone of his poetry, Aragón withdrew from the movement and joined the Communist Party. It was only after the war that he returned to writing poetry, and in a way that has little to do with his earlier work. His poems of resistance brought him national fame and are remarkable for their vigor and eloquence, but they are very traditional in method, mostly composed in rhymed, Alexandrian stanzas. Although Artaud was an early participant in Surrealism (sometimes as late as 288

headed the Central Bureau of Surrealist Research), and although some of his most important works were produced during this period, he is such a defiant writer of the traditional norms of literature that it makes no sense to label his work in any way. In fact, Artaud is not a poet, but he influenced the poets who followed him probably more than any other writer of his generation. "Where others present his work," he wrote, "I only intend to show my opinion." His goal as a writer was never to create aesthetic objects—works that could be separated from his creator—but rather the state of mental and physical struggle in which "words rot under the unconscious call of the brain." In Artaud there is no separation between life and writing, and life not in the sense of biography, of external events, but of life as it is lived in the intimacy of the body, of the blood that runs through one's own veins. As such, Artaud is a kind of primordial poet, whose work describes the processes of thinking and feeling before the advent of language, before the possibility of speech. It is both a cry of pain and a challenge to all our assumptions about the purpose of literature. Unlike Artaud, Ponge occupies a unique place among the writers of his generation. He is a writer of extremely classical values, and his work - most of it written in prose - is impeccable in its clarity, highly sensitive to the nuances and etymological origins of words, what Ponge called the "semantic density" of the word. language. Ponge invented a new way of writing, a poetry of the object that is at the same time a method of contemplation. Meticulously detailed in his descriptions and imbued with a subtle ironic humor throughout, his work proceeds as if the object under study did not exist as a word. The poet's first act, therefore, becomes the act of seeing, as if no one had ever seen the thing, so that the object is "lucky enough to be born into words." Like Ponge, who has always resisted critics' attempts to pigeonhole him as a poet, Michaux is a writer whose work pushes the boundaries of the genre. Floating freely between prose and verse, his lyrics have a spontaneous, almost arbitrary quality that pits them against the pretensions and platitudes of high art. No French writer ever gave free rein to his imagination. Much of his best writing takes place in imaginary lands and reads like some weird kind of inner state anthropology. Although he is often compared to Kafka, Michaux is less like the author of Kafka's novels and short stories than the Kafka of the notebooks and parables. As with Artaud, in Michaux's writing there is an urgency to the process, a sense of personal risk and necessity in the act of composition. In an early comment on his poetry, he explained: “I write with enthusiasm and for myself. a) sometimes to get rid of unbearable tension or no less painful abandonment. b) sometimes by an imaginary companion, by a kind of alter ego that I sincerely want to keep informed of an extraordinary transition in me or in the world that I, generally forgotten, think I suddenly rediscover, her virginity, so to speak. c) deliberately shaking the solidified and proven, inventing... readers worry me. If you wish, I write for the unknown reader. A serious student of Eastern religions, whose poetry obsessively explores the gap between spiritual and physical life, Daumal takes a similarly independent approach. "The absurd is the purest and most basic form of metaphysical existence", he wrote, and in his dense and visionary work the illusions of appearances disappear to become more illusions. “The poems are haunted by a… consciousness of 289

impending death", commented Michael Benedikt, "seen as the long-lost 'double' of the poet; and also through a personification of Death as a kind of dark mother, a petty being in search of beings to exterminate, but only to perversely load them with the burden of new metamorphoses. Daumal is considered one of the most important forerunners of the College of Pataphysics, a pseudo-secret literary organization modeled on Alfred Jarry, whose members included Queneau and Prévert. Humor is the leitmotiv in the work of these two poets. With Queneau, it's linguistic humor based on intricate puns, parodies, feigned stupidity, and slang. For example, in his well-known 1947 prose work, Exercices de style, the same secular event is presented in 99 different versions, each written in a different style, each presented from a different angle. In Grade Zero of Writing, Roland Barthes describes Queneau as "white writing" in which literature became openly a problem and a matter of language. If Queneau is an intellectual poet, Prévert, who also closely follows the norms of common language in his work, is undoubtedly a popular poet, even a populist poet. Nothing in France has reached a larger audience since World War II, and many of Prévert's works have become hit songs. Anti-clerical, anti-militarist, rebellious in his political stance and exalting a more sentimental form of love between man and woman, Prévert represents one of the happiest marriages between poetry and mass culture and, in addition to the charm of his work, it is a valuable indicator of popular French taste. Although Surrealism persists as a literary movement, the period of greatest influence and most important creations ends with the outbreak of World War II. Of the second-generation Surrealists, or of those poets who were inspired by their methods, Césaire is the most notable example. One of the first black writers to be recognized in France, founder of the Négritude movement - which emphasizes the uniqueness and dignity of black culture and black consciousness - Césaire, a native of Martinique, was supported by Breton, who discovered his work at the end of the thirty As the South African poet Mazisi Kunene wrote of Césaire: “For him, surrealism was a logical tool for breaking down the restrictive forms of language that sanctified rationalized bourgeois values. The breaking of linguistic patterns coincided with his own desire to crush colonialism and all forms of oppression”. Perhaps more vividly than in the works of the French Surrealists, Césaire's poetry embodies the twin aspirations of political and aesthetic revolution, in a way that they are inextricably linked. However, for many poets who began writing in the 1930s, surrealism was never a temptation. Follain, for example, whose work has proved particularly suited to American tastes (of all recent French poets he is the most translated), is an ordinary poet, and in his short, finely crafted works is an examination about the topic. less serious and challenging than Ponge's. At the same time, Follain is very much a poet of memory ("In the fields / of his eternal childhood / the poet wanders / will not forget"), and his evocations of the world seen through the eyes of a child carry with them a brilliance and a haunting epiphany quality of psychological truth. A similar type of realism and attention to superficial detail is also found in Guillevic. Materialist in his approach to the world, not rhetorical in his methods, Guillevic also created a world of objects, but a world in which the object is

no matter how problematic it may be, a reality to be penetrated, to be desired, but not necessarily given. Frénaud, on the other hand, though often lumped together with Follain and Guillevic, is a far more romantic poet than any of his contemporaries. Exuberant in his language, metaphysical in his concerns, he has sometimes been compared to existentialists for his insistence that man's world is man's creation. Desperate for certainty (There Is No Paradise, is the title of one of his collections), Frénaud's work draws its strength from him less from an appreciation of the absurd than from an attempt to find a basis for positive values ​​in the absurd. same. If World War I was the decisive event that shaped the poetry of the 1920s and 1930s, World War II was no less decisive for the type of poetry written in France in the late 1940s and 1950s. subsequent Nazi occupation was among the darkest moments in French literature. history. The country was emotionally and economically devastated. Against the backdrop of this confusion, René Char's mature poetry was a revelation. Aphoristic, fragmented, closely linked to the thought of Heraclitus and the Presocratics, Char's poetry is at the same time a lyrical invocation of natural correspondences and a meditation on the poetic process itself. and crudely structured language, this is a poetry that seeks less to register or evoke emotion and more to embody the ongoing struggle of words to gain a foothold in the world. Char writes from a position of deep existential commitment (he was a major field leader in the Resistance), and his work is imbued with a sense of new beginnings, a necessary quest to save a life from the ruins. The best poets of the immediate postwar generation share many of these interests. Bonnefoy, du Bouchet, Jaccottet, Giroux and Dupin, all born four years ago, manifest in their works a watchful hermeticism, characterized by deliberately reduced imagery, great syntactical inventiveness and a refusal to do anything other than essential questions. Bonnefoy, the most classical and philosophically oriented of the five, concentrated his work on tracing the reality that lurks in "the abyss of hidden appearances." "Poetry is not interested in the shape of the world itself," he once observed, "but in the world this universe will become. Poetry speaks only of presences, or absences." Du Bouchet, by contrast, is a poet who avoids the temptation to abstract. His work, perhaps the most radical adventure in recent French poetry, is based on rigorous attention to phenomenological detail. Devoid of metaphors, almost devoid of images and generated by a language of abrupt and paratactic brevity, his poems travel through an almost arid landscape, a talking self in constant search of itself. A page of du Bouchet is the mirror of this journey, each one dominated by blank spaces, the few words that are there as if emerging from a silence that will inevitably claim them again. Of these poets, it is undoubtedly Dupin who has a work with the greatest verbal richness. His poems are tense and are based on images that seethe with hidden violence. They are impressive. in his energy and fear. "In this endless monophonic dissonance," she writes in a poem titled "Flechten," "each ear of corn, each drop of blood speaks its language and follows its own path. The torch that ignites the abyss, that seals it, is itself an abyss." Jaccottet and Giroux have a much softer approach. Jaccottet's Short Nature Poems, which in a way belong to the aesthetics of Imaginism, 291.

they have an oriental stillness that can break out at any moment in the glow of epiphany. “For us, increasingly hemmed in by intellectual schemes and masks,” wrote Jaccottet, “and suffocated in the prison they erect around us, the poet's eye is the battering ram that breaks down those walls and brings us back, even for a moment. .moment the real; and with the real possibility of life.” Giroux, a poet of great lyrical talent, died young in 1973 and published only one book in his lifetime. The short poems in this volume are quiet, deeply reflective works on the nature of poetic reality, explorations of the space between the world and the word, and have had a significant impact on the work of many of today's younger poets. However, this hermeticism is by no means present in the work of all postwar poets. Dadelsen, for example, is an exuberant, monological poet with a varied tone, often full of jargon. There were several prominent Catholic poets in France during the 20th century (La Tour du Pin, Emmanuel, Jean-Claude Renard and Mambrino are more recent examples), but it is perhaps Dadelsen, less well known than the others, who is responsible in his work The Quest. Tormented by God best represents the limitations and dangers of the religious conscience. Marteau, on the other hand, draws much of his imagery from myth, and while his activities often overlap with those of, say, Bonnefoy or Dupin, his work is less self-reflexive than theirs and not as preoccupied with struggles. and the paradoxes of expression. as it is Discovering the presence of archetypal forces in the world. Of the new works that began to appear in the early 1960s, Jabès's books are the most prominent. Since 1963, when The Book of Questions was published, Jabès has published ten volumes of notable work, leading to comments such as Jacques Derrida's assertion that "nothing has been written in France in the last ten years that may have been the precedent of Jabès somewhere". the writings of him." Jabès, an Egyptian Jew who published several volumes of poetry in the 1940s and 1950s, came across his most recent works, all written in France after his expulsion from Cairo during the Suez Crisis, and became a writer first level. These books are almost impossible to define. Neither novels nor poems, nor essays nor plays, they are a combination of all these forms, a mosaic of fragments, aphorisms, dialogues, songs and commentaries that revolve incessantly around the central question that each book poses: how to say what You can not say. ? . The theme is the Holocaust, but it is also the theme of literature itself. In a surprising leap of imagination, Jabès treats them as one: “I told you about the difficulty of being a Jew, which is the same as the difficulty of writing. Because Judaism and scripture are the same waiting, the same hope, the same exhaustion. . With Deguy, for example, poetry can be made of almost anything, and his work is based on a wide range of materials: from the technical language of science to the abstractions of philosophy and the elaborate play with constructions. linguistics. In Roubaud, the search for new forms led to books with very complicated structures (one of his volumes, Σ, is based on permutations from the Japanese game Go), and these invented forms are explored with great skill, not as ends in themselves, but but as a means to order the fragments that compose them, placing the various pieces in a larger context and giving them a coherence that they would not have otherwise.

own alone. Pleynet and Roche, two poets closely associated with the well-known Tel Quel newspaper, took the notion of antipoetry to a highly combative position. Pleynet's playful and deadly serious 1964 Ars Poetica is a good example of this attitude. "I. YOU CANNOT KNOW HOW TO WRITE WITHOUT KNOWING WHY. II. THE AUTHOR OF THIS ARS POETICA DOESN'T KNOW HOW TO WRITE BUT HE WRITES. III. THE QUESTION "HOW TO WRITE" ANSWERS THE QUESTION "WHY WRITE?" "AND THE QUESTION IS A QUESTION ANSWER." Roche's approach is perhaps even more damaging to conventional assumptions about literature. "Poetry is inadmissible. Furthermore, it does not exist," he wrote. And elsewhere: "...the logic of modern writing dictates that one must lend a vigorous hand in furthering the death throes of [this] antiquated symbolist ideology. Writing can only symbolize what works, in its 'society', within its framework. Short, lyrical poems are no longer written in France. Delahaye and Denis, both still in their thirties, created extensive work in this more familiar form: exploring a landscape first mapped by du Bouchet and Dupin. On the other hand, many of the younger poets, who took up and transformed the themes raised by their predecessors, are now producing a kind of work that is both original and sophisticated in its insistence on the textuality of the written word.Although there are significant differences between Albiach , Royet-Journoud, Daive, Hocquard, and Veinstein share a common perspective on a fundamental aspect of their work. Their literary medium is not the individual poem or even the sequence of poems, but the book. As Royet-Journoud recently observed in a interview: "My books consist of a single text, the genre of which cannot be defined... It is a book that I am writing, and I feel that the notion of genre obscures the book itself. ." This is the case with Daive's highly charged and psychoerotic work, Hocquard's humorous and ironic rote narratives, and the minimal theaters of Veinstein's creative process, as well as the obsessive language of Royet's "detective stories." -Journoud. , possibly the greatest work published to date by a member of this younger generation. As Keith Waldrop wrote: "The poem, it is a single piece, it does not unfold through images...or through action ... The argument, if given, can include the following statements: 1) everyday language depends on logic, but 2) in fiction there is no need for a certain word to follow another, so it is 3) at least possible to obtain an imagination of free choice, a syntax generated by desire État is the "epic"... of this imagination. To make such an argument would mean abandoning the entire project. But what is presented is not a series of emotions... the poem is composed with care; and when Anne-Marie Albiach rejects rationality, she obviously writes with full intelligence..." IV ...convinced that translation is ultimately madness. Maurice Blanchot When I was about to start the project of publishing this anthology, a friend gave me valuable advice Jonathan Griffin, who was British Cultural Attaché in 293

Paris after the war, and having translated several books by de Gaulle and poets from Rimbaud to Pessoa, he's been here long enough to know more about these things than I do. Every anthology, he said, has two types of readers: critics, who judge the book for what it doesn't contain, and general readers, who read the book for what it really does contain. He advised me to keep that second group on the top of my mind. After all, critics are in the criticizing business, and they know the material anyway. It is important to remember that most people will be reading most of these poets for the first time. They are the ones who will get the most out of the anthology. In the two years it took me to put this book together, I was reminded of those words many times. However, it has often been difficult to take seriously as I myself am well aware of what is not included. My original plan for the anthology was to feature the work of almost a hundred poets. In addition to more familiar writing styles, he wanted to use a variety of eccentric works, provide examples of concrete and frank poetry, include several common poems, and, in some cases, offer divergent translations when more than one good version of a poem exists. During the course of the work it was discovered that this would not be possible. I found myself in the unfortunate situation of putting an elephant in a cage meant for a fox. Reluctantly, I changed my focus from the book. When given the option of offering a few poems by many poets, or a substantial selection of works by a small number of poets, there was no doubt that the second solution was wiser and more coherent. Instead of imagining everything I'd like to see in the anthology, I tried to think of the poets I couldn't include. In this way, I gradually narrowed the list down to forty-eight. These were difficult decisions for me, and while I stand by my final choices, I regret the ones I failed to consider.* Certain other exclusions will no doubt confuse some as well. To keep the book's focus on 20th century poetry, I decided to use a fixed cut-off point to define where the anthology should begin. The crucial year for my purposes was 1876: any poet born before that year was ruled out. This allowed me to safely avoid the problem of poets such as Valéry, Claudel, Jammes, and Péguy, all of whom began writing in the late 19th century and continued writing well into the 20th century. The book seems to belong to an earlier time in spirit. . . For the same reason, 1876 was an opportune date to allow me to include some poets whose work is central to the project, notably Fargue, Jacob, and Milosz. As for the English versions of the poems, I have used the existing translations whenever possible. My motive was to point out the involvement of American and British poets in the works of their French colleagues over the last fifty years, and since there is so much material to choose from (some hidden in old magazines and some in printed books, some available in the open ), there seemed no reason to start my search elsewhere. My greatest pleasure in making this book was to rescue from the shadows of library shelves and microfilm rooms several excellent translations: Nancy Cunard's Aragon, John Dos Passos' Cendrars, Paul Bowles' Ponge, and the translations by Eugene and Maria Jolas. (the traffic editor), just to name a few. Also note translations that previously only existed in 294

Manuscript. Paul Blackburn's translations of Apollinaire, for example, were discovered on his property after his death and were first published here. I only asked for new translations in cases where no translations were available or the available translations seemed insufficient. In each of these cases (Richard Wilbur's version of Apollinaire's "Le Pont Mirabeau", Lydia Davis's Fargue, Robert Kelly's Roubaud, Anselm Hollos' Dadelsen, Michael Palmer's Hocquard, Rosmarie Waldrop's Veinstein, Geoffrey Young's Aragon ), I tried to arrange marriage care. My goal was to bring together compatible poets, so that the translator could use his strengths as a poet when translating the original into English. The results of this combination were consistently satisfactory. Richard Wilbur's Mirabeau Bridge, for example, seems to me the first acceptable version of this important poem that we have in English, the only translation that comes close to the subtle music of the original. In general, I have not followed a consistent translation guideline in my selection. Some of the translations are little more than adaptations, though the vast majority remain fairly faithful to the originals. Translating poetry is an art approach at best, and there are no hard and fast rules to follow to decide what works and what doesn't. It is largely a matter of instinct, hearing, common sense. Whenever I was faced with the choice between literalism and poetry, I did not hesitate to choose poetry. It seemed more important to me to give non-French-speaking readers a true sense of each poem as a poem than to strive for word-for-word accuracy. The experience of a poem resides not only in each of its words, but in the interactions between those words - the music, the stillness, the forms - and if the reader is somehow not given the opportunity to enter the totality from that experience, then it will remain separate from the spirit of the original. Therefore, it seems to me that the poems of poets should be translated. 1981 * Among them are: Pierre Albert-Birot, Jean Cocteau, Raymond Roussel, Jean Arp, Francis Picabia, Arthur Cravan, Michel Leiris, Georges Bataille, Léopold Senghor, André Pieyre de Mandiargues, Jacques Audiberti, Jean Tardieu, Georges Schéhadé, Pierre Emmanuel, Joyce Mansour, Patrice de la Tour du Pin, René Guy Cadou, Henri Pichette, Christian Dotremont, Olivier Larronde, Henri Thomas, Jean Grosjean, Jean Tortel, Jean Laude, Pierre Torreilles, Jean-Claude Renard, Jean Joubert, Jacques Réda , Armen Lubin, Jean Pérol, Jude Stéfan, Marc Alyn, Jacqueline Risset, Michel Butor, Jean Pierre Faye, Alain Jouffroy, George Perros, Armand Robin, Boris Vian, Jean Mambrino, Lorand Gaspar, Georges Badin, Pierre Oster, Bernard Nöel, Claude Vigée, Joseph Gugliemi, Daniel Blanchard, Michel Couturier, Claude Esteban, Alain Sueid, Mathieu Bénézet. the son of mallarme

Mallarmé's second son, Anatole, was born on July 16, 1871, when the poet was 29 years old. The boy's arrival took place at a time of great financial crisis and turbulence 295

For the family. Mallarmé was negotiating a move from Avignon to Paris, and the arrangements were not finalized until late November, when the family settled at 29 rue de Moscow and Mallarmé began teaching at the Lycée Fontanes. Madame Mallarmé's pregnancy was extremely difficult and, in the first months of her life, Anatole's health was so fragile that it seemed unlikely that she would survive. "I took it out on Thursday," Mme Mallarmé wrote to her husband on October 7. "It seemed to me that his pretty face was turning a little color... I left him very sad and discouraged, even afraid of not seeing him again, but now it's up to God that the doctor can' We can't do more how sad it is to have so little hope that this dear human being ever recovers." However, Anatole's health improved. Two years later, in 1873, he reappeared in the family correspondence in a series of letters from Germany, where Mallarmé's wife had taken the children to her father. "The little one is like a flower in bloom." she wrote to Mallarmé: "Tole loves his grandfather, she doesn't want to leave him and, when she leaves, she looks for him all over the house." In the same letter, nine-year-old Geneviève added: "Anatole asks about his father all the time." Two years later, on a second trip to Germany, there is further evidence of Anatole's robust health, for, after receiving a letter from his wife, Mallarmé proudly writes to his friend Cladel: "Anatole bathes the little Germans who return with stones and group blows to attack". The following year, 1876, Mallarmé was away from Paris for a few days and received this anecdote from his wife: "Totol is a bad boy. He did not notice your absence the night you left; it was not until I put him to bed that he was looking to say good night. Yesterday he didn't ask for you, but this morning the poor bastard was looking for you all over the house, he even pulled the sheets off your bed, thinking he would find you there." In August of the same year, during another brief absence from the Mallarmé family, Geneviève wrote to her father to thank him for sending her gifts, then commented: "Tole wants you to bring him a whale." In addition to these few references to Anatole in the Mallarmé family letters, there are several mentions of him in C. L. Lefèvre-Roujon's introduction to the unpublished Correspondance de Stephane Mallarmé et Henry Roujon - three small incidents in particular that give an idea of ​​the child's lively personality In the first, a stranger saw Anatole tending his father's boat and asked, "What is the name of your boat?" Anatole replied with great conviction: "My ship has no name. You name a carriage?" On another occasion, Anatole was walking Mallarmé through the Fountainebleau forest: "He loved the Fountainebleau forest and used to go there with Stéphane...[One day] walking along a path he met a very beautiful woman. , looked her up and down and blinked in amazement, clicked her tongue, and then: This tribute to beauty continued in her childish walk.Finally, Lefèvre-Roujon relates the following: One day, Madame Mallarmé got on a bus from Paris with Anatole and took the child in his arms to save the extra price.As the bus moved on, Anatole fell into something of a trance, looking at a white-haired priest reading his breviary beside him. Would you allow me to kiss him?" The priest replied, surprised and moved: "Of course, my little friend." Anatole leaned down and kissed him, then ordered in the most polite voice: "Now kiss mommy!"

In the spring of 1879, a few months before his eighth birthday, Anatole fell seriously ill. Diagnosed as childhood rheumatism, the disease was further complicated by an enlarged heart. The disease first attacked the feet and knees and then, when the symptoms seemed to have subsided, the ankles, wrists, and shoulders. Mallarmé considered himself largely responsible for the boy's suffering, and felt that he had inflicted "bad blood" on him through hereditary weakness. At the age of seventeen he suffered terribly from rheumatic pains with high fever and severe headaches, and throughout his life rheumatism remained a chronic problem. In April, Mallarmé went to the country with Geneviève for a few days. His wife wrote: “He was a good boy, poor martyr, and from time to time he asks me to wipe away his tears. He always asks me to tell dad that he wants to write to him, but he can't move his little dolls." Three days later, the pain passed from Anatole's hand to his legs and he managed to write a few words: "I always think of you. If you only knew, my dear daddy, how my knees hurt." In the months that followed, things improved. In August, the improvement was considerable. On the 10th, Mallarmé wrote to Robert de Montesquiou, a recent friend who had developed a special bond with Anatole, to thank him for sending the boy a parrot. "I think your lovely pet... distracted our patient's illness, who can now go out into the field... From where you are, you heard all the cries of joy from our sick man who never takes his eyes off... from the wonderful princess captive in her marvelous palace, called Semiramas for the stone gardens that seem to reflect her? I like to think that this fulfillment of an ancient and unlikely wish had something to do with the boy's failing health to return; not to mention… the secret influence of the gem constantly shooting from cagemate to child… How lovely and kind you have been these past few times when you have been so busy, and it is more than my pleasure to be able to tell you before anyone else, I have a feeling that all our worries will soon be over.” In this state of optimism, Anatole was taken by his family to Valvins inland, however, within a few days, his condition deteriorated drastically and he nearly died. On August 22, Mallarmé wrote to his close friend Henry Roujon: “I hardly dare to break the news, that there are moments in this war of life and death that our poor beloved is waging, when I allow myself to hope and regret a very sad death. I sent it myself, I don't know or see anything else. .. I have seen so many things with mixed emotions... The doctor, continuing with the Parisian treatment, seems to pretend that he is dealing with a convict who can only be consoled, and insists as I follow him to the door that he doesn't care. a ray of hope The dear child eats and sleeps a little; he breathes. All his organs could do to combat the heart problem, they did; after another powerful blow, that's the advantage he gets from the country. But the disease, the terrible disease, seems to have established itself in an incurable way. If you lift the sheets, you'll see a tummy so swollen you can't even look at it! "There it is. I'm not telling you about my pain; no matter where my thoughts try to take it, this pain avoids seeing it get worse! But what constitutes suffering, even this suffering: the terrible thing is... that unhappiness itself that this little creature disappear... I confess that it's too much for me, I can't with this 297

Idea. “When my wife looks at her beloved, she seems to see a serious illness and nothing else; I must not take away the courage she found to care for the child in this silence. So here I am alone with the ax of medical judgment." A September 9 letter from Mallarmé to Montesquiou provides further details: “Unfortunately, after several days [in the country], everything turned… we had disappeared forever, we returned; take it now. The old improvements were a sham…. I am too distraught and too busy with our poor boy to do anything literary except take a few quick notes... Tole talks about you and even delights in lovingly imitating your voice every morning. The parrot, whose auroral belly seems to burn with a whole oriental spice, looks at the forest with one eye and the bed with the other, like a frustrated desire for a journey of his little master. at the end of September, and Mallarmé now pinned his hopes on returning to Paris. On the 25th, he wrote to his oldest friend, Henri Cazalis: 'The night before the arrival of his beautiful gift, the poor fellow was nearly taken from us for the second time since the onset of his illness. Three consecutive fainting spells that afternoon did not take him away, thank God... His stomach was uncomfortable, full of water like never before... The country gave us everything we asked for, as long as it gave us everything, milk, air and a peaceful environment for the sick. Now we only have one idea, go to an appointment with Dr. Pedro…. I tell myself, it is impossible that a great medical specialist could not use the powers that nature so generously opposes against a terrible disease..." After his return to Paris, there are two more letters about Anatole, both dated 6 October. The first was for the English writer John Payne: "This is the reason for my long silence... At Easter, six horrible months ago, my son was attacked by rheumatism who, after a false recovery, threw himself on his poor heart, with incredible violence, keeping him between life and death, the poor friend was almost taken from us twice... You can judge our pain because you know how much I live in my family, that's why I was so captivated by this child, so charming and refined, that I continue to include it in all my future projects and in my dearest dreams..." The other letter was addressed to Montesquiou. "Thanks to immense precautions, everything went well [on my return to Paris]... He is the victim of a horrible and inexplicable nervous cough... which shakes him all day and night... "Yes, I am beside myself , like someone on whom a terrible and endless wind blows". The night vigil, the mixed feelings of hope and sudden fear have prevented any thought of rest... My sick child smiles at you from his bed like a white flower remembering the faded sun.” After writing these two letters, Mallarmé went to the post office to take them to the post office. Anatole died before his father could return home.* The next 202 fragments belonged to Mme. E. Bonniot, Mallarmé's heir , and were deciphered by 298, edited, and published in a carefully crafted volume

Literary scholar and critic Jean-Pierre Richard in 1961. In the preface to his book, which involves an extensive study of the fragments, he describes his feelings when he received the red box containing Mallarmé's notes. On the one hand: elevation. On the other hand: be careful. Although deeply moved by the snippets, he wasn't sure if the publication was appropriate given the intensely private nature of the work. However, he concluded that anything that could improve our understanding of Mallarmé would be valuable. "And if these sentences are nothing more than sighs," he wrote, "that makes them even more valuable to us." It seemed to me that the very nakedness of these notes... made their dissemination desirable. In fact, it served to demonstrate once again to what extent Mallarmé's famous serenity rested on the impulses of a very lively sensitivity, sometimes even bordering on rage and delirium... It was not insignificant to show it with a concrete example like this one. . an impersonality, this boasted objectivity, was in fact linked to the most subjective disorders of a life.” A careful reading of the fragments will clearly show that they are nothing more than notes for a possible work: a long poem in four parts with a series of very specific themes. That Mallarmé planned such work and then abandoned it is evident from an article written by Geneviève and published in a 1926 edition of N.R.F. was published: "In 1879 we had the immense pain of losing my little brother, a beautiful boy of eight years. I was very young then, but the deep and silent pain that I felt in my father left an unforgettable impression on me: ", he said, "He was happy to be able to talk (about his daughter's death); for me it's impossible." As they are now, the notes are a kind of urtext, the raw data of the poetic process. . Although they look like poems on the page, they are not to be confused with poetry itself. Still, more than a hundred years after they were written, they are perhaps closer to what we think poetry can do today than they were when they were written. Well, here we find a language of immediate contact, a syntax of sudden and rapid changes that nevertheless manage to retain meaning, and in its brevity, the scarce presence of its words, we have a rare and early example of isolated words that are capable of encompassing the vast mental spaces that lie between them, as if the sheer power of each word or sentence could create intelligible connections so densely charged that these tiny particles of language somehow jump off themselves and connect to the next cliff it could hold: edge of thought In contrast to Mallarmé's finished poems, these fragments have a surprisingly stark quality. Faithful not to the demands of art but to the compelling movement of thought - and with astonishing speed and precision - these tones seem to come from somewhere so deep, as if we could hear the wires crackling in Mallarmé's brain, experiencing every synapse of thought. . as a physical sensation. If these fragments cannot be read as a work of art, then, in my opinion, they should not be treated simply as scholarly appendages to Mallarmé's collected writings. Because despite everything, Anatole's notes have the strength of poetry and in the end they reach a surprising fullness. They are a work in their own right, but one that cannot be categorized, that does not fit into any existing literary form. The topic of fragments hardly needs comment. In general, Mallarmé's motivation seems to have been the following: he felt responsible for the disease that caused Anatole's death because he had not given his son a body strong enough to withstand the blows of life and would take it upon himself to give him to the child the only irrepressible thing he was capable of: his thoughts. Would turn Anatole 299

Put into words and thus prolong your life. He would literally resurrect him, because the work of building a tomb - a poetry tomb - would erase the presence of death. For Mallarmé, death is the awareness of death, not the physical act of dying. Since Anatole was too young to understand his fate (a theme that always comes up in the Shards), it was as if he hadn't died yet. He was still alive in his father, and only when Mallarmé himself died would the child die too. This is one of the most moving accounts of a man trying to face modern death - that is, death without God, death without hope of redemption - and it reveals the secret meaning of all Mallarmé's aesthetics: the elevation of art. to religion. level. However, the play could not be written here. In this time of crisis, even art has gone bankrupt because of Mallarmé. It seems to me that the effect of the Anatole Fragments is very close to the sentiment created by Rembrandt's last portrait of his son Titus. Given the radiant and devoted series of canvases produced by the artist during the boy's infancy, it is almost impossible for us to contemplate this last painting: the dying Titus, barely twenty years old, his face so ravaged by disease that he looks like an old man. man. It is important to imagine what Rembrandt must have felt when painting this portrait; imagine looking into the face of his dying son and holding his hand steady enough to bring what he saw to the screen. When fully imagined, the plot becomes almost unthinkable. In the natural order of things, parents do not bury their children. The death of a child is the greatest horror for any parent, an outrage against everything we believe we can expect from life, however small. Because at that moment everything is taken from us. Unlike Ben Jonson, who could lament the fact of his paternity as an obstacle to understanding that his son had "reached the state that he should have envied," Mallarmé found no support for himself, only an abyss, no consolation except in the plan to write about her son, which she was ultimately unable to do. The plant died along with Anatole. It is all the more moving, all the more important to us that it remained unfinished. 1982 Walking the Tightrope

The first time I saw Philippe Petit was in 1971. I was in Paris walking along the Boulevard Montparnasse when I came across a large group of people standing silently on the sidewalk. It seemed clear that something was going on within that circle and he wanted to know what it was. I passed several spectators, stood on my toes, and saw a short young man in the middle. Everything he wore was black: his shoes, his pants, his shirt, even the threadbare silk hat he wore on his head. The hair that peeked out from under his hat was reddish blond, and the face under it was so pale, so colorless, that at first I thought it was white. The young man juggled, rode a unicycle, performed little magic tricks. He juggled rubber balls, wooden bats, and lit torches, both standing on the ground and sitting on his unicycle, never pausing back and forth. for me 300

Surprisingly, he did all of this in silence. A circle had been drawn in chalk on the sidewalk, and he conscientiously prevented any of the spectators from entering that space with a forceful gesture of mime, acting with such ferocity and intelligence that it was impossible to stop looking. Unlike other street performers, he did not play in front of a crowd. Instead, it was as if I had shared thoughts of him with the audience and plunged us into a deep, silent obsession within him. But there was nothing overtly personal about what he did. Everything was revealed metaphorically, as if everything at once, through the performance. His juggling was precise and self-centered, like a conversation he's having with himself. He crafted the most complex combinations, intricate mathematical patterns, arabesques of mindless beauty, keeping his gestures as simple as possible. He exuded a hypnotic charm that oscillated between the devil and the clown. Nobody said a word. It was as if his silence was an order for the others to also remain silent. The crowd watched and after the show was over, they all put money in his hats. I realized that I had never seen anything like this before. The next time I saw Philippe Petit was a few weeks later. It was late at night, maybe one or two in the morning, and I was walking along a quay on the Seine, not far from Notre-Dame. Suddenly, I saw several young people on the other side of the street, moving quickly in the dark. They carried ropes, cables, tools and heavy backpacks. Curious as always, I followed them on my side of the street and recognized one of them as the juggler on Boulevard Montparnasse. I knew immediately that something was going to happen. But I couldn't imagine what it was. The next day I got my answer on the front page of the International Herald Tribune. A young man stretched a rope between the spiers of Notre-Dame Cathedral and walked, juggled and danced on it for three hours, dazzling the crowd. No one knew how he built his fence or how he managed to escape the attention of the authorities. When he returned to the field, he had been arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and various other crimes. It was in this article that I discovered his name: Philippe Petit. He had no doubt that he and the bard were the same person. This flight from Notre Dame made a deep impression on me, and I thought of it many times in the years that followed. Every time I passed Notre-Dame, I would see the photo published in the newspaper: an almost invisible thread stretched between the huge towers of the cathedral and right in the middle, magically floating in space, the smallest human figure, a point of life. against the sky It was impossible for me not to add this image remembered before my eyes to the real cathedral, as if this ancient monument of Paris, erected so long ago for the glory of God, had become something else. But what? It was hard for me to say. Maybe something more human. As if its stones now bear the mark of a man. And yet there was no real sign. I had made the sign with my own mind and it only existed in memory. And yet the evidence was irrefutable: my perception of Paris had changed. I no longer saw it that way. Of course, there is something extraordinary about walking on a cable so high above the ground. Seeing someone do this gives us an almost tangible emotion. In fact, with the guts and skill to do this, there are probably very few people who don't want to 301

do it yourself However, the art of tightrope walking has never been taken very seriously. Since the circus often involves the crossing of wires, it is automatically assigned marginal status. After all, the circus is for children, and what do children know about art? Adults have more important things to think about. There is the art of music, the art of painting, the art of sculpture, the art of poetry, the art of prose, the art of theater, the art of dance, the art of cooking, the art of live. But the art of walking a tightrope? Even the term seems ridiculous. When people think of tightrope walking, they usually classify it as a minor form of athletics. There is also the problem of charisma. I mean the crazy stunts, the vulgar self-promotion, the hunger for publicity that surrounds us on all sides. We live in a time where people seem willing to do anything for a little attention. And the public accepts it and gives notoriety or fame to anyone who is brave or foolish enough to bother. In general, the more dangerous the feat, the higher the recognition. Cruise across the ocean in a bathtub, jump over forty burning barrels on a motorcycle, plunge into the East River from the top of the Brooklyn Bridge, and you're sure to get your name in the papers, maybe even a talk show interview. The idiocy of these antics is obvious. I prefer to spend my time watching my son ride his bike training wheels and all. However, danger is an inherent part of walking the tightrope. When a man walks on a wire two inches above the ground, we don't react in the same way as when he walks on a wire two hundred feet from the ground. But the danger is only half. Unlike the stuntman, whose performance is calculated to emphasize every outrageous risk, making his audience gasp with terror and an almost sadistic portent of doom, the good tightrope walker strives to make his audience forget the dangers, to keep them away from them. his thoughts toward death. . for the beauty of what he does on the thread itself. Under the greatest possible constraints, on a stage only one centimeter in diameter, the tightrope runner aims to create a sense of limitless freedom. Juggler, dancer, acrobat, he does in the air what other men love to do on the ground. Desire is both implausible and perfectly natural, and the attraction of it, after all, is its utter uselessness. No art, it seems to me, so clearly emphasizes the deep aesthetic impulse in all of us. Every time we see a man cross the fence, a part of us is up there with him. Unlike performances in other arts, the tightrope experience is direct, immediate, simple, and requires no explanation. Art is the thing itself, a life in its most naked form. And if there is beauty in that, it is because of the beauty that we feel inside of us. There was another element of the Notre Dame show that moved me: the fact that it was clandestine. With the meticulousness of a bank robber preparing a robbery, Philippe went about his business in silence. Without press conferences, without publicity, without posters. The purity of him was impressive. What could he hope to gain? If the cable had broken, if the installation had gone wrong, he would have died. On the other hand, what brought success? He certainly didn't make any money from the venture. He didn't even try to capitalize on his brief moment of fame. In the end, the only tangible result was a brief stay in a Paris prison. So why did he do it? For no other reason, I think, than to dazzle the world with what he could do. After seeing his austere and disturbing juggling performance on the street, I intuitively felt that his motives were not those of other men, not even those of 302

from other artists. With ambition and arrogance matched by the heavens and her own stricter internal standards, she simply wanted to do what he could. After living in France for four years, I returned to New York in July 1974. It had been a long time since I had heard from Philippe Petit, but the memory of what happened in Paris was still fresh, an integral part of my inner mythology. Then, just a month after my return, Philippe made headlines again, this time in New York with his now famous walk between the World Trade Center towers. It was good to know that Philippe was still dreaming his dreams and it made me feel that he had chosen the right time to come home. New York is a more generous city than Paris, and the people here reacted enthusiastically to what he did. However, as after the Notre-Dame adventure, Philippe kept his vision. He wasn't trying to cash in on his newfound fame; He's managed to resist the honky-tonk temptations that America is all too willing to offer. No book was published, no movie made, no manager brought it to the checkout. That the World Trade Center did not make him rich was almost as remarkable as the event itself, but the proof was there for all New Yorkers: Philippe was still juggling on the streets for a living. The streets were his first theater, and he still takes his performances there as seriously as his tightrope work. It all started very early for him. Born into a middle-class French family in 1949, he taught himself magic at the age of six, juggling at twelve and, a few years later, walking a tightrope. Meanwhile, immersing himself in activities as diverse as horseback riding, rock climbing, the arts and carpentry, he's gotten himself expelled from nine schools. At sixteen he began a period of relentless travel around the world, performing as a street juggler in Western Europe, Russia, India, Australia and the United States. "I learned to live by my wits," he said of those years. “I used to juggle everywhere for everyone, traveling like a troubadour with my old leather bag. I learned to run from the police on my unicycle. he was hungry as a wolf; I learned to control my life. But it is on the tightrope where Philippe has focused his main ambitions. In 1973, just two years after Notre Dame's walk, he performed another historic performance in Sydney, Australia: he stretched his cable between the northern piers of the Harbor Bridge, the world's tallest steel-arch bridge. After the World Trade Center walk in 1974, he crossed the Great Falls in Paterson, New Jersey, appeared on television to walk among the spiers of the cathedral in Laon, France, and also crossed the Superdome in New Orleans in front of 80,000 people. . That latest performance came just nine months after a 12-foot fall from a bent cable left him with multiple fractured ribs, a collapsed lung, a crushed hip and a shattered pancreas. Philippe also worked in the circus. For a year he fronted the Ringling brothers Barnum and Bailey, and occasionally guest-starred at New York's Big Apple Circus. But the traditional circus has never been the place for Philippe's talent, and he knows it. He is too reclusive and unconventional an artist to fit comfortably into the rigors of the big-name commercial. Far more important to him are his plans for the future: crossing Niagara Falls on foot; He walked from the top of the Sydney Opera House to the top of the Harbor Bridge, an incline walk of over half a mile. As he himself explains: “Talking about records or risks is to lose focus. All my life I have been looking for the most amazing places to 303

Cross: mountains, waterfalls, buildings. And if the most beautiful walks are also the longest or the most dangerous, that's fine too. But she wasn't even looking for that. What interests me is the performance, the spectacle, the beautiful gesture”. When I finally met Philippe in 1980, I realized that all my feelings for him were correct. He was not a daredevil or a stuntman, but a unique artist who knew how to talk about his work with wit and humor. As he told me that day, he didn't want people to think of him as another "dumb acrobat." He talked about some of the things he had written (poetry, narrative of his adventures at Notre-Dame and the World Trade Center, screenplays, a pamphlet on a tightrope) and I said I'd be interested in seeing them. A few days later I received a large package of manuscripts in the mail. An accompanying note said that these writings had been rejected by eighteen different publishers in France and the United States. I didn't see it as an obstacle. I told Philippe that I would do everything in my power to find him a publisher, and I also promised to serve as a translator if necessary. Given the joy I received from his performances on the street and on cable, it seemed like the least he could do. On the High-Wire is a remarkable book in my opinion. It is not only the first written study on the tightrope, but also a personal testimony. You learn both the art and science of rope walking, the poetry and technical requirements of the trade. At the same time, it should not be misconstrued as a guide or instruction manual. You can't really teach tightrope walking, you learn it yourself, and surely a book would be the last place to turn if you really took it seriously. Thus, the book is a kind of parable, a spiritual journey in the form of a treatise. Through it all, you can feel the presence of Philippe himself: it's his character, his artistry, his personality that characterizes the entire speech. After all, no one else has a place in it. This is perhaps the most important lesson of the treatise: the high ropes course is an art of solitude, a way of facing life itself in the darkest and most secret corner of oneself. With careful reading, the book becomes the story of a quest, an exemplary story of one man's quest for perfection. As such, it has more to do with the inner workings than the tightrope. It seems to me that anyone who has tried to do something well, who has made personal sacrifices for an art or an idea, will have no difficulty in understanding what it is. Until two months ago, I had never seen Philippe perform outdoors on a tightrope. A circus performance or two and, of course, movies and photos of his exploits, but no physical walks in the fresh air. I finally got my chance at the recent dedication ceremony at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. After a break of several decades, the construction of the cathedral tower will resume. As a kind of homage to the tightrope walkers of the Middle Ages - the joglar of the great French cathedrals - Philippe came up with the idea of ​​stretching a steel cable from the top of a high-rise apartment building on Amsterdam Avenue to the top. from the cathedral on the other side from the street - an inclined track of several hundred meters. He would walk from one end to the other and then present a silver trowel to the Bishop of New York, which would be used to lay the tower's symbolic cornerstone. The foreplay lasted a long time. One by one, the dignitaries rose and talked about the cathedral and the historic moment that was about to unfold. Clergy, city officials, former Secretary of State Cyrus Vance: they all did 304

Talk. A large crowd had gathered in the street, mostly schoolchildren and locals, and it was clear that most of them had come to see Philippe. As the speeches continued, there was much talk and commotion in the crowd. The weather in late September was lurid: a stark, pale gray sky; the wind begins to pick up; Rain clouds gathering in the distance. They were all impatient. If the speeches continued, the walk could be cancelled. Fortunately the weather improved and finally it was Philippe's turn. The area under the cloak had to be cleared of people, which meant that those who had been the center of attention a moment before were swept to the side with the rest of us. I liked democracy. I found myself shoulder to shoulder with Cyrus Vance on the steps of the cathedral. Me in my tattered leather jacket and him in his immaculate blue suit. But that didn't seem to matter. He was just as excited as me. Later I realized that at any other time I could have been speechless next to someone so important. But I didn't think about any of that at the time. We talked about the tightrope and the dangers that Philippe would face. He seemed genuinely shocked by the whole thing and kept looking at the thread, as did I, as did the hundreds of children around us. It was then that I understood the most important aspect of the tightrope: it reduces us to our common humanity. A Secretary of State, a poet, a child: we become equal in the eyes of the other and, therefore, part of the other. A brass band played a Renaissance fanfare from a hidden spot behind the cathedral façade, and Philippe emerged from the roof of the building across the street. He wore a white satin medieval costume, the silver spatula dangling from a sash at his side. He greeted the crowd with a graceful gesture of gallantry, gripped his cane tightly in both hands, and began his slow climb up the fence. Step by step I felt myself ascending with him, and little by little those heights seemed to become habitable, human and full of happiness. He knelt down and looked back at the crowd; he balanced on one foot; he moved with purpose and regality, exuding confidence. Then suddenly he came to a point on the wire so far from where he started that my eyes lost contact with all surrounding landmarks: the apartment building, the street, the other people. Now it was almost directly overhead, and when I leaned back to enjoy the show, all I could see was the cable, Philippe, and the sky. There was nothing left. A white body against an almost white sky, as if free. The purity of that image is engraved in my memory and is still there today, very present. From start to finish, I didn't even think that I could fall. Risk, fear of death, catastrophe: these were not part of the performance. Philippe took full responsibility for his own life and I felt that nothing could shake that determination. Walking a tightrope is not an art of death, it is an art of living, and life is lived to the fullest. That is, a life that does not hide from death, but rather faces it head on. Every time he crosses the fence, Philippe seizes this life and lives it in all its intoxicating immediacy, in all its joy. May he live to be a hundred years old. 1982


translator's note

This is one of the saddest stories I know. If it weren't for a small miracle that happened twenty years later, I don't think I would have had the courage to tell about it. It begins in 1972. I was living in Paris at the time and was a regular reader of L'Éphémère, a literary magazine sponsored by Galerie Maeght through my friendship with the poet Jacques Dupin (whose works I translated). Jacques was a member of the editorial board, along with Yves Bonnefoy, André du Bouchet, Michel Leiris and, until his death in 1970, Paul Celan. The magazine was published four times a year, and with such a group in charge of its content, the work published in L'Éphémère was always of the highest quality. The twentieth and final edition came out in the spring, and among the regular contributions by well-known poets and writers was an essay by an anthropologist named Pierre Clastres, De l'Un sans le Multiple ("Of the one without the many"). At only seven pages, it made an immediate and lasting impression on me. The play was not only intelligent, provocative, and rigorously argued, it was also beautifully written. Clastres's prose seemed to combine a poet's temperament with depth of mind. of a philosopher, and I was struck by his directness and humanity, his utter lack of conceit. From those seven pages, I realized that I had discovered an author whose work I would follow for a long time. When I asked Jacques who this person was, he explained that Clastres studied under Claude Lévi-Strauss, was not yet forty, and was considered the most promising member of the new generation of anthropologists in France. He had done his fieldwork in the jungles of South America, living among the most primitive Stone Age tribes in Paraguay and Venezuela, and a book about these experiences was about to be published. When Chronique des Indiens Guayaki appeared a short time later, I went out and bought a copy. I find it almost impossible not to love this book. The care and patience with which it was written, the conciseness of its observations, its humor, its intellectual rigor, its compassion, all these qualities reinforce each other and make it an important and memorable work. The Chronicle is not a dry academic study of "life among the savages," nor an account of a strange world in which the reporter neglects his own presence. It is the true story of one man's experiences and asks only the most basic questions: how is information passed to an anthropologist, what kinds of transactions take place between one culture and another, under what circumstances can secrets be kept? In describing this unknown civilization to us, Clastres writes with the cunning of a good novelist. His attention to detail is meticulous and exacting; his ability to assemble his thoughts into bold and coherent statements is often impressive. He is that rare scholar who does not hesitate to write in the first person, and the result is not just a portrait of the people he is studying, but a portrait of himself. He has spent many years earning a living as a translator. It was a tough fight and I could barely keep my head above water most of the time. Cause I had to take what I could, 306

I often found myself taking commissions to work on books of little or no value. I wanted to translate good books, get involved in worthwhile projects that would do more than just put bread on the table. Chronicles of the Guayaki Indians was at the top of my list, and I kept suggesting it to the various American publishers I worked for. After countless rejections, I finally found someone who was interested. I don't remember exactly when it was. I think late 1975 or early 1976, but it could be half a year or more. Anyway, the publisher was new, just getting started, and all the omens looked good. Great publishers, contracts for some great books, willingness to take risks. Clastres and I had recently begun exchanging letters, and when I wrote to him the news, he was as excited as I was. Translating the Chronicle was a very pleasant experience for me, and after I finished my work my attachment to the book was more ardent than ever. I sent the manuscript to the editor, the translation was approved, and then, just when everything seemed to be finished successfully, the problems began. It appears that the publisher was not as creditworthy as he has led the world to believe. Worse still, the publisher itself was far less honest about the money than it should have been. I know this very well because the money I was supposed to pay for my translation was covered by a CNRS (French National Center for Scientific Research) grant to the company, but when I asked for my money, the publisher hesitated and stuttered. and I promised that in due time I would have it. The only explanation was that he had already spent the money on something else. He was very poor at the time and waiting for payment was not an option for me. It was the difference between eating and not eating, paying rent and not paying rent. I called the editor every day for the next few weeks, but he kept putting me down and making other excuses. Finally, when I couldn't take it anymore, I went to the office and demanded that he pay me on the spot. He started with another apology, but this time I stood my ground and said I wasn't leaving until he wrote me a check for the full amount. I don't think she threatened him, but she could have. I was seething with rage and I remember thinking if all else failed I was ready to slap him. I never got to that point, but what I did was corner him, and at that point I could see that he was starting to freak out. Finally he understood that he meant it. And there he himself opened the desk drawer, took out the checkbook and gave me the money. Looking back, I consider this to be one of my lowest moments, a sad chapter in my career as a person, and I'm not at all proud of how I performed. But I was broke, I had done the job, and I deserved to get paid. To show how difficult it was for me during those years, I will mention only one terrifying fact. I never made a copy of the manuscript. He had no money to copy the translation, and assuming it was in good hands, the only copy in the world was the original typescript in the publisher's office. That fact, that stupid oversight, that miserable way of doing business, would haunt me time and time again. It was all my fault and he turned a minor mishap into a total disaster. For now though, it seemed like we were back to normal. When my rate issue was resolved, the publisher acted as if he had all the 307

intention to publish the book. The manuscript was sent to a printer, I corrected the proofs and returned them to the publisher, again without making a copy. After all, it didn't seem to matter much since production was already underway. The book was advertised in a catalogue, scheduled for publication in the winter of 1977-1978. Then, a few months before the date set for the publication of the Chronicle of the Guayakí Indians, the news broke that Pierre Clastres had died in a car accident. According to the story I was told, he was driving somewhere in France when he lost control of the steering wheel and skidded down the hill. We had never met. Since he was only 43 when he died, I assumed there would be many possibilities in the future. We had written many warm letters to each other, become friends through our correspondence, and longed for the moment when we could finally sit down and talk. The strangeness and unpredictability of the world prevented this conversation from happening. Even now, after so many years, I still feel a great loss. Nineteen seventy-eight came and went, and the Chronicle of the Guayaki Indians did not appear. Another year passed, and another year, and still there was no book. In 1981, the publishing house was on its last legs. The publisher I originally worked with was gone and I was having a hard time finding information. That year, or maybe the next year, or maybe even the next year (it's all a blur in my head now), the company ultimately failed. Someone called to say that the rights to the book had been sold to another publisher. I called the publisher and they said yes, they were planning to publish the book. Another year passed and nothing happened. I called again and the person I spoke to the year before was no longer with the company. I spoke to another person and that person told me that the company had no plans to publish the Chronicle of the Guayaki Indians. I asked for the manuscript to be returned to me, but no one could find it. No one had heard of it. Basically, it was as if the translation never existed. For the next twelve years things went on like this. Pierre Clastres was dead, my translation was gone, and the whole project collapsed into a black hole of oblivion. Last summer (1996) I finished a book called Hand to Mouth, an autobiographical essay on money. I had intended to include this story in the narrative (because I had forgotten to make a copy of the manuscript because of the scene with the editor in his office), but when it came time to tell it, I was discouraged. I can't write the words on paper. It was all very sad, I thought, and I saw no point in telling such a dark and miserable story. Then two or three months after finishing my book, something extraordinary happened. About a year earlier, he had accepted an invitation to San Francisco to perform in the City Arts and Lecture Series at the Herbst Theatre. The event was scheduled for October 1996, and when the time came, I boarded a plane and flew to San Francisco as promised. After finishing my work on the stage, I was to sit in the lobby and sign copies of my books. Autumn is a big theater with a lot of seats, so the line in the lobby was quite long. Among all the people waiting for the dubious privilege of having my name written in one of my novels, there was one I recognized: a young man I had met before, a friend of a friend. This young man is an avid collector of books, a detective of first editions and rare and eccentric pieces, the type of bibliographical detective who 308

You won't think of spending an afternoon in a dusty basement going through discarded boxes of books in the hope of finding a little treasure. She smiled, shook my hand, then handed me a pair of tied galleys. It had a red paper cover and until then I had never seen a copy. "What's that?" he says he. "I've never heard of that." And there it was suddenly in my hands: the uncorrected proofs of my long-lost translation. In general, this was probably not such an amazing event. For me though, in my little scheme of things, it was overwhelming. My hands began to shake as I held the book. He was so dazed, so confused, he could barely speak. The printing proofs were found at a used book sale, and the young man paid five dollars for them. Looking at it now, I note with some dark fascination that the release date listed on the cover is April 1981. For a translation completed in 1976 or 1977, it was truly an excruciatingly slow ordeal. If Pierre Clastres were alive today, the discovery of this lost book would be a perfect happy ending. But he is not alive, and the brief surge of joy and disbelief I experienced in the Herbst Theater lobby since then has given way to deep, sad grief. What a pity that the world plays such tricks on us. How despicable that a person with so much to offer the world should die so young. So here is my translation of the book Chronicle of the Guayaki Indians by Pierre Clastres. It doesn't matter that the world he describes is long gone, that the small group of people the author lived with in 1963 and 1964 have disappeared from the face of the earth. It doesn't matter that the author also disappeared. The book he wrote is still with us, and the fact that you hold this book in your hands, dear reader, is nothing less than a victory, a small triumph against the overwhelming odds of fate. At least there is something to be thankful for. It is at least comforting to think that Pierre Clastres's book has survived. 1997 The National History Project

I never intended to do this. The National Story Project came about by chance, and without a comment from my wife over dinner sixteen months ago, most of this book would never have been written. It was May 1999, maybe June, and earlier that day I had been interviewed on National Public Radio about my latest novel. After we finished our conversation, Weekend All Things Considered host Daniel Zwerdling asked me if he would be interested in contributing regularly to the show. I couldn't even see his face when he asked the question. I was in the NPR studio on Second Avenue in New York and he was in Washington, D.C., and for the last twenty or thirty minutes we've been talking into microphones and headphones, with the help of a technological marvel called fiber optics. I asked him what he was doing and he told me he wasn't sure. Maybe I could go on the air every month and tell stories. 309

I wasn't interested. Doing my own work was hard enough, and taking a job that required me to write on-demand stories was the last thing I needed. However, out of courtesy, I said I would go home and think about it. It was my wife, Siri, who turned the proposal around. That night, when I told her about the strange offer from NPR, she immediately had a suggestion that she changed my mind about. In thirty seconds, the he did not become itself. You don't have to write the stories yourself, she said. Get people to sit down and write their own stories. They could send them to you and then you could read the best ones on the radio. If enough people sign up, it could turn into something extraordinary. Thus was born the National History Project. It was Siri's idea, so I took it and moved on. * Sometime in late September, Zwerdling came to see me in Brooklyn with Rebecca Davis, one of the producers of Weekend All Things Considered, and we pitched the idea for the project in the form of another interview. I told the audience that I was looking for stories. The stories had to be true and short, but there were no restrictions on subject or style. What interested me most, I said, were stories that exceeded our expectations of the world, anecdotes that revealed the mysterious and unfathomable forces at work in our lives, in our family history, in our minds and bodies, in our souls. In other words, true stories that seemed like fiction. I talked about things big and small, tragic and funny, any experience that felt important enough to put on paper. Don't worry if you've never written a story, I told him. Everyone would know a few good ones, and if enough people heeded the call to participate, we would inevitably begin to learn some amazing things about ourselves and others. The spirit of the project was entirely democratic. All listeners can contribute and I promised to read all the stories that came through. People would be exploring their own lives and experiences, but at the same time they would be part of a collective effort, something bigger than themselves. With their help, I said, I hoped to build a factual archive, a museum of American reality. The interview aired on the first Saturday of October, exactly one year ago. Since then, I have received over four thousand submissions. That number is many times higher than I expected, and for the last twelve months I have been inundated with manuscripts and wandering madly in an ever-widening sea of ​​paper. Some of the stories are handwritten; others are typewritten; others are printed from emails. Every month I strive to select five or six of the best and turn them into a twenty-minute segment to air on Weekend All Things Considered. It has been exceptionally rewarding work, one of the most inspiring responsibilities I have ever taken on. But it also had its difficult moments. On several occasions, when I was particularly overwhelmed, I would read sixty or seventy stories at a time, and each time I would get up out of my chair feeling flattened, completely drained of energy. So many emotions to deal with, so many strangers camped out in the living room, so many voices hitting me from so many different directions. For two or three hours on those nights, I felt the 310

The entire population of America went to my house. I have not heard America sing. I heard stories. Yes, several rants and rants have been sent by distraught people, but far fewer than I would have anticipated. I have been exposed to groundbreaking revelations about the Kennedy assassination, subject to a variety of complex interpretations that link current events with verses of Scripture and information related to lawsuits against half a dozen corporations and government agencies. Some people went out of their way to make fun of me and turn my stomach. Last week I received a request from a man who signed his story "Cerberus" and gave the return address "The Underworld 66666". In the story, he recounted his days in Vietnam as a Marine and ended with an account of how he and the other men from his company roasted a stolen Vietnamese baby and ate it over an open fire. He made it sound like he was proud of what he had done. As far as I know, the story may be true. But that doesn't mean I'm not interested in presenting it on the radio. On the other hand, some of Disturbed People's works contain surprising and captivating passages. Last fall, just as the project was getting started, one came from another Vietnamese veteran, a man serving a life sentence for murder in a prison somewhere in the Midwest. He attached a handwritten statement that told the complicated story of how he committed his crime, and the document's final sentence read: "I've never been perfect, but I'm real." credo of the National Story Project, the very principle behind this book. We were never perfect, but we are real. * Of the four thousand stories I read, most were captivating enough to hold me back until the last word. Most were written with simple, direct conviction, and most gave credit to the people who sent them. We all have an inner life. We all feel part of the world and yet banished from it. We all burn with the fire of our own existence. Words are needed to express what we are made of, and time and again contributors have thanked me for giving them the opportunity to tell their stories, for "allowing people to be heard." What people say is often surprising. More than ever, I appreciate how deeply and passionately most of us live within ourselves. Our attachments are cruel. Our love dominates us, defines us, blurs the lines between us and others. A good third of the stories I read are about families: parents and children, children and parents, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, grandparents. For most of us, these are the people who fill our world, and in every story, both the dark and the funny, I was struck by the clarity and pathos with which these connections were articulated. Some high school students submitted home run stories and track medals, but it was a rare adult who jumped at the chance to brag about his accomplishments. Funny mistakes, painful coincidences, fatal blows, wonderful meetings, unlikely ironies, premonitions, sadness, pain, dreams - these were the topics the authors wrote about. I've learned that I'm not the only one who believes that the more we understand about the world, the more elusive and confusing it becomes. As one of the early collaborators said so eloquently: "I had 311

without an adequate definition of reality." When you are uncertain about things, when your mind is still open enough to question what you see, you tend to look at the world very carefully, and with that alertness comes awareness. chance to see something he can't see. that no one has ever seen before. You have to be willing to admit that you don't have all the answers. If you believe that, you'll never have anything important to say. Unbelievable plots, unexpected twists, events that refuse to be told. obeying the rules of common sense rules.Most of the time, our lives resemble 18th century novels.Just today I received another batch of emails from NPR, and among the new ones was this story of a woman who lives in San Diego, California I cite this not because it is unusual, but simply because it is the most recent evidence available: I was adopted from foster care at eight months of age.Less than a year later, my adoptive father died suddenly. I grew up with my widowed mother and three adopted older brothers. When you are adopted, there is a natural curiosity to meet your birth family. When I got married and was in my twenties, I decided to start looking. I grew up in Iowa, and actually, after a two-year search, found my birth mother in Des Moines. We met and went to dinner. I asked her who my biological father was and she gave me her name. I asked her where she lived and she told me "San Diego" where I have lived for the last five years. I moved to San Diego without knowing anyone, I just knew that I wanted to be there. I ended up working in my dad's annex. We often had lunch at the same restaurant. We never told his wife about my existence because she really didn't want to disturb his life. However, he has always been a bit of a wanderer and has always had a girlfriend by his side. He and his last girlfriend were "together" for over fifteen years and she continued to be the source of my information about him. Five years ago my birth mother died of cancer in Iowa. At the same time, I received a call from my father's mistress who had died of heart complications. I called my birth mother at the hospital in Iowa and told her about her death. She died that night. I received news that her funeral was held at exactly the same time the following Saturday, 11 am. in California and with her at 1pm in Iowa. After three or four months, I felt a book was needed to do the project justice. Too many good stories came in and I couldn't get more than a fraction of the decent radio appearances. Many of them were too long for the format we had established, and the short duration of the broadcasts—a lone, disembodied voice hovering over the American airwaves for eighteen to twenty minutes each month—led me to collect the most memorable ones. keep them in writing. Radio is a powerful tool, and NPR reaches almost every corner of the country, but words can't be in your hands. A book is tangible, and when you put it down, you can pick up where you left off and pick up again. This anthology contains 179 pieces, which I consider the best of the approximately four thousand works received in the last year. But it's also a representative selection, a miniaturized version of the National Story Project as a whole. For every dream, animal, or lost item story found in these pages, dozens more were sent, dozens more that could have been 312

It was choosen. The book begins with a six-sentence story about a chicken (the first story I read on the air last November) and ends with a wistful meditation on the role radio plays in our lives. The author of the final piece, Ameni Rozsa, was moved to write her story while she was listening to one of the National Story Project broadcasts. She was hoping to capture pieces of American reality, but it never occurred to me that the project itself could become part of that reality as well. This book was written by people of all ages and walks of life. Among them are a postman, a merchant marine, a trolley bus driver, a gas and electricity meter reader, a piano restorer, a crime scene cleaner, a musician, a businessman, two priests, a prisoner in a state prison, several doctors and several housewives, peasants and ex-wives of soldiers. The youngest artist is barely twenty years old; the eldest is approaching ninety. Half of the authors are women; half are men. They live in cities, suburbs, and rural areas and come from 42 different states. When making my decisions, I never thought about demographic balance. I chose the stories solely for their merit: for their humanity, for their truth, for their charm. The numbers just dropped and the results were determined by chance. In an attempt to bring order to this chaos of contrasting voices and styles, I've divided the stories into ten different categories. The section titles speak for themselves, but with the exception of the fourth section "Patalhada", which consists entirely of comic strips, there is a wide variety of material in each of the categories. Their content ranges from farce to tragic drama, and for every act of cruelty and violence found in them there is a balanced act of kindness, generosity, or love. The stories come and go, up and down, in and out, and after a while your head spins. Move from one contributor to another and you find yourself with a completely different person, a completely different set of circumstances, a completely different view of the world. But the difference is what this book is about. It has fancy, fancy writing, but also a lot of rough, rough stuff. Only a small part of it resembles anything that could be called "literature". It's something different, something raw and close to the core, and whatever skill these writers lack, most of their stories are unforgettable. It's hard for me to imagine that anyone could read this book cover to cover without shedding a tear, without laughing out loud once. If I had to define what these stories are, I would call them dispatches, frontline accounts of personal experience. They deal with the personal worlds of individual Americans, but time and again we see in them the inescapable traces of history, the intricate ways in which society as a whole shapes individual destinies. Some of the older contributors, recalling the events of their childhood and adolescence, inevitably write about the Great Depression and World War II. Other mid-century contributors are still haunted by the aftermath of the Vietnam War. That conflict ended twenty-five years ago, but it still lives within us as a recurring nightmare, a great wound in the national soul. Other contributors from different generations have written stories about the disease of American racism. This scourge has been with us for over 350 years, and as hard as we try to eradicate it from our midst, a cure has yet to be found. Other stories deal with AIDS, alcoholism, drug abuse, pornography, and weapons. 313

Social forces constantly impact the lives of these people, but none of their stories attempt to document society itself. We know that Janet Zupan's father died in a POW camp in Vietnam in 1967, but that's not what her story is about. With a remarkable eye for visual detail, it follows a single afternoon in the Mojave Desert as his father chases his stubborn, rambunctious horse, and knowing what we're about to do with what will happen to his father just two years later. , read us your report as a sort of memorial to him. Not a word about the war, but indirectly and through an almost painterly approach to the moment before, we feel that an entire era of American history is passing before our eyes. The laugh of Stan Benkoski's father. Carol Sherman-Jones' slap in the face. Little Mary Grace Dembeck carries a Christmas tree through the streets of Brooklyn. John Keith's mother's missing wedding ring. John Flannelly's fingers were in the holes of a stainless steel grate. Mel Singer struggled to fall to the ground with his own coat. Anna Thorson at the Barn Dance. Edith Riemer's bicycle. Marie Johnson is watching a movie that was filmed in the house where she lived when she was a child. Ludlow Perry's encounter with the man with no legs. Catherine Austin Alexander looks out the window on West Seventy-fourth Street. Juliana C. Nash's walk through the snow. Dede Ryan's philosophical martini. Carolyn Brasher's Regrets. The dream of the father of Mary McCallum. Earl Roberts collar button. One after another, these stories leave a lasting impression on the memory. Even after she has read all fifteen dozen, they still linger in her mind and she remembers them the way she remembers a witty simile or a good joke. Images are clear, dense, and yet somehow weightless. And each one is small enough to fit in his pocket. Like the photos we carry of our own families. October 3, 2000 A small anthology of surrealist poems

1968. I was 21 years old, a freshman at Columbia, and these poems were one of my first attempts at translation. Remember the times: the Vietnam War, the noise of politics on College Walk, a year of endless protests, the strike that closed the university, protests, riots, the arrest of 700 students (including me). Faced with this agitation (this questioning), the surrealists were a great discovery for me: poets who fight against the conventions of poetry, poets who dream of revolution, of how to change the world. Therefore, the translation was something more than a literary exercise. It was a first step to free myself from the bonds of myself, overcoming my own ignorance. You must change your life. Maybe it was more about looking for a life, trying to invent a life that I could believe in... January 22, 2002 The Art of Caring 314

Art Spiegelman is a unique quadruple threat. He is an artist who draws and paints; a chameleon who can mimic and flatter any visual style he chooses; a writer who expresses himself in vivid and sharply distorted sentences; and a provocateur with a sense of humor in his wildest and most penetrating incarnations. He combines these talents and puts them at the service of a deeply political conscience, and one man can make a significant difference in the world. This is exactly what Art Spiegelman has been doing at The New Yorker for the past decade. We know him best as the author of Maus, the brilliant two-volume story of his father's nightmarish journey through the countryside during World War II. Spiegelman proved to be a skilled storyteller in this work, and history will no doubt remember him as such: the man who proved that comics aren't necessarily for kids, that a complex story can be told in a series of little rectangles filled with words. and images - and achieve all the emotional and intellectual power of great literature. But there is another aspect of Spiegelman that dominates him more and more in the years after Mouse: the artist as a social and critical brake, as a commentator on current events. As a friend and admirer of Spiegelman, I always found it strange that he would find a home for this aspect of his work at The New Yorker. Born in the jazz age, the magazine has been present on the American scene for more than 75 years. Rolling off the presses every week as the country faced wars, depressions, and violent upheavals, he kept that tone unflinchingly cool, sophisticated, and smug at the same time. The New Yorker has done excellent journalism over the years, but as succinct and disturbing as many of these reports have been, the pages on which they appear have always been flanked by advertisements for luxury goods and Caribbean vacations, embellished with cheerful and funny caricatures. about the failures of bourgeois life. That's the New York style. The world may be going to hell, but as soon as we open the pages of our favorite weekly, we realize that hell is for other people. Nothing has changed for us, and nothing ever will. We are educated, calm and urban. Don't worry about that. But Spiegelman wants to worry. That is his job. He has accepted caregiving as his life's work and resents any injustice he sees in the world, he chagrins diligently at the follies and stupidities of those in power and refuses to take things for granted. the lightly Not without wit, of course, and not without his trademark comic touch, but conceited is the last thing you could call this man. Good for The New Yorker because he had the wisdom to put you on his payroll. And kudos to Spiegelman for reviving the spirit of this ponderous bastion of good taste. He contributed in and out of the magazine and produced nearly seventy pieces for The New Yorker, working with two editors-in-chief, Tina Brown and David Remnick. These works include one-page drawings and paintings (including a bitter rejection of Life is Beautiful, a film Spiegelman loathed), lengthy features on a variety of topics presented in comic book form (neo-Nazi vandalism in Rostock, Germany; tributes to Harvey Kurtzman, Maurice Sendak, and Charles Schultz; An Attack on George W. Bush and the Bogus Election of 2000; Observations on Pop Culture Reflected on His Own Children's Behavior) and 315

nearly forty decks. The appearance of a magazine is its most visible feature, the hallmark of its philosophy and editorial content, the clothing you wear when it goes public. At the time Spiegelman came out, The New Yorker was famous, incredibly famous, in fact, for the smoothness of its covers. Smug and subdued, confident in the loyalty of his vast reading public, he appeared issue after issue on the newsstands, with tranquil autumn scenes, snowy winter landscapes, suburban gardens and deserted city streets, images so banal and insipid that they induce a stare. sleepy on the reader. .public spectator. Then, on February 15, 1993, Spiegelman's first cover appeared for a Valentine's Day issue, and The New Yorker exploded into a new New Yorker, a magazine that suddenly found itself part of the contemporary world. . It was a bad time for the city. Crown Heights, an impoverished Brooklyn neighborhood inhabited by African-Americans and Orthodox Jews, was on the brink of a race war. A black child was run over by a Jew, a Jew was killed in retaliation by an angry black mob, and for many days violent riots dominated the streets, with threats of more violence from both sides. Then-Mayor David Dinkins was a decent man, but he was also a cautious man and lacked the political savvy to quickly intervene and defuse the crisis. (That failure likely cost him victory in the next election, leading to the harsh rule of Rudolph Giuliani, who served as mayor for the next eight years.) New York, despite its ethnic diversity, is a surprisingly tolerant city, and even more tolerant of people who try to get along most of the time. But there are racial tensions, often simmering in silence and occasionally erupting into isolated acts of brutality, but here was an entire neighborhood in riot, and it was an ugly sight, a monstrosity to New York's democratic spirit. It was then that Spiegelman was heard, as he entered the fray and offered his solution to the problem. Make peace. His statement was so simple, so shocking, so powerful. An orthodox Jew had his arms around a black woman, the black woman had her arms around the orthodox Jew, her eyes were closed and they were kissing. To complete the Valentine's Day theme, the background of the image was solid red and three small hearts floated on the wavy border that framed the image. Spiegelman did not take sides. As a Jew, he had no intention of defending the Crown Heights Jewish community; As a non-religious practitioner, he did not express his support for the African-American community that shared the same seedy terrain. He spoke as a citizen of New York, as a citizen of the world, and he spoke to both groups simultaneously, that is, he spoke to all of us. Enough of the hate, he said, enough of the bigotry, enough of demonizing others. In pictorial form, the cover message was identical to an idea by W.H. Auden on the first day of World War II: We must love each other or die. Since that remarkable debut, Spiegelman has always failed our expectations, knowingly using his inventiveness as a destabilizing force, a weapon of surprise. Wanting to throw us off balance, to catch us off guard, he approaches his subject from multiple angles and in innumerable shades of tone: mockery and whimsy, indignation and reproach, even tenderness and flattering affection. The heroic mother of a construction worker nursing her baby on the beam of an unfinished skyscraper; turkey bombs falling in Afghanistan; Bill Clinton's crotch surrounded by a sea of ​​microphones; College degrees that turn out to be classified ads; the strange hipster family as a symbol of intergenerational love and solidarity; the 316

Crucified Easter bunny impaled on an income tax form; Santa Claus and the Rabbi with identical beards and bellies. Without fear of legal action, Spiegelman has offended many people over the years, and several of the covers he has prepared for The New Yorker have been deemed so inflammatory by the magazine's editorial board that they refused to publish them. Beginning with the 1993 Valentine's Day cover, Spiegelman's work has inspired thousands of outraged letters, hundreds of canceled subscriptions and, in one most dramatic case, a large-scale protest rally by members of the New York City Police Department. York in front of the New Yorker offices in Manhattan. That's the price he pays for saying what he thinks: forming his opinion. Spiegelman's tenure at The New Yorker hasn't always been easy, but his courage has been a constant source of encouragement to those of us who love our city and believe in the idea of ​​New York as a place for all, a central laboratory. of the human contradictions within our time.


Then came September 11, 2001. In the fire and smoke of three thousand cremated bodies, a holocaust descended on us, and nine months later the city is still mourning its dead. Immediately after the attack, in the hours and days that followed that murderous morning, few of us could form coherent thoughts. The shock was too great, and as the smoke continued to waft over the city and we inhaled the horrible odors of death and destruction, most of us lumbered along like sleepwalkers, dazed and dazed, useless. But The New Yorker had a problem to solve, and when they realized someone needed to create a cover, the most important cover ever and one that needed to be produced in record time, they turned to Spiegelman. In my opinion, this black-on-black issue of September 24 is Spiegelman's masterpiece. In the face of utter horror, he tends to dispense with images entirely. In times of dire need, we are often at a loss for words. The same applies to images. If I have not misrepresented the story Spiegelman told me in those days, I think he originally resisted this iconoclastic impulse: to present a solid black shell to represent pain, an absent image that stands like a mirror of the indescribable. He came up with other ideas. He tried them on, but he discarded them one by one, slowly pushing his mind toward darker and darker shades until he inevitably reached a deep, unmodulated black. But that was not enough. He found everything very mute, very easy, very resigned, but for want of another solution he almost capitulated. Then, just as he was about to give up, he began to think of some of the artists who had come before him, artists who had studied the effects of removing color from their paintings, particularly Ad Reinhardt and his black canvases. on black. the 60s, those anti-paintings, very abstract and minimalist works that took painting to the extremes of possibilities. Spiegelman had found his address. Not in silence, but in the sublime. You have to look very closely at the photo before you notice the towers. They are there and they are not, erased but still there, shadows beating in oblivion, in memory, in the ghostly emanation of a tormented beyond. When I first saw the photo, it was as if Spiegelman had attached a stethoscope to my chest and systematically recorded every heartbeat he had been beating in my body since 9/11. Then my eyes filled with tears. tears for the dead tears for the living Tears for the atrocities we inflicted on each other, for the cruelty and savagery of all stinking humanity. Then I thought: we must love each other or die. June 2002 Invisible Joubert

Some writers live and die in the shadows, and don't begin to live for us until 318.

after they are dead. Emily Dickinson published only three poems during her lifetime; Gerard Manley Hopkins published only one. Kafka kept his unfinished novels for himself, and without a promise broken by his friend Max Brod, they would have been burned. Christopher Smart's Belamite speech, Jubilate Agno, was composed in the early 1760s but not printed until 1939. Think of how many writers disappeared when the Library of Alexandria burned down in AD 391. Think about how many books were destroyed by the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages. For every miraculous resurrection, for every work rescued from oblivion by freethinkers like Petrarch and Boccaccio, hundreds of losses can be counted. Ralph Ellison worked for years on an Invisible Man sequel novel, then the manuscript burned in a fire. In a fit of madness, Gogol destroyed the second part of Dead Souls. What we know about the work of Heraclitus and Sappho exists only in fragments. In his later years, Herman Melville was so completely forgotten that most people thought he was dead when his obituary was published in 1891. It wasn't until Moby Dick was discovered in a bookstore in 1920 that Melville was recognized as one of our novelists. essential. The afterlife for writers is precarious at best, and for those who don't publish before they die (by choice, by accident, through sheer bad luck), the fate of their work is almost certain. condemned. American poet Charles Reznikoff reported that after his death, his grandmother threw out all of her grandfather's poetry, a life's work wasted. Recently, young John Kennedy O'Toole committed suicide because he couldn't find a publisher for his book. When the novel was finally published, it was a critical success. Who knows how many unread masterpieces are hiding in attics or rotting in basements? Without someone to defend the work of a dead writer, it is as if that work was never written. Think of Osip Mandelstam, who was assassinated by Stalin in 1938. If the widow Nadezhda had not dedicated all of his work to her memory, he would be lost to us as a poet. There are dozens of posthumous writers in the history of literature, but none is stranger or darker than that of Joseph Joubert, a Frenchman who wrote in the last quarter of the 18th century and the first quarter of the 19th. Not only did he never publish a word during his lifetime, but the work he left behind escapes clear definition, which means that even after its discovery, he continues to exist as a nearly invisible writer, earning a handful of enthusiastic readers at every turn. generation. , but he never fully emerged from the shadows that surrounded him during his lifetime. Neither poet nor novelist, nor philosopher nor essayist, Joubert was a man of letters without a portfolio, whose oeuvre consists of a vast series of notebooks in which he jotted down his thoughts every day for more than forty years. All the entries are dated, but the notebooks cannot be read like a traditional journal, as there are few personal notes. Joubert was not a maxim writer in the classical French style either. He was something much stranger and more challenging: a writer who spent his life preparing for a work that was never written, a writer of the highest caliber who, paradoxically, never produced a book. Joubert speaks in a whisper and you have to get very close to hear what he says. He was born in Montignac (Dordogne) on May 7, 1754, the son of the master surgeon Jean Joubert. The second of eight surviving children, Joubert completed his local education at the age of fourteen and was sent to Toulouse to continue his studies. 319

His father expected him to pursue a career as a lawyer, but Joubert's interests were in philosophy and the classics. After graduating, he taught for several years at the school where he had studied and then returned to Montignac for two years with no career plans or obvious ambitions, already suffering from the health problems that plagued him throughout his life. In May 1778, shortly after his twenty-fourth birthday, Joubert moved to Paris, where he took up residence for himself at the Hôtel de Bordeaux, on the rue des Francs-Bourgeois. He soon became part of Diderot's circle and through this contact he came into contact with the sculptor Pigalle and many other artists of the time. During these early years in Paris, he also met Fontanes, who would be his closest friend for the rest of his life. Both Joubert and Fontanes frequented the literary salon of Countess Fanny de Beauharnais (whose niece later married Bonaparte). Other members included Buffon, La Harpe and Restif de la Bretonne. In 1785 Fontanes and Joubert attempted to start a newsletter on Parisian literary life for English subscribers, but the venture failed. That same year, Joubert formed a relationship with Restif de la Bretonne's wife, Agnès Lebègue, a woman fourteen years his senior. But in March 1786 the case ended, painful for Joubert. That same year he made his first visit to the city of Villeneuve and met Victoire Moreau, who would become his wife in 1793. During this time, Joubert read widely and wrote little. He studied philosophy, music and painting, but the various writing projects he began, a tribute to Pigalle, an essay on the navigator Cook, were never completed. Most of the time, Joubert seems to have been observing the world around him, cultivating his friendships, and meditating. Over time, he turned more and more to his notebooks as a place to develop his thoughts and explore his inner life. In the late 1780s and early 1790s they became a serious daily business for him. At first, he saw his notes as preparing himself for a larger and more systematic work, a great book of philosophy that he dreamed of having the courage to write. As the years passed and the project increasingly eluded him, he began to realize that the notebooks were an end in themselves, eventually admitting that “these thoughts form the basis not only of my work, but of my life.” ”. Joubert had long been a supporter of revolutionary views, and when the revolution came in 1789 he welcomed it enthusiastically. At the end of 1790 he was appointed magistrate of the peace of Montignac, a position of great responsibility that made him the main citizen of the city. In any case, he fulfilled his duty vigilantly and fairly and was highly respected for his work. But he soon became disillusioned with the increasingly violent nature of the revolution. He resigned for re-election in 1792 and gradually withdrew from politics. After his marriage in 1793, he retired to Villeneuve and divided his time between the country and Paris. Fontanes had gone into exile in London, where he met Chateaubriand. After returning to Paris, Joubert and these two young men ended up working at Mercure de France magazine. Joubert later helped Chateaubriand with many passages for Le Génie du Christianisme and provided him with financial assistance in difficult times. At the beginning of the 19th century, Joubert was surrounded by many of the most successful men and women in France, deeply admired for his clear ideas, keen critical intelligence, and enormous talent for friendship. When Joubert died in 1824, at the age of seventy, Chateaubriand, then minister of 320

Foreign Affairs, praised him in the Journal des débats: He was one of those men whom you loved for the tenderness of his sentiments, the goodness of his soul, the equanimity of his temper, the singularity of his character, his sharpness and brilliance of mind. - a mind that was interested in everything and understood everything. No one ever forgot so much about himself and cared so much about the well-being of others. Although Fontanes and Chateaubriand urged him to compile a book from his diary writings, Joubert resisted the temptation to publish it. The first printed selection, titled Pensées, was compiled by Chateaubriand in 1838 and privately distributed to Joubert's friends. Further editions followed, evoking sympathetic and passionate essays by figures as diverse as Saint-Beuve and Matthew Arnold, who favorably compared Joubert to Coleridge, noting that "both had an inherently passionate drive on whatever subject they set their minds to." , and an organ to find it and know when it is found." These first editions divided all of Joubert's writings into chapters with abstract titles such as "Truth," "Literature," "Family," "Society," etc. In 1938 Joubert's Los The writings were presented in their original order of composition in a two-volume work prepared by André Beaunier for Gallimard. I made my selections for this book from the 900 densely printed pages of Beaunier's painstaking edition. That one-tenth of Joubert's oeuvre is contained here. In selecting the contributions, I was guided primarily by my own contemporary and idiosyncratic taste, focusing my attention on Joubert's aesthetic theories, his "imaginary physics," and passages of direct autobiographical relevance. Joubert's lengthy reading notes while studying various philosophers: Malebranche, Kant, Locke and others, nor the frequent references to writers of his time, many of whom are unknown today. For convenience and economy, I have removed the dates before each entry. I first discovered Joubert's work in 1971 through an essay by Maurice Blanchot, "Joubert et l'espace." In it, Blanchot compares Joubert to Mallarmé and convincingly argues that he considers him the most modern writer of his time, the one who speaks to us most directly today. And indeed, the optimistic and inquisitive nature of Joubert's mind, coupled with his succinct and elegant style, has not aged with the passage of time. In the notebooks everything is mixed, reflections on literature and philosophy are scattered among observations of the climate, the landscape and politics. Entries of haunting psychological insight ("He who never backs down loves himself more than the truth") alternate with brief, haunting comments on the turmoil around him ("Stacking the dead"), which are themselves punctuated by sudden bursts of hilarity ("They say souls don't have sex; of course they do"). The more you read Joubert, the more you will want to keep reading. He captivates with his discretion and honesty, with his understated brilliance, with his quiet but wholly original way of seeing the world. At the same time, Joubert is easy to ignore. He doesn't point at himself or beat rhetorical drums at full volume and doesn't want to surprise anyone with his ideas. It's a treasured secret for those of us who love his work, but in the 164 years since his writings were first released to the public, he has attracted little attention from the 321

world. This translation was first published in 1983 by North Point Press's Jack Shoemaker, and the book has failed to evoke anything but indifference from American critics and readers. The book received only one review (in the Boston Globe) and sold around 800 copies. On the other hand, I realized the relevance of Joubert soon after the publication of the book. I gave a copy to one of my oldest friends, the painter David Reed. David had a friend who had recently ended up in Bellevue after a nervous breakdown, and when David visited him in the hospital, he lent him his copy of Joubert. Two or three weeks later, when the friend was finally released, he called David to apologize for not returning the book. After reading it, he said that he gave it to another patient. This patient had been transferred to another patient, and little by little Joubert made his way around the room. Interest in the book was so great that groups of patients would gather in the recreation room to read passages among themselves and discuss them. When David's friend got the book back, he was told it was no longer his. "This is our book," said one of the patients. "We need this." To me, this is the most eloquent book review I've ever heard, proof that the right book in the right place is medicine for the human soul. As Joubert himself said in 1801: "A thought is a thing as real as a cannonball." Aug 11, 2002 Hawthorne at home

Papa's Twenty Days with Julian & Little Bunny is one of the lesser known works of a well known writer in all of literature. Buried in the seventh folio of Hawthorne's American Notebooks, that massive volume of rarely read treasures and revelations, the fifty pages that make up this short, self-contained history were interred between July 28 and August 16, 1851, at Lenox. , Mass. , written . In June of the previous year, Hawthorne and his wife had moved to a small red farmhouse in the Berkshires with their two children, Una (born 1844) and Julian (born 1846). A third daughter, Rose, was born in May 1851. A few months later, Sophia Hawthorne left Lenox, accompanied by her two daughters and her older sister, Elizabeth Peabody, to visit her parents in West Newton, in the outside of Boston. Hawthorne, five-year-old Julian, Mrs. Peters (the cook and housekeeper) and a pet rabbit who eventually became known as Hindlegs stayed at the house. That night, after Julian was put to bed, Hawthorne sat down and wrote the first chapter of his little saga. With the sole intention of narrating what was happening in the house while his wife was away from him, he inadvertently embarked on something no writer before him had attempted: a painstaking and detailed account of a man who take care of a child. , the situation is reminiscent of the old folk tale about the farmer and his wife who trade chores for a day. There are many versions of the story, but the result is always the same. The man who belittled his wife for not 322 also

he works as hard as he scolds because he doesn't do his job well, he makes a total mistake when he puts on an apron and assumes the role of janitor. Depending on the variant you read, he sets fire to the kitchen or hangs from the rope of the family cow, which after a long chain of mishaps manages to reach the roof of the house. In all versions it is the woman who comes to the rescue. As she quietly plants in a nearby field, she hears her husband's screams and runs home to get him out of her predicament before she burns down the place or breaks her neck. Hawthorne didn't break his neck, but he clearly felt he was on rocky ground, and the tone of Twenty Days is at once comical, self-deprecating, and slightly confused, imbued with what the adult Julian would later describe as "good character." . "Seriously" from his father. Readers familiar with the style of Hawthorne's stories and novels will be impressed by the clarity and simplicity of expression in the notebooks. The dark and brooding obsession of his fiction produced a complex, often irregular, density to his sentences, a refinement that sometimes bordered on meticulous or obscure, and some readers of his early stories (mostly published unsigned) wrongly assumed that its author was a woman. Henry James, who wrote one of the first academic books on Hawthorne's work, learned much from this original and delicate prose, unique in its ability to combine the subtleties of keen psychological observation with deep moral and philosophical concerns. But James was not the only reader of Hawthorne, and there are other Hawthornes who have come down to us: Hawthorne the allegorist, Hawthorne the very romantic fabulist, Hawthorne the chronicler of seventeenth-century colonial New England, and, above all, Hawthorne reinterpreted by Borges. , forerunner of Kafka. Hawthorne's fiction can be read profitably from any of these angles, but there is another Hawthorne who has been more or less forgotten and neglected by the magnitude of his other achievements: the private Hawthorne, the writer of impulsive anecdotes and thoughts, the generator of ideas, meteorologist and landscaper, traveler, letter writer, everyday historian. The pages of American Notebooks are so fresh, so vivid in their articulation, that Hawthorne emerges not as a venerable figure from the literary past but as a contemporary, a man whose time remains the present. Twenty days was not the only time he wrote about his children. By the time Una and Julian were old enough to talk, he seemed to really enjoy writing down some of his craziest statements, and the notebooks are full of notes like these: "I've had enough of every nook and cranny and want to slide down to God. I'm sick of the little Una Hawsorne. "Are you sick of Mommy?" "NO." "But are you sick of Daddy?" "NO. I'm tired of Dora and tired of little Julian and tired of little Una Hawsorne." Una - "You hurt me a little." Julian - "Well, it's going to hurt a lot." Julian - "Mom, why no dinner ?" - Mom - "Why isn't a chair a table?" - Julián - "Because it's a teapot".


I told Julián: "Let me take off your bib" - and he didn't notice, I repeated it two or three times, each time louder than before. Finally, he roared, "Let me rip your head off!" Sunday, March 19, 1848, while on duty in the United States. Salem Customs spent the entire day recording the activities and antics of his two children, one just four years old and the other just under two. It's a fast-paced nine-page tale that meticulously records every child's whims and moods over the course of eleven hours. Devoid of the sentimental flourishes one expects of a 19th-century parent, devoid of moralizing judgments or intrusive commentary, it is a remarkable portrayal of childhood reality, which itself seems timeless because of these passages of equality. Now Una offers Julián her finger and they walk together, the boy imitating the step of a man. Now Una suggests playing cat in the corner; and there's a quick tattoo of little feet all over the floor. Julian lets out a plaintive cry for something - Una rushes in and kisses him. One says, "Father, I won't be naughty this morning." Now they are playing with rubber balls. Julian tries to toss the ball into the air, but most of the time he can't get it over his head. He rolls, and he searches for her, asking, “Where's the ball?”... Julian now falls briefly into a reverie: his mind seems far away, lost in memories; but what can they be? memories of a pre-existence. He now he is sitting in her high chair, her voluminous figure looks like a miniature alderman... Mom puts her purple fur on little Una to go out with Dora. One promises to be a very good girl and take care of Dora, and not run away or step in the mud. The child approaches and repeats: "Go! - Go!" -and thus indicates his desire to be eliminated as well. He paces up and down the room with a marvelous ostentation—the ridiculousness of which he seems perfectly aware; and when I laugh, he comes up to my elbow and looks me in the face with a very kind answer... He climbs on a chair next to my knee and looks at himself in the mirror - now he looks curiously at the page as I write - now he's about to fall and at first he freaks out - but when he sees me freak out too, he pretends he's going to fall again, and then he laughs in my face. Come with the milk for mommy. He sits on his mother's lap, swallowing the milk with contented grunts and sighs. He doesn't stop until the glass is empty, non-stop, and still he keeps asking for more. He takes an air bath as he undresses, enjoying the bliss of total nudity, and runs off yelling in protest at his mother when she tries to put his nightgown on him. Now follows a terrible catastrophe - not to be mentioned in our beautiful story... Enter Una - "Where is little Julian?" "He has gone for a walk." "NO; but I mean, where is little Julian's place that you wrote about him? So I point to his side with as much satisfaction as possible; and she watches the quill advance. "I'll get the ink for you,” she says. Are you going to write all this?" she adds, turning the book over... Tell her I'm writing about myself now - "It feels good to write this," she says... One now suggests she build a log house with her, so they start building together, but she's barely sitting on the raised foundation when Julian knocks her down. So be it, Una starts a new one. "Dad! "Or if!" Julián yells and points to two blocks that he put together... 324 came out

blocks, and Julián again offers to take the chair up to the bookstore; and again it is forbidden by me; -then cries-A she hastens to kiss and comfort him-and then comes to me with a solemn plea of ​​no small length; the charge is: "Dad, you shouldn't talk so loud to a child of only six months"... She comes and sits quietly on my lap and rests her head on my shoulder. Julian has climbed into a chair by the window and seems to be watching and thinking; then we have a very quiet interval until he annoys her by coming over to her and taking her shoe off. He seldom dares to do any mischief he finds in her hand: for instance, when he found her bare knee, he only seized the opportunity to pinch it with all his might... Hawthorne repeated the exercise four days later. , on Thursday. on March 23, and six more times in 1849, which would add up to thirty pages in the Centennial Edition of the notebooks. He added to his descriptions of his children's games, fights, and inner storms, pausing at times to make a series of more general observations about his personalities. Two short passages about Una are of particular interest, as she is often taken as the model for the character of Pearl in The Scarlet Letter. Dated January 28, 1849: “Her beauty of hers is the most fleeting, fleeting, uncertain, inexplicable thing that she has had a real existence; she shines when no one expects it, she mysteriously disappears when one thinks she is fine; – If you look at her from the side you might think that she lights up her face, but if you turn her around to enjoy that's how it is…. When she is truly visible, it is rare and precious, like an angel's vision; it is a metamorphosis, a grace, a delicacy, an ethereal delicacy that, in the depths of my soul, makes me instantly abandon any hard opinion that I have begun to form about her. It is fair to conclude that on these occasions we see her true soul; if it looks less beautiful, we only see something external. But, in fact, one manifestation belongs to him as much as the other; for what is character, prior to the establishment of principles, if not the series and succession of humors? angelic, but certainly supernatural. She steps so boldly into the midst of it all, nothing backs down, she's so understanding of everything, seems to have little tenderness at times, and soon shows that she has the best nature of hers; now so hard, now so tender; now so completely irrational, then so wise again. In short, from time to time I recognize an aspect of her that I can't believe is my own human daughter, but a ghost strangely mixed with good and evil, haunting the house I live in. The small child is always the same child and never changes in relation to me. In the summer of 1851, Hawthorne was a keen observer of his own children, a veteran of family life. He was forty-seven years old and had been married for almost a decade. He may not have known it at the time, but almost every major piece of fiction he would publish had already been written. Behind him were the two editions of Twice-Told Tales (1837 and 1842), Mosses from an Old Manse (1846) and The Snow-Image and Other Twice-Told Tales (already completed and planned for the end of 1851), all the production of it. as a storyteller. His first two novels were published in 1850 and 1851. The Scarlet Letter had made "America's darkest literary man" one of the most esteemed and famous writers of his day, and The House of the Seven Gables did little more than strengthen his reputation, which aroused many. critics

call him the best writer the republic has produced so far. Years of lonely toil finally brought him a public reward, and after two decades of struggling to make ends meet, 1851 was the first year Hawthorne wrote enough to support his family. There was also no reason to believe that his success would not last. Throughout the spring and early summer she wrote A Wonderful Book for Girls and Boys, finishing the foreword on July 15, just two weeks before Sophia left for West Newton, and already making plans for her next novel, The Blithedale. Romance. . Looking back on Hawthorne's career now and knowing that he would die only thirteen years later (a few weeks short of his sixtieth birthday), this tenure at Lenox stands as one of the happiest periods of his life, a moment of sublime balance. and satisfaction. . But it was almost August, and for many years Hawthorne had routinely suspended his writing work during the warm months. According to him, it was a time to rest and think, a time to be outdoors, and he always wrote as little as possible during the canine days of New England summers. By chronicling the three weeks he spent with his son, he wasn't taking time away from more important projects. It was the only job he did, the only job he wanted to do. * The move to Lenox was hastened by Hawthorne's disastrous experience in Salem in 1849. As he said in a letter to his friend Horatio Bridge, he grew to hate the town "so much that I hate to go out into the street or let people see me." ." Anywhere else, I'll be a very different person in an instant." Hawthorne was appointed inspector of the Salem Custom House in 1846 (during the Democratic administration of James Polk) and accomplished almost nothing in the three years he held the post as a writer. With the election of Whig candidate Zachary Taylor in 1848, Hawthorne was removed when the new government took office in March 1849, but not without making a lot of noise in his own defense, leading to a highly publicized controversy over the practice of the Whig. political patronage. in America led. Just as this fight was taking place, Hawthorne's mother died after a brief illness. The notebook entries from those days in late July rank among the most heartbreaking and emotionally charged paragraphs in all of Hawthorne. Louisa pointed to a chair next to the bed; but I was led to kneel by my mother and take her hand. She knew me, but she could only stammer a few slurred words, so I understood a restraining order to take care of my sisters. Lady. Dike left the room and then tears slowly welled up in my eyes. I tried to keep it low; but it wouldn't be - I kept filling until I was shaking with sobs for a few moments. For a long time I knelt there and held her hand; and it certainly is the darkest moment I have ever known.” Ten days after his mother's death, Hawthorne lost the fight over his job. A few days after his release (perhaps the same day, if the family legend is to be believed), he began writing The Scarlet Letter, which took six months to complete. Under great financial pressure during this period, his fortunes suddenly and unexpectedly improved when the Ticknor and Fields company made plans to publish the novel. By registering privately and anonymously, Hawthorne's friends and supporters (probably including Longfellow and Lowell) "who admire his genius and respect his 326

character ... [and to] pay the debt we owe him for what he has done for American literature,” he raised the sum of five hundred dollars to help Hawthorne overcome his troubles. This stroke of luck allowed Hawthorne to fulfill his increasingly urgent desire to leave his hometown of Salem and become "a citizen of another place." After various options fell through (a farmhouse in Manchester, New Hampshire, a house in Kittery, Maine), he and Sophia finally settled on the red farmhouse in Lenox. It was, as Hawthorne told one of his former customs officers, "red as a scarlet letter." Sophia was responsible for finding the place, which was on a larger property called Highwood, currently rented by the Tappan family. Lady. Tappan, born Caroline Sturgis, was a friend of Sophia's and it was she who offered the house to the Hawthornes for free. Aware of the complications that could arise from living off other people's largesse, Hawthorne made a deal with Mr. Tappan to pay a nominal rent of seventy-five dollars over four years. It can be assumed that he was happy with the arrangement, but that did not stop him from complaining about many little things. Once the family had settled into the house, Hawthorne caught a bad cold that forced him to bed for several days, and soon he was writing a letter to his sister Louisa complaining that the farm was "the meanest little house I have ever built." ". . . my head." (Even optimistic Sophia, who tended to see adversity in the best possible light, admitted in a letter to her mother that this was "the smallest of ten-foot houses" - only suitable for a family of four, much less than five.) If the house displeased Hawthorne, he had even harsher things to say about the surrounding countryside. Sixteen months after moving in, he wrote to his publisher James T. Fields: "I've been here too long and constantly. To tell you a secret, I am sick of Berkshire and I hate to think of spending another winter here... The air and climate are not good for my health and for the first time since I was a child I felt lethargic. and discouraged for most of my life. part of my stay here. Oh, that Providence would build me the smallest hut, and make me a tax collector's patch or two by the shore." A passage from the Introduction to the Tanglewood Tales (a second volume of Greek myths for children) reads : "But for me, in these wide meadows and gentle hills, lies a peculiar and quiet charm. They are better than mountains because they do not mark or mark stereotyped thoughts in the brain and thus become tedious with the same strong impression repeated day after day. A few weeks of summer among the mountains, a life among green meadows and gentle slopes, with ever new contours because they fade again and again from memory. That would be my sober choice.” It is ironic that the Lenox area is still called “Tanglewood”. The word was Hawthorne's invention and is now indelibly linked to the music festival that is held there each year. For a man who hated the area and fled after just eighteen months, he left his for good. Still, whether he knew it or not, it was the best time of his life. Well-married to an intelligent and notoriously devoted woman, Hawthorne planted his garden, fed his chickens, and played with his children in the afternoon amidst the most prolific The most shy and withdrawn of all men, Hawthorne, known for his habit of hiding behind rocks and trees to avoid talking to people he knew, he kept to himself during his stay in the Berkshires and avoided the 327

social activities of the local nobility and only appeared in town to collect the mail and return home. Loneliness was his natural element, and given the circumstances of his life in his late thirties, it was remarkable that he had married. When you were a person whose father, the ship's captain, had died in Suriname when you were four, when you grew up with a distant and elusive mother who lived in a state of permanent widowhood and isolation when you served, which is probably what literary training strictest ever, locked in his room in a house they called Castle Dismal for twelve years, leaving Salem alone in the summer for solitary forays into the New England countryside, for perhaps the company of his immediate family it was enough. Hawthorne married late to a woman who married late, and in the 22 years they lived together they were rarely apart. He called her Phoebe, dove, beloved, dear, her own. “Sometimes,” he had written to her during their courtship in 1840, “during my solitary life in our old Salem house, it seemed to me that I had enough life to know that I was not alive; because I had no wife to warm my heart. But finally you revealed yourself to me, in the shadow of a seclusion as deep as mine. I got closer and closer to you and opened my heart to you, and you came to me and you will remain forever, warming my heart and renewing my life with yours. You just showed me that I have a heart, you just lit a light deep and high in my soul. You just revealed to me; because without his help, my best knowledge of myself would have been only knowing my own shadow: seeing it blink on the wall and mistaking its fantasies for my own real actions. Do you understand what you did for me? They lived in isolation but still visited (relatives, old friends) and kept in touch with some of their neighbors. One of them, who lived six miles away in Pittsfield, was Herman Melville, then 31 years old. Much has been written (partly relevant, partly nonsensical) about the relationship between the two authors, but it is clear that Hawthorne opened up to the young Melville with uncommon enthusiasm and thoroughly enjoyed his company. As he wrote to his friend Bridge on August 7, 1850: "I met Melville the other day and liked him so much that I asked him to spend a few days with me before I left this country." he visited at the time, but in October he returned, purchased the Pittsfield property, renamed it Arrowhead, and settled in the Berkshires as a full-time resident. Over the next thirteen months, the two men talked, corresponded, and read each other's work, occasionally crossing the six miles between them to stay as guests in each other's homes. "There's nothing I like more," Sophia wrote to her sister Elizabeth of the friendship between her husband and Melville (whom she jokingly called Mr. Omoo), "than to sit and listen to this growing man pour out his turbulent Thought waves against Mr. Hawthorne is great, kind." , understanding the silence…. Doing nothing but being, it's amazing how people make him their inner confessor." For Melville, finding Hawthorne and his writings marked a major turning point in his life. He had already begun his White Whale story (intended as a conventional high-seas adventure novel) at the time of their first meeting, but under Hawthorne's influence, the book began to change, deepen, and expand, becoming wild. . it was the inspiration for the richest of all American novels, Moby-Dick. Like anyone who has read 328

the book knows, on the first page it says: "As a token of my admiration for your genius, this book is inscribed Nathaniel Hawthorne." Although Hawthorne accomplished nothing else during his time at Lenox, he unknowingly served as Melville's muse. The contract lasted four years, but shortly after completing Twenty Days and Sophia's Return of West Newton with Una and Baby Rose, Hawthorne managed to fight his owner over a trivial boundary issue. The issue at hand was whether he and his family had the right to pick the fruits and berries from the trees and shrubs on the property. In a long and hilariously scathing letter to Mrs. Tappan, dated September 5, 1851, Hawthorne laid out the case for him and concluded with a rather ugly challenge: little more than "a bunch of rotten plums to argue with." by this time, Hawthorne had decided to move out, and the family soon packed up and he left the house on November 21. Just a week earlier, on November 14, Melville had received his first copies of Moby-Dick. That same day, he drove to the red farmhouse and invited Hawthorne to a farewell dinner at Curtis's Hotel in Lenox, where he presented his friend with a copy of the book. Until now, Hawthorne was unaware of his prodigious devotion to him, and while his reaction to this unexpected tribute to his "brilliance of him" is not recorded, we can only assume that he was deeply moved. Still, he was excited enough to start reading the book as soon as he returned home, surrounded by the chaos of boxes and crates, as his family prepared to leave. He must have read the book quickly and intently, for his reply reached Melville on the 16th. All but one of Hawthorne's letters to Melville have been lost, but several letters from Melville to Hawthorne survive, and his reply to that letter is a of the most important. memorable and most quoted letters in all of American literature: "... An unspeakable feeling of security is in me at this moment because you understood the book. I wrote a wicked book and I feel faultless as the lamb. inexpressible are they in me... I would sit and dine with you and all the gods of the pantheon of ancient Rome... Where are you from, Hawthorne? By what right do you drink from the pot of my life? And when I put it on my lips - behold, they are yours and not mine. I feel that Divinity breaks like bread in communion and we are the pieces. Hence this infinite brotherhood of feelings... I will leave the world with greater satisfaction for having met you. You convince me more than the Bible of our immortality." *Melville has a few appearances in Twenty Days with Julian and Little Bunny, but the essence of the play is the child himself, the daily activities of father and son, and the transient trifles of domestic life.imagine a more boring or mundane enterprise.Hawthorne wrote Sophia's diary, it was written in a separate family notebook, which they both used to record material about the children (and which the 329th

Children had access to it, too, sometimes adding their own drawings and doodles, and in some cases even tracing their pencils directly over the texts their parents wrote.) Hawthorne intended that his wife should read the little work on her return from West Newton, and he appears to have done so at the first opportunity. Three days later (August 19, 1851), Sophia described the return trip to Lenox in a letter to her mother: “...One was very tired, and her eyes were as hollow as Daniel Webster's, until she saw the Red House; and she then she started screaming and clapping her hands for joy. The Lord. Hawthorne went away with a thousand welcomes in his eyes, and Julian gushed forth like a fountain and it was impossible to contain him.... I found that Mr. Hawthorne was writing an exact account of his and Julian's life from the time of our departure. One day he had tea with some gentlemen from New York, and they took him and Julian for a long walk; and they all went on a picnic together and didn't get home until eight. The Lord. Melville came with these gentlemen and once before in my absence. The Lord. Hawthorne also received a visit from a Philadelphia Quaker, Elizabeth Lloyd, who came to see the author of The Scarlet Letter. She said it was a very good call. The Lord. [G.P.R.] James also came twice, once with most of his family, once during a storm. Julian's speech flowed like a babbling stream, he writes, through all of his musings and readings for the entire three weeks. They spent a lot of time on the lakes and put Nat's boat out to sea... Sometimes Julian longed for Mom thoughtfully, but he was never upset or unhappy. There's a lovely story about the poor little bunny who died the morning we came back. It didn't seem like he should die unless he licked up the water from the bathroom floor. But they found him bald and stiff. Lady. Peters smiled broadly and was very glad to see me..." After Hawthorne's death in 1864, James T. Fields, Hawthorne's publisher and also editor of the Atlantic Monthly, persuaded Sophia to select excerpts from the notebooks of her husband for publication in The passages appeared in twelve consecutive editions in 1866, but when the time came for Twenty Days with Julian and Little Bunny, which Fields hoped to include, he hesitated, stating that Julian would need to be consulted first.There were no objections, but Sophia was reluctant to consent, and after some thought, decided not to print the material, explaining to Fields that Hawthorne "never wished for such an intimate domestic history to be published, and I" When Julian published his In his own book Nathaniel Hawthorne and His Wife in 1884, he included a number of extracts from Twenty Days and commented that the three weeks he spent alone with his father "must have been tedious work for Hawthorne at times, for the boy". it was an unbroken succession of happy days." He mentions that a complete version of the journal "would make the story as unique and colorful as ever," however, it wasn't until 1932, when Randall Stewart compiled the first scholarly edition of American Notebooks, Twenty Days with Julian & Little Bunny, which was eventually made available to the public, not as a separate book (as Julian had suggested), but as one section in a long 800-page volume, covering the years 1835-1853. Why release it now as a stand-alone work? Why should this drab little piece of prose hold our interest more than a hundred and fifty years after it was written? I wish I could make a compelling case, present a dazzlingly elaborate argument that proves its greatness, but if the work is great, it is great only in miniature, great only because the writing itself yields to pleasure.

Days is a humorous work from a notoriously melancholic man, and anyone who has spent any time in the company of a child will surely vouch for the accuracy and honesty of Hawthorne's account. Una and Julian were raised in an unorthodox manner, even by mid-19th century New England Transcendentalist standards. Although they reached school age during their time at Lenox, neither of them was sent to school and they spent their days at home with her mother, who took care of their education and rarely allowed them to socialize with other children. The hermetic Eden atmosphere that Hawthorne and Sophia sought to establish in Concord after their marriage apparently continued after they became parents. In a letter from Lenox to her mother, Sophia eloquently explained her philosophy of raising children: “... Woe to those who advise their little children to be strict and strict instead of loving! How little they resemble God, how much they resemble Solomon, whom I really believe many people prefer to imitate and believe they are doing well. Infinite patience, infinite tenderness, infinite generosity: nothing less will suffice, and we must practice them as much as finite forces allow. Above all, no parent should be proud of power. This is, without a doubt, the great obstacle to which one should never succumb. Hence the severe rebuke, cruel blow, anger. A tender sadness, a compassionate remorse must appear alone in a child's transgression... Yet how inflexible is often the judgment and treatment of these small transgressions! Personally, when my children are disobedient, I am not distressed, and they see it and therefore feel that it is a selfless desire to do what is right that compels me to persevere. There is a big difference between indulgence and tenderness." Hawthorne, subservient to his wife in all family and domestic matters, played a much less active role in raising the children. "If dad didn't write, how nice it would be," quoted Julián Una, who one day explained, and according to him, "with all his father's writings, they felt that he was lost in his office when he could be with them, and he couldn't have nothing in any book, his or others', could for a moment bear comparison with his actual company.When the job was completed, Hawthorne seemed to prefer to act as a playmate to his children rather than a classic father figure: "Our father was a very good tree climber," Julian recalls, "and he liked to play wizard too. Your eyes! he'd say, and the next moment, standing over us on the moss, we heard his voice coming down from the heaven, and lo! It swayed from the highest branches and a shower of nuts rained down. In her many letters and journal entries of this period, Sophia often caught glimpses of Hawthorne alone with the two children. Hawthorne —informed her mother—is lying in the sun, lightly dappled by the shade of a tree, and Una and Julian have made him resemble mighty Pan by covering his chin and chest with long blades of grass, resembling a venerable green beard.” And again, a few days later, to her mother: “Dear little Una, inspired by the harp, whose love for her father deepens every day…she was so sad that he did not attend the left Look, his absence eclipsed the whole sol , and when I asked him why he couldn't enjoy the walk like Julián, he replied: "Oh, he doesn't love dad like me!"... After having put Julián to sleep, I went to the chicken coop. to see the chickens and she was about to go out. There daddy was sitting in the hay and she was drawn like a needle to a magnet, 331

and asked to see dad a little more and stay with him. Now she came, quite tired; and after soaking her spirit in this rose and gold of dawn, she lay down. With such a father and such a scene before hers eyes of hers, and eyes of hers to see, what can we not expect from her? I heard you and Julian talking about his father's smile the other day, you were talking about someone else's smile, Mr. Tappans I think; and finally Una said, "But you know, Julian, there's no smile like Daddy's!" "Oh no," Julian replied. 'Not like papa!'" In 1904, many years after Una's untimely death at thirty-three, Thomas Wentworth Higginson published a commemorative article about her in The Outlook, a popular periodical at the time. In He quotes his words about his father: "He was capable of being the gayest person I have ever seen in my life. He was like a child. He was never a playmate like him anywhere in the world." behind the spirit of Twenty Days with Julian & Little Bunny. The Hawthornes were a consciously progressive family, and their treatment of their children, for the most part, corresponded to the attitudes prevailing among secular American middle class today. strict discipline, no corporal punishment, no strident reprimands Some people found the Hawthorne children stubborn and undisciplined, but Sophia, always inclined to view them as exemplary creatures, cheerfully reported in a letter to her mother that "at a local torchlight festival, the children were having such a good time and were being so good. ". who won all hearts. They thought there was never a boy as big as Julian or as graceful as Una. "You're not very shy or daring," said Mrs. Field, "but fair." ' is, of course, a matter of opinion. Hawthorne, always harsher in his comments than his wife, incapable by instinct and habit of letting love sway his judgments, makes no secret of how irritating the presence sometimes was. of Julian. This theme appears on the front page of the diary and emerges throughout the twenty days they spent together. The boy was a real talker, a tiny logorrhea motor, and within hours of Sophia's departure, Hawthorne was already he complained that "it is impossible to write, read, think or even (during the day) sleep as constantly as he does. "for me one way or another." The second night, after Hawthorne once again noted the endless chatter on Julian's lips, he tucked him into bed, adding, "I also need not hesitate to say I'm glad to be rid of him—it was my first relief from his company of the day. Maybe that's an exaggeration." Five days later, on August 3, he repeated the same theme: “Either today I have less patience than usual, or the little man demands more; but it really seems that he deceived me with more questions, hints, and remarks than he should ascribe to a mortal father." And again on August 5: “he continues to torment Me with his inquisitions. Like right now, while he's carving with my razor. "Dad, if you bought all the knives at the store, what would you do for a different one if you broke them all?" “I would go elsewhere,” I say. But it can't be caught. "If you bought all the folding knives in the world, what would you do?" And this is where my patience breaks, and I beg you not to bother me with any more stupid questions. I really think it would do you good to beat him, according to that habit. And again on August 10: "Have mercy, no one has ever been so bombarded with childish words as I have!" These minor irritations alone give the text its charm, and its 332

TRUE. No sane person can bear the company of a highly stressed child without the occasional meltdown, and Hawthorne's admissions of less-than-perfect calm make the journal more than just a personal album of summer memories. Sure, the lyrics are sweet, but they're never sugary (too much wit, too much bite), and because Hawthorne fails to sugarcoat his own missteps and downbeat moments, they take us beyond a purely private space into something more universal, more human. He's controlling his temper when he's about to lose his composure, and talk of hitting the boy is just a passing impulse, a way of blowing off steam with his pen instead of his hand. On the whole, he displays remarkable patience in his dealings with Julian, giving in to the five-year-old's whims, antics, and crooked speeches with unflinching equanimity and readily admitting that "he's such a nice, good-natured little man there certainly is." . a pleasure mixed with all this trouble." Despite the difficulties and potential frustrations, Hawthorne was determined not to hold his son back too much. After giving birth to Rose in May, Julian was forced to tiptoe around the house and whisper. Now, all of a sudden, he can "scream and yell as loud as he likes," and the father understands the boy's thirst for excitement. "He likes his freedom so much," Hawthorne writes on the second day, "that I don't have any his intention, no matter what noise he makes. Julian wasn't the only source of irritation, however. On July 29, the celibate husband broke out unexpectedly, erupting into a splenic tirade about one of his constant obsessions: "This is terrible, terrible, terrible weather; you don't know for ten minutes if it's too cold or too hot, but it's always one or the other, and the constant result is a pathetic disruption of the system. I despise! I hate it! I hate it! I hate Berkshire with all my soul and I would love to see your mountains crushed." On August 8, after a trip with Melville and others to the Shaker community in nearby Hancock, he had nothing but the most perverse and scathing comments about the cult: "...all your pathetic claims of cleanliness and order are the best of superficialities. ... Shakers are, and should be, a dirty bunch. And then her complete and systematic lack of privacy; their close association of man to man [two men habitually slept in a small bed] and the surveillance of one man over the other: it is hateful and disgusting to think of it; and the sooner the cult died, the better…” Then he applauds Julian, with a kind of wry sarcasm, for following a call of nature when they visited and defecated on the property. “Our little man passed through this strange town, happy and dancing, in the best of humors; neither he nor he was there long before I wanted to consult myself, nor was he opposed to me giving such a token of his consideration (that they were more worthy) to the system and institution of these foolish Shakers. Maybe less serious, maybe. But with a notable touch of disdain, he also said some nasty things about her neighbor and landlady, Caroline Tappan, a good month before the infamous fruit tree controversy suggested an earlier, perhaps long-standing dislike. (Some biographers have speculated that she stopped by Hawthorne's during Sophia's absence, or at least she would have been willing to if he had encouraged her.) , but for various reasons (a menacing dog, abuse by the Tappans' youngest daughter) the new arrangement didn't work. Lady. Tappan approached Hawthorne and "talked about giving it to little Marshall Butler, and she also suggested (in response to 333

something I said about banishing it from existence) that can be taken into the forest to move around. There is something characteristic in this notion; he displays the kind of sensitivity that finds other people's pain and misery as unpleasant as a bad smell, but calms down completely when removed from his sphere. I suppose he wouldn't have killed Bunny for the world, even if she had exposed him to the knowledge of continual starvation without compunction or remorse. serene, sober and rustic. Every morning Hawthorne and Julian went to a neighboring farm for milk; They engaged in "mock battles", picked up mail from the Lenox Post Office in the afternoons, and made frequent trips to the lake. Along the way, they waged "the war with the thistles", which was Julián's favorite sport, pretending that the thistles were kites and hitting them vigorously with sticks. They picked flowers, gooseberries and green beans and zucchini from the garden. Hawthorne built a makeshift boat for Julian, using newspapers for a sail; a drowning cat was rescued from a cistern; and during their visits to the lake they fished, threw stones into the water, and dug in the sand. Hawthorne bathed Julian every morning and then wrestled with the chore of curling his hair, with rarely satisfactory results. Nocturnal enuresis occurred on August 3, a painful wasp sting on the 5th, abdominal pain and headaches requiring treatment on the 13th and 14th, and premature loss of bladder control on the way home on the 6th. which led Hawthorne to comment: "I heard him squeal while I was some distance behind him, and when I got closer I saw that he was walking between his legs. Poor little fellow! His breeches were in place. Though he was not of the same sort All familiar with the job, the father gradually became the mother, and on August 12 we understand just how fully Hawthorne took on the role when it was his first, as he suddenly lost track of where Julian had been for more than two weeks. ." After dinner I sat down with a book... and he was absent in parts unknown for a period of an hour. I finally thought it was time to see it; because now that I'm alone with him, I've joined all his mother's concerns with mine. Then I went to the barn and the currant bushes and wept in vain for the house and at the end I sat in the hay not knowing how to look for it. But little by little he would run around the house holding his little fist, with a smiling phiz, and shouting that he had something very good for me.” In addition to the August 8 trip to Shaker Village with Melville, who stayed close to home, but This trip turned out to be an emotional experience for the boy, and Hawthorne is better at capturing his excitement by being able to see the event through his son's eyes - indeed, but without the full moon it would have been quite dark - he still behaved like an old traveler, but sometimes he would look at me from the front seat (where he sat between Herman Melville and Evert Duyckinck) and smile at me with a strange expression, and touch me with his hand again, a way of inspiring sympathy for what he said to him. seemed, without doubt, the wildest and most unprecedented series of adventures that ever befell mortal travelers." Julian Hawthorne proclaimed that he loved Mr. Melville as much as he loved his father, mother, and Una, and based on the evidence of a short letter sent by Melville to Julian six months later (long after the Hawthornes had left), the 334

Berkshires), this affection seems to have been reciprocated. "So happy to have a place in the heart of such a great guy like you," he wrote, and then, after commenting on the drifts of snow in the woods around Pittsfield, he ended with a warm farewell: "Kindly remember his good father, Master Julian, and farewell, and heaven bless you always, and be a good boy and become a great good man." An earlier visit of Melville to Lenox on August 1 (his thirty-second birthday ) provided Hawthorne with probably the best hours of those three weeks of bachelor life.After passing the post office with Julian that afternoon, he stopped in an out-of-the-way spot to read his paper on the way home, when "a horseman appeared in the way and greeted me in Spanish; to which I responded by touching my hat and continued reading the newspaper. But when the Knight greeted me again, I looked at him more closely and saw that it was Herman Melville!" Not that it is probably the most quoted phrase in two American Notebooks, Hawthorne continues: "After dinner, I put Julian to sleep; and Melville and I talked about time and eternity, things of this world and the next, books, publications and everything." possible and impossible sorts of things, which lasted late into the night, and indeed we smoked cigars even within the hallowed enclosure of the living room.At last he got up, saddled his horse (which we had stabled ) and went off to his own house; and I hastened to make the most of what little sleep I had. That was the one electrifying moment in a period of slow days. When he wasn't looking after Julian, Hawthorne wrote letters, read Fourier while he he was preparing to begin The Blithedale Romance and was half occupied with Thackeray's Pendennis. The diary contains many astutely written passages about the changing light of the landscape (few novelists have considered nature as closely as Hawthorne) and a handful of whimsical and increasingly sympathetic descriptions of Hindlegs, the pet rabbit who sadly died when the chronicle came. end. Yet the longer his loneliness lasted, the more Hawthorne longed for his wife to come home. Early last week, that feeling turned into constant pain. After putting Julian to bed on the night of August 10, he suddenly released himself and collapsed in a rhapsodic outburst of longing and fidelity. "For once, let me be very frank: he's a sweet, adorable little boy and he deserves all the love I can give him. Thank God! God bless him! God bless Phoebe for giving it to me! God bless her as the best wife and mother". God bless Una, hope to see you again! God bless the little rosebud! God bless me, for Phoebe's sake and all hers! No other man has such a good wife; no one has better children. I wish he was more worthy of her and of them!" The entry then concludes: "My nights are all sad, alone and with no books to read; and that night was like all the others. So I went to bed around nine, missing Phoebe." until the 16th. Increasingly anxious and frustrated, Hawthorne dutifully continued with the journal. On the last day, on another visit to the lake with Julian, he sat by the water's edge with a magazine and how 335

As he read, he was led to the following remark, which in a way counts as a brief and casual ars poetica, a concise description of the spirit and methodology of all his writing: '...the best way to get a vivid impression and the sensation of a landscape, is sitting in front of it and reading or getting lost in thought; for then, when your eyes are drawn to the landscape, you seem to surprise nature, and see her before she has time to change her appearance. The effect only lasts for a moment and wears off almost as quickly as you notice it; but right now it's real. It's like you can hear and understand what the trees whisper to each other; as if one could see a unveiled face that is hidden from any idiosyncratic look. The mystery is revealed and after a breath or two it becomes just as mysterious as before. Like the landscapes, so the people, especially the little people in the drunkenness of childhood. In them, everything is change, everything is movement, and their nature can only be apprehended "surprisingly" at times when they are not consciously looking for it. That's the beauty of Hawthorne's notebook writing. Despite all the work and tedium of his constant company with the five-year-old, Hawthorne was able to look at him long enough to catch something of his essence, to bring it to life in words. A century and a half later, we're still trying to figure out our children, but these days we do it by taking pictures and following them with video cameras. But words are better, I think, because they don't disappear over time. Of course, it takes more effort to write a true sentence than it does to focus a lens and press a button, but words go deeper than images, which rarely manage to capture more than the surface of things, be they landscapes or the faces of children. The soul is missing from all but the best or happiest photos. That is why Twenty Days with Julian & Little Bunny deserves our attention. In his humble, stolid way, Hawthorne achieved what every father dreams of: keeping his son alive forever. July 2002 OPPORTUNITIES

A prayer for Salman Rushdie

When I sat down to write this morning my first thought was of Salman Rushdie. I have been doing this every morning for almost four and a half years and it is now an integral part of my daily routine. I take my pen and before starting to write I think about my fellow writers on the other side of the pond. I pray that he lives another twenty-four hours. I pray that your English protectors hide you from the people who want to assassinate you, the same people who have already killed one of your translators and wounded another. Above all, I pray that there will come a time when these 336

Prayer is no longer necessary when Salman Rushdie can walk the streets of the world as freely as I can. I pray for this man every morning, but deep down I know that I pray for myself too. His life is in danger because he has written a book. Writing books is also my thing, and I know that without the quirks of the story and sheer luck, I might have been in his place. If not today, maybe tomorrow. We belong to the same club: a secret community of loners, recluses, and weirdos, men and women who spend most of their time cooped up in small spaces, struggling to put words on a page. It's a strange way to live your life and only a person who has no other choice in the matter would choose it as his calling. It's too tedious, too low-paid, too full of disappointment to be suitable for anyone else. Talents vary, ambitions vary, but any writer worth their salt will say the same thing: to write a work of fiction, you must be free to say what you have to say. I exercised that freedom with every word I wrote, just like Salman Rushdie. That makes us brothers, that's why your situation is mine too. I don't know what I would do if I were him, but I can imagine it, or at least try to imagine it. To be honest, I'm not sure he would have been capable of the courage he displayed. The man's life is in shambles, but he continues to do what he was born to do. Pushed from one shelter to another, isolated from his son, surrounded by security police, he continued to go to his desk and write every day. Knowing how difficult it is to do this even under the best of circumstances, I can only marvel at what he accomplished. A romance; another romance in the making; a series of extraordinary essays and speeches in defense of the fundamental human right to freedom of expression. This is all remarkable enough, but what really amazes me is that in addition to this substantial work, he has taken the time to review