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“Deep down, I don’t believe it takes any special talent for a person to lift himself off the ground and hover in the air. We all have it in us—every man, woman, and child—and with enough hard work and concentration, every human being is capable of…the feat….You must learn to stop being yourself. That’s where it begins, and everything else follows from that. You must let yourself evaporate. Let your muscles go limp, breathe until you feel your soul pouring out of you, and then shut your eyes. That’s how it’s done. The emptiness inside your body grows lighter than the air around you. Little by little, you begin to weigh less than nothing. You shut your eyes; you spread your arms; you let yourself evaporate. And then, little by little, you lift yourself off the ground. Like so.” Paul Auster, Mr. Vertigo

Anka Zhuravleva Distorted Gravity
Anka Zhuravleva Distorted Gravity

Anka Zhuravleva photos, paintings, drawings.

On Lolita, Rose La Touche, Saint Ursula and The 11,000 Virgins

Vittore Carpaccio, Apotheosis of St. Ursula, 1491

E’ indubbio ‘Lolita’ di Vladimir Nabokov un romanzo controverso che a oggi crea ancora sensazione e divide i lettori; tanti si rifiutano di leggerlo precludendo a se stessi la possibilità di farsene un’opinione, eventualmente apprezzarlo, eventualmente ignorarne i contenuti o disprezzarlo; quanti lo hanno letto in inglese converranno con me nel ritenerlo un capolavoro di stile in quanto a eleganza e misura. Il romanzo ha dato motivo a tanti registi di adattare la trama per il cinema, e mi sbaglierò affermando la versione di Kubrick di tutte la più denigratoria e allo stesso tempo tendenziosa; da una parte non rende giustizia al romanzo fuorviando l’opinione pubblica, penalizzando la maestria di Nabokov e riducendo l’affair Humbert-Lolita a una squallida e morbosa concupiscenza tra un degenerato in andropausa e una giovane ninfetta illibata; dall’altra personifica in Lolita la malizia dello spettatore, la malizia di colui che guarda con sospetto, avversione, disappunto, la storia d’amore tra un uomo adulto e una ragazzina civettuola. Ne risulta la trasposizione in celluloide di un pregiudizio in bianco e nero, che a mio parere va confutato soltanto attraverso la lettura del romanzo, denso in colori e ricco di sfumature.
Pomeriggio ho scoperto secondo lo studioso Wolfgang Kemp [#] Lolita trae ispirazione dalla storia d’amore fra il pittore, poeta, scrittore e critico d’arte londinese John Ruskin, e Rose La Touche, sua allieva e protagonista del romanzo Sesame and Lilies (1865). John Ruskin, molti studiosi e appassionati d’arte lo sapranno, viene ricordato principalmente per l’opera in cinque volumi Modern Painters, cui interpretazioni dell’arte e dell’architettura influenzarono in maniera determinante l’estetica vittoriana ed edoardiana. La biografia di Ruskin si contraddistingue specialmente per la vastissima produzione letteraria, i lunghi viaggi all’estero, l’impegno civile, la fondazione di una società chimerica di stampo medievale chiamata Guild of St.George, la costruzione di un museo, a Sheffield, dedicato agli operai del posto, e per l’incredibile propulsione ideale e morale che sottintende in ognuna delle iniziative da lui intraprese con grande passione e struggle, tensione e fatica. A buon ragione potremmo definire John Ruskin un eroe romantico per antonomasia.
Il primo incontro fra John Ruskin e Rose risale al 3 gennaio 1858, quando cioè il critico d’arte viene presentato dalla marchesa di Waterford alla benestante famiglia irlandese La Touche. Prima di raccontare l’accaduto, bisogna specificare Ruskin, ai tempi, aveva 39 anni, mentre Rose, appena 9; Ruskin è un evangelico, Rose, la famiglia La Touche, è protestante. E’ la madre di Rose a volere Ruskin in casa perchè la bambina venisse educata al disegno e alla storia dell’arte. Ruskin pare innamorarsene segretamente fin da subito sebbene aspetta il diciottesimo compleanno della bambina per chiederla in sposa alla famiglia. Perchè protestante, Rose rifiuta la proposta invitando Ruskin ad aspettare ancora tre anni; una volta compiuti i 21 anni, la ragazza potrà scegliere di propria volontà chi sposare senza dovere per questo dipendere dall’approvazione della famiglia. Trascorsi i tre anni, Ruskin si ripresenta all’attenzione di Rose, ma questa, incredibilmente, rifiuta ancora una volta il matrimonio a causa delle divergenze religiose. Fatto inaspettato, Rose muore a 27 anni -secondo alcune voci di anoressia, isteria, esaurimento nervoso, mania religiosa. Sconvolto dalla perdita e sopraffatto dal dolore, Ruskin subisce un crollo di nervi, si ammala di depressione, si dà allo spiritualismo; convinto della personificazione di Rose in Santa Orsola – rappresentata in un dipinto del pittore rinascimentale Vittore Carpaccio- Ruskin cerca da allora, e invano, di mettersi in contatto con l’amata attraverso una serie di sedute spiritiche che, come è immaginabile, lo porteranno a un ulteriore crollo di nervi e a un definitivo esaurimento nervoso.
Il quadro del pittore rinascimentale Vittore Carpaccio rappresenta l’apoteosi di Santa Orsola, secondo la leggenda vissuta tra il IV e il V secolo, santa della Chiesa Anglo-Cattolica, promessa sposa del governatore pagano Conan Meriadoc, vergine e martire. Cito da Wikipedia

Saint Ursula (“little female bear” in Latin) is a British Christian saint. Her feast day in the extraordinary form calendar of the Catholic Church is October 21. Because of the lack of definite information about the anonymous group of holy virgins who on some uncertain date were killed at Cologne, their commemoration was omitted from the Catholic calendar of saints for liturgical celebration when it was revised in 1969, but they have been kept in the Roman Martyrology.

Her legend, probably unhistorical, is that she was a Romano-British princess who, at the request of her father King Dionotus of Dumnonia in south-west England, set sail to join her future husband, the pagan Governor Conan Meriadoc of Armorica, along with 11,000 virginal handmaidens. After a miraculous storm brought them over the sea in a single day to a Gaulish port, Ursula declared that before her marriage she would undertake a pan-European pilgrimage. She headed for Rome with her followers and persuaded the Pope, Cyriacus (unknown in the pontifical records), and Sulpicius, Bishop of Ravenna, to join them. After setting out for Cologne, which was being besieged by Huns, all the virgins were beheaded in a massacre. The Huns’ leader shot Ursula dead, in about 383 (the date varies).

Interessante, a proposito di Vladimir Nabokov, questo articolo che mi è capitato leggere sul The Guardian

[#] Kemp, Wolfgang. The Desire of My Eyes: The Life and Work of John Ruskin. 1990

Pleasure is often spoiled by describing it – Stendhal

Christian Northeast

‘The ox becomes furious if a red cloth is shown to him; but the philosopher, who speaks of colour only in a general way, begins to rave’Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (*)

L’800, il secolo delle isterie. Ho iniziato a leggere un saggio di Goethe, Theory of Colours, del 1810, nel quale lo scrittore s’impunta, ci tiene, a smentire una teoria messa a punto da Newton nel 1704 e presentata nell’ Opticks: or a treatise of the reflexions, refractions, inflexions and colours of light’, considerato un caposaldo della letteratura scientifica (che io non ho letto).
Ho un po’ di pudore a dirlo ma sono dell’opinione non si dovrebbero mai scrivere libri quando si è al picco dell’innamoramento, un po’sudati, sovraeccitati, fuori controllo e disposti persino a negare l’evidenza; Newton considera la luce un cono bianco che proiettato attraverso un prisma dà esito a sette fasci di colore puro: rosso, arancione, giallo, verde, blu, indigo, viola (se avete presente la copertina di The dark side of the Moon). Goethe ci pensa sopra, si offende prima, lo snobba (come lo snobba)

‘Along with the rest of the world I was convinced that all the colours are contained in the light; no one had ever told me anything different, and I had never found the least cause to doubt it, because I had no further interest in the subject.’ (**)

e ‘Adesso ti sistemo io’, scrive un saggio dettagliatissimo al pari di Opticks in cui intende dimostrare, punto per punto, l’incantesimo della luce, gamma pressochè infinita di sfumature che attraverso lo spettro dell’anima, consentono allo sguardo di contemplare il mondo in posa estatica, al picco di una sindrome di Stendhal, soggiogati da un sortilegio, un idillio, al culmine della Lisztomania, rapiti da un incanto che è la vita a colori. Bha. E’ chiaro i romantici non vivevano in uno squash di periferia no furniture included a due passi da una zona industriale.
Eppure questa  Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2  scritta da Franz Liszt nel 1847 è talmente incantevole da rapire in un sogno. Pare Liszt abbia creato incredibile ammirazione ed estasi fra i suoi fan, una manata di isterici idealisti in lista dagli analisti nel ‘900.
L’800, il secolo dell’estasi.

(*)(**) taken from Theory of Colours, by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, 1810

‘If I had to be called something it should have been a folk singer’

Nina Simone photographed by Robinson Jack, via theworldofphotographers

Di Nina Simone si dice essere stata una musicista molto severa, puntuale, bad tempered, e di poche moine. Qualche tempo fa mi capitò leggere la sua autobiografia, ‘I put a spell on you’, che prende il titolo da uno dei suoi meravigliosi brani. Nel libro la Simone racconta della propria carriera, iniziata da piccolissima, al pianoforte della Chiesa locale, e conclusasi negli anni ’90 con un successo che l’ha resa famosa in tutto il mondo. Giusto nelle ultime pagine del libro la Simone fa riferimento a un episodio accaduto proprio qui a Londra, che segna la rottura con l’agente Sannucci e la cancellazione di una settimana di concerti al Ronnie Scott’s, un jazz club in Soho, dove la Simone era solita esibirsi intorno agli anni ’80. A causa della lite l’agente rientra in America da solo, la Simone si trattiene ancora in Europa, tra Liberia e Francia, Svizzera e Olanda, intanto esibendosi in concerti.
Il libro è del 1991, ed è nel Gennaio del’91 che la Simone partecipa in America a una parata per celebrare il compleanno di Martin Luther King; appena negli anni ’60 il brano Mississippi Goddam, contenuto nell’album ‘Nina Simone In Concert’, ricorda l’omicidio di Medgar Evers e il borbardamento nei pressi di una chiesa in Alabama  che costa la morte a quattro bambini neri; il brano viene recepito come una chiara denuncia al razzismo e segna un inizio nella lotta ai diritti civili portata avanti dalla Simone, che diversamente da Martin Luther King, però, invita i fratelli a ribellarsi alle armi, con le armi; anche per questo la Simone viene più volte allontanata dalla scena pubblica, sebbene nel libro viene solo fatto riferimento a un trasferimento nelle Barbados utilizzato come escamotage per non pagare le tasse e non finanziare lo stato americano, che negli anni ’60 va in guerra nel Vietnam.
Nel libro ci sono molti ricordi legati all’infanzia e alla Grande Depressione, alle ristrettezze economiche in cui versava la famiglia (otto figli), al duro apprendistato a cui prima che l’insegnante di piano sè stessa ha sottoposto attraverso rigide e ferree sedute di studio e totale dedizione alla musica;  il primo amore, la scelta di abbandonare casa per trasferirisi da sola in città, dove approfondisce gli studi di pianoforte, inizia a suonare nei locali, fa carriera come musicista e vive l’età adulta, tra palcoscenici, viaggi, casinò, champagne, antidepressivi, due matrimoni, una figlia, un divorzio, un amante ammazzato, e un’etichetta, quella della musicista jazz, che non sopporta, le rode il fegato, a tutt’oggi sono sicura farebbe impazzire, e di proprio pugno, in prima persona, nella propria autobiografia, tiene a chiarire. Un poco stizzita

‘After Town Hall critics started to talk about what sort of music I was playing and tried to find a neat slot to file it away in. It was difficult for them because I was playing popular songs in a classical style with a classical piano technique influenced by cocktail jazz. On top of that I included spirituals and children’s songs in my performances, and those sort of songs were automatically identified with the folk movement. So saying what sort of music I played gave the critics problems because there was something from everything in there, but it also meant I was appreciated across the board – by jazz, folk, pop and blues fans as well as admirers of classical music.
They finally ended up describing me as a ‘jazz-and-something-else-singer’. To me ‘jazz’ meant a way of thinking, a way of being, and the black man in America was jazz in everything he did – in the way he walked, talked, thought and acted. Jazz music was just another aspect of the whole thing, so in that sense because I was black I was a jazz singer, but in every other way I most definitely wasn’t.
Because of ‘Porgy’ people often compared me to Billie Holiday, which I hated. That was just one song out of my repertoire, and anybody who saw me perform could see we were entirely different, What made me mad was that it meant people couldn’t get past the fact we were both black: if I had happened to be white nobody would have made the connection. And I didn’t like to be put in a box with other jazz singers because my musicianship was totally different, and in its own way superior. Calling me a jazz singer was a way of ignoring my musical background because I didn’t fit into white ideas of what a black performer should be. It was a racist thing; ‘If she’s black she must be a jazz singer’. It diminished me, exactly like Langston Hughes was diminished when people called him a ‘great black poet’. Langston was a great poet period, and it was up to him and him alone to say what part the colour of his skin had to do with that.
If I had to be called something it should have been a folk singer, because there was more folk and blues than jazz in my playing.

[Taken from I put a spell on you, the autobiography of Nina Simone, with Stephen Cleary, 1991]

Conoscendo la voce della Simone ho immaginato quella fra me e il libro una chiaccherata fra estranei che viaggiano nello stesso treno vuoto, scomparto fumatori, l’una seduta di fianco all’altra. Il tono di lei è severo, delle volte gentile, delle volte amichevole, quasi mai affettuoso; la Simone guarda fuori dal finestrino, lo sguardo fermo. Ogni tanto si interrompe, si schiarisce la voce, riprende a parlare. Delle volte polemizza, ci tiene a chiarire. Avverto è impacciata, preferirebbe starsene altrove.
Basterebbe interromperla un istante e chiederle di cantare per sapere cosa è davvero successo in tutti quegli anni di lunga carriera e fede incondizionata alla Musa. Sarebbe allora che la voce della Simone tradirebbe il mito e svelerebbe la donna, sola e vulnerabile, sincera finalmente e solo attraverso la musica.

On Great Immaturity of Humanity and Pornografia by Witold Gombrowicz

‘All writers are vain, selfish and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery. Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon which one can neither resist nor understand.’
George Orwell
Da adolescente avevo una cotta per Andrea De Carlo. Avevo una cotta per De Carlo perchè Andrea, a differenza degli altri scrittori italiani che leggevo, era l’unico ad ascoltare i Rolling Stones in macchina, a vivere in una casa sperduta in campagna, ad essere caduto da cavallo (rimanendovi paralizzato per metà del corpo), a suonare la chitarra, e teneva sempre a esibire quell’aria posticcia e cagionevole, romantica e decandente, che ai tempi deve aver esercitato su di me un forte appeal.
Mi ricordo com’è iniziata; avevo 15 anni, vivevo ancora a casa dei miei, lavoravo nel negozio di dischi in via Natoli e Irene, la proprietaria del negozio, usava tenere i libri di Andrea sotto la cassa, in uno scaffale. L’infatuazione è partita con ‘Treno di Panna’, è proseguita con ‘Due di Due’,‘Nel momento’,‘Di noi tre’, ha raggiunto il sublime, l’apice della parabola d’amore con ‘Arco d’Amore’, e si è esaurita con ‘Pura Vita’. Non ricordo più neanche perchè. Anzi me lo ricordo, a un certo punto mi sono accorta De Carlo è un uomo. E borghese. Delle volte inconcludente, polemico, vanitoso, pigro, egocentrico, bugiardo, noioso. Come tutti gli uomini, proletari e me compresa. Quello che voglio dire è che vedendo in De Carlo l’uomo, ho smitizzato l’eroe e un assoluto, la sua proiezione ideale, che ho ridotto a pura finzione. Imparando a distinguere l’eroe dall’uomo, e l’uomo dallo scrittore, avrei dovuto imparare anche a distinguere la realtà dalla finzione. Missione fallita, quello di idealizzare gli uomini e innamorarmi degli scrittori che leggo è un vizio che continuo ad avere e in parte è dovuto al fatto che sono un soggetto bipolare con tendenza al delirio d’amore e alla sindrome dell’amante immaginario di De Clérembault (erotomania di Esquirol inclusa); in parte perchè trascorro leggendo quasi tutto il tempo libero che mi rimane da lavoro (ragione per cui mi piace scegliere sempre con cura e attenzione gli scrittori che mi porto a letto); ma soprattutto perchè scrivendo uno scrittore dà il meglio di sè e io, che malamente resisto alla vanità del satiro, ne rimango lusingata, quite flattered indeed. C’è quel lato civettuolo di me che adora essere sedotto dalle parole, dalla loro disposizione, dalla logica che le tiene insieme e si sviluppa in concetti, non importa la materia del discorrere; io adoro l’idea di un uomo che pur di eccitare il mio interesse, la mia curiosità, la mia attenzione, trascorre ore, giorni, settimane, in alcuni casi anni, in posa creativa, sotto sforzo intellettuale, in piena tribolazione, pur di compiacere la mia immaginazione e farmi godere il libro. Fosse leggere un atto sessuale squisitamente intellettuale e il libro un oggetto del piacere oggettivamente.. scomodo, ne convengo. Non solo, credo un libro un atto d’amore. Tanto più bello il libro, tanto più significativa la generosità d’animo dello scrittore. La bellezza di un libro dipenderà dal grado di corrispondenza e impatto che questo avrà in oguno di noi, per questo trovo volgari certi ‘eliterismi’ di nicchia che tendono a classificare la qualità dei libri, dunque anche quella dei lettori.
Qualche tempo fa mi sono avvicinata alla lettura dello scrittore e drammaturgo polacco Witold Gombrowicz, di cui ho letto Cosmos; ieri ho ripreso il romanzo Pornografia, che trovo di difficile lettura in inglese ma interessante perchè scritto postumo agli anni di occupazione tedesca in Polonia, dunque in un clima di tensioni culturali che in seguito hanno compromesso la pubblicazione del romanzo e incoraggiato lo scrittore a emigrare in Argentina. Il romanzo sviluppa il concetto dell”immaturità’, tipica della giovinezza quanto dell’età adulta, nel primo caso una componente del carattere, socialmente condivisa, nel secondo rimproverata e resa oggetto di inevitabili finzioni e alterazioni della personalità; una delle ragioni che spinge alcune donne a chiedersi Ancora perchè l’uomo di una volta non esiste più; l’uomo di una volta non è mai esistito, è un mito, pura finzione letteraria, un’icona; secondo Gombrowicz, in età adulta quella immaturità verrebbe dall’uomo nascosta attraverso una maschera, che indossa e rappresenta un mito, il mito di sè stesso; quello del vincente, del temerario, dell’eroe, cui virtù, in verità, non lo rappresentano nella sostanza e infine rendono responsabile della propria infelicità.
La trama del romanzo vuole due anziani intellettuali di campagna sedotti dalla passionalità di una giovane coppia di amanti che inducono a commettere un crimine. Pulsioni di vita, pulsioni di morte, Eros, Thanatos
Dice Witold Gombrowicz nella prefazione al romanzo

‘I do not believe in a nonerotic philosophy. I do not trust any desexualized idea. It’s hard to believe that Hegel’s Science of Logic or Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason could have been conceived if their authors had not kept a certain distance from their bodies. But pure conscience, when it is hardly realized, must be steeped again in the body, in sex, in Eros; the artist must plunge the philosopher in enchantment, charm, and grace’

e continua

‘A Polish author once wrote to me asking about the philosophical meaning of Pornografia.
I replied:
‘Let us try to express ourselves as simply as possible. Man, as we know, aims at the absolute. At fulfillment. At truth, at God, at total maturity.. To seize everything, to realize himself entirely – this is his imperative.
‘Now, in Pornografia it seems to me that another of man’s aims appears, a more secret one, undoubtedly, one which is in some way illegal: his need for the unfinished..for imperfection..for inferiority..for youth’

Gombrowicz è maggiormente conosciuto per il romanzo di debutto Ferdydurke, pubblicato nel 1937, di cui Pornografia è l’epilogo

‘Ferdydurke is undoubtedly my basic work, the best introduction to what I am and what I represent. Written twenty years later, Pornografia originates from Ferdydurke. I should therefore say a few words about this book.
It’s the grotesque story of a gentleman who becomes a child because other people treat him like one. Ferdydurke is intended to reveal the Great Immaturity of humanity. Man, as he is described in this book, is an opaque and neutral being who has to express himself by certain means of behavior and therefore becomes, from outside – for others – far more definite and precise than he is for himself.
Hence a tragic disproportion between his secret immaturity and the mask he assumes when he deals with other people. All he can do is to adapt himself internally to his mask, as though he really were what he appears to be.
It can therefore be said that the man of Ferdydurke is created by others, that men create each other by imposing forms on each other, or what we would call facons d’etre.
Ferdydurke was published in 1937 before Sartre formulated his theory of the regard d’autrui. But it is owing to the popularization of Sartrean concepts that this aspect of my book has been better understood and assimilated.
And yet Ferdydurke ventures on other, lesser known ground, the word ‘form’ is associated with the word ‘immaturity’. How can this Ferdydurkean man be described? Created by form he is created from outside, in other words unauthentic and deformed. To be a man means to be oneself.
He is also a constant producer of form: he secretes form tirelessly, just as the bee secretes honey.
But he is also at odds with his own form. Ferdydurke is the description of the struggle of man with his own expression, of the torture of humanity on the Procrustean bed of form.
Immaturity is not always innate or imposed by others. There is also an immaturity which culture betters us against when it submerges us and we do not manage to hoist ourselves up to its level. We are ‘infantilized’ by all ‘higher’ forms. Man, tortured by his mask, fabricated secretly, for his own usage, a sort of ‘subculture’ : a world made out of the refuse of a higher world of culture, a domain of trash, immature myths, inadmissible passions.. a second domain of compensation. That is where a certain shameful poetry is born, a certain compromising beauty..
Are we not close to Pornografia?
[..] And what if Pornografia were an attempt to renew Polish eroticism? .. An attempt to revive an eroticism which would bear a stronger relationship to our destiny and our recent history – composed of rape, slavery, and boyish squabbles- a descent to the dark limits of the conscience and the body?’
Text entirely taken from Cosmos and Pornografia, Two novels by Witold Gombrowicz, Preface, 1985

Blossom Restaurant, 103 Bowery by Berenice Abbott in 1935, NY

_________________________________________________________January 13
A DARK, burdensome day. I stormed up from sleep this morning, not knowing what to do first – whether to reach for my slippers or begin immediately to dress, turn on the radio for the news, comb my hair, prepare to shave.
I fell back into bed and spent an hour or so collecting myself, watching the dark beams from the slats of the blind wheeling on the upper wall. Then I rose. There were low clouds; the windows streamed. The surrounding roofs – green, raw red blackened brass – shone like potlids in a darkened kitchen.
At eleven I had a haircut. I went as far as Sixty-third Street for lunch and ate at a white counter amid smells of frying fish, looking out on the iron piers in the street and the huge paving bricks like the plates of the boiler- room floor in a huge liner. Above the restaurant, on the other corner, a hamburger with arms and legs balanced on a fiery wire, leaned toward a jar of mustard. I wiped up the sweet sediment in my cup with a piece of bread and went out to walk through large melting flakes. I wandered through a ten- cent store, examining the comic valentines, thought of buying envelopes, and bought instead a bag of chocolate creams. I ate them hungrily. Next, I was drawn into a shooting gallery. I paid for twenty shots and fired less than half, hitting none of the targets. Back in the street, I warmed myself at a salamander flaming in an oil drum near a newsstand with its wall of magazines erected under the shelter of the El. Scenes of love and horror. Afterward, I went into a Christian Science reading room and picked up the Monitor. I did not read it. I sat holding it, trying to think of the name of the company whose gas stoves used to be advertised on the front page of the Manchester Guardian. A little later I was in the street again, in front of Coulon’s gymnasium, looking at photographs of boxers. ‘Young Salemi, now with the Rangers in the South Pacific.’ What beautiful shoulders!
I started back, choosing unfamiliar streets. They turned out to be no different from the ones I knew. Two men were sawing a tree. A dog sprang from behind a fence without warning, yapping. I hate such dogs. A man in a mackinaw and red boots stood in the center of a lot, throwing boxes into a fire. At the high window of a stone house, a child, a blond boy, was playing king in a paper crown. He wore a blanket over his shoulders and, for a scepter, he held a thin green stick in his thin fingers. Catching sight of me, he suddenly converted his scepter into a rifle. He drew a bead on me and fired, his lips moving as he said, ‘Bang!’. He smiled when I took off my hat and pointed in dismay to an imaginary hole.
The book arrived in the noon mail. I will find it tonight. I hope that will be the last deception imposed to me.
Text entirely taken from Dangling Man, by Saul Bellow, 1944

SOFA’ SOGOOD # 4 DANGLING MAN BY SAUL BELLOW

Saul Leiter‘, ‘Phone Call’, NY, 1957

La mancata consegna di un premio Pulitzer alla letteratura per l’edizione di quest’anno ha lasciato tutti interdetti e aperto dibattiti circa la questione. Saul Bellow è l’unico scrittore americano ad essere stato insignito di 3 National book awards con i romanzi ‘The adventures of Augie March’, ‘Herzog’, e ‘Mr Sammler’s Planet‘; nel 1975 di un Pulitzer Prize per il romanzo Humboldt’s Gift; nel 1976 di un Nobel Prize in Literature ‘for the human understanding and subtle analysis of contemporary culture that are combined in his work’
Dangling man, primo dei suoi romanzi pubblicato nel 1944, anticipa l’intera produzione letteraria dello scrittore e sembra rispondere alle polemiche circa il futuro della letteratura. Bellow colloca l’uomo al centro dell’indagine letteraria e lo fa ponendo particolareggiata attenzione ai conflitti che derivano dal confronto con la società che lo circonda, lo opprime, lo ‘strania’ e verso cui prova un sentimento di alienazione. Il più della critica concerne stile della scrittura e gli elementi di cui Bellow si serve per configurare background e ragioni di un conflitto che rappresenta il teorema uomo – umanità – società moderna. E’ certo la sensibilità di Bellow nel trattare la materia umana deriva lui dall’essere figlio di mercanti ebrei emigrati in Canada e vissuti in Russia. Saul è ultimo di quattro figli cresciuti a Chicago e nati a Montreal. I genitori parlano fra loro ebraico e russo, i ragazzi inglese, yiddish e francese. L’identità culturale di Bellow attinge dalla ricca tradizione ebraica, francese e russa, e converge nella mistificazione e conseguente disillusione del sogno americano; sono gli anni della Grande Depressione, della grande immigrazione, del grande Gatsby, del quarto potere, della chiamata alle armi, del calypso e del rockabilly. Trovo il virtuosismo dell’America condensato tutto nell’intensità accelerata di quegli anni di grave crisi sociale che hanno piegato alle ginocchia milioni di persone e rimesso in discussione le sorti di una nazione intera. Io credo è stato soltanto allora che i bianchi si sono finalmente uniti ai neri, centinaia di lingue si sono mescolate alla lingua, decine di nazioni si sono strette in una, capace di risollevarsi dalle macerie attraverso duro lavoro, sacrifici e tanta immaginazione. Del virtuosismo americano amo il senso della possibilità, quel why not? che è ottimismo e apertura, un accogliere, uno sfidare la sorte, un giocare la partita, un pensare straordinario, immaginifico, lungimirante, in funzione del domani
Secondo il dizionario inglese che ho qui con me, to dangle ha due significati:
transitive and intransitive verb hang loosely: to swing or hang loosely, or cause something to swing or hang loosely
transitive verb offer something as inducement: to offer or display something as an enticement or inducement
Dangling man sembra appunto offrire an inducement, uno stimolo, un motivo, un incentivo a considerare la storia un punto d’arrivo e un’occasione di partenza, e l’uomo un ‘mezzo’, letteralmente un mezzo, a cui viene chiesto di attraversare il presente consapevolmente. In Dangling man Bellow attenta a descrivere da cosa deriva quella consapevolezza, che è coscienza individuale dunque esito sociale. Quella consapevolezza nasce da una colluttazione ideale di principi e forze opposte, ora l’esercizio di una volontà di potenza, il trionfo del Romanticismo, l’eroismo del Titano, ora l’assurdità delle guerre, un crollo di valori, l’oltre uomo in crisi esistenzialista, sviscerato dalla psicoanalisi e teso al  nichilismo e all’isolazione.
Il romanzo è una retrospettiva che procede per date e minuziose digressioni all’infanzia e alla giovinezza. Joseph, il protagonista, sembra guardarsi allo specchio e non riconoscersi nell’immagine che vede di sè; si agita, è nervoso, perde il senno, sembra non avere più il controllo della propria vita e sulle proprie emozioni
L’edizione che ho qui, della Penguin, è introdotta da J. M. Coetzee, che del romanzo dice nel finale
‘Dangling Man is long on reflection, short on action. It occupies the uneasy ground between the novella proper and the personal essay or confession. Various personages come onstage and exchange words with the protagonist, but beyond Joseph in his two sketchy manifestations there are no characters, properly speaking. Behind the figure of Joseph can be discerned the lonely, humiliated clerks of Gogol and Dostoevsky, brooding upon revenge; the Roquentin of Sartre’s Nausea, the scholar who undergoes a strange metaphysical experience that estranges him from the world; and the lonely young poet of Rilke’s Notebook of Malte Laurids Brigge. In this slim first book Bellow has not yet developed a vehicle adequate to the kind of novel he is feeling his way towards, one that will offer the customary novelistic satisfactions, including involvement in what feels like real- life conflict in a real-life world, and yet leave the author free to deploy his reading in European literature and thought in order to explore problems in contemporary life. For that step in Bellow’s evolution we will have to wait for Herzog (1964)
J. M. Coetzee
Ho amato questo libro dalla prima all’ultima pagina, e dalla prima all’ultima pagina questo libro ha lenito un po’ della mia solitudine e fatto stare bene, fossero state le parole un abbraccio, una mano che tiene la mano, una lettera che dà conforto.
Le parti del libro da citare sarebbero tantissime, ma ci sono due passi che fra tutti mi hanno colpita particolarmente

___________________________________________________________January 5

THIS AFTERNOON I emptied the closet of all its shoes and sat on the floor polishing them. Surrounded by rage, saddle soap, and brushes – the brown light of the street pressing in at the window, and the sparrows bickering in the dead twigs – I felt tranquil for a while and, as I set Iva’s shoes out in a row, I grew deeply satisfied. It was a borrowed satisfaction; it was doing something I had done as a child. In Montreal, on such afternoon as this, I often asked permission to spread a paper on the sitting- room floor and shine all the shoes in the house, including Aunt Dina’s with their long tongues and scores of eyelets. When I thrust my arm into one of her shoes it reached well above the elbow and I could feel the brush against my arm through the soft leather. The brow fog lay in St Dominique Street; in the sitting room, however, the stove shone on the devenport and on the oilcloth and on my forehead, drawing the skin pleasantly. I did not clean shoes because I was praised for it, but because of the work and the sensations of the room, closed off from the wet and the fog of the street, with its locked shutters and the faint green of the petal pipes along the copings of its houses. Nothing could have tempted me out of the house.
I have never found another street that resembled St Dominique. It was in a slum between a market and a hospital. I was generally intensely preoccupied with what went on in it and watched from the stairs and the windows. Little since then has worked upon me with such force as, say, the sight of a driver trying to raise his fallen horse, of a funeral passing through the snow, or of a cripple who taunted his brother. And the pungency and staleness of its stores and cellars, the dogs, the boys, the French and immigrant women, the beggars with sores and deformities whose like I was not to meet again until I was old enough to read of Villon’s Paris, the very breezes in the narrow course of that street, have remained so clear to me that I sometimes think it it the only place where i was ever allowed to encounter reality. My father blamed himself bitterly for the poverty that forced him to bring us up in a slum and worried lest I see too much. And I did see, in a curtainless room near the market, a man rearing over a blond woman on his lap. But less easily forgotten were a cage with a rat in it thrown on a bonfire, and two quarrelling drunkards, one of whom walked away bleeding, drops falling from his head like the first slow drops of a heavy rain in summer, a crooked line of drops left on the pavement as he walked.

_____________________________________________________________January 6

ABT HAS sent me a copy of a pamphlet he wrote on the government of the Territories. Expects a flattering comment, no doubt, and I shall have to rig one up. He will want me to tell him that no one else could have written such a pampleth. Suppose I were try to tell him what I thought of him. He would reply coldly, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’ He has a way of turning aside everything he has no desire to understand.
Abt, more than anyone I have known, has lived continually in need of being consequential. Early in life he discovered that he was quicker, abler, than the rest of us, and that he could easily outstrip us in learning and in skills. He felt he could be great in anything he chose. We roomed together in Madison as freshmen. He was very busy that first year keeping us all his accomplishments, his music, his politics, his class work. Living with him had a bag effect on me, for I withdrew from any field he entered. People came from other campuses to consult him on doctrinal matters; no one had as much out-of-the-way information as he; he read foreign political journals the rest of us had never heard of, and reports of party congresses, those dun, mimeographed sheets on international decisions in France and Spain. No one was so subtle with opponents. Nor did many students get as much attention as he got from his teachers. A few were afraid of him and learned to avoid challenging him publicly. late afternoons, he played the piano. I would often stop by for him at the music building on the way to dinner and spend half an hour listening. He did not waste time maturing, he did not make any of the obvious mistakes. His hold was too good. That winter he was Lenin, Mozard, and Locke all rolled into one. But there was unfortunately not enough time to be all three. And so, in the spring, he passed through a crisis. It was necessary to make a choice. But, whatever it was he chose, that would be the most important. How could it be otherwise? He gave up attending meetings and practising the piano, he banished the party reports as trash, and decided to become a political philosopher. There was a general purge. Everything else went.
Anti-Duhring and The Critique of the Gotha Program sank to the rear of the bottom shelf of his bookcase and were supplanted at the top by Bentham and Locke. Now he had decided, and in dead earnestness the followed greatness. Inevitably, he fell short of his models. He would never admit that he wanted to become another Locke, but there was, wearing himself thin with the effort of the emulation, increasingly angry at himself, and unable to admit that the scale of his ambition was defeating him.
He is stubborn. Just as, in the old days, it disgraced him to confess that he was not familiar with a book or a statement that came under his jurisdiction, he now cannot acknowledge that his plan has miscarried. But then, it bothers him to be found guilty even of small errors. He does not like to forget a date or a name or the proper form of a foreign verb. He cannot be wrong, that is his difficulty. If you warn him that there is a fissure at his feet, he answers, ‘ no, you must be mistaken.’ But when it can no longer be ignored he says, ‘Do you see it?’ as though he has discovered it.
Of course, we suffer from bottomless avidity. Our lives are so precious to us, we are so watchful of waste. Or perhaps a better name for it would be the Sense of Personal Destiny. Tes, I think that is better than avidity. Shall my life one-thousandth of an inch fall short of its ultimate possibility? It is a different thing to value oneself, and to prize oneself crazily. And then there are our plants, idealizations. These are dangerous, too. They can consume us like parasites, eat us, drink us, and leave us lifelessly prostrate. And yet we are always inviting the parasite, as if we were eager to be drained and eaten.
It is because we have been taught there is no limit to what a man can be. Six hundred years ago, a man was what he was born to be. Satan and Church, representing God, did battle over him. He, by reason of his choice, partially decided the outcome. But whether, after life, he went to hell or to heaven, his place among other men was given. It could be contested. But, since, the stage has been reset and human being only walk on it, and, under this revision, we have, instead, history to answer to. We were important enough then for our souls to be fought over. Now, each of us is responsible for his own salvation, which is in his greatness. And that, that greatness, is the rock our hearts are abraded on. Great minds, great beauties, great lovers and criminals surround us. from the great sadness and desperation of Werthers and Don Juans we went to the great ruling images of Napoleons; from these to murderers who had that right over victims because they were greater than the victims; to men who felt privileged to approach others with a whip; to schoolboys and clerks who roared like revolutionary lions; to those pimps and subway creatures, debaters in midnight cafeterias who believed they could be great in treachery and catch the throats of those they felt were sound and well in the lassos of their morbidity; to dreams of greatly beautiful shadows embracing on a flawless screen. because of these things we hate immoderately and punish ourselves and one another immoderately. The fear of lagging pursues and maddens us. The fear lies in us like a cloud. It makes an inner climate of darkness. And occasionally there is a storm and hate and wounding rain out of us.

Text entirely taken from ‘Dangling Man’, by Saul Bellow, 1944

The work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction by Walter Benjamin

sculpture by Brian Dettmer

Sto leggendo un saggio profezia del filosofo tedesco Walter Benjamin,’The work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, scritto al tempo in cui Hitler era stato già elevato Chancellor of Germany e l’Europa si ripreparava alle armi. In questo Benjamin spiega le ragioni del postmodernismo a partire da un’indagine all’avanguardia marxista d’esito nella produzione delle arti e della riproduzione delle arti, l’impatto delle arti nella sfera politica e sociale. Meglio questo saggio delinea una teoria
[..]a theory of art that would be “useful for the formulation of revolutionary demands in the politics of art.In the absence of any traditional, ritualistic value, art in the age of mechanical reproduction would inherently be based on the practice of politics. L’arte come atto di ribellione.
Ho trovato un articolo di Claudio Bianco (FILOSOFICO.NET – La filosofia e i suoi eroi) che ne fa una critica molto interessante
Dice
Il saggio L’opera d’arte nell’epoca della sua riproducibilità tecnica viene scritto da Walter Benjamin (1892-1940) nel 1935 subito dopo aver partecipato come uditore al I Congresso internazionale degli scrittori, organizzato a Parigi al fine di dar vita a un’ampia mobilitazione intellettuale contro la diffusione del fascismo . Nel 1936 il saggio è pubblicato, nella traduzione francese di Pierre Klossowski , sulla celebre rivista Zeitschrift fur Sozialforschung , che in quel periodo si stampava a Parigi e il cui gruppo dirigente era costituito da Theodor Wiesengrund Adorno (1903-1969) , Max Horkheimer (1895-1973) e Herbert Marcuse (1898-1979) , fondatori dell’Istituto per la ricerca sociale di Francoforte. In una lettera del 16 ottobre 1935 a Horkheimer, Benjamin descrive il saggio come “una puntata in direzione di una teoria materialistica dell’arte”; in effetti la sua problematica adesione al marxismo e i rapporti con il gruppo di Adorno e con Bertolt Brecht costituiscono un quadro di riferimento imprescindibile per comprendere un testo che lega il problema del mutato statuto dell’opera d’arte – a seguito della diffusione di nuove tecniche di riproduzione- a considerazioni di carattere politico e sociale.

L’adesione di Benjamin al “materialismo storico”, ossia alla dottrina associata principalmente alle figure di Karl Marx (1818 – 1883) e Friedrich Engels (1820-1895) , secondo cui le produzioni cosiddette “spirituali” degli uomini – arte, religione e filosofia – sarebbero determinate, in quanto “sovrastruttura” , dalle strutture economiche soggiacenti delle diverse relazioni sociali e dei diversi modi di produzione, è sin dall’inizio assai problematica e originale. Nel saggio Eduard Fuchs, il collezionista e lo storico, Benjamin individua come compito del materialismo storico il superamento dell’atteggiamento “contemplativo” e neutrale assunto dallo storicismo per introdurre una visione dialettica della storia. Il passato non deve essere considerato come inserito in un ordine lineare e progressivo, bensì come qualcosa di unico, un’”esperienza originaria” in cui il presente si incontra con il passato in una “costellazione critica” che “fa deflagrare la continuità della storia”. L’idea di un presente nel quale si incontrano i diversi registri temporali dell’eternità e dell’istante era probabilmente maturata in Benjamin attraverso la lettura di Baudelaire, il quale, come abbiamo visto, nei saggi de Il pittore della vita moderna aveva definito la modernità come coesistenza, nel presente, del transitorio e dell’effimero con l’eterno e l’immutabile.

La critica della concezione della storia come progresso lineare e ascendente ritorna nelle tesi Sul concetto di storia (1940) , dove il compito del materialista storico è descritto come quello di “scardinare il continuum della storia”, a partire da “un presente che non è passaggio, ma nel quale il tempo è in equilibrio ed è giunto a un arresto (…) quel presente in cui egli, per quanto lo riguarda, scrive storia”. Il presente non è un istante astratto e anonimo dell’omogeneo fluire del tempo, né un’agostiniana distensio animi tutta racchiusa nell’interiorità della coscienza: esso è,invece, istanza originaria generatrice del tempo storico, luogo della sospensione e della critica in cui la storia è narrata e costruita guardando al futuro, a partire dalle urgenze dell’attualità (Jetztzeit). Questa costellazione di presente, passato e futuro, implicante al tempo stesso critica dell’esistenze e apertura verso il futuro, si rivela allo sguardo dello storico purificato dalle pecche dello storicismo sotto le sembianze di quella che Benjamin chiama un’”immagine dialettica”: un’immagine improvvisa, balenante, nella quale passato e futuro si illuminano a vicenda a partire dal presente.

E’nella sezione N del libro incompiuto dedicato ai passages di Parigi, intitolata “Elementi di teoria della conoscenza, teoria del progresso” che Benjamin sviluppa questo concetto, sostenendo che è solo attraverso le immagini dialettiche che la storia giunge alla leggibilità in una determinata epoca, là dove improvvisamente il passato subisce una sorta di “teléscopage” attraverso il presente: “Non è che il passato getti la sua luce sul presente o il presente la sua luce sul passato, ma immagine è ciò in cui quel che è stato si unisce fulmineamente con l’ora (Jetzt) in una costellazione. In altre parole: immagine è la dialettica nell’immobilità . Poiché, mentre la relazione del presente con il passato è puramente temporale,continua, la relazione tra ciò che è stato e l’ora è dialettica: non è un decorso, ma un’immagine discontinua, a salti. Solo le immagini dialettiche sono autentiche immagini (cioè non arcaiche); e il luogo, in cui le si incontra, è il linguaggio”. L’immagine dialettica appare là dove il pensiero si arresta in una costellazione, dove passato, presente e futuro si manifestano improvvisamente alla luce di una “vera sintesi” in cui appare ciò che Benjamin , riprendendo un termine fondamentale della morfologia goethiana , chiama un “fenomeno originario della storia”.

La riflessione benjaminiana su cosa significhi un approccio materialistico e dialettico alla storia e all’arte sta sullo sfondo del saggio L’opera d’arte nell’epoca della sua riproducibilità tecnica , che nella “premessa” è presentato come una raccolta di “tesi sopra le tendenze dello sviluppo dell’arte nelle attuali condizioni di produzione”. In apertura del saggio Benjamin cita un passo di un breve testo di Paul Valéry (1871-1945) , “La conquete de l’ubiquité”, pubblicato nel 1931 nella raccolta Pièce sur l’art. In questo testo Valéry si interroga sui mutamenti in atto nella nozione stessa di arte – nelle tecniche artistiche, nella concezione della creazione, nella riproduzione e trasmissione delle opere – in seguito all’incremento stupefacente del nostro “potere di azione sulle cose”. La futura diffusione di nuovi mezzi di comunicazione analoghi alla radio e al telefono avrebbe presto consentito, secondo Valéry, di “trasportare o ricostituire in ogni luogo il sistema di sensazioni – o più esattamente, il sistema di eccitazioni – provocato in un luogo qualsiasi da un oggetto o da un evento qualsiasi”. Nel caso dell’arte, ciò avrebbe significato la possibilità per le opere di avere una sorta di “ubiquità” , ossia di divenire delle “fonti” o “origini” i cui effetti potrebbero essere avvertiti ovunque. Su un piano più generale, lo scenario evocato da Valéry è quello di una società futura in cui sarebbe possibile suscitare un flusso di immagini visive o di sensazioni uditive con un semplice gesto, una società caratterizzata dalla possibilità di una “distribuzione della Realtà Sensibile a domicilio”. In questo aumentato potere di riprodurre e diffondere le opere, che Valéry vede già compiersi nel caso della musica, risiederebbe la “condizione essenziale della resa estetica più elevata”, ossia la possibilità di sganciare la fruizione dell’opera d’arte dall’hic et nunc della sua collocazione materiale o della sua esecuzione per renderla accessibile nel momento spirituale più favorevole e fecondo.

La stessa riflessione sui mutamenti in atto nello statuto e nella fruizione dell’arte in seguito all’elaborazione di nuove tecniche di riproduzione e trasmissione delle opere che anima il breve testo di Valéry è al centro del saggio di Benjamin, che ha come presupposto la grande diffusione della fotografia e del cinema nei primi decenni del secolo e il lavoro di sperimentazione condotto su queste due forme espressive da avanguardie artistiche come il dadaismo, il surrealismo o il costruttivismo. A differenza di Valéry, Benjamin conferisce però alla propria analisi una valenza esplicitamente politica, in quanto nelle nuove forme di produzione e trasmissione dell’arte messe in atto da cinema e fotografia vede la possibilità di liberare l’esperienza estetica dal sostrato religioso-sacrale che ne accompagnava la fruizione da parte della borghesia, impedendo l’instaurazione di un nuovo rapporto tra l’arte e le masse. Quelle proposte da Benjamin, secondo le sue stesse parole, sono tesi “che eliminano un certo numero di concetti tradizionali – quali i concetti di creatività e di genialità, di valore eterno e di mistero -, concetti la cui applicazione incontrollata (…) induce a un’elaborazione in senso fascista del materiale concreto”. Scopo dell’analisi deve essere elaborare concetti “del tutto inutilizzabili ai fini del fascismo”, concetti che consentano, al contrario, “la formulazione di esigenze rivoluzionarie nella politica culturale”.

Una riflessione sulla riproducibilità dell’opera d’arte non può non partire dalla constatazione che, “in linea di principio”, l’opera d’arte è sempre stata riproducibile”. La riproduzione intesa come imitazione manuale di disegni, quadri o sculture è sempre stata parte integrante della pratica artistica, dell’apprendimento e della messa in circolazione delle opere. Nel caso della musica,poi, l’opera stessa esiste innanzitutto come ri-esecuzione . Ciò che interessa a Benjamin , però, non è la riproduzione intesa in questo senso bensì la riproduzione tecnica delle opere d’arte, qualcosa che nella storia si è manifestato progressivamente nelle pratiche della fusione del bronzo, del conio delle monete, della silografia e della litografia come riproduzione della grafica e, soprattutto, della stampa come riproducibilità tecnica della scrittura. Con l’invenzione della fotografia e del cinema, la riproducibilità del visibile attinge a una dimensione nuova, sganciandosi ulteriormente dal condizionamento della manualità e velocizzandosi enormemente. Di fronte a una tale rivoluzione tecnica, il compito del critico, secondo Benjamin, consiste nel riflettere sul modo in cui questo tipo di riproducibilità dell’opera d’arte finisce per imporre una ridefinizione dello statuto stesso dell’arte nella sua forma tradizionale.

La tesi centrale del saggio di Benjamin risiede nell’affermazione che nella riproduzione fotografica di un’opera viene a mancare un elemento fondamentale : “l’hic et nunc dell’opera d’arte, la sua esistenza unica e irripetibile nel luogo in cui si trova”. Nell’unicità della collocazione spazio-temporale dell’opera risiede il fondamento della sua autenticità e della sua autorità come “originale”, ossia la sua capacità di assumere il ruolo di testimonianza storica. La trasmissione di un’eredità culturale poggia infatti sul permanere nel tempo dell’unicità e dell’autorità delle opere e sulla loro conservazione e celebrazione in spazi dedicati, come i musei, o nei quali esse si radicano nella loro unicità (una chiesa, un palazzo). Benjamin riassume i valori di unicità,autenticità e autorità dell’opera d’arte nella nozione di “aura” , un termine ricorrente nel lessico storico-artistico ed esoterico di inizio secolo nell’accezione di “aureola” (come quella che circonda le immagini dei santi) o in quella, assai più ambigua, di “alone” che circonda e avvolge ogni individuo, come negli scritti di carattere misterico o teosofico.

Il “declino”, il “venir meno” dell’aura (Verfall der Aura) determinato dall’avvento dei mezzi di riproduzione tecnica delle opere, sarebbe il sintomo, secondo Benjamin , di un più vasto mutamento “nei modi e nei generi della percezione sensoriale”: a ogni periodo storico corrispondono infatti determinate forme artistiche ed espressive correlate a determinate modalità della percezione, e la storia dell’arte deve essere accompagnata da una storia dello sguardo. Proseguendo la riflessione sul progressivo impoverirsi dell’esperienza avviata nel saggio Il Narratore. Considerazioni sull’opera di Nicola Leskov, in L’opera d’arte nell’epoca della sua riproducibilità tecnica Benjamin constata come nella società a lui contemporanea, mediante la diffusione dell’informazione e delle immagini, tenda ad affermarsi sempre più un’esigenza di avvicinamento, alle cose e alle opere.

Ciò che però viene meno, in un’epoca caratterizzata dal bisogno di “rendere le cose, spazialmente e umanamente, più vicine” e in cui “ si fa valere in modo sempre più incontestabile l’esigenza di impossessarsi dell’oggetto da una distanza il più possibile ravvicinata nell’immagine, o meglio nell’effigie, nella riproduzione”, è quel peculiare intreccio di vicinanza e lontananza nel quale risiede, secondo Benjamin, l’essenza dell’aura: “Cade qui opportuno illustrare il concetto, sopra proposto, di aura a proposito degli oggetti storici mediante quello applicabile agli oggetti naturali. Noi definiamo questi ultimi apparizioni uniche di una lontananza, per quanto questa possa essere vicina. Seguire, in un pomeriggio d’estate, una catena di monti all’orizzonte oppure un ramo che getta la sua ombra sopra colui che si riposa – ciò significa respirare l’aura di quelle montagne, di quel ramo”. Fine dell’aura significa fine di quell’intreccio tra lontananza, irripetibilità e durata che caratterizzava il nostro rapporto con le opere d’arte tradizionali, e avvento di una fruizione dell’arte basata sull’osservazione fugace e ripetibile di riproduzioni.

Originariamente, le opere d’arte erano parte inscindibile di un contesto rituale, prima magico e poi religioso; la loro autorità e autenticità, la loro aura, era determinata proprio da questa appartenenza al mondo del culto. In forme secolarizzate, l’atteggiamento rituale e culturale nei confronti dell’arte sarebbe poi trapassato nelle forme profane del culto della bellezza, che nasce nel Rinascimento e dura fino alle ultime derive del Romanticismo. L’avvento della riproducibilità tecnica e la sua diffusione mediante la fotografia segnano per la prima volta la possibilità di emancipare l’arte rispetto all’ambito del rituale: venendo meno i valori dell’unicità e dell’autenticità, si apre la possibilità di conferire all’arte una nuova valenza politica, al valore cultuale (Kultwert) dell’opera si sostituisce progressivamente il valore espositivo (Ausstellungswert).

Il discorso benjaminiano sulla fine dell’aura non è quindi riconducibile a una forma di nostalgia, bensì è un tentativo di individuare le potenzialità ancora non del tutto esplicitate della riproducibilità. Nella fotografia la dissoluzione del valore cultuale in favore del valore di esponibilità non è ancora completa, in quanto l’aura mantiene una sua ultima forma di sopravvivenza nel “volto dell’uomo”. Non è un caso che le prime fotografie siano state soprattutto dei ritratti, miranti a fissare e a tramandare nel tempo l’identità e lo sguardo dei soggetti fotografati:”Nell’espressione fuggevole di un volto umano, dalla prime fotografie, emana per l’ultima volta l’aura. E’ questo che ne costituisce la malinconica e incomparabile bellezza”. Il profondo legame tra l’immagine fotografica e l’unicità del soggetto rappresentato nell’hic et nunc del suo essere rappresentato, e quindi il legame tra immagine, temporalità e morte- che Roland Barthes (1915-1980avrebbe successivamente tematizzato tramite il concetto di punctum nel celebre saggio La chambre claire – viene meno con il cinema. La rappresentazione cinematografica, a differenza di quella teatrale, è fatta di mediazione , differimento, scomposizione: le azioni che ci si presentano nella loro sequenzialità sono girate in momenti diversi, e ciò che vediamo è il risultato di una serie di scelte legate all’inquadratura e al montaggio. A differenza del pittore – che è come un mago nel mantenere la distanza tra sé e ciò che è oggetto della rappresentazione e nel conferire un’autorità auratica alla rappresentazione stessa- l’operatore cinematografico è come un chirurgo ; penetra nelle immagini, le frammenta, le scompone, ne ridefinisce la sequenza, finendo però per eliminarne l’aura.

Lungi dal condividere il senso di disagio provato da Pirandello nei confronti della presenza del mezzo tecnico nella realizzazione dell’immagine cinematografica, come testimonia il romanzo Si gira del 1915, Benjamin afferma che proprio questa mediatezza consente al cinema di determinare un significativo approfondimento delle nostre capacità percettive. La possibilità di moltiplicare i punti di vista e le inquadrature mediante quella che Benjamin chiama “la dinamite dei decimi di secondo” rende infatti più libero e indipendente il nostro sguardo sulle cose. Lo spazio che si rivela alla cinepresa è, inoltre, profondamente diverso da quello che si rivela allo sguardo empirico: “ al posto di uno spazio elaborato dalla coscienza dell’uomo interviene uno spazio elaborato inconsciamente”. Quello rivelato dall’istantaneità dell’immagine fotografica e dalla sequenzialità dell’immagine in movimento è dunque un “inconscio ottico” che si rivela soltanto attraverso di esse, così come l’inconscio istintivo viene portato alla luce nella psicoanalisi.

La portata “rivoluzionaria” che Benjamin attribuisce alla fotografia come tecnica della riproduzione e,in maggior misura, al cinema, si esplica dunque su diversi piani: dissoluzione dell’aura attraverso riproduzioni che sottraggono l’opera d’arte all’hit et nunc della sua esistenza materiale e della sua fruizione, rivelazione di una visibilità che rimane inaccessibile all’occhio empirico e diventa invece accessibile grazie alla mediazione del dispositivo, contestazione di ogni atteggiamento cultuale e “feticistico”, tipicamente borghese, nei confronti dell’autenticità e dell’autorità dell’opera. Riguardo a quest’ultimo punto, Benjamin sottolinea come il cinema, a differenza della pittura, non consenta un atteggiamento puramente contemplativo, fatto di esaltazione e rapimento. Quella del cinema non è una fruizione fatta di raccoglimento ma una fruizione “distratta” in cui lo spettatore non si perde nell’opera, ma si mantiene in un atteggiamento nel quale piacere e giudizio critico coesistono senza limitarsi a vicenda. Il cinema, in altre parole, si allontana dal naturalismo e dall’illusionismo teatrale e consente di conservare la “distanza” e lo “straniamento” che erano al centro, negli stessi anni, della riflessione sul teatro di Brecht.

La capacità di ridefinire il rapporto tra l’arte e le masse aperta dal cinema, dunque, risiede per Benjamin nella possibilità di una fruizione collettiva nella quale la critica non è soffocata da una forma di devozione cultuale nei confronti dell’immagine. Certo, anche nel cinema è presente un residuo di aura, in particolare nel culto della personality che trasforma gli attori in divi, e del resto è chiaro che l’”industria cinematografica ha tutto l’interesse a imbrigliare, mediante rappresentazioni illusionistiche e mediante ambigue speculazioni, la partecipazione delle masse”. Alla ricognizione delle possibilità espressive del mezzo cinematografico operata da registi come Ejzenstejn si contrapponeva, in quegli stessi anni, l’impiego dell’immagine cinematografica da parte dei regimi fascisti a fini propagandistici – basti pensare al contributo della regista Leni Riefenstahl nel definire l’iconografia del nazismo – , testimoniando così come questa forma espressiva avesse un potenziale ambiguo, , che sarà poi analizzato da Adorno e Horkehimer , in relazione all’industria culturale americana, in Dialettica dell’illuminismo (1946). Rispetto a questo testo, l’analisi di Benjamin mostra di condividere l’interesse e le aspettative nutrite da diversi movimenti degli anni Venti e Trenta (neoplasticismo, costruttivismo, Bauhaus), oltre che dai giovani Lukàcs e Brecht , nei confronti dei nuovi mezzi espressivi, pur riconducendo la riflessione sull’arte a una finalità prettamente politica: Benjamin risponde infatti all’estetizzazione della politica e della guerra proposte dal fascismo, e condivise da futuristi come Martinetti, sostenendo la necessità di una “politicizzazione dell’arte” proprio a partire dal potenziale rivoluzionario e democratico del cinema.
via WALTER BENJAMIN. L’opera d’arte nell’epoca della sua riproducibilità tecnica (a cura di Claudia Bianco).

Il saggio si compone di tre parti
The Work of Art of Mechanical Reproduction
Franz Kafka: On the Tenth Anniversary of His Death
Picturing Proust
E questa è l’introduzione e il primo capitolo

_________The Work of Art of Mechanical Reproduction_____________

The establishment of the fine arts and their division into various categories go back to a time that differed radically from ours and to people whose power over things and circumstances was minute in comparison with our own.
However, the astounding growth that our resources have undergone in terms of their precision and adaptability will in the near future confront us with very radical changes indeed in the ancient industry of the beautiful. In all arts there is a physical component that cannot continue to be considered and treated in the same way as before; no longer can it escape the effects of modern knowledge and modern practice. Neither matter nor space nor time is what, up until twenty years ago, it always was. We must be prepared for such profound changes to alter the entire technological aspect of the arts, influencing invention itself as a result, and eventually, it may be, contriving to alter the very concept of art in the most magical fashion.
Paul Valery, Pieces sur l’art
FOREWORD
When Marx set out to analyze the capitalist mode of production, that mode of production was in its infancy. Marx so ordered his endeavours that they acquired prognosticative value. Looking back at the basic circumstances of capitalist production, he presented them in such a way as to show what capitalism might be thought capable of years to come. What emerged was that it might not only be thought capable of increasingly severe exploitation of proletarians; ultimately, it may even bring about conditions in which it can itself be done away with.
The transformation of the superstructure, which proceeds far more slowly than that of the substructure, has taken more than half a century to bring out the change in the conditions of the production in all spheres of civilization. Only now can the form that this has assumed be revealed. Of those revelations, certain prognosticative demands need to be made. However, such demands will be met not so much by prepositions concerning the art of the proletariat after it has seized power, let alone that of the classless society, as by propositions concerning how art will tend to develop under current conditions of productions. The dialects of those propositions makes itself no less apparent in the superstructure than in the economy. It would be wrong, therefore, to underestimate the combative value of such propositions. They oust a number of traditional concepts – such as creativity and genius, everlasting value and secrecy- concepts whose uncontrolled (and at the moment scarcely controllable) application leads to a processing of the facts along the lines of Fascism. The following concepts, here introduced into art theory for the first time, differ from more familiar ones in that they are quite useless for the purpose of Fascism. They can, on the other hand, be used to formulate revolutionary demands in the politics of art.
____________________CHAPTER 1_____________________

In principle, the work of art has always been reproducible. What mas has made, mas has always been able to make again. Such copying was also done by pupils as an artistic exercise, by masters in order to give works wider circulation, ultimately by anyone seeking to make money. Technological reproduction of the work of art is something else, something that has been practiced intermittently throughout history, at widely separated intervals though with growing intensity. The Greeks had only two processes for reproducing works of art technologically: casting and embossing. Bronzes, terracottas and coins were the only artworks that they were able to manufacture in large numbers. All the rest were unique and not capable of being reproduced by technological means. It was wood engraving that made graphic art technologically reproducible for the first time; drawings could be reproduced long before printing did the same for the written word. The huge changes that printing (the technological reproducibility of writing) brought about in literature are well known. However, of the phenomenon that we are considering on the scale of history here they are merely a particular instance- though of course a particularly important one. Wood engraving is joined in the course of the Middle Age by copperplate engraving and etching, then in the early nineteenth century by lithography.
With lithography, reproductive technology reaches a radically new stage. The very much speeder process represented by applying a drawing to a stone as opposed to carving it into a block of wood or etching it onto a market its products not only in great numbers (as previously) but also in different designs daily. Lithography made it possible for graphics art to accompany everyday life with pictures. It started to keep pace with printing.
However, in these early days it was outstripped, mere decades after the invention of lithography, by photography. With photography, in the process of pictorial reproduction the hand was for the fist time relieved of the principal artistic responsibilities, which henceforth lay with the eye alone as it peered into the lens. Since the eye perceives faster than the hand can draw, the process of pictorial reproduction was so enormously speeded up that it was able to keep pace with speech. The film operator, turning the handle in the studio, captures the images as rapidly as the actor speaks. Whilst in lithography the illustrated magazine was present in essence, in photography it was the sound film. The technological reproduction of sound was tackled at the end of the last [nineteenth] century. These convergent endeavours rendered foreseeable a situation that Paul Valery described in the sentence: ‘Just as water, gas and electric power come to us from afar and enter our homes with almost no effort on our part, there serving our needs, so we shall be supplied with pictures or sound sequences, at the touch of a bottom, almost a wave of the end, arrive and likewise depart.’ Around 1900 technological reproduction had reached a standard at which at had not merely begun to take the totality of traditional artworks as its province, imposing the most profound changes on the impact of such works; it had even gained a place for itself among artistic modes of procedure. As regards studying that standard, nothing is more revealing than how its twin manifestations – reproduction of the work of art and the new art of cinematography – redound upon art in its traditional form.
Text entirely taken from ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’, by Walter Benjamin, 1936

The Experimental Plagiarism. A Fake Novel Of Real Novels


Charles Earland – Intergalactic Love Song, off l’album Odyssey, del 1976. Ho impiegato settimane a ricordare titolo e autore di questo brano che, finalmente, ieri notte mi è venuto in mente e sembra confermare un sospetto di plagio. Il brano originale che me lo ricorda è di Donald Byrd, Flight time, del 1973. Il pezzo di Earland ne è forse il rifacimento? Gli accordi iniziali di Intergalactic Love song sembrano ricordare quelli di Flight time e confermare il sospetto.
Ancora, qualche mese fa mi è capitato leggere un post su ‘You are not so smart‘, comparso poi in un altro blog, di un altro blogger americano, che si è indebitamente impossessato dell’articolo postandolo nel proprio blog e spacciandolo per proprio (il pezzo originale:The Overjustification Effect « You Are Not So Smart).
Il plagio, è il caso di dirlo, non è una novità; quell’articolo comparso a pagina 52 del New Yorker di febbraio,’The Plagiarist’s Tale‘ (Quentin Rowan, a.k.a. Q. R. Markham, Plagiarism Addict : The New Yorker, da me citato nel pezzo su Beckett della settimana scorsa), racconta appunto di questo scrittore esordiente americano, Quentin Rowan, cui romanzo ‘Assassin of Secrets’ è stato ritirato dal mercato perchè contenente una copiosa riproduzione di paragrafi ‘ritagliati’ da altri romanzi e indebitamente ‘incollati’ nel proprio. Non conoscessimo certe dinamiche che ruotano intorno al settore editoriale, verrebbe da chiedersi com’è possibile nessuno, prima di pubblicarlo, si sia accorto del plagio; persino la critica aveva annunciato il romanzo come un ‘debutto sfavillante’ nel genere noir. Un classico delle bufale, in poche parole. Che si sia trattato di una trovata pubblicitaria soltanto?
‘Originality is a relative concept in literature. As writers from T. S. Eliot to Harold Bloom have pointed out, ideas are doomed to be rehashed. This wasn’t always regarded as a problem. Roman writers subscribed to the idea of imitatio: they viewed their role as emulating and reworking earlier masterpieces. It wasn’t until the Romantic era, which introduced the notion of the author as solitary genius, that originality came to be viewed as the paramount literary virtue. Plagiarism was and remains a murky offense, ‘best understood not as a sharply defined operation, like beheading, but as a whole range of activities, more like cooking,’ the English professor James R. Kincaid wrote in this magazine in 1977. Imagine a scale on one end of which are authors who poach plot ideas (Shakespeare stealing from Plutarch) and on the other are those who copy passages word for word: Jacob Epstein, who cribbed parts of his novel ‘Wild Oats’ from Martin Amis’s ‘The Rachel Papers“; the Harvard sophomore Kaavya Viswanathan, whose novel plagiarized chick lit.
Roman’s method, though- constructing his work almost entirely from other people’s sentence and paragraphs- makes his book a singular literary artifact, a ‘literal mashup’.
(The New Yorker, Feb.12 & 20, 2012)
Questa del literal mashup, però, mi è sembrata un’idea niente male che mi ha dato modo di riflettere e ingegnarmi in un esperimento concettuale, un ‘finto romanzo’ dei romanzi, che ho intenzione di ricavare, quindi ‘scrivere’, facendo esattamente copia e incolla dai classici della letteratura internazionale. Niente di originale, mi rendo conto. Quello che però potrebbe risultare interessante, è l’esito. Voglio vedere dove porta, e a che porta. E’ chiaro sarà difficile far coincidere tutti i pezzi insieme secondo un principio di armonia e fluidità del testo, ma ho pensato interessante sovvertire le trame dei romanzi, ri-adattare gli spazi, scombinare le strutture, scardinare esiti e fini, smantellare interi impianti narrativi, per crearne uno ‘nuovo’, un fake, che ricicla, contiene, si riproduce all’infinito, offre infinite possibilità di trama, ed ha forma e specificità propria; un ‘romanzo’ che ha un inizio, una continuità, ma non una fine. Fosse questo fake sperimentale una torre e un puzzle, per ricordare Perec, e i tasselli di questo immenso puzzle i classici della letteratura, che via via andrò ad aggiungere come mattoni perchè la storia prenda vita e presenti un senso ragionevolmente compiuto (delle volte astratto, surreale, assurdo).
Non sono sicura di poter utilizzare il materiale di cui avrò bisogno, è probabile l’iniziativa viola certi diritti d’autore, tuttavia mi sono detta questo fake è solo un esperimento e un passatempo, che non verrà pubblicato e potrebbe offrire tanti spunti di riflessione oltre che di approfondimento alle letture citate. Tengo a ribadire quest’idea non ha nessun fine ma quello di distrarre, divertire, e in qualche modo permettermi di sperimentare, esplorare, e giocare con la letteratura, perchè non rimanga ‘muta’ e scritta soltanto ma venga condivisa in maniera attiva. Se tuttavia qualcuno di voi ritenesse ‘illegale’, ‘immorale’ o ‘offensivo’ quanto creato, si senta libero di farmelo presente e discuterne.
Mi rendo conto sarebbe bello citare i romanzi in italiano, ma ho qui soltanto libri in inglese, dunque non posso che utilizzare quelli.
Ho pensato intitolare il ‘romanzo’: ‘The Experimental Plagiarism. A fake novel of real novels’, e di iniziarlo con una prima sentenza tratta dal Romanzo dei Romanzi, Anna Karenina, di Tolstoj. Ho poi ritagliato una parte tratta da un racconto breve, [2], ‘The third son’, di Andrey Platonovich Platonov (contenuto in Russian Short Stories from Pushkin to Buida, che sto leggendo), e continuato il capitolo aggiungendo:
[3] una parte tratta da ‘Sinbad the Sailor‘, di Yuri Vasilyevich Buida (che è vero, non è un classico, ma da cui ho ritagliato appena tre linee soltanto)
[4] la parte introduttiva di ‘Life A User’s manual’, di Georges Perec, e infine [5] un’ultima parte tratta dall’inizio de ‘The Secret House’, di Edgar Wallace.
Questo quello che ne è venuto fuori.

____THE EXPERIMENTAL PLAGIARISM. A FAKE NOVEL OF REAL NOVELS___

PREFACE
‘The Experimental Plagiarism. A fake novel of real novels’, is an experimental and conceptual literary mess which aims to create a fake novel of real novels collected in one and kept together by a more or less cohesive -sometimes senseless, surreal, absurd – plot created by cutting and pasting paragraphs, short sentences, quotes, taken from classics of world literature and redirected into a text that contains them all but develops in its own way and direction. In a few words, ‘The Experimental Plagiarism. A fake novel of real novels’, is a killtime (and well, a killnovels as well) especially created for amusement only whom contents will not be published and aims are to cite, share and enjoy literature in a ‘creative’ and ‘experimental’ way.
Each paragraph, short sentence, quote, taken from a novel won’t be manipulated in any way and I’ll make sure to report name of the author, title of the book and date of publishing (when known).
To create the first chapter, I used:
[1] the first sentence taken from ‘Anna Karenina‘, by Lev Tolstoy, 1877
[2] a part taken from ‘The third son‘, by Andrey Platonovich Platonov
[3] a part taken from ‘Sinbad the Sailor’, by Yuri Vasilyevich Buida (I know, that’s not a classic, but it made sense and took 3 lines only)
[4] a part taken from ‘Life A User’s manual’, by Georges Perec, 1978
[5] a part taken from ‘The Secret House’, by Edgar Wallace, 1917
So here it goes, hope you enjoy it

__________________________CHAPTER 1_________________________________

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way
Anna Karenina, Lev Tolstoy

[2] An old woman died in a provincial town. Her husband, a seventy-year-old retired worker, went to the telegraph office and handed in six telegrams for different regions and republics, with the unvarying words: MOTHER DEAD COME HOME FATHER.
The elderly clerk took a long time doing the sums, kept makin mistakes, and wrote out the receipts and stamped them with trembling hands. The old man looked meekly at her through the wooden hatch; his eyes were red and he was absent- mindedly thinking something, trying to distract grief from his heart. It seemed to him that the woman, also had a broken heart and a soul now confused for ever- perhaps she was a widow or a wife who had been cruelly abandoned.
And so here she was, muddling money, losing her memory and attentiveness; even for ordinary, straightforward labour, people need to have inner happiness.
After sending off the telegrams, the old father went back home; he sat on a stool by a long table, at the cold feet oh his dead wife, smoked, whispered sad words, watched the solitary life of a grey bird hopping from perch to perch in its cage, sometimes cried quietly to himself and then calmed down, wound up his pocket watch, glanced now and again through the window, beyond which, out in nature, the weather kept changing- leaves were falling, along with flakes of wet tired snow, then there was rain, then a late sun shone, with no warmth, like a star – and the old man waited for his sons.
The eldest son arrived by plane the very next day. The other five sons all gathered within two more days.
One of them, the third son, came with his daughter, a six year old who had never seen her grandmother.
The mother had been waiting on the table for more than three days, but her body did not smell of death, so neat and clean had it been rendered by illness and dry exhaustion; after giving plentiful and healthy life to her sons, the old woman had kept a small, miserly body for herself and had tried for a long time to preserve it, if only in the most pitiful state, so that she could love her children and be proud of them- until she died.
The huge men, aged from twenty to forty, stood in silence round the coffin of the table. There were six of them – seven including the father, who was smaller than even his very youngest son, and weaker too. In his arms he held his granddaughter, who was screeming up her eyes from fear of a dead old woman she had never met and whose white unblinking eyes could just see her from beneath their half- closed lids.
The sons silently wept occasional slow tears, twisting their faces in order to bear grief without a sound. The father was no longer crying; he had cried himself out alone, before the others, and now, with secret excitement and an out-of-place joy, he was looking at his sturdy band of sons. Two of them were sailors – captain of ships; one was an actor from Moscow; the one with the daughter was a physicist and a Party member; the youngest was studying to be an agronomist; and the oldest was a head engineer in an aeroplane factory and wore on his chest a medal for honourable labour. All six of them – seven including the father- were silent around the dead mother and mourned her without a word, hiding from one another their despair, their memories of childhood and of love’s departed happiness, which had sprung up continually, making no demands, in their mother’s heart and which had always found them – even across thousands of miles- and they had sensed it constantly and instinctively and this had made them stronger and they had been successful in life more boldly. Now their mother had turned into a corpse; she could no longer love anyone and was lying there like an indifferent stranger, an old woman who had nothing to do with them.
Each of her sons felt lonely and frightened now, as if somewhere in the darkness a lamp had been burning on the windowsill of an old house far from anywhere, and the lamp had lit up the night, the flying beetles, the blue grass, the swarms of midges in the air- an entire childhood world abandoned by those who had been born there; the doors of that house had never locked, so that those who went out could always go back, but no one had gone back. And now it was as of the light had been extinguished in that night window, and reality had turned into memory.
[3] Before dying, Katerina Ivanovna Momotova sent for Doctor Sheberstov, who’d treated her all her life and had been pensioned off a long ago. She handed him the key to her little house and a scrap of paper folded in four, asking him to burn it along with all the others.
‘They are at home’, she explained in embarrassment.’But please don’t tell anyone. I’d have done it myself, only you see how it’s all turned out…’
[4] Yes, it could begin this way, right here, just like that, in a rather slow and ponderous way, in this neutral place that belongs to all and to none, where people pass by almost without seeing each other, where the life of the building regularly and distantly resounds. What happens behind the flats’ heavy doors can most often be perceived only through those fragmented echoes, those splinters, remnants, shadows, those first moves or incidents or accidents that happen in what are called the ‘common areas’, soft little sounds damped by the red woollen carpet, embryos of communal life which never go further than the landing.The inhabitants of a single building live a few inches from each other, they are separated by a mere partition wall, they share the same spaces repeated along corridor, they perform the same movements at the same times, turning on a tap, flushing the water closet, switching on a light, laying the table, a few dozen simultaneous existences repeated from storey to storey, from building to building, from street to street. They entrench themselves in their domestic dwelling space- since that is what it is called – and they would prefer nothing to emerge from it; but the little they do let out – the dog on a lead, the child off to fetch the bread, someone brought back, someone sent away- comes out by way of the landing.
For all that passes, passes by the stairs, and all that comes, comes by the stairs: letters, announcements of births, marriages, and deaths, forniture brought in or taken out by removers, the doctor called in an emergency, the traveler returning from a long voyage. It’s because of that that the staircase remains an anonymous, cold, and almost hostile place. In old buildings there used to be stone steps, wrought – iron handrails, sculptures, lamp- holders, sometimes a bench to allow old folk to rest between floors. In modern buildings there are lifts with walls covered in would- be obscene graffiti, and so- called ‘emergency’ staircases in unrendered concrete, dirty and echoing. In this block of flats, where there is an old lift almost always out of order, the staircase is an old-fashioned place of questionable cleanliness, which declines in terms of middle-class respectability as it rises from floor to floor: two thickness of carpet as far as the third floor, thereafter only one, and none at all for the two attic floors.
[5] A man stood irresolutely before the imposing portals of Cainbury House, a large office building let out to numerous small tenants, and harbouring, as the indicator on the tiled wall of the vestibule testified, some thirty different professions. The man was evidently poor, for his clothes were shabby and his boots were down at heel. He was as evidently a foreigner. His clean-shaven eagle face was sallow, his eyes were dark, his eyebrows black and straight.
He passed up the few steps into the hall and stood thoughtfully before the indicator. Presently he found what he wanted. At the very top of the list and amongst the crowded denizens of the fifth floor was a slip inscribed:
“THE GOSSIP’S CORNER”
He took from his waistcoat pocket a newspaper cutting and compared the two then stepped briskly, almost jauntily, into the hall, as though all his doubts and uncertainties had vanished, and waited for the elevator. His coat was buttoned tightly, his collar was frayed, his shirt had seen the greater part of a week’s service, the Derby hat on his head had undergone extensive renovations, and a close observer would have noticed that his gloves were odd ones.
He walked into the lift and said, “Fifth floor,” with a slight foreign accent.
He was whirled up, the lift doors clanged open and the grimy finger of the elevator boy indicated the office. Again the man hesitated, examining the door carefully. The upper half was of toughened glass and bore the simple inscription:
“THE GOSSIP’S CORNER.
KNOCK.”
Obediently the stranger knocked and the door opened through an invisible agent, much to the man’s surprise, though there was nothing more magical about the phenomenon than there is about any electrically controlled office door.
He found himself in a room sparsely furnished with a table, a chair and a few copies of papers. An old school map of England hung on one wall and a Landseer engraving on the other. At the farthermost end of the room was another door, and to this he gravitated and again, after a moment’s hesitation, he knocked.
“Come in,” said a voice.
He entered cautiously.
The room was larger and was comfortably furnished. There were shaded electric lamps on either side of the big carved oak writing-table. One of the walls was covered with books, and the litter of proofs upon the table suggested that this was the sanctorum.
But the most remarkable feature of the room was the man who sat at the desk. He was a man solidly built and, by his voice, of middle age. His face the new-comer could not see and for excellent reason. It was hidden behind a veil of fine silk net which had been adjusted over the head like a loose bag and tightened under the chin.
The man at the table chuckled when he saw the other’s surprise.
“Sit down,” he said–he spoke in French–“and don’t, I beg of you, be alarmed.”
“Monsieur,” said the new-comer easily, “be assured that I am not alarmed. In this world nothing has ever alarmed me except my own distressing poverty and the prospect of dying poor.”
The veiled figure said nothing for a while.
“You have come in answer to my advertisement,” he said after a long pause.
The other bowed.
“You require an assistant, Monsieur,” said the new-comer, “discreet, with a knowledge of foreign languages and poor. I fulfill all those requirements,” he went on calmly; “had you also added, of an adventurous disposition, with few if any scruples, it would have been equally descriptive.”
The stranger felt that the man at the desk was looking at him, though he could not see his eyes. It must have been a long and careful scrutiny, for presently the advertiser said gruffly:
“I think you’ll do.”
“Exactly,” said the new-comer with cool assurance; “and now it is for you, dear Monsieur, to satisfy me that you also will do. You will have observed that there are two parties to every bargain. First of all, my duties?”
The man in the chair leant back and thrust his hands into his pockets.
“I am the editor of a little paper which circulates exclusively amongst the servants of the upper classes,” he said. “I receive from time to time interesting communications concerning the aristocracy and gentry of this country, written by hysterical French maids and revengeful Italian valets. I am not a good linguist, and I feel that there is much in these epistles which I miss and which I should not miss.”
The new-comer nodded.
“I therefore want somebody of discretion who will deal with my foreign correspondence, make a fair copy in English and summarize the complaints which these good people make. You quite understand,” he said with a shrug of his shoulders, “that mankind is not perfect, less perfect is womankind, and least perfect is that section of mankind which employs servants. They usually have stories to tell not greatly to their masters’ credit, not nice stories, you understand, my dear friend. By the way, what is your name?”
The stranger hesitated.

To Be or Not To Be? The Invisibile Man

Da un po’che m’ingegno e spremo le meningi a capire il trucchetto per essere invisibile e scomparire. Come si fa, ci voglio riuscire.
C’ho pensato a lungo, e ho finalmente trovato la soluzione. Perch’io possa scomparire, meglio essere invisibile, devo mimetizzarmi. Ma come? Ho pensato attraverso un processo di mimetismo, incorporazione, e all’occorrenza camaleontismo. Si tratterebbe quindi di indossare una maschera e un mito. E’un lavoro duro, che richiede una buona preparazione, nervi saldi e improvvisazione. Si tratterebbe di recitare come attori nell’improvvisato devising theatre del caso. E’ interessante.
Essere invisibile offre tanti vantaggi, per esempio quello di conquistare il mondo, come in questo vecchio film fantascientifico americano, di James Whale, tratto dal romanzo di H. G. Wells. Inoltre, essere invisibili implica la volontà di non essere, dunque il diritto ad astenersi.
In altri tempi astenersi non mi pareva una scelta, che ritenevo facile e comoda, dunque rifiutavo di considerare come tale; ultimamente invece, sto riconsiderando la faccenda da un punto di vista diverso. Cerco di ribaltare una prospettiva. E se il trucchetto consistesse piuttosto nel mimetizzarsi e astenersi? Essere implica il diritto di esistere? E qualora venisse meno questo diritto?

On Counterculture. The Hall of the Singing Caryatids by Victor Pelevin


Anni che piovono investimenti da tutte le latitudini, fiumi di denaro a secchiate, a cascate, a sprecare, e l’Inghilterra si ritrova oggi con l’acqua alla gola. Certi giorni di temporale a boccheggiare.
‘Mothers are on the brink. Cost of living is forcing 1 in 5 to skip meals to feed their children’
More than 70 per cent of families are financially ‘on the edge’, according to research published today.
Struggling families are on the brink of poverty and could face ruin if hit by further price increases or falls in their income, the study by parenting website Netmums found.
via 70 per cent of British families on the brink of poverty, research claims | Metro.co.uk.
Il 70% delle famiglie inglesi è a rischio povertà e una madre su cinque rinuncia a un pasto al giorno per dare da mangiare ai propri figli. Cameron aumenta le tasse e accorcia il braccino. Non è un caso il film The Iron Lady, uscito nei cinema a gennaio. Il messaggio mi pare chiaro, ladies and gentlemen, torniamo alle maniere dure di sempre. Right Now.
L’Europa piange, l’America annaspa, il Medio Oriente muore, l’Asia si trascina. Siamo in guerra. Ed è una guerra d’avanguardia, che non ha precedenti e si distingue per violenza e impatto nella sfera sociale; le trincee sono nei mercati finanziari, i soldati in banca, i dissidenti in rete; il denaro è virtuale, le bombe chimiche, le stragi silenziose. Moriamo di depressione, di cancro, di tumori, di anoressia, di bulimia, di overdose. Di stress. La propaganda Anti-Crisi si diffonde per radio, televisione, internet, a suon di pop e marionette. Tutto è spettacolo, tutto è d’oro, tutto è magia e possibilità. Yes, you can. Why not?
Perchè le istituzioni, i media, sono corrotti? Perchè nascono dall’investimento di denaro, ed è il denaro che crea potere, dominio, primato, e corrompe il sistema. Come possono i giornalisti della rai lamentarsi delle censure se per lavorare come giornalisti della rai hanno dovuto investire milioni (in studi, in aggiornamenti, in viaggi, in raccomandazioni) pur di farsi assumere dal governo italiano. Un figlio può disobbedire al padre, essergli irriconoscente, voltargli le spalle? Con un mutuo da pagare e una vacanza alle canarie da disdire? Alcuni lo hanno fatto. Alcuni si sono ribellati al padre. E io trovo tutto quel lamentarsi, capricci e ripicche da bambini. C’è tanta gente che lavora sodo e fa informazione lontano i riflettori del grande palcoscenico statale. E lo fa’ molto spessp gratis, per passione e romanticismo. NO, io non credo alla libertà di parola. Credo ai fatti e i fatti dicono che il sistema è corrotto. Bando agli idealismi. Che si fa?
Chiunque di noi si dice disgustato dalle raccomandazioni, sebbene chiunque di noi sarebbe disposto a vendersi la pelle pur di avere un posto fisso. Ognuno di noi ogni giorno si prostituisce in cambio di denaro, affermazione, prestigio. A lavoro, nelle relazioni sociali. Chi per vanità, chi per gioco, chi per noia, chi per debolezza.
Io credo l’unica delle possibilità che abbiamo per arginare la crisi, è dire di NO. NO. NO. E NO. NO, cazzo. Noi non abbiamo bisogno di un’applicazione nel telefonino che ci dica come stare a dieta, noi abbiamo bisogno di cibo per sfamare i bambini che muoiono di fame, vengono abbandonati, sono vittima di violenze domestiche. Noi non abbiamo bisogno di macchine nuove, un nuovo guardaroba, l’ultimo taglia-acqua elettrico, noi abbiamo bisogno di medicine, se siamo malati, di un’adeguata istruzione, perchè siamo ignoranti, di investire nella ricerca, nella medicina. Io non voglio lanciare una provocazione e tirarmi indietro, o fare polemica per noia o cattivo gusto. Io ho il dovere di ribellarmi, e l’unica maniera che ho di ribellarmi è agire e parlarne.
Qualche mese fa mi proposero a lavoro di diventare shift leader e iniziare così una strepitosa e brillante carriera nel glorioso avvenire del caffè. Io ho detto di NO. Io sono una barista, e mi piaccio così. Essere shift leader vuol dire assumersi certe responsabilità non adeguatamente ricompensate economicamente, soprattutto, dovere sempre e a qualunque condizione dire di SI. Per contratto. E io non ho intenzione di dire di si a una compagnia che basa la propria ricchezza sullo sfruttamento della classe operaia e l’investimento di capitali in Arabia Saudita e Polonia. Che non paga la malattia fino a prima del sesto giorno di assenza da lavoro. Che non paga bank holidays e corsi di formazione al personale. Io soffro a sapere loro arricchirsi alle mie spalle e le spalle dei miei colleghi, in prevalenza dell’Est, provati dalla povertà e disposti a dire di Si a qualunque condizione. E perchè soffro? Perchè sono anni che lavoro al minimo della paga e al massimo dello sfruttamento, e non posso neanche permettermi un dentista o un terapeuta per curarmi la schiena. Perchè se mai dovessi ammalarmi di un accidenti, sarò fottuta. Non la prima, nè l’ultima. Ed è questo che mi rende impotente e fa’ soffrire. Non posso fare nulla per proteggere me, chi mi sta vicino e sta peggio di noi.
Certo, qualcuno griderà, lavoro! Ti serve un dentista? Ti serve un terapeuta? Hai un lavoro, lavora! Lavora di più. NO io non lavoro di più. Io non mi faccio spremere come un limone per soddisfare la tua sete di potere e denaro.
Il tempo è denaro, dicono. NO, il denaro è tempo. Il denaro stabilisce quante ore di lavoro un dipendente deve fare e quanto denaro quel dipendente deve pontenzialmente fruttare. Nel mio caso, 73 pounds all’ora. Contro i 6 e 10 di paga netta per ora.
Il denaro permette di acquistare il tempo, di scambiare del tempo per del tempo, che viene comprato indirettamente e subordinato a un vincolo, il rapporto compratore-venditore, quindi consumatore-stipendiato. Questo rapporto è sempre a svantaggio del consumatore-stipendiato. Quando un consumatore compra un prodotto, paga il tempo che è stato necessario a creare quel prodotto ma ad un prezzo più alto rispetto allo stipendio che gli viene dato e in proporzione al tempo che gli ci è voluto per crearlo.
Esempio: in una fabbrica un taglia-acqua elettrico viene costruito in 8 ore di lavoro, da 20 dipendenti stipendiati (compreso il settore commerciale e il lavoro incluso per fabbricare il materiale di produzione utilizzato). Lo stipendio di ogni singolo dipendente dovrebbe quindi corrispondere a 1/20 del prezzo del taglia-acqua elettrico, ossia 1000 pounds se il taglia-acqua elettrico vale 20000 pounds. Questo dovrebbe corrispondere ad uno stipendio di 22000 pounds al mese (22 giorni di lavoro). Per la maggior parte dei lavoratori lo stipendio consiste nel minimo di quella cifra. Nella stragrande maggioranza dei casi le proporzioni sono spaventosamente invertite e il lavoratore è l’unico a esserne penalizzato. I beneficiari del tempo rubato ai dipendenti stipendiati sono le ditte e i loro dirigenti, ma anche gli Stati, dal momento che gli imposti e le tasse prelevate sui lavoratori non vengono utilizzati per l’interesse generale ma vengono usati per arricchire le tasce dei ministeri e investire capitali nel privato.
Perchè continuo a lavorare in quel posto? Perchè sono codarda. Perchè so che se me ne vado non troverò un altro lavoro. Perchè so non c’è lavoro. Perchè non ho il coraggio di mollare tutto e vivere per strada. Sono una fifona. E in fondo mi piace, il confort di un posto caldo dove dormire e almeno un pasto al giorno di cui cibarmi. Sono una donna sofisticata.
Dei giorni andare a lavoro mi pare una violenza. Il coraggio non sta nell’andare a lavoro. Il coraggio starebbe semmai nel mollarlo. Più della metà di tutti i lavori che facciamo è assolutamente inutile e non porta a niente di edificante e attributivo all’intera società. Vendiamo beni altrui, costruiamo cianfrusaglie inutili, ci sprechiamo in cambio di carta straccia. Schifosissima e maledetta carta straccia puzzolente e sporca di sangue.
Sto leggendo un bel romanzo, in questi giorni. S’intitola The Hall of the Caryatids, dello scrittore russo Victor Pelevin, classe ’62, moscovita, ingegnere elettro-meccanico e scrittore spadaccino di cui lessi l’articolo che segue in questo magazine on-line Russia Beyond The Headlines: Russian News (disponibile anche in italiano)
In his recent works, Russian master of postmodern science fiction Victor Pelevin has shifted his satirical focus from the absurdities of the communist regime to the iniquitous consumerism of post-Soviet Russia.

In this surreal story, The Hall of Singing Caryatids, by the Russian master of postmodern science fiction, Victor Pelevin, young Lena is employed to stand naked for hours at a time and sing – when they are not indulging the excessive fantasies of oligarchs. She and her fellow “caryatids” are decorative pillars in an elite underground nightclub. The girls are injected with a classified serum, ‘Mantis-B,’ which enables them to stand totally still for up to two days. Lena’s encounters with a giant, telepathic praying mantis, while under the influence of the serum, radically alter her perspective on the outside world, revealing an alternative universe of wordless clarity.

In true postmodern style, Pelevin intersperses these drug-induced episodes with other voices. There are the pseudo-pretentious extracts from Counterculture magazine that Lena reads in the minibus back to Moscow. She also meets concept artists, girls dressed as mermaids, important clients in bathrobes, guards in suits, and the sinister, ironic-slogan-toting Uncle Pete.

Pelevin has been perplexing and delighting readers with his unique brand of polyphonic sci-fi comedy for more than two decades now. His first novel, Omon Ra, published in 1992, portrays a protagonist attempting to escape the Soviet nightmare by becoming a cosmonaut, only to find himself part of a farcical, mock-heroic moon landing during which he drives his lunar bike along a derelict underground tunnel.

While the political landscape may seem to have altered seismically around him, Pelevin has had no trouble shifting his satirical focus from the absurdities of the communist regime to the iniquitous consumerism of post-Soviet Russia. Pelevin’s most recent book, Pineapple Water for a Beautiful Lady, has just been short-listed for the Nose literary prize.

via Revealing drawbacks of post-Soviet consumerism | Russia Beyond The Headlines.

Il romanzo ricorda molto il bunga bunga affair ed è principalmente indirizzato a polemizzare la corruzione dell’oligarchia russa sotto il governo Putin.
Chi sono le cariatidi canterine? Dal greco, figure portanti. Un gruppo di giovani prostitute, addestrate, drogate, coinvolte da una società segreta in un affare politico.
C’è una parte del libro, molto bella, in cui Lena e le altre ragazze vengono convocate da Uncle Pete e portate in un luogo segreto. Intanto che aspettano, Lena trova una rivista, e Pevelin il pretesto per parlare di controcultura e fare polemica

‘She took the driver’s well thumbed copy of Eligible Bachelors of Russia magazine. Inside it was another slim, badly tattered magazine, titled Counterculture. It wasn’t clear if this was printed or simply a supplement. Counterculture was printed on poor quality newsprint and looked very dubious, even sordid, but Vera explained that that was deliberate.
“It’s counterculture,” she said, as if the word explained everything.
“And what’s that?” Lena asked.
“That’s when they use dirty words on cheap paper,” Vera explained. “So they can badmouth the glossies. It’s hot shit nowadays.”
Asya frowned.
“That’s not right,” she said, “it doesn’t have to be on cheap paper, sometimes the paper’s expensive. Counterculture’s..” She hesitates for a moment, as if she was trying to recall a phrase that she’d heard somewhere. “It’s the aesthetic of anti-bourgeois revolt, expropriated by the ruling elite, that’s what it is.”
“But how can you expropriate an aesthetic?” Vera asked.
“NO problem,” replied Asya. “Nowadays, everyone who’s got a competent PR manager is a rebel. Any dumb bitch on TV can say she’s on the run from the FSB…I don’t get you girls; I don’t see why we should have any complexes about the job. Because everyone’s a prostitute nowadays, even the air- for letting the radio waves pass through it.”
“You take such an emotional view of everything, seeing it all with your heart,” said Kima. “You won’t last long like that. And anyway, that’s not what counterculture is.”
“Then what is it?” asked Asya.
“It’s just a market niche,” Kima replied with a shrug, “And not just here, it’s the same all over the world. Think of it – ‘counter’-counterculture is any commodity someone’s hoping to sell big-time, so they put it on the checkout counter. Lena, why are you so quiet?”
“I am reading,” Lena replied. “I don’t understand why they use dotted lines for profanity, if they’re in revolt.”
“That’s to attract more readers.”
“Aha. And here they write:’brilliant intellectual, experimenting within the mainstream…’ Is that counterculture?”
“No,” said Asya. “That’s one cute guy on the make and another one doing his PR.”
Lena didn’t ask any more question, but she was still wondering what counterculture really was, and decided to read right through the supplement.
She half listened to the girls with one ear as she read the article: “The 100 Most Expensive Wh…s in Moscow (with Phone Numbers and Addresses)” – followed by the comments on it (one commentator wrote in to ask why was that Drozdovets, the host of the popular talk show “Hats Off!”, wasn’t in the list – was it because of a sudden moral transformation or a temporary decline in his ratings?). Then she frowned at a strange advertisement (“Weary of the hustle and bustle of the city? In just two minutes, you can be in a pine forest. Washing lines from the Free Space factory!”), leafed through an article about the singer Shnurkov (“Why, of all the warriors doing battle against the dictatorship of the manager, was this sophisticated Che Guevara, known to many well-to-do gentlemen for his scintillating songs at exclusive corporate events, the first to point out that he was no slouch when it came to picking up on the ringtone? Because he realized that these days it’s the only way to get his ringtone playing on your iPhone, dear manager!”), then Lena read an interview with Shnurkov himself (“The composer of ‘Ham ..r that C..t’ and ‘D..k in a Con..m’ reflects on the trends and metamorphoses of contemporary Russian cinema”), and then – probably because of the tiresome countercultural profanities – she started feeling depressed and lonely, so she closed the supplemt and dived into the quiet, glossy waters of Eligible Bachelors of Russia.
Immediately she came across a large article titled “The last Russian Macho.” It was devoted to the oligarch Botvinik, whom it called “Russia’s No. 1 Eligible Bachelor.”
Lena peered, gimlet-eyed, at the photo of a stocky, chubby individual with an unnatural, bright blush right across his cheeks – as if she were trying to drill a fishing hole in the glossy surface and hook the key to some kind of secret code out of it.
“Could you love someone like that?” Asya asked, glancing into the magazine.
“Why not?” replied Lena. “You can always find something good in anyone. And when someone has a few billion dollars, you can find an awful lot of something good. You just have to look for it.”
Text entirely taken from ‘The Hall of the Singing Caryatids’ by Victor Pelevin.
Translated from the Russian by Andrew Bromfield.

Goodbye To Berlin

Berlin, Unter den Linden, Victoria Hotel zwischen 1890 und 1900 (wiki)

Quella notte che dormii per strada, a Berlino, fu la notte seguente al primo giorno che vi arrivai, un mattino di sette anni fa. Faceva febbraio fuori. Avevo viaggiato in treno tutta la notte, da Hauptbahnhof Station (Monaco), attraverso la Bavaria, la Turingia, Brandeburgo, fino a Zoologischer Garten, la stazione a ovest di Berlino in cui mi fermai. Non conoscevo nessuno, non avevo un posto dove dormire, appena 250 euro dentro la tasca dei jeans.
Di Zoologischer Garten avevo letto da ragazzina in quel romanzo di Christiane F., poi diventato un film nell’81.
C’è una cosa che caratterizza e distingue i luoghi, e questa è la luce. Berlino è una città di ombre. Profuma di sporco e graffiato. E’ una scheggia tra le costole degli edifici monumentali, le costruzioni moderne, tracce di guerra, avanzi di storia nelle rovine. Il Funkturm, la Neue Synagoge, il Muro, Christopher Street Day, il Checkpoint Charlie, Good Bye Lenin. Ogni angolo di Berlino è rottura e giunzione. Il tempo è una fotografia sgualcita e accartocciata negli angoli.
Qualche settimana fa ho trovato un romanzo che ho pensato sarebbe stato bello leggere a quei tempi, Goodbye to Berlin, dello scrittore inglese Christopher Isherwood. ‘Brilliant skretches of a society in decay’, avrebbe detto George Orwell
Christopher Isherwood nasce nel 1904 a Wyberslegh Hall, High Lane, Cheshire, in North West England, da padre tenente colonnello delle armi inglesi, morto durante la prima guerra mondiale. Dopo la morte del padre, Christopher la madre e il fratello minore si trasferiscono a Londra, dove lo scrittore intraprende un corso di medicina. Isherwood inizia a scrivere da ragazzino, dapprima poesie, poi un primo romanzo, All the Conspirators, del 1928, che non riscuote grande fortuna.
In quegli anni conosce W. H. Auden, di cui si innamora e per il quale abbandona medicina e si trasferisce a Berlino, dove i due vivranno insieme, con spirito da kamikaze, fino al ’38. E’ durante gli anni trascorsi nella repubblica di Weimar che Isherwood concentra la propria produzione narrativa prima di un definitivo trasferimento in America, da dissidente, dove inizia ad occuparsi di cinema, teatro e commedia.
Qualche anno prima, al cugino francese Ferdinand Bardamu, protagonista del romanzo Viaggio al termine della notte, di Louis-Ferdinand Céline, sarebbe toccata ben altra sorte; partito per la guerra, la prima, e rientrato a Parigi dall’America, avvierà uno studio medico a La Garenne-Rancya, rinomato sobborgo parigino che farà da cornice agli sproloqui dello scrittore contenuti  in questo romanzo meraviglioso pubblicato a cavallo fra le due guerre.
Goodbye to Berlin, del 1939, è parte di una raccolta ‘The Berlin Stories’ che inquadra la società berlinese attraverso gli occhi e l’umore della gente che Isherwood incontra per strada, nei campi da golf, nei club, le sale da tea, i salotti. Quasi la guerra fosse appena un contrattempo e un fastidio, e a farla soltanto i soldati e la gente ammazzata oltre il confine. I campi di concentramento uno scherzo d’ebrei, l’omosessualità una malattia infettiva, il nazismo una preghiera, Hitler un messia.

A collection of six overlapping short stories set against the backdrop of the declining Weimar republic as Hitler rose to power. Isherwood, appearing himself as a fictional narrator, lives as a struggling author in the German capital, describing his meetings with the decadent, often doomed eccentrics, bohemians, and showgirls around him. The sense of oblivious naivety to the gathering storm around them gives his characters tremendous pathos and tragedy. The title refers not just to Isherwood’s departure from a city he clearly loved, but also to the sense that the Berlin of the early thirties was irrecoverably destroyed by the rise of the Nazis, and the destruction of the Weimar State. Isherwood is evoking an age that will never be seen again. It’s not so much a story of sorrowful departure as an obituary.

via . BOOK REVIEW CHRISTOPHER ISHERWOOD GOODBYE TO BERLIN

The Berlin Stories ispirò il regista John Van Druten a dirigere il film ‘I am a Camera’, del 1951, una commedia ‘Cabaret’, del 1966, e l’omonimo film del 1972 che valse a Liza Minelli un Academy Award per aver interpretato Sally, una giovane flapper inglese in cerca di fortuna come attrice a Berlino
E’ giusto Sally Bowles il racconto più spassoso contenuto in Goodbye to Berlin, di cui vi propongo una parte
She lived a long way down the Kurfustendamm on the last dreary stretch which rises to Halensee. I was shown into a big gloomy half-furnished room by a fat untidy landlady with a pouchy sagging jowl like a toad. There was a broken-down sofa in one corner and a faded picture of an eighteenth-century battle, with the wounded reclining on their elbows in graceful attitudes, admiring the prancings of Frederick the Great’s horse.
‘Oh, hullo, Chris darling!’ cried Sally from the doorway. ‘How sweet of you to come! I was feeling most terribly lonely. I’ve been crying on Frau Karpf’s chest. Nicht wahr, Frau Karpf?’ She appealed to the toad landlady, ‘ich habe geweint auf Dein Brust.’ Frau Karpf shook her bosom in a toad-like chuckle.
‘Would you rather have coffee, Chris, or tea?’ Sally continued. ‘You can have either. Only I don’t recommend the tea much. I don’t know what Frau Karpf does to it; I think she empties all the kitchen slops together into a jug and boils them up with the tea-leaves.’
‘I’ll have coffee, then.’
‘Frau Karpf, Liebling, willst Du sein ein Engel und bring zwei Tassen von Koffee?’ Sally’s German was not merely incorrect; it was all her own. She pronounced every word in a mincing, specially ‘foreign’ manner. You could tell that she was speaking a foreign language from her expression alone. ‘Chris darling, will you be an angel and draw the curtains?’
I did so, although it was still quite light outside. Sally, meanwhile, had switched on the table-lamp. As I turned from the window, she curled herself up delicately on the sofa like a cat, and opening her bag, felt for a cigarette. But hardly was the pose complete before she’d jumped to her feet again:
‘Would you like a Prairie Oyster?’ She produced glasses, eggs and a bottle of Worcester sauce from the boot-cupboard under the dismantled washstand: ‘I practically live on them.’ Dexterously, she broke the eggs into the glasses, added the sauce and stirred up the mixture with the end of a fountain-pen: ‘They’re about all I can afford.’ She was back on the sofa again, daintily curled up.
She was wearing the same black dress today, but without the cape. Instead, she had a little white collar and white cuffs. They produced a kind of theatrically chaste effect, like a nun in grand opera. ‘What are you laughing at, Chris?’ she asked.
‘I don’t know, ‘I said. But still I couldn’t stop grinning. There was, at that moment, something so extraordinarily comic in Sally’s appearance. She was really beautiful, with her little dark head, big eyes, and finally arched nose- and so absurdly conscious of all these features. There she lay, as complacently feminine as a turtle-dove, with her poised self-conscious head, and daintily arranged hands.
‘Chris, you swine, do tell me why you’re laughing?’
‘I really haven’t the faintest idea.’
At this, she began to laugh too:’You are mad, you know!’
‘Have you been here long? I asked, looking round the large gloomy room.
‘Ever since I arrived in Berlin. Let’s see- that was about two months ago.’
Taken from ‘Goodbye to Berlin, by Christopher Isherwood, 1939

Some Of Those Days

La Musique des Pucese by Robert Doisneau

-Madeleine, if you please, play something on the phonograph. The one I like, you know: Some of these days.
Madeleine turns the crank on the phonograph. I only hope she has not made a mistake; that she hasn’t put on Cavalleria Rusticana, as she did the other day. But no, this is it, I recognize the melody from the very first bars. It is an old rag-time with a vocal refrain. I heard American soldiers whistle it in 1917 in the streets of LaRochelle. It must date from before the War. But the recording is much more recent. Still, it is the oldest record in the collection, a Pathe record for sapphire needle.
The vocal chorus will be along shortly: I like that part especially and the abrupt manner in which it throws itself forward, like a cliff against the sea. For the moment, the jazz is playing; there is no melody, only notes, a myriad of tiny jolts. They know no rest, an inflexible order gives birth to them and destroys them without even giving them time to recuperate and exist for themselves. They race, they press forward, they strike me a sharp blow in passing and are obliterated. I would like to hold them back, but I know if I succeeded in stopping one it would remain between my fingers only as a raffish languishing sound. I must accept their death; I must even will it. I know few impressions stronger or more harsh.
I grow warm, I begin to feel happy. There is nothing extraordinary in this, it is a small happiness of Nausea: it spreads at the bottom of the viscous puddle, at the bottom of our time—the time of purple suspenders and broken chair seats; it is made of wide, soft instants, spreading at the edge, like an oil stain. No sooner than born, it is already old, it seems as though I have known it for twenty years.
There is another happiness: outside there is this band of steel, the narrow duration of the music which traverses our time through and through, rejecting it, tearing at it with its dry little points; there is another time.
“Monsieur Randu plays hearts..and you play an ace.
The voice dies away and disappears. Nothing bites on the ribbon of steel, neither the opening door, nor the breath of cold air flowing over my knees, nor the arrival of the veterinary surgeon and his little girl: the music transpierces these vague figures and passes through them. Barely seated, the girl has been seized by it: she holds herself stiffly, her eyes wide open; she listens, rubbing the table with her fist.
A few seconds more and the Negress will sing. It seems inevitable, so strong is the necessity of this music: nothing can interrupt it, nothing which comes from this time in which the world has fallen; it will stop of itself, as if by order. If I love this beautiful voice it is especially because of that: it is neither for its fulness nor its sadness, rather because it is the event for which so many notes have been preparing, from so far away, dying that it might be born. And yet I am troubled; it would take so little to make the record stop: a broken spring, the whim of Cousin Adolphe. How strange it is, how moving, that this hardness should be so fragile. Nothing can interrupt it yet all can break it.
The last chord has died away. In the brief silence which follows I feel strongly that there it is, that something has happened.
Some of these days You’ll miss me honey
What has just happened is that the Nausea has disappeared. When the voice was heard in the silence, I felt my body harden and the Nausea vanish. Suddenly: it was almost unbearable to become so hard, so brilliant. At the same time the music was drawn out, dilated, swelled like a waterspout. It filled the room with its metallic transparency, crushing our miserable time against the walls. I am in the music. Globes of fire turn in the mirrors; encircled by rings of smoke, veiling and unveiling the hard smile of light. My glass of beer has shrunk, it seems heaped up on the table, it looks dense and indispensable. I want to pick it up and feel the weight of it, I stretch out my hand..God! That is what has changed, my gestures. This movement of my arm has developed like a majestic theme, it has glided along the song of the Negress; I seemed to be dancing.
Adolphe’s face is there, set against the chocolate-coloured wall; he seems quite close. Just at the moment when my hand closed, I saw his face; it witnessed to the necessity of a conclusion. I press my fingers against the glass, I look at Adolphe: I am happy.
-Wow
A voice rises from the tumult. My neighbour is speaking, the old man burns. His cheeks make a violet stain on the brown leather of the bench. He slaps a card down on the table. Diamonds.
But the dog-faced young man smiles. The flushed opponent, bent over the table, watches him like a cat ready to spring.
“Et voila!”
The hand of the young man rises from the shadow, glides an instant, white, indolent, then suddenly drops like a hawk and presses a card against the cloth. The great red-faced man leaps up:”Hell! He’s trumped.”
The outline of the king of hearts appears between his curled fingers, then it is turned on its face and the game goes on. Mighty king, come from so far, prepared by so many combinations, by so many vanished gestures. He disappears in turn so that other combinations can be born, other gestures,attacks, counterattacks, turns of luck, a crowd of small adventures.
I am touched, I feel my body at rest like a precision machine. I have had real adventures. I can recapture no detail but I perceive the rigorous succession of circumstances. I have crossed seas, left cities behind me, followed the course of rivers or plunged into forests, always making my way towards other cities. I have had women, I have fought with men; and never was I able to turn back,any more than a record can be reversed. And all that led me—where? At this very instant, on this bench, in this translucent bubble all humming with music.
And when you leave me
Yes, I who loved so much to sit on the banks of the Tiber at Rome, or in the evening, in Barcelona, ascend and descend the Ramblas a hundred times, I, who near Angkor, on the island of Baray Prah-Kan, saw a banyan tree knot its roots about a Naga chapel, I am here, living in the same second as these card players, I listen to a Negress sing while outside roves the feeble night.
The record stops.
Night has entered, sweetish, hesitant. No one sees it, but it is there, veiling the lamps; I breathe something opaque in the air: it is night. It is cold. One of the players pushes a disordered pack of cards towards another man who picks them up. One card has stayed behind. Don’t they see it? It’s the nine of hearts. Someone takes it at last, gives it to the dog-faced young man.
“Ah. The nine of hearts.”
Enough, I’m going to leave. The purple-faced man bends over a sheet of paper and sucks his pencil. Madeleine watches him with clear, empty eyes. The young man turns and turns the nine of hearts between his fingers. God! . . .
I get up with difficulty; I see an inhuman face glide in the mirror above the veterinary’s head. In a little while I’ll go to the cinema.
Jean – Paul Sartre, Nausea, 1938.

Notes from an Exhibition

Così sono finalmente riuscita a finire di leggere Notes from an Exhibition, un romanzo regalatomi qualche tempo fa da un amico. Very English, un tanto ansiogeno e molto controllato. Patrick Gale non parla di emozioni, ma le suggerisce, attraverso la descrizione di un quadro a inizio capitolo; un quadro un capitolo, uno scrittore, che in alcuni passaggi si trattiene dall’emozionarsi ed estranea, singhiozza ma non piange, sorride ma di sbieco. La protagonista, Rachel Kelly, è una pittrice, è bipolare, è madre di quattro figli e figlia di un marito. C’è molto di Sylvia Plath, nella maniera in cui Gale ce la dipinge, vulnerabile e ostile, tenuo acquarello di ombre e segreti.
Rachel tenta il suicidio, s’infiamma, evapora, ammutolisce, si spreca in lacrime, muore, ma Patrick Gale non si scompone, rimane impassibile e fedele, al buon senso della ragione e alla chirurgia delle parole.

Artist Rachel Kelly’s beloved youngest son, suitably named Petroc, once gave her six stones collected from a Cornish beach, each chosen to represent a member of the family. Rachel treasures these stones and, while engaged on a groundbreaking new series of paintings possibly inspired by them, dies of a heart attack in her Cornish loft-studio.

A death is a well-worn fictional opening device, but here Patrick Gale uses it cleverly to fresh effect. Told via notes from a posthumous retrospective of Rachel’s work, which head each chapter, the narrative offers an unusual way into the half-dozen changing viewpoints that dot around in time and place, like apparently random pieces of a jigsaw. Fortunately for the reader, Gale guides us fairly confidently towards the full picture.

Rachel is bipolar, a creature alternately wonderful and terrible to her gentle Quaker husband Antony Middleton and her four children. As a young English postgraduate, Antony rescued her in Oxford when she was pregnant and suicidal. His devotion, his calm, tolerant religion and his childhood home in Penzance combined to make marriage to him her haven, and her abstract painting came to attract critical acclaim. Only after her death does Antony discover the hair-raising secrets of her upbringing
via Review: Notes From an Exhibition by Patrick Gale | Books | The Guardian.

On Love and Shame

Da qualche tempo è uscito nelle sale cinematrografiche ‘Shame’, film drammatico del regista inglese Steve McQueen. La pellicola racconta di un uomo ‘deviato’ emotivamente e vittima di un’insaziabile dipendenza sessuale che non risparmia e seduce la sorella minore, coinvolta nell’incesto tra sensi di colpa e vertiginose isterie. Questa un’attenta e sofisticata recensione del film: Zettel Film Reviews » Shame: Steve McQueen – victimhood and the medicalisation of lust.
Il tema dell’incesto,  ricorda una tragedia di cui mi capitò leggere ne The theatre and its double, di Artaud. L’opera in questione è Tis Pity She’s a Whore, del commediografo inglese John Ford, e racconta di Giovanni e Annabella, fratello e sorella, consumati da un amore blasfemo e immortale, che non è peccato ma limite e sublimazione. Idealmente c’è molta più tensione, più coraggio, più carattere, in questa tragedia che nei piagnistei di Michael Fassbender. McQueen si limita ad accusare, Ford a interpretare un istinto e soddisfare una passione, senza giudizi nè morale
Dice Artaud
‘As soon as the curtain goes up on Ford’s ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore’, to our great surprise we see before us a man launched on a most arrogant defense of incest, exerting all his youthful, conscious strength both in proclaiming and justifying it.
He does not hesitate or waver for one instant, thereby demonstrating just how little all the barriers mean that might be set up against him. He is heroically guilty, boldly, openly heroic. Everything drives him in this direction, inflames him, there is no heaven and no earth for him, only the strength of his tumultuous passion, which evokes a correspondingly rebellious and heroic passion in Annabella.
‘I weep,’ she says, ‘not with remorse, but for fear I shall not be able to satisfy my passion.’ They are both falsifiers, hypocrites and liars for the sake of their superhuman passion, obstructed, persecuted by the law, but which they place above the law.
Revenge for revenge, crime for crime. While we believed them threatened, hunted, lost and we were ready to feel pity for them as victims, they show themselves ready to trade blow for blow with fate and threat for threat.
We follow them from one demand to the other, from one excess to the next. Annabella is caught, convicted of adultery and incest, she is trampled upon, insulted, dragged along by the hair but, to our great astonishment, instead of trying to make excuses she provokes her executioner even more and sings out in a kind of stubborn heroism.
This is final rebellion, exemplary love without respite, making the audience gasp with anxiety in case anything should ever end it.
If one is looking for an example of total freedom in rebellion, Ford’s ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore’ offers us this poetic example coupled with a picture of ultimate danger.
And just when we think we have reached a climax of horror and bloodshed, of flaunted laws, in short, poetry consecrating rebellion, we are obliged to continue in a vortex nothing can stop.
At the end we tell ourselves there must be retribution and death for such boldness and for such an irresistible crime.
Yet it is not so. Giovanni, the lover, inspired by a great impassioned poet, places himself above retribution and crime by a kind of indescribably passionate crime, places himself above threats, above horror by an even greater horror that baffles both law and morals and those who dare to set themselves up as judges.
A clever trap is laid; orders are given for a great banquet where henchmen and hired assassins hide among the guests, ready to pounce on him at the first sign. But this lost, hunted hero inspired by love will not allow anyone to judge that love.
He seems to say, you want my love’s flesh and blood, but I mean to hurl it in your face, I intend to splatter you with the blood of a love whose level you could never attain.
So he kills his rival before his execution, his sister’s husband who had dared to come between himself and his mistress, slaying him in a final duel which then appears to be his own death throes.
Text entirely taken from The Theatre and Its Double, by Antonin Artaud, 1938

About the Art Of The Novel


Invito Milan Kundera a uno shisha hour in una coffeehouse in Nowhere Street. L’appuntamento è alle diciotto, ma io mi presento in anticipo di mezz’ora; al mio arrivo, Kundera siede già al tavolo che ho riservato per noi, fuori in un Vasto Giardino, come piace a lui . Sorseggia maroccam mint tea, gioca a scacchi contro Il Turco. Un vecchio grammofono polveroso suona un pezzo di Lady Gogo.
Perchè so Kundera un appassionato di jazz, mi presento all’appuntamento con in mano un vecchio vinile dei Soft Machine. Seven, del 1974. Mi dico sorpresa di essere arrivata in ritardo, pur essendo in anticipo. Kundera sorride, si compiace della mia apprensione, e invita a sedere di fianco al Turco.
Chiedo a Kundera se al momento sta leggendo niente di interessante, e questi mi risponde ‘Smatrex M-788NK, Il manuale delle istruzioni’ (per chi non lo sapesse ancora, lo Smatrex M-788NK è un androide di ultima generazione, CGV di precisione, FVB 77 a raggi UV, KMb1 ad alta risoluzione, NGU2 termoregolabile, connessione YVeta a FGH78 e 678 uscite BX, che oltre a funzionare da apparecchio telefonico, stira, cucina, lava, e si ricarica nel microonde in appena un nano-secondo)
La provocazione è sottile e allude al catastrofismo teoretico mosso da Husserls e posto a dibattito da Kundera nel primo capitolo del saggio ‘The Art Of The Novel’ , del 1988.
In una celebre lettura del 1935, Edmund Husserl parla di una crisi dell’umanità europea che ha influenzato negativamente le arti. Secondo il padre della fenomenologia, questa crisi è iniziata nell’Età Moderna, con Galileo e Descartes, e l’acquisizione, da parte dell’uomo, di un primato sulla natura
“Once elevated by Descartes to ‘master and proprietor of nature’, man has now become a mere thing to the forces (of technology, of politics, of history) that bypass him, surpass him, possess him. To those forces, man’s concrete being, his ‘world of life’ (die Lebenswelt), has neither value nor interest: it is eclipsed, forgotten from the start.”
“The rise of the sciences propelled man into the tunnels of specialized disciplines. The more he advanced in knowledge, the less clearly could he see either the world as a whole or his own self, and he plunged further into what Husserl’s pupil Heidegger called, in a beautiful and almost magical phrase, ‘the forgetting of being’.
“Indeed, all the great existential themes Heidegger analyzes in Being and Time- considering them to have been neglected by all earlier European philosophy– had been unveiled, displayed, illuminated by four centuries of the novel (four centuries of European reincarnation of the novel). In its own way, throught its own logic, the novel discovered the various dimension of existence one by one: with Cervantes and his contemporaries, it inquires into the nature of adventure; with Richardson, it begins to examine “what happens inside”, to unmask the secret life of the feelings; with Balzac, it discovers man’s rootedness in history; with Flaubert, it explores the terra previously incognita of the everyday; with Tolstoy, it focuses on decisions. It probes time: the elusive past with Proust, the elusive present with Joyce. With Thomas Mann, it examines the role of the myths from the remote past that control our present actions. Et cetera, et cetera.’
Secondo Kundera, anticipatore dell’Età Moderna non è solo Descartes, ma anche Cervantes
‘Perhaps it is Cervantes whom the two phenomenologists neglected to take into consideration in their judgment of the Modern Era. By that I mean: if it is true that philosophy and science have forgotten about man’s being, it emerges all the more plainly that with Cervantes a great European art took shape that is nothing other than the investigation of this forgotten being.’
[3.]’As God slowly departed from the seat whence he had directed the universe and its order of value, distinguished good from evil, and endowed each thing with meaning, Don Quixote set forth from his house into a world he could no longer recognize. In the absence of the Supreme Judge, the world suddenly appeared in its fearsome ambiguity; the single divine Truth decomposed into myriad relative truths parceled out by men. Thus was born the world of the Modern Era, and with it the novel, the image and model of that world.
To take, with Descartes, the thinking self as the basis of everything, and thus to face the universe alone, is to adopt an attitude that Hegel was right to call heroic. To take, with Cervantes, the world as ambiguity, to be obliged to face not a single absolute truth but a welter of contradictory truths (truths embodied in imaginary selves called characters), to have as one’s only certainty the wisdom of uncertainty, requires no less courage.
What does Cervantes’ great novel mean? Much has been written on the question. Some see in it a rationalist critique of Don Quixote’ s hazy idealism. Others see it as a celebration of that same idealism. Both interpretations are mistaken because they both seek at the novel’s core not an inquiry but a moral position.
Man desires a world where good and evil can be clearly distinguished, for he has an innate and irrepressible desire to judge before he understands. Religions and ideologies are founded on this desire. They can cope with the novel only by translating its language of relativity and ambiguity into their own apodictic and dogmatic discourse. They require that someone be right: either Anna Karenina is the victim of a narrow- minded tyrant, or Karenin is the victim of an immoral woman; either K. is an innocent man crushed by an unjust Court, or the Court represents divine justice and K. is guilty.
This ‘either- or’ encapsulates an inability to tolerate the essential relativity of things human, an inability to look squarely at the absence of the Supreme Judge. This inability makes the novel’s wisdom ( the wisdom of uncertainty) hard to accept and understand.
[4.]’Don Quixote set off into a world that opened wide before him. He could go out freely and come home as he pleased. The early European novels are journeys through an apparently unlimited world. The opening of Jacques le Fataliste comes upon the two heroes in mid- journey; we don’t know where they’ve come from or where they’re going. They exist in a time without beginning or end, in a space without frontiers, in the midst of a Europe whose future will never end.
Half a century after Diderot, in Balzac, the distant horizon has disappeared like a landscape behind those modern structures, the social institutions: the police, the law, the world of money and crime, the army, the State. In Balzac’s world, time no longer idles happily by as it does for Cervantes and Diderot. It has set forth on the train called History. The train is easy to board, hard to leave. But it isn’t at all fearsome yet, it even has its appeal; it promises adventure to every passenger, and with it fame and fortune.
Later still, for Emma Bovary, the horizon shrinks to the point of seeming a barrier. Adventure lies beyond it, and the longing becomes intolerable. Within the monotony of the quotidian, dreams and daydreams take on importance. The lost infinity of the outside world is replaced by the infinity of the soul. The great illusion of the irreplaceable uniqueness of the individual- one of the Europe’s finest illusion- blossoms forth.
But the dream of the soul’s infinity loses its magic when History (or what remains of it: the suprahuman force of an omnipotent society) takes hold of man. History no longer promises him fame and fortune; it barely promises him a land- surveyor’s job. In the face of the Court or the Castle, what can K.do? Not much. Can’t he at least dream as Emma Bovary used to do? No, the situation’s trap is too terrible, and like a vacuum cleaner it sucks up all his thoughts and feelings: all he can think of is his trial, his surveying job. The infinity of the soul- if it ever existed- has become a nearly useless appendage.’
Non c’è grandezza nelle miserie della vita, nè possibilità di fuga dal mondo. La realtà manca di poesia, gli uomini di coraggio. Don Chisciotte è stato arrestato alla frontiera, K. processato in televisione, Winston Smith ingaggiato alla conduzione di un nuovo reality show. ‘How to make money’ figura ancora al primo posto nella classifica dei libri più letti in formato digitale.
Chiedo a Kundera che ruolo avrebbe la letteratura in tutto questo, quale sarebbe la ragione d’essere di un romanzo
‘The sole raison d’etre of a novel is to discover what only the novel can discover. A novel that does not discover a hitherto unknown segment of existence is immoral. Knowledge is the novel’s only morality.’
Kundera si prende sul serio.
Delle volte mi chiedo come sarà la letteratura del futuro ( non intendo la sci-fiction). Il linguaggio di ciascuno di noi si evolve ogni giorno arricchito di parole nuove, un vocabolario criptato a noi fino a prima di adesso del tutto sconosciuto e in alcuni casi ancora incomprensibile. La realtà muta di forma e sostanza, e noi con essa, in un processo di metamorfosi sociale e culturale, perpetua e incoercibile. Ci si incontra e innamora su internet, si comunica by email, si viene assunti su Skype, licenziati su Facebook, mollati su Twitter. Chiedo a Kundera come immagina la letteratura del futuro, quali i conflitti, le tensioni ideali rispetto al contesto storico, i dialoghi, l’atmosfera, i luoghi. Ma Kundera non mi ascolta neanche più, ha appena scoperto di avere Hungry Bird nel telefonino.
Quanto al Turco, sparito. Con la gynoid seduta al tavolo di fianco al nostro.

Texts entirely taken from ‘The Art of the Novel’, Milan Kundera, 1988
Paris Review – The Art of Fiction No. 81, Milan Kundera.

Block, off Seven, Soft Machine, 1974

The Nerve Meter by Antonin Artaud via The Poetry Foundation

An actor is seen as if through crystals.
Inspiration in stages.
One musn’t let in too much literature.

I have aspired no further than the clockwork of the soul, I have transcribed only the pain of an abortive adjustment.
I am a total abyss. Those who believed me capable of a whole pain, a beautiful pain, a dense and fleshy anguish, an anguish which is a mixture of objects, an effervescent grinding of forces rather than a suspended point
—and yet with restless, uprooting impulses which come from the confrontation of my forces with these abysses of offered finality
(from the confrontation of forces of powerful size),
and there is nothing left but the voluminous abysses, the immobility, the cold—
in short, those who attributed to me more life, who thought me at an earlier stage in the fall of the self, who believed me immersed in a tormented noise, in a violent darkness with which I struggled
—are lost in the shadows of man.
In sleep, nerves tensed the whole length of my legs.
Sleep came from a shifting of belief, the pressure eased, absurdity stepped on my toes.
It must be understood that all of intelligence is only a vast contingency, and that one can lose it, not like a lunatic who is dead, but like a living person who is in life and who feels working on himself its attraction and its inspiration (of intelligence, not of life).
The titillations of intelligence and this sudden reversal of contending parties.
Words halfway to intelligence.
This possibility of thinking in reverse and of suddenly reviling one’s thought.
This dialogue in thought.
The ingestion, the breaking off of everything.
And all at once this trickle of water on a volcano, the thin, slow falling of the mind.
To find oneself again in a state of extreme shock, clarified by unreality, with, in a corner of oneself, some fragments of the real world.
To think without the slightest breaking off, without pitfalls in my thought, without one of those sudden disappearances to which my marrow is accustomed as a transmitter of currents.
My marrow is sometimes amused by these games, sometimes takes pleasure in these games, takes pleasure in these furtive abductions over which the sense of my thought presides.
At times all I would need is a single word, a simple little word of no importance, to be great, to speak in the voice of the prophets: a word of witness, a precise word, a subtle word, a word well steeped in my marrow, gone out of me, which would stand at the outer limit of my being,
and which, for everyone else, would be nothing.
I am the witness, I am the only witness of myself. This crust of words, these imperceptible whispered transformations of my thought, of that small part of my thought which I claim has already been formulated, and which miscarries,
I am the only person who can measure its extent.
Antonin Artaud, “The Nerve Meter” from Selected Writings of Antonin Artaud (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1976).
via The Nerve Meter by Antonin Artaud : The Poetry Foundation.

The Turk’s Opening Move

Attributed to Titian – Suleiman the Magnificant - Ottoman Sultan (c. 1539)

“It’s difficult to imagine an attraction more likely to appeal to the Londoners of 1783 than Kempelen’s chess-playing automaton. For in addiction to being a great center for chess, London was renowned for its enthusiasm for public displays of automata and other technological marvels. The arcades of Piccadilly, the streets of St.James’s, and the squares of Mayfair were home to several remarkable exhibitions of automata and other curiosities, open daily to the paying public.”

acclamato in tutta Europa dall’alta società illuminata di fine settecento, il Turco, un automa di legno, azionato all’interno da un complesso meccanismo di ingranaggi a carica, elegantemente vestito in abiti orientali, e perfettamente in grado di giocare a scacchi autonomamente, deve la propria fortuna all’ingegno di un grande uomo di talento e ambizione, l’ungherese di nascita Wolfgang von Kempelen, ufficiale di corte presso l’imperatrice Maria Teresa d’Austria.
The Turk, dello scrittore inglese Tom Standage (tomstandage.com), racconta di questa meravigliosa invenzione d’avvio alla progettazione di macchine più sofisticate utilizzate nei decenni a seguire, durante la prima fase della rivoluzione industriale; non solo, Il Turco anticipa di secoli la possibilità di creare delle macchine in grado di un’intelligenza artificiale (questo un meraviglioso articolo che si interroga circa gli humanoid robots e le ‘proprietà cognitive’ delle macchine: The Minds of Machines | Philosophy Now.)
La progettazione di automi risale agli inizi del 1700, ancora prima al quindicesimo secolo, quando già Leonardo da Vinci crea le bozze di un progetto straordinariamente visionario, una macchina volante studiata sulle sembianze di uccelli e pipistrelli (FLYING MACHINES – Leonardo da Vinci)
Gli automi creati all’inizio del diciottesimo secolo si basavano su complicati e pesanti meccanismi simili nel funzionamento a degli orologi; alcuni di questi così straordinariamente ben fatti da essere all’origine di curiose leggende; Standage racconta di un’automa capace di suonare l’arpa e invitato alla corte del re francese Luigi XV, il quale si disse talmente estasiato dalla bravura di questi da volerne scoprire in dettaglio il meccanismo. Aperta la macchina, il re vi trovò all’interno un bambino di cinque anni.
Il Turco fu soprattutto all’origine di interessanti dibattiti che stimolarono matematici, ingegneri e pensatori a comprenderne funzionalità ed eventuali applicazioni future; a rendere l’automa affascinante era specialmente l’incredibile maestria di cui era capace nel gioco degli scacchi (ragione per cui i più scettici dubitarono del genio di Wolfgang von Kempelen assumendo a un inganno e a un segreto, mai rivelato del tutto). L’automa non era solo in grado di giocare a scacchi, ma di vincere almeno otto partite su dieci e tante furono le personalità che vi si trovarono a perdere una partita contro; fra questi Benjamin Franklin (grande appassionato di scacchi e autore del saggio ‘The Moral of Chess‘), Caterina la Grande– Imperatrice di Russia, Charles Babbage, persino Edgard Allan Poe e più tardi l’imperatore Napoleone, in quello che fu un tour di partite e spettacoli intorno all’Europa e fino in America, a cavallo tra illuminismo e romantico futurismo.

“Of all the cities of Europe, two were renowned for their enthusiasm for chess during the eighteenth century: Paris and London. Chess had been a popular pastime in coffeehouses in both cities since the beginning of the century and enjoyed a period of heightened popularity in the 1770s and 1780s, when it became extremely fashionable in high society. As the nearer of the two cities to Vienna, Paris was the logical place for the first stop on the Turk’s tour of Europe.
As the French writer Denis Diderot put it in 1761, “Paris is the place in the world, and the Café de la Régence the place in Paris where this game is played best.” The Café de la Régence was a coffeehouse founded in the 1680s, and by the 1740s it had become the most prominent haunt of chess players in the city. Well-known intellectuals who were regulars at the café over the years included the philosophers Voltaire and Jean- Jacques Rousseau, the American statesman scientist Benjamin Franklin, and even the young Napoleon Bonaparte.”
taken from ‘The Turk’ by Tom Standage, chap. three, ‘A Most Charming Contraption’

La Lista, Il Gruppo


Da qualche tempo ho ripreso l’abitudine, per molto tempo abbandonata, di fare liste. Playlist dei brani da ascoltare, lista dei libri da leggere, degli autori da approfondire, del materiale su cui scrivere, dei posti che mi piacerebbe visitare, dei films e le mostre da vedere, di citazioni e articoli di giornale. Improbabili liste di buoni propositi e scadenze da rispettare, progetti su cui lavorare.
Fino a prima di adesso, compilare liste mi pareva sintomatico di un’ossessione, un’esuberanza di controllo, zelo e morbosità maniacale. Un tic, in alcuni casi. Devo ricredermi.
La lista che mi diverte maggiormente compilare è senz’altro quella delle cose che amo (camminare lungo Piccadilly Street alle 4 del mattino, l’aggiornamento), mentre quella in cui manco più spesso è quella delle cose da fare; rinviare otto cose da fare su dieci, vuol dire procrastinare un numero di volte tale da assumere -a conti fatti e in ordine a un tentativo, mancato, di auto-disciplina -che è perfettamente inutile tentare di organizzare una lista di cose da fare se a mancare è principalmente la volontà di farle. A queste condizioni, il meccanismo di superamento consisterebbe nell’attenersi alle liste e rispettare la parola data (intendendo ogni lista un patto di lealtà con sè stessi e verso sè stessi).
Ogni lista prevede un’azione e un verbo attivo (e di buona volontà) d’accompagnamento; in alcuni casi, appena un requisito soltanto: immaginazione. E’ ammesso procrastinare, ma solo se in prospettiva di fare domani quello che, per mancanza di tempo, è impossibile fare oggi.
Ho deciso che il 2012 deve portarmi bene, me ne frego della fine del mondo. Perchè l’ho deciso, ognuna delle liste avrà come obiettivo la riuscita di uno scopo e il completamento di un ciclo, di Superamento e Realizzazione. Quello che voglio è Avvenire.
In testa alla lista delle cose da fare nel 2012 c’è mettersi a dieta, quello di cui abbisogno è un rigido programma di Disintossicazione Spirituale. Fuori il superfluo, dentro il necessario.
Al diavolo yoga e meditazione, io quest’anno vado di belly dance e kick boxing. Pragmatismo, la parola chiave.
La lista dei libri da leggere è quella che mi entusiasma maggiormente, intanto che l’altro giorno pensavo a quelli da inserire, mi è venuta l’idea di creare un gruppo di lettura, un salotto virtuale; per esempio potremmo sceglierli insieme e discuterli qui l’ultima domenica di ogni mese, a partire da gennaio. Che ne dite
Avrei pensato a questi titoli, ognuno di voi si senta libero di inserirne di altri (che andranno a sostituire quelli da me scelti)

  • Life: A User’s Manual, di Georges Perec (La vita, istruzioni per l’uso)
  • The Man Without Qualities, di Robert Musil (L’uomo senza qualità)
  • The Dice Man, di Rhinehart Luke (L’uomo dei dadi)
  • The Nose, di Nikolai Gogol (Il naso)
  • Brave New World, di Aldous Huxley (Il mondo nuovo)
  • Dangling Man, di Saul Bellow (L’uomo in bilico)
  • Last Exit to Brooklyn, di Hubert Selby, Jr.(Ultima fermata a Brooklyn)
  • As I Lay Dying, di William Faulkner (Mentre morivo)
  • V for Vendetta, di Alan Moore (V per vendetta)
  • Death of a Salesman, di Arthur Miller (Morte di un commesso viaggiatore)
  • The Satanic Verses, di Salman Rushdie (I versi satanici)
  • The Unconsoled, di Kazuo Ishiguro (Gli inconsolabili)

Lunar Caustic

Louis Stettner.Times Square Sailor, c. 1952

‘A man leaves a dockside tavern in the early morning, the smell of the sea in his nostrils, and a whisky bottle in his pocket, gliding over the cobbles lightly as a ship leaving harbour’

quell’uomo si chiama Bill Plantagenet ed è un pianista jazz e un ex marinaio sopravvissuto alla guerra. Un poeta maledetto, alla maniera di Baudelaire, nostalgico, alla maniera di Rimbaud. Uno scrittore alcolizzato, e romantico, l’alter Ego letterario di Malcolm Lowry nel breve romanzo autobiografico Lunar Caustic, del 1968.
Lo scrittore inglese, già apprezzato dalla critica per il romanzo Under the Volcano ( del 1947, undicesimo nella classifica dei cento romanzi migliori votati dalla Modern Library, dal quale è stato tratto l’omonimo film del regista John Huston, nel 1984), racconta di un uomo in rovina, approdato a New York e confinatosi, di propria volontà, presso il Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital, il più antico manicomio newyorkese (fondato nel 1736), dove effettivamente lo scrittore chiede ricovero per un breve periodo a causa di un crollo nervoso; la biografia dello scrittore fa nota di un evento tragico, all’origine dell’inquietudine di Lowry: ancora ai tempi del college, nel 1931, il compagno di stanza Paul Frite, innamoratosi di lui (e da Lowry mai corrisposto), si suicida,  lasciandolo preda di un senso di colpa onnipresente e tale da consumarlo nello spirito.
Finito il college, Lowry si rifiuta di lavorare per il padre e a una carriera manageriale preferisce il mare, arruolandosi come marinaio; gira il mondo, subisce gli orrori della guerra, va a caccia di storie (in buona parte contenute nel romanzo di debutto Ultramarine, del 1933). Insegue la propria stella.
In Lunar Caustic, Lowry, figlio della luna, si scopre un uomo vinto dalle passioni, tanto sensibile quanto irrequieto; un eroe romantico e dimesso, decadente e smanioso d’avventure in mare; Bill Plantagenet sembra barcollare tra realtà e sogno, flashbacks e finzione, in uno stato febbrile di oscena lucidità e delirio; dentro il manicomio realizza l’orrore della follia, le deprecabili condizioni in cui vivono i pazienzi ricoverati nell’ospedale. La vita non è un baccanale, e il mare, quel mare d’inquietudine e sregolatezze, notti di whisky e jazz,  non è che una sfida senza vincitori, nè gloria.

‘Darkness was falling through the clearing haze the stars came out. Over the broken horizon the Scorpion was crawling. There was the red, dying sun, Antares. To the south-east, the Retreat of the Howling Dog appeared. The stars taking their places were wounds opening in his being, multiple duplications of that agony, of that eye. The constellations might have been monstrosities in the delirium of God. Disaster seemed smeared over the whole universe. It was as if he were living in the preexistence of some unimaginable catastrophe, and he steadied himself a moment against the sill, feeling the doomed earth itself stagger in its heaving spastic flight towards the Hercules Butterfly’

Questi i links a un sito dedicato a Lowry e un articolo, nel quale si racconta della vita dello scrittore
Malcolm Lowry @ The 19th Hole
Life and Letters: Day of the Dead : The New Yorker.
Sotto, il primo capitolo del libro
A man leaves a dockside tavern in the early morning, the smell of the sea in his nostrils, and a whisky bottle in his pocket, gliding over the cobbles lightly as a ship leaving harbour.
Soon he is running into a storm and tacking from side to side, frantically trying to get back. Now he will go into any harbour at all.
He goes into another saloon.
From this he emerges, cunningly repaired; but he is in difficulties once more. This time is serious: he is nearly run over by a street car, he bangs his head on a wall, once he falls over an ashcan where he has thrown a bottle. Passers- by stare at him curiously, some with anger; others with amusement, or even a strange avidity.
This time he seeks refuge up an alley, and leans against the wall in an attitude of dejection, as if trying to remember something.
Again the pilgrimage starts but his course is so erratic it seems he must be looking for, rather than trying to remember something. Or perhaps, like the poor cat who had lost an eye in a battle, he is just looking for his sight?
The heat rises up from the pavements, a mighty force, New York groans and roars above, around, below him: white birds flash in the quivering air, a bridge strides over the river. Signs nod past him: The Best for Less, Romeo and Juliet, the greatest love story in the world, No Cover at Any Time, When pain threatens, strikes-
He enters another tavern, where presently he is talking of people he had never known, of places he had never been. Through the open door he is aware of the hospital, towering up above the river. Near him arrogant bearded derelicts cringe over spittoons, and of these men he seems afraid. Sweat floods his face. From the depths of the tavern comes a sound of moaning, and a sound of ticking.
Outside, again the pilgrimage starts, he wanders from saloon to saloon as though searching for something, but always keeping the hospital in sight, as if the saloons were only points on his circumference. In a street along the waterfront where a bell is clanging, he halts; a terrible old woman, whose black veil only partly conceals her ravaged face, is trying to post a letter, trying repeatedly and falling, but posting it finally, with shaking hands that are not hands at all.
A strange notion strikes him: the letter is for him. He takes a drink from the bottle.
In the Elevated a heavenly wind is blowing and there is a view of the river, but he is walking as though stepping over obstacles, or like Ahab stumbling from side to side on the careening bridge, ‘feeling that he encompassed in his stare oceans from which might be revealed that phantom destroyer of himself.’
Down in the street the heat is terrific. Tabloid headlines: Thousands collapse in Heat Wave. Hundreds Dead. Roosevelt Raps Warmongers. Civil War in Spain.
Once he stops in a church, his lips moving in something like a prayer. Inside is cool: around the walls are pictured the stages of the cross. Nobody seems to be looking . He likes drinking in churches particularly.
But afterwards he comes to a place not like a church at all.
This is the hospital: all day he has hovered round it; now it looms up closer than ever. This is objective. Tilting the bottle to his mouth he takes a long, final draught: drops run down his neck, mingling with the sweat.
‘I want to hear the song of the Negroes,’ he roars.’Veut-on que je disparaisse, que je plonge, à la recherche de l’anneau…I am sent to save my father, to find my son, to heal the eternal horror of three, to resolve the immedicable horror of opposites!’
With the dithering crack of a ship going on the rocks the door there was grass growing down to the East River. But between
taken from Lunar Caustic, cap 1, by Malcolm Lowry, (1968)

Banned Books 2011. Challenging Censorship in Literature


“The books that the world calls immoral are the books that show the world its own shame”Oscar Wilde.
Dallo scorso settembre, le biblioteche inglesi sono state ingaggiate del compito di raccogliere, entro una lista, i libri che nel corso degli anni passati sono stati bannati, non solo in Inghilterra, ma nel resto del mondo. Perchè sessualmente troppo espliciti nel linguaggio, blasfemi dal punto di vista religioso, d’opposizione alle politiche governative e ai regimi.
Da questa iniziativa è nato un sito, che li raccoglie in parte ed è possibile consultare a questo link
Banned Books.
Fra questi, Alice nel paese delle meraviglie, di Lewis Carrol, bannato in Cina, nel 1931, perchè ritenuto offensivo nel porre gli animali sullo stesso piano d’azione degli uomini; Il Diario di Anna Frank, bannato in Libano per aver rivelato gli orrori del nazismo; Tropico del Cancro, di Henry Miller, bannato negli Usa e in Inghilterra per via del linguaggio considerato scurrile e volgare; Il Pasto Nudo di William Burrough, bannato in alcuni stati americani perchè tendenzioso all’utilizzo di droghe (in effetti bisogna esser fatti per leggerlo, e per vederne il film, eventualmente); La fattoria degli animali, di George Orwell, bannato non solo nella vecchia URSS, ma più di recente, nel 2002, negli Emirati Arabi. Persino Harry Potter e la Pietra Filosofale, di J K Rowling, bannato in molte scuole cattoliche inglesi e americane perchè ritenuto una minaccia nella promozione della magia e delle arti divinatorie.
Il fascino dei libri proibiti è inequivocabile e, in parte, spiega le ragioni della letteratura erotica, per esempio, o della cyber punk fiction (mai letto Guts by Chuck Palahniuk, l’autore di Fight Club?). Quanto più viene proibito un libro, tanto più si avrà voglia di leggerlo. Miss Fanny Hill, un post che mi capitò di scrivere qualche tempo fa ispirata dalla pornografia letteraria di fine ‘700, rimane in assoluto quello più cliccato nel mio blog.
A proposito di proibito, ho giusto letto di un saggio che spero  trovare su internet, pubblicato nel 1996 dallo storico statunitense Robert Darnton Libri proibiti: Pornografia, satira e utopia all’origine della rivoluzione francese , di cui è interessante leggere questo vecchio articolo di approfondimento su il Corriere della Sera
Illuminismo: vedi alla voce porno.

The Importance Of Music To Girls

Questo di Lavinia Greenlaw (poetessa, novellista, giornalista inglese, di Londra) è una compilation di racconti a tinte pop, in forma di diario, con a tema centrale la musica e i ricordi d’adolescenza e d’infanzia, ad essa legati; la prima volta che la scrittrice si innamora, le scorribande con gli amici, le cacce all’ultimo Lp punk, la volta in cui balla un waltz piedi-sui-piedi del padre, tema del primo racconto d’apertura al libro.
Lavinia Greenlaw racconta dell’importanza della musica nella sua vita
‘If I had not kissed anyone, or danced with anyone, or had a reason to cry, the music made me feel as if I had gone through all that anyway’

  My papa’s waltz

The hand that held my wrist
Was battered on one knuckle;
At every step you missed
My right ear scraped a buckle.
Theodore Roethke, ‘My Papa’s Waltz’

I remember the dancing of my earliest years in silence, as about the body alone. My father must have hummed a tune as I stood on his shoes and he waltzed me, but what I remember are the giant steps I was suddenly making. The world rose up under one foot and pushed my body to one side as that foot set off in a high violent arc. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to follow but at the last moment the world gathered up the rest of me. And so it went on: the world pulled and shoved while I lurched and stretched.
This was not a gentle game, which was why we four children loved it. We liked to be thrown about- by a rollercoaster, slide or swing, in a rough sea, on a trampoline, or by grownups who in moving us at their force and speed, gave us a taste of the dimensions of adult life. We had a young uncle who played less carefully than my father. He would take me by the hands and spin me round like a teacloth full of wet lettuce until I thought my arms would be wrenched from their sockets. As the pain bunched in my shoulders and my brain shrank, I was amazed that such movement was possible. I wasn’t scared. I knew that I could break and had an idea of what it felt like to break, but I also knew I wasn’t going to.
The waltz was more interesting than other such games because its force had to be met. It depended upon the tension between trying not to move and letting yourself be moved. I trod down hard on my father’s shoes, braced my arms and dug my nails into his shirt-cuffs like someone finding a hold on a cliff. This is the starting point of dance: something- the music, the steps, your partner- holds you but you also have to hold it and to achieve the necessary tension, hold yourself against it.
A lot of my childhood was about being held back or slowed down. It took hours to leave the house as to get us all ready, and keep us ready, was like trying to keep four plates spinning. Someone lost a glove or refused their coat, was cross or hungry or needed a clean nanny. We spent a lot of time waiting -to be delivered or collected, for the school day to end or the night to be over. We moved in caravan formation and at the speed of camels, taking two days to drive the 250 miles from London to the west coast of Wales, pottering along in a pair of Morris Travellers.
Once released, we were fizzy and impatient. If something was high we climbed it and jumped off; if it was steep we hurtled down it on cycles, sledges or trays. We ran or rolled down any hill we came to regardless of nettles, glass, dog shit or stones. If the landscape filled up with rain, leaves, fog or snow, we continued to move through it as fast as we could, not fearing what might now be concealed.
Every now and then the world gathered itself in refusal. I slammed into it and got hurt. At four, I went down a slide sucking on a bamboo garden cane which hit the ground before I did. The top two inches jammed into the roof of my mouth and I stood over a basin and watched it fill up with blood, feeling nothing, interested only in my sister offering me a teddy bear she would not normally part with. When I woke up after the operation to remove the piece of cane, I was curious only about the coal fire opposite my bed and the taste of hospital ice-cream.
For a long time, this accident was just something that had happened to my mouth. Other people had to make the connections for me.
‘That cane was lodged very close to your brain,’my mother later said. ‘We could tell you were more or less alright but the surgeons didn’t know if they could remove it without doing any damage.’
My brother added, ‘It’s why people shoot themselves that way.’
‘And it could have affected your speech,’ continued my mother,’ by changing the shape of the roof of your mouth.’
Being pushed out of shape made me realise that I had a shape to return to, like my toy cat who sat on a drum and whose parts were kept in tension by elastic. If I pressed the underneath of the drum, the cat fell to its knees or slumped to one side. I let go and the cat sprang to one side as if jiving. I was fascinated by the instant way it changed shape and then snapped back, and by the ambiguity of its bright little face- so eager to please and yet so imperturbable.
My body had felt like that of the toy cat, an arrangement of parts. I would watch my hand touch the bar of an electric fire or my foot trad on a nail, and discover that they belonged to me. I now knew that my mouth shaped my voice and that my brain was right there, just above it. I saw this most clearly thirty years later on a X-ray which showed that instead of arching back to cradle my skull, the vertebrate at the top of my spine thrust my head forward. In that accident, my head had been thrown back so abruptly that it had been compensating ever since, leaving me with the feeling of being precipitate, of tipping into rather than entering the next moment, thought or sentence.
So the body adds up and the world reminds you of the body’s limits, although it can be surprisingly kind. At eight I jumped through a window and can still remember how the glass billowed and held me before it exploded. I was mid-air, I had escaped the person I was running away from, and I was being held. Nothing has seemed as peaceful since. I stepped out of that ring of shattered glass like a corpse from a chalk silhouette and walked away with a cut on each knee.
These collisions with the world taught me its substance and laws as well as my own. I had danced before I knew what my body was, and did not understand what moved me. It was not music yet.
Taken from The Importance of Music to Girls, by Lavinia Greenlaw, 2007
The web site of poet and novelist Lavinia Greenlaw.

ISAAC SALAZAR

I PLEDGE TO READ THE PRINTED WORD

Text Rain by Kyungduk Kim

Da quando A***** ha destinato al mercato mondiale la vendita dei K******, quell’affare sottiletta lanciato nel 2009, alternativa digitale al formato cartaceo di libri, riviste e giornali, è più che mai crisi nel settore dell’editoria.Leggevo.
E’ peste digitale. Di quegli affari ne vedo ovunque, in treno, in autobus, al bar, e gli ebooks vanno tanto di moda quanto l’ultimo smart phone o M** d’avanguardia; mai quanto adesso la gente si scopre, insospettabilmente, appassionata di lettura.
Che il settore dell’editoria sia in crisi,non è una novità. Ma che lo sia ulteriormente in conseguenza del digitale mi pare il paradosso più estremo e surreale al contempo.
Mi piace sostenere il diritto di continuare a leggere la carta stampata (qualcuno avanzerà il problema della deforestazione. stronzate. ci sarebbero quintali di carta riciclata da riciclare ulteriormente e a sufficienza per chissà quanti milioni ancora di libri e riviste stampate) soprattutto il piacere di poterlo continuare a fare.

Be Sexy, Be Cool, Be Smart, Be Rich, Always Be Yourself.


Qualche tempo fa mi capitò leggere un saggio circa la vita di Barack Obama; ancora prima di essere eletto presidente degli Stati Uniti, quando ancora nel 2004 si presentò candidato al Senato Federale, Barack Obama, ottenuta la vittoria alle primarie democratiche e affermatosi figura di spicco nel partito Democratico, terrà un discorso,keynote address, nel quale farà riferimento alla prefazione della Dichiarazione d’Indipendenza degli Stati Uniti d’America, documento firmato il 4 luglio 1776,che vuole 13 delle colonie britanniche dell’America Settendrionale indipendenti dall’Impero Britannico. Dice Barack Obama
I stand here today, grateful for the diversity of my heritage, aware that my parents’ dreams live on in my precious daughters. I stand here knowing that my story is part of the larger American story, that I owe a debt to all of those who came before me, and that, in no other country on earth, is my story even possible. Tonight, we gather to affirm the greatness of our nation, not because of the height of our skyscrapers, or the power of our military, or the size of our economy. Our pride is based on a very simple premise, summed up in a declaration made over two hundred years ago, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights. That among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
E continua il testo della Dichiarazione
That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
Questo il preambolo della Dichiarazione,il fulcro di un testamento universale: agli uomini spettano diritti, quando un governo viola questi diritti,gli uomini hanno il diritto, fra gli altri, di modificare o abolire, alter or abolish, quel governo.
Questo, anche, il principio che definisce the Right of revolution, curiosamente in italiano tradotto Diritto di Resistenza, e cito da wikipedia*
Il diritto di resistenza discende anche dal contrattualismo e dalla teoria politica di John Locke [..] Se i governanti calpestano i diritti naturali, vengono meno i fondamenti del patto e si configura il diritto del popolo a resistere.
Right of revolution, o right of rebellion-in inglese;diritto di resistenza-in italiano.
Chiedo a mister wikipedia di spiegarmi cosa intende per right of revolution,e questi mi risponde
-In political philosophy, the right of revolution (or right of rebellion) is the right or duty, variously stated throughout history, of the people of a nation to overthrow a government that acts against their common interests. Belief in this right extends back to ancient China, and it has been used throughout history to justify various rebellions, including the American Revolution and the French Revolution.
Dunque il diritto di rivoluzione, o diritto di ribellione, sarebbe, secondo la filosofia politica, il diritto del popolo di una nazione a rovesciare (ribaltare) un governo che agisce contro l’interesse comune.
Secondo la dichiarazione di indipendenza,io, giovane donna americana, ho il diritto di ribellione, il diritto di ribellarmi. Suona bene. Suona liberatorio. Qualcuno stabilisce ribellarsi è un diritto, e io che sono incazzata, mi ribello, ho diritto a incazzarmi e a ribellarmi. Se non da sola, insieme a un gruppo di altri incazzati e ribelli, io ho il diritto a ribaltare un governo.
Mi chiedo cosa manca, allora, a rendere un diritto,il dovere.Cosa trattiene ciascuno dall’esercitare questo diritto.Cosa trattiene ciascuno dall’esercitare questo dovere.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights. That among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Vita.Libertà.Ricerca della Felicità.Valori universali,patrimonio dell’umanità tutta.
Mi pare di sentire Peter Finch in Quinto Potere ( e mi esalto)
Sono incazzata nera, e tutto questo non l’accetterò più!
Ahh liberatorio
La settimana scorsa sono stata a un meeting di lavoro; la compagnia ne organizza uno al mese in ognuno degli stores.Gli argomenti trattati durante il meeting ruotano intorno certi aggiornamenti promozionali introdotti nel mercato dalla compagnia( offerte, lancio nuovi prodotti, promozioni, aggiornamento prezzi [da un anno a questa parte pari l’inflazione in rialzo nel mercato di tutto il paese. In parole concrete, un aumento- leggevo sull’Indipendent- pari a qualcosa come da 5 a 15 p sulla maggior parte dei prodotti alimentari e da distribuzione. Aumentati anche i costi degli affitti e dei trasporti. Qui Uk]) e altre rotture che riguardano più nello specifico l’andamento dello store, del team.
L’altra sera argomento centrale del meeting, l’ottimizzazione dei tempi di lavoro.
Bisogna ottimizzare i tempi. Metti il tempo un’arancia e i minuti gli spicchi. Bisogna che noi si sprema gli spicchi di quell’arancia fino all’ultima delle gocce e alla metà dei secondi necessari a farlo.Se per fare un espresso ci vogliono 15 secondi-15,in ordine all’ottimizzazione dei tempi,io, in 15 secondi devo:

1)attenermi alle 4 golden priorities dell’Onnisciente Barista (customer is the King,on top)
2)seguire diligentemente i 6 customer service steps
3)prendere altre 3 ordinazioni
4)far pagare il cliente
5)timbrargli la loyalty card
6) augurargli una buona giornata
e who is the next? avanti un altro
Questo vuol dire, ottimizzare i tempi. Quindici secondi moltiplicato 2 fa mezzo minuto, mezzo minuto moltiplicato 2 fa un minuto. Un minuto moltiplicato 60 fa un’ora, un’ora moltiplicata 8 fa 28800 secondi che mi spremono come un’arancia, al minimo sindacale e al massimo dell’imbarbarimento, selvaggio, nevrotico,bulimico,del capitalismo aziendale. 28800 secondi che mi spremo le meningi e immagino altrove, da qualche parte al sicuro,metti in montagna, in giacca di lana e berretto, a raccogliere funghi e castagne.Aria pulita, silenzio intorno, appena il tossio del vento nell’aria fresca, pace dentro. Simbiosi. Osmosi. Armonia.Che meraviglia.
Certi giorni è un calvario. Lo store in cui lavoro si trova a due passi da una stazione metro e ficcato nel cuore di un quartiere commerciale, uffici intorno, e banche, tante
banche ovunque banche. Banche e banche. L’80 % almeno dei clienti è impiegata nel settore commerciale, finanziario,redditizzio; l’80 % almeno dei clienti conclude affari al bar. Tra un cappuccino, un americano, una chocolate cheesecake, un apple and cinnammon muffin.
Io me li vedo passare davanti tutti, in processione ordinata, con al collo un cappio e in valigetta l’ultima dose buona di cocaina. Drogati di lavoro, di successo, di fama, di denaro.
Produrre Incrementare Ottimizzare Ridurre Accellerare
Strategia Successo Standards Soldi
Produci Consuma Mangia Ammalati
Se è vero che la classe operaia va in paradiso, non resta che di morire e finalmente felici,in linea con gli standards e la dichiarazione.E Amen.
C’è un libro, attento, cerebrale, che ho da poco finito di leggere e trovato incredibilmente interessante; il titolo White Noise, l’autore Don DeLillo, americano di New York; White Noise, d’avvio al realismo isterico nel genere letterario, non si risparmia dal rovistare,a mani nude e con fare analitico, nel torbido della psiche umana,lì dove marciano assurdo e paradossi della società contemporanea. Sebbene scritto nel 1985, White Noise risulta quanto mai attuale, anzi sembra addirittura profetizzare, anticipare i tempi, alla maniera di Orwell in 1984.Leggere White Noise è come riabituare gli occhi alla vista (di ciò che non risulta visibile, ma c’è, è presente, e condiziona la vita di ciascuno)e la mente all’osservazione critica del reale.
Il plot vuole una famiglia americana, allargata, composta da un accademico (Hitler il corso di studi tenuto dal professore), una moglie-regina del focolare domestico, 6 figli. Sottofondo la quotidianità di questa famiglia, l’isteria del capitalismo commerciale,l’impulso all’acquisto convulsivo, bulimico, veicolato, somatico; l’isteria dei sistemi mediatici, la spettacolarizzazione del dolore, dell’assurdo, il diffondersi di un’epidemia sociale, virus panico, ansia, l’onnisciente timore di ammalarsi e morire, ancora l’esplosione di un vagone merci trasportante sostanze chimiche, sintomi deja vu e mancata consapevolezza del reale.A mio avviso un libro meravigliso.
Questa una scheda interessante del libro, in italiano (via casa80.it)
Rumore Bianco (Don DeLillo).
Sotto una parte del libro, tratta dal diciassettesimo capitolo, in inglese

[…]
The family is the cradle of the world’s misinformation. There must be something in family life that generates factual error. Over-closeness, the noise and heat of being. Perhaps something even deeper, like the need to survive. Murray says we are fragile creatures surrounded by a world of hostile facts. Facts threaten our happiness and security. The deeper we delve into the nature of things, the looser our structure may seem to become. The family process works toward sealing off the world. Small errors grow heads, fictions proliferate. I tell Murray that ignorance and confusion can’t possibly be the driving forces behind family solidarity. What an idea, what a subversion. He asks me why the strongest family units exist in the lasts developed societies. Not to know is a weapon of survival, he says. Magic and superstition become entrenched as the powerful orthodoxy of the clan. The family is strongest where objective reality is most likely to be misinterpreted. What a heartless theory, I say. But Murray insists it’s true.
In a huge hardware store at the mall I saw Eric Massingale, a former microchip sales engineer who changed his life by coming out here to join the teaching staff of the computer center at the Hill. He was slim and pale, with a dangerous grin.
“You’re not wearing dark glasses, Jack.”
“I only wear them on campus.”
“I get it.”
We went our separate ways into the store’s deep interior. A great echoing din, as of the extinction of a species of beast, filled the vast space. People bought twenty-two-foot ladders, six kinds of sandpaper, power saws that could fell trees. The aisles were long and bright, filled with oversized brooms, massive sacks of peat and dung, huge Rubbermaid garbage cans. Rope hung like tropical fruits, beautifully braded strands, thick, brown, strong. What a great thing a coil of rope is to look at and feel. I bought fifty feet of Manila hemp just to have it around, show it to my son, talk about where it comes from, how it’s made. People spoke English, Hindi, Vietnamese, related tongues.
I ran into Massingale again at the cash terminals.
“I’ve never seen you off campus, Jack. You look different without your glasses and gown. Where did you get the sweater? Is that a Turkish army sweater? Mail order, right?”
He looked me over, felt the material of the water- repellent jacket I was carrying draped across my arm. Then he backed up, altering his perspective, nodding a little, his grin beginning to take on a self-satisfied look, reflecting some inner calculation.
“I think I know those shoes,” he said.
What did he mean, he knew these shoes?
“You’re a different person altogether.”
“Different in what way, Eric?”
“You won’t take offense?” he said, the grin turning lascivious, rich with secret meaning.
“Of course not. Why would I?”
“Promise you won’t take offense.”
“I won’t take offense.”
“You look so harmless, Jack. A big harmless, aging, indistinct, sort of guy.”
“Why would I take offense?” I said, paying for my rope and hurrying out the door.
The encounter put me in the mood to shop. I found the others and we walked across two parking lots to the main structure in the Mid- Village Mall, a ten-story building arranged around a center court of waterfalls, promenades and gardens, Babette and the kids followed me into the elevator, into the shops set along the tiers, through the emporiums and department stores, puzzled but excited by my desire to buy. When I could not decide between two shirts, they encouraged me to buy both. When I said I was hungry, they fed me pretzels, beer, souvlaki. The two girls scouted ahead, spotting things they thought I might want or need, running back to get me, to clutch my arms, plead with me to follow. They were my guides to endless well-being. People swarmed through the boutiques and gourmet shops. Organ music rose from the great court. We smelled chocolate, popcorn, cologne; we smelled rugs and furs, hanging salamis and deathly vinyl. My family gloried in the event. I was one of them, shopping, at last. They gave me advice, badgered clerks on my behalf. I kept seeing myself unexpectedly in some reflecting surface. We moved from store to store, rejecting not only items in certain departments, not only entire departments but whole stores, mammoth corporations that did not strike our fancy for one reason or another. There was always another store, three floors, eight floors, basement full of cheese graters and paring knives. I shopped with reckless abandon. I shopped for immediate needs and distant contingencies. I shopped for its own sake, looking and touching, inspecting merchandise I had no intention of buying, then buying it. I sent clerks into their fabric books and pattern books to search for elusive designs. I began to grow in value and self-regard. I filled myself out, found new aspects of myself, located a person I’d forgotten existed. Brightness settled around me. We crossed from furniture to men’s wear, walking through cosmetics. Our images appeared on mirrored columns, in glassware and chrome, on TV monitors in security rooms. I traded money for goods. The more money I spent, the less important it seemed. I was bigger than these sums. These sums poured off my skin like so much rain. These sums in fact came back to me in the form of existential credit. I felt expansive, inclined to be sweepingly generous, and told the kids to pick out their Christmas gifts here and now. I gestured in what I felt was an expensive manner. I could tell they were impressed. They fanned out across the area, each of them suddenly inclined to be private, shadowy, even secretive. Periodically one of them would return to register the name of an item with Babette, careful not to let the others know what it was. I myself was not to be bothered with tedious details. I was the benefactor, the one who dispenses gifts, bonuses, bribes, baksheesh. The children knew it was the nature of such things that I could not be expected to engage in technical discussions about the gifts themselves. We ate another meal. A band played live Muzak. Voices rose ten stories from the gardens and promenades, a roar that echoed and swirled through the vast gallery, mixing with noises from the tiers, with shuffling feet and chiming bells, the hum of escalators, the sound of people eating, the human buzz of some vivid and happy transaction.
We drove home in silence. We went to our respective rooms, wishing to be alone. A little later I watched Steffie in front of the TV set. She moved her lips, attempting to match the words as they were spoken.

taken from seventeenth White Noise chapter,by Don DeLillo, 1985

“I’m only saying. How does it happen that Thursday seems like Friday? We’re out of the city. We’re off the calendar. Friday shouldn’t have an identity here. Who wants more coffee?”


Chapter 1
Time seems to pass. The world happens, unrolling into moments, and you stop to glance at a spider pressed to its web. There is a quickness of light and a sense of things outlined precisely and steaks of running luster on the bay. You know more surely who you are on a strong bright day after a storm when the smallest falling leaf is stabbed with self-awareness. The wind makes a sound in the pines and the world comes into being, irreversibly, and the spider rides the wind-swayed web.
It happened this final morning that they were here at the same time, in the kitchen, and they shambled past each other to get things out of cabinets and drawers and then waited one for the other by the sink or fridge, still a little puddled in dream melt, and she ran tap water over the blueberries bunched in her hand and closed her eyes to breathe the savor rising.
He sat with the newspaper, stirring his coffee. It was his coffee and his cup. They shared the newspaper but it was actually, unspokenly, hers.
“I want to say something but what.”
She ran water from the tap and seemed to notice. It was the first time she’d ever noticed this.
“About the house. This is what it is,” he said. “Something I meant to tell you.”
She noticed how water from the tap turned opaque in seconds. It ran silvery and clear and then in seconds turned opaque and how curious it seemed that in all these months and all these times in which she’d run water from the kitchen tap she’d never noticed how the water ran clear at first and then went not murky exactly but opaque, or maybe it hadn’t happened before, or she’d noticed and forgotten.
She crossed to the cabinet with the blueberries wet in her hand and reached up for the cereal and took the box to the counter, the mostly brown and white box, and then the toaster thing popped and she flipped it down again because it took two flips to get the bread to go brown and he absently nodded his acknowledgement because it was his toast and his butter and then he turned on the radio and got the weather.
The sparrows were at the feeder, wing-beating, fighting for space on the curved perches.
She reached into the near cabinet for a bowl and shook some cereals out of the box and then dropped the berries on top. She rubbed her hand dry on her jeans, feeling a sense somewhere of the color blue, runny and wan.
What’s it called, the lever. She’d pressed down the lever to get his bread to go brown.
It was his toast, it was her weather. She listened to reports and called the weather number frequently and sometimes stood out front and looked into the coastal sky, tasking the breeze for latent implications.
“Yes exactly. I know what it is,” he said.
She went to the fridge and opened the door. She stood there remembering something.
She said, “What? Meaning what did you say, not what did you want to tell me.
She remembered the soya granules. She crossed to the cabinet and took down the box and then caught the fridge door before it swung shut. She reached in for the milk, realizing what it was he’d said that she hadn’t heard about eight seconds ago.
Every time she had to bend and reach into the lower and remote parts of the refrigerator she let out a groan, but not really every time, that resembled a life lament. She was too trim and limber to feel the strain and was only echoing Rey, identifyingly, groaning his groan, but in a manner so seamless and deep it was her discomfort too.
Now that he’d remembered what he meant to tell her, he seemed to lose interest. She didn’t have to see his face to know this. It was in the air. It was in the pause that trailed from his remark of eight, ten, twelve seconds ago. Something insignificant. He would take it as a kind of self- diminishment, bringing up a matter so trivial.
She went to the counter and poured soya over the creal and fruit. The lever sprang or sprung and he got up and took his toast back to the table and then went for the butter and she had to lean away from the counter when he approached, her milk carton poised, so he could open the drawer and get a butter knife.
There were voices on the radio in like Hindi it sounded.
She poured milk into the bowl. He sat down and got up. He went to the fridge and got the orange juice and stood in the middle of the room shaking the carton to float the pulp and make the juice thicker. He never remembered the juice until the toast was done. Then he shook the carton. Then he poured the juice and watched a skim of sizzling foam appear at the top of the glass.
She picked a hair out of her mouth. She stood at the counter looking at it, a short pale strand that wasn’t hers and wasn’t his.
He stood shaking the container. He shook it longer than he had to because he wasn’t paying attention, she thought, and because it was satisfying in some dumb and blameless way, for its own childlike sake, for the bounce and slosh and cardboard orange aroma.
He said, “Do you want some of this?”
she was looking at the hair.
“Tell me because I am not sure. Do you drink juice?” he said., still shaking the damn thing, two fingers pincered at the spout.
She scraped her upper teeth over her tongue to rid her system of the complicated sense memory of something else’s hair.
She said, “What? Never drink the stuff. You know that. How long have we been living together?”
“Not long,” he said.
He got a glass, poured the juice and watched the foam appear. Then he wheeled a little achingly into his chair.
“Not long enough for me to notice the details,” he said.
“I always think this isn’t supposed to happen here. I think anywhere but here.”
He said, “What?”
“A hair in my mouth. From someone else’s head.”
He buttered his toast.
“Do you think it only happens in big cities with mixed populations?”
“Anywhere but here.” She held the strand of hair between thumb and index finger, regarding it with mock aversion, or real aversion stretched to artistic limits, her mouth at a palsied slant. “That’s what I think.”
“Maybe you’ve been carrying it since childhood.” He went back to the newspaper. “Did you have a pet dog?”
“hey. What woke you up?” she said.
It was her newspaper. The telephone was his except when she was calling the weather. They both used the computer but it was spiritually hers.
She stood at the counter looking at the hair. Then she snapped it off her fingers to the floor. She turned to the sink and ran hot water over her hands and then took the cereal bowl to the table. Birds scattered when she moved near the window.
“I’ve seen you drink gallons of juice, tremendous, how can I tell you? he said.
Her mouth was still twisted from the experience of sharing some food handler’s unknown life or from a reality far stranger and more meandering, the intimate passage of the hair from the person to person and somehow mouth to mouth across years and cities and diseases and unclean foods and many baneful fluids.
“What? I don’t think so,” she said.
Okay, she put the bowl on the table. She went to the stove, got the kettle and filled it from the tap. He changed stations on the radio and said something she missed. She took the kettle back to the stove because this is how you live a life even if you don’t know it and then she scraped her teeth over her tongue again, for emphasis, watching the flame shoot blue from the burner.
She’d had to sort of jackknife away from the counter when he approached to get the butter knife.
She moved toward the table and the birds went cracking off the feeder again. They passed out of the shade beneath the eaves and flew into sunglare and silence and it was an action she only partly saw, elusive and mutely beautiful, the birds so sunstruck they were consumed by light, disembodied, turned into something sheer and fleet and scatter- bright.
She sat down and picked through sections of newspaper and realized she had no spoon. She looked at him and saw sporting a band- aid at the side of the jaw.
She used the old dented kettle instead of the new one she’d just bought because- she didn’t know why.
It was an old frame house that had many rooms and working fireplaces and animals in the walls and mildew everywhere, a place they’d rented unseen, a relic of the boom years of the lumbering and shipbuilding trades, way too big, and there were creaking floorboards and number of bent utensils dating to god knows.
She half fell out of her chair in a gesture of self- ridicule and went to the counter to get a spoon. She took the soya granules back to the table as well. The soya had a smell that didn’t seem to belong to the sandy stuff in the box. It was a faint wheaty stink with feet mixed in. Every time she used the soya she smelled it. She smelled it two or three times.
“Cut yourself again.”
“What?” He put his hand to his jaw, head sunk in the newspaper. “Just a nick.”
She started to read a story in her part of the paper. It was an old newspaper, Sunday’s from town, because there were no deliveries here.
“That’s lately, I don’t know, maybe you shouldn’t shave first thing. Wake up first. Why shave at all? Let your mustache grow back. Grow a beard.”
“Why shave at all? There must be a reason,” he said. “I want God to see my face.”
He looked up from the paper and laughed in the empty way she didn’t like. She took a bite of cereal and looked at another story. She tended lately to place herself, to insert herself into certain stories in the newspaper. Some kind of daydream variation. She did it and then became aware she was doing it and then sometimes did it again a few minutes later with the same or a different story and then became aware again.
She reached for the soya box without looking up from the paper and poured some granules into the bowl and the radio played traffic and talk.
The idea seemed to be that she’d have to wear out the old kettle, use it and use it until it developed rust bubbles and then and only then would it be okay for her to switch to the kettle she’d just bought.
“Do you have to listen to the radio?”
“No,” she said and read the paper.”What?”
“It is such astonishing shit.”
The way he stressed the t in shit, dignifying the word.
“I didn’t turn on the radio. You turned on the radio,” she said.
He went to the fridge and came back with a large dark fig and turned off the radio.
“Give me some of that,” she said, reading the paper.
“I was not blaming. Who turned it on, who turned it off. Someone’s a little edgy this morning. I’m the one, what do I say, who should be defensive. Not the young woman who eats and sleeps and lives forever.”
“What? Hey,Rey. Shut up.”
He bit off the stem and tossed it toward the sink. Then he split the fig open with his thumbnails and took the spoon out of her hand and licked it off and used it to scoop a measure of claret flesh out of the gaping fig skin. He dropped this stuff on his toast – the flesh, the mash, the pulp- and then spread it with the bottom of the spoon, blood-buttery swirls that popped with seedlife.
“I’m the one to be touchy in the morning. I’m the one to moan. The terror of another ordinary day,” he said slyly. “You don’t know this yet.”
“Give us all a break,” she told him.
She leaned forward, he extended the bread. There were crowns in the trees near the house, taking up a raucous call. She took a bite and closed her eyes so she could think about the taste.
He gave back her spoon. Then he turned on the radio and remembered he’d just turned it off and he turned it off again.
She poured granules into the bowl. The smell of the soya was somewhere between body odor, yes, in the lower extremities and some authentic podlife of the earth, deep and seeded. But that didn’t describe it. She read a story in the paper about a child abandoned in some godforsaken. Nothing described it. It was pure smell. It was as thought and she nearly said something to this effect because it might amuse him but then she let it drop- it was as though some, maybe, medieval scholastic had attempted to classify all known odors and had found something that did not fit into his system and had called it soya, which could easily be part of a lofty Latin term, but no it couldn’t, and she sat thinking of something, she wasn’t sure what, with the spoon an inch from her mouth.
He said,” What?”
“I didn’t say anything”
She got up to get something. She looked at the kettle and realized that wasn’t it. She knew it would come to her because it always did and then it did. She wanted honey for her tea even though the water wasn’t boiling yet. She had a hyper-preparedness, or haywire, or hair-trigger, and Rey was always saying, or said once, and she carried a voice in her head that was hers and it was dialogue or monologue and she went to the cabinet where she got the honey and tea bags- a voice that flowed from a story in the paper.
“Weren’t you going to tell me something?”
He said, “What?”
She put a hand on his shoulder and moved past to her side of the table. The birds broke off the feeder in a wing-whir that was all b’s and r’s, the letter b followed by a series of vibrato r’s. But that wasn’t it at all. That wasn’t anything like it.
“You said something.I don’t know. The house.”
“It’s not interesting. Forget it.”
“I don’t want to forget it.”
“It’s not interesting. Let me put it another way. It’s boring.”
“Tell me anyway.”
“It’s too early. It’s an effort. It’s boring.”
“You’re sitting there talking. Tell me,” she said.
She took a bite of cereal and read the paper.
“It’s an effort. It’s like what. It’s like pushing a boulder.”
“You’re sitting there talking.”
“Here,” he said.
“You said the house. Nothing about the house is boring. I like the house.”
“You like everything. You love everything. You’re my happy home. Here,” he said.
He hanged her what remained of his toast and she chewed it mingled with cereal and berries. Suddenly she knew what he’d meant to tell her. She heard the crows in large numbers now, clamorous in the trees, probably mobbing a hawk.
“Just tell me. Takes only a second,” she said, knowing absolutely what it was.
She saw him move his hand to his breast pocket and then pause and lower it to the cup. It was his coffee, his cup and his cigarette. How an incident described in the paper seemed to rise out of the inky lines of print and gather her into it. You separate the Sunday sections.
“Just tell me okay. Because I know anyway.”
He said, “What? You insist you will drag this thing out of me. Lucky we don’t normally have breakfast together. Because my mornings.”
“I know anyway. So tell me.”
He was looking at the paper.
“You know. Then fine. I don’t have to tell you.”
He was reading, getting ready to go for his cigarettes.
She said, “The noise.”
He looked at her. He looked. The he gave her the great smile, the gold teeth in the great olive-dark face. She hadn’t seen this in a while, the amplified smile, Rey emergent, his eyes clear and lit, deep lines etched about his mouth.
“The noises in the walls. Yes. You’ve read my mind.”
“It was one noise. It was one noise,” she said. “And it wasn’t in the wall.”
“One noise. Okay. I haven’t heard it lately. This is what I wanted to say. It’s gone. Finished. End of conversation.”
“True. Except I heard it yesterday, I think.”
“Then it’s not gone. Good. I am happy for you.”
“It’s an old house. There’s always a noise. But this is different. Not those damn scampering animals we hear at night. Or the house settling. I don’t know,” she said, not wanting to sound concerned. “Like there’s something.”
She read the paper, voice trailing off.
“Good. I’m glad,” he said. “You need the company.”
You separate the Sunday sections and there are endless identical lines of print with people living somewhere in the words and the strange contained reality of paper and ink seeps through the house for a week and when you look at a page and distinguish one line from another it begins to gather you into it and there are people being tortured halfway around the world, who speak another language, and you have conversations with them more or less uncontrollably until you become aware you are doing it and then you stop, seeing whatever is in front of you at the time, like half a glass of juice in your husband’s hand.
She took a bite of cereal and forgot to taste it. She lost the taste somewhere between the time she put the food in her mouth and the regretful second she swallowed it.
He put down the juice glass. He took the pack out of his shirt and lit up a cigarette, the cigarette he’d been smoking with his coffee since he was twelve years old, he’d told her, and he left the match burn down a bit before he shook it out in meditative slow motion and put it at the edge of his plate. It was agreeable to her, the smell of tobacco.It was part of her knowledge of his body. It was the aura of the man, a residue of smoke and unbroken habit, a dimension in the night, and she lapped it off the curled gray hairs on his chest and tasted it in his mouth. It was who he was in the dark, cigarettes and mumbled sleep and a hundred other things nameable and not.
But it wasn’t one of his, the hair she’d found in her mouth. Employees must wash hands before leaving toilet. It was his toast but she’d eaten nearly half of it. It was his coffee and cup. Touch his cup and he looks at you edgewise, with the formal one-eyed glare of a boxer touching gloves. But she knew she was making this up because he didn’t give a damn what you did with his cup. There were plenty of cups he could use. The phone was his. The birds were hers, the sparrow pecking at sunflowers seeds. The air was somebody else’s.
He said something about his car, the mileage, gesturing. He liked to conduct, to guide an extended remark with his hand, a couple of fingers jutting.
“All day yesterday I thought it was Friday”.
He said,”What?”
Or you become someone else, one of the people in the story, doing dialogue of your own devising. You become a man at times, living between the lines, doing another version of the story.
She thought and read. She groped for the soya box and her hand struck the juice container. She looked up and understood he wasn’t reading the paper. He was looking at it but not reading it and she understood this retroactively, that he’d been looking at it all this time but not absorbing the words on the page.
The container remained upright. She poured a little more soya into the bowl, for grainy texture and long life.
“All day yesterday I thought it was Friday.”
He said,”Was it?”
She remembered to smile.
He said,”What does it matter anyway?”
She’d put a hand on his shoulder and then nearly moved it up along the back of his neck and into his hair, caressingly, but hadn’t.
“I’m only saying. How does it happen that Thursday seems like Friday? We’re out of the city. We’re off the calendar. Friday shouldn’t have an identity here. Who wants more coffee?”
She went to pour water for her tea and paused at the stove, waiting for him to say yes or no to coffee. When she started back she saw a blue jay perched atop the feeder. She stopped dead and held her breath. It stood large and polished and looked royally remote from the other birds busy feeding and she could nearly believe she’d never seen a jay before. It stood enormous, looking in at her, seeing whatever it saw, and she wanted to tell Rey to look up.
She watched it, black-barred across the wings and tail, and she thought she’d somehow only now learned how to look. She’d never seen a thing so clearly and it was not simply because the jay was posted where it was, close enough for her to note the details of cresting and color. There was also the clean shock of its appearance among the smaller brownish birds, its mineral blue and muted blue and broad dark neckband. But if Rey looked up, the bird would fly.
She tried to work past the details to the bird itself, nest thief and skilled mimic, to the fixed interest in those eyes, a kind of inquisitive chill that felt a little like a challenge.
When birds look into houses, what impossible worlds they see. Think. What a shedding of every knowable surface and process. She wanted to believe the bird was seeing her, a woman with a teacup in her hand, and never mind the folding back of day and night, the apparition of a space set off from time. She looked and took a careful breath. She was alert to the clarity of the moment but knew it was ending already. She felt it in the blue jay.Or maybe not. She was making it happen herself because she could not look any longer. This must be what it means to see if you’ve been near blind all your life. She said something to Rey, who lifted his head slightly, chasing the jay but leaving the sparrows unstartled.
“Did you see it?”
He half turned to answer.
“Don’t we see them all the time?”
“Not all the time. And never so close.”
“Never so close. Okay.”
“It was looking at me.”
“It was looking at you.”
She was standing in place, off his left shoulder. When she moved toward her chain the sparrows flew.
“It was watching me.”
“Did it make your day?”
“It made my day. My week.What else?”
She drank her tea and read. Nearly everything she read sent her into reverie.
She turned on the radio and tracked showly along the dial, reading the paper, trying to find the weather on the radio.
He finished his coffee and smoked.
She sat over the bowl of cereal. She looked past the bowl into a space inside her head that was also here in front of her.
She folded a section of newspaper and read a line or two and read some more or didn’t, sipping tea and drifting.
The radio reported news about a missile exploding mysteriously, underground, in Montana, and she didn’t catch if it was armed or not.
He smoked and looked out the window tho his right, where are untended meadow tumbled to the rutted dirt road that led to a gravel road.
She read and drifted. She was here and there.
The tea had no honey in it. She’d left the honey jar unopened by the stove.
He looked around for an ashtray.
She had a conversation with a doctor in a new story.There were two miles of gravel before you reached the paved road that led town.
She took the fig off his plate and put a finger down into it and reamed around inside for flesh.
A voice reported the weather but she missed it. She didn’t know it was the weather until it was gone.
He eased his head well back and rolled it slowly side to side to lessen the tension in his neck.
She sucked the finger on her fig-dipping hand and thought of things they needed from the store.
He turned off the radio.
She sipped her tea and read. She more or less saw herself talking to a doctor in the bush somewhere, with people hungry in the dust.
The cigarette was burning down in his hand.
She picked up the soya box and tipped it toward her face and smelled inside.
When he walked out of the room, she realized there was something she wanted to tell him.
Sometimes she doesn’t think of what she wants to say to him until he walks out of whatever room they’re in. Then she thinks of it. Then she either calls after him or doesn’t and he responds or doesn’t.
She sat there and finished her tea and thought of what she thought of, memory traces and flary images and a friend she missed and all the shadow-dappled stuff of an undividable moment on a normal morning going crazy in ways so humanly routine you can’t even stop and take note except for the Ajax she needs to buy and the birds behind her, rattling the metal frame of the feeder.
It’s such a stupid thing to do, read the newspaper and eat.
She saw him standing in the doorway.
“Have you seen my keys?”
She said, “What?”
He waited for the question to register.
“Which keys?” she said.
He looked at her.
She said, “I bought some lotion yesterday. Which I meant to tell you. It’s a muscle rub. It’s a green and white tube on the shelf in the big bathroom upstairs. It’s greaseless. It’s a muscle rub. Rub it in, my love. Or ask me nice, I’ll do it for you.”
“All my keys are on one ring,” he said.
She almost said, Is that smart? But then she didn’t. Because what a needless thing. Because how petty it would be to say such a thing, in the morning or any time, on a strong bright day after a storm.
Taken from The Body Artist, Don DeLillo,2001

The Man who mistook his wife for a hat

Oliver Sacks è un neurologo americano,di origini inglesi, specialmente divenuto popolare per la pubblicazione  di un ‘romanzo scientifico’, mi permetterei di chiamarlo così, nel quale racconta dei propri pazienti, secondo cartella clinica ma con piglio da romanziere.
L’idea di leggere questo libro mi è stata suggerita da Murphy, romanzo di Samuel Beckett,del 1938, con a protagonista un solipsista depresso, come lo definisce lo scrittore irlandese, nel ruolo di infermiere presso la Magdalen Mental Mercyseat, una clinica psichiatrica a nord di Londra.A contatto coi pazienti,Murphy verrà a conoscenza di un sottomondo visionario e surreale, tale da stravolgere cognizioni di fatto quali cause, effetti e tempo, nella percezione e valutazione del reale, o meglio di ciò che appare come tale.
The man who mistook his wife for a hat (via L’uomo che scambiò sua moglie per un cappello – Wikipedia.) pubblicato per la prima volta nel 1985, si divide in 4 sezioni (Losses,Excesses,Transports,The world of the simple),in ognuna delle quali è centrale una disfunzione di riferimento legata a malfuzionamento o danneggiamento del cervello, dunque il racconto dei pazienti che ne presentano i disturbi; talvolta casi drammatici, altri buffi, molto spesso surreali e grotteschi.
Il racconto che mi ha più impressionata, e perchè di rilievo è stato scelto dall’autore stesso a titolo e rappresentazione dell’intero libro, riguarda la storia di un musicista, tale Dr P., insegnante presso una scuola di musica, pittore, uomo di lettere e arti. Il paziente, richiamato- suo malgrado- a testimoniare gli effetti dell’agnosia (da wikipedia* disturbo della percezione caratterizzato dal mancato riconoscimento di oggetti, persone, suoni, forme, odori già noti, in assenza di disturbi della memoria e in assenza di lesioni dei sistemi sensoriali elementari. Può presentarsi separatamente in relazione a ciascuno dei cinque sensi e per ogni senso sono riscontrabili diversi tipi di agnosia (prosopoagnosia, agnosia musicale, stereoagnosia o agnosia tattile, agnosia visuo-motoria, ecc.). In pratica, la persona affetta da agnosia può utilizzare una forchetta invece di un cucchiaio pensando di aver scelto il cucchiaio, oppure una scarpa al posto di una tazza o un temperino invece della matita. Spesso è associata a lesioni riguardanti aree posteriori del cervello) pare non concepire la realtà che lo circonda se non attraverso la musica, in organizzata progressione di suoni e scale e ritmo.
Di Oliver Sacks anche questo testo
‘Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain (2007)’, di cui è possibile leggere articolo e recenzione a questo link [The Listener § SEEDMAGAZINE.COM]
Questo che segue il racconto, meraviglioso, che riguarda Dr P.

Dr P. was a musician of distinction, well known for many years as a singer, and then, at the local School of Music, as a teacher. It was here, in relation to his students, that certain strange problems were first observed. Sometimes a student would present himself, and Dr P. would not recognize him; or, specifically, would not recognize his face. The moment the student spoke, he would be recognized  by his voice. Such incidents multiplied, causing embarrassment, perplexity, fear- and, sometimes, comedy. For not only did Dr P. increasingly fail to see faces, but he saw faces when there were no faces to see: genially, Magoo- like, when the street, he might pat the heads of water-hydrants and parking- meters, taking these to the heads of children; he would amiably address carved knobs on the furniture, and be astounded when they did not reply. At first these odd mistakes were laughed off as jokes, not least by Dr P. himself. Had he not always had a quirky sense of humour, and been given to Zen-like paradoxes and jests? His musical powers were as dazzling as ever; he did not feel ill- he had never felt better; and the mistakes were so ludicrous- and so ingenious- that they could hardly be serious or betoken anything serious. The notion of there being ‘something the matter’ did not emerge until some three years later, when diabetes developed. Well aware that diabetes could affect his eyes, Dr P. consulted an ophthalmologist, who took a careful history, and examined his eyes closely. ‘There’s nothing the matter with your eyes,’ the doctor concluded. ‘But there is trouble with the visual parts of your brain. You don’t need my help, you must see a neurologist .’ And so, as a result of this referral, Dr P. came to me.
It was obvious within a few seconds of meeting him that there was no trace of dementia in ordinary sense. He was a man of great cultivation and charm, who talked well and fluently, with imagination and humor. I couldn’t think why he had been referred to our clinic.
And yet there was something a bit odd. He faced me as he spoke, was oriented towards me, and yet there was something the matter- it was difficult to formulate. He faced me with his ears, I came to think, but not with his eyes. These, instead of looking, gazing, at me,’ taking me in’, in the normal way, made sudden strange fixations- on my nose, on my right ear, down to my chin, up to my right eye- as if nothing (even studying) these individual features, but not seeing my whole face, its changing expressions, ‘me’, as whole. I am not sure that I fully realized this at the time- there was just a teasing strangeness, some failure in the normal interplay of gaze and expression. He saw me, he scanned me, and yet..
‘What seems to be the matter?’ I asked him at length.
‘Nothing that I know of,’ he replied with a smile, ‘but people seem to think there’s something wrong with my eyes.’
‘But you don’t recognize any visual problem?’
‘No, not directly, but I occasionally make mistakes.’
I left the room briefly, to talk with his wife. When I came back Dr P. was sitting placidly by the window, attentive, listening rather than looking out. ‘Traffic,’ he said,’ street sounds, distant trains- they make a sort of symphony, do they not? You know Honegger’s Pacific 234?
What a lovely man, I thought to myself. How can there be anything seriously the matter? Would he permit me to examine him?
‘Yes, of course, Dr P.’
I stilled my disquiet, his perhaps too, in the soothing routine of a neurological exam- muscle strength, co- ordination, reflexes, tone..It was examining his reflexes- a trifle abnormal on the left side- that the first horizon experience. I had taken off his left shoe and scratched the sole of his foot with a key- a frivolous- seeming but essential test of a reflex- and then, excusing myself to screw my ophthalmoscope together, left him, to put on the shoe himself. To my surprise, a minute later, he had not done this.
‘Can I help?’ I asked.
‘Help what? Help whom?’
‘Help you to put on your shoe.’
‘Ach,’ he said,’ I had forgotten the shoe,’ adding, sotto voce, ‘The shoe? The shoe? He seemed baffled.
‘Your shoe,’ I repeated. ‘Perhaps you’d put it on.’
He continued to look downwards, though not at the shoe, with an intense but misplaced concentration. Finally his gaze settled on his foot: ‘That is my shoe, yes?’
Did I miss-hear? Did he miss-see?
‘My eyes,’ he explained, and put a hand to his foot. ‘This is my shoe, no?’
‘No, it’s not. That is your foot. There is your shoe.’
‘Ah! I thought that was my foot.’
Was he joking? Was he mad? Was he blind? If this was one of his ‘strange mistakes’, it was the strangest mistake I had ever come across.
I helped him on with his shoe (his foot), to avoid further complications. Dr P. himself seemed untroubled, indifferent, maybe amused. I resumed my examination. His visual acuity was good: he had no difficulty seeing a pin on the floor, though sometimes he missed it if it was placed to his left.
He saw all right, but what did he see? I opened out a copy of the National Geographic, and asked him to describe some pictures in it.
His responses here were curious. His eyes would dart from one thing to another, picking up tiny features, individual features, as they had done with my face. A striking brightness, a color, a shape would arrest his attention and elicit comment- but in no case did he get the scene- as-a-whole. He failed to see the whole, seeing only details, which he spotted like blips on a radar screen. He never entered into relation with the picture as a whole- never faced, so to speak, its physiognomy. He had no sense whatever of a landscape or scene.
I showed him the cover, an unbroken expanse of Sahara dunes.
‘What do you see here?’ I asked.
‘I see a river,’ he said. ‘And a little guest- house with its terrace on the water. People are dining out on the terrace. I see coloured parasols here and there.’ He was looking, if it was ‘looking’, right off the cover, into mid-air and confabulating non-existent features, as if the absence of features in the actual picture had driven him to imagine the river and the terrace and the colored parasols.
I must have looked aghast, but he seemed to think he had done rather well. There was a hint of a smile on his face. He also appeared to have decided that the examination was over, and started to look round for his hat. He reached out his hand, and took hold of his wife’s head., tried to lift it off, to put it on. He had apparently mistaken his wife for a hat! His wife looked as if she was used to such things.
I could make no sense of what had occurred, in terms of conventional neurology (or neuropsychology). In some ways he seemed perfectly preserved, and in others absolutely, incomprehensibly devastated. How could he, on the one hand, mistake his wife for a hat and, on the other, function, as apparently he still did, as a teacher at the Music School?
I had to think, to see him again- and to see him in his own familiar habitat, at home.
A few days later I called on Dr P. and his wife at home, with the score of the Dichterliebe in my briefcase ( I knew he liked Schumann), and a variety of odd objects for the testing of perception. Mrs  P. showed me into a lofty apartment, which recalled fin-de-siecle Berlin. A magnificent old Bosendorfen stood in state in the centre of the room, and all round it were music-stands, instruments, scores.. There were books, there were paintings, but the music was central. Dr P. came in and, distracted, advanced with outstretched hand to the grandfather clock, but, hearing my voice, corrected himself, and shook hands with me. We exchanged greetings , and chatted a little of current concerts and performances. Differently, I asked him if he would sing.
‘The Dichterliebe!’ he exclaimed. ‘But I can no longer read music. You will play them, yes?’
I said I would try. On that wonderful old piano even my playing sounded right, and Dr P. was an aged, but infinitely mellow Fischer-Dieskau, combining a perfect ear and voice with the most incisive musical intelligence. It was clear that the Music School was not keeping him on out of charity.
Dr P.’s temporal lobes were obviously intact: he had a wonderful musical cortex. What, I wondered, was going on in his parietal and occipital lobes, especially in those areas where visual processing occurred? I carry the Platonic solids in my neurological kit, and decided to start with these.
‘What is this?’ I asked, drawing out the first one.
‘A cube, of course.’
‘Now this?’I asked, brandishing another.
He asked if he might examine it, which he did swiftly and systematically: ‘A dodecahedron, of course. And don’t bother with the others- I’ll get the eikosihedron too.’
Abstract shapes clearly presented no problems. What about faces? I took out a pack of cards. All of these he identified instantly, including the jacks, queens, kings, and the joker. But these, after all, are stylized designs, and it was impossible to tell whether he saw faces or merely patterns. I decided I would show him a volume of cartoons which I had in my briefcase. Here, again, for the most part, he did well. Churchill’s cigar, Schnozzle’s nose: as soon as he had picked out a key feature he could identify the face. But cartoons, again, are formal and schematic. It remained to be seen how he would do with real faces, realistically represented.
I turned on the television, keeping the sound off, and found an early Bette Davis film. A love scene in progress. Dr P. failed to identify the actress- but this could have been because she had never entered his world. What was more striking was that he failed to identify the expression on her face or her partner’s, though in the course of a single torrid scene these passed from sultry yearning through passion, surprise, disgust and fury to a melting reconciliation. Dr P. could make nothing of any of this. He was very unclear as to what was going on, or who was who or even what sex they were. His comments on the scene were positively Martian.
It was just possible that some of his difficulties were associated with the unreality of a celluloid, Hollywood world; and it occurred to me that he might be more successful in identifying faces from his own life. On the walls of the apartment there were photographs of his family, his colleagues, his pupils, himself. I gathered a pile of these together and, with some misgivings, presented them ho him. What had been funny, or farcical, in relation to the movie, was tragic in relation to real life. By and large, he recognized nobody; neither his family, nor his colleagues, nor his pupils, nor himself. He recognized a portrait of Einstein, because he picked up the characteristic hair and moustache; and the same thing happened with one or two other people. ‘Ach, Paul!’ he said, when shown a portrait of his brother. ‘That square jaw, those big teeth, I would know Paul anywhere!’ But was it Paul he recognized, or one or two of his features, on the basis of which he could make a reasonable guess as to the subject’s identify? In the absence of obvious ‘markers’, he was utterly lost. But it was not merely the cognition, the gnosis, at fault; there was something radically wrong with the whole way he proceeded. For he approached these  faces- even of those near and dear- as if they were abstract puzzles or tests. He did not relate to them, he did not behold. No face was familiar to him, seen as a ‘thou’, being just identified as a set of features, an ‘it’. Thus there was formal, but no trace of personal, gnosis. And with this went his indifference, or blindness, to expression. A face, to us, is a person looking out- we see, as it were, the person through his persona, his face. But for Dr P. there was no persona in this sense- no outward persona, and no persona within.
I had stopped at a florist on my way to his apartment and bought myself an extravagant red rose for my buttonhole. Now I removed this and handed it to him. He took it like a botanist or morphologist given a specimen, not like a person given a flower.
‘About six inches in length,’ he commented. ‘A convoluted red form with a linear green attachment.’.
‘Yes,’ I said encouragingly,  ‘and what do you think it is, Dr P.?’
‘Not easy to say.’ He seemed perplexed. ‘It lacks the simple symmetry of the Platonic solids, although it may have a higher symmetry of its own..I think this could be an inflorescence or flower.’
‘Could be?’ I queried.
‘Could be,’ he confirmed.
‘Smell it,’ I suggested, and he again looked somewhat puzzled, as if I had asked him to smell a higher symmetry. But he complied courteously, and took it to his nose. Now, suddenly, he came to life.
‘Beautiful!’ he exclaimed. ‘An early rose. What a heavenly smell!’ He started to hum ‘Die Rose, die Lillie..’ Reality, it seemed, might be conveyed by smell, not by sight.
I tried one final test. It was still a cold day, in early spring, and I had thrown my coat and gloves on the sofa.
‘What is this?’ I asked, holding up a glove.
‘May I examine it?’ he asked, taking it from me, he proceeded to examine it as he had examined the geometrical shapes.
‘A continuous surface,’ he announced at last, ‘ infolded on itself. It appears to have’ – he hesitated- ‘five outpouchings, if this is the word.’
‘Yes,’ I said cautiously. ‘You have given me a description. Now tell me what it is.’
‘A container of some sort?’
‘Yes,’ I said, ‘and what would it contain?’
‘It would contain its contents!’ said Dr P., with a laugh.
‘There are many possibilities. It could be a charge-purse, for example, for coins of five sizes. It could..’
I interrupted the barmy flow.’ Does it not look familiar? Do you think it might contain, might fit, a part of your body?’
No light of recognition dawned on his face.
No child would have the power to see and speak of ‘a continuous surface.. infolded on itself’, but any child, any infant, would immediately know a glove as a glove, see it as familiar, as going with a hand. Dr P. didn’t. He saw nothing as familiar. Visually, he was lost in a world of lifeless abstractions. Indeed he did not have a real visual world, as he did not have a visual self. He could speak about things, but did not see them face-to-face. Hughlings Jackson, discussing patients with aphasia and left-hemisphere lesions, says they have lost ‘abstract’ and ‘prepositional’ thought- and compares them with dogs (or, rather, he compares dogs to patients with aphasia). Dr P., on the other hand, functioned precisely as a machine functions. It wasn’t merely that he displayed the same indifference to the visual word as a computer but- even more strikingly- he construed the world as a computer construes it, by means of key features and schematic relationships. The scheme might be identified- in an ‘identikit’ way- without the reality being grasped at all.
The resting I had done so far told me nothing about Dr P.’s inner world. Was it possible that his visual memory and imagination were still intact? I asked him to imagine entering one of our local squares from the south. Again he mentioned only these buildings that were on the right side, although these were the very buildings he had omitted before. Those he had ’seen’ internally  before were not mentioned now; presumably there were no  longer ‘seen’. It was evident that his difficulties with leftness, his field deficits, were as much internal as external, bisecting his visual memory and imagination.
What, at a higher level, of his internal visualization? Thinking of the almost hallucinatory intensity with which Tolstoy visualizes and animates his characters, I questioned Dr P. about Anna Karenina. He could remember incidents without difficulty, had an undiminished grasp of the plot, but completely committed visual characteristics, visual narrative or scenes. He remembered the words of the characters, but not their faces; and though, when asked, he could quote, with his remarkable and almost verbatim memory, the original visual descriptions, these were, it became apparent, quite empty for him, and lacked sensorial, imaginal, or emotional reality. Thus there was an internal agnosia as well?
But this was only the case, it became clear, with certain sorts of visualization. The visualization of faces and scenes, of visual narrative and drama- this was profoundly impaired, almost absent. But the visualization of schemata was preserved, perhaps enhanced. Thus when I engaged him in a game of mental chess, he had no difficulty visualizing the chessboard or the moves- indeed, no difficulty in beating me soundly.
Luria said of Zazetsky that he had entirely lost his capacity to play games but his ‘vivid imaginations’ was unimpaired. Zazetsky and Dr P. lived in worlds which were mirror images of each other. But the saddest difference between them was that Zazetsky, as Luria said, ‘fought to regain his lost faculties with the indomitable tenacity of the damned’, whereas Dr P. was not fighting, did not know what was lost, did not indeed know that anything was lost. But who was more tragic, or who was more damned- the man who knew it, or the man who did not?
When the examination was over, Mrs P. called us to the table, where there was coffee and a delicious spread of little cakes. Hungrily, hummingly, Dr P. started on the cakes. Swiftly, fluently, unthinkingly, melodiously, he pulled the plates toward him, and took this and that, in a great gurgling stream, an edible song of food, until, suddenly, there came an interruption.: a loud, peremptory rat-tat-tat at the door. Startled, taken aback, arrested, by the interruption, Dr P. stopped eating, and sat frozen, motionless, at the table, with an indifferent , blind, bewilderment on his face. He saw, but no longer saw, the table; no longer perceived it as a table laden with cakes. His wife poured him some coffee: the smell titillated his nose, and brought him back to reality. The melody of eating resumed.
How does he do anything? I wondered to  myself. What happens when he’s dressing, goes to the lavatory, has a bath? I followed his wife into the kitchen and asked her how, for instance,  he managed to dress himself. ‘It’s just like the eating,’ she explained. ‘I put this usual clothes out, in all the usual places, and he dresses without difficulties, singing to himself. He does everything singing to himself. But if he is interrupted and loses thread, he comes to a complete stop, doesn’t know his clothes- or his own body. He sings all the time- eating songs, dressing songs, bathing songs, everything. He can’t do anything unless he makes it a song.’
While we were talking my attention was caught by the pictures on the walls.
‘Yes,’ Mrs P. said, ‘he was a gifted painter as well as a singer. The School exhibited his pictures every year.’
I strolled past them curiously- they were in chronological order. All his earlier work was naturalistic and realistic, with vivid mood and atmosphere, but finely detailed and concrete. Then, years later, they became less vivid, less concrete, less realistic and naturalistic; but far more abstract, even geometrical and cubist. Finally, in the last paintings, the canvas became nonsense, or nonsense to me- mere chaotic lines and blotches of paint.  I commented on this to Mrs P.
‘Ach, you doctors, you are such philistines!’ she explaned. ‘Can you not see the artist development- how he renounced the realism of his earlier years, and advanced into abstract, non-representational art?’
‘No, that’s not it,’ I said to myself (but forbore to say it to poor Mrs P.). He had indeed moved from realism to non-representation to the abstract, but this was not the artist, but the pathology, advancing- advancing towards a profound visual agnosia, in which all powers of representation and imagery, all sense of the concrete, all sense of reality, were being destroyed. This wall of paintings was a tragic pathological exhibit, which belonged to neurology, not art.
And yet, I wondered, was she not partly right? For these is often a struggle, and sometimes, even more interestingly, a collusion, between the powers of pathology and creation. Perhaps, in his cubist period, there might have been both artistic and pathological development, colluding to engender an original form; for as he lost the concrete, so he might have gained in the abstract, developing a greater sensitivity to all the structural elements of line, boundary, contour- an almost Picasso-like power to see, and equally depict, those abstract organizations, embedded in, and normally lost in, the concrete.. Though in the final pictures, I feared, there was only chaos and agnosia.
We returned to the great music room, with the Bosendorfer in the centre, and Dr P. humming the last torte.
‘Well, Dr Sacks,’ he said to me. ‘You find me an interesting case, I perceive. Can you tell me what you find wrong, make recommendations?’
‘I can’t tell you what I find wrong,’ I replied, ‘but I’ll say what I find right. You are a wonderful musician, and music is your life. What I would prescribe, in a case such as yours, is a life which consists of music. Music has been the centre, now make it the whole, of your life.’
This was four years ago- I never saw him again, but I often wondered how he apprehended the world, given his strange loss of image, visuality, and the perfect preservation of a great musicality. I think that music, for him, had taken the place of image. He had no body-image, he had body-music: this is why he could move and act as fluently as he did, but came to a total confused stop if the ‘inner music’ stopped. And equally with the outside, the world..
In ‘The world as Representation and Will’ Schopenhauer speaks of music as ‘pure will’. How fascinated he would have been by Dr P., a man who had wholly lost the world as representation, but wholly preserved it as music or will.
And this, mercifully, held to the end- for despite the gradual advance of his disease ( a massive tumor or degenerative process in the visual parts of his brain) Dr P. lived and taught music to the last days of his life.
[taken from The Man who mistook his wife for a hat, by Oliver Sacks,Picador,2007]

Opera del Caso #3

Floral pattern. Evenlode chintz (ca. 1883) Design by William Morris
La Belle Iseult 1858 Oil on canvas( 718 x 502 mm), William Morris

[image credit: Lessing Photo Archive]

La Belle Iseult 1858 Oil on canvas; 718 x 502 mm The inspiration for this painting was Thomas Malory‘s ‘Morte d’Arthur’ (1485), in which Guinevere’s adulterous love for Sir Lancelot is one of the central themes. The model is Jane Burden who became Morris’s wife in 1859, and also appears in Rossetti‘s ‘Proserpine’ displayed nearby. She was ‘discovered’ by Morris and Rossetti when they were working together on the Oxford Union murals, the subject matter for which was also taken from Malory. The painting is essentially a portrait of her in medieval dress. It is a splendid expresion of the intense medieval style prevailing in Rossetti’s circle in the late 1850s, with its emphasis on pattern and historical detail. This is Morris’s only completed oil painting. N04999
Tate Gallery, London, Great Britain
William Morris (1834-96), met Burne-Jones when at Exeter College, Oxford. He then studied architecture under Street, but abandoned it to become a painter under the influence of Rossetti. In 1861 he founded the firm of Morris and Co.,to produce wall-papers, furniture, tapestries, and stained-glass windows (many designed by Burne-Jones), carpets sand furnishing materials in a style entirely different from that of contemporary Victorian decoration, but one which, nevertheless, tended towards a different kind of horror vacul and the use of equally dark and heavy colors. He is particularly important for the development of the private press, and did much with his Kelmscott Press, founded in 1890, to raise the standards of book design and printing, although he favoured a revival of medieval black-letter where Lucien Pissaro’s Eragny Press (1896) concentrated on modern type faces. His poems and other writings are anti-industrial and support a socialist theory for the regeneration of man by handicraft. There are drawing and a painting in the Tate and V & A, London, the latter also having a room entirely decorated with Morris products.
[taken from The Dictionary of Art and Artists, by Peter and Linda Murray,Penguin,1959]

The Dictionary of Art and Artists

Incredibile cosa non si riesce a trovare negli scaffali di un second hand shop e per appena un pound; questo in cui vado spesso io raccoglie i proventi delle vendite in sostegno della ricerca sul cancro e offre una nutrita collezione di libri, oltre che di abbigliamento, accessori e bigiotteria vintage.
Qualche giorno fa sono riuscita a trovare un libro prezioso,un dizionario d’arte edito per la prima volta da Penguin nel 1959 e curato da Peter e Linda Murray, entrambi accademici alla University of London,che raccoglie sette secoli d’arte,compresi Picasso e Pop Art.
Ho così deciso aprire una pagina a caso, puntare il dito e pubblicare, di volta in volta, l’opera dell’artista trovato.
Questa di oggi l’Opera del Caso

Master of the Death of the Virgin- Death of the Virgin (circa 1500)

Master of the Death of the Virgin. A painter, active 1507-37,who is named from two altarpieces of the Death of the Virgin in Cologne and Munich. He is often identified with Joos van Cleve, and certainly influenced Bruyn
[taken from The Dictionary of Art and Artists,by Peter and Linda Murray,Penguin]
image credit: wikipedia*


“But most of them believe that it is only by constraint they can get any good out of themselves, and so they live in a state of psychological distortion. It is his own self that each of them is most afraid of resembling. Each of them sets up a pattern and imitates it; he doesn’t even choose the pattern he imitates; he accepts a pattern that has been chosen for him. And yet I verily believe there are other things to be read in man. But people don’t dare to- they don’t dare to turn the page. Laws of imitation! Laws of fear, I call them. The fear of finding oneself alone- that is what they suffer from- and so they don’t find themselves at all. I detest such moral agoraphobia- the most odious of cowardice, I call it. Why, one always has to be alone to invent anything- but they don’t want to invent anything. The part in each of us that we feel is different from other people is just the part that is rare, the part that makes our special value- and that is the very thing people try to suppress. They go on imitating. And yet they think they love life.
[..]
“Do you know the reason why poetry and philosophy are nothing but dead-letter nowadays? It is because they have severed themselves from life. In Greece, ideas went hand in hand with life; so that the artist’s life itself was already a poetic realization, the philosopher’s life a putting into action of his philosophy; in this way, as both philosophy and poetry took part in life, instead of remaining unacquainted with each other, philosophy provided food for poetry, and poetry gave expression to philosophy- and the result was admirably persuasive. Nowadays beauty no longer acts; action no longer desires to be beautiful; and wisdom works in a sphere apart.”
Taken from The Immoralist,André Gide-1902

The Vagina WorkShop


[A slight English accent]
My vagina is a shell, a round pink tender shell,opening and closing,closing and opening. My vagina is a flower, an eccentric tulip,the center acute and deep, the scent delicate, the petals gentle but sturdy.
I did not always know this. I learned this in the vagina workshop. I learned this from a woman who runs the vagina workshop, a woman who believes in vaginas, who really sees vaginas, who helps women see their own vaginas by seeing other women’s vaginas.
In the first session the woman who runs the vagina workshop asked us to draw a picture of our own “unique, beautiful, fabulous vagina”. That’s what she called it. She wanted to know what our own unique,beautiful,fabulous vagina looked like to us. One woman who was pregnant drew a big red mouth screaming with coins spilling out. Another very skinny woman drew a big serving plate with a kind of Devonshire pattern on it. I drew a huge black dot with little squiggly lines around it. The black dot was equal to a black hole in the space,and the squiggly lines were meant to be people or things or just your basic atoms that got lost there. I had always thought of my vagina as an anatomical vacuum randomly sucking up particle and object from the surrounding environment.
I had always perceived my vagina as an independent entity, spinning like a star in its own galaxy, eventually burning up on its own gaseous energy or exploding and spitting into thousands of other smaller vaginas, all of them then spinning in their own galaxies. [WOW-me]
I did not think of my vagina in practical or biological terms. I did not, for example, see it as a part of my body, something between my legs, attached to me.
In the workshop we were asked to look at our vaginas with hand mirrors. Then, after careful examination, we were to verbally report to the group what we saw. I must tell you that up until this point everything i knew about my vagina was based on hearsay or invention. I had never occurred to me to look at it. My vagina existed for me on some abstract plane. It seemed so reductive and awkward to look at it, getting down there the way we did in the workshop, on our shiny blue mats, with our hand mirrors. It reminded me of how the early astronomers must have felt with their primitive telescopes.
I found it quite unsettling at first, my vagina. Like the first time you see a fish cut open and you discover this other bloody complex world inside,right under the skin. It was so raw, so red, so fresh. And the thing that surprised me most was all the layers. Layers inside the layers, opening into more layers.
My vagina amazed me. I couldn’t speak when it came my turn in the workshop. I was speechless. I had awakened to what the woman who ran the workshop called “vaginal wonder”. I just wanted to lie there on my mat, my legs spread, examining my vagina forever.
It was better than the Grand Canyon, ancient and full of grace. It had the innocence and freshness of a proper English garden. It was funny, very funny. It made me laugh. It could hide and seek, open and close. It was a mouth. It was a mourning.
Then, the woman who ran the workshop asked how many women in the workshop had had orgasms. Two women tentatively raised their hands. I didn’t raise my hand, but I had had orgasms. I didn’t raise my hand because they were accidental orgasms. They happened to me. They happened in my dreams, and I would wake in splendor. They happened a lot in water, mostly in the bath. Once in the Cape Cod. They happened on horses, on bicycles, on the treadmill at the gym. I did not raise my hand because although I had had orgasms, I did not know how to make one happen. I had never tried to make one happen. I though it was a mystical, magical thing. I didn’t want to interfere. It felt wrong, getting involved-contrived, manipulative. It felt Hollywood. Orgasms by formula. The surprise would be gone, and the mystery. The problem, of course, was that the surprise had been gone for two years. I hadn’t had a magical accidental orgasm in long time, and I was frantic. That’s why I was in the workshop.
And then the moment had arrived that I both dreaded and secretly longed for. The woman who ran the workshop asked us to take out our hand mirrors again and to see if we could locate our clitoris. We were there, the group of us women, on our backs, on our mats, finding our spots, our locus, our reason, and I don’t know why, but I started crying. Maybe it was sheer embarrassment. Maybe it was knowing that I had to give up the fantasy, the enormous life-consuming fantasy, that someone or something was going to do this for me-. the fantasy that someone was coming to lead my life, to choose direction, to give me orgasm. I was used to living off the record, in a magical, superstitious way. This clitoris finding, this wild workshop on shiny blue mats,was making the whole thing real, too real. I could feel the panic coming. The simultaneous terror and realization it as mainstream and consumerist because I was, in fact, terrified that I did not have a clitoris, terrified that I was one of those constitutionally incapables, one of those frigid, dead, shut-down, dry, apricot-tasting, bitter-oh, my God. I lay there with my mirror looking for my spot, reaching with my fingers, and all I could think about was the time when I was ten and lost my gold ring with the emeralds in a lake. How I kept diving over and over to the bottom of the lake, running my hands over the stones and fish and bottles caps and slimy stuff, but never my ring. The panic I felt. I knew I’d be punished. I shouldn’t have worn it swimming.
The woman who ran the workshop saw my insane scrambling, sweating and heavy breathing. She came over. I told her, “I’ve lost my clitoris. It’s gone. I shouldn’t have worn it swimming”. The woman who ran the workshop laughed. She calmly stroked my forehead. She told me my clitoris was not something I could lose. It was me, the essence of me. It was both the doorbell to my house and the house itself. I didn’t have to find it. I had to be it. Be it. Be my clitoris. Be my clitoris. I lay back and closed my eyes. I put the mirror down. I watched myself float above myself. I watched as I slowly began to approach myself and reenter. I felt like an astronaut reentering the atmosphere of the earth. It was very quiet, this reentry: quiet and gentle. I bounced and landed, landed and bounced. I came into my own muscles and blood and cells and then I just slid into my vagina. It was suddenly easy and I fit. I was all warm and pulsing and ready and young and alive. And then, without looking, with my eyes still closed, I put my finger on what had suddenly become me. There was a little quivering at first, which urged me to stay. Then the quivering became a quake, an eruption, the layers dividing and subdividing. The quaking broke open into an ancient horizon of light and silence, which opened onto a plane of music and colors and innocence and longing, and I felt connection, calling connection as I lay there trashing about on my little blue mat.
My vagina is a shell, a tulip, and a destiny. I am arriving as I am beginning to leave. My vagina, my vagina,me.
Taken from ‘The Vagina Monologues ‘by Eve Ensler,1998

Home | V-Day: A Global Movement to End Violence Against Women and Girls Worldwide..

Lo.Lee.Ta

Gabriel Smy by flickr

“Lolita,light of my fire,fire of my loins. My sin,my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the plate to tap, at three,on the teeth.Lo.Lee.Ta.”

Ci sono libri dei quali si teme la lettura; le ragioni sono personali,i timori molto spesso infondati.Per molti anni ho voluto,intenzionalmente,tenermi alla larga dagli esistenzialisti per averne letto il manifesto di Sartre(motivo sufficiente a spiegare le ragioni di questa scelta),da Samuel Beckett, William Faulkner,Jorge Luis Borges-senza nessuna ragione in particolare(se non per il fatto di non ritenermi all’altezza della lettura e alla partecipazione critica ed empatica delle idee).
Ricordo di un libro,letto in adolescenza,di Luciano De Crescenzo-credo Panta Rei,nel quale lo scrittore racconta di una donna della quale si innamora perchè in grado di poter citare Finnegans Wake a memoria; inutile nascondere sono stata intrigata da questa sfida e ho desiderato potervi riuscire anch’io (sebbene consapevole quello di James Joyce un capolavoro della letteratura assai esclusivo,cui lettura è riservata a quei pochi in grado di smisurata conoscenza letteraria-che io non ho).
Forse un giorno.Il bello della letteratura sta proprio nel consentire a ciascuno,attraverso la lettura,di esplorare diversi,differenti,stati dell’essere a cavallo la pluralità di personaggi e storie,apparentemente diversi,fondamentalmente unici e peculiari l’uomo e la vita, i dubbi,le tensioni ideali, i moti dello spirito,le piccole battaglie interiori,gli armistizi dell’anima.Molti sottovalutano il potere indagativo,rivelativo,conoscitivo della letteratura,e riducono la lettura a perditempo,gli scrittori a giocolieri del verbo,mentre è alla letteratura e agli scrittori che bisogna riconoscere il merito d’avere esemplificato il temperamento di un’epoca,descritto l’umore della storia,ponderato patemi esistenziali,indugiato alternative,dal punto di vista intellettuale e sentimentale,emotivo e descrittivo,metafisico e reale.
Vorrà suonare strano,ma c’è un romanzo che,per qualche ragione,non ho mai avuto il coraggio leggere finora e questo romanzo è Lolita di Vladimir Nabokov.Probabilmente perchè suggestionata dalla critica sbrigativa e spicciola che se n’è sempre fatta per schedulare la trama entro uno steriotipo un po’accattivante/un po’ commiserativo-forse,o forse perchè insofferente all’idea di un uomo di mezza età attratto in maniera morbosa da una-appena dodicenne-ragazzina. In realtà,per comprendere le ragioni che fanno di Lolita un capolavoro meraviglioso della letteratura,e i motivi per cui lo stesso è considerato essere uno dei migliori classici del ventesimo secoli,è necessario leggerlo in inglese,perchè è soltanto in inglese, a mio parere, che questo romanzo si rivela in tutto il suo incredibile fascino narrativo; c’è niente di più misurato e sentimentale della prosa, del piglio visionario a contorno delle immagini a onore della ninfetta Lolita suggerite da Humbert.
Quello che secondo me è importante sottolineare per rendere onore al romanzo,non è tanto la trama( uomo attempato che si innamora di una dodicenne smaliziata,personificazione del Complesso di Elettra) quanto la psicologia di questo amore. Humbert si innamora di Lolita perchè è tramite Lolita che Humbert ritorna ragazzino; il richiamo,in questo romanzo,è a quell’amore smaliziato e puro della prima infanzia,poi dell’adolescenza,che poco ha a che fare con quello adulto,spesso controverso, difficoltoso, impegnativo, cerebrale,complesso. L’amore di Humbert per Lolita è un amore semplice,fatto ancora di sensazioni,di ricordi legati alla prima infanzia, al sapore, all’odore delle cose,alla primordialità degli istinti,d’amore,di passione,di pudore,di paure,di sussulti e nostalgie.
Lolita, rappresenta per Humbert l’incarnazione di Annabel,primo amore dell’uomo,morta in giovane età, e insieme,la possibilità di riamarla,averla vicina,rivivere quell’amore mancato.Il riferimento è spicciolo,palese,reso già al terzo capitolo,con naturalezza e quasi pudore,tatto e malinconia.
A mio avviso frainteso da Kubrick in una prima rappresentazione cinematogrfica del 1962, merita la seppure smielata e pietosa interpretazione di Adrianne Lyne,del 1992.
A seguire il terzo e quarto capitolo
Cap 3
Annabel was,like the writer, of mixed parentage: half English, half Dutch, in her case. I remember her features far less distinctly today that I did a few years ago, before I knew Lolita. There are two kinds of visual memory : one when you skillfully recreate an image in the laboratory of your mind, with your eyes open (and then I see Annabel in such general terms as: “honey-colored skin,””thin arms,””brown bobbed hair,””long lashes,””big bright mouth”); and the other when you instantly evoke,with shut eyes, on the darl innerside of your eyelids, the objective, absolutely optical replica of a beloved face, a little ghost in natural colors(and this is how I see Lolita).
Let me therefore primly limit myself, in describing Annabel, to saying she was a lovely child a few months my junior. Her parents were old friends of my aunt’s and, as stuff as she. They had rented a villa not far from Hotel Mirama. Bald brow Mr.Leight and fat, powdered Mrs.Leight (born Vanessa van Ness). How I loathed them! At first, Annabel and I talked of peripheral affairs. She kept lifting handfuls of fine sand and letting it pour through her fingers. Our brains were turned the way those of intelligent European preadolescents were in our day and set, and I doubt if much individual genius should be assigned to our interest in the plurality of inhabited worlds, competitive tennis,infinity,solipsism and so on. The softness and fragility of baby animals caused us the same intense pain. She wanted to be a nurse in some famished Asiatic country; I wanted to be a famous spy.
All at once we were madly,crumsily,shamelessly, agonizingly in love with each other; hopelessly, I should add,because that frenzy of mutual possession might have been assuaged only by our actually imbibing and assimilating every particle of each other’s soul and flesh; but there we were, unbale even to mate as slum children would have so easily found an opportunity to do. After one wild attempt we made to meet at night in her garden (of which more later), the only privacy we were allowed was to be out of earshot but not out of sight on the populous part of the plage. There, on the soft sand, a few feet away from our eleders, we would sprawl all morning, in a petrified paroxysm of desire,and take advantage of every blessed quirk in space and time to touch each other; her hand, half-hidden in the sand, would creep toward me, its slender brown fingers sleepwalking nearer and nearer; then, her opalescent knee would start on a long cautious journey; sometimes a chance rampart built by younger children granted us sufficient concealment to graze each other’s salty lips; these incomplete contacts drove our healthy and inexperienced young bodies to such a state of exasperation that not even the cold blue water, under which we still clawed at each other,could bring relief.
Among some treasures I lost during the wanderings of my adult years, there was a snapshot taken by my aunt which showed Annabel, her parents and the staid, elderly,lame gentleman, a Dr.Cooper, who that same summer courted my aunt, grouped around a table in a sidewalk café. Annabel did not come out well, caught as she was in the act of bending over her chocolat glacé, and her thin bare shoulders and the parting in the hair were about all that could be identified ( as I remember that picture) amid the sunny blur into which her lost loveliness graded; but I, sitting somewhat apart from the rest, came out with a kind of dramatic conspicuousness; a moody, beetle-browed boy in a dark sport hirt and well-tailored white shorts, his legs crossed, sitting in profile, looking away. That photograph was taken on the last day of our fatal summer and just a few minutes before we made our second and final attempt to thwart fate. Under the flimsiest of pretexts ( this was our very last chance, and nothing really mattered) we escaped from the café to the beach, and found a desolate stretch of sand, and there, in the violet shadow of some red rocks forming a kind of cave, had a brief session of avid caresses, with somebody’s lost pair of sunglasses for only witness. I was on my knees, and on the point of possessing my darling, when two bearded bathers, the old man of the sea and his brother, came out of the sea with exclamations of ribald encouragement, and four months later she died of typhus in Corfu.
                                                                         Cap 4
I leaf again and again through these miserable memories, and keep asking myself, was it then, in the glitter of that remote summer, that the rift in my life began; or was my excessive desire for that child only the first evidence of an inherent singularity? When I try to analyze my own cravings, motives, actions and so forth, I surrender to a sort of retrospective imagination which feeds the analytic faculty with boundless alternatives and which causes each visualized route to fork and re-fork without end in the maddeningly complex prospect of my past. I am convinced, however, that in a certain magic and fateful way Lolita began with Annabel.
I also know that the shock of Annabel’s death consolidated the frustration of that nightmare summer, made of it a permanent obstacle to any further romance throughout the cold years of my youth. The spiritual and the physical had been blended in us with a perfection that must remain incomprehensible to the matter-of-fact, crude,standard-brained youngsters of today. Long after her death I felt her thoughts floating through mine. Long before we met we had had the same dreams. We compared notes. We found strange affinities. The same June of the same year (1919) a stray canary had fluttered into her house and mine, in two widely separated countries. Oh, Lolita, had you loved me thus!
I have reserved for the conclusion of my “Annabel” phase the account of our unsuccessful first tryst. One night, she managed to deceive the vicious vigilance of her family. In a nervous and slender-leaved mimosa grove at the back of their villa we found a perch on the ruins of a low stone wall. Through the darkness and the tender trees we could see the arabesques of lighted windows which, touched up by the colored inks od sensitive memory, appear to me now like playing cards- presumably because a bridge game was keeping the enemy busy. She trembled and twitched as I kissed the corner of her parted lips and the hot lobe of her ear. A cluster of stars palely glowed above us, between the silhouettes of long thin leaves; that vibrant sky seemed as naked as she was under her light frock. I saw her face in the sky, strangely distinct, as if it emitted a faint radiance of its own. Her legs,her lovely live legs, were not too close together, and when my hand located what it sought, a dreamy and eerie expression, half-pleasure,half-pain, came over those childish features. She sat a little higher than I,and whenever in her solitary ecstasy she was led to kiss me, her head would bend with a sleepy, soft,drooping movement that was almost woeful, and her bare knees caught and compressed my wrist,and slackened again; and her quivering mouth, distorted by the acridity of some mysterious potion, with a sibilant intake of breath came near to my face. She would try to relieve the pain of love by first roughly rubbing her dry lips against mine; then my darling would draw away with a nervous toss of her hair, and then again come darkly near and let me feed on her open mouth, while with a generosity that was ready to offer her everything, my heart, my throat, my entrails,I gave her to hold in her awkward fist the scepter of my passion.
I recall the scent of some kind of toilet powder- I believe she stole it from her mother’s Spanish maid- a sweetish, lowly, musky perfume. It mingled with her own biscuity odor, and my senses were suddenly filled to the brim; a sudden commotion in a nearby bush prevented them from overflowing- and as we drew away from each other, and with aching veins attended to what was probably a prowling cat, there came from the house her mother’s voice calling her, with a rising frantic note- and Dr.Cooper ponderously limped out into the garden. But That mimosa grove-the haze of stars,the tingle,the flame,the honey-dew, and the ache remained with me,and that little girl with her seaside limbs and ardent tongue haunted me ever since- until at last,twenty-four years later, I broke her spell incarnating her in another.
Taken from Lolita,by Vladimir Nabokov,1955
The Reading Life: Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov.

Love is a Mix Tape


(image credit zema,my kaleidoscope,tumblr)
‘Where words fail,music speaks’,diceva Hans Christian Andersen. Music is in the air, e tutto intorno è ritmo,armonia e caos; pop un rubinetto che gocciola,rock il tututututu tu tum di un martello contro un chiodo,punk il campanello del citofono,jazz il traffico in strada,blues il cinguettio di un passerotto,funk l’acqua che bolle in pentola.Tutt’intorno è sinfonia,tutt’intorno è caos. Perchè non lo si dica rumore,bisogna saper ascoltare.
Chiunque affezionato a Nick Hornby e Dave Eggers,accanito lettore del Rolling Stone, amerebbe Love is a Mix Tape,del giornalista Rob Sheffield,critico rock and pop della famosa rivista musicale.Il libro, a romantic memoir,del 2007,ricorda molto High Fidelity e racconta della vita di Red in musicassette-cimeli vintage risalenti l’Età dell’Adolescenza (inizio anni’70-fine anni’90),ormai fuori commercio,di netto soppiantate nel mercato da CDs e audio files con l’avvento dell’Era Digitale.Ognuna delle musicassette di Rob è legata a un ricordo e i ricordi a una canzone; ognuno dei brani è custode di un tempo stato legato all’adolescenza,all’infanzia,al primo e unico amore,la moglie Renee Crist,DJ,venuta a mancare in giovane età lasciando Rob solo e irrimediabilmente disperato.’Love is a Mix Tape’ piacerebbe anche,e forse soprattutto,agli amanti della musica anni ’90;i Nirvana,Pearl Jam,Pavement,Aerosmith,Yo La Tengo,REM fra le bands più citate.
E’ un libro sentimentale,questo,di dolciastra malinconia,che si legge con stupore adolescenziale,e rimanda al tempo in cui la musica si ascoltava ancora su nastro,le musicassette si compravano in edicola per qualcosa come mille lire(??),esistevano ancora le radio con i lettori incorporati-il tasto play,pause,stop,rec,rew,f.fwd; i pomeriggi a registrare dalla radio le canzoni del cuore,e trascrivere-in bella grafia e con tanto di disegnini colorati-la playlist.Cassette per il mare, da ascoltarsi in viaggio,nel treno,sull’autobus,in vena sentimentale,d’umore basso,da regalare all’amica,il fidanzato,la sorella,il fratello,perdute dentro un cassetto,sotto i sedili della macchina,dimenticate in soffitta,a casa della nonna,a scuola-sotto il banco,dentro lo zaino.
Sotto una parte introduttiva del libro tratta dal primo capitolo-Rumblefish (dal nome della tracks list registrata nella musicassetta)


The playback: late night, Brooklyn, a pot of coffee, and a chair by the window. I’m listening to a mix tape from 1993. Nobody can hear it but me. The neighbors are asleep. The skater kids who sit on my front steps, drink beer, and blast Polish hip-hop– they’re gone for the night. The diner next door is closed, but the air is still full of borscht and kielbasa. This is where I live now. A different town, a different apartment, a different year.
This mix tape is just another piece of useless junk that Renee left behind. A category that I guess tonight includes me.
I should have gone to sleep hours ago. Instead, I was rummaging through old boxes, looking for some random paperwork, and I found this tape with her curly scribble on the label. She never played this one for me. She didn’t write down the songs, so I have no idea what’s in store. But I can already tell it’s going to be a late night. It always is. I pop Rumblefish into my Panasonic RXC36 boombox on the kitchen counter, pour some more coffee, and let the music have its way with me. It’s a date. Just me and Renee and some tunes she picked out.
All these tunes remind me of her now. It’s like that old song, ’88 Lines About 44 Women’. Except it’s 8,844 lines about one woman. We’ve done this before. We get together sometimes, in the dark, share a few songs. It’s the closest we’ll get to hearing each other’s voices tonight.
The first song: Paviment’s “Shoot the singer”. Just a sad California boy, plucking his guitar and singing about a girl he likes. They were Renee’s favorite band. She used to say, “There’s a lot of room in my dress for these guys.”
Renee called this tape Rumblefish. I don’t know why. She recorded it over promo cassette by some band called Drunken Boat, who obviously didn’t make a big impression, because she stuck her own label over their name, put Scotch tape over the punch hole, and made her own mix. She dated it “Ides o’March 1993”. She also wrote this inspirational credo on the label:
“You know what I am doing- just follow along”- Jennie Garth
Ah, the old Jennie Garth workout video, Body in Progress. Some nights you go to the mall with your squeeze, you’re both a little wasted, and you come home with a Jennie Garth workout video. That’s probably buried in one of these boxes, too. Neither of us ever threw anything away. We made a lot of mix tapes while we were together. Tapes for making out, tapes for dancing, tapes for falling asleep,. Tapes for doing the dishes, for walking the dog. I kept them all. I have them piled up on my bookshelves, spilling out of my kitchen cabinets, scattered all over the bedroom floor. I don’t even have pots or pans in my kitchen, just that old boombox on the counter, next to the sink. So many tapes.
I met Renee in Charlottesville, Virginia, when we were both twenty-three. When the bartender at the Eastern Standard put on a tape, Big Star’s Radio City, she was the only other person in the room who perked up. So we drank bourbon and talked about music. We traded stories about the bands we liked, shows we’d seen. Renee loved the Replacements and Alex Chilton and the Meat Puppets. So did I.
I loved the Smiths. Renee hated the Smiths.
The second song on the tape is “Cemetery Gates” by the Smiths.
The first night we met, I told her the same thing I’ve told every single girl I’ve ever had a crush on : “I’ll make you a tape!”Except this time, with this girl, it worked. When we were planning our wedding a year later, she said that instead of stepping on a glass at the end of the ceremony, she wanted to step on a cassette case, since that’s what she’d been doing ever since she met me.
Falling in love with Renee was not the kind of thing you walk away from in one piece. I had no chance. She put a hitch in my git-along. She would wake up in the middle of the night and say things like “What if Bad Bad Leroy Brown was a girl?” or “Why don’t they have commercials for salt like they do for milk?” Then she would fall back to sleep, while I would lie awake and give thanks for this alien creature whom I rested.
Renee was a real cool hell-raising Appalachian punk-rock girl. Her favorite song was the Rolling Stones’ “Let’s Spend the Night Together”. Her favorite album was Pavement’s Slanted and Enchanted. She rooted for the Atlanta Braves and sewed her own silver vinyl pants. She knew which kind of screwdriver was which. She baked pies, but not very often. She could rap Roxanne Shante’s “Go on Girl”all the way through. She called Eudora Welty “Miss Eudora”. She had an MFA in fiction and never got any stories published, but she kept writing them anyway. She bought too many shoes and dyed her hair red. Her voice was full of the frazzle and crackle of music.
Renee was a country girl, three months older than me. She was born on November 21, 1965, the same day as Bjork, in the Metropolitan Home Park in Northcross, Georgia. She grew up in southwest Virginia, with her parents, Buddy and Nadine, and her little sister. When she was three, Buddy was transferred to the defense plant in Pulaski Country, and so her folks spent a summer building a house there. Renee used to sit in the backyard, feeding grass to the horses next door through the fence. She had glasses, curly brown hair, and a beagle named Snoopy. She went to Fairlawn Baptist Church and Pulaski High School and Hollins College. She got full-immersion baptized in Claytor Lake. The first record she ever owned was KC & the Sunshine Bands’s “Get Down Tonight”. KC was her first love. I was her last.
I was a shy, skinny, Irish Catholic geek from Boston. I’d never met anybody like Renee before. I moved to Charlottesville for grad school, my plans all set: go down South, get my degree, then haul ass to the next town. The South was a scary new world. The first time I saw a possum in my driveway, I shook a bony fist at the sky and cursed this godforsaken rustic hellhole. I am twenty-three! Life is passing me by! My ancestors spent centuries in the hill of County Kerry, waist-deep in sheep shit, getting shot at my English soldiers, and my grandparents crossed the ocean in coffin ships to come to America, just so I could get possum rabies?
Renee had never set foot north of Washington, D.C. For her, Charlottesville was the big bad city. She couldn’t believe her eyes, just because there were sidewalks everywhere. Her ancestors were Appalachian from the hills of West Virginia; both of her grandfather were coal miners. We had nothing in common, except we both loved music. It was the first connection we had, and we depended on it to keep us together. We did a lot of work to meet in the middle. Music brought us together. So now music was stuck with us.
I was lucky I got to be her guy for a while.
I remember this song.L7, punk-rock girls from L.A., the “Shove” single on Sub Pop. Renee did a Spin cover story on them, right after she made this tape. She’d never seen California before. The girls in the band took her shopping and picked out some jeans for her.
When we were married we lived in Charlottesville, in a moldy basement dump that flooded every time it rained. We often drove her creaky 1978 Chrysler Le Baron through the mountains, kicking around junk shops, looking for vinyl records and finding buried treasures on scratched-up 45s for a quarter a pop. She drove me up to the Meadow Muffin on Route 11, our-side Stuarts’s Draft, for the finest banana milkshakes on the planet. Every afternoon, I picked Renee up from work. By night we’d head to Tokyo Rose, the local sushi bar, where bands played in the basement. We went to hear every band that came to town, whether we liked them or not. If we’d waited around for famous, successful, important bands to play Charlottesville, we would have been waiting a long time. Charlottesville was a small town; we had to make our own fun. Renee would primp for the shows, sew herself a new skirt. We knew we would see all of our friends there, including all the rock boys Renee had crushes on. The bassist- always the bassist. I’m six-five, so I would hang in the back with the other tall rock dudes and lean against the wall. Renee was five-two, and she definitely wasn’t the type of gal to hang in the back, so she’d dart up front and run around and wag her tail. She made a scene. She would drive right into the crowd and let me just linger behind her, basking in her glow. Any band that was in town, Renee would invite them to crash at our place, even though there wasn’t even enough room for us.
Belly? Aaaaargh! Renee! Why are you doing this to me? This band blows homeless goats. I can’t believe she liked this song enough to tape it.
I get sentimental over the music of the 90s. Deplorable, really. But I love it all. As far as I am concerned, the 90s was the best era for music ever, even the stuff that I loathed at the time, even the stuff that gave me stomach cramps. Every note from those years is charged with life for me now. For instance, I hated Pearl Jam at the time. I thought they were pompous blowhards. Now, whenever a Pearl Jam song comes on the car radio, I find myself pounding my fist on the dashboard, screaming,” Pearl JAM! Pearl JAM! Now this is rock and roll! Jeremy’s SPO-ken! But he’s still al-LIIIIIIIIIIIIIVE!
I don’t recall making the decision to love Pearl Jam. Hating them was a lot more fun.
Taken from ‘Love is a Mix Tape’ by Rob Sheffield-Rumblefish
http://www.randomhouse.com/crown/mixtape/

The Lady of Musashino by Kenji Mizoguchi,1951


“Take the Japanese equivalent: Hideyoshi, the lowly soldier who became shogun,just like Stendhal’s Julien Sorel. They were both ambitious and free-spirited, in a similar way. Then came along Tokugawa Ieyasu and an age of rationalism. He consolidated the feudal system and used Confucianism to help maintain this system. Confucianism exalts loyalty and filial piety. This led to an heroism of basic freedoms, creating a restrictive and uninteresting society. This is how things remained until very recently.
In the lower classes, therefore, the only form of rebellion was to commit suicide or adultery. That’s my theory, anyway! I believe, therefore, that adultery is an expression of free will. Students of the après-guerre, what do you think?”
Questo il pensiero chiave su cui si snoda tutta la vicenda del film drammatico The Lady of Musashino (Musashino Fujin, il titolo originale dell’opera) del regista giapponese Kenji Mizoguchi, girato nel 1951 durante il periodo successivo la Seconda guerra Sino- Giapponese ( Second Sino-Japanese War) combattuta dal 1937 al 1945, prevalentemente fra la Repubblica di Cina e L’Impero Giapponese, e terminata con la resa del Giappone nel settembre del 1945 di svolta alla fine della seconda guerra mondiale. La storia racconta di Michiko, una giovane donna sposata ad Akiyama, un uomo che non l’ama (chiari i riferimenti ai matrimoni di convenienza in uso all’epoca); Akiyama è un professore che insegna Stendhal all’università del paese non lontano Musashino, villaggio di campagna presso cui vivono la donna, il marito, e la coppia di cugini, Tomiko e il marito.
Il monologo sopra è tratto da una scena in cui Akiyama tiene una lezione a un gruppo di studenti. Questi fa riferimento a Le Rouge et le Noir (The Red and the Black) un’opera di Stendhal del 1830,in due volumi,nella quale l’autore racconta dell’ascesa sociale di Julien Sorel, figlio di un umile falegname,divenuto personaggio di prestigio sociale attraverso duro lavoro, ambizione e furfanteria. Il romanzo indaga principalmente il conflitto fra borghesia e nobiltà durante la rivoluzione del 1830, i conflitti fra Parigi e la Provincia, gesuiti e giansenisti. Parallelamente, l’uomo fa riferimento al regime feudale istaurato da Tokugawa Ieyasu durante il periodo Edo, dunque a un periodo di dominio del potere che, successivamente, con l’avvento della guerra, porterà a una crisi sociale. Quando l’uomo fa riferimento all’adulterio come mezzo di ribellione delle masse, lo fa per sottolineare l’avvenuta crisi di valori, il tramonto di una morale comune e l’inizio della corruzione e della decadenza sociale.
Mizoguchi impianta l’intero film sulla base di questo concetto e per farlo, utilizzerà quattro personaggi,due di spicco, gli altri due di contorno e funzionali alla resa del dramma: Michiko e la cugina Tomiko,l’una rappresentante la moralità e la vecchia tradizione giapponese,l’altra rappresentante l’immoralità e la decadenza dei costumi della nuova società giapponese dopo guerra; ancora, Akiyama e Tsutomo, soldato rientrato dal fronte, cugino di Michiko. L’uno rappresentante la razionalità, l’altro il sentimento. La vicenda vede Akiyama tradire la moglie con Tomiko, e Michiko resistere alla tentazione di tradire il marito con Tsutomo,che ama segretamente. Se da una parte Akiyama e Tomiko non si faranno scrupoli nel consumare il loro amore (ragione per cui l’uomo chiederà il divorzio dalla moglie), dall’altra Michiko, sebbene tradita, unita in matrimonio a un uomo che non l’ama, in cuor suo innamorata di Tsutomo, si appella alla volontà del padre( dunque alla tradizione) per mantenere intatti i suoi doveri di moglie e donna di principio e moralità. Questo principio/ concetto viene espresso in un’altra scena chiave in cui Michiko e Tsutomo si allontanano da casa per una passeggiata nel bosco (d’incredibile poesia i dialoghi sulla natura, emblema di semplicità e bellezza autentica) quando un temporale li costringerà a trovare rifugio in una casa albergo non lontano dal bosco. Durante la notte Tsunomo tenterà di sedurre Michiko
Michiko: No, Tsunomo,don’t! Forgive me..Tsunomo! We have to behave properly, whatever happens. You think that because Akiyama does whatever he wants, we can do whatever we want too, don’t you? But the more selfishly Akiyama behaves, the more correctly we should behave.
Tsunomo: You say that because you don’t love me.
Michiko: That’s not true. I have to behave correctly for your sake.
Tsunomo: That just means you don’t care about me. You are torturing me! I want to help you,Michiko. I want to take you from that house. Love is freedom, freedom is power!
Michiko: Moraly is the only power. You have to understand that. Tsunomo..you must believe me when I tell you..that I Love you.
Tsunomo: You only love yourself!
Michiko: That’s not true.
Tsunomo: Or why bring up morally now? That’s cowardly.
Michiko: It’s all my fault. I believe there is something greater than morality.
Tsunomo: What?
Michiko: One’s word.
Tsunomo: One’s word?
Michiko: If we really love each other, if we swear we’ll always be true and never break that oath (giuramento), then society itself will start to change. The time will come when we can be together (cioè quando la lealtà trionferà sulla menzogna e la disonestà. Credo questo un passaggio meraviglioso. Michiko non si appella alla moralità fine a sé stessa,ma fa riferimento alla lealtà fra gli uomini, che poco ha a che fare con una moralità precostituita universalmente, dunque indipendente dall’individualità di ciascuno. Il principio di lealtà sulla moralità) without hurting ourselves or anyone else. (Appunto)
Tsunomo: It won’t happen during our lifetime.
Michiko: I don’t mind.
Tsunomo: What?
Michiko: Tsunomo, please swear this oath
Tsunomo: But..
Michiko: Please, trust me and swear it
Tsunomo: Swear on what? (su un dio, su un principio, su cosa promettere? Qui è evidente il disagio che deriva dal crollo di valori ideali di riferimento)
Michiko: I don’t know
Tsunomo: It’s ridiculous!
Michiko: I don’t know but there is something..Perhaps.
Tsunomo: I am not sure God exists.
Michiko: If we’re not sure, we must believe! It’s like you believing in freedom. I also believe I have a destiny on this earth.
Tsunomo: Who decided your destiny for you?
Michiko: Who decided that human beings are free? I don’t mind if our morality is wrong. Our oath will raise us above that ( non importa quanto la moralità è giusta o sbagliata, ciò che importa è la lealtà fra gli uomini, ancora-principio supremo)
Tsunomo: But everyone’s unhappy.
Michiko: If there are more and more unhappy people, morality will change ( chiaro invito a una presa di posizione individuale nei confronti della società).Please swear this oath. Swear it, please! Swear it!
[He doesn’t ]
Il film,vedrà un finale drammatico che non ho voglia di rivelare perchè mi pare giusto mantenerlo segreto nel caso vogliate vederlo. Intanto che andava, mi è venuto in mente Jules et Jim, film di François Truffaut, del 1962,nel quale a Chaterine è dato il compito di vivere una relazione parallela e con Jules e con Jim, entrambi amici, marito e amante della donna, cui relazione non è vissuta come un tradimento ma come il superamento dello stesso verso una pacifica convivenza ideale basata su delle affinità elettive comuni ai tre (secondo questa mia interpretazione il riferimento al romanzo di Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Di rilevanza anche L’Insostenibile leggerezza dell’essere,di Milan Kundera); dunque non una ma più questioni di dibattito: il tradimento come atto di disonestà contrario all’autenticità dei sentimenti all’interno di una coppia( intendendo per coppia due singole unità in una,centrale ed esclusiva ), e il tradimento come superamento di un “vincolo” che della coppia non prevede il possesso reciproco ma la libera realizzazione dell’individuo(intendendo per coppia il fattore comune che unisce insieme due singole e distinte unità). La coppia intesa al singolare, la coppia intesa al plurale.
Secondo la critica, questo film punta più che a mettere in risalto il tradimento, a stabilire il ribaltamento del ruolo delle donne all’interno della nuova società giapponese nel dopo guerra. Per una più attenta lettura e interpretazione del film, questo un articolo-a mio avviso-interessante
The Film Sufi: “The Lady of Musashino” – Kenji Mizoguchi (1951).

The Logic Of Sensation

Gilles Deleuze photographed by Gerard Uferas

L’altro giorno, in biblioteca, perchè ho ordinato un testo di Gilles Deleuze, anzichè ricevere The Logic of Sense,mi è stato consegnato The Logic of Sensation, un saggio-sempre di Deleuze, ma su Francis Bacon; Bacon, il pittore a cui ho fatto riferimento qualche giorno fa a proposito di Lynch ed Eraserhead (saggio di cui non conoscevo l’esistenza).
Gilles Deleuze (18 Gennaio 1925 – 4 Novembre 1995) è stato un filosofo francese fra i più influenti del secolo scorso nel campo della letteratura,del cinema, dell’arte, della musica.
Il testo che ho qui,The Logic of Sensation, tratta l’analisi delle opere di Bacon dal punto di vista figurativo e interpretativo.La pittura di Francis Bacon(Dublino, 28 ottobre 1909 – Madrid, 28 aprile 1992), espressionista, si caratterizza per l’incredibile violenza che traspare dai soggetti rappresentati(crocifissioni, mutilazioni,distorsioni fisiche);l’idea di Bacon,non è tanto quella di rappresentare il teatro dell’orrore,del dolore,quanto quella di rappresentare,manifestare, una reazione all’orrore, al dolore,dunque, di riflesso,trasmettere,attraverso lo strazio delle opere,le sensazioni che ne derivano.
Dicendo questo mi viene in mente quella foto/polaroid di Masahisa Fukase che postai qualche tempo fa; in quella è palesemente rappresentato questo concetto(è puntuale, ogni volta che la guardo,anche solo di sfuggita, la reazione, fisica, di”fastidio” alla lingua,quasi poter sentire la sensazione degli spilli attraverso la carne.Meravigliosa suggestione visiva).
Qui di seguito pubblicherò l’ottavo dei 17 capitoli che compongono il saggio (pubblicato in Francia per la prima volta nell’81,trant’anni fa). In questo Deleuze s’interroga circa la capacità della pittura di esprimere nozioni quali il tempo, il suono,attraverso figure e colori; quello che più di tutto mi pare interessante sottolineare è il riferimento al pessimismo di Bacon; il pessimismo di Bacon non nasce da una forza distruttiva, anzi,quanto più atroce e drammatica la pittura di Bacon, tanto più vitale e ottimistico sarà lo slancio vitale d’interpretazione,perchè- a livello inconscio- quello che spinge Bacon a rappresentare una distorsione, un urlo,è l’orrore che prova per il mondo,dunque-paradossalmente-l’incredibile attaccamento alla vita,la straziante passione disillusa,la manifestazione di un disagio che non tace,ma si esprime e mai reprime. Meravigliosa suggestione visiva 2.

Francis Bacon-Detail of Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion,1944

Un giorno mi trovavo in metro quando una donna,d’improvviso (aveva in mano un drink,credo tea,forse caffè) lancia il contenuto del bicchiere-di cartoncino-contro una signora seduta al suo fianco; la signora,praticamente fradicia,inizia a inveirle contro,swearing at her in malo modo. La donna (palesemente disturbata a livello mentale) inizia a piangere, poi a gridare.La signora scende dal treno. La donna rimane. La guardo,mi guarda; cerco di rassicurarla dicendole di calmarsi e che tutto andrà bene,la donna si calma,mi dice che tutto andrà bene.
La donna si volta alla sua destra dove è seduto un ragazzo; questi la guarda, cerca di calmarla, dice lei che tutto andrà bene. La donna lo guarda, gli ride in faccia e gli dà una manata in pieno viso. Il ragazzo allora inizia a inveirle contro,swearing at her in malo modo. You piece of shit,le dice- you piece of shit,gridando. Inferocito,avvelenato,fuori di sè.La donna,allora,riprende a piangere e gridare. Intanto che piange e grida,dice di avere problemi,di stare male,di non poterne più.La donna mi guarda,io le sorrido,le dico di calmarsi,mi avvicino a lei,le tolgo di mano il drink,le dico di scendere con me alla fermata successiva.Tutt’intorno la gente ride.La donna continua a piangere.
Scendiamo alla fermata successiva.La donna adesso è calma,l’accompagno all’uscita.
Dunque? Dunque io ho trovato quella donna di una bellezza esasperante-viva tra i morti. Piuttosto che calmarla avrei voluto unirmi a lei e gridare, se possibile,ancora più forte,contro chiunque,come una forsennata. E se mai avessi avuto un drink,due,uno per dito,avrei voluto rovesciarli tutti quanti contro ognuna di quelle persone a ridere.E se possibile,vomitargli contro tutta la mia repressione.La gente a ridere,noi a gridare. La gente a darci delle matte, noi a compiacercene e compiacerci della nostra follia-di una bellezza esasperante, drammatica e vera.
Il testo
Chapter 8
Painting Forces

Paul Klee-Ancient Sound

[..]In art, and in painting as in music, It’s not a matter of reproducing or inventing forms, but of capturing forces. For this reason no art is figurative. Paul Klee’s famous formula-“Not to render the visible, but to render visible”- means nothing else. The task of painting is defined as the attempt to render visible forces that are not themselves visible. Likewise, music attempts to render sonorous forces that are not themselves sonorous. That much is clear. Force is closely related to sensation: for a sensation to exist, a force must be exerted on a body , on a point of the wave. But if force is the condition of sensation, it’s nonetheless not the force that is sensed, since the sensation “gives” something completely different from the forces that condition it. How will sensation be able to sufficiently turn in on itself, relax or contract itself, so as to capture these nongiven forces in what it gives us, to make us sense these insensible forces, and raise itself to its own conditions? It is in this way that music must render nonsonorous forces sonorous, and painting must render invisible forces visible. Sometimes these are the same thing: Time, which is nonsonorous and invisible- how can time be painted, how can time be heard? And elementary forces like pressure, inertia, weight, attraction, gravitation, germination – how can they be rendered? Sometimes, on the contrary, the insensible force of one art instead seems to take part in the “givens” of another art: for example, how to pait sound, or even the scream? (And conversely, how to make colors audible?)
This is a problem of which painters are very conscious. When pious criticized Millet for painting peasants who were carrying an offertory like a sack of potatoes, Millet responded by saying that the weight common to the two object was more profound that their figurative distinctions. As a painter, he was striving to paint the force of that weight, and not the offertory or the sack of potatoes. And was it not Cézanne’s genius to have subordinated all the techniques of painting to this task: rendering visible the folding force of mountains , the germinative force of a seed, the thermic force of a landscape, and so on? And Van Gogh even invented unknown forces, the unheard-of force of a sunflower seed. For many painters, however, the problem of capturing forces, no matter how conscious it may have been, was mixed with another problem, equally important but less pure. This other problem was the decomposition and recomposition of effects: for example, the decomposition and recomposition of depth in the Renaissance, the decomposition and recomposition of colors in impressionism, the decomposition and recomposition of movement in cubism. We can see how one problem leads to the other, since movement, for example, is an effect that refers both to a unique force that produces it, and to a multiplicity of decomposable and recomposable elements beneath this force.

Francis Bacon-Triptych,Three Studies for a Portrait of George Dyer (on Light Ground) 1964

Bacon’s Figures seem to be one of the most marvelous responses in the history of painting to the question, How can one make invisible forces visible? This is the primary function of the Figures. In this respect , we will see that Bacon remains relatively indifferent to the problem of effects. Not that he despises them, but he thinks that, in the whole history which is that of painters he admires, particularly the problem of movement, of “rending” movement. But if this is the case, it is reason enough to confront even more directly the problem of “rendering” invisible forces visible. This is true of all Bacon’s series of heads and the series of self-portraits, and it is even the reason he made these series: the extraordinary agitation of these heads is derived not from a movement that the series would supposedly reconstitute, but rather from the forces of pressure, dilatation, contraction, flattening, and elongation that are exerted on the immobile head. They are like the forces of the cosmos confronting an intergalactic traveler immobile in his capsule. It is as if invisible forces were striking the head from many different angles.

Francis-Bacon’s-“Three-Studies-for-Self-Portrait”-1976

The wiped and swept parts of the face here take on a new meaning, because they mark the zone where the force is in the process of striking. This is why the problems Bacon faces are indeed those of deformation, and not transformation. These are two very different categories. The transformation of form can be abstract or dynamic. But deformation is always bodily, and it is static, it happens at one place; it subordinates movement to force, but it also subordinates the abstract to the Figure. When a force is exerted on a scrubbed part, it does not give birth to an abstract form, nor does it combine sensible forms dynamically; on the contrary, it turns this zone into a zone of indiscernibility that is common to several forms, irreducible to any of them; and the lines of force that it creates escape every form through their very clarity, through their deforming precision (we saw this in the becoming-animal of the Figures).

Francis-Bacon-Four Studies For a Self Portrait,1967

Cézanne was perhaps the first to have made deformations without transformation, by making truth fall back on the body. Here again Bacon is Cézannean: for both Bacon and Cézanne , the deformation is obtained in the form at rest; and at the same time, the whole material environment, the structure, begins to stir: “walls twitch and slide, chairs bend or rear up a little, cloths curl like burning paper…” Everything is now related to forces, everything is force. It is force that constitutes deformation as an act of painting: it lends itself neither to a transformation of form, nor to a decomposition of elements. And Bacon’s deformations are rarely constrained or forced; they are not tortures, despite appearances. On the contrary, they are the most natural postures of a body that has been reorganized by the simple force being exerted upon it: the desire to sleep, to vomit, ti turn over, to remain seated as long as possible..
We must consider the special case of the scream. Why does Bacon think of the scream as one of the highest object of painting? “Paint the scream..” It is not at all a matter of giving color to a particularly intense sound. Music, for its part, is faced with the same task, which is certainly not to render the scream harmonious, but to establish a relationship between the sound of the scream and the forces that sustain it. In the same manner, painting will establish a relationship between these forces and the visible scream ( the mouth that screams).

Francis Bacon-Study for a Portrait 1952

But the forces that produce the scream, that convulse the bodyuntil they emerge at the mouth as a scrubbed zone, must not be confused with the visible spectacle before which one screams, nor even with the perceptible and sensible object whose action decomposes and recomposes our pain. If we scream, it is always as victims of invisible and insensible forces that scramble every spectacle , and that even lie beyond pain and feeling. This is what Bacon means when he says he wanted” to paint the scream more than the horror”. If we could express this as a dilemma, it would be: either I paint the horror and I do not paint the scream. Because I make a figuration of the horrible; or else I paint the scream , and I do not paint the visible horror, I will paint the visible horror less and less, since the scream captures or detects an invisible force. Alban Berg knew how to make music out of the scream in the scream of Marie, and then in the very different scream of Lulu. But in both cases, he established a relationship between the sound of the scream and inaudible forces: those of the earth in the horizontal scream of Marie, and those of heaven in the vertical scream of Lulu. Bacon creates the painting of the scream because he establishes a relationship between the visibility of the scream ( the open mouth as a shadowy abyss) and invisible forces, which are nothing other than the forces of the future. It was Kafka who spoke of detecting the diabolic power of the future knocking at the door. Every scream contains them potentially. Innocent X screams, but he screams behind the curtain, not only someone who can no longer be seen, but as someone who cannot see, who has nothing left to see, whose only remaining function is to render visible these invisible forces, that are making him scream, these powers of the future. This is expressed in the phrase” to scream at”- not to scream before or about, but to scream at death- which suggests this coupling of forces, the perceptible force of the scream and the imperceptible force that makes one scream.

Francis Bacon-Self Portrait,1972

This is all very curious, but it is a source of extraordinary vitality. When Bacon distinguishes between two violences , that of the spectacle and that of sensation, and declares that the first must be renounced to reach the second, it is kind of declaration of faith in life. The interviews contain many statements of this sort. Bacon says that he himself is cerebrally pessimistic; that is, he can scarcely see anything but horros to paint, the horrors of the world. But he is nervously optimistic, because visible figuration is secondary in painting, and will have less and less importance. Bacon will reproach himself for painting too much horror, as if that were enough to leave the figurative behind; he moves more and more toward a Figure without horror. But why is it an act of vital faith to choose “ the scream more than the horror” the violence of sensation more than the violence of the spectacle? The invisible forces , the powers of the future- are they not already upon us, and much more insurmountable than the worst spectacle and even the worst pain? Yes, in a certain sense,- every piece of meat testifies to this. But in another sense, no. When, like a wrestler, the visible body confronts the powers of the invisible , it gives them no other visibility that its own. It is within this visibility that the body actively struggles, affirming the possibility of triumphing, which was beyond its reach as long as these powers remained invisible, hidden in a spectacle that sapped our strength and diverted us. It is as if combat had now become possible. The struggle with the shadow is the only real struggle. When the visual sensation confronts the invisible force that conditions it, it releases a force that is capable of vanquishing the invisible force, or even befriending it. Like screams at death, but death is no longer this all-too-visible thing that makes us faint; it is this invisible force that life detects, flushes out, and makes visible through the scream. Death is judged from the point of view of life, and not the reverse, as we like to believe. Bacon, no less than Beckett, is one of those artists who, in the name of a very intense life, can call for an even more intense life. He is not a painter who “believes” in death. His is indeed a figurative miserabilisme, but one that serves an increasingly powerful Figure of life. The same homage should be paid to Bacon as can be paid to Beckett or kafka. In the very act of “representing”horror, mutilation, prosthesis, fall or failure, they have erected indomitable Figures, indomitable through both their insistence and their presence. They have given life a new and extremely direct power of laughter.
Since the visible movements of the Figures are subordinated to the invisible forces exerted upon them, we can go behind the movements to these forces, and make an empirical list of the forces Bacon detects and captures. Although Bacon likens himself to a “pulverizer” or a “grinder”, he is really more like a detective. The first invisible forces are those of isolation: they are supported by the fields, and become visible when they wrap themselves around the contour and wrap the fields around the Figure. The second are the forces of the deformation, which seize the Figure’s body and head, and become visible whenever the head shakes off its face, or the body its organism. (Bacon knows how to render intensely, for example, the flattening force of sleep. The third are the forces of dissipation, when then renders these forces visible is a strange smile. But there are still many other forces. What can be said, first of all, of that invisible force of coupling that sweeps over two bodies with an extraordinary energy, but which they render visible by extracting from it kind of polygon or diagram? And beyond that, what is the mysterious force that can only be captured or detected by triptychs? It is at the same time a force (characteristic of light) that unites the whole, but also a force that separates the Figures and panels, a luminous separation that should not the confused with the preceding isolation. Can life, can time, be rendered sensible, rendered visible? To render time visible, to render the force of time visible- Bacon seems to have done this twice. There is the force of changing time, through the allotropic variation of bodies, “down to the tenth of a second”, which involves deformation; and then there is the force of eternal time, the eternity of time, through the uniting- separating that reigns in the triptychs, a pure light. To render time sensible in itself is a task common to the painter, the musician, and sometimes the writer. It is a task beyond all measure or cadence.

Taken from “Francis Bacon-The Logic of Sensation” by Gilles Deleuze (Cap 8 of 17)

Francis Bacon-Study after Velazquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X,1953

“Ideas are like fish. If you want to catch little fish, you can stay in the shallow water. But if you want to catch the big fish, you’ve got to go deeper. Down deep, the fish are more powerful and more pure.They’re huge and abstract. And they’re very beautiful.”
David Lynch (Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity)

Clafoutis Grandmère à la Virginia Woolf

A proposito di cibo,l’altro giorno mi è capitato trovare un ricettario davvero speciale che ha la particolarità di riunire in un unico volumetto di appena 130 pagine la storia della letteratura contemporanea raccontata in 17 ricette.Il libro-Kafka’s Soup-mette ai fornelli 17 scrittori contemporanei ai quali Mark Crick,autore del libro,chiede di presentare e cucinare un piatto ciascuno.
Queste le ricette
-Lamb with Dill Sauce à la Raymond Chandler
-Tarragon Eggs à la Jane Austin
-Quick Miso Soup à la Franz Kafka
-Rich Chocolate Cake à la Irvine Welsh
Tiramisù à la Marcel Proust
-Coq Au Vin à la Gabriel Garcia Marquez
-Mushroom Risotto à la John Steinbeck
-Boned Stuffed Poussins à la Marquis de Sade
-Fenkata à la Homer
-Vietnamese Chicken à la Graham Greene
-Sole A La Dieppoise à la Jorge Luis Borges
Cheese On Toast à la Harold Pinter
-Onion Tart à la Geoffrey Chaucer
-Rosti à la Thomas Mann
-Moules Mariniere à la Italo Calvino
-Plum Pudding à la Charles Dickens

Questa la mia ricetta preferita
Clafoutis Grandmère à la Virginia Woolf

500 g cherries
3 eggs
150 g flour
150 g sugar
10 g yeast,prepared in warm water if necessary
100g butter
1 cup of milk

She placed the cherries in a buttered dish and looked out of the window. The children were racing across the lawn,Nicholas already between the clumps of red-hot-pokers,turning to wait for the others.Looking back at the cherries,that would not be pitted,red polka dots on white,so bright and jolly,their little core of hardness invisible,in pity she thought of Mrs Sorley,that poor woman with no husband and so many mouths to feed,Mrs Sorley who knew the hard core but not the softness; and she placed the dish of cherries to one side.
Gently she melted the butter,transparent and smooth,oleaginous and clear,clarified and golden,and mixed it with the sugar in a large bowl.Should she have made something traditionally English?(Involuntarily,piles of cake rose before her eyes).Of course the recipe was French,from her grandmother.English cooking was an abomination: it was boiling cabbages in water until they were liquid; it was roasting meat until it was shrivelled; it was cutting out the flavours with a blunt knife.
She added an egg,pausing to look up at the jacmanna,its colour so vivid against the whitewashed wall. Would it not be wonderful if Nicholas became a great artist, all life stretching before him, a blank canvas,bright coloured shapes gradually becoming clearer? There would be lovers, triumphs, the colors darkening,work,loneliness,struggle.She wished he could stay as he was now, they were so happy; the sky was so clear,they would never be as happy again.With great serenity she added an egg, for was she not descended from that very noble,French house whose female progeny brought their arts and energy, their sense of colour and shape,wit and poise to the sluggish English? She added an egg, whose yellow sphere ,falling into the domed bowl,broke and poured,like Vesuvius erupting into the mixture, like the sun setting into a butter sea. Its broken shell left two uneven domes on the counter, and all the poverty and all the suffering of Mrs Sorley had turned to that,she thought.
When the flour came it was a delight, a touch left on her cheek as she brushed aside a wisp of hair, as if her beauty bored her and she wanted to be like other people, insignificant, sitting in a window’s house with her pen and paper, writing notes, understanding the poverty, revealing the social problems (she folded the flour into the mixture). She was so commanding (not tyrannical, not domineering; she should not have minded what people said), she was like an arrow set on a target. She would have liked to build a hospital, but how? For now, this clafoutis for Mrs Sorley and her children (she added the yeast, prepared in warm water).
The yeast would cause the mixture to rise up into the air like a column of energy, nurtured by the heat of the oven, until the arid kitchen knife of the male, cutting mercilessly, plunged itself into the dome, leaving it flat and exhausted.
Little by little she added the milk, stopping only when the mixture was fluid and even, smooth and homogenous, lumpless and liquid, pausing to recall her notes on the iniquity of the English diary system. She looked up: what demon possessed him, her youngest, playing on the lawn, demons and angels? Why should it change, why could they not stay as they were, never ageing? ( She poured the mixture over the cherries in the dish.) The dome was now become a circle, the cherries surrounded by the yeast mixture that would cradle and cushion them, the yeast mixture that surrounded them all, the house, the lawn, the asphodels, that devil Nicholas running past the window, and she put it in a hot oven. In thirty minutes it would be ready.

Recipe taken from “Kafka‘s Soup”-A complete History of Literature in 17 recipes
written and illustrated by Mark Crick

The Man who stole the dish of gold wherein the dog ate

Some time erst there was a man who had accumulated debts, and his case was straitened upon him so that he left his people and family and went forth in distraction, and he ceased not wandering on at random till he came after a time to a city tall of walls and firm of foundations. He entered it in a state of despondency and despair, harried by hunger and worn with the weariness of his way. As he passed through one of the main streets, he saw a company of the great going along, so he followed them till they reached a house like to a royal palace. He entered with them, and they stayed not faring forward till they came in presence of a person seated at the upper end of a saloon, a man of the most dignified and majestic aspect, surrounded by pages and eunuchs, as he were of the sons of the wazirs. When he saw the visitors, he rose to greet them and received them with honor, but the poor man aforesaid was confounded at his own boldness when beholding the goodliness of the place and the crowd of servants and attendants, so drawing back in perplexity and fear for his life, sat down apart in a place afar off, where none should see him.
Now it chanced that whilst he was sitting, behold, in came a man with four sporting dogs, whereon were various kinds of raw silk and brocade and wearing round their necks collars of gold with chains of silver, and tied up each dog in a place set privy for him. After which he went out and presently returned with four dishes of gold, full of rich meats, which he set severally before the dogs, one for each. Then he went away and left them, whilst the poor man began to eye the food for stress of hunger, and longed to go up to one of the dogs and eat with him. But fear of them withheld him. Presently, one of the dogs looked at him and Allah Almighty inspired the dog with a knowledge of his case, so he drew back from the platter and signed to the man, who came and ate till he was filled. Then he would have withdrawn, but the dog again signed to him to take for himself the dish and what food was left in it, and pushed it toward him with his forepaw. So the man took the dish and leaving the house, went his way, and none followed him.

Rudolph Ernst

Then he journeyed to another city, where he sold the dish and buying with the price a stock in trade, returned to his own town. There he sold his goods and paid his debts, and he throve and became affluent and rose to perfect prosperity. He abode in his own land, but after some years had passed he said to himself, “Needs must I repair to the city of the owner of the dish, and carry him a fit and handsome present and pay him the money value of that which his dog bestowed upon me.” So he took the price of the dish and a suitable gift, and setting out, journeyed day and night till he came to that city. He entered it and sought the place where the man lived, but he found there naught save ruins moldering in row and croak of crow, and house and home desolate and all conditions in changed state. At this, his heart and soul were troubled, and he repeated the saying of him who saith:
“Void are the private rooms of treasury.
As void were hearts of fear and piety.
Changed is the wady, nor are its gazelles
Those fawns, nor sand hills those I wont to see.”
Now when the man saw these moldering ruins and witnessed what the hand of time had manifestly done with the place, leaving but traces of the substantial things that erewhiles had been, a little reflection made it needless for him to inquire of the case, so he turned away. Presently, seeing a wretched man, in a plight which made him shudder and feel goose skin, and which would have moved the very rock to ruth, he said to him: “Ho, thou! What have time and fortune done with the lord of this place? Where are his lovely faces, his shining full moons and splendid stars? And what is the cause of the ruin that is come upon his abode, so that nothing save the walls thereof remain?” Quoth the other: “He is the miserable thou seest mourning that which hath left him naked. But knowest thou not the words of the Apostle (whom Allah bless and keep!), wherein is a lesson to him who will learn by it and a warning to whoso will be warned thereby and guided in the right way, ‘Verily it is the way of Allah Almighty to raise up nothing of this world, except He cast it down again’?

Rudolph Ernst

“If thou question of the cause of this accident, indeed it is no wonder, considering the chances and changes of Fortune. I was the lord of this place and I builded it and founded it and owned it, and I was the proud possessor of its full moons lucent and its circumstance resplendent and its damsels radiant and its garniture magnificent, but Time turned and did away from me wealth and servants and took from me what it had lent (not given), and brought upon me calamities which it held in store hidden. But there must needs be some reason for this thy question, so tell it me and leave wondering.”
Thereupon the man who had waxed wealthy, being sore concerned, told him the whole story, and added: “I have brought thee a present, such as souls desire, and the price of thy dish of gold which I took; for it was the cause of my affluence after poverty, and of the replenishment of my dwelling place after desolation, and of the dispersion of my trouble and straitness.” But the man shook his head and weeping and groaning and complaining of his lot, answered: “Ho, thou! Methinks thou art mad, for this is not the way of a man of sense. How should a dog of mine make generous gift to thee of a dish of gold and I meanly take back the price of what a dog gave? This were indeed a strange thing! Were I in extremest unease and misery, by Allah, I would not accept of thee aught- no, not the worth of a nail paring! So return whence thou camest in health and safety.” Whereupon the merchant kissed his feet and taking leave of him, returned whence he came, praising him and reciting this couplet:
“Men and dogs together are all gone by,
So peace be with all of them, dogs and men!”
And Allah is All-knowing!
Taken from  Arabian Nights
Sir Richard Burton, translator-1850
Source:http://www.sacred-texts.com
About Rudolph Ernst:http://rudolphernst.blogspot.com/

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