“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
Ho iniziato a svuotare i cassetti, riunire tutta le cose in giro per camera e decidere che fare, cosa tenere, spedire, buttare, donare. E’ in momenti come questi che provo un beato senso di gratitudine verso le cose – mi ricordano di cosa posso fare a meno e di quanto è inutile possedere alcune di loro; prima usavo essere troppo possessiva e gelosa delle cose, accumulate cianfrusaglie, giornali, ritagli di giornale, bric-a-brac di dubbio valore estetico raccattati nelle bancarelle, adesso
potessero staccarmisi le mani dai polsi se mi frugo in tasca in cerca di un penny da spendere tendo a tenermi alla larga da certe tentazioni pericolose esposte negli scaffali delle librerie, certe chitarre elettriche che ringhiano fuori i negozi di vinili, certi mercatini vintage d’occasioni sprecate.
Questa città è un rischio, un investimento, un asso di bastoni, un piglia tutto, uno scacco matto. Monopoli, il gioco dell’oca, la battaglia navale. Bisogna non averci un soldo in tasca, per non cadere in tentazione, basta appena una distrazione, un luccichio. Londra è piena di luccichii, Londra è una svista, è tutto un luccichio e insegne al neon, Eat here, Come In, Drink there, Stand up, Dig In, Enjoy! Have Fun! Have a try! Let’s go crazy! Rock n’ Roll Babe!
Balli, te ne vai o rimani a bordo pista. It’s up to u.
Ebbene qualche anno fa mi sono detta la scommessa più grande quella di partire con in mano una sola valigia. Sempre più piccola. Ci sono quasi – la scommessa non include quelle due o tre scatole di libri che devo spedire a casa, e leggere non equivale a peccare di lussuria, dunque direi sono sulla buona strada per vincere la scommessa e ottenere la santificazione entro la fine di quest’anno.
Se c’è una cosa che invidio agli uomini è la tasca dei pantaloni, dentro contiene giusto il necessario, ciò di cui hanno bisogno, il più delle volte portafogli e chiavi di casa. Perchè noi donne ogni volta che usciamo abbiamo bisogno di portarci dietro casa, in borsa? addirittura col rischio di rimanere fuori, fuori casa, quelle volte che non riusciamo a trovare la chiave dentro la borsa, il baule, l’armadio-borsa, la valigia, in mezzo a tutto quel marasma di agende, reggiseni, calze, lucidalabbra, cartoline, tamponi, filtrini, apriscatole, spazzolini, anelli, cartine, fotografie, un set di cucito, un nastro adesivo, puntine, quaderni, libri, salviettine, caramelle, gommine, accendini. Bha. Una volta ho chiesto alla mia collega di dirmi qual’è l’oggetto più strano che usa tenere sempre in borsa. Sono sempre stata curiosa di sapere cosa tiene in borsa una donna, dentro casa. Fanni mi ha sorpresa più di quanto potessi sperare, tiene in borsa una calcolatrice analitica. Perchè non c’ho pensato prima! e si signori, tremate, qui è chiaro si tratta di una donna d’acciaio, ligia al dovere, solida, compatta, dedita all’accudimento della famiglia e alla contabilità del marito. Regina di Coppe, Regina di Spade.
Intanto che sistemo e riposo, mi sono rituffata nella lettura di alcuni libri che avevo lasciato in sospeso.
Probabilmente anche voi, io ho l’abitudine di leggere più libri contemporaneamente; ammetto di essere una lettrice molto capricciosa e delle volte superficiale, a cui piace mettere il naso in più cose contemporaneamente, delle volte sbuffando annoiata, altre appassionandomi, innamorandomi follemente di un’idea, poi abbandonandola, quindi riprendendola più in là nel tempo. Non sono un’amante costante, ho certe priorità, una fascinazione impulsiva a cui non so resistere ragionelvolmente. Fossi una carta sarei il cavaliere di spade, un inchino e un pizzicotto. Così, per capriccio, perchè mi va e qui decido io.
Stavo considerando di suggerirne alcuni quando invece ho pensato alla possibilità di questo post come a un test, per verificare la fondatezza di un pregiudizio.
Dunque. Ho ripreso la lettura di She Came to stay, di Simone De Bevauvoir. Non fate domande. L’ho ripreso. In poche parole e stando a un mio pregiudizio – maturato durante la lettura dei primi capitoli del romanzo – Madame De Beauvoir vorrebbe convincermi della propria emancipazione femminile e sessuale soltanto perchè si porta a letto una donna, che ha il cattivo gusto di riprendere con fare da maestrina, e trattare come fosse un’ alunna, e verso cui ha la stessa opinione e considerazione dell’uomo che per prima riprovera di patriarcato e accusa di maschilismo. Mi rendo conto, si tratta di una faccenda complicata. E si tratta di una donna e filosofa francese, amante di un esistenzialista.
Certo Sartre, vecchia volpe sorniona, dev’essere stato un bel capriccio d’uomo e un bell’osso duro da rosicchiare, eppure, a leggere i primi capitoli del romanzo, sembra lei fargli da madre e asservire docilmente al ruolo di musa e nutrice.
Perchè v’accanite su di una donna per rimproverare gli uomini, Madame De Bevauvoir?
She came to stay è il primo romanzo di Madame De Bevauvoir che leggo, e io ho svoltato appena una trentina delle quattrocento pagine che lo compongono, ma questa è l’opinione che la lettura mi ha suggerito di primo acchitto, per ignoranza e superficialità. Un pregiudizio. Perch’io possa verificare questo pregiudizio, devo leggere fino alla fine il romanzo. E’probabile mi fermerò molte volte prima di concludere la lettura e svoltare finalmente l’ultima pagina, ma alla fine lo avrò verificato. E vi farò sapere.
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.
‘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.’
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’
‘A Polish author once wrote to me asking about the philosophical meaning of Pornografia.
‘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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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, , ‘The third son’, di Andrey Platonovich Platonov (contenuto in Russian Short Stories from Pushkin to Buida, che sto leggendo), e continuato il capitolo aggiungendo:
 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)
 la parte introduttiva di ‘Life A User’s manual’, di Georges Perec, e infine  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___
‘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:
 the first sentence taken from ‘Anna Karenina‘, by Lev Tolstoy, 1877
 a part taken from ‘The third son‘, by Andrey Platonovich Platonov
 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)
 a part taken from ‘Life A User’s manual’, by Georges Perec, 1978
 a part taken from ‘The Secret House’, by Edgar Wallace, 1917
So here it goes, hope you enjoy it
Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way
Anna Karenina, Lev Tolstoy
 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.
 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…’
 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.
 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.
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.
In the background Sodom and Gomorra still burn. Lot and his daughters could escape in time before the inferno began. Lot’s wife was not that fortunate: she was transformed into a pillar of salt because she looked back, against God’s command. She can be seen standing on the wooden bridge.
As Lot has no male children, his daughters decide to help him. They make him drunk with lots of wine. The children that were conceived that night would become the ancestors of the Moabites and the Ammonites, neighbours of Israel.
There is a work by a primitive painter in the Louvre, whether known or unknown I cannot say, who will never represent a major school in art history. The artist’s name is Lucas van Leyden and to my mind he invalidates the four or five hundred years of painting coming after him, rendering them useless. The painting in question is entitled Lot and His Daughters, a biblical subject in the style of the period. The Middle Ages certainly did not interpret the Bible as we do today and this painting is a strange example of the mystical inferences which can be deduced from it. In any event, its phatos is noticeable even from a distance, since it affects the mind by a kind of sticking visual harmony, intensely active in the whole work yet caught at a glance.
Even before we have made out the subject, we get the feeling something important is happening and it seems the ear is as affected by it as the eye. A tremendously important mental drama appears accumulated there, like a sudden cloud formation which the wind or some more immediate fate has blown there to assess their thunderbolts.
And, in fact, in the painting the sky is dark and overcast, but even before we can make out that this drama originated in the heavens, took place in the heavens, the strange colouring and jumble of forms, the impression emanating from it at a distance, all foretells a kind of natural drama, and I defy any other artist of the Golden Ages to offer us anything like it.
A tent is pitched on the shore, in front of which Lot is seated, wearing a breastplate and sporting a fine red beard, watching his daughters parade before him as if he were a guest at a prostitutes’ banquet.
And in fact they strut about, some mothers, others Amazons, combing their hair or fencing, as if they had never had any other object than to please their father, to serve as his creatures or playthings. Here we see the deeply incestuous nature of this old subject which the artist has developed in sexual imagery, a proof that he has fully understood all its deep sexuality in a modern way, that is to say as we would understand it ourselves. A proof that its deeply sexual but poetic nature did not escape him any more than it did us.
On the left of the painting, slightly in the background, a black tower rises to fantastic heights, its base supported by a network of rocks and plants, twisting roads marked by milestones, with houses dotted here and there. And by an apt perspective effect, one of these paths which had been threading its way through the maze stands out at a given spot, crosses a bridge, is finally caught in a shaft of that stormy light spilling out between the clouds, in which the region is fitfully bathed. In the background, the sea is very high besides being extraordinarily calm, considering the fiery web seething in one corner of the sky.
Sometimes, when we are watching exploding fireworks, some details of the landscape stand out against the darkness in the ghostly light, in the nocturnal gunfire of shooting stars, sky rockets and Roman candles; trees, tower, mountains and houses appear in relief before our eyes, their colour and appearance for ever remaining associated in our minds with a notion of ear-splitting noise. There is no better way of conveying how the various aspects of the landscape conform to this fire revealed in the sky than by saying that although they possess their own colour, in spite of everything, they remain related to it like muted echoes, like living points of reference born within it, put there to allow it to exert its full destructive power.
Besides, there is something horribly forceful and disturbing about the way the painter depicts this fire, like active, changing features in a set expression. It makes little difference how this effect is achieved, it is real. One has only to see the painting to be convinced of it.
In any case, this fire, which no one will deny gives one the impression of an evil intellect emanating from it, by its very violence mentally serves to counterbalance the heavy material solidity of the remainder.
To the right, on the same perspective level as the black tower, a narrow spit of land surrounded by a ruined monastery juts out between the heavens and high seas.
This spit of land, however near it may appear to the shore where the Lot’s tent is pitched, still leaves room for a vast gulf where an unprecedented maritime disaster seems to have taken place. Ships broken in two but not yet sunk are propped on the sea as if on crutches, while the water round about them is full of their uprooted masts and broken spars.
It is hard to say why such an impression of absolute disaster emanates from the sight of one or two shipwrecked vessels.
It seems as though the painter knew certain secrets about linear proportion and how to make it affect the mind directly like a physical reagent. In any case this impression of intellect spread abroad in outdoor nature, especially the manner of portraying it, is apparent in several other details on the canvas, such as the bridge standing out against the sea, high as an eight-storey house, with people filing across it, like Ideas in Plato’s cave.
It would be untrue to claim that the thoughts emerging from this painting are clear. At all events they are of a grandeur to which we have become totally unaccustomed during the last few centuries by painting that was merely painting.
In addiction, Lot and his daughters suggest an idea of sexuality and reproduction, and Lot seems placed like a drone, to take improper advantage of his daughters.
This is almost the only idea in the picture.
All the other ideas are metaphysical. I am sorry to have to use that word, but that is what they are called. And I might even say their poetic greatness, their tangible effect on us arises from the fact that they are metaphysical, that their mental profundity cannot be separated from the painting’s formal, external symmetry.
Furthermore there is an idea of change in the different landscape details and the way they are painted, their levels annulling or corresponding to one another, that leads us into the mind in painting the same way as in music.
There is another idea about Fate, revealed not so much by the appearance of that sudden fire as by the solemn way in which all forms are arranged or disarranged beneath it, some as of bent beneath a gust of irresistible panic, the others motionless, almost ironic, all obeying a powerful intelligent consistency, seemingly nature’s mind externalized.
There are also ideas on Chaos, the Marvellous and Balance. There are even one or two on the importance of Words, this supremely anarchic, material painting seeming to establish their futility.
In any event I must say this painting is what theatre ought to be, if only it knew how to speak its own language.
Text entirely taken from ‘The Theatre and its Double’, by Antonin Artaud, 1978
Off Production and Metaphysics*
_______________Chapter 1.Maslova in Prison_________________
Though hundreds of thousands had done their very best to disfigure the small piece of land on which they were crowded together, by paving the ground with stones, scraping away every vestige of vegetation, cutting down the trees, turning away birds and beasts, and filling the air with the smoke of naphtha and coal, still spring was spring, even in the town.
The sun shone warm, the air was balmy; everywhere, where it did not get scraped away, the grass revived and sprang up between the paving-stones as well as on the narrow strips of lawn on the boulevards. The birches, the poplars, and the wild cherry unfolded their gummy and fragrant leaves, the limes were expanding their opening buds; crows, sparrows, and pigeons, filled with the joy of spring, were getting their nests ready; the flies were buzzing along the walls, warmed by the sunshine. All were glad, the plants, the birds, the insects, and the children. But men, grown-up men and women, did not leave off cheating and tormenting themselves and each other. It was not this spring morning men thought sacred and worthy of consideration not the beauty of God’s world, given for a joy to all creatures, this beauty which inclines the heart to peace, to harmony, and to love, but only their own devices for enslaving one another.
Thus, in the prison office of the Government town, it was not the fact that men and animals had received the grace and gladness of spring that was considered sacred and important, but that a notice, numbered and with a superscription, had come the day before, ordering that on this 28th day of April, at 9 a.m., three prisoners at present detained in the prison, a man and two women (one of these women, as the chief criminal, to be conducted separately), had to appear at Court. So now, on the 28th of April, at 8 o’clock, a jailer and soon after him a woman warder with curly grey hair, dressed in a jacket with sleeves trimmed with gold, with a blue-edged belt round her waist, and having a look of suffering on her face, came into the corridor.
“You want Maslova?” she asked, coming up to the cell with the jailer who was on duty.
The jailer, rattling the iron padlock, opened the door of the cell, from which there came a whiff of air fouler even than that in the corridor, and called out, “Maslova! to the Court,” and closed the door again.
Even into the prison yard the breeze had brought the fresh vivifying air from the fields. But in the corridor the air was laden with the germs of typhoid, the smell of sewage, putrefaction, and tar; every newcomer felt sad and dejected in it. The woman warder felt this, though she was used to bad air. She had just come in from outside, and entering the corridor, she at once became sleepy.
From inside the cell came the sound of bustle and women’s voices, and the patter of bare feet on the floor.
“Now, then, hurry up, Maslova, I say!” called out the jailer, and in a minute or two a small young woman with a very full bust came briskly out of the door and went up to the jailer. She had on a grey cloak over a white jacket and petticoat. On her feet she wore linen stockings and prison shoes, and round her head was tied a white kerchief, from under which a few locks of black hair were brushed over the forehead with evident intent. The face of the woman was of that whiteness peculiar to people who have lived long in confinement, and which puts one in mind of shoots of potatoes that spring up in a cellar. Her small broad hands and full neck, which showed from under the broad collar of her cloak, were of the same hue. Her black, sparkling eyes, one with a slight squint, appeared in striking contrast to the dull pallor of her face.
She carried herself very straight, expanding her full bosom.
With her head slightly thrown back, she stood in the corridor, looking straight into the eyes of the jailer, ready to comply with any order.
The jailer was about to lock the door when a wrinkled and severe-looking old woman put out her grey head and began speaking to Maslova. But the jailer closed the door, pushing the old woman’s head with it. A woman’s laughter was heard from the cell, and Maslova smiled, turning to the little grated opening in the cell door. The old woman pressed her face to the grating from the other side, and said, in a hoarse voice:
“Now mind, and when they begin questioning you, just repeat over the same thing, and stick to it; tell nothing that is not wanted.”
“Well, it could not be worse than it is now, anyhow; I only wish it was settled one way or another.”
“Of course, it will be settled one way or another,” said the jailer, with a superior’s self-assured witticism. “Now, then, get along! Take your places!”
Walt Whitman began the day with oysters and meat, while Gustave Flaubert started off with what passed for a light breakfast in his day: eggs, vegetables, cheese or fruit, and a cup of cold chocolate. The novelist Vendela Vida told me she swears by pistachios, and Mark Kurlansky, the author of “Salt” and “Cod,” likes to write under the influence of espresso, “as black as possible.” For some writers, less is more. Lord Byron, a pioneer in fad diets as well as poetry, sipped vinegar to keep his weight down. Julia Scheeres, the author of the memoir “Jesus Land,” aims for more temporary deprivation. “When in the thick of writing I minimize food intake as much as possible,” she told me. “I find I work better when I’m a little starved.”
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.
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.”
“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.
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.
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
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.
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
‘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
‘Nobody lives on the third floor right. The owner is a certain Monsieur Foureau, who is said to live on an estate at Chavignolles, between Caen and Falaise, in a farm of thirty- eight hectares, with a sort of manor house. Some years ago, a television drama was filmed there, under the title The Sixteenth Edge of This Cube; Remi Rorschach took part in the shooting but never met this owner.
Nobody ever seems to have seen him. There is no name on the door on the landing, nor on the list fixed on the glass pane of the concierge’s office door. The blinds are always drawn.’
Se per qualche ragione vi foste trovati a Parigi intorno alla fine degli anni ’70, e in cerca di Trelkovski, L’Inquilino del Terzo Piano (forse perchè vi doveva una scommessa, o quasi certamente perchè eravate voi a dovergli più di qualcosa), allora avreste fatto bene a cercarlo in Rue Simon-Crubellier. Sottoscrive Perec, al terzo piano di Rue Simon-Crubellier, numero 11, non vive nessuno, ma il sospetto di un omicidio. Lo stesso filmato da Roman Polanski due anni prima l’uscita del romanzo ‘La vita, Istruzioni per l’uso‘,? Sarebbe azzardato credere Trelkovski l’inquilino mancante a chiudere il ‘tour’ e rendere possibile il Percorso del Cavallo tracciato da Perec attraverso questo romanzo?
Prendete una scacchiera e sfidate un cavaliere in una crociata, in palio la soluzione a un quesito matematico: come attraversare la scacchiera partendo da D7, compiere una sola volta tutte le mosse di gioco, visitare tutte le case della scacchiera, quindi concludere il tour in F7, esattamente nella casa vicina a quella di partenza.
Poniamo Perec abbia utilizzato una scacchiera 10×10, pari ai 10 piani in Rue Simon-Crubellier, e alle dieci camere in ciascuno dei piani. Una camera un capitolo, un capitolo una storia, una storia una mossa del cavaliere. 99 personaggi, ognuno con un passato diverso e un futuro in comune; 99 storie nella storia, una sola mossa mancante a rendere possibile una sfida letteraria quasi riuscita.
La sfida in questione rientra nell’ambizioso progetto visionario lanciato dalla Oulipo, una sorta di circolo, una confraternita del Merlot, fondata nel 1960 da Raymond Queneau e François Le Lionnais, che riunisce scrittori e artisti per lo più francesi (Italo Calvino un infiltrato speciale) cui obiettivo è quello di realizzare un’opera attraverso precise regole, coordinate stilistiche, poste a soluzione di un problema matematico, un lipogramma (di Perec anche La scomparsa, del 1969, un romanzo scritto senza la vocale ‘e’, e Le ripetizioni, un romanzo scritto di sole vocali ‘e’), palindromi, anagrammi.
Ne La vita, istruzioni per l’uso, la toponomastica esistenziale tracciata da Perec definisce una dimensione in cui convergono e si intersecano Arte, Storia, ‘Umanesimo’e Scienze. Ho ammirato con stupore e meraviglia la maniera in cui Perec dà respiro al romanzo affascinato dal potenziale visionario delle parole, delle immagini, dei colori, dei suoni, dei ricordi. Dev’essere stato un bel viaggio.
Mi rendo conto leggere questo romanzo è una sfida. Perec è un autore pretenzioso. Pretende noi si venga informati bene circa i fatti. Pretende noi ci si dedichi esclusivamente alla lettura del testo, in totale isolamento e regressione spazio temporale da ciò che ci circonda.
Del resto l’intero appartamento in Rue Simon-Crubellier sembra esistere nello spazio in una dimensione propria di trascendentale realizzazione causale e implicativa, rimandata al passato, interposta nel presente, e convergente nel futuro. Nel romanzo niente viene lasciato al caso, ogni attimo assemblato, composto entro un’unica cornice, un preciso ordine stabilito, la perfetta realizzazione di un puzzle umano e vivente, ricostruito minuziosamente attraverso una progressiva esarazione delle storie perchè ‘la storia’ centrale abbia a realizzarsi nell’insieme.
To begin with, the art of jigsaw puzzles seems of little substance, easily exhausted, wholly dealt with by a basic introduction to Gestalt: the perceived object – we mai be dealing with a perceptual act, the acquisition of a skill, a physiological system, or, as in the present case, a wooden jigsaw puzzle – is not a sum of elements to be distinguished from each other and analyzed discretely, but a pattern, that is to say a form, a structure: the element’s existence does not precede the existence of the whole, it comes neither before nor after it, for the parts do not determine the pattern, but the pattern determines the parts: knowledge of the pattern and of its laws, of the set and its structure, could not possibly be derived from discrete knowledge of the elements that compose it. That means that you can look at a piece of a puzzle for three whole days, you can believe that you know all there is to know about its colouring and shape, and be no further on than when you started. The only thing that counts is the ability to link this piece to other pieces, and in that sense the art of jigsaw puzzle has something in common with the art of go. The pieces are readable, take on a sense, only when assembled; in isolation, a puzzle piece means nothing – just an impossible question, an opaque challenge. But as soon as you have succeeded, after minutes of trial and error, or after a prodigious half-second flash of inspiration, in fitting it into one of its neighbours, the piece disappears, ceases to exist as a piece. The intense difficulty preceding this link-up – which the English word puzzle indicates so well – not only loses its raison d’etre, it seems never to have had any reason, so obvious does the solution appear. The two pieces so miraculously conjoined are henceforth one, which in its turn will be a source of error, hesitation, dismay, and expectation.
The role of the puzzle-maker is hard to define. In most cases – and in particular in all cardboard jigsaw – the puzzles are machine-made, and the lines of cutting are entirely arbitrary: a blanking die, set up once and for all, cuts the sheets of cardboard along identical lines every time. But such jigsaw are eschewed by the true puzzle-lover, not just because the solutions are printed on the boxes the come in, but because this type of cut destroys the specific nature of jigsaw puzzles. Contrary to a widely and firmly held belief, it does not really matter whether the initial image is easy ( or something taken to be easy – a genre scene in the style of Vermeer, for example, or a color photograph of an Austrian castle) or difficult ( a Jackson Pollock, a Pissarro, or the poor paradox of a blank puzzle). It’s not the subject of the picture, or the painter’s technique, which makes a puzzle more or less difficult, but the greater or lesser subtlety of the way it jas been cut; and an arbitrary cutting pattern will necessarily produce an arbitrary degree of difficulty, ranging from the extreme of easiness – for edge pieces, patches of light, well-defined object, lines, transitions – to the tiresome awkwardness of all the other pieces (cloudless skies, sand, meadow, ploughed land, shaded areas, ect.).
Pieces in a puzzle of this kind come in classes of which the best-known are
the little chaps
the double crosses
and the crossbars
and once the edges have been put together, the detail pieces put in place – the very light, almost whitish yellow fringe on the carpet on the table holding the lectern with an open book, the rich edging of the mirror, the lute, the woman’s red dress – and the bulk of the background pieces parcelled out according to their shade of grey, brown, white, or sky blue, then solving the puzzle consists simply of trying all the plausible combinations one by one.
The art of jigsaw puzzling begins with wooden puzzles cut by hand, whose maker undertakes to ask himself all the questions the player will have to solve, and , instead of allowing chance to cover his tracks, aims to replace it with cunning, trickery, and subterfuge. All the elements occurring in the image to be reassembled – this armchair covered in gold brocade, that three-pointed black hat with its rather ruined black plume, or that silver-brained bright yellow livery – serve by design as points of departure for trails that lead to false information. The organized, coherent, structured signifying space of the picture is cut up not only into inert, formless elements containing little information or signifying power, but also into falsified elements, carrying false information; two fragments of cornice made to fit each other perfectly when they belong infact to two quite separate sections of the ceiling, the belt buckle of a uniform which turns out in extremis to be a metal clasp holding the chandelier, several almost identically cut pieces belonging, for one part, to a dwarf orange tree placed on a mantelpiece and, for the other part, to its scarcely attenuated reflection in a mirror, are classic examples of the types of traps puzzle-lovers come across.
From this, one can make a deduction which is quite certainly the ultimate truth of jigsaw puzzles: despite appearances, puzzling is not a solitary game: every move the puzzler makes, the puzzle-maker has made before; every piece the puzzler picks up, and picks up again, and studies and strokes, every combination he tries, each hope and each discouragement have all been designed, calculated, and decided by the other.
Avendo letto questo romanzo in inglese, mi sono concentrata più sul vocabolario e meno sull’ architettura della trama e il procedimento logico di progressione al vertice finale e conclusivo del testo. E’stato bello abbandonarsi all’evasività della lettura, carezzevole e pigra, ma è stato specialmente faticoso trovare il tempo e la concentrazione necessari a leggere Perec fra le righe e con la dovuta attenzione.
Non ho le competenze tecniche necessarie ad analizzare il romanzo dal punto di vista estetico, figurativo e stilistico, ma credo di aver individuato una sostanziosa quantità di suggerimenti, tecniche di componimento, tendenziosità allo spettacolarismo dei dettagli, che potrebbero tornare utili nell’organizzazione di un testo narrativo, per esempio.
Perec è insieme architetto e portinaio, poeta ed esteta, matematico e pittore. Perchè no, a suo modo un voyeur, e Parigi sullo sfondo la cornice di un’epoca.
Cercando delle immagini dello scrittore da inserire nel post, ho trovato quest’articolo meraviglioso che commenta, dal punto di vista estetico, le opere realizzate da Bartlebooth : Life A User’s Manual – Evening All Afternoon. Non mi permetto di rubare l’originalità delle considerazioni poste dall’autrice a commento delle opere, per questo ve ne consiglio la lettura.
E voi che mi dite, piaciuto?
Chi di voi vorrebbe aggiungere particolari alla descrizione del romanzo? A quali coinquilini vi siete affezionati, quale quadro vi ha suggestionati e impressionati maggiormente.
Volendo prendere a esempio il romanzo e improvvisare un esercizio di scrittura, potremmo anche noi catalogare degli oggetti, e sulla base di un finale, costruire un racconto che li comprenda
Ho per le mani una raccolta di storie, Last Night, a mio parere assai noiosa, dello scrittore americano James Salter. Si tratta di una coincidenza soltanto se avendone aperto a caso una pagina, è venuto fuori questo finale, tratto da Platinum, che recita
‘Tahar made another gesture of slight annoyance. For him, it was only the beginning.’
Non vi nascondo ho spedito all’inesistente indirizzo del palazzo, uno scarabocchio di Londra, realizzato a matita su un foglio A4
Monsieur Gaspard Winckler,
here a view of London I was working on a whole night
in solitude and ecstasy
Cheers from Hyperuranian
A breve posterò il calendario delle altre letture; perchè mattoni, ho considerato i libri più voluminosi da inserire alla fine, in modo da iniziare a leggerli, a poco a poco, già da adesso.
Vada per Il Seno di Philip Ruth, come lettura di febbraio?
Avrei voluto postare qualcosa lo scorso venerdì, in occasione della Giornata della Memoria (la madre di Perec fra le vittime della Shoah), ma sono stata via una settimana e ho avuto poco tempo a disposizione. Dal profondo un pensiero di pace, e un augurio. Che gli orrori del passato non abbiano a ripetersi nel futuro, come già nel presente e, purtroppo, ancora.
Buona Domenica a noi tutti
‘Look with all your eyes, look’
(Jules Verne, Michael Strogoff)
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
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.
“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’
“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
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.
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.
“Lots of artists of my age are stopping – I feel like I am just starting,” he says, in his distinctive north-eastern accent. “In my head, there is always more stuff. Wouldn’t it just be really tedious if a bunch of old guys from my generation all died or fell asleep on the stage? Our primary concern is innovation.”
Quelle volte che penso agli anni del liceo, ho come la sensazione di essermi persa qualcosa; non solo scuola (che marinavo d’abitudine, 3 volte a settimana- almeno), ma forse quel sentimento di partecipazione collettiva, le gite fuori-porta, i bigliettini sotto-banco, i pomeriggi a studiare con le amichette, il tormento delle interrogazioni. Cose così.
Il fatto è che io trovavo noioso andare a scuola, e di gran lunga più divertente trascorrere, da sola, una mattinata al parco, a piedi nudi sull’erba. O al mare, sugli scogli, a leggere dei dolori del giovane Werther, delle bravate di Holden, dei tormenti di madame Bovary, del lupo nella steppa, dei padri e dei figli della rivoluzione russa.
M’è sempre parso una perdita di tempo, andare a scuola.
E poi avevo la pessima abitudine di litigare coi professori. E di starmene in disparte dalla classe. Meglio ancora se fuori, a fumare nei giardinetti del cortiletto vicino la palestra.
Che poi in fondo, ai professori, devo aver fatto pure un favore. Io marinavo scuola, loro non dovevano preoccuparsi di redimermi, o punirmi. Il direttore di sospendermi. E tutti eravamo felici.
C’è un libro, che conservo nella memoria come il ricordo di quegli anni, a cui sono molto affezionata e che se mai mi fosse stato suggerito dalla mia insegnante di italiano (probabilmente) sarebbe valso a farmi amare almeno l’ora di letteratura; l’ho trovato l’altro giorno in libreria e rileggerlo, sebbene in inglese, ha lo stesso potere, come allora anche oggi, di affascinarmi, emozionarmi.
Sapete ci sono scrittori che amano scopare con le parole. Te ne accorgi dalla passione esagerata, quell’orgia sentimentale d’inchiostro nero schizzato sulla carta di getto, al climax del piacere intellettuale.
What is literature è un libro sensuale. E, a mio parere, un capolavoro della critica e della prosa letteraria.La ragione per cui amo leggere Sartre consiste appunto nello stile, elegante, netto, attento, acuto, della scrittura.
In What is Literature, Sartre s’interroga circa il ruolo dello scrittore, impegnato, e della letteratura.
Questo un meraviglioso articolo, estratto dal Corriere della Sera
SARTRE Quel che resta dell’ intellettuale impegnato
Questa, una meravigliosa critica del libro, di Morgan Palmas
1libro1giorno: “Che cos’è la letteratura?” di Jean-Paul Sartre.
Sotto, l’introduzione e una parte del libro, tratta dal capitolo primo
A fine testo, il link tramite cui accedere alla lettura dell’intero volume, e ancora una critica, in inglese, taken from Philosophy Now | a magazine of ideas.
“If you want to engage yourself,” writes a young imbecile, “what are you waiting for? Join the Communist Party.” A great writer who engaged himself often and disengaged himself still more often, but who has forgotten, said to me, “The worst artists are the most engaged. Look at the Soviet painters” An old critic gently complained,”You want to murder literature. Contempt for belles-lettres is spread out insolently all through your review.” A petty mind calls me pigheaded, which for him is evidently the highest insult. An author who barely crawled from one war to the other and whose name sometimes awakens languishing memories in old men accuses me of not being concerned with immortality; he knows, thank God, any number of people whose chief hope it is. In the eyes of an American hack-journalist the trouble with me is that I have not read Bergson or Freud; as for Flaubert, who did not engage himself, it seems that he haunts me like
remorse. Smart-alecks wink at me, “And poetry? And painting? And music? You want to engage them, too?”
And some martial spirits demand, “What’s it all about? Engaged literature? Well, it’s the old socialist realism, unless it’s a revival of populism, only more aggressive.” What nonsense. They read quickly,badly, and pass judgment before they have understood. So let’s begin all over. This doesn’t amuse anyone, neither you nor me. But we have to hit the nail on the head. And since critics condemn me in the name of literature without ever saying what they mean by that, the best answer to give them is to examine the art of writing without prejudice. What is writing? Why does one write? For whom? The fact is, it seems that nobody has ever asked himself these questions.
WHAT IS WRITING?
No, we do not want to “engage” painting, sculpture, and music too, or at least not in the same way. And why would we want to? When a writer of past centuries expressed an opinion about his craft, was his immediately asked to apply it to the other arts? But today it’s the thing to do to “talk painting” in the argot of the musician or the literary man and to “talk literature” in the argot of the painter, as if at bottom there were only one art which expressed itself indifferently in one or the other of these languages, like the Spinozistic substance which is adequately reflected by each of its attributes.
Doubtless, one could find at the origin of every artistic calling a certain undifferentiated choice which circumstances, education, and contact with the world particularized only later. Besides, there is no doubt that the arts of a period mutually influence each other and are conditioned by the same social factors. But those who want to expose the absurdity of a literary theory by showing that it is inapplicable to music must first prove that the arts are parallel.
Now, there is no such parallelism. Here, as everywhere, it is not only the form which differentiates, but the matter as well. And it is one thing to work with color and sound, and another to express oneself by means of words. Notes, colors, and forms are not signs. They refer to nothing exterior to themselves. To be sure, it is quite impossible to reduce them strictly to themselves, and the idea of a pure sound, for example, is an abstraction. As Merleau- Ponty has pointed out in The Phenomenology of Perception, there is no quality of sensation so bare that it is not penetrated with signification. But the dim little meaning which dwells within it, a light joy, a timid sadness, remains immanent or trembles about it like a heat mist; it is color or sound. Who can distinguish the green apple from its tart gaiety? And aren’t we already saying too much in naming “the tart gaiety of the green apple?” There is green, there is red, and that is all. They are things, they exist by themselves.
It is true that one might, by convention, confer the value of signs upon them. Thus, we talk of the language of flowers. But if, after the agreement, white roses signify “fidelity” to me, the fact is that I have stopped seeing them as roses. My attention cuts through them to aim beyond them at this abstract virtue. I forget them. I no longer pay attention to their mossy abundance, to their sweet stagnant odor. I have not even perceived them. That means that I have not behaved like an artist. For the artist, the color, the bouquet, the tinkling of the spoon on the saucer, are things, in the highest degree. He stops
at the quality of the sound or the form. He returns to it constantly and is enchanted with it. It is this color-object that he is going to transfer to his canvas, and the only modification he will make it undergo is that he will transform it into an imaginary object. He is therefore as far as he can be from considering colors and signs as a language.
What is valid for the elements of artistic creation is also valid for their combinations. The painter does not want to create a thing. And if he puts together red, yellow, and green, there is no reason for the ensemble to have a definable signification, that is, to refer particularly to another object. Doubtless this ensemble is also inhabited by a soul, and since there must have been motives, even hidden ones, for the painter to have chosen yellow rather than violet, it may be asserted that the objects thus created reflect his deepest tendencies. However, they never express his anger, his anguish, or his joy as do words or the expression of the face; they are impregnated with these emotions; and in order for them to have crept into these colors, which by themselves already had something like a meaning, his emotions get mixed up and grow obscure. Nobody can quite recognize them there.
Tintoretto did not choose that yellow rift in the sky above Golgotha to signify anguish or to provoke it. It is anguish and yellow sky at the same time. Not sky of anguish or anguished sky; it is an anguish become thing, an anguish which has turned into yellow rift of sky, and which thereby is submerged and impasted by the proper qualities of things, by their impermeability, their extension, their blindpermanence, their externality, and that infinity of relations which they maintain with other things.
That is, it is no longer readable. It is like an immense and vain effort, forever arrested half-way between sky and earth, to express what their nature keeps them from expressing.
Similarly, the signification of a melody if one can still speak of signification is nothing outside of the melody itself, unlike ideas, which can be adequately rendered in several ways. Call it joyous or somber.
It will always be over and above anything you can say about it. Not because its passions, which are perhaps at the origin of the invented theme, have, by being incorporated into notes, undergone a transubstantiation and a transmutation. A cry of grief is a sign of the grief which provokes it, but a song of grief is both grief itself and something other than grief. Or, if one wishes to adopt the existentialist vocabulary, it is a grief which does not exist any more, which is. But, you will say, suppose the painter does houses? That’s just it. He makes them, that is, he creates an imaginary house on the canvas and not a sign of a house. And the house which thus appears preserves all the ambiguity of real houses.
The writer can guide you and, if he describes a hovel, make it seem the symbol of social injustice and provoke your indignation. The painter is mute. He presents you with a hovel, that’s all. You are free to see in it what you like. That attic window will never be the symbol of misery; for that, it would have to be a sign, whereas it is a thing. The bad painter looks for the type. He paints the Arab, the Child, the Woman; the good one knows that neither the Arab nor the proletarian exists either in reality or on his canvas. He offers a workman, a certain workman. And what are we to think about a workman? An infinity of contradictory things. All thoughts and all feelings are there, adhering to the canvas in a state of
profound undifferentiation. It is up to you to choose. Sometimes, high-minded artists try to move us. They paint long lines of workmen waiting in the snow to be hired, the emaciated faces of the unemployed, battle fields. They affect us no more than does Greuze with his “Prodigal Son. 53 And that masterpiece, “The Massacre of Guernica, ‘does any one think that it won over a single heart to the Spanish cause?’ And yet something is said that can never quite be heard and that would take an infinity of words to express. And Picasso’s long harlequins, ambiguous and eternal, haunted with inexplicable meaning, inseparable from their stooping leanness and their pale diamond-shaped tights, are emotion become flesh, emotion which the flesh has absorbed as the blotter absorbs ink, and emotion which is unrecognizable, lost, strange to itself, scattered to the four corners of space and yet present to itself.
I have no doubt that charity or anger can produce other objects, but they will likewise be swallowed up; they will lose their name; there will remain only things haunted by a mysterious soul. One does not paint significations; one does not put them to music. Under these conditions, who would dare require that the painter or musician engage himself?
On the other hand, the writer deals with significations. Still, a distinction must be made. The empire of signs is prose; poetry is on the side of painting, sculpture, and music. I am accused of detesting it; the proof, so they say, is that Les Temps Modernes publishes very few poems.
On the contrary, this is proof that we like it. To be convinced, all one need do is take a look at contemporary production. “At least,critics say triumphantly, “you can’t even dream of engaging it.” Indeed. But why should I want to? Because it uses words as does prose? But it does not use them in the same way, and it does not even use them at all, I should rather say that it serves them. Poets are men who refuse to utilize language. Now, since the quest for truth takes place in and by language conceived as a certain kind of instrument, it is unnecessary to imagine that they aim to discern or expound the true. Nor do they dream of naming the world, and, this being the case, they name nothing at all, for naming implies a perpetual sacrifice of the name to the object named, or, as Hegel would say, the name is revealed as the inessential in the face of the thing which is essential. They do
not speak, neither do they keep still; it is something different. It has been said that they wanted to destroy the “word” by monstrous couplings, but this is false. For then they would have to be thrown into the midst of utilitarian language and would have had to try to retrieve words from it in odd little groups, as for example “horse” and “butter” by writing “horses of butter.”
Besides the fact that such an enterprise would require infinite time, it is not conceivable that one can keep one- self on the plane of the utilitarian project, consider words as instruments, and at the same contemplate taking their instrumentality away from them. In fact, the poet has withdrawn from language-instrument in a single movement. Once and for all he has chosen the poetic attitude which considers words as things and not as signs. For the ambiguity of the sign implies that one can penetrate it at will like a pane of glass and pursue the thing signified, or turn his gaze toward its reality and consider it as an object. The man who talks is beyond words and near the object, whereas the poet is on this side of them. For the former, they are domesticated; for the latter they are in the wild state. For the former, they are useful conventions, tools which gradually wear out and which one throws away when they are no longer serviceable; for the latter, they are natural things which sprout naturally upon the earth like grass and trees.
But if he dwells upon words, as does the painter with colors and the musician with sounds, that does not mean that they have lost all signification in his eyes. Indeed, it is signification alone which can give words their verbal unity. Without it they are frittered away into sounds and strokes of the pen. Only, it too becomes natural. It is no longer the goal which is always out of reach and which human transcendence is always aiming at, but a property of each term, analogous to the expression of a face, to the little sad or gay meaning of sounds and colors. Having flowed into the word, having been absorbed by its sonority
or visual aspect, having been thickened and defaced, it too is a thing, increate and eternal.
For the poet, language is a structure of the external world. The speaker is in a situation in language; he is invested with words. They are prolongations of his meanings, his pincers, his antennae, his eyeglasses. He maneuvers them from within; he feels them as if they were his body; he is surrounded by a verbal body which he is hardly aware of and which extends his action upon the world. The poet is outside of language. He sees words inside out as if he did not share the human condition, and as if he were first meeting the word as a barrier as he comes toward men. Instead of first knowing things by their name, it seems that first he has a silent contact with them, since, turning toward that other species of thing which for him is the word, touching them, testing them, palping them, he discovers in them a slight luminosity of their own and particular affinities with the earth, the sky, the water, and all created things.
Not knowing how to use them as a sign of an aspect of the world, he sees in the word the image of one of these aspects. And the verbal image he chooses for its resemblance to the willow tree or the ash tree is not necessarily the word which we use to designate these objects. As he is already on the outside, he considers words as a trap to catch a fleeing reality rather than as indicators which throw him out of himself into the midst of things. In short, all language is for him the mirror of the world. As a result, important changes take place in the internal economy of the word. Its sonority, its length, its masculine
or feminine endings, its visual aspect, compose for him a face of flesh which represents rather than expresses signification. Inversely, as the signification is realized, the physical aspect of the word is reflected within it, and it, in its turn, functions as an image of the verbal body. Like its sign, too, for it has lost its pre-eminence; since words, like things, are increate, the poet does not decide whether the former exist for the latter or vice-versa.
Taken from ‘What is Literature’, by Jean-Paul Sartre, 1949.
Translated from the French by Bernard Frechtman
via What Is Literature.
Sartre on Literature | Philosophy Now.
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.
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!
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
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”.
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 Sixties began in the summer of 1956,ended in October of 1973 and peaked just before dawn on 1 july,1967 during a set by Tomorrow at the UFO Club in London
detto fatto,Joe Boyd lascia White Bicycles pedalare indietro di quarant’anni per le Swinging streets di una London in piena rivoluzione culturale. Semmai vi chiedeste cosa questo abbia potuto significare, Boyd ve lo racconta e dalle quinte di un piccolo club in Tottenham Court Road; LSD, Psychedelia e Rock,mods hippies hipsters e groupies, Folk and Funk and Blues: The Sixties,folks
Pink Floyd,Soft Machine,The Incredible String Band,John Martin,Fairport Convention,Nick Drake fra gli artisti che Joe Boyd lancia in pista in qualità di produttore discografico e dj; centinaia i concerti organizzati in Inghilterra e America; the Purple Gang,Procol Harum, Pretty Things, Jeff Beck,Ten Years Later, Tomorrow, le bands e i solisti presenti alle serate dell’UFO-Tottenham Court Road palcoscenico di uno spettacolo epocale,la musica si sveste finalmente del pudore,osceno e adolescenziale,degli swinging e si scopre a ballare nuda per strada, più che mai irriverente e smaliziata.
Make love,not riots-avrebbero detto allora
Sotto una parte del libro tratta dal primo capitolo
The Sixties began in the summer of 1956,ended in October of 1973 and peaked just before dawn on 1 july,1967 during a set by Tomorrow at the UFO Club in London.
John Hopkins and I had launched the weekly UFO events at an Irish dance hall in Tottenham Court Road just before Christmas in 1966,and they had quickly become the hub of psychedelic London. BY April,our resident attraction,Pink Floyd,had outgrown us,so I was always on the lookout for new groups. I saw Tomorrow at Blaises one night and thought they were pretty good.When they made their UFO debut on 19 May it was love at first sight between them and our audience. Steve Howe,later to make his name and fortune with Yes, played guitar, while Twink, a key figure in the genesis of punk,was the drummer. I don’t know what became of Junior, the bass player, but his mad-eyed, don’t-give-a-fuck presence in a string vest was a key element in their appeal. Lead singer Keith West had a solo hit that summer with ‘Excerpt From A Teenage Opera,Part 1’(Groger Jack,Groger Jack,please come back…’) and did his best to maintain a pop-star presence while around him the group was morphing into something quite different. ‘My White Bicycle’,a tribute to the free transport provided by Amsterdam’s revolutionary provos, was their new theme song, while Howe’s solos got longer and Twink’s drumming even wilder.
A month or two earlier,I would never have gone to Blaises and Tomorrow would barely have heard of UFO.Everything was accelerating that spring. New drugs,clothes,music and clubs. The psychedelic underground and the pop scene were starting to overlap. UFO crowds were bigger each week, and it was getting hard to maintain the original atmosphere. It was also difficult to ignore the increased attention from the police: the longer the queues, the more customers were getting frisked and busted.
Hoppy ran UFO’s light tower,records between shows,putting on Kurosawa samurai films at 3 a.m. and troubleshooting around the club while I stayed near the entrance and trousered the money. When plainclothes policemen asked to have a look around, I would state our policy: no search warrant, no entry. (There was nothing to prevent them from merging with the crowds and paying their way in,of course UFO’s ads often touted a ‘spot the fuzz’ competitions). As for Mr Gannon, our landlord at the Blarney Club, he felt the case of whiskey delivered to Goodge Street police station every Christmas should take care of them well enough.
A few weeks before Tomorrow’s return visit on 30 June, a uniformed bobby turned up, asking to be allowed in the collect clothes left behind by a man being held in custody. This made sense: half and hour earlier, a naked guy had bolted past me up the stairs and disappeared into the night. Hoppy and I agreed that an exception could be made, so I told the audience we were going to let the fuzz in to look for the clothes and turn on the overhead lights (murmurs and booing). As the crowd spread out in a wide circle, some garments could be seen scattered around the floor. The young bobby seemed to blush as he glanced at the crowd, a vivid cross-section of ‘London Freak’ circa May 1967: long hair on the boys,flowered dresses on the girls,Arabian or Indian shirts,a few kaftans,jeans,even a few white shirts and khaki slacks. Many were tripping; most were laughing or grinning.
The laughter grew as it became clear that the bobby’s hastily gathered armful contained more than was required to make his prisoner decent: two or three pairs of underpants (gender undetermined), a couple of shirts, a bra,several socks,etc. As he made his way to the door, the working class constable regarded us with amazement, not hatred. We, in turn,regretted that he could not grasp why we took drugs and danced in the lights,lived for the moment and regarded our fellow man with benign tolerance, even love. That was the theory, anyway. Tested, it would come undone in the ensuing years, even as the bobby’s mates donned kaftans, rolled joins and joined the crows at festivals.
The first man I knew to take hallucinogens was Eric Von Schmidts.Mailorder packages of peyote buds from Moore’s Orchid Farm in Texas arrived periodically at the Von Schmidt apartment near Harvard Square. He would cook them up in a pot and invite friends over to drink the soup. They would stack some LPs on the record player-Ali Akbar Khan, Lord Buckley,Chopin, the Swan Silverstones, Lightning Hopkins-then drink the potion and try not to be sick. If you couldn’t keep it down you weren’t, in Eric’s view,calm enough (‘centred’had not yet been used in this context) to deserve the high. It was an experience meant for an intellectual and spiritual elite, not the masses (although he certainly would have never put it in that way).
The market is too efficient, of course,to limit transcendence to people who can stomach peyote. Down the street from Eric’s flat in 1962 was the laboratory of Professor Timothy Leary, who advertised in the Harvard Crimson for volunteers to take LSD at a dollar an hour and was determined to become the Johnny Appleseed of hallucinogens. By 1967, pure, powerful LSD tabs were still available while adulterated, amphetamine-laced concoctions were starting to be widely distributed. Few bothered about how elevated the experience might be.
In June that year, a New of the world reporter tipped off Scotland Yard about a ‘drugs-and-sex’ at Keith Richards’place and was rewarded with a ringside seat at the raid. It has become the stuff of legend: Mars bars threesome, Marianne Faithfull naked under a fur rug,etc..a symbol of out-of-control decadence. The media stopped winking and grinning about “Swinging London” and started wallowing in horror stories about teenagers being led astray. Sgt Pepper was the world’s soundtrack that month and powerful Establishment figures were horrified by the implications of influential pop stars’ open fondness for drugs.
Taken From White Bicycles,by Joe Boyd,2006
Joe Boyd – Record Producer/Writer.
(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
Life itself is not the reality. We are the ones who put life into stones and pebbles.
Il potente fascino che esercita la fotografia è intrinseco alla morbosità di ciascuno suscettibile all’estetica del bello,romantico e decadente.Quanto più una fotografia dettagliata nelle intenzioni del fotografo,tanto più questa susciterà in noi il sospetto di un’emozione antica, legata a una remota convinzione del Sublime. Un meravigliso saggio che sto leggendo,On Photography,del 1977,della scrittrice newyorkese Susan Sontag,positive feminist,attivista politica,morta nel 2004, è altamente godibile,a mio parere,non solo per l’analisi che la Sontag fa della fotografia dal punto di vista analitico ed estetico,morale e filosofico,ma anche,se non soprattutto,per l’eleganza della prosa sottilmente provocatoria,le incredibili intuizioni frasali d’irriverenza fulminea e la ricercatezza e insieme limpidezza del vocabolario, volutamente accurato e puntiglioso.
Questo il sito in suo onore dove trovare articoli e biografia della scrittrice
Sotto una parte del testo tratto dal capitolo primo- In Plato’s Cave
Recently, photography has become almost as widely practiced an amusement as sex and dancing – which means that, like every mass art form, photography is not practiced by most people as an art. it is mainly a social rite, a defense against anxiety, and a tool of power.
Memorializing the achievement of individuals considered as members of families (as well as of other groups), is the earliest popular use of photography. For at least a century, the wedding photograph has been as much a part of the ceremony as the prescribed verbal formulas. Cameras go with family life. According to a sociological study done in France, most households have a camera, but a household with children is twice as likely to have at least one camera as a household in which there are no children. Not to take pictures of one’s children, particularly when they are small, is a sign on parental indifference, just as not turning up for one’s graduation picture is a gesture of adolescent rebellion.
Through photographs, each family constructs as portrait-chronicle of itself – a portable kit of images that bears witness to its connectedness. It hardly matters what activities are photographed so long as photographs get taken and are cherished. Photography becomes a rite of family life just when, in the industrializing counties of Europe and America, the very institution of the family starts undergoing radical surgery. At that claustrophobic unit, the nuclear family, was being carved out of a much larger family aggregate, photography came along to memorialize, to restate symbolically, the imperiled continuity and vanishing extendedness of family life. Those ghostly traces, photographs, supply the token presence of the dispersed relatives. A family’s photograph album is generally about the extended family – and, often, is all the remains of it.
As photographs give people an imaginary possession of a past that is unreal, they also help people to take possession of space in which they are insecure. Thus, photography develops in tandem with one of the most characteristic of modern activities: tourism. For the first time in history, large numbers of people regularly travel out of their habitual environments for short periods of time. It seems positively unnatural to travel for pleasure without taking a camera along. Photographs will offer indisputable evidence that the trip was made, that the program was carried out, that fun was had. Photographs document sequences of consumption carried on outside the view of family, friends, neighbors. But dependence on the camera, as the device that makes real what one is experiencing, doesn’t fade when people travel more. Taking photographs fills the same need for the cosmopolitans accumulating photograph-trophies of their boat trip up the Albert Nile or their fourteen days in China as it does for lower-middle-class vacationers taking snapshots of Eiffel Tower or Niagara Falls.
A way of certifying experience, taking photographs is also a way of refusing it – by limiting experience to a search for the photogenic, by converting experience in an image, a souvenir. Travel becomes a strategy for accumulating photographs. The very activity of taking pictures is soothing, and assuages general feelings of disorientation that are likely to be exacerbated by travel. Most tourists feel compelled to put the camera between themselves and whatever is remarkable that they encounter. Unsure of other responses, they take a picture. This gives shape to experience: stop, take a photograph, and move on. The method especially appeals to people handicapped by a ruthless work ethic – Germans, Japanese, and Americans. Using a camera appeases the anxiety which the work-driven feel about not working when they are on vacation and supposed to be having fun. They have something to do that is like a friendly imitation of work: they can take pictures.
People robbed of their past seem to make the most fervent picture takers, at home and abroad. Everyone who lives in an industrialized society is obliged gradually to give up the past, but in certain countries, such as the United States and Japan, the break with the past has been particularly traumatic. In the early 1970s, the fable of the brash American tourist of the 1950s and 1960s, rich with dollars and Babbittry, was replaced by the mystery of the group-minded Japanese tourist, newly released from his island prison by the miracle of overvalued yen, who is generally armed with two cameras, one on each hip.
Photography has become one of the principal devices for experiencing something, for giving an appearance of participation. One full-page ad shows a small group of people standing pressed together, peering out of the photograph, all but one looking stunned, excited, upset. The one who wears a different expression holds a camera to his eye; he seems self-possessed, is almost smiling. While the others are passive, clearly alarmed spectators, having a camera has transformed one person into something active, a voyeur: only he has mastered the situation. What do these people see? We don’t know. And it doesn’t matter. It is an Event: something worth seeing – and therefore worth photographing. The ad copy, whit letters across the dark lower third of the photograph like news coming over a teletype machine, consists of just six words: “. . . Prague . . . Woodstock . . . Vietnam . . . Sapporo . . . Londonderry . . . LEICA.” Crushed hopes, youth antics, colonial wars, and winter sports are alike – are equalized by the camera. Taking photographs has set up a chronic voyeuristic relation to the world which levels the meaning of all events.
A photograph is not just the result of an encounter between an event and a photographer; picture-taking is an event in itself, and one with ever more peremptory rights – to interfere with, to invade, or to ignore whatever is going on. Our very sense of situation is now articulated by the camera’s interventions. The omnipresence of cameras persuasively suggests that time consists of interesting events, events worth photographing. This, in turn, makes it easy to feel that any event, once underway, and whatever its moral character, should be allowed to complete itself – so that something else can be brought into the world, the photograph. After the event has ended, the picture will still exist, conferring on the event a kind of immortality (and importance) it would never otherwise have enjoyed. While real people are out there killing themselves or other real people, the photographer stays behind his or her camera, creating a tiny element of another world: the images-world that bids to outlast us all.
Photographing is essentially an act of non-intervention. Part of the horror of such memorable coups of contemporary photojournalism as the pictures of a Vietramese bonze reaching for the gasoline can, of a Begnali guerrilla in the act of bayoneting a trussed-up collaborator, comes from the awareness of how plausible it has become, in situations where the photographer has the choice between a photograph and a life, to choose the photograph. The person who intervenes cannot record; the person who is recording cannot intervene. Dziga Vertov’s great film, Man with a Movie Camera (1929), gives the ideal image of the photographer as someone in perpetual movement, someone moving through a panorama of disparate events with such agility and speed that any intervention is out of question. Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954) gives the complementary image: the photographer played by James Stewart has an intensified relation to one event, through his camera, precisely because he has a broken leg. And is confined to a wheelchair; being temporarily immobilized prevents him from acting on what he sees, and makes it even more important to take pictures. Even if incompatible with intervention in a physical sense, using a camera is still a form of participation. Although the camera in an observation station, the act of photographing is more that passive observing. Like sexual voyeurism, it is a way of at least tacitly, often explicitly, encouraging whatever is going on to keep on happening. To take a picture is to have n interest in things as they are, in the status quo remaining unchanged (at least for as long as it takes to get a “good” picture), to be in complicity with whatever makes a subject interesting, worth photographing – including, when that is the interest, another person’s pain or misfortune.
The industrialization of photography permitted its rapid absorption into rational-that is, bureaucratic-ways of running society.No longer toy images, photographs became part of the general furniture of the environment – touchstones and confirmations of that reductive approach to reality which is considered realistic. Photographs were enrolled in the service of important institution of control,notably the family and the police, as symbolic objects and as pieces of information.Thus, in the bureaucratic cataloguing of the world,many important documents are not valid unless they have,affixed to them,a photograph-token of the citizen’s face.
The “realistic” view of the world compatible with bureaucracy redefines knowledge- as techniques and information. Photographs are valued because they give information. They tell one what there is; they make an inventory. To spies, meteorologists, coroners, archeologists, and other information professionals,their value is inestimable. But in the situation in which most people use photographs,the value as information is of the same order as fiction. The information that photographs can give starts to seem very important at that moment in cultural history when everyone is thought to have a right to something called news. Photographs were seen as a way of giving information to people who do not take easily to reading. The Daily News still calls itself “New York’s Picture Newspaper”, its bid for populist identity. At the opposite end of the scale, Le Monde, a newspaper designed for skilled, well-informed readers, runs no photography at all. The presumption is that, for such readers, a photograph could only illustrate the analysis contained in n article.
A new sense of the notion of information has been constructed around the photographic image. The photograph is a thin slice of space as well as time. In a world ruled by photographic images, all borders (“framing”) seem arbitrary. Anything can be separated, can be made discontinuous, from anything else all that is necessary is to frame the subject differently ( Conversely,anything can be made adjacent to anything else. Photography reinforces a nominalist view of social reality as consisting of small units of an apparently infinite number- as the number of photographs that could be taken of anything is unlimited. Through photographs, the world becomes a series of unrelated, freestanding particles; and history, past and present, a set of anecdotes and faits divers. The camera makes reality atomic, manageable, and opaque. It is a view of the world which denies interconnectedness, continuity, but which confers on each moment the character of a mystery. Any photograph has multiple meanings, indeed, to see something in the form of a photograph is to encounter a potential object of fascination. The ultimate wisdom of the photograph image is to say: “There is surface. Now think- or rather feel, intuit- what is beyond it, what the reality must be like if it looks this way.” Photographs, which cannot themselves explain anything, are inexhaustible invitations to deduction, speculation, and fantasy.
Photography implies that we know about the world if we accept it as camera records it. But this is the opposite of understanding, which starts from not accepting the world as it looks. All possibility of understanding is rooted in the ability to say no. Strictly speaking, one never understands anything from a photograph. Of course, photographs fill in blanks in our mental pictures of the present and the past: for example, Jacob Riis’s images of New York squalor in the 1880s are sharply instructive to those unaware that urban poverty in late-nineteenth- century America was really that Dickensian. Nevertheless, the camera’s rendering of reality must always hide more than it discloses. As Brecht points out, a photograph of the Krupp works reveals virtually nothing about that organization. In contrast to the amorous relation, which is based on how it functions. And functioning takes place in time, and must be explained in time. Only that which narrates can make us understand.
The limit of photographic knowledge of the world is that, while it can goad conscience, it can, finally, never be ethical or political knowledge. The knowledge gained through still photographs will always be some kind of sentimentalism, whenever cynical or humanist. It will be a knowledge at bargains prices- a semblance of knowledge, a semblance of wisdom; as the act of taking pictures is a semblance of appropriation, a semblance of rape. The very muteness of what is, hypothetically, comprehensive in photographs is what constitute their attraction and provocativeness. The omnipresence of photographs has an incalculable effect on our ethical sensibility. By furnishing this already crowded world whit a duplicate one of images, photography makes us feel that the world is more available than it really is.
Needing to ha reality confirmed and experience enhanced by photographs is an aesthetic consumerism to which everyone is now addicted. Industrial societies turn their citizens into image-junkies; it is the most irresistible form of mental pollution. Poignant longings for beauty, for an end to probing below the surface, for a redemption and celebration of the body of the world- all these elements of erotic feeling are affirmed in the pleasure we take in photographs. But other, less liberating feelings are expressed as well. It would not be wrong to speak of people having a compulsion to photograph: to turn experience itself into a way of seeing. Ultimately, having an experience becomes identical with taking a photograph of it, and participating in a public event comes more and more equivalent to looking at it in photographed form. That most logical of nineteenth-century aesthetes, Mallarmè, said that everything in the world exists in order to end in a book. Today everything exists to end in a photograph.
Taken from “On Photography”by Susan Sontag,1977
Jacob August Riis (May 3, 1849 – May 26, 1914),Danish American social reformer, “muckraking” journalist and social documentary photographer (New York based photographer)
Risale al 1748 un romanzo di John Cleland (scrittore inglese nato nel 1709),stampato a Londra da Thomas Parker per volere dell’editore Ralph Griffiths(sotto lo pseudonimo di G. Fenton),che valse allo scrittore,allo stampatore e all’editore,un mandato d’arresto con l’accusa di oscenità.Il libro,”Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure“,conosciuto anche come “Fanny Hill”,fece scalpore e scandalo per i contenuti espliciti in riferimento alla vita sessuale di Miss Fanny Hill,nobildonna londinese che racconta dei propri amanti e delle scorribande sessuali che vivacizzano lo scenario dell’allora società inglese,a quei tempi in pieno boom industriale.
John Cleland,figlio dello scrittore e ufficiale delle armi William Cleland,scrisse il romanzo durante un periodo di prigionia durato un anno e incorso per truffa.Una prima parte del romanzo venne pubblicata nel novembre del 1748,una seconda appena nel febbraio del 1749.
Accusato di oscenità,John Cleland smentì la paternità del romanzo e il libro venne ritirato;benchè ne fu vietata la pubblicazione,il romanzo venne comunque stampato in edizioni pirata e arricchito di nuovi e aggiuntivi episodi di richiamo all’omosessualità e alla sodomia.A seguito di questo,John Cleland scrisse una nuova versione del romanzo,nel marzo del 1750,omessa dei contenuti scandalistici,ma il libro venne comunque e nuovamente bannato e la vendita proibita.
Ciò nonostante,il libro continuò a essere pubblicato segretamente e arricchito di illustrazioni;la versione francese,contiene quelle del famoso pittore e illustratore Édouard-Henri Avril,meglio conosciuto come Paul Avril(1843-1928).
A seguire una parte del libro,la quinta
And why should I here suppress the delight I received from this amiable creature, in remarking each artless look, each motion of pure undissembled nature, betrayed by his wanton eyes; or shewing, transparently, the glow and suffusion of blood through his fresh, clear skin, whilst even his sturdy rustic pressures wanted not their peculiar charm? Oh! but, say you, this was a young fellow of too low a rank of life to deserve so great a display. May be so: but was my condition, strictly consider’d one jot more exalted? or, had I really been much above him, did not his capacity of giving such exquisite pleasure sufficiently raise and ennoble him, to me, at least? Let who would, for me, cherish, respect, and reward the painter’s, the statuary’s, the musician’s arts, in proportion to delight taken in them: but at my age, and with my taste for pleasure, a taste strongly constitutional to me, the talent of pleasing, with which nature has endowed a handsome person, form’d to me the greatest of all merits; compared to which, the vulgar prejudices in favor of titles, dignities, honors, and the like, held a very low rank indeed. Nor perhaps would the beauties of the body be so much affected to be held cheap, were they, in their nature, to be bought and delivered. But for me, whose natural philosophy all resided in the favorite center of sense, and who was rul’d by its powerful instinct in taking pleasure by its right handle, I could scarce have made a choice more to my purpose.
Mr. H . . .’s loftier qualifications of birth, fortune and sense laid me under a sort of subjection and constraint that were far from making harmony in the concert of love, nor had he, perhaps, thought me worth softening that superiority to; but, with this lad, I was more on that level which love delights in.
We may say what we please, but those we can be the easiest and freest with are ever those we like, not to say love, the best.
With this stripling, all whose art of love was the action of it, I could, without check of awe or restraint, give a loose to joy, and execute every scheme of dalliance my fond fancy might put me on, in which he was, in every sense, a most exquisite companion. And now my great pleasure lay in humoring all the petulances, all the wanton frolic of a raw novice just fleshed, and keen on the burning scent of his game, but unbroken to the sport: and, to carry on the figure, who could better TREAD THE WOOD than he, or stand fairer for the HEART OF THE HUNT?
He advanc’d then to my bed-side, and whilst he faltered out his message, I could observe his color rise, and his eyes lighten with joy, in seeing me in a situation as favorable to his loosest wishes as if he had bespoke the play.
I smiled, and put out my hand towards him, which he kneeled down to (a politeness taught him by love alone, that great master of it) and greedily kiss’d. After exchanging a few confused questions and answers, I ask’d him if he would come to bed to me, for the little time I could venture to detain him. This was just asking a person, dying with hunger, to feast upon the dish on earth the most to his palate. Accordingly, without further reflection, his cloaths were off in an instant; when, blushing still more at his new liberty, he got under the bed-cloaths I held up to receive him, and was now in bed with a woman for the first time in his life.
Here began the usual tender preliminaries, as delicious, perhaps, as the crowning act of enjoyment itself; which they often beget an impatience of, that makes pleasure destructive of itself, by hurrying on the final period, and closing that scene of bliss, in which the actors are generally too well pleas’d with their parts not to wish them an eternity of duration.
When we had sufficiently graduated our advances towards the main point, by toying, kissing, clipping, feeling my breasts, now round and plump, feeling that part of me I might call a furnace-mouth, from the prodigious intense heat his fiery touches had rekindled there, my young sportsman, embolden’d by every freedom he could wish, wantonly takes my hand, and carries it to that enormous machine of his, that stood with a stiffness! a hardness! an upward bent of erection! and which, together with its bottom dependence, the inestimable bulge of lady’s jewels, formed a grand show out of goods indeed! Then its dimensions, mocking either grasp or span, almost renew’d my terrors.
I could not conceive how, or by what means I could take, or put such a bulk out of sight. I stroked it gently, on which the mutinous rogue seemed to swell, and gather a new degree of fierceness and insolence; so that finding it grew not to be trifled with any longer, I prepar’d for rubbers in good earnest.
Slipping then a pillow under me, that I might give him the fairest play, I guided officiously with my hand this furious battering ram, whose ruby head, presenting nearest the resemblance of a heart, I applied to its proper mark, which lay as finely elevated as we could wish; my hips being borne up, and my thighs at their utmost extension, the gleamy warmth that shot from it made him feel that he was at the mouth of the indraught, and driving foreright, the powerfully divided lips of that pleasure-thirsty channel receiv’d him. He hesitated a little; then, settled well in the passage, he makes his way up the straits of it, with a difficulty nothing more than pleasing, widening as he went, so as to distend and smooth each soft furrow: our pleasure increasing deliciously, in proportion as our points of mutual touch increas’d in that so vital part of me in which I had now taken him, all indriven, and completely sheathed; and which, crammed as it was, stretched, splitting ripe, gave it so gratefully strait an accommodation! so strict a fold! a suction so fierce! that gave and took unutterable delight. We had now reach’d the closest point of union; but when he backened to come on the fiercer, as if I had been actuated by a fear of losing him, in the height of my fury I twisted my legs round his naked loins, the flesh of which, so firm, so springy to the touch, quiver’d again under the pressure; and now I had him every way encircled and begirt; and having drawn him home to me, I kept him fast there, as if I had sought to unite bodies with him at that point. This bred a pause of action, a pleasure stop, whilst that delicate glutton, my nethermouth, as full as it could hold, kept palating, with exquisite relish, the morsel that so deliciously ingorged it. But nature could not long endure a pleasure that so highly provoked without satisfying it: pursuing then its darling end, the battery recommenc’d with redoubled exertion; nor lay I inactive on my side, but encountering him with all the impetuosity of motion but encountering him with all the impetuosity of motion I was mistress of. The downy cloth of our meeting mounts was now of real use to break the violence of the tilt; and soon, too soon indeed! the highwrought agitation, the sweet urgency of this to-and-fro friction, raised the titillation on me to its height; so that finding myself on the point of going, and loath to leave the tender partner of my joys behind me, I employed all the forwarding motions and arts my experience suggested to me, to promote his keeping me company to our journey’s end. I not only then tighten’d the pleasure-girth round my restless inmate by a secret spring of friction and compression that obeys the will in those parts, but stole my hand softly to that store bag of nature’s prime sweets, which is so pleasingly attach’d to its conduit pipe, from which we receive them; there feeling, and most gently indeed, squeezing those tender globular reservoirs; the magic touch took instant effect, quicken’d, and brought on upon the spur the symptoms of that sweet agony, the melting moment of dissolution, when pleasure dies by pleasure, and the mysterious engine of it overcomes the titillation it has rais’d in those parts, by plying them with the stream of a warm liquid that is itself the highest of all titillations, and which they thirstily express and draw in like the hotnatured leach, which to cool itself, tenaciously attracts all the moisture within its sphere of exsuction. Chiming then to me, with exquisite consent, as I melted away, his oily balsamic injection, mixing deliciously with the sluices in flow from me, sheath’d and blunted all the stings of pleasure, it flung us into an extasy that extended us fainting, breathless, entranced. Thus we lay, whilst a voluptuous languor possest, and still maintain’d us motionless and fast locked in one another’s arms. Alas! that these delights should be no longer-lived! for now the point of pleasure, unedged by enjoyment, and all the brisk sensations flatten’d upon us, resigned us up to the cool cares of insipid life. Disengaging myself then from his embrace, I made him sensible of the reasons there were for his present leaving me; on which, though reluctantly, he put on his cloaths with as little expedition, however, as he could help, wantonly interrupting himself, between whiles, with kisses, touches and embraces I could not refuse myself to. Yet he happily return’d to his master before he was missed; but, at taking leave, I forc’d him (for he had sentiments enough to refuse it) to receive money enough to buy a silver watch, that great article of subaltern finery, which he at length accepted of, as a remembrance he was carefully to preserve of my affections.
And here, Madam, I ought, perhaps, to make you an apology for this minute detail of things, that dwelt so strongly upon my memory, after so deep an impression: but, besides that this intrigue bred one great revolution in my life, which historical truth requires I should not sink from you, may I not presume that so exalted a pleasure ought not to be ungratefully forgotten, or suppress’d by me, because I found it in a character in low life; where, by the bye, it is oftener met with, purer, and more unsophisticate, that among the false, ridiculous refinements with which the great suffer themselves to be so grossly cheated by their pride: the great! than whom there exist few amongst those they call the vulgar, who are more ignorant of, or who cultivate less, the art of living than they do; they, I say, who for ever mistake things the most foreign of the nature of pleasure itself; whose capital favourite object is enjoyment of beauty, wherever that rare invaluable gift is found, without distinction of birth, or station.
As love never had, so now revenge had no longer any share in my commerce with this handsome youth. The sole pleasures of enjoyment were now the link I held to him by: for though nature had done such great matters for him in his outward form, and especially in that superb piece of furniture she had so liberally enrich’d him with; though he was thus qualify’d to give the senses their richest feast, still there was something more wanting to create in me, and constitute the passion of love. Yet Will had very good qualities too; gentle, tractable, and, above all, grateful; close, and secret, even to a fault: he spoke, at any time, very little, but made it up emphatically with action; and, to do him justice, he never gave me the least reason to complain, either of any tendency to encroach upon me for the liberties I allow’d him, or of his indiscretion in blabbing them. There is, then, a fatality in love, or have loved him I must; for he was really a treasure, a bit for the BONNE BOUCHE of a duchess; and, to say the truth, my liking for him was so extreme, that it was distinguishing very nicely to deny that I loved him.
My happiness, however, with him did not last long, but found an end from my own imprudent neglect. After having taken even superfluous precautions against a discovery, our success in repeated meetings embolden’d me to omit the barely necessary ones. About a month after our first intercourse, one fatal morning (the season Mr. H . . . rarely or never visited me in) I was in my closet, where my toilet stood, in nothing but my shift, a bed gown and under-petticoat. Will was with me, and both ever too well disposed to baulk an opportunity. For my part, a warm whim, a wanton toy had just taken me, and I had challeng’d my man to execute it on the spot, who hesitated not to comply with my humour: I was set in the arm-chair, my shift and petticoat up, my thighs wide spread and mounted over the arms of the chair, presenting the fairest mark to Will’s drawn weapon, which he stood in act to plunge into me; when, having neglected to secure the chamber door, and that of the closet standing a-jar, Mr. H . . . stole in upon us before either of us was aware, and saw us precisely in these convicting attitudes.
I gave a great scream, and drop’d my petticoat: the thunder-struck lad stood trembling and pale, waiting his sentence of death. Mr. H . . . looked sometimes at one, sometimes at the other, with a mixture of indignation and scorn; and, without saying a word, turn’d upon his heel and went out.
As confused as I was, I heard him very distinctly turn the key, and lock the chamber-door upon us, so that there was no escape but through the dining-room, where he himself was walking about with distempered strides, stamping in a great chafe, and doubtless debating what he would do with us.
In the mean time, poor William was frightened out of his senses, and, as much need as I had of spirits to support myself, I was obliged to employ them all to keep his a little up. The misfortune I had now brought upon him, endear’d him the more to me, and I could have joyfully suffered any punishment he had not shared in. I water’d, plentifully, with my tears, the face of the frightened youth, who sat, not having strength to stand, as cold and as lifeless as a statue.
Presently Mr. H . . . comes in to us again, and made us go before him into the dining-room, trembling and dreading the issue. Mr. H . . . sat down on a chair whilst we stood like criminals under examination; and beginning with me, ask’d me, with an even firm tone of voice, neither soft nor severe, but cruelly indifferent, what I could say for myself, for having abused him in so unworthy a manner, with his own servant too, and how he had deserv’d this of me?
Without adding to the guilt of my infidelity that of an audacious defence of it, in the old style of a common kept Miss, my answer was modest, and often interrupted by my tears, in substance as follows: that I never had a single thought of wronging him (which was true), till I had seen him taking the last liberties with my servant-wench (here he colour’d prodigiously), and that my resentment at that, which I was over-awed from giving vent to by complaints, or explanations with him, had driven me to a course that I did not pretend to justify; but that as to the young man, he was entirely faultless; for that, in the view of making him the instrument of my revenge, I had down-right seduced him to what he had done; and therefore hoped, whatever he determined about me, he would distinguish between the guilty and the innocent; and that, for the rest, I was entirely at his mercy.
Mr. H . . ., on hearing what I said, hung his head a little; but instantly recovering himself, he said to me, as near as I can retain, to the following purpose:
“Madam, I owe shame to myself, and confess you have fairly turn’d the tables upon me. It is not with one of your cast of breeding and sentiments that I should enter into a discussion of the very great difference of the provocations: be it sufficient that I allow you so much reason on your side, as to have changed my resolutions, in consideration of what you reproach me with; and I own, too, that your clearing that rascal there, is fair and honest in you. Renew with you I cannot: the affront is too gross. I give you a week’s warning to go out of these lodgings; whatever I have given you, remains to you; and as I never intend to see you more, the landlord will pay you fifty pieces on my account, with which, and every debt paid, I hope you will own I do not leave you in a worse condition than what I took you up in, or than you deserve of me. Blame yourself only that it is no better.” Then, without giving me time to reply, he address’d himself to the young fellow:
“For you, spark, I shall, for your father’s sake, take care of you: the town is no place for such an easy fool as thou art; and to-morrow you shall set out, under the charge of one of my men, well recommended, in my name, to your father, not to let you return and be spoil’d here.”
At these words he went out, after my vainly attempting to stop him by throwing myself at his feet. He shook me off, though he seemed greatly mov’d too, and took Will away with him, who, I dare swear, thought himself very cheaply off.
I was now once more a-drift, and left upon my own hands, by a gentleman whom I certainly did not deserve. And all the letters, arts, friends’ entreaties that I employed within the week of grace in my lodging, could never win on him so much as to see me again. He had irrevocably pornounc’d my doom, and submission to it was my only part. Soon after he married a lady of birth and fortune, to whom, I have heard, he prov’d an irreproachable husband.
As for poor Will, he was immediately sent down to the country to his father, who was an easy farmer, where he was not four months before and inn-keeper’s buxom young widow, with a very good stock, both in money and trade, fancy’d, and perhaps pre-acquainted with his secret excellencies, marry’d him: and I am sure there was, at least, one good foundation for their living happily together.
Though I should have been charm’d to see him before he went, such measures were taken, by Mr. H . . .’s orders, that it was impossible; otherwise I should certainly have endeavour’d to detain him in town, and would have spared neither offers nor expence to have procured myself the satisfaction of keeping him with me. He had such powerful holds upon my inclinations as were not easily to be shaken off, or replaced; as to my heart, it was quite out of the question: glad, however, I was from my soul, that nothing worse, and as things turn’d out, probably nothing better could have happened to him.
As to Mr. H . . ., though views of conveniency made me, at first, exert myself to regain his affection, I was giddy and thoughtless enough to be much easier reconcil’d to my failure than I ought to have been; but as I never had lov’d him, and his leaving me gave me a sort of liberty that I had often long’d for, I was soon comforted; and flattering myself that the stock of youth and beauty I was going into trade with could hardly fail of procuring me a maintenance, I saw myself under a necessity of trying my fortune with them, rather, with pleasure and gaiety, than with the least idea of despondency.
In the mean time, several of my acquaintances among the sisterhood, who had soon got wind of my misfortune, flocked to insult me with their malicious consolations. Most of them had long envied me the affluence and splendour I had been maintain’d in; and though there was scarce one of them that did not at least deserve to be in my case, and would probably, sooner or later, come to it, it was equally easy to remark, even in their affected pity, their secret pleasure at seeing me thus disgrac’d and discarded, and their secret grief that it was no worse with me. Unaccountable malice of the human heart! and which is not confin’d to the class of life they were of.
But as the time approached for me to come to some resolution how to dispose of myself, and I was considering round where to shift my quarters to, Mrs. Cole, a middleaged discreet sort of woman, who had been brought into my acquaintance by one at the Misses that visited me, upon learning my situation, came to offer her cordial advice and service to me; and as I had always taken to her more than to any of my female acquaintances, I listened the easier to her proposals. And, as it happened, I could not have put myself into worse, or into better hands in all London: into worse, because keeping a house of conveniency, there were no lengths in lewdness she would not advise me to go, in compliance with her customers; no schemes of pleasure, or even unbounded debauchery, she did not take even a delight in promoting: into a better, because nobody having had more experience of the wicked part of the town than she had, was fitter to advise and guard one against the worst dangers of our profession; and what was rare to be met with in those of her’s, she contented herself with a moderate living profit upon her industry and good offices, and had nothing of their greedy rapacious turn. She was really too a gentlewoman born and bred, but through a train of accidents reduc’d to this course, which she pursued, partly through necessity, partly through choice, as never woman delighted more in encouraging a brisk circulation of trade for the sake of the trade itself, or better understood all the mysteries and refinements of it, than she did; so that she was consummately at the top of her profession, and dealt only with customers of distinction: to answer the demands of whom she kept a competent number of her daughters in constant recruit (so she call’d those whom by her means, and through her tuition and instructions, succeeded very well in the world).
This useful gentlewoman upon whose protection I now threw myself, having her reasons of state, respecting Mr. H . . ., for not appearing too much in the thing herself, sent a friend of her’s, on the day appointed for my removal, to conduct me to my new lodgings at a brushmaker’s in R*** street, Covent Garden, the very next door to her own house, where she had no conveniences to lodge me herself: lodgings that, by having been for several successions tenanted by ladies of pleasure, the landlord of them was familiarized to their ways; and provided the rent was duly paid, every thing else was as easy and commodious as one could desire.
The fifty guineas promis’d me by Mr. H . . ., at his parting with me, having been duly paid me, all my cloaths and moveables chested up, which were at least of two hundred pound’s value, I had them convey’d into a coach, where I soon followed them, after taking a civil leave of the landlord and his family, with whom I had never liv’d in a degree of familiarity enough to regret the removal; but still, the very circumstance of its being a removal drew tears from me. I left, too, a letter of thanks for Mr. H . . ., from whom I concluded myself, as I really was, irretrievably separated.
My maid I had discharged the day before, not only because I had her of Mr. H . . ., but that I suspected her of having some how or other been the occasion of his discovering me, in revenge, perhaps, for my not having trusted her with him.
We soon got to my lodgings, which, though not so handsomely furnish’d nor so showy as those I left, were to the full as convenient, and at half price, though on the first floor. My trunks were safely landed, and stow’d in my apartments, where my neighbour, and now gouvernante, Mrs. Cole, was ready with my landlord to receive me, to whom she took care to set me out in the most favourable light, that of one from whom there was the clearest reason to expect the regular payment of his rent: all the cardinal virtues attributed to me would not have had half the weight of that recommendation alone.
I was now settled in lodgings of my own, abandon’d to my own conduct, and turned loose upon the town, to sink or swim, as I could manage with the current of it; and what were the consequences, together with the number of adventures which befell me in the exercise of my new profession, will compose the matter of another letter: for surely it is high time to put a period to this.