I forgot to tell something important about Tours: I'm happy here. I take great pleasure in simple things, like going to IKEA and the supermarket, and buying all kind of items that please me. Every simple acquisition gives me joy, that profoundly human joy of possession. I feel so very much attached to my things. Clothes, books, little stationary items. I wouldn't give any of my books to the library now.
The Tribal Wife spent a month among the natives, and another problem is removed from her mind. She saw things, got shocked and shaken, reflected. Curiously, I miss Lisbon now; I look back into my Tribal Wife's adventure there, and I cherish a kind of ethnic shawl in red, blue and violet I'd bought in the Mouraria, the shawl that covered me in the Portuguese national library across the last winter. Now I have a new item, an ivory coloured sweater in very soft polyester knitwear. It's quite a common material, it must have a specialised name, but I have no idea how it might be called. Chenille yarn, as far as I could find it on Google.
My life is so full of everything, since I left Warsaw, it starts to be more than a year ago now. So many travels, so many experiences, so much work started and done. So many new items to put in my CV. I thought I was a CV-maniac, till I saw one guy from the Jagiellonian University who is also a fellow here in France. That one opens his mouth for nothing but to give you some more items from his CV, just to keep people fully aware of what kind of excellent scientist he is. Only the gist of his research has somehow escaped me...
But this post is supposed to be about things, not people. About chenille yarn and the happiness it brings about. One of the best things your CV can buy is a sweater in chenille yarn.
But I've also bought a hole puncher and yet another pack of coloured ball pens. Stationary items are my perdition. I possess hundreds of coloured ball pens, both in my old home and here. They were one of the first items I packed, and still one of the greatest temptations when I stroll across the Auchan supermarket. I suppose such an obsession is not unknown to the psychiatric medicine; it must be rather a common kind of madness. But does it have a deeper meaning? What do those pens actually represent to me? Are they a lasting shadow of a lack I suffered in my childhood? A symbol of my dearest longings and aspirations? What I remember from my childhood, is the dear possession of many colour pencils, perhaps a set of 36 colours, which was a great luxury at that time. And the desire of felt-tip pens, which were even greater luxury; but I actually stopped collecting them many years ago. Contrary to what happens with books, I'm not a real collector of pens; I don't really care to have different kinds of marks or rare colours. I often collect exactly the same, Chinese type of jelly pens, and just several types of common ball-pens. Even if, indeed, rare colours tend to attract me more than common ones. Perhaps one day the Tribal Wife will get down to this.
I start to think that Schiffbruch mit Zuschauer, that strange silsila of metaphorical stages, might be read not as a history or theory of modernity, but quite differently, as a theory of individual intellectual adventure. There is something very strange in this figure of spectator contemplating shipwrecks, while standing on the firm ground; there is something perverse in the pleasure he takes in the spectacle. Yet indeed there is something mesmerising in the spectacle of ignorance and intellectual failure. On the occasion of a jubilee, there in Warsaw, I've spent long hours as a Zuschauer. I mean, now, these days, here in Tours. Unable to break the charm, still.
But I try to be serious. I managed to catch up the deadlines that passed by, while I was in my Schiffbrüche. I'm just finishing the paper on Ondjaki and Honwana, and then I have plenty of opportunities to publish that I don't want to drop down. Still not less than three books in Polish. Yet I'm patient.
Who would say this would be my problem to deal with this year, as a Tribal Wife?! That this would be the kind of work I would have to share with the other wives of the tribe?! Certainly, there was plenty of failure and stagnation in Lisbon, but somehow I never felt it was touching me personally, that I was involved in it in any way. I never put my hand to it.
Now I see - again, or sharper than any time before - all the difference, the gap, the abyss, I'm not sure how I should call it. And the twofold necessity: firstly, to see this difference, gap and abyss, and to understand that the failure is not my destiny; to see its tragic spectacle cathartically (how was it in Blumenberg? The Zuschauer who sees the Schiffbruch while standing on the firm ground?). Secondly, to be able to isolate myself from it, radically, seeking other people and other destinies.
All the foul stench of failure that my skin might have caught, all the foul stench of failure that might have ever been in me must be transpired now. The moment is to sweat by all my pores.
I stick to my own CV like a draft in the high seas. This is what my life has been, what my path has been, all my choices are somehow inscribed in it, encrypted, but in permanent ink. Some details may be omitted, some aspects accentuated or shown in a stronger light, but overall that's me. It might not be the most complete CV of an international scholar ever seen, but it's a solid base to go on, a room for improvement. And for one thing, I never costed in vain, I never spoiled thousands and thousands of euro for nothing. I see a treat of Dutch respectability in myself, and I stick to it.
A month after coming here, it is a great time to scribble at least a line. Yet I am so completely overwhelmed that I find it very difficult to formulate any consistent comments. How little did I know about Europe! Or perhaps there is more Europe than I've ever known.
Tours is very nice of course, an old town, representative for what France must have been before Paris was invented. That other, Romanesque and Gothic France. The river is very nice, and there is also a botanical garden, with the advantage of a free admission. The rest is puzzling me deeply.
They gave me a desk and a limitless access to a laser printer. It is a long time that I didn't have the luxury of proofreading my texts on a printed copy... And there are two girls at the desks nearby, and that other Europe I've never known. In such glorious circumstances, we transpire frustrations, all of us. One couldn't get a stable job, and it's what she wants. This is a Europe I know. Europe of those who jump from one fellowship to another only to discover, at the age of 40, that their academic career leads them nowhere. The other one, Finnish, is a bit different case, and perhaps makes me sweat more than she sweats.
I've read her CV, as I always do when I meet new people. After talking with her once and twice, I started to wonder what this charming person, whose talents seemed to me as moderate as her aspirations, actually does there. Certainly, struggling to express herself in French, she appeared not at her best, but overall it was not the Scandinavia I knew about (or imagined I knew), the one of wild competitiveness and even wilder competence. Well, the most striking in her CV are the pecuniary items: how many grants she received and how much it was at each time. No great wonder till now, I saw this before with other people, even in Warsaw. Perhaps in Warsaw in the first place. But - gosh! - those thousands and thousands of euro, year after year after year after year, to finance someone with the tiniest track of publications I've ever seen in my entire academic career...
Yes, I might feel jealous, and more than jealous - an idiot, for all those years in Warsaw, treated as a total non-entity, perhaps being a total non-entity. And I imagined myself well paid!
But emotions put aside, higher mathematics come to my mind. If this girl gets this money, how much the real scholars...? Gosh, that's beyond me.
Yeah, there are many more interesting things I should comment on, my going to Ljubljana, and then to Jena... Yet everything appears enormously mind-boggling to me; this must be the shock of Europe, all its aspects assaulting me in simultaneous. In the past, it had crossed my mind more than once that having such an insight in the multiplicity of academic paths and patterns across Europe, I might one day think about a kind of career in Brussels... How many delusive ideas one nurtures, about oneself and about the world!
Well, after all, I think my present situation has only one problematic aspect: it comes too late in my life. I should have been here in 2007, not in 2017. This is the only reason for frustration, and my ugly mood.
So am I positive in considering all those years in Warsaw as a mistake? Yes, I think this conclusion dawned in me more than once. I regret these years, and I keep a foul memory of people and place, in proportion to my regret.
After I was denied my Humboldt in 2005, I should have gone on trying. I didn't, because the perspective of seeing myself free of Jagiellonian University by coming to Warsaw proved enough to soothe me. And it was a mistake. I should have reapplied to Humboldt Stiftung, I should have asked for Marie Curie... Then. But I was telling myself that a solid university employment matters more than garish fellowships and projects pending loose. I still see my point in this.
Yet I cannot get rid of the sensation I should have been at least a parsec away by now. I should have been in the international system since the very beginning. I've lost too much time. 10 years.
But perhaps these years are lost only in the perspective I acquired after loosing them. It was in those 10 years, due to what happened in those 10 years that I became who I am, and Warsaw became so much inadmissible and unfitting for me.
Concluding, I had no choice but to lose.
And now? And now we will be patient, said Qui-Gon Jinn, who had been a student of the living Force. Feel, don't think, use your instincts.
I feel sadness and silence, and being on the slow track again.
Don't commit your mistake twice, reapply. A solution will present itself.
Only 10 days left. I'm totally out of the schedule; hopefully I can take my work with me. I have a whole year to catch up, isn't it?
I've been using these last days to grow, intensively, striving to touch the bottom. Perhaps I've managed, I will have all the crying done by next Thursday, when I fly to Paris.
I've been closing all my old life. It's hard to believe, it's a quarter of a century that I'm closing. The years of Portugal, the years of studying, the years of squeezing in a context. It's a pity I don't feel euphoric about going to France. It is a cute perspective indeed, but what I feel inside is a great burden, a work to do, all the growing.
I miss speaking Dutch, and I miss feeling like a scholar, kind of big person. I miss feeling my intellectual strength. My brain has been thoroughly emptied these last two or three weeks, till the very slime on the bottom. I know all the importance of it, of this quasi-religious poverty. Different than last year when I landed in Lisbon.
Nonetheless, I'm thinking about travels again; that's a sign of my improving psychological state. I didn't even upload the photos after I came back from Sicily and Malta. And now, I'm back to planning. I will have Ljubljana and Jena very soon. And then from France, quite a different set of destinations must be available, I imagine. Perhaps some places in sub-Saharan Africa, like Benin or whatever. But also France in itself is worth having. I've been thinking about Christmas, will I come back to my apartment or what? Africa's tempting me.
The days passing by, and me still throwing papers. It's late, I know, I should be working, solving practical tasks, at least improving my French, but instead, I'm still among my books. I pack them into a bag, and when the bag is full, I take them to the public library. At the same time, I'm still slowly rambling across my Arberry, and I hear the classical Persian poet Rudyār commenting wisely upon my packing: Oh, East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet...
It takes so long, because I'm crying over my books in order not to cry later on every time I remember them, as Zielinski allegedly did. I cry now to get all the crying done before I go. Or rather, I understand now to get all the understanding done, of what happened to me. Largely beyond expression; the metaphors block our way, Nietzsche said, and all wisdom is in him (not Shakespeare).
As I throw all these books and papers now, the real question, the real matter that requires understanding is to know why I had never read all those things in their due time.
There had been some obscure psychological mechanism that prevented me. My apartment is full of accumulated things that I didn't dare to open, to look; books I copied because I didn't dare to read them. I translated intellectual appropriation into material possession. I postponed insight, because I didn't dare. Even now, clearly there is something I don't dare. Perhaps I don't dare to face my international career (a short name for something bigger and much more complicated).
Does it matter now to understand? Or do I rather get rid of the answers, of books carrying those answers. I remove the problem together with its answers. One of the books I pack in my bag was written by my colleague, another professor here at the old university. It is a short story about a student, one of those students in cultural studies, getting that woeful, 3rd class education we impart to them. The story is about old letters the student gets from her grandmother: an insight into the human condition she has in her hand as she reads them in a train. And her blindness. She reads, but she doesn't understand; she misses the meaning, because it's not the kind of thing she is after. She seeks something else, ignoring what is the essential to be sought. In cultural studies, in life. And in the meanwhile, the darkness is falling. At the end of the tale, she comes to her room, and tries to read again. There is no electricity, the battery in her phone is low, she switches a candle. And she tries to read something under the title "Memory, space and identity in the light of cultural anthropology". But the words are too long, the letters too small, the flame blinking...*
There has always been the light of cultural anthropology, and philosophy, and literatures of East and West burning bright on my table. And what have I done all those years?
I didn't dare to read and to see. I accumulated. I strive to read it all now as a punishment, as a compensation. But what's the tragedy, if I saw at the end?
I remove all those books and papers from my possession, in a frenzy, as I excrete the toxin of resignation, of blindness, of being minor. Of memory, space and identity in the light of cultural anthropology.
*Agata Sobczyk, Opowiadania o pogodzie, Nowa Ruda: Mamiko, 2012. The short story's title: "Metafizyczne śmieci", pp. 129-150.
Among all those accumulate papers I've been reading and throwing to the recycling bin, I've also found one about Thaddeus Zielinski and the library he "had left in the hands of the Bolsheviks". It was said that every time he remembered it, he cried.
I wonder what books he had. The longer I look to my own ones, the lesser is the value that I attach to them. I don't know where my love of knowledge has gone; or better say, in what it is deposited now. I suppose there is a great technical difference between thence and now, in terms of epoch; this is why the books don't mean to me what they might have meant to Zielinski. Certainly. Or perhaps, somehow, he also had better books.
I've a growing sensation of their insufficiency, as if I'd got so very few books truly at my level, good enough for me. Sooner would I repeat with Aquinas: mihi videtur ut palea... All what I've learned, all what has been passing for knowledge and wisdom where I've been... So deeply insufficient that I have no choice but to start everything anew. Collecting books, reading, writing, thinking.
This is why I'm craving for emptiness, to start building upon it. Ich hab' Mein' Sach' auf Nichts gestellt... - that's Max Stirner, but it could be Nietzsche as well, and perhaps it could be me.
In fact, as I go on making order in my papers, I start to feel the emptiness, das Unheimliche the sudden absence of chaos brings about. Perhaps I was accumulating all this stuff during all this years just to avoid the confrontation with this creative openness, the possibility of such a new beginning, of maturity.
And the new beginning is upon me, and I conform and accept it.
As a convalescent, I've lived as slow and repetitive life; yet now I see it close to an end. The French colleagues start sending me not only forms to fill, but also planning for speeches and activities. In a few days, my summer, as hard as it may actually have been, and in more than one way, will be finished. And the research and writing I've got in front of me is much more serious than I've ever attempted. There is no way of messing it up now.
I wonder what kind of answer I will get from Amsterdam in October; it would free me from the necessity of providing for my next year's sustenance. Hopefully it can be safeguarded at a distance of many months; it would give me a kind of lightness to go on attempting what I really want, to be choosy.
Overall, it costs me little. There's no sound or fury about leaving the safety, what an illusory safety!, of my employment and my academic small world. There is a certain bravery on display, I presume, but I'm still very far from my limits. Nonetheless, I can imagine many people might feel uneasy in my place, just for stepping into that other erudition and that other art of writing; not mentioning money, credits, buying apartments, hearing other tongues. I'm beyond those many kinds and ways of stress. On the contrary, the decision I've taken gives me certitude and clearness of target, and as a consequence, greater comfort. Even if I were not reading Maalouf's Léon l'Africain, as in fact I did.
It is after all such a natural destiny, or such a cultured one, should I say, with so many roots, examples, paradigms and wisdom left behind. I'm just marching on such a safely trodden path.
These are exhausting days. Not for research or writing; on the contrary, I look forward to serious things as a respite. This is the labour of digging a gap, and ufff, after these breaking months of travel and recollection, my gap is hopefully quite advanced.
I talked to a guy from a relocation enterprise, they say they can take my stuff to Amsterdam for 1000 euro or a bit more, depending on quantity. And the quantity tends to be less and less. I get rid of things. Perhaps in a year, having finished my French research, I might land on Schiphol with a mere hand-luggage.
I've been so much preoccupied with all sorts of material possessions; books are the last section perhaps. Certainly the most difficult. I see my library more clearly now, the ideal library, made of travels and many languages, and perennial things. The vision has little to do with the reality of my dusty shelves. Well, the perennial things are there, but they need to be isolated, put in relief, enlivened with many more illustrious acquisitions.
There are moments, at the end of the day, that I feel like an Oxbridge scholar, with all my erudite readings. A respite after so much digging, in the evening. From dawn to dusk, I'm reading (and getting rid of) so many not-so-erudite things, conference proceedings, journals, articles, interviews with Agata Bielik-Robson. That's the small world. Over hundreds and hundreds of pages of the Polish academic publications, one can find many things, but not going further outside than Gayatri Spivak, and (rarely) a lonely mention of Edouard Glissant. There is no more horizon than this, and also no more history than this. The great bulk of humanity lays beyond. I myself lay beyond, and I look upon myself and across those twenty years of my own career as if I were looking into a doll house, from without and from a different scale.
But also digging gaps is childish; I wish I could get through quicker, and see myself free of all these things.
... men en af dem, som var god, sendte ham en gammel kuffert og sagde: “Pak ind!”
Hans Christian Andersen, Den flyvende koffert
I'm packing. Not only clothes, that's easy now; also books and papers, and that's not easy yet. But I brought several carton boxes and sheets of bubble wrap, and I go on slowly, lingering on books and reading the journals before I get them down to the recycling bin. There're lots of things accumulated, practically since the beginning of my academic career, and even earlier in the 90ties. A final insight into a becoming. Their becoming, not mine. I'm feeling my difference, my non-belonging, so intensely.
There is an old Armenian song of exquisite and lacerating beauty; it's called Our Es Mayr Im; this is what I listen to as I pack. It fits this kind of intellectual epic, bitter, inglorious and sublime.
How childish it was to believe myself minor in the humanities, in bondage to the margins! I'm in the major thing now, very far away, and packing for a far journey. It tastes smoothly melancholic to throw dusty papers into the recycling bin. The other that stay, in person and in their writings, while I'm taken higher up and away on a Caucasian tune, in my flyvende koffert. Feels like a kind of lonely Christmas. A kind of proud sadness, and being happy and glad of being, finally, alone.
Wonder what the neighbours think of me, as they hear me playing Our Es Mayr Im over and over again through the open windows. But nothing is strange at a time like the one that is upon us.
I indulge in erudition, literally biting at the old Arberry's volume of Classical Persian Literature. All those things that I'd unconsciously denied to myself when I still believed in being minor. They lay open to me now like a plain lays open to a nomad conqueror; that's only a question of time.
And all the languages of humanity whispering so temptingly to my ear! I just can't stand not knowing Farsi to enjoy more fully those examples that Arberry brings forth to enliven his argument. But only a week ago I've spent over 80 reckless euro in La Valletta, on Maltese books. Not mentioning that new Bengali grammar because it was on sale. Nor the method of Turkish, because I said myself I need it for my research on Postel. Nor the package of materials for Japanese, because I said myself I need it for my research on Jesuits.
Anyway, I think there is a bilingual volume of Rumi somewhere among my papers. And the immortal story of Dominic Matei that I printed from the internet months ago, when I understood that now I'm in my own tinerețe fără de tinerețe.
... Ochiul roşu se stinse, şi în clipa următoare îl orbi, zguduindu-l, explozia luminii albe, incandescente. Parcă ar fi fost aspirat de un ciclon fierbinte izbucnit, în chip neînţeles, chiar în creştetul capului. „A trăsnit pe aproape", îşi spuse clipind cu greu ca să-şi dezlipească pleoapele. Nu înţelegea de ce strânge cu atâta putere mânerul umbrelei...
This is just a metaphor, I know it now. Or perhaps it is indeed so literal. Truth is but ein bewegliches Heer von Metaphern, it had been said. Be as it may, you don't hear any thunder, when it comes for you, you feel nothing, absolutely nothing. Only later on you realize.
The thunder came to me and I missed it totally. I have no idea whatsoever when and where it was. In Bucharest, at Easter, near the Orthodox church? In Warsaw? In Kraków? In Lisbon? In Amsterdam? Have I been in Amsterdam at Easter?
I wake up in my new skin and I slowly start to realize what happened. "A trăsnit pe aproape", I say, still grasping the useless handle of my umbrella.
Dominic Matei had striven to write a book, all-encompassing kind of book, but he couldn't break through the first chapter, down to the origins. In the reality it is the History of the Religious Ideas, in three volumes. It actually exists, I have it on the shelf near my bed as I write. The first chapter is remarkably weak, as if make-shift. Added in the last moment before handling the book to the editor, I presume. Just to make it round and feasible, as it otherwise shouldn't have been.
After the thunder, he needs it no more. Even if he had completed and published it, with the make-shift first chapter, it doesn't actually matter any more.
Yes, exactly as a number of my own first chapters matter no more.
I've told my student today it's like the final undressing to lie down in the coffin. With the difference of the thunder. An old age without being old, as much as a youth without youth. Lost in time, ahead of my time, anticipating myself, coming to be, and yet simply being.
There is one crucial thing I believe have discovered recently. The close articulation between two things I used to see as separate: research and what I call theory-making. I saw the necessity of coming back to systematic research on a single topic as a circumstantial and relatively unlucky requirement (they don't give you grants for theory-making, at least as far as I know; they give you grants for predictable research; yes, even if they claim to finance high-risk intellectual endeavors). But now the research in itself has a new appeal for me.
Certainly it gives a sense of mastery that the moving ground of emergent ideas rarely provides. I'd been fighting against what I used to call "being minor in humanities", and I won. No need to write any more about it, it's just another achievement the Tribal Wife brought home from her stay among the natives. Anyway, I'm completely thuis in humanities right now; I cannot claim any kind of minor condition in it, not even that of Kafka in Deleuze. At least not in function of my geographically and mentally locatable origins.
But here comes the research. I'm preparing a project revolving around the Adamic language and its early-modern becoming. And this is how I came to the figure of Guillaume Postel, a missing link between Llull and Vieira. An obvious discovery that the man is one of mine, and his idea of restitutio omnium fits in for many things. There is still a long shadow of Agamben close nearby.
So I go on thinking about it right now. I should have the project ready for Monday, and I want to stay for a year with it. It might squeeze in nicely before my main ERC project proposal on which I will toil this summer.
A long time since I've written on this blog, time of crisis, of agony. A dark tunnel, and now I slowly emerge at the opposite end, still crawling. Like a hedgehog under a highway, I wrote months ago. What is the world?, I asked months ago.
And I've crossed the tunnel, crawling on my belly, half human, half worm, and I've emerged at the opposite end. And here am I, frenetically completing my research proposals and ready to rewrite all my intellectual agenda, again. Now I'm conscious of all the burden of originality, and the traps and the dangers of it. What it does cost and mean and involve to dare to be original, and to follow untrodden paths.
And my new agenda. I have my drawing with me, my secret map. It's full of unnamed trees; each tree represents an unwritten book, and the forest represents consistence, significance, becoming an important intellectual. Now I am at the very beginning of the path, at the zero level, and empty-handed. Yes, all my experience just served me to reach this forest and to cross the frontier of its shadow. I do not belittle myself. That's more than most people achieve in a lifetime of academic career. Anyway, I've left them behind, and I'm alone, even if I know I need new friends, new allies.
I've crossed the stage of emptiness, these last weeks, and I'm not sure if it is the end of it or not yet. But I am stripped bare. There is the famous triple metaphor in Nietzsche. The camel kneels down and wants to be well laden. “Was ist das Schwerste, ihr Helden? so fragt der tragsame Geist, dass ich es auf mich nehme und meiner Stärke froh werde.” Yet thank God I've been able to abandon all my burden, stop rejoicing and being froh and proud of it. Where are my papers now, 200 of them? Here comes the lion, and it cannot neither count nor calculate weights; no way of asking him how many papers he had written, in how many conferences. Countless, or so few, or none. What the lion wants and cares about is the desert, und Herr sein in seiner eignen Wüste.
And nonetheless, I saw how little the desert is, and to own it, and feind werden to one's last men and gods. "Du-sollst" liegt ihm am Wege, goldfunkelnd. This is how the Drache blocks the way. It says, Du sollst, and the lion says, Ich will. This is enough to stop and freeze the lion in his heilige Nein, and make him never come to the sacred yes, to the self-propelling wheel.
There was a moment when I was seeing the disjunction between study and creation, research and theory-making, merging with the background and sticking my own thing out. But certainly it's not like this, Agamben is the best author to see how the new things are actually done, the continuity between humus and blossom. And I also froze to confront my last men. Their limitations were shimmering, hypnotizing, their hate danced in the moonlight, goldfunkelnd. I saw them as opposed to what I am, I was in my heilige Nein. And I thought I should do something about them; for them was even more dangerous than against them. This is the dragon of "Du-sollst": our universities so low in the rankings, our culture so impoverished, so parochial, our academic journals so thin and far between. Auf jeder Schuppe glänzt golden: You can save them.
And what emerges at the opposite end is aus sich rollendes Rad. A scholar and a thinker that is there not to save or preserve or cultivate, but zu schaffen, having forgotten the meek nobility of the tiny and wee, and the decency of the modest. Ein aus sich rollendes Rad.
Só despojados é que somos livres
Vergílio Ferreira, Na tua face, 1993.
The book is not ready yet. There is the most difficult part missing. To get rid of myself, my youth, things accumulated in 1993, in 1996, in 1998, in 2003.
I think about fat people, how difficult for them to get slim; and even if by any miracle they manage, how their empty skin falls helplessly down to their knees. Have I been a fat girl, intellectually, with all my Portuguese studies? Or just anorexic, staring to distorted shadow?
Be as it may, what matters now is to get rid, and be light and ready for new things to come. And nonetheless, I linger.
It is not like when I was writing Pokusa pustyni, but by no means lighter.
I linger, unable to detach from myself, my old self. And I know there is no future without it, and there is no time left any more. I should be searching for my new life now, buying new apartment in either Amsterdam or Berlin, all my stuff packed and ready to go. The worst option is to linger now.
And I'm like Ricardo Reis in Lisbon, in Saramago. Falling asleep over my own verses.
La belle au bois dormant. Sleeping in the palace where she had never been. I pace the National Library of Portugal up and down, that's a proud name, and I think I might just leave and never come back to this again. My work is done, and this might be the core of the problem. E agora?
I might leave right now just as I stay, and never come back to this place again. I've collected all my materials, read all the books that were missing. Hardly a couple of pages is missing to complete my work. Or in any case I might leave in two weeks, and never come back to this place again.
As I stay, the sensation that I'm back to 1998 is more and more consistent. There is the same mirror in the bathroom where I was admiring my slim body in 1998. Perhaps the secret of the country's misery is the way how things conserve themselves, not the way how they decay. No thing requires to be substituted. The matter is inert, and confers the same quality to people and ideas.
I'm sitting on my old chair, N14, and the sheets of paper in front of me are literally the same, I mean my original notes made in 1998. I only forgot to bring the same fountain pen. I must still have it, it is somewhere at home.
There was no Afonso Cruz at that time yet. But Afonso Cruz is essentially the same story. I feel the same smell of it, falling down to the same bottom of the hole, in Flores, 2015. With his golem of the revolution, that his Ulme didn't manage to make alive. All Saramago must be essentially about the same thing. Perhaps this is the only progress I achieved, they achieved. Now we are a little bit higher up to look down over the very same thing that mattered thence as it matters now. Perhaps I could write it down in my new book.
Yes I need a new book, all my new books. To get through to myself before it's too late. Otherwise my empty skin will always pend down to my knees, even if by any miracle I manage to get through later on. This is the price of lingering.
comme la rencontre fortuite sur une table de dissection d'une machine à coudre et d'un paraplui
The day I met Eduardo Lourenço, then. I didn't really expect it. It was a surprise he came to our meeting at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, just because one of the project was to study & translate his Labirinto da Saudade.
At the first moment, I was just looking, not sure how to take the case on. I've been having those awful encounters with famous intellectuals, full of pretence and American habits, as it was with Markowski and others. But this one was completely Portuguese, shy and modest, and tiny in his manners, as if nothing. At the end I would say he was a charming person, as an intellectual should be, and clever to recognise his equal, as those Polish ones never are.
I talked to him quite a lot later on, during the lunch, but at the meeting, as I was sitting near him, I was staring with the corner of my eye, calculating silently and making a balance in my head. How much is Eduardo Lourenço? Certainly, as I write my book now, cutting down the footnotes, he is the last to remain, as a scholar. His vision of Portugal has been shaping mine; it's only quite recently that I've started to get rid of the repetitive aspect of this influence. And there is more than this. In the Empire and Nostalgia, he is one of the three heroes, the three dispatriants: it is Sena, Saramago and Lourenço. The tiniest, the shiest, the most localised of them, but necessary to make the balance and the triangulation. My topic would never exist without the three of them; between themselves, they make a country.
I waved the hand that triangulated a country, between empire and nostalgia. Should I rather have kissed it?