It is almost a half of my stay here. Finally, I'm reading Houellebecq's Soumission, although I had promised myself to read it first thing after my arrival here. Unsurprisingly, I identify with several ideas, such as that of triplication of the professors' salaries and La Sorbonne sponsored by the Saudis (meanwhile, Saudi Arabia, as a source of unconditional founding, has almost disappeared under the horizon; Houellebecq couldn't have predicted that). And of course the idea of Mediterranean Europe, not necessarily as a restitutio imperii, but at least as a restitutio oecumenae. I am very much in favour of this. Instead of aimless sponsoring of those territories eastwards where the only dream, deep down, is the restitutio of Moscow as the Third Rome.
I can't avoid subscribing to the pervasive sadness of this novel. I am a decadent myself, and I used to love Huysmans just as the novel's hero did, although I only wrote a single conference paper about À rebours, and the text was lost due to a computer failure. I see his point, a very pertinent point indeed, the death of Christianity. The inefficiency of Madonna de Rocamadour and of those abbeys in the vicinity of Poitiers. I am sensitive to the charm of Christian tradition, how could be otherwise, but also to the stale smell of all those Benedictine abbeys, the rampant depressiveness of Hildegard von Bingen. And curiously, my Christianity has nothing Polish in it. It is a Romance Christianity, entirely western. As a part of my Polish destiny, I rejected it long ago, in my early teens. So it survived exclusively as a westernised, museal Christianity of a late, very late European erudite. A Petronius of Christian Europe.
There are resemblances, and there are contrasts of course. Houellebecq's hero was removed from Sorbonne about the same age as I, when the vogue of Christian -rather than Islamic- fundamentalism washed me out of the University of Warsaw. Yet I live -and live intensely- the remaining twenty years of intellectual career that I have in front of me.
Last but not least, I am sensitive to the poignant eroticism of this novel, to the fate of being abandoned that European modernity has brought to our erotic destinies. Arabian love never ends; this is why it ends up in death, precisely because it does not have any natural ending, it doesn't burn out. European love does end; according to the author's diagnosis, it lasts one academic year. And the way is down down down, with the natural decadence of human body, female and male as well. Lover of his students, the hero ends up paying for sex, finally overcome by his own anhedonia.
Yet there is an even more pungent moment in Soumission, the death of the hero's mother, that putain névrosée, an abandoned woman who ends up buried in a communal grave because no one reacted even to the news of her death. The quintessential portrait of the female old age in Europe. Certainly not as sympa as that of her ex-husband. He could at least buy, she could not.
And in the background, Islamic call for prayer -never directly mentioned, as I think, in the text- rising over Paris. It would have awaken me from the deepest depression, tenfold more efficient that Faust's bells of Easter. In fact it did awake me on several dire occasions. Strangely, it is so easy for me to imagine Paris as Istanbul or Cairo or Casablanca, at sunset, when suddenly the call for prayer starts in a mosque, and immediately a hundred voices take it up across the city.
It is a funny feeling that since I said good bye to my ex-homeland, I've got a strange, pervert interest in Russian language and culture. I have been seeing several war movies in which they shouted: Strelat', strelat', tanki idut, dawaj zdies granat, etc. I have enjoyed it greatly till 3 am this morning. Barbarian avengers that one day will come for you.
On the other hand, another pervert pleasure is to observe the Worldometers' covid page, not just to see the pandemic retroceding, but also to check the last column, the population of Poland. It diminishes daily by about a hundred. I memorised the last three digits, they were 543 on Sunday, then 430 yesterday, and they are 317 today. It is mesmerizing to see a nation die out just like this, from one erroneous decision to another, like grains of sand falling down and down and down in a monstrous clepsydra.
Meanwhile, I have also read an article in Le Figaro concerning class division and income in France. They admit that the bottom 30% of the population is the lower class, the large 50% the middle class, and the 20% that remains is the upper class. It is a democratic, merciful sociology. I know the classical works that acknowledge only 1,8 to 2,5% of people as the proper upper class. Be that as it may, according to the scale indicated in the article, myself with my 4 465 euro to spend per month, I would be quite well into the upper class. It surprises me greatly. I have been so thoroughly educated to be poor that it hardly enters my mind that I might ever be considered rich, especially here in the West. I would rather imagine pretty well everyone around has much more money than me. More money, more competence, more education than me. A disastrous illusion, like all illusions.
I announced an academic embargo against Poland, and started executing it. People who asked me peer-reviews and similar are advised that those things shall not be delivered. You always believed I will work for you, just for my sense of duty, an eternal servant to your cause, just as you kicked my buttock like a bitch, isn't it?
There remains a couple of things, mainly articles in journals, already set up for print. I let them go, they are not important. And so, soon it will be over. Unless anyone touches me with as little as his or her little finger.
I am a winner, of course. The service to a country where I was always postponed, ignored, treated as some sort of minor academic bystander (paprotka, potted fern, as it is called in Polish) is not essential for my career as a scholar. The least I have to do with Poland, the better it is for me. What do I leave behind? That's hilarious. If I stayed at the University of Warsaw, I would be a vaguely unqualified "pani od piesków i kotków" in the anthropozoology curriculum invented by the dean, the man I used endearingly call Petty Warlord. Alternatively - dziękuję Ci, Renatko - I would be a Lusitanist in the middle of a nest of wasps, all this still for a 1000-euro salary.
I still need a psychotherapy, it's clear. The anger in my belly is like a young wine, full of yeast. But I know that at a given moment the yeast will be drown in its own shit, i.e. alcohol, and it will be all over. I will no longer demand news from the country, just as I no longer demand the news of my family. It's the same process all over again. People who crossed the limits of the human, because they believed I am bounded to them forever. That the moral right of limitless torture is theirs, forever.
It is not. The time of Medea has come. POLEND is a new catch word I saw on a photo from the manifestations. Not a POLEXIT, that is a gone-by fashion, a bogey that ceased to be scary. That's a POLEND now. As I follow the covid statistics every night, I start to keep in mind and compare how much was the population of Poland only yesterday. And how much it is today. And how much it will be tomorrow.
Refugees unwelcome, huh?... So be it. Die out.
Bo to naród drani w swojej naturze. PiS jedynie pozwolił Polakom być sobą.
(a comment found on "Gazeta Wyborcza" site)