There are two news items from Poland today. One, that there is a a sort of trial in the Constitutional Tribunal, that will decide if the European law applies to Poland. Roughly speaking. The second one is about the report published by the National Library, claiming optimistically that 42% of the Poles declared having read at least ONE book in 2020, A WHOLE BOOK OR A FRAGMENT of it. A mind-boggling 10% declares having read SEVEN or EVEN MORE (I guess entirely, not just fragments of seven books).
I took care of counting the books that are with me on my sofa right now, those I have directly in my physical space, those I can grasp if I stretch my hand. They are 17, even though I will not perhaps read all of them. Further ones are sleeping in my bed or stuck in the side pocket of my handbag. Well, I am a professional, of course. But in a way, all this section Travels&Literature is a hobby as well. All this project of reading at least one book from each country of the world, even Belize and Lesotho and Palau. It is so simple, even idiot, that I should be ashamed of it. It is something that comes in a straight line from my childhood, from my early fascination with the globe, with atlases, even post stamps from around the world. From that sweet awareness of open horizons, experienced for the first time in a closed and impoverished country, where travel was an impossible luxury. But most of my people shall not even know where Belize or Palau or Lesotho lay, on which continent. How sad it is to think about this, right now, when the European dream may burst like a soap bubble, just after one surreptitious parliamentary session, a resolution taken at wee hour. It is so easy to keep things away from the awareness of my people. If a majority of them, in a whole year, did not read either a book or a fragment of it.
I spoke about Europe, and porcelain, and Persian carpets, and wove paper, and fountain pens. But in fact, as my Ramadan recollection, I considered quite an opposite option. On my various bank accounts across Europe, I have accumulated the equivalent of over 500 000 Polish zlotys. As I tried to calculate it over and over again, it seems to signify approximately 2,000 Polish zlotys a month, from the end of my present commitment more or less till the day I turn 70. When my last Fryderyka porcelain cup is broken, having withdrawn my last 500 euro from my Dutch bank, I might eventually be ready to die. I might spend those years on sheer contemplation, in my Cracovian flat, listening to birds in the trees outside. Depois deito-me para trás na cadeira / E continuo fumando. / Enquanto o Destino mo conceder, continuarei fumando, with the only difference that I do not smoke. The sheer air pollution (the city is badly situated in a valley, smog particles continue suspended in the stagnant air for an eternity) might cut my half a century short, so I would need no money whatsoever as soon as I turn 70.
Nonetheless, it was, it still is, a reasonable place to live. Better than most. Although I got used to the idea that only the best place on earth, Leiden, is good enough for me. The Garden of Earthly Delights.
Instead of sitting up the rest of my life, I might go to Germany now, as a scholar travelling in search of knowledge, to live a proud life, a life of dignity that I never had in Poland. I could spend those years in luxury that the salary of a German professor can buy. Why do I still hesitate? Why is the dead silence of Eastern Europe still appealing to me? Should I call it the facility of an enslaved existence? The inveterate habit of being no one that stuck to my soul like a virus, like a toxin?
I know these are just theoretical musings. My life will flow on, distant and indifferent to any solemn decision I might have taken. They will decide for you, says my Moroccan lover, and probably he is right. I will go to Germany or stay here in France. No matter how long I stay seated musing on my 2,000-zloty undisturbed existence, there will be something sudden to make me wake. An idea, an aspiration, a mistida, as they call it in Guinea-Bissau. Yes, even them, they have a word for it. Mistida, something pressing, a problem to solve, an affair that calls for immediate action.