That book by Michal Viewegh was damned good. I kept reading it till 3 am, only to resume as soon as I opened my eyes this morning. It is not exactly the type of a book that would require a place behind the little glass door of my corner bookcase. It may stand right in the middle of the bookshelf containing my best literature. His main topic is not sex as such, although the bulk of the text is made of various erotic adventures; it is all about human condition and the use we make of our earthly bodies. It intertwines depth and humour, and human warmth.
It made me muse on the use I've been making of my earthly body. I could live just as the writer depicted by Veiwegh. But perhaps I don't have his main reason of doing so. My solitude is not a burden to me, I never return to an empty flat. The very space is enveloping me, my body, my female existence of incessant adventure that goes on and on and on, inside. On icebreakers approaching the coast of Iceland, in a geography that is, at the same time, imaginary and real.
Yet overall, I don't have that love of reality that characterises the Czech writer, and Czech literature in general. Only the sense of humour is familiar to me. That constant surprise with the unfathomable depth of our existence, its absurdity that is taken lightly, not as the main tragedy of us. Although it certainly is.
I'm too serious to take my body and my solitude lightly, going from one casual encounter to another, just as Veiwegh's hero does. The actual temptation that I could never resist is some sort of mystical venture of eroticism. And the idea is tempting me, when I think of Paris, when I think of that greater world of western Europe, its cities of men. Veiwegh is provincial, as Czech literature always is, and ready to accept that littleness, that Marushka who makes herself so memorable by her unfashionable light blue coat and her denial.
My erotic dreams are unavailable, beyond any chance of fulfilment. Are they? Or perhaps they are among those crazy aspirations, like Oxford, and great intellectual achievements. Whatever is the final outcome, may I come triumphant or vanquished from this war, they motivate me, they make me active, they make a Pole star over my horizon to keep my life going. I go to Paris this year not to add an item to my CV, but in search of that greater life, of which I couldn't abdicate, even if I see it as the craziest of hopes. Otherwise, I would be broken and burned out, frustrated with the very bulk of my academic career, vanquished by my approaching 50th anniversary. But it surprises me that I utterly feel so attractive. That I see, and see increasing, the reason why I should be chosen among thousands of other women. The pages falling one by one like in a haiku only fill me with the sweetness of the approaching autumn. Strangely, it is in my calendar the great time of love, the month of May of Provencal troubadours. The taste of a November in Amsterdam. Well, it will be a November in Paris, this year.
The last stormy Sunday of the summer. I went to the centre, and ate at Miód Malina. They changed the interior design; I didn't even finish my food. Why is everything worse, in Poland, these days? It sounds like a peevish obsession of mine, some sort of complaining menopause syndrome. But the flamboyant interior of bygone times, with the folkloric vibrant abundance of crimson flowers, is no more. Now the colours are dusty brick and an asphyxiated hue of ashy green.
I entered that usual bookshop of mine with instinctive intent of searching for new erotic literature that might fill my secret corner bookcase. I went out with a copy of Povidky o manzelstvi a o sexu by a Czech bestselling author Michal Viewegh, as well as Rozważnie i romantycznie, a manual for single lady travellers by Marzena Filipczak. Which I started to read in the tramway on my way home, laughing as few people laugh in Poland. At least not when they are single ladies of a certain age, alone in a tramway. Basically, I agree with the author on one point: anywhere is safer than Poland. At least as safe as Poland. But, admittedly, I didn't go to Iran, as the author did. The smoothly mannered Persians I knew in Leiden may not be like the real Persians somewhere in Khorasan. Or they are?
But overall, the reading made me remember not just my travels, or that I need to buy a hand-made Afghani carpet for my little erotic flat. First of all, I suppose, it made me muse on my fellow Polish ladies, scared with the world, bearing their femaleness like a bondage. Filipczak describes them closed in a riad in Morocco, not daring to go anywhere outside on the medina. And somehow, I remember in a glimpse the man, various men, who guided me through the labyrinths of the world. They never asked me any money, nor accepted, although I tried to pay only once, for a car drive in Albania. There was sometimes something vaguely erotic in this. Taking care of a lone woman in a Muslim country always is. And one thing I may be sure, this chivalry is tremendously reliable just anywhere, from Damascus to Borneo. But I should understand that most of my fellow Polish ladies hardly pass under the category of respectful Islamic scholars travelling in search of knowledge...
Here they are, our destinies in a country that recovers its true nature, increasingly grey and oppressive. I stay in the company of my books, of my poetry, of my erotic novels translated flatly into Polish. After all, gdzie w Krakowie mogę zutylizować powieść Beatrycze, nie narażając się na zarzut seksualizacji młodzieży? I'm afraid to just throw it into the container. What if any young boy finds it, reads it? Yet the cover is far too thick to enter my shredder. Powodem utylizacji jest bo powieść jest zła. Even worse than Margański's Jak podrywają szejkowie; that one at least was funny. Anyway, it went awfully outdated: we don't have any more mares for sale in Janów Podlaski.
Being so, should I finally complete my own erotic novel, Only in Saudi Arabia? It starts precisely this time of the year, between late summer and early Arctic autumn, at rough sea, when Amnesia, a former icebreaker transformed into a luxury yacht, almost arrives at the Vestmannaeyjar islands on the southern coast of Iceland. On board, there is Talal, a chivalrous Saudi millionaire, his newly wedded wife, an Oxbridge art historian Anya, and the beautiful Somali slave, Mina. Which is another anachronism, for sure. No one has Somali sex slaves in Saudi Arabia these days. Firstly, slavery has been abolished almost half a century ago; the last slaves of Arabia are distinguished swarthy ladies in their sixties, seventies and eighties. Secondly, the fashionable love women are Moroccan, not Somalis. Yet somehow, I cannot get rid of the juiciest of my literary personages ever invented.
Perhaps I should put them, and only the two of them (i.e. the millionaire and the art historian), on a little white motor yacht crossing the Mediterranean from Genoa southwards at the leisurely pace of eight or nine knots. Visiting museums and galleries, sort of erotic variation on Dan Brown for women approaching their menopause. Dining romantically at expensive restaurants, putting bouquets of lilies and peonies in heavy crystal jars, taking baths in a jacuzzi tiled in natural travertine mosaics. Because it's time to get more reasonable, ponderous, mature. And the autumn comes falling page by page, like in a haiku.
But I still cannot forget the rough seas at the Vestmannaeyjar islands.
I'm in my old apartment, slowly cleaning and reading my books. The time finally came to abandon my library. Emotionally. To see how cheap and worthless most of these books actually were. I cleaned the small bookcase in the corner, the one with a little glass door. I got the idea of putting my erotic collection there. As if it were a secret to be protected. A little private thing in this private little flat. I want to print a nice little bookplate explicitly designed for my erotic collection.
But most of these books have so little value, so primitive, and so flatly translated into Polish. Or unfitting my taste. The whole collection is painfully reduced to very few volumes. Perhaps Motory, by Emil Zygadłowicz, a bible of my sensual youth. But for the rest? Some time ago, I threw the pitiful Polish translation of Hull's The Sheikh. Many hot moments were simply omitted, they did not even dare render them. Now I read a pitiful anonymous novel, Beatrycze in Polish translation, that I once bought in that store of mine offering books at reduced price. It is a kind of cheap and peevish, second-hand Sade. Well, I also have first-hand Sade, 100 days of Sodom and Juliette. But still I don't need any of those Polish translations, triumphantly published at the dawn of democracy, in the 1990s. I used to laugh at those books, and never truly managed to finish. Well, Juliette, perhaps, when I was in my late teens. I remember having read it at school, under my table.
I'm planning to spend some 100 or 200 euro to get better books in France. Any Malek Chebel, at the very least. Or any western translation of Imam al-Suyuti. Or a nice edition of Tauk al-Hamama. I have both Polish translations of Nafzawi (yes, the book has been translated twice, yet to little avail). But I should read such things in the original.
All this is just a shame, a shelf full of American Kamasutras with photos instead of drawings. How could I keep such things at home. Yet I wonder how I will get rid of these books. The times in Poland are such that I'm just shy to distribute them. A brave hop into the recycling bin, thus, and they are all gone. A symbol of those long Polish 1990s that are no more.