Today there is something to celebrate, at least that's what I believed for a moment. No, not the book, it's not finished yet. But something else did finish.
I finished publishing the articles from the black file. OK, I still have about 30 texts to finish, but they are something else, papers presented in recent conferences or ongoing projects, such things. But I finished the black file; I've just sent the corrections for the last, tiny paper concerning Verlaine for Romanica Silesiana. he book also helped me, it absorbed some semi-papers that simply disappeared in the flow of the literary history.
And then I saw it.
The last paper.
The one that cannot be absorbed, and the one that was missing.
Apparently it's just another tiny paper, dating back from the time of beginnings, written in 1998 I think. Just a reading of two tiny poems.
And suddenly all the puzzle composed itself. As peças todas a encaixar. Making sense. In illo tempore.
But what are the poems?, you would ask. Oh, that's the old Sena, just two poems from Metamorfoses, one about the mosque of Córdoba, and the other about Cistercian cloister of Alcobaça, and something about the the reconstruction of theologies that Sena does, and such things. There is nothing particularly original in all this, neither from my side, nor Sena's. He is just working over Malraux, Les metamorphoses des dieux, he is just commenting on it, poetically, and I'm commenting on him. But this is something that lays beyond the words, and beyond the ideas, and beyond the stones. Beyond originality, in fact. It is just excessus purae mentis in Deum, as Bernard de Clairvaux would call it.
I shall not publish this paper as a paper. I shall make it a starting point for my "mid-career balance", Garden and Desert. Yes, I'm still thinking about offering this small gift to myself, in 2017, for the 20th anniversary of my academic work. I will delve deep in this time of the origins to get something that might stay with me, the source of sense, the primordial moment of actually choosing this, as my life.
The anniversary strikes wrong, by the way. Nothing happened in 1997. It is something that comes from behind, something that had been born when I was still at school, and studying art history. I thought my choice was to be an artist, not a scholar. But now I see what it really was. It doesn't matter, by the way.
Et ego in illo, and I'm back to the original moment, and I see why, and what is the way in front of me. Suddenly the clouds break apart, and I see where the summit is. And I feel a great safety.
do espírito provável
da expectação tranquila
mortal da eternidade
I've been writing my book. If I did only this, it wouldn't take so long. I've been doing something else as well. I've been reading through my old papers and across my life, since the very beginning. Yes it's taking all the things since the beginning, since 1993, to write this book. And I try to fathom how much I've been mistaken in all my ideas about how books are actually written.
I start to feel I should have learned something about it by now. I did something like 11 of them, I'm puzzled in counting them again and again. And diverse translations, more than 30.
The good thing is that I've forgotten the articles totally; all my plans in writing are nothing but books from now on. And I'm stepping into learning how to actually write them.
When I was young, it was a kind of exhausting ordeal, a struggle at the end of my nerves. I shall never forget the state in which Pokusa pustyni was written. Or rather not written, how it was emerging from chaos.
I've started it several times, I've seen all the stages right now (believe it or not, I've been keeping every single sheet of paper related to this book for over 10 years...). And I can see and feel how I toiled against the mediocrity, against writing like I saw things written in that time, in Poland. It was like several layers of discourse, trying to get out of dullness. The result was not as bad as it had started, I think.
And I should write another book on Saramago now, in English. This is what I want to do this month of November. I will make it small. I will speak only about Cain, and the tanatopower of Intermitencias da Morte, and yet something, but just 4 novels, not more. And I will make it a pretext for just an essay. About the "late style", yes, and about the Desert, as it is in Cain, and about emptiness.
And yes, I do believe I will finish the first book next week, even if there is still work to be done. I've been going so slow not because of writing, but because of all this work of learning how to write, how to work, and cleaning my working space.
I do need order, and habits, and more careful, smarter planning. And to see more clearly where I want to arrive. But I have this very peculiar feeling now my life will be just this, writing books. Till I reach 60 or 80 volumes, like Derrida. Yes, I do take it seriously. Even the whole affair of living long enough to finish these 60 or 80 books. This is why I speak about habits. I need to make it sustainable.
Pokusa pustyni wasn't a sustainable kind of writing. I could make it like an extreme adventure, a passagium, but I couldn't make it as the usual way of working. And now I want to write day by day, book by book. I want to finish this one, and make the one about Saramago during the month of November, and then to travel on Chrismas, and then to make other books with my new editor, perhaps the African one, or the Poetics of the Void he is interested in, or to make other book proposals in English. And I want to make the essay on emptiness in Pessoa, and the transcultural research about Vieira as I was thinking about it before. And I want to make order in the Intrusive spirit. I'm thinking I could make at least a short essay out of it, for Miscellanea Orientalia, an initiative of our Oriental Society, and develop some parts for my Moroccan book, that would be next in the queue. It would be the last patch of chaos in my papers, I cant believe this. I look forward to this. Having no patches of chaos in my papers.
It took me about 4 years to clean up all the unfinished articles I had. Now I clean up the unfinished books, that seems harder to manage, but I'm doing all right, I think.
Yes I do love my books, and I want to learn the job of writing them as they should be written.
Having been here for a month, one morning I could barely climb my way in Entrecampos. There was a moment I felt I would stand it no more, this sight of the polished marble cubes under my feet. But my feet knew more.
After all, the crisis brought me inspiration - sinking down down down makes sense of the depth.
What is the world, I ask, over an enormous plate of basmati rice, my shoulders covered by the finest pashmina shawl I bought for 4 euros from a real Hindustani trader in Mouraria, my favourite shopping mall in Lisbon, where Portuguese never dare to enter. I always do, but I've never had such a feeling of being the only, conspicuously white woman in the mall, nowhere in the world. Not even in the inner Marrakesh, on the other side of the limes, and far from the touristic route had I such an experience of my whiteness as I did in this centro comercial - yes, it is one, big letters across the modernist, colonial facade announce so, even if inside it only vaguely resemble some humble places of the kind in Malaysia, crowded as it is with big packs of goods stored in the corridors. Scarcely 2 minutes walk from Rossio and Praça da Figueira where the yellow tram collects the crowd of tourists to Belém. That's what remains from this city, the gate of India, this shopping mall caiado de branco.
And that's my pashmina. The category of gammel doesn't exist any more in my aesthetics. The cloth is smooth, but humanly imperfect, dense at touch. I think now I could have bought one for my PhD student. But what a mature woman may attempt with PhD students? Paszminę ci kupiłam, synu, bo zima.
And the world. Indeed I'm searching for the world, and the world's humanities, apophatically, I can only say what the world is not. The world is not the same as making contacts abroad. This is why I keep cautiously apart from the Portuguese colleagues; I expect no particular blessing from them. The world is not making fincapé in other national humanities. The world is not the annual meeting, neither of ICLA nor ACLA. I see it now, especially as I've attempted to organise a session myself. These are mere illusions of worldliness, seeking refuge in the crowd, and less genuine than my plate of basmati rice.
The world is not this. Beyond the negation, I only expect it might come to me certain moments of inspiration, when I would feel what I'm doing is just right, with a sense of completeness. And I would see the veins of the wood, and the pen, and the sheets of paper in front of me, and I would say: indeed it is inside this clay jug.
All seven oceans are inside and
hundreds of millions of stars
The acid that tests gold is there and
the one who judges jewels...
World humanities have neither visibility nor prestige, only the feeling of being in it, of it, like those birds who flied to God.
The basmati rice on the plate in front of me is perfect and sublime. Every grain of it is over a centimetre long, and slightly curved. It's cooked with absolute mastery, with two single dry fruits of cardamom, by a Nepalese refugee. Every grain of this rice is ready to fly to God.
And they are served in such an abundance as to overwhelm the guest, and I see them with the eyes that can fathom their value historically, before our times.
Two days ago, when I climbed in the direction of the Graça, I literally cried over the ruinous state in which I found the city, crunched into dust by its mildews. Is this Europe?! did I exclaim. Oh, how precarious, how barely remediados are we, if this is our Europe of today! And yet this supreme plate of basmati rice that costs me just these two round euros of mine... That's what it does mean, to be European.
Phlebas the Phoenician, a fortnight dead,
Forgot the cry of gulls, and the deep sea swell
And the profit and loss.
A current under sea
Picked his bones in whispers.
As he rose and fell
He passes the stages of his age and youth
Entering the whirlpool.
Gentile or Jew
O you who turn the wheel and look windward,
Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you.
The Indian-Nepalese restaurant where the grains of rice fly to God is situated between Anjos and Intendente metro stations, do lado do bairro colonial, or this side of the street where you climb Rua do Forno do Tijolo towards Graça, next door with the shop open late in the night, by the same refugee owners.