To be alone. Close the door and remain inside; open another door and get out to my inner landscapes. Speak to myself in interwoven languages that I am the only one to disentangle. Alone with things, in a purely material world, alone with matter open to my shaping. Alone with emotions, autonomous and undisturbed by irruption of faces.
Was I seven or eight at the time? There must have been no martial state in my country yet; History was giving us respite. It was February, the frost must have been strong, and it was the lakes region, far in the north. I remember a walk through a lake frozen solid. I believe to have walked an enormous way like this, but probably it is only a distortion of memory; in reality, it might have been short and insignificant; it grew larger than life through my experience of thrill, of danger, of unreasonable risk, of beauty. There was dark green depth under the ice, and immaculate snow, and the dusk coming early.
I loved woodcarving, and I regret so little remains from my work. I loved the smell and the sensation of fresh wood yielding to my chisel, letting itself shape, cut clearly. But I was taught to despise it, to abandon whatever I did as a thing useless. I learned how to respect, gather and consolidate my creative work very late. This respect, the creation itself, was something anti-social, it went against the self-loathing to which I was educated. Against the injunction to discard whatever was mine.
I still feel this urge of discarding whatever is too much of my own even now, as I search for originality and personal style in my writing. I hate my pathos, my flourish, the overload of me in whatever I do. As if it were aesthetically inadmissible, like an excess of female body in an obese girl. Everything should be different, not as it is. Whatever is mine should be discarded. It is not limpid, it is not comprehensible, it requires too much attention, occupies to much space.
Perhaps my utopian aspiration of studying non-cultural poeisis becomes understandable only in the light of this personal experience of significant making as something going against the cultural message received. The cultural message I got, even in the positive sense of a calling for scholarship or the approval of cultural analysis and criticism, was in fact anti-poietic. That cultural calling was to do things derived, not the primary creation; and I believe it would be the same, if I studied painting instead of philology. The call of my inner landscapes was something essentially different, opposite to the impulses transmitted to me from others. With the best of intentions, they could only invite me to share the existing universe of meaning; they could only dissuade me from searching for my own.
To explore and inhabit my inner places was to remain constantly on the edge of incommunicable, something I was unable to articulate clearly even to myself, with all the resources I had at my disposal, both visual and verbal. Inner places are a zone of silence and emptiness, where shaping, articulating hardly emerges out of nothingness as a fluctuation, constantly collapsing back onto undisturbed void. There exists a specific emotion of non-cultural poiesis, that is a sensation of fullness, of plenitude inherent to the unlimited potential present in the void, from where any creative act may begin.
This is how I always wanted to count my life; the form that my autobiographical narration took in The Four Riders marks the collapse of the extra-cultural onto the cultural, the failure of articulating the inner domain, of remaining in it. Initially, I was only able to tell my life in constant reference to the cultural, to the History going on outside, because the cultural offered the only grid, the only support for expressing my experience, for talking about it in a meaningful way. But at the same time, whatever was cultural constituted a traumatic irruption into my inner world, and I think this particular narration shows it very well. How much I lost and suffered every time that people and external circumstances were interfering with my inner reality. Of course, there was a cultural transmission also inside, plenty of it; all that "high scholarship" that I mention as my refuge, all those books and libraries are eminently cultural. But at the same time, they are spheres of the irruption of the extra-cultural authenticity and vitality; there is a profound difference in the quality of the cultural as I found it in art or inspiring scholarship and the cultural as I found it in the narrow, enslaving repetition of ancestral gestures and rituals to which my mother was fettered, the manipulative cultural that my grandfather sipped from his ultra-Catholic radio, even in the madness of my father collecting chestnuts under his bed to protect himself from imaginary radiation of the underground water currents. This is something that cannot be reduced to the by-gone opposition of high and low culture, the elitist and the popular. I make quite a different distinction: between the vital, the dynamic, and the stagnating; between the productive, the efficient, and the reproduction of failure. What is to be found through these different qualities of the cultural is liberation and enslavement, mind-boggling abundance, and the most dire poverty, misery, desolation. The desolation of the hen my grandmother kept in the balcony of our urban flat, because she was unable to let go her peasant culture in which the bird and its egg were so central and so profoundly sacred. The example may seem anecdotal, but I believe such an atavism is omnipresent in the cultural realms we inhabit. This is why the deconstruction of the cultural, the ability to let it go is absolutely crucial.
What I call different quality of the cultural may perhaps be reduced to the closeness of the extra-cultural from these varied locations inside the cultural territory that I have evoked above.