One has just been sent out as a biblical dove, has found nothing green, and slips back
into the darkness of the ark -- Kafka

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Dag Solstad (Reread): Clips

Both before and after this he remains the same, the man who reels off those smart lines, one of which has acquired an immortal status in Norwegian literature: “If you take the life-lie away from an average person, you take away his happiness as well.”
The main problem with such a job was that they were incapable of receiving what he was supposed to give them.
He had even been amused at the thought that his teaching bored the pupils, thinking, Well, such is life, that’s the way it is, and must be, to teach in high school in a civilized country. The very thought of the contrary situation sufficed to make one quickly understand how impossible it would have been if it had not been the way it, as a matter of fact, was. Just try to imagine what things would be like if the cultural heritage awakened an enormous enthusiasm among the coming generation, so that they devoured it greedily because it had both the questions and the answers to what they had secretly been preoccupied with—a sweet thought in a way, but not if one considers the reality of the situation, namely, that it is a question of immature people with a rather con fused, incomplete, even at times directly commonplace emotional and intellectual life. If the literature handed down to us through our cultural heritage really took hold of our youth, at the mental and psychological level where it finds itself, that would, if true, throw a painful light on the very culture that called this literature “our cultural heritage.”
He entered the teachers’ lounge. He had only this double class on Monday (being on a reduced schedule as the head teacher of Norwegian at the school), so his work for today was now over. He attempted a condescending smile, at life and at his own role in it, but could not bring it off. Phew, he thought, there are any number of execrable things one has to put up with in this world, God knows, trying in this way to push aside the morning’s unpleasant experiences before walking through the door to where his colleagues were relaxing before their next classes. He chatted with a couple of colleagues about this and that, while noticing that the effects of yesterday’s aquavit had not yet completely loosened their hold on his body and brain, and he caught himself wanting to have a beer, but for that, of course, it was far too early. He felt he had succeeded in calming down, and therefore he decided to leave the school for today, having nothing to do there anymore because he could make preparations for the day tomorrow much better at home, in his own apartment. When he reached the front door he discovered it had started to rain. Not much, just a light drizzle, but enough to make him ask himself whether he should open his umbrella, he would not get very wet during that short walk home if he didn’t. But since he had taken the umbrella with him in the morning, he decided to use it anyway. He opened it, but it didn’t work. He had pressed the button that would cause the umbrella to open automatically, but nothing happened. He pressed the button once more, harder, but nothing happened. Not that, too, he thought, indignant. He gave it a third try, but with no success. Then he tried to force the umbrella open with his hands, but that didn’t he lp either; the umbrella resisted, so that he just barely managed to make it spread out, and even that cost him a great effort. Then he couldn’t contain himself. He was standing in the school yard at Fagerborg High School, in the recess, trying to open his umbrella. But he could not do it. Hundreds of pupils at the school were standing round about, and some of them must have noticed him. Enough! He walked rapidly up to the water fountain and banged the umbrella against it in a wild fury. He struck and struck the umbrella against the fountain, felt how the metal in the shaft was beginning to give and that the ribs were breaking. Delighted, he struck and struck. Through a sort of haze he saw the pupils approaching, slowly and in profound silence, as if they were stealing toward him, and now they were standing around him in a semicircle, but at a respectful distance. He was beating the increasingly limp, cracking umbrella against the fountain in a savage fury. When he noticed that the ribs were beginning to loosen, he threw the umbrella on the ground and started jumping on it, before using his heel to try and crush the umbrella with it. Then he picked up the umbrella again and banged it once more against the fountain—the ribs were now broken and uncontrollably twisted, winding in all directions, some of them cutting into his hand and leaving little scratches in the skin where he could see the blood begin to trickle out. He was surrounded by pupils all around, lurking pupils, quiet, their eyes staring. They were staring open-mouthed, standing motionless around him, but always at a respectful distance. Several of them had lunch boxes in their hands, for it was the middle of the noon recess. He could make out, as through a haze, the faces of the nearest ones and, strange to say, quite clearly. A tall blond girl was looking at him in amazement, he noticed, as were a couple of boys from the graduating class, and their faces, which looked ridiculousl y astonished, made him even more furious. He stared at the tall blond. Damn bitch! he yelled. Eat your food! Fat snout! And in the same instant he grabbed the umbrella, black and smashed up, and went for them full tilt. When he reached them, they drew to one side, very quickly, allowing him to lurch along between them and continue on, through the empty, wet school yard and out of it and down Fagerborggate—free, finally free, away from them! He walked hurriedly, at a violently agitated pace that accorded with his agitated condition, and in this state of mind he now began to wail as it dawned on him what he had done.
To find what means something to you, you have to grope your way through a mess of business interests, he added. You can be struck dumb by less. But they call this mess democracy. And if I call it a mess, they come and tell me that I have contempt for the people, he thought indignantly. And perhaps they are right, he reflected. Maybe I no longer believe in democracy. Oh, Elias, cut it out, will you? Now you’re drunk, he said sternly to himself, and to be on the safe side he said it aloud, to hear whether he spoke with a slight snuffle, which he discovered to his relief that he did. But it was repeated. Time after time Elias Rukla caught himself late in the evening, after midnight, having such thoughts, and it made him feel depressed every time. That too! The fact th at he was no longer even a democrat in his heart! What was the next thing going to be! Was it because he had been defeated? That the cause of his social suffering was the democratization of culture and even of life itself? But he was against it, after all! He felt revolted by it! If so, if in fact the manifestations of democracy revolted him, why should he be a supporter of democracy? You are drunk, Elias, he again heard him saying to himself, go to bed, the night is wearing on. But he did not go to bed. He went on thinking, as deeply as possible. He tried to console himself with the thought of how common it was that a defeated, nearly annihilated minority found it difficult to acclaim those who defeated them, and the weapons that were used to vanquish them so utterly. But that duty was incumbent on him, insofar as it was the people’s voice and people’s right to express themselves that had defeated him. I refuse to consider myself undemocratic, he thought obstinately. Th at I will not put up with. And so, when the chips are down, I must say, though not without a sense of repugnance, that if you wish to show your belief in democracy, you also have to do so when you are in the minority, convinced both intellectually and, not least, in your innermost self, that the majority, in the name of democracy, is crushing everything that you stand for and that means something to you, indeed, all that gives you the strength to live and endure, well, that gives a kind of meaning to your life, something that transcends your own rather fortuitous lot, one might say. When the heralds of democracy roar, triumphantly bawling out their vulgar victories day after day so that it really makes you suffer, as in my own case, you still have to accept it; I will not let anything else be said about me, he thought. Then he went on sitting there quietly, deeply absorbed in thought and staring into vacancy for a long while. But it’s really terrible, he added, suddenly getting up to go to bed. And I have no one to talk to anymore, he sighed. Eva, of course, but that was not what I had in mind.

Sunday Brunch @ Queen Mary

I was a little disappointed -- but it was my second time and I had a cold. I made only two trips: omelet, please, and then I got a few breakfast sides. Omelet #1 + OJ, coffee, and champagne; rest and then Omelet #2 + OJ, coffee, and champagne.

Always good views w/ or w/o portal.

I saw the pool (through a glass darkly) for the first time. Remind me of a mini-version of the inside pool at Hearst's Castle.


New Greenbelt Park (between Park & Ximeno)


Saturday, March 10, 2018

Coetzee's "The Master of Petersburg"

I've only "clipped" once (and I'm almost finished), but I'm enjoying. Fast then slow. And the "project" is a bit opaque, i.e., Seems an odd way to mourn your own son. Of course it's more than that -- and who am I to say what Coetzee should or shouldn't do -- but of course that is remaining an idee fixe for me throughout.

Oh, and it's pushing me to read Dusty-and-Dusky's The Devils. I think I've started it but never finished. We'll see.


He turns the pages back and forth distractedly. Forgiveness: is there no word of forgiveness, however oblique, however disguised? Impossible to live out his days with a child inside him whose last word is not of forgiveness.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Coetzee "Clips" -- Waiting ...

In my dreams I am again in the desert, plodding through endless space towards an obscure goal. I sigh and wet my lips. “What is that noise?” I ask when the guard brings my food. They are tearing down the houses built against the south wall of the barracks, he tells me: they are going to extend the barracks and build proper cells. “Ah yes,” I say: “time for the black flower of civilization to bloom.” He does not understand.
I cannot save the prisoners, therefore let me save myself. Let it at the very least be said, if it ever comes to be said, if there is ever anyone in some remote future interested to know the way we lived, that in this farthest outpost of the Empire of light there existed one man who in his heart was not a barbarian.


R L Swihart's "Limerick" in Salt Hill 40

My little poem "Limerick" is in the current issue of Salt Hill.