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

Monday, February 27, 2012

Zweig's Impression of Rilke in Paris

From The World of Yesterday:

There were only a very few things around him, but flowers always shone in a vase or bowl, perhaps the gift of women, perhaps tenderly brought home by himself. Books gleamed from the walls, beautifully bound or carefully jacketed in paper, for he liked books as he liked dumb animals. Pencils and pens lay on the desk in a straight line, and clean sheets of paper perfectly straightened; a Russian icon and Catholic crucifix, which, I believe, accompanied him on all  his travels, gave his working cell a slightly religious character, although his religiousness was not connected with any specific dogma. One felt that everything had been carefully chosen and as carefully preserved.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Carlyle's Axiom in Zweig's "The World of Yesterday"

From Zweig's World:

Inasmuch as I had long since dedicated my soul to literature, not one of the accredited special university courses interested me, and anyway I had a secret distrust of all academic activity which has remained with me to this day. Carlyle's axiom that the true university of these days is a good collection of books has remained valid as far as I am concerned, and even today I am convinced that one can become an excellent philosopher, historian, philologist, lawyer, or what you will, without having attended a university or even a Gymnasium.

Underscores become Bullets: From Beckett's "The Unnamable"

  • I'll sham dead now, whom they couldn't bring to life, and my monster's carapace will rot off me. But it's entirely a matter of voices,  no other metaphor is appropriate. They've blown me up with their voices, like a balloon, and even as I collapse it's them I hear
  • I won't say it, I can't say it, I have no language but theirs, . . .
  • This is the kind of language I can almost understand, these the kind of clear and simple notions on which it is possible for me to build, I ask for no other spiritual nourishment. A turnip, I know roughly what a turnip is like, a carrot too, particularly the Flakkee, or Colmar Red
  • the soul being notoriously immune from deterioration and dismemberment
  • I have to puke my heart out too, spew it up whole along with the rest of the vomit, it's then at last I'll look as if I mean what I'm saying, it won't be just idle words
  • The galley-man, bound for the Pillars of Hercules, who drops his sweep under cover of night and crawls between the thwarts, towards the rising sun, unseen by the guard, praying for storm
  • Pupil Mahood, repeat after me, Man is a higher mammal
  • But it's time I gave this solitary a name, nothing doing without proper names. I therefore baptise him Worm
  • I can hear him yet, faithful, begging me to still this dead tongue of the living
  • That the impossible should be asked of me, good, what else could be asked of me? But the absurd! Of me whom they have reduced to reason
  • I've swallowed three hooks and am still hungry
  • the setting sun whose last rays, raking the street from end to end, lend to my cenotaph and interminable shadow, astraddle of the gutter and the sidewalk
  • And often I went on looking without flinching until, ceasing to be, I ceased to see

Friday, February 24, 2012

Frans Masereel, A Passionate Journey

One more: couldn't resist.

Frans Masereel (1889 - 1972)

Frans Masereel (31 July 1889 – 3 January 1972) was a Flemish painter and graphic artist who worked mainly in France. He is known especially for his woodcuts. His greatest work is generally said to be the wordless graphic novel Mon Livre d'Heures (Passionate Journey). He completed over 20 other wordless novels in his career. Masereel's woodcuts strongly influenced the work of Lynd Ward and later graphic artists such as Clifford Harper and Eric Drooker.

There is now a Frans Masereel Centre (Frans Masereel Centrum for Graphix) in the small village of Kasterlee in Belgium.


Masereel, 1924

Masereel, 1924 by Mauro F.A.
Masereel, 1924, a photo by Mauro F.A. on Flickr.
Another nice example of Masereel's work: The Kiss.

Unfortunately, I can't find a copy of the woodcut on Zweig's book: Der Zwang.

Frans Masereel, La Nageuse (The Bather), 1938

I didn't know his work before I saw the cover art for Stefan Zweig's The World of Yesterday. This is not the cover (haven't been able to dig it up) but a nice example of  Masereel's work nevertheless.


Beckett uses the adjective in The Unnamable.

Infundibulum (noun): Anatomy & Zoology. Any of various funnel-shaped cavities and structures of the body. (SOED)


I'll leave it to the reader's imagination re how Beckett might have used it.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Château d'Oex

Château d'Oex 2009 by perlmic
Château d'Oex 2009, a photo by perlmic on Flickr.
Apparently the first hot air balloon to go around the world was launched from Chateau d'Oex (not far from Montreux).

Of course we will go in the spring (the balloon festival is in January), so I don't know if we'd see any balloons. (Yesterday someone who knows the area told me: "You will not see balloons in April.")

There's a special train from Montreux to Chateau d'Oex--and the ride up and back is supposedly quite beautiful. Might be a good day trip.

Stefan Zweig's "The World of Yesterday"

When I'm not reading Beckett, I'm dreaming of Swiss landscapes (via Fodor's) or scratching away at Stefan Zweig's The World of Yesterday.

Actually I started Zweig's last testament primarily because I hate taking my Kindle out in the rain (I've been especially "oversensitive" since "RexRead" was stolen in Europe last summer; I've gotten over it, and have moved on to "RexRead2").

Haven't gotten far yet, but here's a little taste:

In its liberal idealism, the nineteenth century was honestly convinced that it was on the straight and unfailing path toward being the best of all worlds. Earlier eras, with their wars, famines, and revolts, were deprecated as times when mankind was still immature and unenlightened. But now it was merely a matter of decades until the last vestige of evil and violence would finally be conquered, and this faith in an uninterrupted and irresistible "progress" truly had the force of a religion for that generation. One began to believe more in this "progress" than in the Bible, and its gospel appeared ultimate  because of the daily new wonders of science and technology.

Nabokov, framed

Nabokov, framed by overthemoon
Nabokov, framed, a photo by overthemoon on Flickr.
Another angle with a very interesting "frame."

Vladimir Nabokov (statue, ville de Montreux)

Here's to Switzerland, Montreux, and the inimitable Nabokov.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Beckett's "The Unnamable": "Where now? Who now? When now?"

Finished off Malone (who finished who) and have started The Unnamable.

  • Where now? Who now? When now? Unquestioning. I, say I. Unbelieving. Questions, hypotheses, call them that. Keep going, going on, call that going, call that on
  • I shall not be alone, in the beginning. I am of course alone. Alone
  • There are no days here, but I use the expression
  • Are there other pits, deeper down? To which one accedes by mine? Stupid obsession with depth
  • what I best see I see ill
  • The search for the means to put an end to things, an end to speech, is what enables the discourse to continue
  • I alone am man and all the rest divine

Saturday, February 18, 2012


Eyes talked in-
to blindness.
Their  -- "a
riddle, what is pure-
ly arisen" --, their
memory of
floating Hölderlintowers, gull-

Visits of drowned joiners to
plunging words:

Came, if there
came a man,
came a man to the world, today, with
the patriarchs'
light-beard: he could,
if he spoke of this
time, he
only babble and babble,
ever- ever-

("Pallaksch. Pallaksch.")*

*Pallaksch A word that Hölderlin, spending his last years in the home of a Tübingen carpenter, was given to uttering in his dementia; it could signify Yes or No.

[Poem Translated by John Felstiner; the explanation of Pallaksch is also from his "Notes" in Selected Poems and Prose of Paul Celan] 

Holderlin's Tower in Tübingen

Tübingen_009 by Rob124
Tübingen_009, a photo by Rob124 on Flickr.
A friend has convinced me Tubingen is a must-see. I most certainly want to see Holderlin's Tower. We'll drive from Stuttgart down to Zurich (stopping at a few other must-sees on the way). Time will tell.

Malone Half Remembers the Match King

From Malone Dies:
It's the heart's fault, as in the bosom of the match king, Schneider, Schroeder, I forget. It too is burning, with shame, of itself, of me, of them, shame of everything, except of beating apparently.

[From The Grove Companion to Samuel Beckett by C.J. Ackerley and S.E. Gontarski]

Ivar Kreuger in his office circa 1930

[From Wikimedia Commons, Photographer Unknown]

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Words: No Shoddier Than What They Peddle

Kept thinking of this phrase (Malone Dies) at the end of the day:

There is no use indicting words, they are no shoddier than what they peddle.

And, in addition to the great line above, there was this beautiful image of hair on a windy day:

And on a dry and windy day it would have gone romping in the grass almost like grass itself. 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Cain Toiling on the Moon (in Beckett's "Malone Dies")

From "Malone":
But how is it my little space is not visited by the luminaries I sometimes see shining afar and how is it the moon where Cain toils bowed beneath his burden never sheds its light on my face?

 Apparently this is an allusion to medieval folklore re the "man in the moon" and probably Dante:

["Footnote" from Robert M. Durling's translation of Dante's Paradiso]

Jackson's Parrot in "Malone Dies"

The pink and gray parrot can learn the scholastic Nihil in intellectu ("Nothing in the intellect") but not the "celebrated restriction": nisi prius in sensu ("unless first in the senses"), which is too much for it: "all you heard was a series of squawks."

Some of What I've Underlined (Thus Far) in Beckett's "Malone Dies"

Some of the "bits" I've underscored (in Kindle) in Beckett's "Malone Dies":
  • What matters is to eat and excrete
  • Nothing is more real than nothing
  • and sorry he could make no meaning of the babel raging in his head, the doubts, desires, imagings and dreads
  • And on the threshold of being no more I succeed in being another
  • There is no use indicting words, they are no shoddier than what they peddle
  • It is such a night as Kaspar David Friedrich loved, tempestuous and bright
  • The noises of nature, of mankind and even my own, were all jumbled together in one and the same unbridled gibberish
  • For he knew how the dead and buried tend, contrary to what one might expect, to rise to the surface, in which they resembled the drowned
  • You may say it is all in my head, and indeed sometimes it seems to me I am in a head and that these eight, no, six, these six planes that enclose me are of solid bone

    Virtual Spring Break: Switzerland

    Excited? Maybe. But--whatever the reality--I thought it'd be fun to hang a few photos (borrowed from Photobucket or elsewhere--we'll compare my photos once we return) re our 99% certain trip (got the flights, hotels, car; pretty much locked into the somewhat "literary" itinerary--e.g., hope to get to Frisch's Berzona) to Switzerland. Let's see what I can find.

    We fly into Stuttgart, Germany, and I plan to make a little stop, heading south, near (and within view of) the Hohenzollern Castle:

    Then we head to Zurich to see something of what Celan saw from the Hotel zum Storchen:

    Grossmunster church Pictures, Images and Photos

    Then on to Locarno (see below) and Berzona (see earlier posts re this shier village and the Frisch connection):

    locarno, switzerland Pictures, Images and Photos

    Next stop: Montreux and Nabokov's grave (maybe I'll shoot Freddie Mercury if he's convenient):

    After two days in Montreux we'll head back to Stuttgart, possibly making a detour through the Schwarzwald for fairy tales and Celan/Heidegger (Todtnauberg):

    Heidegger's "Hut"
    [From Wikimedia Commons]

    Todtnau Waterval Pictures, Images and Photos

    Sunday, February 5, 2012

    "The Last Man" Is Coming Out Soon!

    The Last Man, my first collection of poetry, will be available for pre-order (at a discount of 25%) on February 7th. Hurrah!

    Cover Art by Katia Swihart

    Saturday, February 4, 2012

    More "Licks" from Beckett's "Molloy" (Bolsa Chica Will Have to Wait)

    Meant to take some photos down at Bolsa Chica, but when I unholstered my camera it was dead. Perhaps another time. Saw the sun rise above Modjeska. A thousand fires on the pennisula. A low-flying heron, looking like a stiff alderman.


    From Beckett's Molloy:
    • I would have been I think an excellent husband, incapable of wearying of my wife and committing adultery only from absent-mindedness
    • And these different windows that open in my head, when I grope again among those days
    • The black speck I was, in the great pale stretch of sand, who could wish it harm
    • my astonishing old age, still green in places
    • And every time I say, I said this, or I said that, or speak of a voice saying, far away inside me, Molloy, and then a fine phrase more or less clear and simple, or find myself compelled to attribute others intelligible words, or hear my own voice uttering to others more or less articulate sounds, I am merely complying with the convention that demands you either lie or hold your peace
    • The sun's beams shone through the rift in the curtains and made visible the sabbath of the motes
    • save in so far as such a son might bear, like a scurf of placenta, her stamp
    • What I heard, in my soul I suppose, where the acoustics are so bad, was a first syllable, Mol, very clear, followed almost at once by a second, very thick, as though gobbled by the first, and which might have been oy as it might have been ose, or one, or even oc
    • It seemed to me that all language was an excess of language
    • Like a Fate who had run out of thread
    • I sought in my mind, where all I need is to be found
    • the human race, in its slow ascension towards the light