These mad windows that taste life and cut me if I go through them…
Charles Bukowski



Home now, already for more than four weeks. Half the year I live in France, the other half in the Netherlands.

To connect the two homes, I transport a fine Songye mask coming and going. It’s like a hinge between two houses, steadying me in my globe trotting life, now hanging in La Roche, then again in my study in Haarlem.



This time, to settle myself properly, I even rearranged my ‘wall of art’, the little exhibition of drawings, prints, sculptures I possess.



I even acquired a Chagall drawing, you see it in the left corner against one of the bookshelves. It once served as illustration in one of the first issues of the Dutch literary journal Podium. In this almost virginal state it is shown on the web:


There are interesting things here. First: This version looks like it was drawn yesterday, a pure white background. As I owe the original, which, at the request of my father Chagall did in the printing room of the publisher – in the year 1949, to be used in the ‘Israel Issue’ of the journal – I know what it really looks like. After 66 years that is:



Obviously, it has been in transit, suffered time . The way of all flesh, the way of all paper… Both passe-partout and drawing have yellowed a lot.

More interesting is no. Two: the position of the signature. On the web it is clearly set below the left feet of Jacob who is shown fighting The Angel. It is said that Jacob won and asked to be blessed by his victim. This the angel did and he ‘christened’ Jacob as ‘Israel’, the beginning of a long, long history.

Now, Chagall did many versions of this fight, most of them in ghastly colors. Non of them have the power of ‘mine’. It seems almost impossible to explain how on that web-picture that signature from the same year suddenly appears in Jacob’s knee hollow. Or Chagall must have tried a few times, someone else has another one… Any way, a signature in transit.

My intent with bringing this drawing into my study and putting some of the drawings already hanging there in proper frames, was to finalize the view I have while siësting on my divan. To feel more steady at home.

This seems to be my problem. From the bags I carry to and fro, I tend to pick up just a few sets of underwear, a few pairs of socks and some shirts. The carousel of washing machine and wearing is constantly turning. The bags remain in place, just where I put them the day I arrived from France – as if I am ready to go any minute, which I think I am not.

So am I settled or in transit? Never sure which is the real thing, whether any of the two houses is my home? Like Chagall’s signature – on the run.

See also my daily blog in Dutch:


Author: rjsiersk

Sierksma was born in Friesland, a 'county' in the northern part of the Netherlands with its own language which he does not speak and with an obstinate population to which he both belongs and does not belong. A retired Professor of Social Philosophy and Aesthetics, as a Harkness fellow he taught at Rutgers and Berkeley Universities in the USA, and at GUAmsterdam and TUDelft in the Netherlands. In 1991 he was awarded his PhD from Leiden University on the subject of 'Surveillance and Task: Labour Discipline between Utilitarianism and Pragmatism'. His books include Minima Memoria (1993), Lost View (2002 with Jan van Geest), and Litter Scent (2013). He has published poems and articles in Te Elfder Ure, Nynade, Oasis and the Architectural Annual. Half the year he lives in Haarlem, the other half he spends in la France Profonde, living ‘in his own words’ as the house out there was bought with the winnings from his essay Eternal Sin, written for the ECI Essay Prize (1993). In this blog, Sierksma's Sequences, written in English, he is peeping round his own and other people’s perspectives. Not easily satisfied with answers nor with questions, he turns his wry wit to a number of philosophical and historical issues. His aim in writing: to make parts of the world light up in his perspective - not my will, thine! Not being a thief, he has no cook, one wife, some children, one lover and three cats.

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