We both did not want to marry. Yet, it was a romance: courtship, desire, fear and awe.
Philip Kerr, Field Grey
As long as you are doing something, you are innocent. You are only becoming a sinner, the moment you step out of the circle.
Sándor Márai, The Disaffected
Have I always been an old man, even when I was a youngster? The older a man gets, the more he sublimates Woman into splendour and clarity, at the same making her into an exciting whore, a body tout court, an object whose exterior becomes less important to him, though more vital. The old man – a being of extremes.
However, from my first youthful virile days on, I have always wanted to copulate only with beautiful women or with beautiful verse or with a fine canvas or with a splendid string quartet – all of them always somewhat aged and ripe. Second best, no good. Oh, how many I have disdained… [Do read the hubris into this, dear Reader, please!]
Could it be the privilege of a pensioned émigré, to abandon all worldly matters? It is not that this world has become of less importance, after all she remains important to others, continues to be relevant for younger people who still think they can meddle and make something of it. The older person is certainly running the risk of continuous disenchantment. After all, he has already messed up, time and again.
In a flush of speechless amorousness, here in my sweet La Roche, living in Nowhereland, I submerge into world-renouncing matters’.
The grandeur of a young little toad on leaf of grass:
The éclat of a mauve splash of lilac thistles:
A budding fern, so full of hope.
Just negate the supposedly important. I just know that there are things more significant, at least for me more important. Things ineffable. On the edge of time, all is surface, nothing is a question; all is wonder, nothing an answer.
Three lilac flowers in a wine carafe on the kitchen ledge, bringing spring into the house. Even the small succulent in the background. It was given to me as a present last year, while visiting one of France’s Secret Gardens, by a gorgeous woman I was not allowed to taste.
After my winter-long absence, it is now flourishing, only a few hours since my generous gift of a few drops of water. No flowers, for sure, but generous round little leaves that are, unanticipated by themselves, gently swelling and raising their pretty faces.
No word is innocent, or so the French Marxist told us. Even though, in a fit of bewilderment, he killed his own spouse, Althusser was surely right.
In the movie Il Postino, the anxious mother of Beatrice [pronounced the Italian way; no word is innocent, certainly not the spoken one], is fearing for her daughter’s virginity. She educates the local priest, who is trying to comfort the woman. She tells him: When a man touches you with his words, his hands are never far off. Words are the worst…
In his rather oppressive novel, The Bad Girl, Vargas Llosa erects a monument to this profound consideration.
A man is completely crazy about a woman, so to say: ‘until death do us part’, which is this case is hers. Time and again, she tries to escape from him. Whether by coincidence or otherwise, he always finds her again, each time however in a new shape, adorned with a new name, speaking a different language, with yet another intonation.
And again, she vanishes, unannounced. She cheats the man, she is both a beauty and she is not, in whatever way irresistible for that man. Nevertheless or, for that matter: consequently, their relationship is one of a vitriolic sadomasochism.
And yet, she is not really deceiving him. After all, each time she has become an altogether different human being…
My book marker in Bad Girl,
cut from the cover of a cheap American novelette
A case study in pseudologia phantastica this is, that intriguing affliction which makes people pretend to be someone, however without actually lying. Lying and reality are out of it; the one suffering from pseudologia is – for the time being – the person [s]he thinks and tells [s]he is. It is not about impersonating; that person is someone else and does not even know it.
Once in her ideal setting, the context of Japan, the land where masks cannot be distinguished any longer from those who wear them, Llosa’s new Kuzoko – quite different than us other mortals – seems to find it difficult to distinguish between the world in which she lives and that other world in which she claims to live.
Yet, is she all that different from us ‘normal mortals’? The Bad Girl is also the one whom her lover presumes to be what she seems to be, an illusion so powerful that authenticity is not at stake. The truth was, that there was something in her which made it impossible not to love her, for the same reasons that we value a great work of art, however perverse this may turn out to be.
Is this, then, not the intense pseudological illusion of all passionate love, even the love of simple mortals; that wide-spread misapprehension that one is living something and that one could not live it in any other way? This would imply that everything in life is at the same time reality and misunderstanding; in short: phantasy’s gorgeous Paradise.
Only a Positivist believes in the illusion that we may coincide with our facts; he thinks that we may observe the world as if it consists of pure, autonomous and aloof objects – as if we are not just part and parcel of that world.
Instead, now and then I sink away into the surfaces of the world surrounding me, for instance fading into the mildewed plating of a roof, once more repaired – then, of a sudden, surprised to find myself being also in and of this world – then taking its picture, suddenly become a surface myself, perhaps even an interface.
When my good friend Lois pays me a visit – without her husband with whom I am embroiled – Butterfly’s miserably beautiful final aria is filling up the space of my courtyard. ‘O, yes’, Lois cries while still on the other side of the fence: ‘Pinkerton!’ I myself would never have first thought about that bastard Pinkerton, the one who indeed set Butterfly’s tears aflame.
Perhaps, women and men listen to operas differently. Loved ones are more relevant to me, than the ones I have come to hate, even if those last ones sometimes came first. Puccini’s ever so sad final aria about loss weeps for everything all of us have lost.
After Lois has left me that evening, Dido may finish the day. But ah, forget my fate! While the song is gripping the soul, my body is absorbing the last wine of that day. Once again, in the background of this incredible music, another shitass of a man lingers, this time Aeneas.
Always, these opera-men who find out, often far too late, that they have fucked up and turn out to be nothing but an appendix of the women who are shining so melancholically beautiful on stage – thanks to them: La Traviata, Donna Elvira, Dido, Butterfly…
No word is innocent, certainly not when chanted. We are living our language. We are living inside it. We live off that tongue – trying to escape, yet only in the end do we really succeed.
Sierksma, La Roche, 7 June 2011