Saturday, October 30, 2004
Probably Diana's book made me really interested in different aspects of the Jewish question and I thoroughly read on the subject, the history of the Jewish question in Germany, Holocaust, the Jewish "haskala", Scandinavian-Jewish history and Icelandic-Jewish history, the latter being my current topic. I'm working in some project at the moment in that topic (in my free time, when I have any at all). As a conferencist on the Jewish question I had to pursue by myself a thorough review of the subject. I've stepped into other topics such as Jewish political philosophy with the text of R. Mizrachi, the Jewish mentality of R. Patai, etc. Diana Wang was the spark of all these intellectual journeys, that have been more than knowledge, a permanent search of my inner-self. This search ends in the gay culture of Tel Aviv, deconstructed postmodernism and urban theory; I'll try to give a little bit of everything but for now (and for some time) I want to focus on Diana, in the meantime I'll use my time up to read some philosophical essays that will allow me to continue with my plan as to talk about the subjectivity/reality of morality.
I believe the Holocaust experience and the Jewish identity is only the superstructure of the "eastern" axe of my life, being Classical Greece and the antiquity the "western" axe. I'll go into details when the time comes. The two of them support my intellect and support me as a person and as an invidual; most of the time I rely on my western axe as it helps me understand the phenomena of the world in which I live from one of their main cradles, spiritual knowledge we would say. The eastern axe is a bit more clinggy, a bit more personal, more intimate, supra-linguistic. My knowledge though, is a bit too general and other than linguistic, I have no authority for "educated opinions", but this is simply a blog and I'm free to write down my heart and my mind. This writing is quite not orderly but it's not supposed to be, maybe 20 or 30 years will bring me the answer of what I really need to write about, for now this is the result of personal needs and experiences in life, I think I owe to write about this co-lateral topics.
I probably don't enjoy the social science as much as I enjoy my poetry or my fuzzy notes and stories, but I reckon the importance of discussing these things, it relieved my heart somehow.
The things I'll write about are not all rosey and pink, because I want to discuss truths about humankind and some discussions must be just plain blunt. I'll use many analogies proposed by Wang on the Holocaust and at some point will spread into another hot topic of mine (currently I'm a conferencist on history of democratic ideas and European studies at the OLEI, Latin American immigrants association), the "Democracy" thing and will compare with a certain text on homosexuality in the Nazi party, the Greek philosophy, Indo-European mythology and contemporary gay culture. This is one of the "branches" that I'm more interested in developing. It just seems a lifetime or two aren't enough.
To start with I want to "comment" Diana's request just right before the prologue of R. Hodara and the prologue itself.
Diana kindly requests "If you want to follow my warning and not to read it (she means the book), do know I understand, I understand and accept it. If in spite of my warning you've decided to go ahead, welcome aboard!. When you finish it, or when you're midway if you want, I'd like to know what you think, what you feel like, if you have concerns, memories, things to add or rectify, write me. Even when I'm definitely enrolled in the group of the skeptics and pessimists, I can't deal with myself (survivors tactic perhaps) and I still keep a little hope".
I personally sympathize with her request, I've spoken about the contents of this book with a few people, and coincidences in life made me return to the text. After the national library thing and having taken the book home on loan a few times, I happened to move to Israel and met Arie Gecht, whose family lives in Argentina, during one of his trips I made contact with Diana, who kindly sent me a copy of the book in Spanish and I'm using it right now as I'm writing this. This is exactly what I'll attempt to do now, I don't know if anyone will like the results but I can only try. My parents and my grandparents are not here to help me, I don't have any names, I don't have any stories, I can just comment.
As the prologue goes (I'll use the translation from Diana's website); I think
it's a very "concise" introduction to the subject of the book, ironically
dealing with the "silences", how silent can you remain? for how long time? for how many years?; the prologue of the book is called "The Sounds of Silence" (!). I've quoted the first paragraphs of this introduction in several writings of mine, for I could never really separate myself from that concept, and without willingness to make heroic noises about the weightful characters of those words, I wouldn't withhold myself from starting my journey through Diana Wang, precisely with simple quotations from her book's prologue; I think there'll be a simple note I'll add on each and every personal remark but I don't really know this'll turn out so I'll let myself flow. I believe this is one of the most ambitious enterprises I could ever pursue, the inner journey to talk about my personal story, something that people owe to remember, a set of explanations I've tried to find over the last 7 years of my life. This comes product of an inner need to release and relieve myself, more than a simple desire to write about anything in particular. As the words slip by I have more and more difficulties to verbalize, to compare, to understand but nevertheless I dare; these pages are my very own daring. I'll survive them and rescue my life from the ashes of their procrastinations. This is not dead matter and it's not history either, it's just an opinionated and objectively defined thought about my life.
The prologue of the book dwells firstly on the topic of the silences; I believe silences are a very important and meaningful part of the sensorial experience, of supra-linguistic information that humans share; that kind of information the radical experience of reason can't explain; such as metaphysical phenomena and others. Silence is to some extent a different language, a universal language that precludes itself from the signified-signifier relationship of regular language. Silence doesn't know morphemic units, doesn't know semantic relationships and syntactic interfaces; it's a more universal language. It's a language with a different code, a subreptitious code; it's the language of our artistic appreciation, the language of universal pain and love, the language of the man-nature relationship; and perhaps silence is the dreadful tool of those of us who "dare" into this inner journey.
Only now I started to understand or better say "overview" how the Nazi Holocaust gave me a detailed outlook of my own personal experience, of my emotional experience in general. The more I learnt about different perspectives of this phenomena beyond the pitiful historicism of the Holocaust, the more I find myself in those conclusions, the more I understand about my culture, about my identity, about my family, about my life, my country. I would encourage each and every Jewish person to "dare" into the questioning, to inquire, to search, to find. I believe Diana was one of those daring persons, and I would like to include myself in that group too. As she commented once, if you want to keep believing that the world is this black-and-white-only structure with good and evil, right and wrongdoing, you're entitled the civil right to do so. I honestly prefer my shelter in between the greys, my awareness.
"The Sounds of Silence" (Rachel Hodara)
"In general, in order to sleep we long for silence. Yet there are certain kinds of silence that preclude sleep, silences that are cries of terror which - suffocated by pain and shame - strain to be heart. Among those who have suddenly been assaulted by this discovery, there are some who have chosen to quickly plug their ears; they cannot be blamed. They only wish to protect their sanity. Other plug into the sounds , but do not perceive the words they are composed of. A few, very few, dare to decipher the words, to become participants not only in the pain but also in the knowledge and, thus, in the terror that unavoidably accompanies it, hand in hand.
When I come to think about those words, it's probably a brief-in-a-nutshell of what we're going to "talk about"; this silences are a fundamental component of human discovery of the universe of phenomenology. I want to examine the words... for this "silence" equation is very similar to knowledge in general; to understanding and overview, perspective. These things that are not particularly unique but that affect the whole common of the human kind.
Silences that preclude sleep? I think I'm somehow very familiar to this experience. All those of us that have been attacked by the unfamiliar smells and scenes of what some sociologist friend of mine would call the "genetic memory", all those of us know what this silence that precludes sleep is about. All of us that have lived in families that survived regimes, dictatorships and that smelled death from a very close know what this silence is about; I belive somehow even Israelis could understand this silence. Sometimes these silences are the only rational explanations we can find to our longing and sorrowful thinking; the circumstances that have led our lives or maybe the lives of our family and therefore our personal history escape the convention of the logics, escape the conventions of our right and wrongdoing representations of the world, thus, we have to deal with those phenomena with tools and skills that escape the conventions of logic inasmuch as the phenomena themselves; terrorist attacks are a great example of this dicotomy. Silences are one of those non-logic natural responses we develop as a protective shield, they protect us from the conceptualization, from the realization; they preclude us from the creative process in which the event connects the experience and the idea all at once; it's a frightening thought. Those silences protected our parents and protected us, and probably we protect our children with those silences too. But, are we really challenging enough to decipher the language of silence? I certainly doubt it, we can't find the root of the matter, but somehow we can enter the experience of the "can never leave" that creates this silences as a continuum between events and the "life in the aftermath". I believe the search is very much worthy, not as an end, but as a process. We'll go back to the issue of silence several times, only one important keyword: verbalize.
Plugging ears? Well, this is common to most human experiences. I'm "used" to do it all the time; it's a very "infamous" behavior well-known as denial, one of the greatest inventions in human history if you ask me. This is the easy way to deal with life, with reality, with history. Most of these persons are foreign to the silence, they see it as something strange, unfamiliar and unworthy of any serious thought, devoid of relevance. We live in a society of "plugged ears"; for the social conventions and even the moral super-structure of these societies make denial an acceptable way of living, an alternative. History of the world is a history of plugged ears, of neglectance. History cannot be seen anymore as those cold historiographic and flat facts events about wars and conquers; there's something more to it, there's humanity and there're facts that logic fails to explain, that the history of sciences and the spirit fails to explain. That's why we cannot plug our ears anymore. But we can't blame to those who do, it's always the easy way. "Protect their sanity", how many times did I try to commute with these words? How many things did I do in my life only in order to protect myself? Could I defy life with its science?
Plunging into the sounds? Plunging into the sounds is a common experience to most of us I guess; that's from where we have all those discourses about "no more" and "never again"; and we never really end up understanding the causes of our very own sorrows, struggles and defeats. We just find it comfortable to smell our history from a far without really getting involved with it, the superficial approach, it doesn't bring you any personal satisfactions and it doesn't constitute a real passion, but it doesn't hurt either, it doesn't harm and it doesn't change your life from the pre-established set of conditions you've been given, your place in society, in your world, your family. The world is still black and white, spiced by those "Frankensteins" of flesh and blood, those criminals, those beings devoid of human touch. But, what are we anyway? Plunging into sounds is as if you didn't listen at all with the "sinful" difference that you do (I'll go back to this point much, much later).
Dare to decipher the words? participation in knowledge, fear and terror? What is it all about? That's exactly what I intend to do in these pages. I probably lack the knowledge but at the same time I knowingly participate in the fear and in the terror of the silences, of open wounds, of illogical fragmentary memory, I participate in this world of "never leave". Nothing precludes me from that imaginary world that is as real as my friends, my family, my school days, etc. It's a parallel world in which I participate without much willingness. Several events of my life have led me to live a life in fear, unavoidably. Somehow I didn't learn to cope with it but I resigned to the idea of such being a constant in my own life. Those things I'm not allowed to share, they're not clear even to myself. I don't have the answers, I don't have the right questions, I simply have doubts that after becoming procrastinations they become sorrows and burdens in my everyday life; those phenomena have conducted my life through certain given paths; but I'm not alone out there. I'm listening to the silences, they rip me off, you can't blame me for this; I'm simply trying to understand. To rediscover history to let it be history and step forward in my life; to make of it my life, rather than a rendez-vous of fears, untold stories and contemptous silences. I want to participate in the knowledge, I want to journey back and forth through it, its the only way to bury it.
Before I start this serious journeying, I must clarify a few points:
1. I must repeat again, I don't have the knowledge of facts about my personal story, but I do relate to the consequences of it and to the phenomena experienced by others. To some level it makes me one of them, one of the survivors, a grandchild of survivors.
2. I never really met any member of my family, uncles, aunts, cousins, and I can even say I never really had the chance to know mom, wherever she might be. I'll explain this later. But the fact of not having these facts doesn't preclude me from the universalism of these factors.
3. I read an interesting article about Anna Frank in the daily Ha'aretz (Israeli newspaper) in which they were claiming the universalism of the diary of Anne Frank. Her experience, although particularly Jewish in historical terms could be applied to the life of anyone who lived in that time, and is a source of inspiration and courage to all of us regardless of our paths in life; even for contemporary German children, as ironic as it sounds. In the different movies and theater plays about Anne, never the Jewish character of the story was stressed, but they rather rescued those universal values and gave them to the world. I believe the same goes for Diana, as much as the Jewish experience in its polyfacetism is central to our ability to understand what she explains us, this experience is not unique to the Jewish people and could perfectly match many others. I find myself in a grey shade in between the Jewish experience and the universal experience and that's why I dare to say this could be the life of anyone else, in Israel, in the USA, in Hungary, in Iceland, etc. The world has mystified the Jewish experience, and I do it as well but that doesn't mean by necessity this is necessarily a Jewish continuum; to approach the universal self is far more important; whether if it is seen through the analogy of the Jewish perspective or not it's not the issue, we're just talking about human kind.
The 5 memories of Diana Wang (Surviving Survival, Argentina, 1998)
1. The deep memory - > The buried self
2. The angered memory - > The divided self
3. The humiliated memory - > The frightened self
4. The infected memory - > The reactive self
5. The inheroic memory - > The diminuted self
I'm not a psychologist neither have pursued any serious studies on the subject other than a certain field of philosophical readings; epistemology, general cosmology, ethics and what is called philosophy of death and suicide, based on the Platonic dialogues. Nevertheless I feel an urge to start dealing with the problem of the 5 memories proposed by Diana Wang and talk about my inner Jewish experience, my self-disregarding Jewish experiece in the context of my life in Israel and before. Lately for some reason events of my life have led me onto the discussion of morality and individual subjectivity; Ofer Mayer and Lara Diguistini have been my guinea pigs in this pursuance... the two persons (with whom I have a relative level of trust) I've sparked with my questions on morality, religion, individual freedoms and other; my personal experience speaks by itself and brings up the subject of my different memory-layers in a general and universal perspective.
In the year 2000 I came across two nowadays-old-good-friends at the National Library; the experience itself was frightening and conclusive for my personal search, for my endless search for identity and conceptualization within a certain universal frame that would define my life for ever after. Christina Goldschmidt and my German-Muslim friend Eduardo. Christina firstly would approach me one day at a table in the humanities reading room (the momentum is simply unforgettable) covered in her black scarf surrounding her red suit and would introduce herself with a big smile; I remember her telling me to my surprise she'd seen me at the cafeteria in the sociology faculty (where the classics lecturers and students used to sit several times a day for our coffee breaks).
Then she proceeds with asking me whether I'm Jewish myself or not because she's; it was one of the most frightening and freeing moments of my life, the discovery of not being alone out there and furthermore the discovery of a Jewish identity in community; a Jew that would identify me as one of their kin. Several questions attacked me, "do I look Jewish?", "do I behave Jewish?", "what would make anyone think I'm a Jew?". The answers were confusing and I longed onto a certain number of procrastinations as the answers I didn't have caused me severe emotional pain.
Until that day I would be a "closet Jew", for I was bearing enough "social burdens" for my age; such as being openly gay and probably the youngest person in the whole university, my intellectual intelligence would constitute at a certain level a curse, that was fair enough at my age to cope with as to take on me the weight of a "Jewish question". It wasn't easy being a Jewish student at the National University; my upper-middle class background at the American International School and my social background itself would almost totally preclude me from the university life.
The humanities faculty and all its departments (an experience common to most European universities) would embrace the "social struggles" of the world and among Marxist and almost Communist ideas, the democratic and capitalist socialism of my background (as a member of a Calvinist society, and also follower of Calvinist determinism) would make me by default an object of hatred. Having been by far better educated than most students and coming from a more privileged social background, I wouldn't make part of the community "milieu". I wasn't myself engaged in any political activity or social movement and opted to segregate myself from the "community" on the ground of my Zionist views; as a permament conferencist at the Distrital University (a different school) on the Jewish question and Jewish literature (at the teacher's education department) the activity itself as an open supporter of the existence of the Israeli state would constitute a predicament and a contradiction.
Later on I would participate at the Middle Eastern politics conference at the Pedagogic University; the conference would go around a thematic axe that would "de-mistify" Zionism as an ideological base for the foundation of the Jewish state. The conference would be obviously left-wing oriented and you could notice a good number of Arab students and I would spot "heading" the conference, the President of the Palestinian community, that would make a very bad impression on me. No person from the Jewish community would be ever invited, and Rabbi Goldschmidt (who contemptously disliked me and never accepted me - and Christina's family either, as a part of the Jewish community; probably because we didn't fit the social status of the Adar Yisrael community), who was expected at the conference, wouldn't turn up.
I appeared at the conference with my friends Gladys and Elizabeth, who were at the time studying for their conversion to Judaism (and Elizabeth eventually converted and moved to Israel, although we've lost contact I've heard she's living in Jerusalem for some time already), it was very interesting although we know that the opinions that were sold at the conference was partly biased, but since they're "wrapped" in the academic knowledge of well-known Christian historians and philosophers that attended the conference, it would give it an "scholarly" touch that would make it "food for thought". This conference would radically change my university life ever after, that was long after I would have met Christina. I would be framed as an "enemy" of public education, a liberal thinker (somewhere else I'd like to explain the duality between the liberal/subjectivist thinker and the realist/rationalist thinker... I have my problems with Aristotle) and a potential neo-capitalist. My questions about Jewish identity would continue growing and I would find myself attacked by so many questions and doubts all through the years; the fact of identifying myself as a Jew wouldn't help anything, because in one hand I'd be openly hated for being one and at the same time I didn't have a clear idea myself of what this Judaism is about, what it really means. I would live with a "split-identity", and like many other "nationally-confused" Jews of ashkenazic stock I would contemptously curdle up into the "protective shield" that my previous cultural identity would grant me (the German-Jewish connection) and would stress above all my German roots, be linguistically, culturally or socially. I would read German books and speak the language in public and openly idenfity myself with the German culture as an example of a perfectly assimilated Jew that could handle his own "multiculturalism" with perfect tact; the Jewish identity was part of those "subreptious and subdued memories" and would haunt me at "night" (this is a metaphor); I would feel afraid to walk around as if fearing a star of David tatooed in my forehead that would reveal me as a Jew.
The "brain trip" of my "selective" Judaism would eventually work out, I was accepted into the Classics seminar and would perform exceedinly to the extent that soon I'd become the protected of Georgia Kaltsidou and would become soon a teaching assisstant (in Greek civilization). There my "split" identity took a new turn as I would separate myself from my Jewish culture but at the same time being very much influenced and almost "persecuted" by it. Georgia is a Greek-born woman raised up in the good old Germany and highly influenced by this German culture, in that level we would find each other matching up and it would be the perfect "underdog" to neglect hideously my Jewish identity. I would learn the Classics and would get myself involved with the Greek schools of thought, the peripatetic lessons with Georgia. Since then I would once again personify an "anathema" at the National University. I would be part of the "Demotic Nationalists", a philological school rooted back to the times of the German Romanticism that would claim a different basis for the pronunciation and spelling of Classical Greek and that would define Greek as a continuum of a language; the Demotic pronunciation (used only in the Modern Greek Republic), that is the pronunciation of Modern Greek is the one we would use when reading the Classical texts, opposed to the Erasmic pronunciation of the Renaissance (and being such the pronunciation adopted worldwide for Classical Greek, the "cultured" norm). This ideological school is considered only as an "underdog" of the Greek nationalists of today to hold back to their Classical culture and set up the foundational stones of a new Greek nationalism, lost for so many years, product of the Turkish occupation of Greece and the apparent "lost" of their Greek heritage, that would be preserved through Medieval Greek and the Katharevouza (a literary and "purified" language created by the Greek intellectuals to preserve the language from losing the Classical forms, Katherevouza would become the official language of the Greek republic and then would share status with the Demotic or popular language until the late 70's, when it would be outdated and replaced by Demotic Greek in all aspects of everyday life. A similar example is the difference between "Nynorsk" and "Bokmal" Norwegian in Norway) in Venice and the Greek diaspora.
This ideas, once again imported from Germany wouldn't be acceptable in the academic community, and having become a well-known student of Kaltsidou I would be framed as one of those "Demotic Nationalists". Currently I don't belong to any philological school or trend, same goes for philosophy, politics and linguistics. The interdisciplinary approach of my non-linear ideas in linguistics and paleo-linguistics make it very difficult to place my "streamd of thought" within a certain particular school. Nevertheless I believe one day (given the pre-condition my intellectual knowledge might grow that high, I certainly doubt it) I'll be laying out the foundations of a new philological-linguistic school of non-linear linguistics parallel to my semiotic approaches for modern poetry in what I used to call a few years ago "hyper-textuality". In the meantime I'm still writing Classical English verses based on Druid songs and the corpus of other medieval European "streams" of poetic construction (the word I'm looking for escapes my mind at the moment). I'm pretty much obssesed by the classical and late antique forms; hence I find it very difficult to see myself returning to the "theory of chaos" approach at any time soon; those are just ideas flying in the wind.
The belonging to Kaltsidou's "Cultural School" and her classical approach to liberalism would make of me a fully emancipated Jew; I would embrace the Greek heritage as my own heritage being a full component of the western culture; neglecting once more most traces of Jewish identity. I wouldn't share my thoughts and procrastinations of this Jewish identity with so far anyone, only a few people I would meet along the way (none of them Jews) would get in touch with those disfunctional and lost streams of my split Jewish identity. Up to this day, even despite of the long search I've done crawling back to my very first roots I still have a feeling of uttermost belonging to this western culture, and certainly my knowledge of the Greek antiquity surpasses by far any "touch" or contact I might have with Jewish knowledge. The Classics seminar would portray me as a "liberal Jew" in spite of our nationalist and almost fascist ideologies, I would represent the ideals of the contemporary conservative man. I would "look down" at Jewish religious education and would examine these "issues" only in my private life by reading endless volumes, looking for information on the internet and specially by looking for other people that faced the same challenges, I believed myself being totally allienated and dried out by this Jewish conceptualization without being able to approach it; the years to come would bring answers for me, and more questions as well.
I would devour any reading material I could find on Jewish topics and would create my own ideas; eventually this self-pursued education would help me to create a more concrete idea of my Judaism and I would attempt to approach the "split identity" and the "broken continuum" of my own life through this vivifying knowledge. The Jewish religion would certainly interest me, but not as much as the history of the Jewish people and the popular literature; chassidic tales, Russian-Jewish novels and books on Israeli history, Jewish mentality and Jewish philosophy would find the way to occupy some permanent space in my shelves and would remain as growing interrogants as I grew up. I would use the National University as a take-off for my personal search, having started classes in Biblical Hebrew and reading books from local Jewish intellectuals, I'd attend Azriel Bibliowicz class in Bible and Literature, follow-up the agenda of local galleries trying to spot the work of the Jewish sculptor Feliza Bursztyn and would as well become hooked to the international art magazine "Nexus", created and directed by Celia Sredni and her husband Marco Birghbrager. In spite of being in contact with all this brilliant people I secretly admired, I never "outed" myself as a Jew and remained as a "Jew-in-the-closet" for several years. They all smelled something "very particular" about me and my interests, and following suit they tried to approach the "inner" me several times with different questions about my family and my get arounds; I contemptously withheld all information and remained as a closet Jew; silences would become an important part of my life, my silences would defy my words, my silences would scream loudly, but not many people would be able to decipher those silences. I wouldn't either and until today those silences still haunt me and rip me off at distimes.
My parents would never understand this craving, I would always be different and had always been. When in primary school children used to make fun about my accent and my fair skin, specially about my accent. I would become a very talented student always, also very capricious, dark and puzzling; the lack of "normality" will be glued to my personal image ever since, my religious feelings, my hesitations, my reading habits. For me as a person education was the only important thing in life, the only thing that stole my sleep, culture and educating, becoming an intellectual man wise in different subjects and with a profound touch of general knowledge. There I found an immediate connection with the Jewish people, but it wouldn't be the only; I would place myself in the continuum of Jewish existence and would draw historical and epistemological parallels between Judaism and my life; those parallels would match perfectly, as if they just had been separated many years back and one day by coincidence reunified and synchronized in time and space.
This process would be completed, or better say "opened" by two events. Once "touring" a bookshop I'd find some book on another "classical" Jewish topic; Schindler and the Holocaust. I stumbled upon the book "Die Schindleresmädchen" written by Stella Müller-Madej about her own life and her experience in the concentration camp of Auschwitz, her previous life as a German-Pole and the miseries she would be exposed to during the early years of her life; it was a bit of Anna Frank and a bit of Elie Wiesel. The book wasn't rich in literary forms or expressions, it was more of a chronic that I devoured with some kind of sick and addictive lust. I felt as if I was reading about myself in that book, reading about my life, reading about my past, reading about my experience... once the book was finished I think I never ever touched it again and eventually got lost in some salsa bar in downtown. Later on in life I'd have a conversation about Müller-Madej with my friend Eduardo and I think also with Fabian, the Zionist sociologist. Eduardo would take me back to a reading room and would put in my hands Diana Wang's book "Surviving Survival". I don't know why on earth he would want me to look up into such book, but the important fact here is that I did.
I would re-encounter myself in Diana Wang's words, I would find out the ultimate truth that would re-define my life for ever after. I'm not just a Jew, which we already know by now. I have an Holocaust survivor complex, it's a fact. This was just a thought though, and even when I started to read as many books as I could about other holocaust survivors and similar experiences, nothing of what I said had a common ground. It was just wishful and romantic longing of a lonely teenager. What else could it be?
I would prove myself wrong nevertheless. One sunny day as they say, sitting at "Il Pommeriggio", some famous superb Italian cafe, this would change. I would sit there with my latest date and enjoy the smell of fresh capuccino and good companion, next to me would sit a mature woman, already in her 50's, who would stare at us with some cheerful smile. Having my date finished and the guy gone, the woman would start a chat with me; interesting person... a Palestinian psychoanalyst. We would spend uncountable days meeting at that particular cafe and would talk about our lives; it's so funny.... how can a 50-years-old Arab woman and a Jewish confused gay teeanger find anything in common! well... we did! and our friendship was very sincere and very steady. Every week at the same hour we would sit, smoke, eat and just tell stories.
Sonya would re-call stories from her father and his life in Jerusalem before the beginning of the state, and how they were all practically expelled from their houses by the white Jewish immigrants and then left their homeland to seek refugee in the countries of the west. Sonya was a very wealthy woman, having inherited businesses, property and money from her father; who became a rich businessman, a commerciant, like many Jews and Arabs in those times, the end of the war, the foundational stone of the State of Israel, etc. Sonya was a Christian Arab, therefore she stood up in defense of the Jewish people, she always did... but Sonya wasn't a Zionist, I could understand her feelings. Her great grand parents were Christian Menonite Lebanese that left Beirut and went to Jerusalem to look for a better life, there they lived in harmony hand-in-hand with their Jewish counterparts. The Russian and German immigrations to Israel and the foundation of the state would finish with a century of prosperity in the Holy Land, with their weekly pilgrimages to Bethlehem and would send them much, much further than they ever thought. I used to enjoy her stories very much, her high-leveled language and almost motherly feminity, her delicate touch.
Overtime I started to share my stories, my lovers, my passions, my defeats, I talked about my parents, in particular about my father and our sick distant relationship. I came out to Sonya since our very first meeting so it was very easy surprisingly, to talk about my gay experience and gay life. I still don't know why, but mature women have this natural touch that allow them to understand homosexuals; our banalities, our procrastinations, our emptiness, our life devoid of responsibility; somehow women can get pretty close to it. I also talked about my Jewish experience, my religious roads, my academic work, my intellect... that truly fascinated her and she spent many hours simply letting me talk and asking questions that only could be asked by someone who completeley disacknowledges the particulars of the subject; but her questions always led us to more profound discussions, to soul-weary discussions.
Once we set up our meeting as usual, I turned up and found Sonya engaged in a conversation with some blond blue-eyes lady; she introduced us to one another. This woman turned out to be Estella Goldman-Goldstein, a Jewish psychiatrist. I didn't really like her though, found her quite superficial and arrogant, and the first in particular I thoroughly despise. I never really ended up liking her, but her words were conclusive in our few meetings. Yes, there's undeniable an holocaust complex at many different levels. You need some time more, search for your roots, find yourself more comfortable with being Jewish. She said probably a liberal rabbi would be the best way to start with.
I crawled back to Diana's book and started to figure out answers by myself, it wasn't difficult to start with, all the material was there, the rest was conversations with people, a simple bibliography and lots of imagination, intuition and passion. One day I decided to contact Diana, I found out there're groups of survivors and other groups for their children and the children of their children; the so-called third generation. That's probably where I stand. I started this journey trying to match the lost cradles of my roots, my origins, my belongings and my place in this world.
My Judaism slept away for many years, and in a certain level of awareness I couldn't withhold myself from letting it be that way; I was afraid and silence became my only language; even though I'm not silent anymore I'm still afraid and that's why I'm attempting to write these new series of note. I think I owe it to myself and I'm not pretending to make of it literature, just a chronic, for in my layers of subjectivity I never really approach these topics as they are, I just ramble about metaphors that describe the scorn, fear and anxiety these things produce me. I will start talking about my Judaism and the Holocaust but this is not my very bottom. This note and the next are only an introduction for myself to understand my own contexts and develop a counteresponse to Ofer and Lara about our conversations on morality; following that one with another note about sexuality and banality, about urban life, gay life, gender theory, etc. The bottom line is a clearer definition of my subjectivisit philosophy.
Here I go,
Monday, October 25, 2004
It bothers me, my mind isn't as accurate... and a poem shouldn't be written twice.
... Abandoned to the days of my youth, in the fields.. of my mind... there I begin with this note, that's where it all ends, almost blind, drunken in my boat... once again and as it always was, sinking into the oceans of the dark nights in smoke, sinking into my endlessness, into my unfinished chapters of unbeing, into my historicisims of ontologies, into my non-existant books, grammatically inaccurate.
Very different days pulled the first of these notes, the "Agaetis Byrjun" series, some Nordic procrastination, surrounded by the Styggia manifold, in my conspicuous ignorance, in my abandonement to myself, in the epos of untold stories, in the awakening of beginnings past the end.
I embrace myself in the sleepness of my magic characters, in the hues of my imagination, looking at the world in grey-hued blacks and Blues, specially Blues. Once again the winter starts to surround us with yellowing whites and envelops the air with the softening madness of solitude, the self-chosen solitude, the unravelled space for the thinker, the immediate thoughtfulness, in throughness.
Agaetis Byrjun is probably an ode to wisdom, an ode to scholarly knowledge and leaves falling down the trees containing the "sapientia magna" of those great men and women of the antiquity, those were the days... those were the days... when we ran just free, from whence we return... "sejour" and "retour".
I wouldn't like to make of it a note full of corrected sense, of politically correct and moral sense, without moral observations, without foresight... it's a simple note, like those notes written over the table of a bar in a labelled napkin, a note that contains love stories, a note in the companion of Eros, a note in behalf of Phoebus, once the rain has dissipated and the thunders are clear, for those were the days... those were the days.
I don't pretend to give up on my endless writings, but I'm just having some time off to think whether it's all somehow worthwhile, if there's an encore, if there's anything to an encore. My language is artificial and thus are the echoes of my soul, without definitions and without frames, edging through the ends with faltering hesitations, with fears and procrastinations, with confused fragments of thought, national ideas, forlorn... all forlorn. Standing on an axe from where there's no day afterwards, some kind of historical endlessness, the fatus of man, the devil of man. That's me, a ultimate man.
Let me hold myself in upheaval, for death from a far smells too close.
Thursday, October 21, 2004
I've worked on several different ideas, but have spent nothing but little time writing and actually I'm inclined to believe Sylvia is one of the best things I ever wrote; as I claimed before my writing starts to fall in place with more concrete ideas and highly developed metaphors and figures; still my knowledge of literature and literary theory in general is very poor and I yearn for some improvement over the next few years; I guess I simply should be easier on myself, it's quite pointless to over-criticize myself to the extent I do. In the other hand there're a couple of letters I owe to write for a few months already, government offices, newspapers, lawyers, a hand-written letter to Georgia.....
[the note continues half a day later]
I hit the roads during the day in the inclement sun of Jerusalem, finding the city extremely appealing, some kind of European procrastination, it's funny to say this... but somehow Jerusalem reminds me of Germany, of Switzerland... to such an extent, it's almost an analogy or a continuum let's say. Yet there's some dreadful fascination that makes it Jerusalem, the confusion in between the spoken lines of people, an undeniable fusion between the echoes of modern life and the Mediterranean twentieth century with those long abandoned waves of ancient religions, languages and cultures of other days, of brighter days. Maybe that's just in the eyes of the philologist, you can't really ask me how I gathered those conclusions, it's just some kind of banal intuition, beyond the scope of my science, or of the science I'm attempting to discover, temporarily called simply historical ontology or historical phenomenology, it basically comes down to the same axe; being Husserl and Hegel the very first phenomenologists and other such as Heidegger, having completed and extended their work, in almost existentialist preclusive fashion, into the science that would be called "ontology".
Interestingly enough this "science" of let's say branch of knowledge stems from certain darkened layers of the thought sprung in those days of the antiquity; myself a follower of Heidegger find a rendez-vous between his works, the philolosophy (it's inaccurate to call it philosophy) of greatest antique men such as Heraclitus and Parmenides, thereafter complemented by other classical authors such as Plato and Aristotle (not a fan of Aristotle myself, perhaps for having laid out the grounds of pre-Medieval christianity... oh well that's for another posting). The pre-socratic philosophers (better said: thinkers) take me back in a journey through more than two thousand years of human history, but they bring me back and forth, from the antiquity into the modernity and the other way around. That somehow justifies my groundless claim of the non-linear character of history, inasmuch of the mathematical science and other precious gifts of the humanity such as evolutionary molecular biology and diachronic linguistics.
What does Jerusalem have to do with all this? I really don't know and I'm not that involved in the exhausting task of finding out; there's just some little charm to this discourse, to this "continuum of ideas", it's almost semiotic. Looking up into the linguistic interfaces of the most ancient languages we might be able to elucidate this much better; but our answers are somehow lost on the way, the modern science fails to tackle the matter with enough accuracy.
I'm still in Jerusalem, writing some little poetry and trying to gather together some scholars to see if there's anything more vivifying I could learn in the holiest of cities of Judaism. I might just continue pursuing the idea to start my journey once again from the beginning, as a good Celtic scholar would be prone to do; journeying between different instances of life in little deconstructions of deliverance and thought. I owe to continue my day, live through the annoying confusion of unpredictable feelings, storms and less factual imagination; well... I'll try to revert to this point at some other time, maybe I do have a few things to say still... I just fear they might not be pleasant for some readers. It's just too banally cruel, it's mean. I'm mean, yet I mean.
Tomorrow will be another day, back to Givat Ram, then to French Hill, probably a shopping mall, lunch outside, laundry, computer problems, interesting conversations, grey-hued imagination, wash away the sadness from my silk-weary skin with some little inconclusive thought and continue the wandering.
I'm extremely tired, yet I accomplished nothing. Science and life escape my hands and in my simple humanity I can just stare at them from a far; maybe that's the real meaning of all this. It reminds me of my favourite metaphor, "walking on water". Just like Aurora, the child and the Phoebus.
Are you still, Phoebus?
Are you still Phoebes?
Wednesday, October 20, 2004
בעשן, של קוניאק
איטי, מאוד איטי
בשקט, של רחביה
לבדי, אבל איתי
עם אף אחד
חלום על יוון
אני חולם על יוון
הוא גם חלם
יוון, המין האנושי
Monday, October 11, 2004
I admit it has been a long time since my last letter, and in the course of time the years have turned my pages yellow like oaks in the autumn, thus yellow even my thoughts about you in small fuses have become. I am writing and sending this letter with the only purpose that you will never read it, for the beauty of your earlier years constitutes already a wrinkled longing and I wouldn't take upon myself the burden of inflicting you with any sorrow that life with its poisonous drunkenness hasn't inflicted you with, and I do so with knowing callousness.
It's already past midnight you know; such as in that little Aeolic verse(2) I translated for you once, do you remember? I hope you certainly don't, but your memory is still fresh and growing stronger with the years, I'm just being self-deceiving and I sincerely apologize. In the darkening and swiftly enveloping midnight of Jerusalem I'm writing you this letter whilst he drowns in the death of sleep, renewing the vows made to his merciful God(3). In the meantime I am myself dwelling in heathenism and auguries as I did in earlier years and since my adolescence, since those endless days in the libraries of St. Claire's and St. Anne's(4). The years haven't stolen my jovial beauty and my skin is still firm and tight, inasmuch as white, even so more my thoughts have remained as vivid and terrifying as in the old days, and accordingly I've dedicated some space amidst my temples(5) for some technically fair infidelity, you know piety wasn't one of my best qualities and if any at all many of them were most likely sickening and wicked, past midnight hence I'm writing you this letter.
Despite yourself I never forsake Jerusalem, and through the years moving between the German Colony and the French Hills, between Baka and Nachlaot, between Katamon and Ramat Sharet, I have returned to my good old Rechavia, but that shouldn't surprise you even minimally for I had promised it in those days, and remember my mind works like a Swiss clock, almost like a Nazi soldier, mechanically executing fragmentary pieces of sentiments that could be better described as phenomenological thought. Yes, I'm still living in Rechavia, for where else could a writer live if not in Rechavia? I believe your lack of attempts to find me rooted only on the fact that you would be able to do so almost matter-of-factly, wouldn't you? But I'll let you believe that you thought that I left with my suitcases filled up with the books and papers of my shelves one simple good day, I'm assured that will make your heart relieved.
With the years I forwent most materializations of my life, and to a great extent I lived a very simple life until this day. Now in my pious and long owed infidelity I stare at the candles of Shabbat resting in some shelf near my desk and the dust caused by the hundreds of volumes I compiled over the years. You well know that religion and me never befriended each other, but when you grow older you probably learn to appreciate those things from a far, crawling into your adult preoccupations and claiming it doesn't have the power to touch you, but it certainly does. Looking at the flame being slowly consumed by the chemical reactions of air and the mercilessness of time gives me the heartening comfort of a well spent life, and closer to the tradition than I ever thought. You well know how many hardships I endured all through my life walking into the hued greys and vindicating myself with a sense of dutiful obligation from all what my soul believed in, yet tonight I might dare to say I've surpassed in this struggle and having sacrificed many bright days of my life, I've befriended tradition in the end. I'm not a believer as yet, you can figure that out yourself, but as long as he's, there're many things you simply have to learn to live with, and I don't say this with discontent, or disrespect. In the end of the day I did choose the man, chose the house, chose the furniture, the shelves and even chose the dishware for Passover, but the tradition I didn't choose, it plain chased me all throughout my life like a curse that in my intellectual supremacy I couldn't get rid of. Yet I'm satisfied I didn't.
You claimed in your letters that were never sent or even probably never written, that I shouldn't alienate myself and I should make my voice heard for some further understanding, but I lived somehow, a comfortable life without all those longing words, for I had many other things that fulfilled my life with a joyous calm. I thought about the lives of other women like Zelma(6) and Dina(7), I thought about Joan Rosenheim(8) and how much she reminded me of my good old friend Esther, and I found the search very satisfying for I believe I spent my time away returning to my foremost important place, my place. I'm glad you never sent those letters and that your mercy and even your pity never knocked on the door of my house and disturbed my calm, I'm glad you never read my books and I'm glad I never wrote you anything since that day in New York.
Through the lack of satisfactions of my life, my lack of desperation and thrill, my lack of overshadowing sentiments and high-tempered pain, in the lack of all those things I searched for you many days, more than my heart would like to be reminded of, but I made sure to search for you in the screens of mist, in the fogs, in the overcrowded cafes of Ben Yehuda and the shops in Talpiot, and I searched for you there because I had the knowing conviction of never finding you and that relieved my heart from the sweet pain of memories, and through all those days you remained as simple dreams and impossible elucidations of Kunderian thoughts(9), I found some comfort in those thoughts and they never stopped cheering me, they never abandoned me to this day and wrapped me in the wicked pleasure of overwriting the past with a sword, of overwriting the past with Gaelic poems I wrote(10), with English verses, with stanzas and hexameters. I searched for you not in the darkening sweet black-hued days of my life when doubts and sorrows surrounded me, because I well knew that you wouldn't be concerned with my sadness and with my affliction for you not only would have yours too but would understand mine better than if you would have read each and every chapter of my books.
I searched for you instead, in those overshadowing and infatuating days of my life, in those days when I became a self-obsessed artist(11), in those days when the world seemed small posed in my hands and I outreached to kiss the hands of my fore bearers in the Helicon(12), in those days I did search and I found you in there, I knew where to look and from whence to turn; my mind searched for you in the red tables overlooking the Mediterranean, in the plains of Raanana and those leather-weary chairs that composed the milieu of good old Tel Aviv. My legs acted differently though, and they kept on looking for you in Jerusalem, in each and every corner of Ben Yehuda and Nachlaot, in those ageing wooden houses surrounding the wineries of Zichron, and in the tiny and woefully blue streets of Safed, don't blame me please, I searched in those places because I knew deep inside you would never again wander through those decadent surroundings, for the country was not big enough for both of us and fearing you will find me you simply didn't return there, I thank you so much for that. You granted me my decadence; to the same extent I granted you your emancipating enlightenment. So civilized from each one of us, but how poorly sophisticated of me and how banally superficial of you. It seems to me that such day stumbling upon each other in the streets of Manhattan, that would be the day when we would draw imaginary lines over the geography of the Holy Land, thereinafter I wouldn't dare into the overwhelming lights of the Acropolis(13), frozen in my ears through operas of Antigone and Electra, somehow else you wouldn't dare either into the underworld and the nine fold river of Stygia(14) that enveloped it with those sweet and dark waters that contained my thought, you never let yourself come any closer to our mountains with theories of Bacchants(15) for you knew well that the forest would reject you, so you couldn't steal my place in the Arcadia(16), even despite the book and those three days in Rome(17) you wouldn't dare into; the Dionysian dithyrambs(18) and Aeolic bridal hymns(19) would be thereof mine. I believe a certain day I saw you on the road to Jericho, but having morning just sprung my mind was still dazzled by the nightly thoughts, it therefore succumbed to my newfound Aristotelian body and slept away the astounding thought without repair.
I was never a newspaper's person hence I didn't read you either, it was totally uninteresting in my eyes, and in any case being such an opinionated person I could read nothing but Ha'aretz with its high-level critical thought, and spent uncountable minutes drowning into my sugar-less Austrian style coffee and the books section, the literature and archaeology section, I even read something about the rituals performed for the dead in Byzantium(20). When you come to think about it, as much as I despised Herbst and Agnon, irritating my good colleague Yoav, I would end up my road there (Iterum... verbum sapienta...) (21), being such an irrational contradiction, but all the events that have led my life thereinafter are nothing but a loyal proof that such was the weightless "muss-sein" written for me from a Beethoven's chart (22), the day of Shavuot, when we, the tribes of Israel were present in heavens for the delivery of the laws of Moses to the world. Without scholarly knowledge I assume I was already engaged in the study of the Classics in that very moment, for I can't understand in my pagan logic how could he give us the law and then create the world based on her, I believe the world shall have been created firstly and then the law(23), the Athenians would probably agree with my opinion and so would their deities, but I fail to understand the engineered dynamics in history of thought being an intellectual myself, yet the man who lies next to me doesn't, and although I've refused to speak to God all through these years it seems to me from the spark of his sight that he understands, and that nonetheless brings me endless comfort. I wish I could surround your island with those same waters of delightful ignorance, but you live in a city, where my mind has lived for all those years so I perfectly understand what it feels like, we don't really need to curdle up into it.
The fact is, I couldn't find you in the good old Hebrew newspapers for we never read them at home, you might believe he could have read you by accident; but there you're mistaken for I was his home and have been since then, an almost motherly home. And in my home there was no space for simplicity other than the wonders acted upon us product of mitzvot, tzedaka and the daily tefilah. Between the teachings of the prophets and the Classics there was no space for little writers, with the exception of those wonderful American novels I hideously loved and read only late at night trying to imagine you, Hemingway(24) and me all together at once sitting near some fountain and the Satmars(25) preaching us around.
You also have to understand Jerusalem is a timeless place, in the streets of Rechavia the years simply don't fly away, and that's how my hands are as immaculate as they were that day when my heavy suitcases with wooden boxes of regret and joyful youth abandoned your sight, I actually no longer remember if it was in New York or in Tel Aviv. Very much unlike you, aged and wounded by the echoes and manoeuvres of time, in Tel Aviv everything is in a fast forward. In Rechavia the news are simple idealizations of a modern state that dies in the outskirts of the neighbourhood for each one of us claims the ownership of the place to this day; the British, the Germans, the Greeks, the Jews, the Arabs, the writers, the intellectuals, the students, the homosexuals, and even us, the Akkermans'. As long as our understated ownership remains in procrastination not even God dares to interfere. Yes, we've also been subject to the deathly smell of blasts and explosions, but there's no soul in Jerusalem that hasn't and still even the dead claim some ownership in Rechavia, nevertheless a tremulous silence overwrites all of us, hence no possible debate on the matter ever takes place.
Do not think my life was an easy play to be in, far from the grandeur of the Classics it was a merely lived life, almost untouched and kind. I forsook the idols of my youth and went myself forlorn all through the years down the oaks of Sokolov Street; here don't laugh for I'm speaking the truth, we're a poorly creative country when it comes to naming our streets. Back then in the good old days of Ramat Gan I started my journey through life abandoning my comfortable life in the 5th store at the 18th in Sokolov Street; then I would be obnoxiously constrained and almost vindicated into the hastening mornings of Tel Aviv, being my only moments of peace those late night or early morning walks amidst the trees of Sokolov Street between your house and mine, between the cafes that separated my thoughts from my vicious inconformity before life, it was in Sokolov Street from where I could foresee the frightening mornings my life and its fascination for death and injustice would bear, it was in Sokolov Street where I dreamt about those little windows and the beautifully furnished homes I would see through, I dreamt about my life and my future, specially about my house.
Perhaps only because Sokolov Street and its tiny discreet windows featured outrageously happy and wealthy fulfilling lives, and I could see back then how far I found myself and probably everyone else from our ways up in life; that's just me being a progressive Jew(26), always hungry for more; a progressive Dutch Jew, fed since early childhood with strict and almost religious greed that would turn life into a long and carefully planned statement. Sokolov Street reminded me of good old Amsterdam, a pleasant childhood beneath a red roof and the fresh tiles of the spring. Yet I would end up my life once again in Sokolov Street, not in Ramat Gan nor in Tel Aviv, but in Jerusalem. Sokolov Street somewhere in between the timeless shades of Rechavia... and in there my home wouldn't shine like any home I ever saw in Sankt Gallen, in Amsterdam or in Tel Aviv. It would simply look like a house in Rechavia, like a house in Jerusalem. And still here I am, for the third time living in Sokolov Street, being such an intellectual and disacknowledging unconsciously who this Sokolov was though, for he doesn't come up in my daily conversations to the same extent that Begin, Rabin and Jabotinsky do. We're not concerned with the real persona of Sokolov here in any case, but more so with the "dramatis personae" of Sylvia and David Akkermans, still and after so many years resolute residents of Rechavia, rooted to the place just like one of our neighbouring trees, like one of our dead.
My life didn't commence in Rechavia if that's the question that troubled your fashionable mind in puzzling indifference, for as I was born to this world with higher expectations, with expectations higher than life was able to provide me with at that time. Once I defied your overwhelming nature I crawled down into my highest sensitivities to let them die for all at once, and my life... that life you've been so unaware of through the years took off ground from beyond the sea, amidst the most terrifying shallowness that would turn into Blues even stone-made souls like yours. From an overcomplicated and super-elaborate momentum, that would last for as many years as it would take to bury in the pavement any possible streams that would constitute a drive-away your way.
Performing exceedingly an Argive(27) in modern times I would challenge my own fate and defy the governing nature of history, -such a humanist thought. I would embark myself on a journey that wouldn't take me anywhere but once again to the streets of Jerusalem, headscarves and wooden canvas from where the most interesting thoughts would spring out in order to turn into novels, poems and one singled-out play that I almost compulsively wrote over the years. Estranged from my homeland(28) I would release myself from the terrible weariness of my blood and live up to a world of sensations and rationally calculated sentiments that wouldn't achieve its purposes of satisfying my young soul.
At the time I thought of you actually, because even being such an ignorant Francophile as yourself you would have with certainty found a pleasurable corner in the streets of New York, I personally didn't and yet I did keep a foresight just like any reasonably educated Jewish progressive woman would, and wandering through the appalling conspicuousness of American life I would never find my way back home, I would never return anywhere else than Jerusalem for my life turned out to be shorter than I expected, and my life in the capital of the world would prove itself more exhausting than anything else seen before, the callousness before the "grandeur de la cite comme le plus haute tour"(29) and specially the lack of grace, I lived in such graceless state. Back then we were already overwriting your odes, yes, David and me; it was an almost religious decision you wouldn't understand, an outrageously desperate decision that would save my life and would grant me the security of a traditional life, under the shade of the conventions and protected by an almost heavenly spirit of respect and tolerance; I constrained myself to live such desperately quiet and eventless life as an alternative choice that would break through my maddening destructive nature and turn it once again green. I devoted my life to less elevated pleasures, following each and every one of those demystifying conventions, becoming a lawyer whilst pursuing my studies in the Classics far from the tranquility experienced years back in the classrooms of St. Anne's, but I was satisfied for I had more than I could have ever dreamt of and the years would prove me upright and would grant me the justice of having followed almost slavishly the road of other simple men. I was still too British(30) for the United States of America, too conservative and too judgemental, too long-sleeved and uniform for the echoes of almost ultra-orthodox postmodernism. My life had been spent under different parameters and other than the greenery of Kent and Oxford and the unfamiliar and insular streets of Sankt Gallen(31) I had seen no other world; still I could easily deceive the easy-going American nature with my discursive speech and have some time off for myself.
After living in Israel I believed I couldn't have been lonelier anywhere else on the surface of earth, but life proved me wrong once again for my own good sake, because once you've lived in the land of your ancestors and tasted its addictive bitterness you would feel alone practically everywhere. Still I clang onto this loneliness and among the intellectual circles of New England(32) my first pieces of work started being published. Unfortunately you would never understand my refined language that well so that you could enjoy them but probably one day far off from the days of our burial we'll be translated and read by others, our words will be dissected by immature readers who will claim understanding and only then we'll rise from beyond the grave to claim our rights; momentaneously we're engaged in far more noble causes as to waste time explaining ourselves. An English woman living in New York, an English woman that became an American lawyer, an English woman married in New York(33). A British-fed European writer that would never learn not to frown. Up to this day still sugar-less and Austrian, that's how I like my "tasse de cafe".
Never again in my life would I be granted the chance to return not even to the woeful London stores or would recreate my dutiful mornings with royalties. Less fundamental issues took place instead, such as becoming an educated individual in a society of silk-weary donkeys, a world-class professional, a proficient wife, etc. but don't worry... I wouldn't disappoint you on this; I never could help myself from looking down on them(34). New York would prove my inherent need to journey back and forth through the days in encore and would bring me back home at last and for good. I would sweat once again under the inclement Jerusalemite sun of October(35), but for some time more I stayed in there and sorrowfully succeeded in any of my enterprises against my own will, financial responsibilities with almost Calvinist management and other shameful tendencies that would synchronize my life with the life and deeds of most other Americans.
I had to foresee a life, a life no real passion would bring me into. Defying all postmodernism I didn't pretend to change the world, simply wanted to commute with it. And from that matches box-sized sorority room next to Lewisohn(36) I would never be tired enough from life as not to push for slightly more and eventually from push to push that college room, as impersonal and bookish as in the days of Ramat Gan, would turn in the course of the years into a home full of familiar touch. The mustiness(37) would never abandon me, just like religion as well never would. The house would become through the years a container of dead knowledge(38) and Classical decadence that would share the space in perfect harmony with an eclectic and sometimes superfluous, sometimes fascinating tradition. Even Baal-Shem-Tov and the Litvaks, Shammay and Hillel, Rambam and Caro, each and every one of them would find its place in my shelves with dystopian harmony. How much I rejoiced in the Talmud, I think Helen of Troy in my companion did too(39).
David has been a superficially religious man I must confess you, but never ever let him know that. I still believe I enjoy contemplating his joyful content, for I never really outreached that far, quite somehow the opposite. You would wonder how I outwitted many in my enterprise and built a Jewish home being far from a pious Jew myself, well... life acts upon us in strange ways I can just gather. The poet is granted perhaps a different outlook of life, perhaps he's closer to God than the ordinary believer might think. Religion is a pivotal concept in poetry I can ascertain; I knew it since the first time I read Homer and Sappho(40), even before I dared to touch a Hebrew bible. But don't fool yourself either; we still speak English most of the time.
In between the lines I firmly ascertain too that I've been more of a religious person than he has, but that's unimportant for reality has been slightly different. I haven't lived such an upright life and that very fact wouldn't surprise you even minimally, I'm allegedly convinced. I had my good lot of pleasurable cruelties and selfish encores, not that I regret each and every one of those young men, with nothing but few exceptions; and doing so I probably outwitted you so in my science and decidedly in most aspects of my life. It wasn't easy nonetheless, for I've thought about the coffee table even up to these long forlorn days(41), to and fro, a frozen monogram in my mind, being that a part of the story I would never forsake. Yes, I'm not even this ashamed to say that I did it in the back of my life, behind my own life, as if my house had a yard hideously engraved solely for my very own pleasure, a little dark forest nourished with the waters of silent disposable storms, like little tissues you would wash and flash away, devoid of any serious thought, as ephemeral and eloquent as in the good old days. I can't claim I've lived two different lives, neither have you I'm sure for there's enough evil in both of us as to discern overtime that we can embrace darkness and drown into the waters of the underneath for its liquors are passionate and vivify the flesh. My life was just one, the life of a writer, who happened to be the good wife of an observant pious American man, a lawyer in New York, a Classicist in good old England, and a poet in Jerusalem, all of them together and almost at once.
It was a sympathetically strange life because there was nothing about this life of mine that surprised me, except him(42). Yet only in order to inflate your over swollen pride I must confess I never found any fulfillment that could overthrow the dying banality and storms of conspicuous evil I felt when embraced in the delicate and intoxicating smell of your arms, such as in that Sapphic verse that still shall remain somewhere in that wooden box among the petals(43), can you remember that as well? Surprisingly life didn't treat me so bad in the end, there was no threat.
Do you know what's loving someone without being not even slightly attracted to him?(44) Well, I know it and I knew it for many years, but I shouldn't have procrastinated in so much longing to understand that and yet I don't regret it whatsoever. The fact of not having loved David for so many years but until our late days helped me to achieve what the universe of feelings forbade me from in those fascinating days of August when you overwrote my father the Sun(45). I decidedly planned for the future and designed a plan, leaving my swiftly darkening life outside its scope, for my life by categoric definition would constitute everything but a wholesome episode. Growing the yeast in my heart, the acute sorrows of my diseased nature called upon me in the clouds and mute breezes of February and March beneath the perfectly unfinished milieu of the sky in New York and Jerusalem, a childish portrayal. Such sorrows knocked on my door late at night and through invisible wired shrines that connected many of us together all throughout life, those sorrows found their way into my studio and my shelves, and prosecuted me with treacherous righteousness; I defended myself on my sly and claimed content in a long bygone Thracian morality I would follow only in between the lines of my books. I didn't achieve my very first purpose to defend myself though, I rather claimed for my own guilt, but randomly those sorrowful thoughts abandoned me due of time once they became one in the flesh with the paper, forming conjunctions and connection that haven't been altered by the axes of time, or any other circumstances.
Only in the afterlife of my youth, having become an empowered member of society(46) I slowly withdrew myself from those deceiving pleasures we thoroughly enjoyed together and embraced a more tranquil and less hastening life. My youth hasn't vanished away inasmuch as yours, for my hands are still young and even so more my sight, but I've lived a very different life than yours. In between the hardships and cruelties of our parallel realities I've spent many years drowning into unthinkable segments of beauty and splendour, making myself the recipient of small and seldom gifts from life that sprang in my thoughts. Unlike you, living down and underground(47), and in spite of being both of us sinners from a very kin, I shall just claim on my behalf I did keep some respect for the human race, and even when I may grant you the right to claim I never matured in the diseased bitterness of life I didn't let myself be led astray, and my whole life could have been described as a lengthy roadmap heading towards intellect, good and well.
I forwent the Oxford days(48), and you probably would understand what I mean by the Oxford days, yet let it be that way. Somehow I kept the traditions of those days for everlasting years that would come thereafter, for being such a loyal Hellenist myself, could it have been done otherwise? I can't complain that my youth was not well lived, it was simply awfully lived and contemptuously wasted in vain. But that's how it was meant to be, and I'm glad of having clung onto that therein. Some delicious emptiness as you've been nowhere else in life ever since then I gather, but I might be wrong, remember we don't approach the newspapers so often down here. How could I know?
The yellowing white of the days would bring us back to Rechavia, to the good and old Sokolov, almost made of gold. Here I would culminate my tentatively honourable life edging through the contradictions and circles of my life, writing a play and stand-up comedy about wife and the funeral of her wedding(49), and you can't imagine how many nights I spent sinking into the cynical laughter of having written such a venomous thing, yet unfortunately not many were made to wander through those pages. Language has a fascinating quality, it is Darwinist as well(50), and that's basically my art, dear.
I would write many other things as well though, however never again a play... I think I wrote the play just with some fresh taste of vengeance, but it was not a big concern. I wrote endless sets of poems and other verses, odes, a few novels and scholarly literature, being a writer was what my life was called for since those early days. All the contradictions of my life would fall in place altogether, the Bar examination in America, returning to Jerusalem to the good old streets of Rechavia, the Hebrew University, the rituals for the dead in Byzantium and many other procrastinations. The fear of my vicious foresight would never betray me either, inasmuch as my art didn't, it would rather cling onto me as the ivy that surrounds a tree and swallows the blood of life from the stem. My foresight would never sleep a day away. Until today I've been endlessly afraid, afraid of myself and of my talent, infatuated and de-constructed by my own art, by my discontent knowledge.
You don't need to investigate with further depth any particular details concerning my life for I might give you a brief description of my shortcomings; I married during my early twenties and right thereafter married my sisters and my cousins, everybody seems to lead a wholesome life, I'm satisfied I should say. I lived for unaccountable days of my life between New York and Jerusalem having seldom visited any other place, for life was merely too short for me as I said. I pursued all through my life my studies in the Classics until I became a doctor from all places in Jerusalem, I also became an attorney without much practice, and my art obviously has been no other than writing but I think I could have made an excellent attorney actually, but some things such as charts and clients have never slipped through the door of my studio room, I wouldn't have let it happened, and since it was my choice I didn't.
Sounds as if days of my life were not sufficiently unkind, eh? Well, let me tell you something, life is in the end nothing but a maddening fluctuation of thought, so let's not allow ourselves be carried away in complaints and regret over our endurances. I see you're still alone, aren't you? Well that doesn't surprise me at all; I think we knew it since then, didn't we? And let me add a little something, if it makes you feel better I'm no happier than you are, so please comfort yourself.
I achieved most of what any human soul would lust for, a house with a bright and tender man, an intellectual career from within my studio room, some little economic pleasure and a somehow quiet life. What can be wrong with all that? Maybe having married the wrong man? No, that's allegedly mistaken. I actually have been proven I chose the right path for I eventually made ends meet ends. After reading this letter you would think I have been reading Victorian novels just for too long, but well how could you ever understand me in that respect?, you're but one of those progressive Jews of today(51), how could you understand the cravings of a single young English woman(52)? You, whose eyes would never see the greenery where I spent my childhood wandering about, you'd never seen the yellows and the reds and the purples of Scandia, of Finnmark, of Cornwall(53). That's how I thought you would have thoroughly enjoyed living my life in America, it was somehow a second Tel Aviv, just far more appalling and artificial, but who knows? It could have fit you perfectly. My mind was still in England, and even when I never happened to return there, I'm still the lost daughter of Victorian echoes and provincial life(54), leaving asides all post-modernism I consciously renounced to. Not as a whole though, for in the yard that grew in between my books inside my studio room there was an heirloom altar for progress and change, for industriousness, such was the yard where the sculptor of my life carved in the stones of my soul. I wonder what the village people of Southern Scotland or Wales would think about all this, but what do they know matter-of-factly? They're just as miserable as we are, just less knowingly so.
Is there anything wrong with that? Perhaps, only perhaps. Was there anything wrong with my life? Perhaps, only perhaps. As far as appearances go I'm near the end of many of my roads, yet yearning for a glorious beginning once again, wisdom they'd call it. Let's leave my question unanswered with a simple perhaps, let's just say I sympathize with the tradition, with the convention, with the lack of radicalisms, let's say that I spent several years being the anonymous thinker, the anonymous poet, and why not an anonymous lover. Let's leave it all in perchance. My newfound beauty in the aftermath of that summer was my only crime; you know there's no blame to place. Everything else I've been indulged for.
Towards the end of this letter I might just intimate things with you and let you know that James and me also happened to meet once again, it's ironic because again I couldn't beat my vice for auguries and foresight, yet I found him very beautiful and sad, alone like most of you, post-modern men. He was very kind to me, and he thought I hadn't recognized him - but the eyes could never lie, hence he didn't address me at all. It was a few years back in time, when I was curator at some gallery portico he visited by chance, and from his expression I think he didn't believe his eyes, Sylvia in Jerusalem? Sylvia in some kind of productive life? Sylvia in a smile? He was so deceived by the thought, poor thing. Yet I do appreciate his kindness, it was such a big "chesed"(55). That makes me think he did read those epilogues I sent him years back after I went to New York, it seems they never stopped to hurt him, as much as they never stopped to heal me somehow else, to cheer me. Strange, no? I believe he reckons that he is part of a tragic past that somehow doesn't seem to haunt me, and it would be unkind to remind me, right? Well, that was extremely loving and kind. Almost gentle.
As far as you go, I believe we don't really need to stare into each other's eyes at this point, since so much yellow has come down in the meantime. So much longing has been forlorn and everything that was thought true just became a private space to cling onto in a winter's night. And in the end we've never been so apart, I've foreseen each and every single hue that touched and coloured your life and unsurprisingly you might have eventually done the same. Silence was a golden cage all through these years and it even vanished the muse of my words, so that in my mature age you even stopped being a subject in my pages, and still today concerned with painteresque characters such as wife(56) and Harry Goldstein(57) that were creative products of your sickening love, I betrayed you ever since those little poems, ever since the Aeolians(58).
Lastly, I simply want to thank you, for I'm indebted to you, I thank you so much for having left that day, for having broken the continuum of a perfectly sunny life in the tiles of Tel Aviv and Ramat Ha-Sharon. I thank you so much for having left my life unfinished and for having deceived my soul with such cold callousness, not that it would teach me any lesson but yet it would lead my life through different tea-rooms and stone-walls, through different thoughts and almost heavenly confirmations about the come about and go of my own life. I thank you for having left one day without an explanation and on unreasonable grounds, I thank you for having buried my future under your own two feet, from the funeral of such broken dreams(59) the writer known as S.A. was born. Your awful fault, your awful lot.
Thanks, Jarvis... for having left my life so unfinished and drawn so that I had the chance to finish it myself, to re-write scripts again and to bring in shelves, colours and build space for other people. All of it over our graves, yours and mine. I might die any of these days with the conviction that we did outright good, and specially I, benefited from this all.
I regret not having loved more, not having given more, but it is no good time for sentimentalisms, for humanisms, as any sound protestant would claim. I've granted myself the chance to live inside my life, oyster-like, as much as you hated it. I do too, but it works out.
Fortunately we're only characters in a novel that hasn't been written, just like wife and her poor miserable gestalt, but who am I to pity the writer or feel sorry for him, for her? Aren't they sufficiently wounded up? Yet I believe he must be a deeply sad young man, but there's some dreadful and wicked fascination of beauty to this.
With all my love, ever since and again many thanks
Sunday, October 10, 2004
(2) Aeolic verses. Reference to a small fragment in Sappho's least read poetry, yet my favourite by far. I translated the fragment myself and you'll find it quoted hereunder:
"The moon hath left the sky;
(3) Reference to the Hebrew prayer "mode ani", learn by Jewish children during their early years.
"Mode ani lefanecha, melech chi viyakom, shehechetzarta bi nishmati, bichemela raba emunasecha" (I gratefully thank You O living and eternal King, for You have returned my soul within me in compassion abundant is your faithfulness).
It's supposed to be the first prayer to be recited aloud in the morning after awakening from sleep. Rabbinical authorities claim that sleep is a form of death and that God returns man his soul in the morning. A similar thought was widespread in the archaic Greek thought.
(4) St. Claire's and St. Anne's. Reference to my days in those colleges when I started pursuing my Classical studies. Deeply influenced by the lectures imparted I've pursued a career in the Classical world ever since.
(5) Temples. Meaning knowledge or the art of the muses (poetry). The temples of the muses or perhaps the Phoebus.
(6) Zelma. Reference to the Israeli Russian-born religious poetess of Mea Shearim. She was the first Hebrew poetry I ever read being 12 or 13 and I had some kind of longing for this poetry. Zelma, daughter of a rabbi passed away in Jerusalem the year of my birth.
(7) Dina. Dina Reich Gutman, a character in Naomi Ragen's "Sotah". Haredi woman vindicated and forced into exile in New York for adultery.
(8) Joan Rosenheim. Another character in "Sotah". An American liberal woman.
(9) Kunderian thoughts. This is a reference to the German "muss-sein" (a must be) excerpted in Kundera's books from Beethoven's, I would slavishly follow this wave of thought in the scope of the "fatus" that govern all things. Very phenomenological and humanist. Things that are simply because they're meant to be. This is related to other notes, such as No. 21 and 38.
(10) Gaelic poems. Reference to some almost pastoral poetry I write, in particular to a poem included in this blog called "The Wanderer", explanations to this term shall be given later. This poetry is deeply influenced by Classical Irish-Gaelic and Scottish-Gaelic poetry I read and the music of Enya O'Brien. This writing features as well some Nordic, and particularly Icelandic ancient folk tales. You'll find the poem mentioned above hereunder. Find further on this poem under note No. 38
I sleep away to life
My years back and forth
My youth rose too high
My days in comfort
The sorrows of the morrow
Bring me back, to and fro
To a sadness that is hollow
Tomorrow in the go
Before I were a song
I was a leaf in the hues
When sung in unison
I turned oak in the Blues
In my sleep you wander
Is the hunter haunted
Souls in slay and wander
An encore is wanted
That is me, I wander'
Ere thy heathen falter
That is me, I pander
I'm the wanderer
(11) self-obsessed artist. Reference to Paula Cole's song "Nietzsche's eyes"
(12) Helicon. Epic for "Greece" in archaic poetry, in particular Homer. The reference here is from a poem of Friedrich Holderlin in which he claims being the favourite son of the Gods. I might have written something similar in some unpublished note about Arthur Rimbaud.
(13) Acropolis. Metaphor of the metropolitan life in contrast to the pastoral life. The Acropolis here described would be Tel Aviv.
(14) Stygia. River that in the Greek mythology would surround the underworld nine fold. The river was believed to be a deity by itself and also a place in which other deities dwelt, that is according to the Orphic tales. Stygia was also the Greek epithet for "hate", a feminine being, probably related to "ybris", the Greek for "wrath". Stygia is also related to the story of Isobel the hunter, v. note called "Isobel's manifesto".
(15) Bacchants. Reference to Euripide's Bacchants, considered wild and savage killers under the rule of Dyonisus. The Bacchants were closely related to the forest and mountain life and to other no less mysterious deities such as Hestia and Demeter. The topic of the forest and the mountain is also part of the aesthetical milieu of Isobel the hunter.
(16) Arcadia. Geographical region of the Greek world well-known for its wild nature and practically inhabitable. Arcadia was probably home to the Bacchants and was also populated by other mysterious deities and amorphous cults, some divinities imported from Syria, Macedonia and other primitive non-Hellenic tribes dwelt in Arcadia. The place would represent the perfect milieu where the unruly spirit of Dyonisus would find its home and the Bacchants are probably Arcadians, although in the play they shall have come from Thracia, birthplace of Dyonisus mother. Other deities claimed rule over the place, but the context of all these tales is to a large extent unknown. It is an ambiguous reference to pastoral life far from the splendour of the Athenians in the Attic region.
(17) Rome. Allusion to Sheryl Crow's song "The Book", included in her album "Sheryl Crow".
(18) Dionysian dithyrambs. Poetry book published by Nietzsche, however the reference alludes to the venomous nature of the Bacchants and the Arcadia.
(19) Aeolic bridal hymns. Reference to Sappho's poetry, and in particular to those lyrical songs (most of them only speculated about and very few of them quoted by the Alexandrian grammarians, only source we have for most of her poetry, included in the Oxford Oxyrrincus papyri). This poetry was apparently written by her to be sung aloud against payment for the wealthy classes of Lesbos in wedding rituals. It's an indirect reference to Aphrodite and Eros, might have been also referred to different divinities of marriage and women's life such as Hestia.
(20) The rituals performed for the dead in Byzantium. Reference to Shay Agnon's Shira and the work of Professor Manfred Herbst on the subject. Being Herbst the main character of the novel.
(21) "Iterum.... verbum sapienta". Perhaps the most complex reference in the story, yet hardly noticeable. A sound explanation will follow hereunder:
Iternum... verbum sapienta is obviously a Latin inscription, meaning "Of the journeys.... a word to the wise", but there's a lot more to it. "Iterum... verbum sapienta" is the bridge between the poetic song "Cursum Perficio" and the statement that preceded the expression; "I would end up my road there".
Cursum perficio is a Celtic song written in Latin by Roma Ryan in the late 80's and has thoroughly impressed me. Earlier in my life I used the nickname "cursum perficio" when writing and thereafter replaced it by my current nickname, "Zweerver" (wanderer in Dutch). Hereunder the text is enclosed.
quo plus habent,
eo plus cupiunt.
Post nubila, Phoebus
The translation of the poem is far off complicated, and I'll use Konrad Schroder's English version to elucidate the mysterious charm behind these lyrics.
I finish the course. (i)
A word to the wise:
the more [people] have
the more they want.
After the clouds, Phoebus (ii)(iii)
The text presents several difficulties that are difficult to rephrase in modern English or any other language. Schroder's textual critic was very useful for me when trying to understand it but it's far too grammatical for the scope of these notes, I will make use of it nevertheless adding up certain points I consider relevant and leaving out most semantic and syntactic remarks, being such unnecessary in this note.
(i) the Latin verb "perficio" means literally "I finish", although there's a deeper meaning to it, as in most expression drawn from the Classical languages. Perficio conveys the action of finishing as an unfinished or still on-going process. A more accurate translation would be "I am finishing the course", for it hasn't ended yet; it's a progressive action. Perficio raises the question of the eternal return that I believe is central to the meaning of the song and could be hitherto explained in the terms of Logos through the most well-known fragment of Heraclitus:
"If you haven't heard me but the Logos it is wise to ascertain by means of your sense that all things constitute a very same thing"
This proves that there's a super-structured axe in most of my writing that heads towards the same direction, be eternal return one of highest peaks of my underdeveloped system of thought. Perficio expresses an unfinished state of being, an action.
(ii) I believe Post Nubila, Phoebus form one only semantic unit but they must be explained separately. Post Nubila is also the Latin proverb (late) "after clouds (come) the sun*" *(enclitic and complemented by Phoebus) or "after rain comes the sunshine".
(iii) Phoebus is the Roman god of sunlight, prophecy, music and poetry (same as the Greek Apollo). When not capitalized the sun.
I see the immediate connection between the two particles forming a linguistic unity. Here I see how poor my knowledge of literature is as I'm unable to find the right terminology to describe this composition in any language I know. I've used the Phoebus extensively in my latest writings, in the companion of the Aurora (in the "walking on the water" metaphor that would be interpreted as the burial of the wife) and Demeter as well, being the Phoebus not only the sun himself, but also a son of the sun and a disciple of Apollo, an almost heavenly creature. Phoebus is a reference to myself being a child and also to some good friends, among them Fernando Barrera, Ofer Mayer, Giorgia Kaltsidou, David Waltmann and Liad Steinberg.
(iv) Here is where things turn out really complicated and there's no explicit translation of "Iterum" in Schroder's English translation. The word is spelled "iternum" which is either a nonexistent word or a poetic form. In all probability, it is either a misspelling of "eternum" (eternal), a misspelling of "iterum" (again and again), or a poetic form meaning journey. The context is so ambiguous that the translation was omitted.
Here are the possibilities played out:
a. "Eternum" is rather clearly enunciated, but it's highly unlikely that an adjective be used as a verb. Also some phonetic inconsistencies.
b. The transcription of "iternum" instead of "iterum" is a common error to make, and had occurred elsewhere (such as Codex Vaticanus manuscripts for example). "Iterum" fits the tone as well as the tense, that of one tormented by the demands of others "again and again". In the two speculations above mentioned there's a clear tendency to the topic of the eternal return as I've rephrased it, an unfinished state of being in the sense of "perficio" or in accordance to the Logos. v. No. 43 and the hyperlink included there.
c. Iterum means "journey". It is related to "iter" (to journey). This should be translated as "journey" or perhaps "of the journeys".
A semantic triad that leaves some food for thought.
The connection between the statement "I would end up my road there" in the letter and the poem stems from the fact that I remembered when writing the letter this song had been composed inspired by an inscription found in the portico of Marilyn Monroe's last home, "My journey ends here". I'm almost convinced such was a Latin inscription but I couldn't remember the exact wording at the time, hence I made use of a game of words drawn from the song. Using "Iterum" and "verbum sapienta" in juxtaposition, perhaps in the same periphrastic use of "Post Nubila, Phoebus".
As I mentioned when heading the note, this is perhaps the most dense explanation all throughout for an almost unnoticeable understated comment.
(22) v. Note No. 9
(23) The world shall have been created first and then the law. Reference to Genesis 1:1; "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth". The arguments springs from a superficial disagreement with the following textual sources (which Sylvia would compare with Solon's writings about the Athenian Laws):
(i) Midrash Rabbah
The Torah says, "I was the tool of God's artistry": An architect who builds a palace does not do so on his own: he has scrolls and notebooks which he consults how to place the rooms, where to set the doors. So it was God: He looked into the Torah and created the world.
God looked into the Torah and created the world. Man looks into Torah and sustains the world.
(24) Hemingway. Reference to this author's books on New Yorker's lives.
(25) Satmars. Ultra-orthodox sect, one of their main communities is based in New York.
(26) Progressive Jew. Meaning in the sense of American Reformed Jewish, it doesn't preclude the background of Sylvia in the Arminian Dutch Church and the Church of the Later Day Saints.
(27) Argive. That's how Greeks were called at a certain period of archaic times, particularly in Homer. The reference is drawn in the sense of Homer, who to a large extent exposed the contradiction between "fatus" and "will" of men, being subject to the mercy or wrath of the divinities.
(28) Homeland. Meaning ambiguously Israel and Britain.
(29) "grandeur de la cite comme le plus haute tour". Another ambiguous reference, "grandeur of the city such as the highest of towers". In one hand it's meant to exemplify the Biblical Babel tower through the life of an intellectual in Tel Aviv and New York. Secondly, it's meant to be a reference to "Chanson de la Plus Haute Tour", a famous poem of the symbolist poet Arthur Rimbaud.
(30) British. It's meant here as too old-fashioned and unprepared for modern life. Being but poorly street-wise.
(31) Sankt Gallen. Catholic city in the Swiss Alps where Sylvia Akkermans was probably born.
(32) New England. Meaning here the department of Classics at Middlebury College in Vermont and the famous "Bryn Mawr Review of Classical Scholarship" published by Bryn Mawr College.
(33) An English woman living in New York, an English woman that became an American lawyer, an English woman married in New York. Understated sentences that resume the central axes of the story.
(34) I could never help myself from looking down on them. Meaning that the snob intellectual of S.A. would never refrain herself from looking down on the appalling shallowness of American culture.
(35) the inclement Jerusalemite sun of October. Reference to the time when Sylvia and David Akkermans firstly met. It's also a cross-reference to a Talmud saying that goes "The end of the summer in Jerusalem is warmer than the summer itself".
(36) Lewisohn. Main building of the School of General Studies at Columbia University in New York.
(37) Mustiness. Concept drawn probably from George Elliot's "Middlemarch" as a Victorian way of life. It represents the heavy and dreadful scholarly touch of Sylvia, what unsuccessfully she tries to be devoid of. It's a masculine feature of Victorian England, where mustiness is considered scholarship, through the study of the Classics and the Hebrew Bible that every male shall have pursued. It's a symbol of status. Clearly represents my very first background.
(38) Dead knowledge. Reference to Enya's song "Na Laetha Geal M'Óige" in Irish. The context of dead knowledge might relate as well to the moral critic of George Elliot in the Middlemarch. Hereunder you'll find a textual critic of the song by Denis Ryan with an English translation.
Na Laetha Geal M'Óige
(In ómós do mo mháthair agus do m'athair)
Ag amharc trí m'óige
Sé mé bhí sámh
Gan eolas marbh
Bhí mé óg gan am
Anois táim buartha
Sé fad ar shiúl an lá
Ochón is ochón ó
Na laetha geal m'óige
Bhí siad lán de dhóchas
An bealach mó a bhí romhan ansin
Bhí sé i ndán dom go mbeadh mé slán
The great days of my youth
(In honour of my father and my mother)
Looking back at my youth
I was content
Without dead knowledge(i)
I was young, without time
Now I'm sorrowful
Those days are long past(ii)
Sadness and loss(iii)
The great days of my youth
They were full of expectation
The great journey that was before me then(iv)
Happiness was in store for me(v)(vi)(vii)
I shall add nonetheless that the music of Enya and in particular the Latin and Gaelic lyrics have deeply influenced my writings since the age of 13. In opposition to the order proposed by Denis Ryan in the translation and critical notes I'll point the romans only in the English version for fundamentals of Gaelic grammar are not the purpose of this explanatory note, however I'll include most of what Denis Ryan pointed out.
(i) Dead knowledge. This in the thematic axe of this long explanatory note (and almost epithetical axe of my work in general). According to Ryan it is probably a reference to Classical education and musty libraries, just the sort of interest that would of no interest, whatsoever, to a child. Could also mean the knowledge that comes with age. Dead knowledge is a very powerful understatement of the life of Sylvia Akkermans in comparison to Ari the child as portrated in a lost note called "Dear Anne Frank, are you truely universal?" in which wife would in detail talk about the childhood of Ari Akkermans. This dead knowledge Sylvia was condemned to since her earliest years and that would conduce her through the most different paths in life in distress and unhappiness, her passion for the Classics, hence her mustiness and love for scholarly life would be as well her worst curse. The Classics would be what would separate her from Jarvis in their romantic affair, but yet she would always cling to it, even by stating that in heavens when the Torah was given to the world she was already engaged in the study of the Classics, before this earthly life.
(ii) "Is fad ar shiúl an lá" translates into "it is long since the day is gone away". The nearest English sensible equivalent would be "those days are long past". Those days are long past are interpreted by Sylvia as her youth, as her life before vindicating herself in the life of the writer. It could mean as well her licentious life before her marriage.
(iii) Ochón. There's no real translation for this. It conveys great sorrow and loss. In the context of Sylvia Akkermans it would remind me of the chants included in Enya's song "Deireadh An Tuath" (End of the Tribu). Being those chants as follows: "Hoireann is O Hi O Ho ra Ha/Hoireann is O Ho O Ho Ho ro Ho" for which there's no possible translation given, but according to the Celtic tradition they might have been used in the pagan feast of "Samhna", that is the Halloween or the Celtic new year celebrated the first day of November. Sylvia would obviously relate these chants to the Jewish prayer for the departed "El Ma'ale Rachamim" (I've written about that in the past too) and certain Sapphic dark verses.
(iv) "An bealach mór" literally translated into "the big road" or "the big way". In the context of life, this would be better translated as "the great journey". Journeying is a very frequent allusion in my writing and it is also present at different instances of the letter. Please relate it directly to the note No. 21 (revert there once again if possible) and the "Iterum" (Of the journeys) of the song "Cursum Perficio" as related to Sylvia's statement "I would end up my journey there". This journey once again (and redundantly) stresses that fascination for the eternal return, the fatus of men and her submission to the vivifying power in the Logos of Heraclitus, as explained in the Pre-Socratic saying:
"Not twice you will dive into the same river, for the river is not the same neither are you".
The river also contains the essence of the Logos, it has been portrayed in the letter often too as "waters" surrounding knowledge and sentiments or containing them are mentioned all over. Also notice the mention of the river Stygia. Notes No. 14, 15, 16. The notes No. 21 and 38 (this current note) elucidate with most depth the thoughts revolting around the mind of Sylvia when writing the letter.
(v) This "happiness" in the original Gaelic is better rephrased as "wholesomeness".
(vi) Again, as in Cursum Perficio there's a sentence whose context is very ambiguous and is apparently a misspelling. The sentence "Bhí sé i ndán dom go mbeadh mé slán" means "it was in store for me that I WILL be happy" but it could have been meant also as "it was in store for me that I WOULD be happy". WILL/WOULD constitute strong paradigms in the life of Sylvia, divided in her soul between David and Jarvis, an analogy to the Greek world: Apollo and Dyonisus, the sun and the moon, the day and the night. Her conflict between her Greek culture from the Classics and her Jewish blood, being the first a solar culture and the later a lunar culture. Somehow the balance of both would never fall in place, for Sylvia strongly believed in the flow of things (an Hellenistic approach - seen in the lives of Jesus Christ, Alexander the Great and other Indo-European heroes) but at the same time kept a dark and wicked fascination for death.
(vii) "Bhí sé i ndán dom go mbeadh mé slán" is a statement of what she believed at that time (in words of Denis Ryan). "happiness was in store for me". A child's optimistic view of the future. In Sylvia's life it represents the duality between Sylvia and Isobel the hunter (!), being vertically opposed but seed from the same soil, her naivity, her humanistic thought, her refusal to take upon the burdens of modern life that would lead her to a lifetime vindication within the calm streets of Rechavia.
Hereunder a textual critic of the song without linguistic remarks:
The great days of my youth
(In honour of my father and my mother)(i)
Looking back at my youth(ii)
I was content(iii)
Without dead knowledge(iv)
I was young, without time(v)
Now I'm sorrowful(vi)
Those days are long past(vii)
Sadness and loss(viii)
The great days of my youth(ix)
They were full of expectation(x)
The great journey that was before me then(xi)
Happiness was in store for me(xii)
(i)"In honour of my father and my mother". A longing of Sylvia Akkermans about her family and her loneliness, it is a mere personification of the author himself through her. "In honour of my father and my mother" could be an epithet for Harry Goldstein, one of her characters as a writer. Subject to an unknown and almost frightening tradition that he would discover through many different events in his life. Being a village girl Sylvia stressed very much the concept of honour, that obviously Jarvis would never understand in his urban conspicuousness.
(ii) Looking back at my youth. A thorough look through between the life of Sylvia Akkermans and the well-spent childhood in the cold and green European melancholic and ageing landscape that would lead her life in the direction of the Classics (v. Note No. 52).
(iii) Content. Thoroughly expressed in the letter, although somehow saddening and understated. A profound sense of yearning.
(iv) Dead knowledge. See above.
(v) I was young, without time. Sylvia longs for her youth and she somehow would wish to enter the axes of times and re-start her journeys all through again. Her youth and her love affairs, with licentious and infatuating passion. Without time might refer again to the Classics, "the mercilessness of time" is mentioned somewhere in the letter in relation to the Shabbat candles. She could have mean an episode in the Greek mythology when Cronos (the time-god) is overthrown by his son Zeus, everlasting governor of the Olympic panteon, having Cronos son of Rea (mother-earth) previously overthrown his father Ouranos (heaven-god). Sylvia could have perfectly found a strangely similar hyperbolic analogy in the book of Genesis. v. Note No. 23. Being young without time means also not ageing, what she claims against Jarvis, that he's terribly wounded up from life and aged whereas she's not.
(vi) Now I'm sorrowful. Constant allusion in the letter. See above "Óchon" (iii).
(vii) Those days are long past. Allusion to being young without time, her life in Tel Aviv, being still very young.
(viii) see above (vi), or (iii) in previous text analysis.
(ix) The great days of my youth. Simiar allusion than in (vii). Her life in the center of the country and her romances, the coffee table, Tel Aviv, the university days, friends, her life before taking religious vows with her husband.
(x) They were full of expectation. For Sylvia that is would-be postmodernism, immaturity, eagerness to change the world whereas still wanting to be subject to the conventions. see blog notes about Ally McBeal.
(xi) Journeys. See above (iv) in previous text analysis and also note No. 21
(xii) Happiness was in store for me. A yearning about her dreams of the early days, the eagerness to live again. The duality between Jarvis and David.
(39) Helen of Troy in my companion did too. Helen of Troy as the wife of the argive and on whose accounts the Trojan wars broke, that is in the Greek mythology. In words of Sylvia it considers the vicious and evil character she claims to have altogether with her religious feelings. She feels in jealous sympathy with Helen.
(40) Homer and Sappho. References to the great and powerful influence that the Greek world subjects me to. In archaic thought religion, science, medicine, poetry and art was considered a unity, an only wisdom that was encompassed it all, I could say perhaps that the Logos of Heraclitus would be how this wisdom might be called. Subduing as Heidegger would rephrase it.
(41) coffe table (!). This is a personal reference; the person for whom it was meant will understand this context. Cannot be explained any further.
(42) him. David Akkermans.
(43) the Sapphic verse that shall remain somewhere in that wooden box among the petals. This is a reference to a birthday present I gave to someone once; inside it there was a translation of Sappho's fragment #2 according to the Oxford papyri. Hereunder you'll find the text of the poem.
1 That man seems to me the equal of a god
2 The man who sits opposite you
3 And at close he listens
4 To your sweet voice
5 And your enticing laughter
6 That indeed has stirred up the heart in my breast
7 For whenever I stare at you even briefly
8 I can no longer muse words
9 For my tongue in silence frozen is
10 Instantly a delicate flame calcines beneath my skin
11 With my eyes nothing I see
12 My eyes stumble at the whirring noise
13 A cold sweet embraces me
14 Temblors seize my body
15 And greener than grass I am
16 Surrounding death by close I seem
17 But all one's got to endure, even....
There's a long explanatory note of the context of this poem under the hyperlink http://thephilologist.blogspot.com/2004/09/little-explanation.html.
(44) Do you know what's loving someone without being even at least slightly attracted to him?. Reference to Sotah and the institution of marriage settlement in ultra-orthodox Judaism. The so-called Shiddach.
(45) My father the Sun. Another reference to a certain Holderlin's poem in which he claims being a son of Helios, there's also a connotation of the Phoebus (v. note No. 21) therein. Being a son of the Sun also means the long bygone days of the youth (from the Celtic poetry). It was taken from a note I wrote about my childhood and Arthur Rimbaud. It is still unpublished.
(46) empowered member of society. Sarcastic post-modern remark drawn from the ideological concepts of Radiohead's music.
(47) living down and underground. Allusion to Aimee Mann's song "wise up". Main theme in the soundtrack of the American film "Magnolia".
(48) Oxford days. Reference to Oscar Wilde's "De profundis". It means in a more general context the banal and superficial secret life of an intellectual.
(49) Wife and the funeral of her wedding. Reference to an still unfinished experimental existentialist play. It is mentioned in the currently on going notes under the title of "I'm in bereavement therapy" in this blog. It's a very Kafkian and macabre idea.
(50) Darwinist. Reference to some lectures in early anthropological ideas in which social Darwinism was examined. Social Darwinism claimed that society and its determinants such as language, culture and family life were determined by a natural evolutionary processes that created different layers from within. It could have been the foundational stone of socio-biology.
(51) Progressive Jew (ii). Not meant as previously. Progressive Jew in this sense means the appalling shallowness and fast forward life of Tel Aviv for which Sylvia found herself unprepared.
(52) a single young English woman. This refers to Sylvia's naivety, her background in the Classics and the pastoral poetry, poorly street-wise, old-fashioned, conservative and challenged by different vertical views on morality. It means as well her endeavour through the temptations of the fast and superficial Western life she was exposed to during her youth in the Middle East.
(53) Scandia, Finnmark, Cornwall. Reference to the landscapes through which the childhood of Sylvia was lived, having pleasurable memories of these places that had been obviously never visited by Jarvis. Scandia, a small group of fertile islands of plains located in the Swedish and Danish Baltic. Finnmark, northernmost region of Norway. Cornwall, small Welsh county.
(54) Victorian echoes and provincial life. Meaning old-fashioned, reference to George Elliot's Victorian novels "Middlemarch - Scenes of Provincial Life" and the collection of stories titled "Scenes of Clerical Life".
(55) "Chesed". Pivotal concept of Naomi Ragen's "Sotah". The whole paragraph is a feature of Sotah's epilogue.
(56) Wife. Reference to the wanna-be existentialist play mentioned above.
(57) Harry Goldstein. Another still unpublished story of mine, it goes around different scenes of my childhood, my mother's life in diachronic perspective and my education. Harry Goldstein alike Sylvia was Jewish and Sankt Gallen born.
(58) Aeolians. Reference to still untranslated poems of Sappho, least known. Part of my academic work.
(59) Funeral of a broken dream. Reference to the music included in the soundtrack of Von Trier's film "Breaking the waves". Reference to the tragic death of the female main character, probably an analogy to the burial of wife and the metaphor "walking on water". Also referes to my contradiction before the general idea of the Sophoclean play "Antigone".
(60) v. Note No.1