Saturday, August 25, 2007


One of the most important questions of the Romantic movement was whether is it possible for man to be at home in the world, this questionable search has lost all relevance for me. It belongs in the plurality of Mehrwuerdigkeiten typical of our age and this possibility of homeliness isn't an ontological situating, meaning that it isn't inherent to the fundamental horizon of humanity in this same world (understood as a totality of facts, the sum total of experiences in time); it doesn't belong in the totality of facts of the world and its limits, the limits of historical men theretofore. The question does have a solipsistic value that undeniably demands an horizontal withdrawal and consequently the loss of experience, which is the most fundamental conditio for historicity after the demise of epistemological prismas which rely on a possible view of the totality that is enabled only in an entirely trascendental universe, namely, that with a telos of futurity. Modernity has denied this possibility, least it were to deny itself. Nonetheless the total loss of experience, replaced by mood and representation, is also one of the political facts of our age. For this reason, this home in the world is primary a question of politics, theo-politics and onto-theology.


The anger of the night-dawn always overtakes me, in moments when looking back presents a Janus face that embodies the past as it looks toward the future through an empty cube. Interlocutors of times past dwell in the most remote silence and the hours of the day are all vested in such angry and unorderly despair; we no longer enter the churches, taking infinite pleasure in the politics of oblivion as though religion would be more a matter of loosening one's memory to an unfinished thread, thence all experience blurs into conspiracies, into theologoumena that represent merely syntactic paradigms of finite completion, utterances in the void of time, that clash in between the tenses that the present causes to all those who attempt so vanely to get hold of its arms.

Day-dreaming of a future so transparent that it might never possibly come without the amount of contigency necessary to disappear into the fragments of the present, the Messianology is always an unattainable aim, reason for which it remains so clearly the greatest source of consciousness; the myth starts in the future and then cuts through the past in order to land in the bitter thirst of the present. Remembering is an act of aggression, the politics of that having a place in the world. This such worldliness is always finding a place to stand, the safe ground that is always taken away by any possibility of absolute freedom. Absolute freedom never means to overturn the Will, but rather the mere experience of limitlessness, both conceptual and structural. In the flux of constant change, of human existence itself as this motion (and not time hereby) in its variegating opposition to human essence; for weren't we created "once" and "all the same"? Day-dreaming isn't imagining, it is the making of history itself insofar as history fulfills an unhistorical function in the sense that it remains a human artifact every so often perfect for self-knowledge; for the preposterous capability to trace one's origins through the delimitation of one's end whenever a trascendental project is given up. Daydreamin is memory, awakening is distinction and representation, aesthetics and axiologies of time; sleep is reification of consciousness, burgeoise instrumentalization of reality and dreaming itself is history.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Letter to Ivan

Dear Ivan,

I write you this letter from Tel Aviv, in the most distant of all exiles from all possible truth that there be in this world but at times it seems to me as though this isn't so bad after all, truth is a murderous alphabet that fills the space with so much anger, with so much Angst - the Angst of having lived so to speak. It is very strange to be far from Jerusalem after those long months that counted more than a thousand days and that, even when insignificant in the count of a person's life seems to be enough to realize how how much not at home man is in this world and perhaps that's his ideal position; from religion one at best learns that man is in practice very much alone in a very large world, a little peg in the largesse of the universe yet very much on his own.

Miracles never happen in Tel Aviv, except for the new large buildings that extent their arms into heavens like a Tower of Babel, perhaps hoping that one day we'll manage to reach far enough and then we'll crown ourselves into kings of the universe. The beauty in the spaces reflects everything so untruthfully, at best faint representations of something already old and uninteresting. One can be really that alone in Tel Aviv among very large crowds, without speaking to anybody and not wanting to in any case. What one misses the most is the true friends, those that would help one wander through the days of the apocalypse, that shared their bread with the stranger and that drank together the bitter waters of life, until they became entirely drunk as to be able to escape the terrible facts of truth : that there're no facts and history is but a word. That we're all in boat leading specifically nowhere and that the awareness of being such Noah, with all the fragility and insecurity that it implicates, is all what can be called faith in an age like ours when every possible concept has been turned into its radical opposite, or into its negation or into a joke.

The faith of Tel Aviv is otherwise, for people truly believe in the Tower of Babel and as though it were our taks to bring the eschaton with our hands, they make strenous efforts to embrace life all the most, as though one had the option in this world as it is to embrace anything but his own death and that of the others. As though one had a chance to accept the conditions of this world as it is, yet without negating them or wanting a better one not in the far-away Redemption but in the absolute present of our life today. I find this faith admirable, but certainly not mine. I walked into the church today, not for too long... and it made me very happy that those who can't believe in anything still can flee from this overdose of "knowing everything" into a cold space where one knows that there's little up there to pray for, and that is the only reason why one should pray in any case. To leave the chair empty not for the Messiah, because every Messiah that will come and occupy the chair is a false one... simply leaving the chairs empty for all those tired from the intensity of living, to rest from life if just a little... that's all what my Messianic feeling is about.

Warmest regard, friend of the true places
Miss you

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

At "The Little Prince": Emigration Journals

Yet sooner than expected one would find himself at home in certain places, or as Eveline's son would put it... not at home in more than one place. A cafe-bookstore and a tavern, both imported from the heavenly Jerusalem, the most dreadful and deadening of all places on earth... "The Litte Prince", that's the name of that such place... Unreadable and old Hebrew books furnish the walls and all the students chatter with each other on books and matters of the day, and how I wished to be part of those conversations! The urgency took over me again, proving that the outside is always troubled with me, but perhaps it's no willy-nilly, it isn't the catastrophic finances even, but more like that enormous fear of arriving in Jerusalem tonight, to close a deal with that awful place, to grant her a divorce. Bringing all my books and papers to the great misery ("t'aluva") that composes the landscape here. Most often I don't wish to leave the house, as of usual fearing accidents and more troubled environments, entanglements with new people that might just make matters worse than they've been until now. Emigrating to this new city is like changing one's name, everything suddenly turns so comfortable and familiar yet only because of that priceless gift of anonimity.

The conclusion is that one can't live with any situation and that's why they're so bearable even at the point when one's lost all courage. Changing the city or the country doesn't alter anything, it's like taking up citizenship in a foreign country, you can't care that much. One just can't survive in any city, because the bags don't differ between geographical loci, the language doesn't change and in this loneliness I only wish I were among those old friends, complaining about our miser situation with all possible virtuoso performance, as though on a stage. Only the songs save one from losing the language so entirely, when all the languages one writes in are foreign and untouchable. You might have fled leaving others on their own, without exit visas, betraying a little so to speak and this, despite the totality of the experience, doesn't contain any moral worth; yet one's attempting to overcome the curiosity of Lot's wife and by tour de force, becoming one another Noah in his boat, turning the waters upside down. The appalling distance from all living material that one gains in exile is nauseating at times, so that you run and hide in yourself, only in order to become so frightened as to eliminate all desire to survive again. Years passed by since I spent those awful hungry nights in the north of Tel Aviv writing those ridiculous musings and little stories that would save me from collapsing. By then, I had almost forgotten all Greek, except for the parts strictly necessary to remain alive yet one day more... in the hometown there were always friends to help and conversations, free hot meals and warm beds, counsels and a lot of empathy... Here it all seems so far, and you embrace your security as though it were at all, but those of us who have spent years in the abyss know this to be otherwise. Only the little pasts with those moments of truth can help one not to collapse at every juncture of the hour. It's about time to unlive the truth for a while, to work on oneself and to be rehabilitated for life, we'll live again, she said to me... and I hope for those days only because I want to believe they're distant from the here and now that has already fallen into a black hole where only remembering can provide any solace, can erase the towers and dry the sea, to reveal the Judean desert again, only that can hush the parties to let those angry godless prayers be heard, only that can dissipate the securities in order to show how much we fear. In exiles language is always turned around, it's never lost... simply translated, and that's what causes a little pain sometimes. With a little Greek I arrived home, and with that same little Greek I left.

Emigration - Meinwärts

Passing the mark of a thousand nights, I emigrate again... Not into a place unknown before but yet so uncommonly strange and so well separated from language and foe, so terribly not gemütlich but altogether possible to be lived; in the great distance from all the truth in the world one wanders through the street without experiencing anything as his eyes are always busy with something else, trying to cope with the amazement in its most un-Greek form. The music plays from the most varied locales, but you know it's all a permanent silent inertia as though eternity could be in one place - history is destroyed afresh with the impressive towers that aim to reach the sky one day, so that the poor-spirited can dwell there, to relieve themselves... But sometimes in the streets there're accordeonists like those we used to know back home, they beg for money just like we begged for death, for an irretriveable divorce from every word of truth, for a distance... And those beggars, it's their laughter what impresses me so deeply, a laughter that overcomes all sadness and that becomes a flag in the paviment for the passer-by's to identify themselves with, as though it were an embassy issueing temporary passports for refugees, for those fleeing the estrangement.

There's yet something poetic but harmless about those warm nights, the eventless noise and the lax smell of a very thin light. You can sit and write, but then that isn't really telling your story and therefore you walk down the street with those heavy bags, from city to city, from person to person, throwing books sometimes and picking up rags... You just can't leave them anywhere, and even the children seem so burdened carrying those heavy bags from their own history; only in the early evening, at those very small cafeterias, one can open his bags and organize a garage sale every night, with accordeonists around playing so kindly as to sooth the thickness of one's own skin as not to seem hairsplit. But there're no customers, except for other emigrees... with so little money to buy anything from your heavy bag, so that they only exchange one item for another, tell their own stories, add a piece from somebody else or delete a chapter in their own and trade it for a cup of coffee with a stranger. No dreams of return harvest in you, while you don't plan on staying either and the cafes become stations, train stations, with temporary lockers for your bags, they rent the lockers for hours only and at the end of the day you must bring your suitcase back to your room, in the dampness of the air and the stillness of the hours.

You feel divorced from the pain you felt every morning, the anger, the anguish... your hands become a little spoiled as there's no need to look for the bread of life, Jesus is nowhere to be found around here, except in a Filipino church around the corner and there he's no friend or conversator, he remembers not his way back into the Street of the Prophets... he takes the buses all day long asking for directions, and in the end he winds up in the same garage sales. Looking for a tourist, for a foreigner... who will speak another language and listen to the story with delight and in his mind he will imagine Jerusalem as the palace of a King so full of empty chairs, and he will not notice the graves that always welcome you in. It's strange to tell people that nights are so silent here, so quiet... because it isn't factually true, but the emigrees know it well. There's so much we have forgotten, debts we didn't pay and friends that will no longer call. In the late afternoon you despair in your table, drink the bitter coffee with the slowest depth of your body and look into the abyss... It isn't deep enough, you know it well. But emigrating is a way to live, to continue living and not drunken from glasses of water, from letters and from the burden of the stones, you yourself having become one of them. You prefer not to leave your room, there's just such lack of desire! But remember this is just a train station, and like all stations it leads nowhere while at the same time it never leads back.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

"Vom Sinn der Liebe"

Such was the title of a rather strange book published almost a hundred years ago in Jena by a young essayist named Margarete Susman, who had just a decade before and at the very turn of the century made a name among the bohème of Berlin with a little book of poetry titled "Mein Land" that saw three editions before the end of the Weimar Republic - an honour bestowed on few, certainly not on the greatest titans of the German-Jewish poetry like Else Lasker-Schüler and Walter Calé, her contemporaries. One of her poems, "A maiden sings in the plains', was turned into a symphony by Jan Sibelius as early as 1906. Today there're just very few who can remember the name of Margarete Susman, especially in an age when the categories and standards bestowed upon us to "remember" have uplifted their veils and thrown us into decay. For Margarete Susman, religiosity (intimately close to love) was a very different experience (and not merely phenomena) than it had been for most of the Jewish theologians of the time; for her this meant the intensive quality of language, the intensivity of speech... This religiosity didn't speak the language of myth any longer but interpreted itself and 'was become' through the intimate lyric of the "I". It is this intensive quality of speaking as a means to overcome the lack of pre-representation typical of burgeoise property relations and the age of commercial reproduction, the ethos of the flaneur; the dialogical and unsolipsistic nature of understanding as metaphysics itself - the step beyond the theology of the "Deus absconditus" that troubled the philosophers since the middle ages and in particular, since Scottus' ontological argument for the existence of God and accordingly, and contingent necessity of a concept of religiosity intimately bound to rationality and therefore hierarchies and ultimately unspeakable dogmas. Unspeakable not in the sense of having overcome language through the religious experience but out of not being inter-clusterical enough as to engage directly in the diaporias of human language; all theology (in particular with reference to Thomism and Orthodox Lutheran theology) was in that sense pre-linguistic, and therefore mythical only in negative terms, only by means of antinomies.

Monday, June 04, 2007



The mornings of the world are dreaming,
With the murderous solitude of twilight
The Orphic calm of the waves, of feather...
They unfold nightly, with wide open arms,
Coated in milk of coal and hell, yet so cold.
Venturing to bruise the delicate skin of the glass
Illuminating a very poor street, naked from the music
Undistinguishing cinnamon and prophecy
As though both were a white body, made from soothing oaks.


The nights are not jealous, they pray orgiastically
To heal the nausea of the morning, the sun's eyelid
And the worlds move their lips inwards,
Not to bespeak the taste of the bitter bread.
Unclean abyssmal theodicies, offered so kindly
To passerby's and enemies, denizens, strangers...
In strenous efforts to halt the mighty rivers
That lead to the silent despair of Shabbat,
But the morning is so helpless! With her wooden stockings...


One might want to be free, like a broken clavicord,
Or a bruised accordeon, yet the air sings so solidly!
That one chokes from the light and the hairs
Filtering through the little cracks in the canvas.
The mornings of the world are in danger
Unable to cleanse the thrill of the night.
The days are mere sweet passengers
Resting from their loves, on a bed of cactuses.
On their way to the frenzy of the night.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Skin of Cinnamon

The skin of cinnamon
Neatly wrapped in Athenian bricks
Unfolds across the skies of Jerusalem
Falling out of enmity
But also out of friendship
Encountering a vacuum
Filled with so many lies
With so many lines
Bought from the book-market
And in the foreign news

Along the little alleys
Ugly as they are
Strolled nightly
The lovers of hatred
With chemicals in place of words
A rift suddenly, a breach
From an untrusted conversator
Enveloped by a lustless fear
Of being recognized once again
In the eyelid of a blind accordeon.

Turning away from madness
Into sadness, into luck
Into faith of the eye-glassed kind
Outreaching to touch a faltering hand
That would betray the night
With the wealth of belief
The speech of a deer
Mumbling a sad German song
From the plains of Ain Kerem
Having forsaken having a world.

The rain, the breach

...After the rain, the breach...
That falls from the very ground
Back into the firmament
The thrill of a shattered drawing
Vanishing just as easily
As a night spent in Rome
In the solace,
Of solitary wooden stockings...
Unconcerned with past rhymes
Writing under the colours of sulfur
With hands of another essence
Less protracted, from journeys
Into the lands of other nearby embrace
Forgiveance, without oblivion
Without the secret betrayal of indifference
But more conceited too
Less given to the watery shadows
Of moodlight woes
No longer afraid, no longer despised...
...After the rain, the breach...
The silence, and a very little unquenchable thirst
For the same old hyssop, left hovering around
Without being left past the hinges
In order to water
The death of nature...
Only opening the windows
In order to water down
Very old letters

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Jewish Politics and Love - Part III

That brief conversation couldn't have too much meaning, I thought for a fleeting moment - we were already onto some serious matters after all. But I found this to be a lie immediately thereafter, to a great extent I couldn't care, I'm a European-educated guy, perhaps more provincial than cosmopolitan and not as failed as I would like to be, so that it couldn't matter to me any less 'in a way'. After all, I had had my own affairs with diplomats and Catholic clergy, as a leading socialite of the strange and invisible expat world of East Jerusalem to which I had belonged for sometime, despite endless warnings of friends in the Western side telling me "Watch out, you do look very Jewish after all". I had worked for a German Catholic organization, and knew the Christian community from head to toes and a great extent of the diplomatic one, at least from the European missions. I wasn't interested in influences or power, in fact my intentions were radically apolitical, I was just trying to satisfy my aesthetic sense with materials by far not available in the whole of Jewish Jerusalem. With all this in mind, what could be wrong with a nice Arab boy? Well that's something which needs a long answer. After the revelation nothing apparently changed, except the fact that paradoxically I could turn immediately to English and speak both languages simultaneously, being someone in English and someone else in Hebrew but playing both acts as good as I could. He felt ought to leave and tried to convince him otherwise, although I did want to leave that hole of filth where we had been crumped.

Thinking of it, it was highly typical of me to be with him in this rather fancy bar and then in those loopholes, because as sort of bohemian and declared enemy of the burgeoisie (to which I deliberately belong as though it were a fact of natural law) I could only find myself in places that are either of the very highest standards or of the very lowest, with nothing in the middle but the game of a broken middle whose lines I have refused to play since I became an adult. Finding it to be extremely boring and playful... And it is in those places, the best restaurants and cocktails just like in the filthiest bars and clubs, where Bohemians and Arabs meet. Then I convinced him to join me for half an hour to an even lousier place that I've grown too fond of, and encountered one of my painters on the portico, then followed by other people. At this point the conversation was quite intense and it reached the level of aesthetics I had sought and broke it asunder, aesthetics had become passion but in the most burning sense of the word. Being able to speak English made me a little free, not only grammatically, but in the sense that there was a shared sense of foreignness. Altogether, everything seemed extremely alright, which is always a very bad symptom, I always say. Eventually he decidedly had to go and I walked him over to his car, that is very very different from G. or J.'s, perhaps different by at least twenty-thousand dollars. So we kissed again perhaps in the best possible way - playing with both aesthetics and lust, and of course he had to be an educated Arab to understand that, a concept as foreign to Israelis as the idea of aristocracy. Then he brought me to my friends again and I left quite touched, unhindered and a little bit vexed.

I sat by myself and couldn't even drink, just played with my thoughts and remembered the one more painter sitting next to us, smiling with our conversation and drawing a man that danced in a chiaroscuro of green flashes. Then of course the curious friendly public couldn't wait to be furnished with all the information, and I replied basically by saying no more than "Well, some guy I happen to have dated a few times and who turned out to be an Arab". The first response is an absolute silence of ten minutes on the part of everybody, and then one young man interjects with a "Didn't you know it before?", to this I responded only with a nod. A very well-meaning friend just wanted to 'improve' the situation by saying "Oy Leo... there're some good Arabs you know!". This absolutely murdered the situation, but it would be only an appetitzer of what would come later. I had been a little bit jumpy because after all that date had been also the assassination of an old ghost, overall it had been a perfectly drawn night, and there my suspicion started that would be confirmed only ten minutes later.

My dear B., called me incessantly over the course of an hour, time during which in the middle of a tribunal made of ten young Israelis scorned my public shame, when I realized this a great deal of text messages had arrived already and I set myself to respond. In fact, my dear B. had been extremely "offended" by our meeting, which I had considered to be extremely normal and very successful, first of all because as an Israeli-born Arab, raised up in a villa in Ein Kerem, driving a car twice as expensive as anyone else's I know and studying medicine at the Hebrew University, he had to "accuse" me of "belonging" to what he termed the Ashkenazi Zionist burgeoisie, of course... me from all people! The most radical of all anti-burgeoisie that fights with his own burgeoise attitudes more than a little. But the judgment day didn't end there, it was also an attack set upon me and an statement of the impossibiliy of our "chemistry" because he's allegedly a Communist, who of course knows by heart the menus of all international restaurants to be found in this city! Finally it was significant enough to say that the root of the matter is that "I'm an Arab and you're a Jew". Proceeding onto adding that "When I told you I was a Christian it was only half the truth, in fact I'm half Muslim". "We believe in different things altogether". So that I was fairly enlightened by the content of this lesson: That love, ideology and chemistry are equally synonimous and interchangeable terms!

Of course a whole providence of self-defense of someone who's never been attacked. Perhaps my friend does want to be an Arab in his heart, but in his whole attitude and language he's entirely one of us... although, almost none of my friends would agree. He's by no means a Palestinian, but an Israeli Arab that could certainly pass easier for an Israeli than myself that at best am able to pretend being a third-rate European in exile. Something makes me think that these experiences are not the mainstream (or at least I want to believe it so) and that among less 'cultured' segments of both our Jewish and Arab societies, these encounters are not so abnormal and that happen in everyday situations, something that we 'intellectuals' aren't too fond of because it's difficult to quote that way. It is interesting to give oneself such political legitimacy, but not at the price of love in whichever form it comes, but matters aren't so easily resolved.


"Oy... what a drama! But how real? The guy leaves although he's so interested, because I'm a burgeoise, a Jew and because I seemly am in love with another guy".

"I think you still have your other one in the heart, but you could never have such wonderful evenings with him"

"He also thinks that I can't love him at all because my other one is a Jew and that he's an Arab. I can't believe the world to be divided between Jews and Arabs. I don't accept it!"

"But he's right, isn't he? Yet he doesn't understand the meaning of the evening you spent together...The horror of it is that the politics and the ressentment and divisions fill all parts of the most private feelings, there's no corner left free, not even love."

"The night was so mad! The "Arab" came to my house this morning, he explained once again that he's a Communist and I'm an elitist burgeoise, then we stopped and had a pretty good time, it all seemed OK. Then he left and called me again to say it can't work out... because of the Jew-Arab thing!"

"My dear Leo, it is a dilemma when one's own life is so mad and crazy, the artist's imagination is so useless, because there's no distancing, no need of evoking anything or inventing figures, stories or drama. How to survive, how to create, but seeing the everyday life as a parable... but how? When everything is at the highest risk, everything is extreme, devotion?"

"That's a serious problem, so that living and therefore dying is the only possible art, the kind of savoir-vivre. Everything is fragmentary representation, broken pieces... no distancing, just creation and therefore destruction".

"To call this a serious problem is already a step to help not getting mad. It's a good joke as well, because IT IS A SERIOUS PROBLEM! I start writing you a letter, we have to talk about love and politics, I'll call you tonight".

Nothing could have seem more normal than such encounter, taking into account our age, and well his, slightly less than three years under my already weighty twenty-three summers. But looking back, and it is important to notice how different the perspective is now, I can clearly see why B. would be so offended about this apparently unnatural meeting, not one of a bad context even as most of those encounters between our peoples that one hears about. It's not a matter of being too much of anything, or too little.. I simply feel that in my unrelenting trust that he was in fact an Israeli, I can't imagine how many millions of things I might have said whereof he might not have heard in his whole life... the revelation came to me as a shock and I refused to give it much importance, although I did feel that at the very moment he said he was an Arab, something did change in me and what had been the most natural feeling of 'tolerance' turned by now into hatred indeed, from both sides. It's a sad but strong anger you can't really describe, and especially that it is felt among two groups as unconventional in their ways as Jewish and Arab homosexuals... it's even perplexing, but somehow I guess as I said before, this is a sin of intelligent people, just safeguarding my sanity in the hope that the masses might think and most definitively act differently. I think now that I could have lied, and just say that it doesn't matter to me at all whether I have a Jewish partner or not, but I didn't so it's irrelevant, what is of importance is that, had I lied, perhaps I could be enjoying myself in a very neatly packed lie of love and deceive, although some of those are necessary sometimes, brutal reality is simply unbearable. It is a problem for our secular world, it can't manage to deal with itself, the abyss is too close and the ends-of-the-end drawing nearer and nearer in our age, either toward Enlightenment in the Kantian sense or plain destruction.

It was my duty to tell the truth, and even being an hypocrite I could say that lying didn't even seem possible then because I had the absolute security of being among 'my own'; and the things I said, oh God! Only he knows how bad it sounds when put into context. There's a conversation going on between human beings, there's a connection... but at a certain moment one turns around and sees the reality, and our realities aren't the same so that there's no possible conciliation, only vengeance in the short time and oblivion in the longer one. We both saw that reality in the moment when that discussion took place, and now it seems as though it happened a million years ago but it didn't. That look of reality was a frightening declaration of alterity that escapes all definitions, and it is indeed only the second chapter of the story with the children, it is an open declaration of what my friend said, the total politics of the space, even the most private feelings are invaded and filled with emptiness, the political is everything and therefore, nothing at all. This isn't without ground, to be an homosexual in Arab society (in Israel or anywhere else) is not just a dialectic of accept or reject as in Israel, where unfortunately some people are indeed thrown out of the house for coming out of the closet, but the tendency has changed significantly. It is a narrative of family life that the modern acceptance of the awareness of homosexuality has seriously threatened, and for an example we have a very nice story shared by our former policewoman: A certain guy is found out to be gay by the neighbours and soon thereafter is found dead, a police investigation in course: An Arab family, everybody is questioned... the end result: The father confessed to have ordered the older sons to murder the homosexual brother, and the youngest brother confesses to have seen how they soaked a piece of cloth in chemicals used for floor-cleaning and asfixiated that certain brother with it. They told the police that he was in the shower, had fallen upon the cloth with the chemicals unconscious already and inhaled it to death; quite a difficult story to believe matter-of-factly. This is the wonderful end!: The father expresses how much he loved his son, but as well how unable he was to live with the fact that his son is an homosexual!. Maybe his father could have loved him a little bit less and respected his sacred humanity a little bit more? Am I sounding too heartless? This is already what Postmodernity would define as a political murder, and no less.

My dear B. can't help his liking of me, it's all too clear.. but as long as I remain a Jew in this country it all seems impossible, no matter how contradictory his position is and mine too. How many times I spent long nights in the white Vienna with Egyptians and Lebanese, discussing Israeli politics? Or how many times I visited Sonia's father, that old guy from Tulkarem in Amsterdam? How often did I scorn Israel? Well, in Europe it was just too easy, and too irresponsible too. I might have developed already some un-love for my dear friend, who somewhere in the dark that has posed its wings upon one generation more, remains questioning the nature of the world at large and whether we need politics so much. I hear horrible stories about relationships with Arabs, most of them quite true, from all different kinds of people. It was clear to me that whatever he is, he undeniably belongs into the intelligentsia of this country... we can never have a double-state and we can never end this conflict, at least in this generation while enmities are just this fresh. Perhaps one could do like my dear Ursula Rosenzweig, to try and build a new intelligentsia in which Arabs and Jews will work together in building a country, but somehow I know this is bound to fail, because it is my country and not theirs, and I'm not even a Semite, I'm a stranger, a foreigner, imported from the West but I just know how much this country is mine.

This exercise has taught me that my intuition is right, the connection between love and politics in our age is beyond repair and it must be examined, I feel grateful that I've examined it in reality and no less, but at times the price of it seems an all-times-high one. Maybe I'll see him again in one of those expensive restaurants where we used to meet, just to remember that he's a Communist and I'm a pathethic burgeoise, no? And perhaps even beyond that, because our similarities are so striking that we might never be able to accept each other... but this love turned into politics and politics turned into love can only be negatively portrayed by a dictum of Augustine, "Love is as strong as death", and this, the father of a young man murdered by his brothers, could easily sing to himself in the tranquility of his heart. This love is murderous indeed, and perhaps we might find a way in which we could be a little bit more free by using less politics in between people and less love in between nations as the only viable alternatives of coexistence. That this exercise was taught me, in the course of such a wonderful night of a gift of grace, but only because this is so, the lesson is extraordinarily rude and noisy. A few years ago even, I felt so comfortable in the foreignness of East Jerusalem, but things have changed, the Levant has replaced Europe in many of my ways, but by no means all so that perhaps I have some space for reflection, the worst of all curses one might have in days when despair creeps in so easily and action is limited to the definition of whom we hate or love, if only on the principle of difference. I remain aloof in the madness of this dead city, and trying to come to terms with myself from the storm of political loves, I send a whole bunch of lies to an old friend, telling him how much I've spent the last two days resting from my books and my madness.... how untrue could it be? And then he replies callously telling me how he's been working in the garden. How much I envied him then. But yet not. We're all made of different material, and apparently so, of different politics and policies.

Jewish Politics and Love - Part II

On Thursday, while looking for some material that could aid J. in her work, I came across a certain book by a teacher of mine, 'Biopolitics' and although the title didn't so far attract me, after reading the first page I couldn't leave it at all, for it spoke already about the broken promises of Modernity - something I consider to be a living reality and of my most devoted interest. I came across a chapter titled 'Sexual Politics', criticizing the 'politicization' of life as a whole, of the body, of justice, in fact or every possible human concern. With the reading I came across certain points, albeit they seemed exaggerated to me but I did take them into account. The feminists would evaporate themselves by achieving their goals, the homosexual liberation grew tired already and has nothing to do with social concerns anymore, the degree of political 'sexism' will lead eventually to a redefinition of all what we've thought about sex, so that there's as much radicalism in being a puritan today as there was in being a public whore in the 60's, both with as much lack of aim. All the issues raised did interest me, but again I must state, I didn't think them to be so relevant for me at least. I settled down the matter and moved onto other concerns. In telling my nicely wrapped story I owe to return once to the week before.

B. and me knew each other from a certain café I had visited with a tourist whom I felt obliged to guide around Eim Kerem upon request of a friend. I always loved going there, especially alone... to enjoy the pastoral sight still soaked in the religious frenzy of good Christianity and secular Judaism. The tourist and me sat in a restaurant and had a sound meal, visited some churches and were instructed by one of my Franciscan friends about the shortcuts available to make it to certain church on top of the hill. I couldn't be any less positive about joining him so that I decided to sit in a cafe, write in my journal, pass the time.... almost not living and have a drink or two. B. sits close by and enjoys a rather large breakfast, glimpses the newspaper here and there... all of a sudden 'accidentally' his whole cup of coffee split onto my lap and in a very impersonal calm I settled the issue by starting a conversation. He was perhaps not one of those magazine idols that homosexuals dream about, to my utter despise... but there was a truly cultured Oriental beauty about him and a captivating one. My tourist took longer than expected in returning so that B. and me would just go for a stroll and in my unintended innocence I start to fall into an abyss from which one despair would lift me up. Suddenly I understood B. wasn't just friendly, but flirtateous too... in a way I hadn't been accustomed to for so long, because I no longer live in Vienna, and because the accordeonist and me play similarly, but with the very disapassionate logic of truth. I had somehow grown used into those brief love affairs of a day or two (not even of a night) with passer-bys and strangers, knowing that it would be so shortlived and just taking advantage of it for myself, for my creativity and poems, for my thoughts... stealing fragments from the skin of so many travelers. But this was different, one of the 'natives' would treat me for an excursus into the world of speech that I couldn't recognize in myself most of the time while I live here and interact in the Hebrew language; this is something you're allowed to do in German, but never in Hebrew. So eventually I was invited for a 'cup of coffee and a Belgian waffle', not knowing how much I detest those sweeties, even in the spiritual sense.

After my return to the central madness of Jerusalem's lack of reality, I became oblivious of this unprecedented encounter just too briefly, painters and accordeonists in my life, bad philosophers, lawyers, etc. But he wouldn't, and soon enough on a certain warm night I'd find myself drinking coffee, lying and explaining to very amiable personality, my distate for sweets. I couldn't say it wasn't thrilling, but there was a certain reticence, a certain mud... although this is what it looks like only now. The conversation wasn't really too overwhelming, studying medicine, living in Ein Karem, my book, my madness, our humour, etc. In perspective it was also the kind of conversation that only very idiosyncratic Israelis could have, the typical half-foreigner young man, pretty well educated and doubtful in between things. I went home without a second thought, it couldn't have been more normal than this. Then it was followed by a second meeting, stage at which I was informed this meeting had been called a 'date' by my singular companion. Things didn't change much, I simply couldn't bother, just go, talk, get out of the house a little, away from friends... you can play a little and hide a lot, because you're not amidst your own tent and someone living in Ain Kerem couldn't have an idea of the kind of everyday misery so typical of those living in the very center of the city. Nothing changed at this point. On Friday I had spent a lot of time outside, newspapers, coffee, humus, like a typical Friday before Shabbat, something I hadn't experienced for just too long. Then that certain 'participative democracy' of education that didn't come around without surprises, planning the next revolution perhaps, although I was happy at least it didn't happen in some pricey restaurant. Then back to the cafés, turning again to politics, the state, the Arabs, I don't know... whatever came to mind. I was thoroughly enlightened by the conversation, and also came to agree with myself (a rarity indeed) that the accordeonist is wrong in some accounts. But overall I didn't pay too much attention, was tired, not even melancholy... just feelingless, empty in a way. Silence and bed could be the only solution, in such a state of weariness from the public eye, I couldn't write or think one bad thought even, so that I grab a book and in the next minute I fall asleep with it.

I wake up nearing the beginning of the night, and find myself uneasy at being alone yet wanting it much... No efforts to communicate with friends or to send messages that might be probably unresponded for the next twelve hours. Opening my phone, trying to locate someone's number (to call another day) I find out not to have erased B's number and without offering an apology for having been a brutal pig two days before, I simply text him in order to say hello and just continue my reading. After the first response I knew there would be follow up and in the end he agreed to my idiosyncratic ways in and out and asked me to see him in the next half an hour in the city, actually in a very mild place, full of smiling people and quite boring too... but out of my weekend's lack of fondness with anything I simply fell through as though not really thinking about anything. I go to encounter my faith, because fate is something I wish I didn't have to see so often. The beginning is strange, entering an unknown bar (this doesn't happen too often) and sitting, talking about 'you and me', nothing too concrete although everything on the whole pretty 'nice'. Then a lovely conversation about nothing, in the best of British style, that kind of talk that would have been impossible with my painter or my accordeonist; so at least I felt that the Romantic spirit of such evening wasn't wasted at all even if it were to be resultless.

Then a suggestion to change places, 'looking for less noise', and then we're headed on my account, to a certain 'quiet' please where the burgeoisie atmosphere choked me as it always does and then we headed onto a place where 'a fag could be free', as though it meant anything for the time being. Then the trouble starts (not the real one): Going into a gay bar is an asffixiating experience, especially out of the excess of familiarity with all the postmodern lust, the lack of youth, and the desire to be something you can't, somewhere you might never reach. We couldn't talk too much, because instead of less we received much more noise, but we did talk a little. In fact I felt very pleased by the fact that I was having a real date, as strange as it sounds to anyone who knows me. Kind of having achieved the normality un-sought for, but not entirely convinced of it, happy that no one recognized me around and that all my troubles with myself had ended for one beautiful night, like so many other beautiful nights where I was for a few hours entirely immortal. It all starts off and moves forward just so slowly and a certain point there was a little kiss and then another and another, so in fact I had found myself in a date, despite myself... I also knew this to be a date because we didn't run to bed immediately. This is part of my philosophical problems! I want pleasure and certainly male lust is no little pleasure, but I want to fight with aesthetics, so that I prefer to sacrifice pleasure in a Christianmost way, if for the sake of aesthetics. Accordingly, so many passing and brief but lustless love affairs, even for a few hours... This of course coming from somebody whose life's work is to overcome aesthetics, no little joke! In this moment I felt sublated, because there was an incredible amount of aesthetics (despite the horrible lack of it in the milieu) together with a very shy and diminished amount of lust. This all sounds like a very boring dating journal entry, except for a very meaningful event.

-"Leo, tell me, would you like to have a boyfriend that is Jewish?"
-"Well, in the past I didn't use to think about it, but now perhaps it's become somehow important"
-"Oh I wanted to ask, because I'm not Jewish"
-"So what are you?"
-"I'm a Christian, an Arab"
-"Oh well... let it be" (I kept myself from saying 'it's ok')

This is where my problems began!

Jewish Politics and Love - Part I

To Katharina and Juli, with whom I gained the inspiration to write down these days through absurd conversations.

"I have a blue piano at home
And yet I know, not one note.

It stands in the darkness of the cellar's door
Since then, when the world turned mad.

Four hands of the stars play it
- And the Lady Mood sang once from a boat -
Nowadays only the rats dance with the tune.

Oy! The keyboard is broken....
And I mourn the dead blue....

Ah! A beloved angel opens
- I ate from bitter bread -
Opens for me the heavenly door of life -
Even against all prohibitions."
-Else Lasker-Schüler,
"My Blue Piano", transl. by Leo.

Once, when I had been to Paris at the tender age of fourteen I had been flabergasted in my disappointment regarding the lack of accordeonists in the street, so that I found one of my own in a little alley of Jerusalem almost ten years later; he wouldn't play so swiftly and in fact he wouldn't play at all... but the accordeonist was a figure as necessary in the writing of one's life as a flaneur could ever be. And after my timely discovery I realized through reading some old journals, that I had perhaps seen that accordeonist before and that Plato could be eventually right in one thing. Of course listening to an accordeonist that can't play one single note, is doubtless an act of love, but so were the sufferings of the Lord on the Cross and Abraham's murder attempt against his own son. In the case of Cain, I'm not so sure of what the legal opinions could be, but I'm inclined to rely on more lust than love... it's almost a pagan ritual like that in which Pentheus is sensually devoured by his mother - yet this sounds too easy, for extremes, as Lessing said, are just too easy to represent... so that the painting of the tragedy could be only achieved if one were to draw it the second before the murder, when the eyes of the mother are still loving and graceful. It is not altogether feasible to sketch a painting before the moment of love, but no less, it is impossible to restrain oneself from puncturing the canvas in the fleeting hereafter of love but right before the hero is dead. Otherwise one would indulge in too much compassion, not in the nature of the artist and allegedly a devise antagonistic in essence to the demands of aesthetics.

This can also remind me of what a certain Hebrew writer said (and perhaps the only thing she ever said about her own writing) about narration, that the richness of details often manages to murder a good story, it is only in the talent of the narrator to make the characters come real with the least amount of information necessary, one isn't too much concerned with the 'biography' so to speak, than with the essence of a moment. For a philosopher of history, this is perhaps the only possible solution out of the problem of not telling history as though it were philosophy of history. So that my story starts when reading a certain book called "The Land of the Hebrews", and what a lame rhaetorical devise is to start a story with the reading of a book, but for me holds truer than anything else; in that book there's a certain faintly story about Jerusalem and its people, about the age of God that allowed me to play wistfully in Hebrew with the name of a beloved foe, a Hebrew poet himself, the devise is impossible in any other language, so that I must warn in advance that this is in fact a story written in Hebrew, therefore it cannot be translated into any language but that. In the little book one kind of sees Jerusalem from the eyes of heaven, and not even that... from the vantage of the heaven before heaven, so that somehow one would never really want to make it there. The writer sees the city from a little window in a hotel around Shekh Jarra, nowadays a wealthy Arab neighbourhood where the local parvenus often visit to let themselves treated to the indiscreet eyes of diplomats and Christian old-aristocracy as to gain a confirmation of their own ability to live in respectable society if only for the sake of metaphysical clarity, for such is nowhere to be found in the greater perimeter of the city.

I saw the city from higher up, looking out a window in Mt. Scopus wherefrom I could catch a glimpse of the whole of the little Arab houses that I could only imagine from the accordeonist's little home nearby, however, outside his kitchen there was (perhaps also imagined) a laundry thread and that was already part of the Arab house. I sat opposite that window many hours, realizing my loss... being inside the cleanest building in the whole of East Jerusalem, gazing into the tiny Arab houses with their green lighthouses, admiring the beauty of the whole landscape - such an unnatural one! Disjuncted houses, crumbled with each other and following the movement of the sand in the deep Judean desert, at the same time despising the Oriental reality just so much! Thinking it could at best make a great painting, but never a good theology or a political ideology. I also gazed into the houses at night and from much closer during my walks with the young Christians and then returned into the city via the Mt. Olives, visiting some well-known graves of anonymous people, stopping at a certain restaurant forbidding myself to fear, after all it all looked so natural, the houses, the children, the cars, the misery. In the night I could hear the green lights of the mosques, and felt less love than mere aesthetic "acts of contrition" before the fading sights.

That certain day when the tale of love and politics broke free, I had not expressed or experienced any disappointments, in fact I had felt quite happy about myself, spending long hours in a library looking out toward the opposite direction of the city, the mumbling of the few tall buildings and the invisible individuality of remaining houses, their dead... From the library a great part of the city-sight was occupied by a very large cemetery and I mused to myself that in a city like this there's really no place for one if he's alive, one must be dead to become a citizen... In another location, returning from Tel Aviv the day before I stare in amazement at the entrance to the city... only the endless graves greet us! Not one voice is heard, lest it comes from an Arab house or from the murder of a death, the laughter of life or anything else that has been forbidden by the imperial laws unknown to all the residents. But that time, in the late afternoon, I did hear noises, from the bodies of people - nothing connected to their souls, their lips moved orgiastically and I could find no solace in such madness of speech, I spent the long half of the day musing on whether I should move in one direction or the other... it is difficult to move when you recognize yourself just being one stone more in the city, a stone that any tourist can pick up and that any concern of the wind can place in one neighbourhood or the other. Then friends, or in fact a friend and such wonderful present that would throw me into the blackest mood of a German forest for an entire weekend, oh those letters, they're so true! They can never be read more than once. Following, all were known faces that distanced from the imperial buildings with disdain and me in particular with the hypocrisy of reluctance, at the end of a very brief walk the Arab houses were visible again, but particularly unnoticed until we reached the car and started to find our way into the greater hospital - the city center, where the Messiah comes across a few times a day, but he's reocgnized to be a false Messiah because he's not Jerusalemite at all, moreover he's come either too early or too late. While turning around the corner we, the Hebrew conquerors of this land (me less than the others, a strangely familiar attitude I adopted, perhaps because every Hebrew is in essence a Catholic so that I manifest my preference for the latter and for long have acquired a distaste for the word 'Jew') spot the most innocent of all natural spectacles: Two Arab children ride their bikes, coming from their little village and surrounding our imperial building, and one of the two falls in a side of the street and his foot is unable to find release from the engine.. the second child is helpless watching.

Obviously, being the young imperialists that we're, we halt the motion of the car in the middle of the road nonwithstanding the danger and step out of the car at once, advancing towards the troubled villagers. "Social concerns cannot be too tainted by politics, they're acts of love", I thought to myself, in the second while this movement took place, only to be replaced by an innate disappointment before the facts of our 'reality'. The Arab children, no older than 10, immediately fell upon themselves in the most natural fear, the fear of violence and death, the fear of danger, before four Hebrew conquerors, one more pathetic then the other, worn from smoke and books, poorer than the graves of Mamilla and each one less convinced of their collonial might, than the others. Of course it is an awkward situation, because rationally speaking there's a slight barrier of imagery between two homosexuals and two women coming out of a car more worn out than God's pocket and the already sexually violent attitude of a bunch of oriental negroids, members of the chosen people either by passport or by the orders of a white woman sitting idly in Tel Aviv, coming out of a green truck to arrest deliberately passers-by in Tulkarem. J. was the closest to be in touch with this reality, a former policewoman (and by chance of fate and curse, a political scientist) who could remember a word or two in the language of Maimonides, and we could make ourselves understood as being 'non-enemies' instead of 'friends', a position even lower than that of peace activist who attempt to save the world out of a resolute impossibility to save themselves, a long-established tradition since the Jew Marx, and once that has come not without a lot of terror and manipulation. I for one have given up salvation and truth, in a Roman fashion, if only for the sake of the world. We're then speedily understood and in our despair, return to the car after having indulged in such 'graceful overcoming of nationalist prejudices on the part of children twice as young as we're'. Our speech turns away from the philosophers of the political into the politics of illness. It's difficult to make oneself so much at home in a world like this, whereby children remember that of course we are an imperialist power doubtless ready to murder and destroy by any means. They remember things that we never knew, and that of course are never taught inside our imperial buildings where instead, we're instructed in the much necessary skill of coffee-triggered self-murder and political 'talking'. Really, it is a pleasure to realize how close we're to take the necessary steps to redeem the Middle East from the most futile war, which is in fact the most important of all.

But I forgot the incident too quickly, I had been asked to join the accordeonist to unlisten music in our conversations, sitting idly but not without thrill in one of those big restaurants that I wouldn't visit too often myself, quite boring and lacking in charm... nothing similar to be said about my companion though, and once again we would have such pained discussions about the nature of things, returning back and forth to discuss ourselves, and then project onto things once again.. those conversations about something that you want to escape from the start but are so unable to. Quite different from the ways my life's spent nightly, but no less vivid. I had a letter to read and some quasi-hyeroglyphic journal to plunder into with the violence of a voyeurist philosopher. The idea that children were afraid of me only slightly touched me, the memory did come in some conversation about politics, but it wasn't anything of theological ever-lasting value, mere pegs in an already lost world. That restaurant would be the last place I'd visit with my companion before the lights turned dark in between me and myself, so that often I'd just make a great effort to avoid such pleasures. But weeks later we found each other in the presence of a certain respectable host destroying a conversation about a certain dead woman philosopher into a political rant of sorts, the kind of talk that only Jews that have never moved a bed from one end of the room to the other, might be able to have. Of course a heated debate about the Mideast peace process, what should one do in Gaza, and what about the refugees... do we give back this or that? As though peace were something that had to do at all with rationality. I disagreed with his views that I even attacked as naive, but perhaps he's right in so many accounts... that I refuse to acknowledge reality as it is and therefore have never taken responsibility for much else but my own craziness and life (and who could acknowledge reality so much in a place like this where there's so little space not just for air, but also for death?) and secondly that I come from 'somewhere else', and that the apocalypse of German history of the 19th and 20th century is but the same period of the greatest glory of the so-called Israeli history. Yeah, we should work for the sake of peace, we should give them this and that, odds are that no matter what we do, we'll always be wrong... like we were that day months ago when the rain caused a flood in the Gaza strip, for which obviously we were held responsible by our cousins and the whole of the 'free' world.

I was to be a convinced Zionist at the age of 16 already when I had thought about coming here, and that for me meant of course some religious values and the unconditional support of the State that soon turned into a very rightish position to be in, like most people that have never been in this wonderful land. Then being a part of the intelligentsia forced me by decree to turn to the left, and only after a short trip to the whole of the West Bank with a French engineer, I understood that no positions could be taken here at all, that one had to make up his mind everyday on all possible accounts. Yes, it's pretty postmodern, the age of absolute doubt and of untruth... reality lies shattered generations before our own, we're just confronted with the puzzle much better than them. What I didn't think during this discussion, and that I don't think on a daily basis, is that social concerns as acts of love are deliberately political here, so that one cannot dare loving without hating and receiving the same feelings from others. I read extensively on this subject, and even have treated the issue of love as one secondary to none in importance as a political scientist of disreputable intellectual background. Then this past week I discussed this for a whole day with J., and did my homework, read some essays and started to ponder on how seriously could one take the relationship between sex and love in one hand, with politics and thought in the other. Isn't this some kind of Postmodern reflection out of the sources of meaningless despair? Sure it is. I found my answer during the weekend, a real, naked and happy answer. The theoretical answer is of course that Arendt was right, when everything is political, nothing really is political at all, but this isn't all what there's to it. I have a story to tell.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Arendt, Postmodernismus und zur Frage des ethischen

Gab es schon in den vierziger Jahren und ohne Zweifel auch bei uns, keineswegs man als 'Weltburger' zu bezeichnen, ohne gegenstandlosen Pessimismus, sei kulturelle oder politisch. Auf Arendts Kritik (und mit gutem Recht) nach dem jüdischen Kleinburgertum in Deutschland, die Weltbürger sind so früh nach der Krieg, die neuen 'Weltreisenden' geworden, mit allem touristischen Agonie. Unsere Realität (ohne der Wahrscheinlichkeit oder reinen Offenlichkeit der Wahrheit) ist die, der als grenzenlos und ziellos Spieltheater gebaut wurde, eine Spiel der vielfältigen öffenliche Einsamkeit, ebenso nicht jetzt noch Einsamkeit sondern 'Alleinsein'; das Alleinsein im Publikum. In Postmodernismus ist solche Zweifelhaft-heit die niemals ohne Verzweiflung, das 'Raum' par excellence der neuen Öffenlichkeit, daß zwischen den 'Welten' (so viele vielfältigkeit kann noch am tiefsten und privaten einfältigkeit sichtbar darzustellen) heißt auch als bei Heidegger, Geschlossenheit und Verschlossenheit - eine absolute Auslösung zur Auflösung, d.h. aufgehobene vielfältigkeit und folglich, Wahrheit. Eine Welt die grenzenlos und folglich apolitisch, Ur-geschichtlich und unerreichbar, eigentlich wird. Weimarer Weltbürger sind jawohl, den neuen Nirgenwo-gehendes-oder-besuchendes un-angehöriger geworden. Grenzenlose Welt/Moderne (Ausdruck von Voegelin) meint auch im phenomenologischen Sinn, Verhältniss mit keinem Ort, locus. In diesen Verhältnisse, schon bekanntmacht, das aufgehobene 'Selbst', in Unterschiedung von 'Menschen'. 'Selbsentdeckung' ist noch ein Versteck, als die totaler politik und politisierung (von Frauen, körper, sex, Erziehung) würde ganz apolitisch gestellt. Scheint mir auch wie, Ethik ist nicht nur noch eine Frage des politischen, sondern auch und wie, eine Frage der Sprache aber in konfrontierung mit Arendt und Benjamin, keineswegs, die Frage zur Poetik - Politik, die ursprüngliche und eigentlich, eine Griechische Frage ist.

Blog's poem

A wonderful poem written by Lara to me, on ocassion of the recurrent 'disappearance' of the already very old blog. At least if one public achievement I can count in these rather diremptuous pages, is to have a housewife among the permanent readership.

Where oh where did your little blog go?
Where oh where can it be?
With its poems so short
And its posts so long
Where oh where can it be?

After Lifta

On the car, Mt. Scopus, J. drives to the city, I stare into the oriental broken landscape I used to see from my window at the Mandel building....

אוי ירושלים... היא בהרים, נקודת מבט שלפני השמים התחתונים ומחשכים, בתוך לילה שבוער כשמש המתעוללת באפל, בעור של אנשים קטנים יותר, הם מפשיטים כל יופי פנימי רק למען האמת והעכבר מת. אה ירושלים... פניך אל תוך האש, האדמה, הכעס, האיש.

The first hour of June, after la bohème...

For a change in my routine, my cotidianité, I do enjoy to be all by myself tonight, in the most public of all possible kinds of loneliness, I can't be all too bothered by the taste of death in my mouth, a diremptuous recognition of life, seremdipitious as it is. As a Jerusalem Dichter this is perhaps the greatest sin of glory I could ever indulge in. My body beings to fail at me, and Oh! Lord of Israel!... such tiredness, but one's at times like this only, unable to give up, the language's failed all too often... so that I falter and wander in between the callous knowing smile of a stranger, only because he's stranger and his lips as callous as the warmth of a decaying metaphysical embodiment of disquiet could ever be. Perhaps I've put a end to my plights with Biblical poets, yet I know the previous phrase to be false and the subversive untruth of his unlove might find me again, hunt me, haunt me down... even in my most desperate Platonic attempt to equate beauty with truth and the jocous refusal to dwell on mere representation as a category of philosophy, as though it were to fall within the limits of a literary gender. This beautiful lonesome evening reminds me of that religious serenity of language to be found only in my black protracted adolescence, my flaneur living at 'Il Pommeriggio', writing on vexed blocks and devouring little chunks of soda for an entire night... perhaps I'll never write all what my heart demands, and like she said... Palestine also makes strenuous demands, she's like a person, that might never grant you refuse her the everyday miracles of discontent and discoursiveness. A naked forest, my mind is... with less lust than surprise.


אה ירושלים... היא מתבקשת, מבקשת, מתוכחת, אלמת שלומו ושלומי גם. אין בה פחד כלפי המתים איך שרק כלפי החיי... כל ילד ירושלמי הבין שהננה! כלומר, שהבקשות החיוביות בספרי קודש שלנו אינן נלחמות עם האמת או עם המת, אלא רק בתום, תהום, נאום, קיום, נימוק. אוי אלזה! איך אני הרסתי את חרוזיך! מפני שאני ילד עברי, ולא פחות גם זקן מהריין. אני שהוויתי את כל המקומות ההם, למה אני עלול לאנוס את כל בית בחרוזיך? אני השומר עם שם של חיה טורפת... כינור בעור אבן... ילד עברי מהצפון העולם, המחייך למוות ומתוערר כשהחיים מרים, מראים... אולם שאני לא משורר עברי, כאיוב, כאויבי האהוב... אני עומד בשוליים, במרוביות, יחד עם השתיקה. אצלי הבריאה מחרישה והבריא מחשיך מעבר אורים נודדים מהכניסת העיר... שום משורר עברי אבל קצת משוחר. ברוח תהומי אני קורא את חרוזיו, הם ערומים לפני ואני מסוגל להאמין שהם נכתבו בשפת אשכנז ומול ירח שגם נשרף מסוף הקיץ. הקין של אלזה והקין של גילאל, הם לא אותו ב"א, אף-על-פי שהיא שואלת ב"ארץ העברים" מהו גיל האל? והבחורי ישיבה לא יעדו, לפיכך היא שאלתה לנזיר בנדיקטוס בהר ציון והוא מבסיר שגיל האל, הוא כמפורש מילולית, בעצם שמחתו. הגל-אל הוא שהקב"ה הצעיר ביותר בעולם, וגם הזקן היותר... כאתונה למחרת הביקור של נוח. בהמשך כתיבתה, קין לומד דיניי קניין במסכת קידושין, להדריך את הבל, אחיו, לגבי אשתו. אבל קין עדיין מקנה, מידרשיו הם רק בהבל פה, הבל הבלים - תהום מול קרבתם של אחים אוהבים. למרות זה, על האדמה העייפה, אהבתי את שניהם עד קצה שבו, פניי השינא משקרות, מחשקות באומתם של ילדים עברים בהר הצופים. בניגוד הקיר, אני עדיין ילד עברי, אבל גם עיוור קצת.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Leo's Passagen

Benjamin's Passagen:

Paris, the Capital of the Nineteenth Century
[Exposé of 1935]

"The waters are blue, the plants pink; the evening is sweet to look on;
One goes for a walk; the grandes dames go for a walk; behind them stroll the petites dames."
-Nguyen Trong Hiper (Hanoi, 1897)

"But precisely modernity is always citing primal history. Here, this occurs through the ambiguity peculiar to the social relations and products of this epoch. Ambiguity is the appearance of dialectic in images, the law of dialectics at a standstill."

"They are residues of a dream world. The realization of dream elements, in the course of waking up, is the paradigm of dialectical thinking."

[Exposé of 1939]
"History is like Janus; it has two faces. Whether it looks at the past or at the present, it always sees the same things."
-Maxime Du Camp.

Rolf Tiedemann on the Benjaminean dialectics at a standstill:

... That is, to assemble large-scale constructions out of the smallest and most precisely cut components. Indeed, to discover in the analysis of the small individual moment the crystal of the total event....

...He tried to represent the nineteenth century as 'commentary on a reality' rather than construing it in the abstract...

...Like Goethe's Empirie, it does not deduce the essence behind or above the thing- it knows it in the things themselves...

...Under capitalist relationships of production, history could be likened to the unconscious actions of the dreaming individual, at least insofar as history is man-made, yet without consciousness of design, as if in a dream....

...Both represented attempts to break the fixations and the encrustations in which thinking and its object, subject and object, have been frozen under the pressure of industrial production...

...Benjamin sought a concept of experience that would explode the limitations set by Kant and regain the fullness of the concept of experience held by earlier philosophers...

...Benjamin knew that this motif of awakening separated him from the Surrealist. They tried to abolish the line of demarcation between life and art, to shut off poetry in order to live writing or write life. For the early Surrealists, both dream and reality would unravel to be dreamed, unreal reality, from which no way led back to contemporary praxis and its demands...

"She would stroll about the city of Jerusalem like the spirit of poetry walking along the street"
-Leah Goldberg on Else Lasker-Schüler

"Her huge animated raven-black eyes always had an elusive, mysterious look... it was impossible to go anywhere without stopping to stare... She was the Prince of Thebes, Jussuf, Tino of Baghdad, the Black Swan."
-Gottfried Benn on Else Lasker-Schüler

"Dear Mill, I thank you for your beautiful card, it is here the time: Rain (Regen) but one day sunshine 20 grad, other day the sea from the sky. Here now all good. We all people very good, the Englishmen all gentlemen. I have momentan picture Austellung. A gentleman here has given me extra money for a travel through Palestine. Still one moment I go to Baghdad and Damascus and Beirut and one day to Cairo. One day from here for a Pfund to travel. But I'm very sorry for the world. All the men which dead now. Write soon again, yours, Yussuf"
-Else Lasker-Schüler to Emil Raas, Jerusalem, Hotel Vienna, 1940

...The nineteenth century is a dream we must wake up from; it is a nightmare that will weigh on the present as long as its spell remains unbroken. According to Benjamin, the images of dreaming and awakening from the dream are related as expression is related to interpretation...

...Capitalism was a natural phenomenon with which a new dream-filled sleep came over Europe, and, through it a reactivation of mythical forces...

...And in this same way, iron construction and glass architecture are transfigured in the arcades because the century could not match the new technical possibilities with a new social order...

... They're part of Blochian dreaming ahead, day-dreaming, anticipating the future: Every epoch, in fact, not only dreams the one to follow, but, in dreaming, precipitates its awakening. It bears its end within itself...

... The Passagen-Werk was supposed to bring nothing less than a 'Copernican revolution' of historical perception. Past history would be grounded in the present, analogous to Kant's epistemological grounding of objectivity in the depths of the subject. The first revolution occurred in the relationship in which subject and object, present and past meet in historical perception...

"History is the object of a construct whose site is not homogeneous, empty time, but time filled by Jetztzeit. Thus, to Robespierre ancient Rome was a past charged with now-time, which he blasted out of the continuum of history. The French Revolution viewed itself as Rome incarnate. It quoted ancient Rome" (Illuminations)

..The present would provide the text of the book; history, the quotatins in that text. To write history means to cite history...

...Benjamin invented the term dialectical images, for such configuration of the Now and the Then; he defined their content as a dialectic at standstill. Dialectical image and dialectical at standstill are, without a doubt, the central categories of the Passagen-Werken...

[Exposé of 1935]

"Ambiguity is the manifest imagining of dialectic, the law of dialectics at a standstill. This standstill is utopia, and the dialectical image, therefore, dream image. Such an image is afforded by the commodity per se: as fetish."

...Benjamin's dialectic tried to halt the flow of the movement, to grasp each becoming as being...

...Political action, no matter how destructive, should always reveal itself as messianic. Benjamin's historical materialism can be hardly severed from political messianism...

...Myth is liquidated in the dialectical image to make room for the dream of a thing; this dream is the dialectic at standstill, the piecing together of what history has broken to its bits, the tikkun of the Lurianic Kabbalah...

...But Benjamin's historiographer is endowed with a weak messianic power, a power to which the past has a claim...

From the journals of Lisa Fittko

"The world was coming apart, I thought, but not Benjamin's politesse"

"But it seems to me now that the real danger was not disregarded by Walter Benjamin during that night in Port-Bou; it was just that his real danger, his reality, differed from ours. He must have met again the little hunchback in Port-Bou.. his very own, the Benjamin hunchback, and he had to come to terms with it..."

Gershom Scholem on Benjamin

...The third requirement of his friendship, that of overlooking his secretiveness, often demanded a real effort, because there was something surprising, even ludicrous, about secretiveness in someone as sober, as melancholy as Benjamin...

"Do other people manage to have peace and quiet? I'd like to know the answer to that" (Benjamin)

...The word irgendwie (somehow) is the stamp of a point of view in the making. I never have heard anyone use this word more frequently than Benjamin...

"If I ever have a philosophy of my own, it somehow will be a philosophy of Judaism" (Benjamin)

...For years, however, he stubbornly expounded the strange thesis, to me and to others, that there was no such a thing as an unhappy love - a thesis that was so decisively refuted by the course of his own life...

"Philosophy is absolute experience, deduced in the systematic-symbolic context as language" (Benjamin)

...This is when I first noticed Benjamin's basic melancholy, the incipient depressive traits that later became more pronounced...

...Great though Benjamin's life may be in every sense - the only case near me of a life being led metaphysically . it nevertheless harbors elements of decadence to a fearful extent...

... I learned about Benjamin's death, on September 26 or 27, on November 8 in a brief letters from Hannah Arendt, who was then still in the south of France. When she arrived at Port-Bou months later, she sought Benjamin's grave in vain. 'It was not to be found, his name was not written anywhere.' Yet Frau Garland had, according to her report, bought a grave for him in September for five years. Hannah Arendt described the place: 'The cemetery faces a small bay directly overlooking the Mediterranean; it is carved in stone in terraces; the coffins are also pushed into such stone walls. It is by far one of the most beautiful spots I have seen in my life". Many years later, in the cemetery that Hannah Arendt had seen, a grave with Benjamin's name scrawled on wooden enclosure was being shown to visitors. The photographs before me clearly indicate that this grave, which is completely isolated and utterly separate from the actual burial places, is an invention of the cemetery attendants, who in considertaion og the number of inquired wanted to assure themselves of a tip. Visitors who where there have told they had the same impression. Certainly the spot is beautiful, but the grave is apocryphal...

Hannah Arendt on Benjamin

"Dusk will come again sometime.
Night will come down from the stars.
We will rest our outstretched arms
In the nearnesses, in the distances.

Out of the darkness sound softly
Small archaic melodies. Listening,
Let us wean ourselves away,
Let us at last break ranks.

Distant voices, sadnesses nearby.
Those are the voices and these the dead
Whom we have sent as messengers
Ahead, to lead us into slumber."
-"Walter Benjamin", poem of 1940

...Metaphors are the means by which the oneness of the world is poetically brought about...

"The main thing is to learn how to think crudely. Crude thinking, that is the thinking of the great"-Brecht

"An understanding of Kafka's production involves, among other things, the simple recognition that he was a failure" (Benjamin)

...One day earlier Benjamin would have got through without any trouble; one day later the people in Marseilles would have known that for the time being it was impossible to pass through Spain. Only on that particular day was the catastrophe possible...

"Anyone who cannot cope with life while he is alive needs one hand to ward off a little his despair over his fate... but with this other he can jot down what he sees among the ruins, for he sees different and more things than the others; after all, he is dead in his own lifetime and the real survivor" -Kafka

...It was the secularized version of the ancient Jewish belief that those who learn the Torah of the Talmud, that is, God's Law, were the true elite of the people and should not be bothered with so vulgar an occupation as making money or working for it...

...Running start for suicides, as though he were obbeying an oder that says 'you have to earn your grave'...

...It was a though shortly before its disappearance the figure of the homme de lettres was destined to show itself once more in the fullness of its possibilities, although -or, possible, because -it had lost its material basis in such a catastrophic way, so that the purely intellectual passion which makes this figure so lovable might unfold all its most telling and impressive possibilities...

...They fought against Jewish society because it would not permit them to live in the world as it happened to be, without illusions....

"Does Karl Kraus stand at the threshold of a new age? Alas, by no means. He stands at the threshold of the Last Judgement" (Benjamin)

...Walter Benjamin knew that the break in the tradition and the loss of authority which occured in his lifetime were irreparable, and he concluded that he has to discover new ways of dealing with the past. In this he became a master when he discovered that the transmisibility of the past had been replaced by its citability and that in place of its authority there had arised a strange power to settle down, piecemeal, in the present and to deprive it of 'peace of mind', the mindless peace of complacency...

...This discovery of the modern function of quotations, according to Benjamin, who exemplified it by Karl Kraus, was born out of the despair -not the despair of a past that refuses to throw its light on the future, and lets the human mind wander in darkness as in Tocqueville, but out of the despair of the present and the desire to destroy it; hence their power is not strength to preserve but to cleanse, to tear out of context, to destroy...

In a letter from Benjamin:
"A report from Vienna dated summer 1939, saying that the local gas company had stopped supplying gas to the Jews. The gas consumption of the Jewish population involves a loss for the gas company, since the biggest consumers were the ones who did not pay their bills. The Jews used the gas especially for committing suicide".

...The main work consisted in tearing fragments out of their context and arranging them afresh in such a way that they illustrated one another and were able to prove their raison d'etre in a free-floating state, as it were. It definitely was a sort of surrealistic montage...

...For Benjamin to quote is to name, and naming rather than speaking, the word rather than the sentence, brings truth to light. As one may read in the preface to the Origin of German Tragedy, Benjamin regarded truth as an exclusively acoustic phenomenon: Not Plato but Adam, who gave things their names, was to him, the father of philosophy....

Franz Rosenzweig:

"There is no remedy for death; not even health. A healthy man, however, has the strength to continue towards the grave. The sick man invokes death and lets himself be carried away in mortal fear. In health, even death comes at the proper time. Health is in good terms with Death. It knows that when the grim reaper comes he will remove his stone mask and catch the flickering torch from the anxious and weary and disappointed hands of Brother Life; it knows that he will dash it on the ground and extinguish it, but it also knows that only then the full brilliance of the nocturnal sky will brightly glow. It knows that it will be accepted into the open arms of Death. Life's eloquent lips are put to silence and the eternally Taciturn One will speak: 'Do you finally recognize me? I am your brother'."

Guilel's Passagen

Paris: My trip through Paris... personal notes, pictures and comments. 08-10/16-10 2003.

"Thus as Kafka puts it, there is an infinite amount of hope, but not for us. This statement to Max Brod really contains Kafka's hope; it is the source of his radiant serenity" (Benjamin)

Guilel's answer: "There's an infinite amount of love, just not for us"

'I am the moss in the wall
You are the cedar
And in you the leaves never fall
And thus there's nothing else I can say
Other than remain attached to the wall
And to hope that perhaps
My day will come as well
To become a florishing cedar'
-Poem to Leo, on ocassion of the Buchlein.

"This song reminds me of you and K. I think this is why you seemed so magical
when I saw you both together for the first time.
A song by Charles Aznavour"

Je vous parle d'un temps
Que les moins de vingt ans
Ne peuvent pas connaître
Montmartre en ce temps-là
Accrochait ses lilas
Jusque sous nos fenêtres
Et si l'humble garni
Qui nous servait de nid
Ne payait pas de mine
C'est là qu'on s'est connu
Moi qui criait famine
Et toi qui posais nue

La bohème, la bohème
Ça voulait dire on est heureux
La bohème, la bohème
Nous ne mangions qu'un jour sur deux

Dans les cafés voisins
Nous étions quelques-uns
Qui attendions la gloire
Et bien que miséreux
Avec le ventre creux
Nous ne cessions d'y croire
Et quand quelque bistro
Contre un bon repas chaud
Nous prenait une toile
Nous récitions des vers
Groupés autour du poêle
En oubliant l'hiver

La bohème, la bohème
Ça voulait dire tu es jolie
La bohème, la bohème
Et nous avions tous du génie

Souvent il m'arrivait
Devant mon chevalet
De passer des nuits blanches
Retouchant le dessin
De la ligne d'un sein
Du galbe d'une hanche
Et ce n'est qu'au matin
Qu'on s'asseyait enfin
Devant un café-crème
Epuisés mais ravis
Fallait-il que l'on s'aime
Et qu'on aime la vie

La bohème, la bohème
Ça voulait dire on a vingt ans
La bohème, la bohème
Et nous vivions de l'air du temps

Quand au hasard des jours
Je m'en vais faire un tour
A mon ancienne adresse
Je ne reconnais plus
Ni les murs, ni les rues
Qui ont vu ma jeunesse
En haut d'un escalier
Je cherche l'atelier
Dont plus rien ne subsiste
Dans son nouveau décor
Montmartre semble triste
Et les lilas sont morts

La bohème, la bohème
On était jeunes, on était fous
La bohème, la bohème
Ça ne veut plus rien dire du tout

"Simultaneity – Man is a simultaneous being, past and future exist in him at
the same time. Memory and hope live within man contradicting each other,
colliding, creating ever lasting conflict within the human mind and soul. At
first there was only the now, the near past and the near future. As myth
faded away and history replaced it, man could look into it's own past and
remember. Remembrance brought him to envisage a future, a distant future; it
gave him the ability to hope. In the process of looking backward and looking
forward man forgot to watch his steps, he lost the ability to exist in the
'now'. Today we feel the now as moments of exhilaration, of transcendence,
we call them spiritual moments, when we feel in 'our bodies' and we 'connect
to God' yet these moments are rare and one may live a lifetime without
experiencing the 'now'."
Guilel on Benjamin, letter to Leo

"I don't know how to love. I never knew it probably, not since the age of 16.
I don't know how to react to people touching me, seeking to give me comfort.
Yet I am so filled with love, with the desire to love, to be touched, to be
loved. It is as you told me Kafka said about hope; there is so much love
around but just not for me."

"You are right, you are not
my friend. You challenge me, you give me inspiration, and you have an
amazing amount of naiveté in you, without realizing it. You gave me for the
first time since his death hope, the world you exposed me to have filled me
with fires I have believed until now to be extinguished."

"I feel I have disappointed you"

"It's late and i have been sitting for quite a while in fron of my mail, as i
did yesterday. I cannot seem to succeed in writing a word. The feeling is
desperation and anxiety combined. I don't understand it."

Leo's reply:
'There's no motif of concern here, unless the painting had been sketched in advance, in which case the most significantly dignified device is surrender. But this is not what usually our doctors recommend, for one should always memorably lose any possible confrontation and all the more so whenever a rift arise in which no enmities are freely vouched in the air, yet only a "theosophos teutonicus" might be so keen on producing such advise, because at times the practical wisdom of the world is of too much consolation so that one would feel glad if he could die a death every week as to receive so much, but so much compassion. Yet not being Christian enough for this enterprise and rather taking pleasure in the visions of Hell I have no advise to produce in this treatise that could not be sought after in music or in the simple entanglements of lust and quotidianite. But I will not give up so easily, I will reproduce a letter from one of our readers; in case you find it useful to any extent be so kind not to notify us. The combination of desperation and anxiety is the most traditional symptom of truth and of understanding; and when not, it is always the beginning as the political theorists would say about what we believers would call "creation stories" and the simple man just "myth". If this does not work, please call our 1-800-confession line.

Letter from a reader:


I try to write some poems that could speak about all those interwoven stories we have but it's impossible, I can't go beyond some very banal statements. I can only speak about all that whilst thinking philosophy, while encountering the greatest minds and demolishing their arguments, through the passion of logic and reason - trying to find a definition that will satisfy our experiences and find those places for love and life in scholarship. I think I will never be able to really speak about you or G. in poetry, unless I'm very hurt from the world; otherwise I can only speak to both of you in pure thought, in hermeneutics, in demolishing critiques in which I speak contra myself and see my masks changing into one another before my eyes. Heidegger and Aristotle claim that poetry in its relationship to truth is very close to philosophy, that is springs forth from the same sources... and this is what I hold against Agnes Heller and her social import in philosophy. When I discover that the time is breaking apart in my hands with all the concepts that contain human life, the whole of my raw materials... only then I can truly communicate with you both. Even when the poetry works if at all it is only the key to the front door before the gate, but the door is always locked even though you're both inside. I can never leave, you can never come in, you can never leave, I can never come in. Then I have a claustrophobic feeling and that draws me to the most extreme solitude and upon its fall the disappointment and the emptiness in which the fullness of my thinking finds its counterparts. Only this radically pure thought can encompass the truth of our experiences and this doesn't belong to me alone, it belongs to what the Zeitgeist of our age is demanding... in that sense our lives are lived in the plurality of the company of people, which is a political beginning in every possible respect but it doesn't always work. Sometimes the company is also a heading toward death, a fear that grows into love and a love that grows into fear. It isn't pure madness, it's a logic so complex that becomes unreadable and only in that labyrinth I can find myself and meet you and him as well. As you wrote me yesterday "O yes I will dear Leo, denn ich kann nicht anders- because I somehow know your language von innen heraus, it seems as if I'm walking through the empty rooms of a house where I remember exactly where all furniture and things used to be, yet not there anymore".


"Because I trust and truly love you....
Please, I beg of you, ask me for an advice or just a shoulder if you need
one, I am here for you, truly, more then you think, and i am not such a
fragile person that i wouldn't know what to do.... with you, with this
place, or with the world..."

Passagen of Yussuf l'autre and Leo

"It is something about your humour and "ernst" at the same time that I like.,
I see this bitterboesen sarcasm is a means to take a little glance into some Abgrund.. maybe, a little further than without ."-Y.

"I'm falling into a state where nothing seems real again, and I cry a lot about this, it s a lack of reality about me, and even when I read, it meakes me even more like not being able to grasp reality, or what is present .. outside.
But how can it be here? I don t understand / i would love and like to be a person who is always with people, busy with many work to do , and responsibilities, and standing with the feets on the ground, not the opposite like me, who is always falling into pieces and then recognises being fixed up upsite down." -Y.

"I think... I wont be able to tell anybody in words what you meaant to me, and the time we spent,
I will only be able trough paintings,
tell guilel that I read his poem over and over" -Y.

"There's so much I have to tell you, but I am without
any calm moment"- Y.

"L. dear,
i dedicate this to you... ( as you know, I dedicate
all parties in my life to you, as they are all simple
reminders of our Wirkliche Feste!)

it is a drawing of 50 x 40 cm, i printed it on glass,
the so called stage oder room is a photoprint of a
jerusalem hotel.
The important point is, that the glass plate is in a
gap of 2 cm away from the image, so it is always just
the shadow of the drawing touching the room. And this
is why it is never the same, as the light changes.
I m sorry it is impossible to display this on a
At the moment I did 7 of them ( it was fucking
expensive to print on glass) but.. whatever... it s
all about Our PARTIES!

and i will call u cause there s so much to tell.
Eveline was here and it was all sooooo amazing to meet
i wrote u some sms ,
i want to know how u are, i heard u had quite
exasparating and dangerous times, that left their
marks and cuts on you...
ts, ts, ts...

well, i just want to send you this one Party of
Jerusalem" -Y.

For Benjamin this is exactly the moment of redemption, the "absolute present" of Rosenzweig and Kafka, the moment of the event which stands both outside time but within its own limits: "Sun will not overstep his measures; otherwise the Erynies, ministers of Justice, will find him out". Redemption happens in the present, it is an "event", a present event that "takes place", and altogether constitutes both a story of creation and a story of revelation; "For being has the immanent meaning or revelation as well as of creation. Revelation is the creation of reason". At this point one can return to the burrow and mend the method of "access", the way through. The fox has pointed out the importance of the "how", insofar as it is, of things in opposition to the "what" which lives in sempiternal anxiety because in the moment of its reflection, insofar as it is, it is already lost and irretrievable: "In Jedem Falle gilt: wenn wir in bezug auf die Philosophie fragen: Was ist das?, dann fragen wir eine ursprüngliche greichische Frage".L. on Benjamin, to Guilel and Barbara

"His Messianism retains the impossibility and the spirit of the times, a rather funny pessimism that laughs about itself and in doing so retains its faith altogether. Because one simply can't give up, when as in Lasker-Schueler the boundaries between one's life and philosophy or poetry are no longer there and the world is experienced like Friedrich Gentz, "Gentz gave himself to the world immediately and directly, and it consumed him. His hedonism was only the most radical way open to him to let the world consume him"[36]. No gaps are left in between God, man and the world in the most radical form of bridging the gap between past and future: Living eternally in the present moment, which the time has lost sight of, crashing right before the unreflective vertigo. It is this absolute present and not any glorious past or distant Utopian future what leaves the door open for the Messiah." L. on Benjamin, to Guilel and Barbara

"Im Versuch des damals
Fast Jeweilig, stünde ich
In der äußerten barlosigkeit
Aber im Evaskostüm gleichzeitig
Unewiges, durchschnittlich
Und nachdem, hintereinander
Den unheimlichen Augenblick
Eines Nachbild je stellt im Unsterblichkeit vor
Zusammen noch immer weites
Mit den Stimmen der Vergänglichkeit
Die sich befindet nicht, im Verständis der Zeit
Sondern von vielfältigen und glücken Vergessen
Manchmal gleichmäßig schändlich
Noch Sittlich, verwundert.

Deine Herrlichkeit klingt jemals weiblich
Lakonisch trägisch, niemals rein oder wirklich
In einem Vorbei seines eigenes Vorlauf
Die Jeweiligkeit baut einen sichaussprechen
Unheimliche Ereignis
Gemeinlich, der weiß um seinen Tod
Er sendt eine Karte mit dem Post
"Gebrauchanweisung:Freundliche Grüßen"
Eine Verwandlung." L. to Guilel

"My dear Katharina

The clear evening has a light that shines but doesn't talk at all, it's seemly a picture of our earthly life from a vantage point in the universe that happens or unfolds in the instant just before the redemption. If you would share this scene with me, you would understand it makes the perfect painting, the most beautiful painting you could ever think of because it presents everything we've talked about without representing anything at all.

It's a very everyday scene which takes place right before love, right before creation as in the Biblical sense, a story of origins. The place isn't spectacular or evocative, but it is a house like one of those in which you and me have never lived, everything seems to be comfortably in place as though arranged by the conspicuous hand of a motherly care or at least of guilt it comes with. The room could be anybody else's but it's not and that's the source of the amazing mystery.

Yet this is only the sketch, the preambule before the real ecsatic thread. It was a dinner, similar to the Last Supper in a way yet not quite the same. It was in a present tense so absolute that language had been rapturedly taken away from me and I could only speak little "talk" about anything that comes to mind. An instant soup very different from the ambar we had in my provisorium, rather chalky and smooth but so uncannily "homely". Then a perfectly fried omelette (and remember Agnes' dictum: "it's better not to smash the omelette") and fresh cut vegetables on a plate. Everything dressed with a transparent distancing and hiding, no honest dishes or glasses of wine, everything furnished with plain water and some brief moments of silence together with an almost whispered conversation without any other-worldly meaning at all. Nothing heavy, as it were the day when Tereza and Thomas died and right before Tomas' son would think that his father wanted the kingdom of God on earth.

It's so different from our hotel freedoms and storage houses. But there's very little feeling and perhaps me being uncomfortable about it is what makes sense of it all because in a way I'm so totally unexpecting that if the painting wouldn't be complete at all I wouldn't be disappointed in anyway. I sit on the floor as though untimely mourning before my time and write non sense in my journal with the hope of understanding myself a little better but the air is charged with a smell of distraction directed toward the man in question that can only prove a rather dietetic form of confusion.

But somehow I insist this is the sight of our earthly life in the minute before the redemption that keeps the Messiah from coming everytime anew. In a way I'd like to escape very much and meet you again for the same reasons as before but in a way not. In a way I want to be drunk from this nearing that distances reality so much, at least as we know it: in the most extreme possibility of the consumption. This is perhaps the only form of life where the chair of the Messiah can remain always empty, because it's so terribly abstracted from itself and from anything else that I find myself at odds trying to describe the violent and loving feeling of philosophy coming home I feel right now, because I know it's only one another departure that leaves the finite in order to know itself and to lose itself to be more precise.

Somehow this is not boring because it feels me with terrible fear, the fear of the known and the found. Yet the time is already broken to start with, because no events can be perceived by the searching eye until they crash with the eye itself in a repair that resembles already their passing away more than their coming into being. It's not called happiness or a Hegelian reconciliation, maybe the genius of Augustine would be able to find the contradiction that allows one to lie and hide all the truth away from the world, lest we risk that it shall be found in its barest nudity and then somehow no one would want anything from this world as it is. Then painting and thinking would make no sense at all, there would be no possible creation history and therefore no possible freedom and in turn modernity would pass from being an illusion into becoming the foundation of all possible world, a Christian vale of tears. Which it is at the same time, only that from our searching eye it is the tear what keeps the redemption always a minute late, what makes this world possible at all.

Suddenly I cease to think about my death and without altogether embracing my life or myself to life I can keep myself a minute away from my death so that if it would reach me, no one could say death found me in the wrong moment as in the story of King David in the Talmud. That moment of death, always untimely should be the only turning point in which the actual transformation can take place and "happen" properly. Otherwise we're condemned to this kind of everyday life that shines next to Gillel's knowing smile, and because we have a very extreme kind of freedom we can hardly experience it. It's different because as Agnes said in regard to Genesis, the philosophical grief starts as soon as you discover the time and in using the language you've lost the time again forever. The painting is perfect, that's why it cannot be happy. Oh untimely disappointment, sweeter than death and fresher than bay leaves, continuous revolt and revolution. Yet alive, for the time being. Departure time, rapture time, impossible time." L. to Y.

"To my painter

"I hear the roaring and the roasting and I know that it is I"
-Gillian Rose

I thought I had seen me in the roaring
On a Friday night, over tears
When I was returned,
Turned back, turned away too
It had thick walls that unveiled things
All the more beautiful as I moved
But the path had been only broken then
So that in the despairing pain of my rib
Of my leg
I can see the middle just breaking apart
Continuously and in an ecstasic festival
Of disagreements with the others
But with you, only whiskeys and ryes
You know my death from close by
Have heard her smile too
But fool yourself not!
That's not at all the end
And not even the broken middle
But a paving way moving toward
That unrecognition of the mistake
Of the failure
That contains a whole life
Only for a while
And then there's a broken middle
With names and letters
Never answered perhaps
Unsorted telephone calls
And a misery of such degree
That can never discussed
Nor you could ever paint it
And at that I'm your artist
The painter of your images
The seer
That breaks the middle paths
Never reaching the broken at all
Everytime he cuts my flesh
Into tiny little pieces of delight
I feel my body ache more strongly
And I enter the mourning again
Whereby you can be no companion at all
At most your witnessing
Is all what I can take
Your care
Which is only time
Temporality, language
And altogether dead nature too!
But this is my will
To will this toll even more fiercely than I wish my death
When the chips turn adverse
And no communication is possible
Between us and the Gods
Between the arts and us
Shall this hurt too much
I should give up
And untimely
Before my time
Yet but never
Before I make sure
That the Chair of Redemption remains empty
And that he, only he
Awaits nothing
So that he could at least embrace the world
The only possible honour
Of the passing away
In which thinking makes sense at all
And in the company of others
Moments of eternity
In Jerusalem
The only eternity available to us
That crude reality
That rips the flesh
And trades pleasure for salvation
This roaring I hear
And what I see
Is not him
But that it is I
Distancing even more." L. to Y.


I'm so beautifully depressed, just reading G.R. and soaking so completely in the delight of desperate mourning which is at times the beginning of a new life.

I'm listening to Mahler's "Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen". Unknown singer. Drawing this Protestant garden on and on, imagining that all life began in the garden. Musing about all the parties I had in my life before...

Discussing Blücher:

Blücher on the study of philosophy: "You can do it only if you know that the most important thing in your life would be to succeed in this and the second most important thing, almost as important, to fail in precisely this."


Because there can be just there two choices! To keep them in mind... Succeeding then always depends on the outer world somehow, if they are ahead enough for your thoughts. To fail? Painting, for example, means always failing, never succeeding. To know this gives me always the strength to start a new painting.


Bestimmt! Wahrheit wird niemals nach dem Zwielicht von Kunst und Philosophie darstellt zu habe. Nor noch Dichting köennte es erwarten, erfahren und darin gegründet zu sein. Kunst/Philosophie sind immer auf einem "moment of truth" angefangen und dann im darstellungsbegriff the moment ist schon durchgekommen geworden and you return to the Schöpfungsaugenblick again. Es wird niemals folglich vollständig ausgebaut, in der meinung von Goethe und Rilke.

"The chief fallacy is to believe that Truth is a result which comes at the end of a thought-process. Truth, on the contrary, is always the beginning of thought, thinking is always result-less. That is the difference between "philosophy" and science: Science has results, philosophy never. Thinking starts after an experience of truth has struck home, so to speak. The difference between philosophers and other people is that the former refuse to let go, but that they are the only receptacles of truth. This notion that truth is the result of thought is very old and goes back to ancient classical philosophy, possibly to Socrates himself. If I am right and if it a fallacy, then it probably is the oldest fallacy of Western philosophy. You can detect it in almost all definitions of truth, and especially in the traditional one of "aedequatio rei et intellectus" [the conformity of the intellect to the thing known]. Truth, in other words, is not "in" thought but to use Kant's language, the condition for the possibility of thinking. It is both, beginning and a priori." -Hannah Arendt to Mary McCarthy


But it's good and important then to have certain skills like dialogue, keeping friends, and so on. Creating ein geistiges umfeld, so to say practising reality.


To keep those channels open (friendship, dialogue, discourse) means to leave a possibilityin my opinion to alter an everyday life that can never be falsified, just like philosophies and works of art, an act of ewige Schöpfung.

Else Lasker-Schueler, 1943

God built Palestine from a spine
and from one only bone: Jerusalem.

I promenade as through mausoleums -
Of stones is our Holy City.
So rest the stones on the beds of their dead Sea
In place of watery silks that played herein: They come and die away.

They glaze into the wayfarer with a callous reasoning -
And he drowns in her glazing night.
I am angry, that I cannot be overwhelmed.

If you would come...
Enshrouded in a wintercoat -
And would do away with the dusk hours of my day -
My arm would frame you, a rather auxiliary image of the holy.

Like once when I suffered in the darkness of my heart -
Therein both your eyes: blue clouds.
They delivered me from my turbid mind.

If you would come...-
To the land of the ancestors -
You would exhort me like a little boy:
Jerusalem - come to know Resurrection!

She hails us
The living flag of the "only God",
Greening hands, that sow the odes of life. (L.'s translation)

L's trans. of Zelda's "Mephiboshet"

"Your flickering eyes
Small birds suckling the nectars.

When you wept
The king hearkened not.

When you fell
The world did not return
To void-and-chaos.

Mephiboshet, you dreamt
Of a more innocent friendship.

You sickened at the wisdom
Of the ancient serpent,

O Son of Jonathan!"

"Lastly the reality behind all this is that I share in my own personal life Taubes' most absolute rejection of this world as it is, and only in trying to reverse this situation and this feeling I can make myself at home in a world wherein I remain but a philosopher. Only in this process I can understand the human condition much more than I do in conversations, in letter to people I love or in the experience of art; I share with Benjamin and Taubes the "catastrophes of history" and somehow am beguiled by the lovelessness and the hopelessness available in the form of that Benjaminean infinite amount of hope but not for us, I feel this so strongly and only in speaking contra myself in these matters I can make sense of my life. Today as I spoke to my father on the phone we had one of those typical chit-chats about my life and then suddenly he asked me "Why can't you have a normal boyfriend? Normal friends? Lead a normal life for God's sake?" and unsurprisingly enough I had very little to back my arguments with, the answers to those questions I can produce only in philosophy, because it is the only language available I found to make my protest heard, my protest of the everyday which I so forcefully reject. My melancholy is my experience of that philosophical truth, of the thrownness and the bewilderment before the raw materials of existence, it is the only happiness available to me from within the womb of my struggles, of my failures and my tragic sense is the counterpart of the Protestant happiness that my childhood lived through. I truly feel this is a loveless and Godless world, but I refuse to believe it, I entirely refuse to believe it and in those dark moments when the chips are down and I experience the failures of wisdom, love and life only philosophy and the figure of the Occident come to my relief. My faith is one of un-faith, and its language very southern Germanic and urgent, its symbols are all Jewish and its representation is a form of truth that blurs the limits of philosophy and life and that wouldn't be possible without the companionship of those other loners thinking out there, only in their companionship I can embrace and live that humanitas for which philosophy is my only language, and my only protest." L. to Sandra

"But the concept of the private doesn't entail only individual privacy, individuality... but in general terms it is applied to institutions and functions, the private is part of the public and it does not necessarily lives 'hiding', but rather and only 'not in the public', meaning that its goods are not common properties to all, even though my life is a private matter and I might freely decide whether to take it or not whenever I temptatively attempt to 'take' other person's life I am subjected to the public punishment. There's 'privacy' in my 'home', albeit this can be also a 'publicly-owned' location, I am in 'public' whenever outing with a lover, but then I experience 'private conversations'. Here I introduce two additional concepts to the discussion on 'private' and 'public'; namely 'intimacy' and 'anonimity'. The private realm is composed of manifold institutions that assure public life, but in these institutions usually private men are rather anonymous than public and in a romantic relationship I have more 'intimacy' than I have 'privacy', after all friends might always come by in the middle of the night and yet I can't have intimacy with myself. As an anonymous person I am not a private, for I might engage in multiple 'casual stands' without divulging my name or real marital status but I can never be 'anonymous' among my friends, therefore as an 'anonymous' person I am always in public, while 'anonymous' relationships are not necessarily 'intimate'. Intimacy and anonimity are two terms whose relationship is not as dialectical as that in between public and private, and in fact because the blurry differentiation between public and private most of our everyday experiences are turned into intimate or anonymous - in both cases we can't attain them by ourselves, we need the company of others.

...There's no love in anonimity, and the tragedy of the loss of the Self is that it has become the only concern of our age and therefore the least useful of all, because that 'self' remains quite anonymous and is usually not a good partner for conversation nor in the company of other neither in solitude. The Self has replaced the coherence of metaphysics and theology to provide a model for a 'home', but it is quite an anonymous character and cannot be held responsible for anything before the political institutions, it doesn't have a public or private face. Its only ground is freedom from everything else, and that's exactly where the coherence can never be attained, because this foundation is not a narrative or a creation story, it is not an assurance of mortality or immortality, it is not a dialectical dialogue between life and death nor a hermeneutic tool. On the recovery of plurality (in the sense that even the lives of the saints are lived in the company of others, as Augustine pointed out) depends the possibility for the individuality, and while only extreme individuals have been proved to have a 'taste' in the Kantian sense for weightful decisions in the realms of ethics and politics this is of very little use if I live in a world where I stand all alone by myself and cannot see 'me', because after all the work of art has no effect in the world if I am condemned to be the only spectator. Political philosophy isn't much different, it needs a world which I can't provide myself, I need to come into it and then just as naturally leave it, and of which I'm free to think in whichever way it pleases me, but my intuition and faith is that if I understand this world to be the Augustinian desert or that endless 'hotel room' rather than the best of all possible worlds, I would certainly prefer to stay anonymous rather than public or private, and await the next world." L. to Sandra

'When I die, do not scream and weep at my grave, I'm not there.... I sleep' -Else Lasker-Schüler

'But we, my beloved companion, have life, useless hope, true friends and fire consuming our souls... the most important thing I learnt from you and that has brought me much peace is: contradictions are the only way we can understand life' -Guilel

'I know that unrest, it decomposes everything... I believe it's that which feeds one with so much urgency in life, but if one doesn't tend it properly, it does kill' - Y.


Ah, les gens là... Mon A..... Où est ce que toi? You're always in my heart, yes -always, nowhere else... I'm writing you this letter, it's difficult for me, words never like me too much, my tongue humpelt immer, I'm just living a strange life, seeking only passion and crazy laughter, living in an art-hospital....

Just listened sad music whole hours long, lying on bed, very tired, too tired to go to sleep, now I go to some bar in sperlgasse...

My life is all about seeking this crazy passion and it makes me so sad that life always fails at me in precisely that, the only thing I want... maybe it's only for that reason that I keep trying everyday, failing everyday, only so I'm able to live.... 'there's an infinite amount of love but just not for us'; who if not him to have understood the whole of Benjamin?

I think Eveline and G. are the only people who understood Benjamin at all, or at least the way I did, that makes me feel so 'heimlich', but the 'heimlichkeit' is so urgent that the present becomes all fear, it kills... then the heimlichkeit becomes useless and unheimlich again in a way.

It scares so badly as they're looking always for security, so living with no compromises means at the very essential point, to understand that there's no security, just empty air under your feet. Your concept is a philosophical concept in the most radical and brutal sense, as it allows no divisory lines between concept and life. A concept not only aesthetically, and because he loves you, he understands the concept even if he cannot live it.

Sure, but the break of the boundaries between life and thought is all what has been ever wanted from thought and life themselves; when they see it come alive, they feel at home in the world again but soon enough they also discover that this 'heimlichkeit' also kills, but this 'death' is the truth of living (in the ontological sense). Then the burgeoise consciousness advises one to escape but it's not entirely possible, so that one returns again in order to live but not for long, as he knows nothing will make sense after that. 'Socrates laughed once and he never wept'

J. on Eveline:
'It was so amazing as it is always... to meet Eveline, and especially to meet her in Vienna! She is the diva and all the others are so poor, because they are just trabanten of others... And she is the sun and moon in persona, and who else can understand this unheimlichkeit?

And who else understands what this Dringlichkeit means? The Dringlichkeit of gelebt zu haben (having lived)...

Die anderen - sie kennen schöne Wörte, aber sie kennen nicht die abgründe die zwischen ihnen liegen (the others - they know beautiful words, but they don't know the abysses that lie in between them).'

"I want to go to Palestine with the boy. Maybe if he's with me I can really bear everything. I know how miserable it would make him, but I can hardly bear things with him as they're. He's on the edge of things, so anxious... has been through so much toll and bad health, but all the same... things could be different than they are.

The dettachment would show him to which extent Germany is completely lost for us, but if I bring myself to the point of that decision I think there's really no way to return. Life as it is now had very little charm for me if alone, but still I must follow through even if he doesn't make up his mind. It can't be that good for the kid either, to grow up in such conditions. An unhappy mother can never aspire be, a good educator.

Sometimes I want to be dead... when I think about it, that I must go on.
I love him so much, and he loves me no less... but the expression of his love is so different from mine. So soon I turn into despair and my love, can already alienate him so much at the same time that it makes my own life so difficult to bear while I can only lament about the whole affair. Until everything comes out or I just suffocate. Then suddenly we just go through it and I realize that everything is just OK, but such agony.... these agonies!

I wish, that he would think about me a little more sometimes - why do I have evermore this need, this need to afford him some glee? But in the main it all has to do with education. He has the education of my parents, that kind of idiosincracy that makes him so embarrassed of the simple things, like sending flowers to each other. I'm so overflown with feelings for him, I want to lay the whole world in front of him... but this is how it goes, whoever loves more, suffers all the more so." Journal entry, Mascha Kaléko, 1938

"Dear Mill, I thank you for your beautiful card, it is here the time: Rain (Regen) but one day sunshine 20 grad, other day the sea from the sky. Here now all good. We all people very good, the Englishmen all gentlemen. I have momentan picture Austellung. A gentleman here has given me extra money for a travel through Palestine. Still one moment I go to Baghdad and Damascus and Beirut and one day to Cairo. One day from here for a Pfund to travel. But I'm very sorry for the world. All the men which dead now. Write soon again, yours, Yussuf"-Else Lasker Schüler


"Soll ich nach Jerusalem kommen Dir helfen die Briefe zu übersetzen? Yussuf l'autre"

"I was impressed and touched by your last article of den reisen of Princess of Thebes. I felt so touched and confused, because I felt this burning in head, heart and fingernails you must have had, when having those jewel letters in your hand. And this unmittelbare herzrasende erlebnis I recognize in these lines"

"You don't know what it was like to have those letters in my hands, it was like discovering America. Like knowing the Jerusalem of the Prinzesin like only Leo can know it. It was recognizing myself in the dark eyes of a German Jew who left those letters just for me. You know what I mean?"

"I know as far as I can even if I'll never be a German and Jew, but my eyes are dark and sparkling enough to know and recognize myself in those dark beautiful sad eyes of Else. As she is the old woman and still remains Yussuf, auch wenn längst alles verloren ist"

"Oy I'm at the bars again! The night won't end up well!"

"My nights never end up well, how beautiful that finally one gets tired or never.... But which night WANTS to end WELL?"

"A night that ends up well is a night in the world of Pavel and Ralf. I'm in this totally crowded bar yet so much alone with the music, isn't it so beautiful? Plus I'm spending my last money in alcohol and I feel so free running my own excess show. After finding those letters I made Jewish history already, with my own fingers! Nothing can matter now"


How was the exposition?

Oy oy... I dedicated everything to you. You're already famous! Because all I'm telling in my drawings is a secret that only we know. I don't care if they don't understand the Wirklichkeit of our encounter.

What? I'm in such gloom that your words brought dry tears to my eyes in a warm night when all failures of the present weight upon me so heavily.