Sunday, 24 August 2014

Beryl Bainbridge, envy or not at all, just sunshine

Looking at a slither of Thames from the back cofee tables at Somerset House with the sun playing hide and seek with the clouds and with the temperature, and me putting my jacket on and off at all the wrong intervals, while pondering whether I still feel envy, my friend asks me if I am still writing my blog. "Of course I am", I reply lying. Well, not exactly lying, it's just that instead of writing first and thinking after, or as I go along, I wait for that ephemeral thing called inspiration. And, as inspiration comes at the most awkward times, like when you don't have a pen, a computer, it's raining, you are standing on a bus. Then of course you can repeat what you want to write over and over as a mantra, but by the time you get home, you are already sick of it. So that's what happened to last week's skipped blog. I was going to write about the Italian P.E.N. Club, on how becoming a member in 2007 was/could have been a life changing experience. How it wasn't so, for various sad personal circumstances. And how I had thought about that upon receiving a copy of the magazine and reading about Mario Luzi, the Italian poet. The articles about him were describing his sunny apartment in Florence, the gentleness of his person and thoughts, his long walks even when in his eighties. And I felt something, something that in the past perhaps would have been envy. But it was a softer feeling. I had been myself  in his sunny flat in Florence to interview him when I was a rebellious young radio presenter. And yes, everything seemed gentle to me too. And the bright light was there, just as described in these articles about him. If you are a human being that has touched the heart of a number of other humans, they will collect little precious memories of you, they will remember how the sun shone on you. That, I guess, is what saddens me, more than makes me jealous. When I'll be gone, everything will be put into a pile for the recycling centre, all my dreams, all my little collections of stones, all my many collaged journals. And a similar emotion I felt looking at the Bainbridge art exhibition. Look at this woman, I was thinking, she did what she enjoyed, was successful at it, and had the space and confidence to paint, draw, write and doodle on journals during her travels. Everything preserved, because she touched the heart of many. She had the life I wanted to have, so I could be envious. But she didn't, did she? She didn't live a life that I could have lived. Because I'm different, doing different things. So what exactly should I be jealous or envious of? Because everything she had was a reaction or interaction with her circumstances, which are not mine, and what I do or not do is an interplay with my own circumstances. That's why I am not capable of envy anymore, only of dreams of getting where I want to go, or strategies to be as happy here as I would be up there at the top of that success that opens your world to time, connections and people who will preserve your treasures. It's all good, even down here, sipping cappuccino and reminiscing, looking at the Thames, the sun, the clouds and the end of another summer.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Malevich and me

At the Malevich exhibition half of me flies out of my body, leaves the Tate, London, and ends up, old, in a dark an sparsely furnished apartment in Genoa - an artist, finally, telling a story. My story, or my father's story, I am not sure. But something that seems to make a lot of sense. "However confusedly and meaninglessly our way may deviate from our desires, after all it does lead us inevitably to out invisible goal.", says Stefan Zweig in The World of Yesterday. Suddenly the tense muscles of exile relax and I feel the purpose, the continuity, the explanation for it all, for my journey, my suffering, my search. It's all very beautiful. Except for one thing. It's an impossibility. I cannot tell my story, or my father's story, or his father's story in a dark flat in Genoa. Because we are all dead. My ancestors, as they really are not here to influence or take part in the events, and I, because there is no "back" to go to. This is not how it's done. The only people I can talk to are the living or the not as yet living. While the only people I want to talk to, the only people I want validation from, are the dead. I want to be a Russian suprematist, yet think that the graph paper I am sketching on should be already tanned with age. It is, indeed, a senseless proposition. The game has to be played in a different way. But which? The past always makes more sense than the future. Anxiety flies out of the past. About ten years ago I was asked to translate Pirandello's Henry IV into English for Tom Stoppard. I read Pirandello as a kid, but found him claustrophobic. Something to do with his nose, while I had just discovered at the age of 12, that I had a nose between my eyes that blurred somewhat my vision. Pirandello came back many years later, this time in an apt text, because longing for home is often longing for our roots, in other words for the comfort of the past. "Whatever happens has happened, however painful the events and brutal the battles, they're history and nothing can change them... so you can sit back and admire how every cause leads obediently to its effect, with perfect logic...", says Henry IV. In the present, the past is safe, yet, when it was present it was uncomfortable and insecure and as illogical as the present is now. What we really want is logic, the logic that seems so clear when we look at the past - cause and effect - so linear. There is where home is, the comfortable place of logic. This whole exile thing feels more and more like Schrödinger's cat. I can only go home if I don't exist anymore. I can only go home if I am already there and have never left. But perhaps I should be grateful for that. The beauty of travel, the beauty of the present and the future is, ultimately, the lack of certainty. ZAUM = Beyond reason. ZAUM = Beyond logic. ZAUM. How peaceful Malevich's anxiety feels today.