Thursday, March 28, 2013

Une multiplicité d'ombres


Quel jeune homme, doué de quelque imagination, ne s’est senti captivé une fois par le charme du théâtre et n’a souhaité se trouver lui-même dans cette réalité factice pour se voir et s’entendre lui-même comme son double, pour se disperser entre tous les différents personnages qu’il est susceptible d’être, issus de lui et pourtant ainsi faits que chacun garde son unité ? C’est là un désir naturel de tout jeune âge. Seule l’imagination est éveillée à son rêve de personnalité ; tout le reste est encore dans un profond sommeil. Dans cette vision imaginaire de soi-même, l’individu n’est pas un personnage réel, mais une ombre ; ou plutôt le personnage réel est bien présent, mais invisible. C’est pourquoi l’individu ne se contente pas de projeter une seule ombre, mais une multiplicité d’ombres qui, toutes, lui ressemblent et ont un droit égal, par moments, à être lui-même. La personnalité n’est pas encore découverte.
 Son énergie s’annonce seulement dans la passion de la possibilité. Car il en est de la vie de l’esprit comme de bien des plantes : — la pousse terminale vient en dernier. Pourtant, cette existence d’ombre exige aussi satisfaction. S’il n’est jamais utile, pour un homme, de n’avoir pas eu le temps de vivre sa vie à fond, d’un autre côté, il est triste ou comique qu’un individu se trompe au point de vivre sa vie entière en en restant là. En ce cas, la prétention d’être un homme véritable devient aussi douteuse que la revendication d’immortalité chez ceux qui, n’étant pas à même d’affronter en personne le jour du Jugement, se font représenter par une délégation de bonnes propositions, de résolutions à la journée, de plans à la demi-heure, etc. Le principal, c’est que chaque chose vienne en son temps. Il y a un temps pour tout dans la jeunesse. Ce qui a eu son temps alors, l’aura de nouveau plus tard. Il est aussi sain pour l’homme d’avoir eu dans sa vie, un passé où il a contracté une dette envers le rire, qu’un autre pour lequel les larmes sont de rigueur.

Kierkegaard, La Reprise, traduction Nelly Viallaneix

Monday, March 25, 2013

Nobodies


For a while it looked like tomorrow would always be better than today. They promised it and we believed it. Now a lot of people everywhere do not even have a job. To lose your job or being unable to find a job deprives you of everything, including your identity. Deprived of everything and of your identity you are nobody. If you are nobody and you meet other nobodies in your life is love still possible? We should say: we are still alive but we are deprived of "being". 

Are politicians paying enough attention to this modern form of tragedy? Are they good enough and competent enough to solve the problem?  Do they want to solve it? 

And then because we are unable to understand all the details of the process that got us there we may have the impression that it all happened naturally, as if social systems emerged spontaneously from nature. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

My dad


My dad once told me that until he was 60 years old he used to write poetry when he was in love. Then he started writing poetry because no woman he could love would fall in love with him anymore. Then he stopped writing poetry because nobody would buy his books, nobody was interested anymore in what he had to say or in his poetic language. When I die, he said, nobody will miss me. The same happens with almost all of us. Isn’t that a sad story? I didn’t answer him.

J. E. Soice

Lord Alfred Tennyson: Come not when I am dead

Come not, when I am dead,
To drop thy foolish tears upon my grave,
To trample round my fallen head,
And vex the unhappy dust thou wouldst not save.
There let the wind sweep and the plover cry;
But thou, go by.

Child, if it were thine error or thy crime
I care no longer, being all unblest:
Wed whom thou wilt, but I am sick of Time,
And I desire to rest.
Pass on, weak heart, and leave to where I lie:
Go by, go by.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Erik Satie: Uspud (deuxième acte)

There are moments in life when talking becomes difficult, even impossible. You still try to and it is as if you were just praying or saying: Have mercy on me.

Os estrangeiros invejam-nos


Mas Amaro, radiante de se achar ali, numa praça de Lisboa, em conversação intima com um estadista ilustre, perguntou ainda, pondo nas palavras uma ansiedade de conservador assustado: 
-E crê vossa excelência que essas ideias de república, de materialismo, se possam espalhar entre nós? 
O conde riu: e dizia, caminhando entre os dois padres, até quase junto das grades que cercam a estátua de Luís de Camões: 
-Não lhes dê isso cuidado, meus senhores, não lhes dê isso cuidado! É possível que haja aí um ou dois esturrados que se queixem, digam tolices sobre a decadência de Portugal, e que estamos num marasmo, e que vamos caindo no embrutecimento, e que isto assim não pode durar dez anos. etc. etc. Baboseiras!... 
Tinha-se encostado quase às grades da estátua, e tomando uma atitude de confiança: 
-A verdade, meus senhores, é que os estrangeiros invejam-nos... E o que vou a dizer não é para lisonjear a vossas senhorias: mas enquanto neste país houver sacerdotes respeitáveis como vossas senhorias, Portugal há de manter com dignidade o seu lugar na Europa! Porque a fé, meus senhores, é a base da ordem! 
-Sem dúvida, senhor conde, sem dúvida, disseram com força os dois sacerdotes. 
-Senão, vejam vossas senhorias isto! Que paz, que animação, que prosperidade!  E com um grande gesto mostrava-lhes o largo do Loreto, que àquela hora, num fim de tarde sereno concentrava a vida da cidade. Tipóias vazias rodavam devagar; pares de senhoras passavam, de cuia cheia e tacão alto, com os movimentos derreados, a palidez clorótica duma degeneração de raça; nalguma magra pileca, ia trotando algum moço de nome histórico, com a face ainda esverdeada da noitada de vinho; pelos bancos da praça gente estirava-se num torpor de vadiagem; um carro de bois, aos solavancos sobre as suas altas rodas, era como o símbolo de agriculturas atrasadas de séculos; fadistas gingavam, de cigarro nos dentes; algum burguês enfastiado lia nos cartazes o anúncio de operetas obsoletas; nas faces enfezadas de operários havia como a personificação das indústrias moribundas... E todo este mundo decrépito se movia lentamente, sob um céu lustroso de clima rico, entre garotos apregoando a lotaria e a batota pública, e rapazitos de voz plangente oferecendo o Jornal das Pequenas Novidades: e iam, num vagar madraço, entre o largo onde se erguiam duas fachadas tristes de igreja, e o renque comprido das casarias da praça onde brilhavam três tabuletas de casas de penhores, negrejavam quatro entradas de taberna, e desembocavam, com um tom sujo de esgoto aberto, as vielas de todo um bairro de prostituição e de crime.  
-Vejam, ia dizendo o conde: vejam toda esta paz, esta prosperidade, este contentamento... Meus senhores, não admira realmente que sejamos a inveja da Europa! 
E o homem de estado, os dois homens de religião, todos três em linha, junto às grades do monumento, gozavam de cabeça alta esta certeza gloriosa da grandeza do seu país, - ali ao pé daquele pedestal, sob o frio olhar de bronze do velho poeta, erecto e nobre, com os seus largos ombros de cavaleiro forte, a epopeia sobre o coração, a espada firme, cercado dos cronistas e dos poetas heróicos da antiga pátria - pátria para sempre passada, memória quase perdida!

Eça de Queirós, O Crime do Padre Amaro

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Schubert: Variations on "Trokne Blumen" D 802

Fernando Pessoa: Autopsychography



The poet is a man who feigns
and feigns so thoroughly, at last
He manages to feign as pain
The pain he really feels,

And those who read what once he wrote
Feel clearly, in the pain they read,
Neither of the pains he felt,
Only a pain they cannot sense.

And thus, around its jolting track
There runs, to keep our reason busy,
The circling clockwork train of ours
That men agree to call a heart.

TRANSLATED BY EDOUARD RODITI

Monday, March 11, 2013

L'ange

 
Tout le monde dormait et dans la
maison silencieuse chaque nuit je
parlais pour toi. Est-ce que tu
m’écoutais ? Je ne le savais pas.
Mes paroles n’étaient qu’un humble

murmure. Mais mon amour allait
en grandissant chaque jour et le
souvenir de ton visage, parfois de
tes brèves paroles et de ton timide
regard devenaient plus pressants.

Je croyais en toi comme ils croient
en leur Dieu. Dieu ne répond jamais
à ceux qui Lui parlent, ils comptent
sur Son amour mais Il les laisse seuls,
indiffèrent à leur foi inébranlable. 

Tu ne me répondais pas non plus,
mais je savais que je ne devais pas
me plaindre. Chaque jour, du matin
au soir, tu me tenais compagnie,
comme un ange silencieux et invisible 

tu veillais sur moi. Et si le soleil brillait
je pouvais sourire, je sortais dans les
rues animé d’une flamme nouvelle. Tu
marchais, légère, à mes côtés, dans mes
pensées tu dialoguais avec moi. Tu

étais l’ange : silencieuse et invisible,
mais remplissant d’espoir et parfois
de joie mon cœur. Ne me faisait pas
douter de toi ton silence, un jour
peut-être tu m’ouvrirais ton cœur

et étonné de t’écouter je parlerais
de ma voix nouvelle, je prendrais
tes mains dans les miennes, je
caresserais ton visage, mes lèvres
effleureraient ta bouche et je

te prendrais dans me bras enfin.
Tout ange est Dieu, tout ange est
paix et amour. Je parlais pour toi
parce que je savais que tu m’écoutais.
Au loin tu surveillais mes prières.

Je savais que de tes mains emplies
de tendresse tu viendrais une nuit,
finalement, fatiguée d’attendre déjà, 
mettre fin à ma solitude, au désarroi.
Et sur les chemins où fleurissent les

roses et les lilas tu m’emmènerais à 
la tombée de la nuit, comme un enfant
à demi égaré, souriante, à la rencontre
du destin pendant si longtemps espéré.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Rilke: Duino Elegies - The Third Elegy


Watts

It is one thing to sing the beloved. Another, alas,
to invoke that hidden, guilty river-god of the blood.
Her young lover, whom she knows from far away-what
    does he know of
the lord of desire who often, up from the depths of his
    solitude,
even before she could soothe him, and as though she didn't
    exist,
held up his head, ah, dripping with the unknown,
erect, and summoned the night to an endless uproar.
Oh the Neptune inside our blood, with his appalling trident.
Oh the dark wind from his breast out of that spiraled conch.
Listen to the night as it makes itself hollow. O stars,
isn't it from you that the lover's desire for the face
of his beloved arises? Doesn't his secret insight
into her pure features come from the pure constellations?

Not you, his mother: alas, you were not the one
who bent the arch of his eyebrows into such expectation.
Not for you, girl so aware of him, not for your mouth
did his lips curve themselves into a more fruitful expression.
Do you really think that your gentle steps could have shaken
    him
with such violence, you who move like the morning breeze?
Yes, you did frighten his heart; but more ancient terrors
plunged into him at the shock of that feeling. Call him . . .
but you can't quite call him away from those dark
    companions.
Of course, he wants to escape, and he does; relieved, he
    nestles
into your sheltering heart, takes hold, and begins himself.
But did he ever begin himself, really?
Mother, you made him small, it was you who started him;
in your sight he was new, over his new eyes you arched
the friendly world and warded off the world that was alien.
Ah, where are the years when you shielded him just by
    placing
your slender form between him and the surging abyss?
How much you hid from him then. The room that filled
    with suspicion
at night: you made it harmless; and out of the refuge of your
    heart
you mixed a more human space in with his night-space.
And you set down the lamp, not in that darkness, but in
your own nearer presence, and it glowed at him like a friend.
There wasn't a creak that your smile could not explain,
as though you had long known just when the floor would do
    that...
And he listened and was soothed. So powerful was your
    presence
as you tenderly stood by the bed; his fate,
tall and cloaked, retreated behind the wardrobe, and his
    restless
future, delayed for a while, adapted to the folds of the
curtain.

And he himself, as he lay there, relieved, with the sweetness
of the gentle world you had made for him dissolving beneath
his drowsy eyelids, into the foretaste of sleep-:
he seemed protected . . . But inside: who could ward off,
who could divert, the floods of origin inside him?
Ah, there was no trace of caution in that sleeper; sleeping,
yes but dreaming, but flushed with what fevers: how he
    threw himself in.
All at once new, trembling, how he was caught up
and entangled in the spreading tendrils of inner event
already twined into patterns, into strangling undergrowth,
    prowling
bestial shapes. How he submitted-. Loved.
Loved his interior world, his interior wilderness,
that primal forest inside him, where among decayed
    treetrunks
his heart stood, light-green. Loved. Left it, went through
his own roots and out, into the powerful source
where his little birth had already been outlived. Loving,
he waded down into more ancient blood, to ravines
where Horror lay, still glutted with his fathers. And every
Terror knew him, winked at him like an accomplice.
Yes, Atrocity smiled . . . Seldom
had you smiled so tenderly, mother. How could he help
loving what smiled at him. Even before he knew you,
he had loved it, for already while you carried him inside you,
    it
was dissolved in the water that makes the embryo weightless.

 
No, we don't accomplish our love in a single year
as the flowers do; an immemorial sap
flows up through our arms when we love. Dear girl,
this: that we loved, inside us, not One who would someday
    appear, but
seething multitudes; not just a single child,
but also the fathers lying in our depths
like fallen mountains; also the dried-up riverbeds
of ancient mothers-; also the whole
soundless landscape under the clouded or clear
sky of its destiny-: all this, my dear, preceded you.
And you yourself, how could you know
what primordial time you stirred in your lover. What
    passions
welled up inside him from departed beings. What
women hated you there. How many dark
sinister men you aroused in his young veins. Dead
children reached out to touch you . . . Oh gently, gently,
let him see you performing, with love, some confident daily
    task,-
lead him out close to the garden, give him what outweighs
the heaviest night . . . . . .
Restrain him . . . . . .

From 'Ahead of All Parting: The Selected Poetry and Prose of Rainer Maria Rilke' Edited and Translated by Stephen Mitchell

Friday, March 08, 2013

Estêvão Morago: De Profundis

Some remarks on the use of language


1. If you say that you love me and nothing in your behavior confirms your words, we have a conflict between what I hear and what I see. If you say that you do not love me and your behavior indicates that you love me the same problem arises. 

2. If a person in a position of power uses in his or her written messages to you the most respectful forms of polite language but at the same time threatens you, humiliates you, lies, misinterprets you, etc., we are facing exactly the same problem. What she or he says and what she or he does are contradictory of her or his apparently polite behavior. Only that in this case the contradiction exists in the text itself of his or her messages, independently of his or her other forms of behavior. 

3. Do we tend to believe in words without taking in consideration the circumstances of communication? The circumstances of communication involve time and location, the identity of the people involved in the communication process (who is talking, whom you are talking to, who is listening), and what makes you talk and listen (the reason why you are talking). Body language, gestures, intonation are part of the context of communication. And reliability is always part of the process: how much do you or should you trust (a trust supported by previous knowledge or by your own experience) the person who is talking to you? I don’t think we ignore any of these aspects when we are talking live. But what about written words, partially or totally away from the circumstances of communication? We all know something about the dangers of seeing our words used in a wrong or malicious manner when someone else quotes these words.

4. Despite language’s ambiguity, words are most of the time used with enough clear meaning to be understood. “I love you” or “I hate you” can be uttered ironically or sarcastically, but the context where the communication takes place - the circumstances of communication - are part of the meaning creation process and the misunderstanding should more or less easily be detected, solved or avoided.

5. What we say and the way we say it, what we hear and what we see, everything plays a role in the creation of meaning. But without an interpreter…  words are just noise and behavior means nothing. What implies that in the end I am the only responsible for identifying and putting together some units of sense or of meaning and for concluding, having done it, that you love or do not love me. I will justify my interpretation saying that I learned to interpret words and behavior with other people, I just apply the rules that I see others apply.

6. The fact that many people or most of the people would interpret your words and your behavior the way I do however doesn’t prove anything. You and I can have adapted to a specific type of behavior because living in society made us understand that it’s preferable to avoid conflicts. But you or I can also totally or partially disregard what other people may think of the way you or I behave. The relationship between behavior and meaning of behavior may in consequence be as arbitrary as the relationship between significant and signifier in Saussure's linguistic theory. In any case there is a lot of work to do in order to get into meaning and into the nuances in interpretation. Dictionaries are useful, but they are unable to point to a particular usage or nuance of the meaning of a word in a particular context. They are catalogues of words, nothing else. And I can use words disrespecting the dictionary. In a phrase the meaning of a word can be totally reinvented. 

7. You may want your behavior and your words to be understood as a transparent and clear message to others. But you may also prefer to avoid communicating to others any clear sign of what you think or feel. They don't need to know. We cannot escape communicating. We can never escape meaning either. Can we escape error when interpreting signs? Words and behavior can be a deliberately misleading use of signs. They can also be misleading because of their original and lasting ambiguous nature independently of any malicious intention of the speaker or performer.

8. The problem with literary texts is that all the information about the circumstances of communication is itself a verbal utterance. The narrator is the one who puts together in his words all the details about the context of communication. He may interpret them himself more or less clearly or leave to the reader the responsibility of the interpretation. But even when he leaves to the reader the responsibility of interpreting the character's words and behavior he is the one who selected them and presented them to be interpreted; it's totally different when we are the listeners and observers ourselves.

9. The problem with meaning is always the same: we need first to isolate (this requires vision and talent for selection) what I would call units of sense (equivalent of words and of the notes in music, in some way); then we need to put together what goes in the same direction and separate it from what we can put together going in another or the oposite direction. In other words: we need to look to at least two possibilities of interpretation, one in favor and another questioning some specific conclusion in the situation we are trying to understand. Is a clear conclusion always possible? Certainly not. That's why you still need to ask: do you love me? The answer may or may not confirm the conclusion that your analysis of the situation was suggesting you to consider as being the most correct one.

10. Over-interpretation is always threatening to compromise your identification of the units of sense (you saw as an unit of sense in your constructed system something that did not mean anything there because it did not belong there) and to question the meaning you attributed to these units of sense after you assembled them and interpreted them all and their interaction as one unit of sense. An example: she did not look at you with particular interest when you looked in her eyes, she was just flattered, polite, surprised or trying to understand what was happening there; she did not come to Starbucks because she knew that she woud meet you there, it was just a coincidence, she sometimes happens to go there for a tea or a coffee. So, be careful, don't put together what does not belong to the same unit (here the unit is: it looks like she is in love with me) and don't jump so easily to conclusions: she never looked at you as a potential boy-friend, that idea never crossed her mind; you were just part of the furniture or an insignificant element in the scenario at the places where she met and saw you - or, in the best case scenario, only a (potential) good fiend. But if it is important for you to be sure of what's going on and to put an end to your anxiety...  you may still take the risk of asking: do you really like me, do you think you could love me? or did I get confused misinterpreting in my favor your behavior? There is still a chance of not being disappointed though. Suddenly embarrassed, she may answer you, after some hesitation: yes, hmmmm, I like you...  yes, hmmm, maybe I can love you...  yes.... yes...  well... maybe... but I was not aware of anything in my behavior that would allow you to understand it.

11. And then this: "If the possible uses of a word are before our minds in half-tones as we say or hear it - this goes just for us. But we communicate with other people without knowing wether they have these experiences too." (Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, G. E. M. Anscombe translation, revised 4rth edition,  Wiley-Blackwell, 2009, p. 190). If the meaning of a word can be imagined metaphorically as a series of units within a box that contains all its possible meanings including its nuances or half-tones, how much of the meaning of a word are we really sharing with the person we are talking to? Whats is the meaning of the word "love" or of the word "marriage" for me, for example? and for you? Because we need to communicate, because we need to love and to be loved, we may overlook the seriousness of the problem. Love or marriage may not even exist as we imagine them (if that is the case, how do they exist, then?). But it helps so much to believe that we are or can be in love and that we are or can be loved. It helps so much to believe that we are settled in the clearly defined frontiers of a room in the big house of one thousand rooms. Life is about many things; but it is about meaning first of all. 

Beethoven: String Quartet no. 7 "Razumovsky no. 1" (1/4)

Thursday, March 07, 2013

He was enlightened

A young man in Japan arranged his circumstances
so that he was able to travel to a distant island
to study Zen with a certain Master for a
three-year period. At the end of the three
years, feeling no sense of accomplishment,
he presented himself to the Master and
announced his departure. The Master said,
“You’ve been here three years. Why don’t
you stay three months more?” The student agreed,
but at the end of the three months he still
felt that he had made no advance. When he
told the Master again that he was leaving,
the Master said, “Look now, you’ve been here
three years and three months. Stay
three weeks longer.” The student did, but
with no success. When he told the Master
that absolutely nothing had happened, the
Master said, “You’ve been here three years,
three months, and three weeks. Stay
three more days, and if, at
the end of that time, you have not
attained enlightenment, commit
suicide.” Towards the end of the
second day, the student was enlightened.

Leopardi: Alla luna


O graziosa luna, io mi rammento
Che, or volge l'anno, sovra questo colle
Io venia pien d'angoscia a rimirarti:
E tu pendevi allor su quella selva
Siccome or fai, che tutta la rischiari.
Ma nebuloso e tremulo dal pianto
Che mi sorgea sul ciglio, alle mie luci
Il tuo volto apparia, che travagliosa
Era mia vita: ed è, né cangia stile,
0 mia diletta luna. E pur mi giova
La ricordanza, e il noverar l'etate
Del mio dolore.
Oh come grato occorre
Nel tempo giovanil, quando ancor lungo
La speme e breve ha la memoria il corso,
Il rimembrar delle passate cose,
Ancor che triste, e che l'affanno duri!




O lovely moon, now I’m reminded

how almost a year since, full of anguish,

I climbed this hill to gaze at you again,

and you hung there, over that wood, as now,

clarifying all things. Filled with mistiness,

trembling, that’s how your face seemed to me,

with all those tears that welled in my eyes, so

troubled was my life, and is, and does not change,

O moon, my delight. And yet it does help me,

to record my sadness and tell it, year by year.

Oh how sweetly it hurts, when we are young,

when hope has such a long journey to run,

and memory is so short,

this remembrance of things past, even if it

is sad, and the pain lasts!




The first principle


When one goes to Obaku temple in Kyoto he sees carved over the gate the words "The First Principle." The letters are unusually large, and those who appreciate calligraphy always admire them as being a masterpiece. They were drawn by Kosen two hundred years ago.


When the master drew them he did so on paper, from which workmen made the larger carving in wood. As Kosen sketched the letters a bold pupil was with him who had made several gallons of ink for the calligraphy and who never failed to criticize his master's work.


"That is not good," he told Kosen after the first effort.


"How is that one?"


"Poor. Worse than before," pronounced the pupil.


Kosen patiently wrote one sheet after another until eighty-four First Principles had been accumulated, still without the approval of the pupil.


Then, when the young man stepped outside for a few moments, Kosen thought: "Now is my chance to escape his keen eye," and he wrote hurridly, with a mind free from disctraction. "The First Principle."


"A masterpiece," pronounced the pupil.

Trinadus: Variações em Mi

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

About the meaning of life


Héloïse – You don’t believe in God.
J. – I wish He existed. Never heard from Him.
Héloïse - You don’t believe in Love either.
J. – I did, some time ago. I lost sight of it.
Héloïse - But you did, you know it exists.
J. - I did. But after a while I started to think that our beliefs about reality are presumably born from some kind of hallucination.
Héloïse– I thought you loved me.
(Pause)
J. – Hmmm. Who are you? You are beautiful, I love your face, I love your eyes, but I don’t know you. I will not be your slave.
Héloïse – You are so funny.
J.- Am I? 
Héloïse– In a way. Sometimes. When you refuse talking to me.
J. - I am talking to you. Whoever you are. 
Héloïse- Last night you told me that you were in love with me. You said that you loved me very much. 
J. - Did I? It happens sometimes that I lose control of my mind. It’s scaring. Someone that is not really me starts talking in my name. Nothing I can do about it. To be honest, I got used to that. Human imperfection.
Héloïse– And did that bizarre being inside your body or your mind or whatever you mean felt the need to tell me that he loves me?
J. – You should ask him, not me.
Héloïse- Where is he?
J.- Have no idea.
Héloïse- Keep the message and forward it to him whenever you see him. You fool. 
J.- I never see him. He just talks from nowhere. I hear his voice but I can’t see him. That's the problem.
Héloïse- Why do you think he behaves that way? Hiding his face, talking without showing any respect for yourself?
J.- Respect? Oh, yes, let’s talk about respect. I love talking about respect. I saw you yesterday downtown and you didn’t even look at me.   
Héloïse - I was not downtown yesterday. What are you talking about? 
J. – You were not? Then it was maybe your double. Your double was walking on State Street with a man. Like me you may have a double too.
Héloïse- Joseph, stop this game. I can’t stand it anymore. And I don't like it. 
J. - Is this a game? Then everything is a game, life itself is no more than a stupid game.
Héloïse - Why is it so stupid? Life is good. I enjoy my life.
J. - You enjoy your life because you are not aware of what’s going on.
Héloïse - You tell me what’s going on. I’m curious. Brrr! 
J. - I told you: it’s a game.
Héloïse - OK, it’s a game. And so what?
J. - The problem with this game is that even when you win you always lose. So, it’s a very disturbing game. If it were a real game the chances of winning would be there. They are not.
Héloïse- Joseph, I hate you. I’m tired. Get back to reality, please. I can’t stand it. 
J. - You don’t see me when you walk on the streets or are sitting in a café reading your books. It happened twice at least. You totally ignored me. Yesterday I was waiting for you, then I saw you coming.
Héloïse - Stop, please. I beg you. It's not funny anymore.
J. - But you were not alone and you kept your eyes fixed on the ground, you preferred not to see me. Why did you do that? Why do people do that? You don't like me.
Héloïse - Yesterday and before yesterday we spent the day and the night together. We were together all the time. We had dinner at a restaurant in Montecito and then we returned home together.  Did you forget?
J. - Really? What a good excuse indeed. Are you sure that it was me? 
Héloïse - Bullshit, Joseph. Why are you inventing a plot that is pure nonsense? I never avoided seeing you. What is this conversation about? At first I thought we were just joking. Now I don't know what to think. Are you so bored today?
J.- Me bored? Never. You should know me better.
Héloïse- What’s wrong with you, Joseph? You are in a very bad humor, it seems. What did I do to you? Hug me, please, kiss me.
(Pause)
J.- Hmmm... We will see what I can do. Later, not now. Please.
Héloïse - Joseph! I am losing my patience.
J.- Don't, it's not worth it.
Héloïse - Kiss me.
J.- Would a kiss solve your problem? I can do it.
Héloïse - Then do it and stop all this craziness.
J.- A kiss may be of some help to you. Not sure that it will help me in any way.  
Héloïse - And what is that big problem of yours that cannot be helped by a kiss? Helped by love, let’s call it what it is.
J.- I don’t believe in love. And I don't know who you are. 
Héloïse - Yesterday and before yesterday you believed in love though.
J.- I told you: sometimes there is a guy inside me that speaks at my place, acts at my place. I cannot feel responsible for what he does. 
Héloïse– I am leaving. Ciao. Have a good evening.
J. - Don’t, please. Come here.
(Pause)
Héloïse - You have two seconds to kiss me. Not sure that I will stay longer.
J. - Hmmmm...  OK, I know, there is no solution to loneliness. Is there any reasonable solution at all  to this shit we call life?
Héloïse - Don't start again, Joseph, you are boring.
J.- No, I will not. And since you insist, let’s give it a try. Give me a good kiss. And hug me, I think I like it. Will you also forgive me for being unbearable? Who knows, maybe things will get better afterwards.
Héloïse - You should be ashamed of yourself. You behave like a spoiled child. 
J. - I am ashamed. No more comments, Héloïse. I will explain later. Let's go now, the concert at the Granada theater starts soon and there is a lot of trafic on the freeway at this hour. I never saw Anne-Sophie Mutter play live, I am very curious. Did Karajan love her or he just admired her talent?

(J. E. Soice)

e. e. cummings: About Love


my love is building a building
around you,a frail slippery
house,a strong fragile house
(beginning at the singular beginning

of your smile)a skilful uncouth
prison, a precise clumsy
prison(building thatandthis into Thus,
Around the reckless magic of your mouth)

my love is building a magic, a discrete
tower of magic and(as i guess)

when Farmer Death(whom fairies hate)shall

crumble the mouth-flower fleet
He’ll not my tower,
laborious, casual

where the surrounded smile
hangs

breathless


****************



love’s function is to fabricate unknownness

(known being wishless;but love,all of wishing)
though life’s lived wrongsideout,sameness chokes oneness
truth is confused with fact,fish boast of fishing

and men are caught by worms(love may not care
if time totters,light droops,all measures bend
nor marvel if a thought should weigh a star
—dreads dying least;and less,that death should end)

how lucky lovers are)whose selves abide
under whatever shall discovered be)
whose ignorant each breathing dares to hide
more than most fabulous wisdom fears to see

(who laugh and cry)who dream,create and kill
while the whole moves;and every part stands still:

Monday, March 04, 2013

Camões: Se a ninguém tratais com desamor

If thou indifference wilt display to none,
Rather towards every one endearing art,
If thou towards every one dost show a heart,
That fullest love and gentleness doth own,

Henceforth towards me be thy disfavour shown;
In odious scorn or coldness stand apart;
There shall I come to think, beneath the smart,
Thou showest favour unto me alone.

For if to all so tender thou wilt prove,
'Tis clear the only favoured one is he
Towards whom thine eye doth with displeasure move.

Scarcely, indeed, can I be loved by thee,
If in thy heart thou hast another love,
For Love is one, nor can divided be.


Translated by J. J. Aubertin.

Chet Baker "Look For The Silver Lining"

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Tales of Love and Sorrow


C LIT 188. Narrative StudiesTales of Love and Sorrow
(4) Camilo-Dos-Santos

TR 12:30-1:45pm
Prerequisite:
 Upper-division standing.
We will read short stories by renowned 19th-20th century American, Russian, French, New Zealand, Brazilian and Portuguese writers: Tolstoy, Chekhov, Gogol, Maupassant, Henry James, Katherine Mansfield, Eça de Queirós, Machado de Assis, and Dostoevski's Notes from Underground (Richard Pevear and Larissa Volkhonsky translation). 
Stories told by books are about men, women and their lives; they are also about each author’s personal experience of life and her/his world’s vision. But the material or tool of literature is language. The presentation and discussion of some fundamental concepts of narrative technique, starting with Aristotle, will help students to develop their awareness of the formal aspect of literature in order to better understand and explain the procedures at work in the transformation of the writer’s personal experience in literature.

Jochen Kowalski, Gluck: Che faro senza Euridice

R. M. Rilke: ORPHEUS. EURYDICE. HERMES


Watts


That was the deep uncanny mine of souls.
Like veins of silver ore, they silently
moved through its massive darkness. Blood welled up
among the roots, on its way to the world of men,
and in the dark it looked as hard as stone.
Nothing else was red.

There were cliffs there,
and forests made of mist. There were bridges
spanning the void, and that great gray blind lake
which hung above its distant bottom
like the sky on a rainy day above a landscape.
And through the gentle, unresisting meadows
one pale path unrolled like a strip of cotton.

Down this path they were coming.

In front, the slender man in the blue cloak —
mute, impatient, looking straight ahead.
In large, greedy, unchewed bites his walk
devoured the path; his hands hung at his sides,
tight and heavy, out of the failing folds,
no longer conscious of the delicate lyre
which had grown into his left arm, like a slip
of roses grafted onto an olive tree.
His senses felt as though they were split in two:
his sight would race ahead of him like a dog,
stop, come back, then rushing off again
would stand, impatient, at the path’s next turn, —
but his hearing, like an odor, stayed behind.
Sometimes it seemed to him as though it reached
back to the footsteps of those other two
who were to follow him, up the long path home.
But then, once more, it was just his own steps’ echo,
or the wind inside his cloak, that made the sound.
He said.to himself, they had to be behind him;
said it aloud and heard it fade away.
They had to be behind him, but their steps
were ominously soft. If only he could
turn around, just once (but looking back
would ruin this entire work, so near
completion), then he could not fail to see them,
those other two, who followed him so softly:

The god of speed and distant messages,
a traveler’s hood above his shining eyes,
his slender staff held out in front of him,
and little wings fluttering at his ankles;
and on his left arm, barely touching it: she.

A woman so loved that from one lyre there came
more lament than from all lamenting women;
that a whole world of lament arose, in which
all nature reappeared: forest and valley,
road and village, field and stream and animal;
and that around this lament-world, even as
around the other earth, a sun revolved
and a silent star-filled heaven, a lament-
heaven, with its own, disfigured stars —:
So greatly was she loved.

But now she walked beside the graceful god,
her steps constricted by the trailing graveclothes,
uncertain, gentle, and without impatience.
She was deep within herself, like a woman heavy
with child, and did not see the man in front
or the path ascending steeply into life.
Deep within herself. Being dead
filled her beyond fulfillment. Like a fruit
suffused with its own mystery and sweetness,
she was filled with her vast death, which was so new,
she could not understand that it had happened.

She had come into a new virginity
and was untouchable; her sex had closed
like a young flower at nightfall, and her hands
had grown so unused to marriage that the god’s
infinitely gentle touch of guidance
hurt her, like an undesired kiss.

She was no longer that woman with blue eyes
who once had echoed through the poet’s songs,
no longer the wide couch’s scent and island,
and that man’s property no longer.

She was already loosened like long hair,
poured out like fallen rain,
shared like a limitless supply.

She was already root.

And when, abruptly,
the god put out his hand to stop her, saying,
with sorrow in his voice: He has turned around —,
she could not understand, and softly answered
Who?

                                             Far away,
dark before the shining exit-gates,
someone or other stood, whose features were
unrecognizable. He stood and saw
how, on the strip of road among the meadows,
with a mournful look, the god of messages
silently turned to follow the small figure
already walking back along the path,
her steps constricted by the trailing graveclothes,
uncertain, gentle, and without impatience.

(Stephen Mitchell's translation) 


Saturday, March 02, 2013

Margaret Atwood: Eurydice


George Frederic Watts


He is here, come down to look for you.
It is the song that calls you back,
a song of joy and suffering
equally: a promise:
that things will be different up there
than they were last time.

You would rather have gone on feeling nothing,
emptiness and silence; the stagnant peace
of the deepest sea, which is easier
than the noise and flesh of the surface.

You are used to these blanched dim corridors,
you are used to the king
who passes you without speaking.

The other one is different
and you almost remember him.
He says he is singing to you
because he loves you,

not as you are now,
so chilled and minimal: moving and still
both, like a white curtain blowing
in the draft from a half-opened window
beside a chair on which nobody sits.

He wants you to be what he calls real.
He wants you to stop light.
He wants to feel himself thickening
like a treetrunk or a haunch
and see blood on his eyelids
when he closes them, and the sun beating.

This love of his is not something
he can do if you aren’t there,
but what you knew suddenly as you left your body
cooling and whitening on the lawn

was that you love him anywhere,
even in this land of no memory,
even in this domain of hunger.
You hold love in your hand, a red seed
you had forgotten you were holding.

He has come almost too far.
He cannot believe without seeing,
and it’s dark here.
Go back, you whisper,

but he wants to be fed again
by you. O handful of gauze, little
bandage, handful of cold
air, it is not through him
you will get your freedom.

Donizetti: Una furtiva lagrima (Caruso)

Friday, March 01, 2013

An enigma called José Matias



In Eça de Queirós’ enigmatic short story “José Matias” we learn about a man who is in love with a married woman but runs away from her when, becoming a widow, she is available and wants to marry him. He refuses at least twice to marry her. Instead he prefers to look at her from the distance and ends his life as a homeless dude getting drunk in a bar facing her windows. 
There may be many ways of explaining José Matias’ behavior and the narrator of the story, a professor of philosophy, tries to solve the problem concluding at one point  that José Matias was happy loving  Elisa spiritually and didn’t mind, after having kind of self educating himself, leaving her body (whatever that means) to other men. Is José Matias perplexed and scared by the greatness of the love he feels? We may also think that by not marrying the widow his love for her would not suffer from the harsh introduction of reality (love may be a dream but marriage is reality) in their relationship; but on this topic we need to say more.
While I would not consider the above-mentioned explanations incorrect I think that there is another way of looking at the enigma. I found it in Rilke’s Duino’s Elegies. See the beginning of the first Elegy (Stephen Mitchell’s translation):

Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angels'
hierarchies? and even if one of them pressed me
suddenly against his heart: I would be consumed
in that overwhelming existence. For beauty is nothing
but the beginning of terror, which we are still just able to endure,
and we are so awed because it serenely disdains
to annihilate us. Every angel is terrifying.
 And so I hold myself back and swallow the call-note
of my dark sobbing.

If we follow Rilke we may think that the love José Matias feels for Elisa is above his capacity of enduring it: “he would be consumed in that overwhelming existence”. That would explain his refusal of marrying her and keep her at distance. Isn’t beauty “the beginning of terror”? Isn't every angel "terrifying"? José Matias knows it and "holds back" and "swallow(s) the call-note" of his "dark sobbing". Rilke seems to make in other verses of this poem and in other poems statements that go in the same direction. Doesn’t he doubt that other human beings would be able to help us in "our need"? Angels and animals wouldn’t do better and maybe only “some tree in a hillside” or “yesterdays’ street” or, and it’s amazing, “the loyalty of a habit” would be of some help to us. Help to our "solitary heart", what says it all clearly: there is no escape from loneliness.
Let's read more:

Oh and night: there is night, when a wind full of infinite space
gnaws at our faces. Whom would it not remain for - that longed-after,
mildly disillusioning presence, which the solitary heart
so painfully meets. Is it any less difficult for lovers?
But they keep on using each other to hide their own fate.
Don't you know yet? Fling the emptiness out of your arms
into the spaces we breathe; perhaps the birds
 will feel the expanded air with more passionate flying.

Yes- the springtimes needed you. Often a star
was waiting for you to notice it. A wave rolled toward you
out of the distant past, or as you walked
under an open window, a violin
yielded itself to your hearing. All this was mission.
But could you accomplish it? Weren't you always
distracted by expectation, as if every event
announced a beloved?

What does Rilke mean when he says that lovers “keep on using each other to hide their own fate”?  And what "fate" is he referring to if not to our incapacity of understanding, of loving, of possessing, of duration? He goes so far as to doubt that we can accomplish “the mission”. What mission? Spring needs us, he says, the stars wait for us to notice them, “a wave rolled towards us”, “a violin yielded itself” to our “hearing”. But weren’t we “always distracted by expectations, as if every event announced a beloved?” Yet, surprisingly maybe, after mentioning our incapacity of paying attention, of understanding, of possessing, he also questions our capacity of love:

 Where can you find a place
to keep her, with all the huge strange thoughts inside you
going and coming and often staying all night.

Let's not forget to point to other remarks in the poem: what is Rilke referring to when he evokes "that longed-after, mildly disillusioning presence, which the solitary heart so painfully meets"? And if you really are in love isn't your experienced "emptiness" an unexpected and tragic contradiction? You didn't get what you thought you were promised.

I will stop here for the moment. Maybe we get into more problems than solutions when we try to understand both Rilke and Eça.... and ourselves. True love seems to be presented here as being at the same time an experience that may exceed the lover's potential resources and as an experience that may end deceiving his expectations. My impression is that José Matias' enigmatic behavior could be explained in a rilkean way by his awareness of how great is the love he feels and how insufficient would be his capacity of enduring it for real and of making it real. 

José Matias also seems to have understood something else and that too could be part of the explanation for his behavior: Elisa will never love him as he loves her, she will never understand what is at stake, her love is of a more imperfect human nature. Didn't she easily replace him by another man - and she did it twice - when she understood that he was not interested in marrying her? What kind of important love was her love for José Matias if she could replace him? Her need of love was easily satisfied by the two men and the lover she found to replace the stubborn José Matias. She has never been aware of how much she was worth...   at José Matias' eyes.

It may also be that love, an intense love, may seem better fulfilled (with even some premonitory joy) when escaped in death, away from the loved one, who is not asked to give anything in return. But on this topic it's better not to elaborate. 



Debussy: Trois Chansons de Bilitis