Although I want to say that it doesn’t matter to me where I go, there is always one place that comes into view that makes me say: ‘this is it and nothing else.’ Those following my ranting here will have guessed. That place is Norway. On top of a mountain I’m thinking of what Beckett said:

“All writing is a sin against speechlessness. Only a few, Yeats, Goethe, those who lived for a long time, could go on to do it, but they had recourse to known forms and fictions. So one finds oneself going back to vieilles competences — how to escape that. One can never get over the fact, never rid oneself of the old dream of giving a form to speechlessness.”

Although Beckett only mentions male writers, I have a feeling that he was more influenced by women writers. By writers such as Muriel Rukeyser who in her collection, Out of Silence, believes that writing is a form of love, which, instead of bypassing reason, allows for it to happen, if not as a mask, which one takes off, then perhaps as a form of immemorial memory, like snow. Gaston Bachelard writes in his The Poetics of Space that winter is a “simplified cosmos,” which makes me think that if a writer does go on with the writing, it is because of a need to step speechlessness on its toe. A frozen toe. Beckett liked to look at his toes. My sister was speechless in the snow after her toes got frozen. She made me sing an hymn with her as that was the only thing to do, she said, when the cosmos is too cold and white, and we can all die like animals. Like happy animals, she then added. I rather felt like stripping, but I let these words blend with the snow: “In the beginning, I would like to entrust myself to words that, were it possible, would be naked.” Thus spoke Derrida in The Animal that Therefore I Am.

We are all bookish animals. Some of us are into toes, others into navel or star gazing, and yet others into flying. Right now I imagine being the fat woman with fat legs, borne in the air by men with fat feet in one of Max Beckmann’s paintings. While this is the woman he’s waiting for in Paris, she prefers skating in Norway, even when skating is not something she can do. But there is something to her. There is something she has, as he puts it:

“Braunschweig 1903,

I begin this book in a very uncertain mood. One of my splendid hopes is shattered. She is not coming to Paris. I suppose I really ought to be sad? But I just feel empty. As if something I had hitherto felt to be pleasant and peaceful had been dragged out of me.
Now I have found another way to be contented.
I plan to be completely alone in Paris.
Shall I go on loving her, shall I forget her?
I don’t know. I shall see. But I don’t think so.
Because she does not love me as I need to be loved, though she does love me.
I cannot tolerate compromises. And this is one, however wrapped up in a cloak of self-sacrificing abstinence.
I know that in her place I would have acted differently. To hell with this damned reflection. I think Verlaine wrote something like: “Love has already fled, as soon as reason sets in.”
In five weeks I will be in Paris. Yes, yes, she had a neck. I doubt I’ll ever again see such a fine, delicate shade of gold as hers had. And the nape of the neck, where the head rests on the top of the spine, so fabulously elegant. When she wore her hair up, like a crown, she was the most delightful, delicate fairy-tale princess you could ever find in Grimm or Bechstein.
And it was such a delightfully comical contrast when she then talked so plainly and intelligently. Oh yes, she’s intelligent, all right. Too intelligent for comfort, and I think sometimes a bit bookishly intelligent. But I don’t want to be unfair.
It’s a shame that too much reading so soon puts an end to that delightful unawareness of one’s own personality. And there’s nothing more beautiful than when this sometimes pierces through the cold veil of conscious being (conscious being not in the philosophical sense).
Yes, she had to have something, first it was love, and now longing. I do believe that longing for something specific can sometimes be very beautiful. At least it fills, elevates, and even to some extent satisfies. The goal somewhere in the dim, uncertain distance – or even better, no goal at all, just an endless longing for the infinite –“ (Self-Portrait in Words, 21-22).

What was it that the toe-fixated Becket used to say again and again and again? “I can’t go on. I’ll go on?” Use your feet and go on with loving - and reasoning in the New Year. We don’t believe what Verlaine said. We are bookish lovers. We love by the book, we write with love, and are perfectly capable of going on with both. Call it cosmic simplicity, or whatever.


Jim said…
Thank you for this post. Just what I needed today.
Camelia said…
You are welcome. Keep going!
Jim said…
I will! :) Thank you.

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