Shadows and Wounds

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Marguerite Duras

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Toni Morrison

It is Sunday evening. I’ve decided to post more of my creative writing. This is another segment from my novel. I’ve re-edited it to post here. So much of this writing, particularly the repetitive aspects of the narrative, was influenced by Marguerite Duras but Toni Morrison’s voice also had a major impact. I read SONG OF SOLOMON at 14. TAR BABY at 15. THE BLUEST EYE at 16 but did not get around to BELOVED until I was 30. Despite the fact that I feel more of  Duras’ presence in the following piece of fiction (‘Shadows and Wounds’),  I do feel obliged to mention Morrison because of her great impact on my early reading years.

As for the the film writing, I’ve gone back to Part 1 of the STORIA film treatment (loosely based on the novel) and have undertaken some minor editing. I just received an email from London-based script-editor, Carla MacKinnon, daughter of director, Gillies MacKinnon. Carla had a hard time keeping track of some of the characters in the beginning of the treatment. But ultimately described the idea for the film as ‘a really compelling mystery’ and emailed me to say she ‘can’t wait to see what happens next.’ 

I took the latter as a sign of encouragement – and now, another novel excerpt.

SHADOWS AND WOUNDS

There are those who cast shadows over lives. No matter how far the destination, these shadows, they follow. They are always there. They are there long after the physical departure of the bodies which created them. They are composed of the absence of light. These shadows are so much like death.

Back to the Russian, he is impatient. He knows my attentions have strayed from him; he yearns for my return. He yearns for me to speak of him. He is willful, an egoist, he demands attention. What more is there to say of him? He will never be a shadow. The Russian, he will serve as several in a billion memories. The Russian, he is relief. Transitory.

He and I, we speak an identical language. This language, it is the language which the soul delivers to the body. The body, it is the vehicle. The body is that which speaks. We do this and without effort. He speaks to me, he claims, in ways he speaks to no other and then there are times when we cease to speak at all. We lie. We lie together in the night. We rest a top a bed of blistering secrets. These blisters, dense and watery, they seep and rupture in the Vietnamese night. They rupture in a bed reserved for loving. We turn toward one another in an effort to mitigate the pressure of the wounds.

I.S.

Historical Fiction

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A ‘historical novel’ is a novel which is set fifty or more years in the past, and one in which the author is writing from research rather than personal experience. Most autobiographical novels would not fit these criteria. Not all people agree on this definition, however, and even we occasionally break the rules. Some readers go so far as to say that a novel should only be called “historical” if the plot reflects its historical period so well that the story could not have occurred at any other time in history. Quotation by Sarah Johnson, currently Professor/Reference Librarian at Eastern Illinois University and book review editor for the Historical Novels Review, is the author of Historical Fiction: A Guide to the Genre (2005) and Historical Fiction II (2009).

The apartment I grew up in was situated in Northwest Portland, not far from Forest Park. It was filled with books. All my mothers. She wanted to be a lawyer. She should have been a history professor of some sort. Though university educated, she was mainly self-taught. She spent her Saturdays at Portland’s Gnostic Society, listening to lectures on Goethe and Jung and her Sundays attending a Russian Orthodox church, not because she was religious, she wasn’t but because she wanted to improve her Russian by making Russian-speaking friends. All of this was in the late eighties and early nineties when I was in high school. On my mother’s bookshelves were the memoirs of Golda Meir, biographies on Benjamin Disraeli and Virginia Woolf. There were books on Alexander Pushkin and spiritual classics like Autobiography of a Yogi and books like like Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and the various histories of the civil rights movement. Whenever my friends had a paper to write, they asked if they might come over and talk to my mother. When I moved to Poland to teach English ten years ago, I put her copy of Arthur Rubinstein’s memoir: My Young Years, in my suitcase. I still remember the book. It was large and red with a gold-colored border. I still associate its cover with the romance of moving to Poland. I had no idea what I would find there. But driven by midnight screenings of ‘The Decalogue’ in my mother’s small apartment, I had a feeling I would find myself there. I did. And had a startling series of experiences which spurred me to become a writer.

 

My beautiful mother with my sister, 1975

My beautiful mother with my sister, 1975

I’m documenting all of this now because there was a book which sat on my mother’s living room bookshelf that I would often thumb through on the weekends between reading plays by Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams. The book was one on Auguste Rodin, a novel called Naked Came I. The book was my first experience with the genre of historical fiction. As I thumbed through its pages on rainy Portland afternoons, I found myself lost in the pages of the late nineteenth century, fascinated with an array of artists about whom I knew little.

These days the genre of historical fiction has again begun to speak to me. I’m keen to read Robert Graves’ novel, I, Claudius. Written in the form of an autobiography of the Roman Emperor Claudius, the book was adapted into an exceptionally rendered series by the BBC in the 1970s.

In 1998 the Modern Library ranked I, Claudius fourteenth on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. In 2005, the novel was chosen by TIME magazine as one of the one hundred best English-language novels from 1923 to present day.

The genre of historical fiction has become a recent focus of mine due to the fact that I’ve finally decided on the subject of my second novel. I want to explore the genre of historical fiction. I’ve begun assembling the books I’ll need in order to properly research my subject. I want the house that ultimately publishes my first novel to know I’m generating chapters for the second. This writing will function on a continuum. I never imagined I’d produce just one book. I hope to produce five or six over the course of my lifetime – four at a quiet minimum.

As for my non-art related life, I just spent a week with my cousin who lives near Frankfurt. He and his Neopolitan wife just had a baby.

Isabell mit Isabel, 23 July 2014

Isabell mit Isabel 23 July 2014

Diana Isabel was born on July 9th. I took a week off writing to spend time getting to know this adorable new member of the family who sleeps and eats constantly and rarely cries. Now that I’m back to life in Berlin, I’m back to this rather bohemian life of books, the pursuit of them.

I.S.

Longreads’ Best of WordPress, Vol. 2

Originally posted on WordPress.com News:

Here’s the second edition of Longreads’ Best of WordPress! We’ve combed through the internet to put together a reading list of some of the best storytelling being published on WordPress. (You can find Vol. 1 here.)

As a reminder: If you read or publish a story on WordPress that’s over 1,500 words, share it with us: just tag it #longreads on Twitter, or use the longreads tag on WordPress.com.


Before You Know It Something’s Over (Riese Bernard, Autostraddle)

On grieving after the loss of a parent at a young age:

My father died on November 14th, 1995, when I was 14. Every day since the day he died I am one day farther away from him than I was before. This is the truest thing about me. It is the most important and worst thing to ever happen to me. It is me. My father died when I…

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Underlining Random Terms In a Dense Book

Originally posted on The Bookshelf of Emily J.:

This summer I am reading from my list of 100 items (50 books and 50 articles) for my Ph.D. comprehensive exams.  Much of this list includes theory, and while I’ve been thorough on my readings of most everything so far, one book has reduced me to skimming and underlining random terms that seem important.  It is Kenneth Burke’s Language as Symbolic Action: Essays on Life, Literature, and Method (1966).

language as symbolic action kenneth burke

Based on the title, you’d think I would love this book, especially since my own blog subtitle echoes his subtitle.  And I do like it.  However, much of the content is unrelated to my field of professional communication.  And while a good theoretical essay about Shakespeare’sAntony and Cleopatra, Goethe’s Faust, or Djuna Barnes’s Nightwood is certainly interesting, I don’t have time to engage in them properly.  I am not studying drama or literature, as much as I would…

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Blue Five Notebook – (July 2014 / 14.13)

Originally posted on Blue Fifth Review: Blue Five Notebook Series:

Blue Five Notebook – (July 2014 / 14.13)

Claire Ibarra, Mausoleum Wall

Claire Ibarra, Mausoleum Wall

Claire is a writer, poet and photographer residing in Miami, Florida. Her photographs have appeared in numerous literary magazines, including Smokelong Quarterly, Roadside Fiction, Foliate Oak, and Lummox, and her work is forthcoming in Stone Path Review. She was a visual artist in residence for Counterexample Poetics in January 2014 and is currently art director for Gulf Stream Magazine.

***

Charlotte Hamrick

Opal

in the abrupt slow tumbling
of the first seconds rolling
like dirty laundry in a foggy
window arms and legs
defy gravity
the tinkle of glass
the crunch and scrape
metal collapsing into
flesh safety abandoned
on a strip of red clay and stone
no flashing of life before
startled eyes only
wide black pupils and
blank heads

Charlotte Hamrick lives in New Orleans where she often scribbles words…

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Natalia Ginzburg and Iseo Lake

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Spanish edition of an autobiographical novel by Natalia Ginzburg, published by Flavia Company

     This past week I received 17 new followers to this blog. I’m attributing this to Sam Rasnake’s (editor of the Blue Fifth Review) recent acknowledgement of my writing over Twitter. Thank you, again Sam. For any curious new followers, I’ve decided to post the first chapters of my soon-to-be published novel. This blog revolves around this work of fiction and various unrelated pieces of flash fiction I’ve written in the three years since this blog began.

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Natalia Ginzburg in black and white

     As regards the novel, from a stylistic perspective, it was inspired by the non-traditional novels of the Nouveau Roman movement, a French style of literature made famous in the late 1940s and 50s which diverged from classical literary genres. Some of the literary inspirations for my first novel include Alessandro Barricco’s Silk, Marguerite Duras’ The Lover and Natalia Ginzburg’s novel, La Strada che va in la citta, published in English as The House and the Street. The latter is a narrative composed of letters between friends which span many years. The letters are intimate and captivating, introducing readers to a series of characters, exploring the most operatic and mundane aspects of their lives.

     I discovered Ginzburg and read The House and the Street after an extended stint in Turin. Several years after reading Ginzburg, I was seated by Iseo Lake (about an hour and a half from Milan). It was early afternoon. After a couple of cafe macchiatos, I heard the voice of Sophie Rowe, the young woman who would turn out to be my main character, in my head. She was seated in a bar at the Johannesburg airport preparing to board a flight to Ho Chi Minh City. Shortly before she boarded the flight, she would send a text message to her best friend, a character I would soon come to know as Vincent Lee. That afternoon, in a bustling lakeside cafe, I wrote:

     From: Sophie 27. 83 520 5327

To: Vincent 13 June 2006 9:07 p.m.

Using my old South African SIM card and it feels weird. Sitting in a bar in the Jo’burg airport. Bad service. Their fault. Too much wine. Definitely mine. We board at 9:55. Love night flights. Can’t wait to see you.

     From: Vincent 84. 4 334 718655

To: Sophie 13 June 2006 9:15 p.m.

Asia and I are waiting for you and with open arms. Rest on the plane. You are well on your way and to a new life!

      My main character’s story would essentially begin with a text message and end with one. For inspiration, I have Natalia Ginzburg to thank. Below is the opening narrative to my novel, formerly titled, From the Journals of Sophie R. The title is currently in revision.

 

FROM CATALOG 002 (E) FOLDER OF PRINTED EMAILS

 

From: Sophie Rowe to Vincent Lee

Monday, 14 June 2006

10:13 a.m.

Subject: From Ho Chi Minh City with Love

 

V -

Finally, I have arrived in Ho Chi Minh City. Where is the lost Vietnam of Marguerite Duras? In its place I find a sweltering metropolis.There are all these people lunching on noodle soups, clustered on urine-stench sidewalks. There are all of these overpriced Western shops. Louis Vuitton. Hermes. Prada. I hate to harp on consumerism but I expected something more poetic.

I will be in Saigon for three days. I am scheduled to photograph a Singaporean pop star who looks a bit like a porn star. She will be famous very soon. I just met her agent, a coltish Brazilian with whom the pop star is rumored to be having a desperate affair. I must say, they don’t look like lesbians but then again what do lesbians look like?

I had lunch with them this afternoon at that Vietnamese fusion restaurant you recommended, Highway 4. We ordered a huge plate of the catfish spring rolls that far exceeded even your ravings. After lunch the pop star took me on a tour of the city, during which I witnessed people on motorbikes carting large television sets, small sofas and pig carcasses gutted, iridescent and leaking blood all over the city streets. After that impromptu tour, I was more than happy to retreat to the relative peace of my hotel, just down a shaded alley off Le Than Ton.

I did not want to get into it by phone but in case you have not picked up on it yet, I am miserable. When I got on the plane in Johannesburg, I was a bit drunk. I am surprised I was allowed onboard. I didn’t think they let intoxicated people on planes these days.

I hope to find some peace in Hanoi. I look forward to seeing this Hoan Kiem Lake you have spoken of so fondly. The river in Ho Chi Minh City, is it the Saigon? I have found to be egregious, its cesspool waters grey and putrid. I am now what I claimed I would never become: jaded and provincial. After all, I have been in Vietnam for two days and I complain. I was not in South Africa long but as you well know, I complained there too. I guess this does indeed make me jaded, provincial and certainly petulant. I escaped the States to buck these trends entirely. Mark my words: I have failed to do so and with distinction.

Maybe my mood will hit an upswing once I reach Hanoi. People keep describing it as a bustling village with lots of green space, quite unlike Ho Chi Minh City. I hope I find these assertions true. It sounds like I might very well find some of Duras’ charm in a place like this.

Back to the Singaporean. She showed up for our meeting in a periwinkle tank top, tiny denim shorts and skyscraper heels, a la racy American pop star. During lunch her nipples raised to the surface of her t-shirt like the pursed lips of tiny fish. I thought of you as I observed this. She is the type who would enthusiastically sit for one of your portraits.

With love,

Sophie

P.S. I am due to arrive in Hanoi at two o’clock on Sunday. I have booked a room at the hotel you recommended in the city center. At eight o’clock, I shall meet you on the terrace of its famed Bamboo Bar, the one you say will remind me of a posh African restaurant. I do not think this is a good thing. I should not have to remind you, I came here to forget Africa.

 

 

From: Vincent Lee to Sophie Rowe

Subject: The Singaporean Pop Star, the Brazilian, the Fish

Thursday, 14 June 2006

6:21 p.m.

 

Sophie,

God, you do sound miserable. It sounds like you need a break. You’ve been through a lot and Saigon can be a tough adjustment.

As for Vietnam, I think you’re the only one holding on tight to Duras’ rendition, but at least you’re not like the Americans who think of Vietnam as a war, not a country. I’ll stop now. I won’t complain about Americans. It would be a bit like you complaining about South Africans.

Yes, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Hermes, Saigon is full of all that shit and I hate it. I’m still working in Seoul two weeks out of the month. Then I come back to Hanoi, to settle into my father’s studio in the Old Quarter. It’s a dilapidated French villa, sectioned off into apartments. It’s a great place to paint. The light during the afternoon is fantastic. Hanoi is exactly as I described it. We’ll go down to the lake just like we did that fall I came to San Francisco and we just walked around the city and talked in the rain.

As for the pop star, I’ve googled her. You’re right. I’m salivating. Nipples like the pursed lips of fish? Really, Sophie that is ridiculous. As far as the secret lesbian relationship with the Brazilian, what man wouldn’t love that?

The Bamboo Bar, Sunday at eight and yes, it will remind you of a posh place in Cape Town or Nairobi or some far-flung, cool African city, sorry but it’s true.

With love (whatever that means),

Vincent

 

From: Sophie

To: Vincent

84.4 434 621988

15 June 2006 4:28 p.m.

Just met a jazz singer from NYC. She sings at the Bamboo Bar. Told her we may be there tonight. Maybe we’ll get a chance to hear her sing.

 

From: Vincent

To: Sophie

84.4 334 718655

15 June 2006 4:37 p.m.

Ok. Sounds great. Can’t wait to see you.

 

 

From: Sophie Rowe to Vincent Lee

Monday, 16 June 2006

10:13 a.m.

Subject: About Last Night

V–

It was wonderful to see you last night. As for this hotel, it is absolutely lovely. I never want to leave. I will see Lili again soon. I guess I should stop calling her the pop star. She does indeed have a name. I have asked her to meet me for breakfast tomorrow morning. She travels back and forth between Singapore and Saigon. She is, rather shockingly, the daughter of an esteemed classical pianist and a Taiwanese politician. Interesting family back-story. I am due to shoot her in one of those lavish upstairs suites, beloved by Queen Noor, Catherine Deneuve and Angelina Jolie. Apparently if one is some sort of dignitary or actress, the Metropole is definitely the place to be.

Back to last night: sitting across from one another, catching up in person was great. All of our usual territories were mapped out, covered. The only thing that shocks is the curiously blank canvas of your love life. I’ll expect some eventual details. Speaking of love life, or should I say potential love life, not long after you left this Russian gentleman arrived at our table. He simply walked up and introduced himself. I must admit he seems interesting. He spoke at length about architecture, urban planning, emerging markets. It was difficult to pin him down on the specifics of his employ. He will be in Vietnam indefinitely. I saw a ring on his finger. I assume he is married. Would you speak to me again if I told you I agreed to get together with him?

You are in Seoul at the moment. I wish you weren’t. I really wish you hadn’t rushed away for another one of your commissions, but you always were a workaholic.

On to other things, did you hear about the death of that stunning actress from Seoul? You know the amazing Korean girl who committed suicide? I have no idea why, but it seems if you are beautiful and young and rich and Korean, it is suddenly in vogue to kill yourself.

Was I ever reduced to thoughts of suicide at twenty? Fortunately, or shall I say unfortunately those did not come until far later. At twenty I was terrified of not making it to Monaco. I wanted to visit the Monte Carlo cemetery where Josephine Baker was buried. I wanted to figure out a way to be both an actress and a writer. I had a lot of ideas about how my life would be. I imagined I would live in New York City and somewhere around the age of twenty-eight, marry a man far older than myself. At twenty you confused me endlessly. You walked up to me in Golden Gate Park. You told me you were from France but you spoke English with a seamless American accent that you claimed to have picked up courtesy of an American school. You said your mother was from New England and claimed she met your Vietnamese father as a student in Paris. After we had walked along for some time, rambling on about God knows what, you pulled a battered copy of Malady of Death from your backpack and insisted that I read it. You introduced me to Madeleine that afternoon and the two of you took me to an old art house cinema to see Krzysztof Kieslowski’s ‘The Double Life of Veronique.’ I thought you were the most fascinating person I had ever met. I never imagined all these years later we would be meeting up in of all places, Vietnam.

I must go. The Russian has phoned three times during the course of this email and I have failed to pick-up. Mio Dio, he is insistent. If I don’t respond soon, he may soon be at my door.

Yours as always, Sophie.

 

I.S.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Second Week of July 2014

    Time for another random posting. These should perhaps be more regular but I generally post when there is something significant that I’ve been writing about or thinking about. This post will include a bit of both.

  It is past midnight, the early hours of the 7th of July. I’ve been in Germany for roughly a year and a half. With the exception of few short trips to Switzerland and a retreat to Illinois to see my grandparents, I’ve been in Berlin rather continuously. This state of relative geographic inertia is most unusual for me. I can’t say it’s good or bad. But I have begun to grow a bit restless. I’m thinking about that which I need in order to write both prolifically and well. My best writing has taken place near bodies of water: the seaside or ocean, rivers, lakes. Growing up in a port city allowed me to cultivate an appreciation for large bodies of water. This was one of the things I loved about Turin. I liked standing on the bridges which overlooked the river Po. In Hanoi I was drawn to Hoan Kiem lake, its moss green waters. These days the river Spree has served as a fine substitute.

  The past few days have been challenging ones. The apartment is full of people courtesy of my flatmate’s out of town guests. In an effort to secure some mental space, I’ve resumed running and too, disembarked to various places around the city in which to write. The small park outside the Neues Museum has served me well. I’ve revised several more of the novel chapters. I’ve also changed the title of the book. Last month, on my birthday, the day before the Summer Solstice, I came up with the new title. I won’t reveal it on my blog just yet but I’m pleased with the change. The title is philosophical in nature and speaks to the unusual structure of the book which is non-linear in narrative presentation.

  I’m making further preparations to get this draft of the novel out and see what might come of it. In the meantime, I’m reading, writing, waiting.

  Oh, I shouldn’t neglect to note, I received a message that I’d been mentioned in a tweet by Sam Rasnake, the founding editor of the BLUE FIFTH REVIEW. He was asked who his favorite women writers are on Twitter and mentioned me along with: Diann Blakely, Helen Moat, Rose Auslander, Terri Lee Kline, Mara Buck, Laurie Kolp, Amy Billone and Terri Kirby Erickson. I’m in good company and really appreciate the consideration.

  I’m including a link to Sam’s profile on the Blue Fifth Review: http://bluefifthreview.wordpress.com/editors/

  I.S.

Cafe Writing and King Njoya

 

   

My maternal grandfather's grandmother, Susan Box

Susan Box, circa late 1890s

 

    WordPress has been down the last few days. I’ve attempted to do numerous posting without success. I hope this morning marks the day of a turn-around. My best efforts to get new writing up have been thwarted for technical reasons.

    This weekend I met Billy for coffee at a restaurant-bar in Mitte. We hadn’t gone out for coffee in awhile. So it was good to update one another, discuss our latest work and projects. He’s just completed a treatment for a film set in Cameroon during the German colonial period. It’s a historical drama with a potentially wonderful lead for a good German actress. A Swiss director has signed on to the project. The last time Billy and I met socially, we went out for lunch with the director who flew in from Geneva. I remember when Billy first started writing the treatment for the Cameroonian project. He handed me a sheaf of notes which comprised the beginning and asked me to review a fantastic series of images of the Cameroonian royal family who governed during the late nineteenth to early twentieth century.

Cameroonian King Njoya in Prussian unoform

Cameroonian King Njoya in Prussian uniform

    It was interesting to look at the images. I’ve never spent any time in West Africa. My only time on the continent was during my year in South Africa. I’m firmly American – for better or for worst. When Germans or other Europeans inquire about my origins, they are surprised to learn my family has been in the United States for the past 400 years. We’re of West African, British and Native American ancestry. The above picture is of my grandfather’s grandmother, a Choctaw Indian. Her name was Susan Box and pictures of her and my grandparent’s other Indian ancestors from the early twentieth century are posted on the various walls of my grandparents’ home. According to Henry Louis Gates, a literary critic, historian and scholar, an estimated 5% of the black American population actually have significant amounts of American Indian ancestry.

    Back to the meeting with Billy. Back to the cafe. Our chat was a good one. We used to hang out at that cafe last summer, go there to write weekly. At the time he was editing my novel and I was writing new chapters – mainly the epilogue on which the treatment to the film is based. This weekend we laughed a lot because we each remembered that we spent a good portion of our writing time embroiled in debate, sometimes shouting at one another across tables when we couldn’t agree on a scene, certain wordage, a particular character. Several times diners at nearby tables actually moved away from us. Those were ridiculously productive and fun times. Now we’re each in the midst of new projects. He’s hard at work on the West African project. I’m trying to put the pieces together of my first film treatment and a potential screenplay. Each of which strike me as woefully intimidating. The novel was relatively easy to write in comparison.

    I’m posting no fiction today. For the moment, I’m just posting photographs.

I.S.

Quote

W.H. Auden

Wystan Hugh Auden[1] (/ˈwɪstən ˈhjuː ˈɔːdən/;[2] 21 February 1907 – 29 September 1973), who published as W. H. Auden, was an Anglo-American poet, born in England, later an American citizen, and is regarded by many critics as one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. His work is noted for its stylistic and technical achievement, its engagement with moral and political issues, and its variety in tone, form and content. The central themes of his poetry are love, politics and citizenship, religion and morals, and the relationship between unique human beings and the anonymous, impersonal world of nature.   Wikipedia

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It’s Saturday evening and I’m watching a documentary on W.H. Auden. I’m doing so because I recently began reading Auden’s poetry and exploring various aspects of his life. Why this sudden interest? I was inspired by a poem I recently fell in love with. The title? “Roman Wall Blues”. A guilty pleasure of mine is watching BBC docudramas. They have a brilliant series on ancient Rome called “Critical Moment Ancient Rome – The Rise and Fall of an Empire” which is most engaging, the acting is very, very good. My favorite is on Julius Caesar (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lfKwywgs1g4). Due to the fact that I’m thinking about both Auden and these moments in ancient Roman history, I’m posting Auden’s “Roman Wall Blues”.

ROMAN WALL BLUES

Over the heather the wet wind blows,
I’ve lice in my tunic, a cold in my nose.

The rain comes pattering out of the sky,
I’m a Wall soldier, I don’t know why.

The mist creeps over the hard grey stone,
My girl’s in Tungria; I sleep alone.

Aulus goes hanging around her place,
I don’t like his manners, I don’t like his face.

Piso’s a Christian, he worships a fish;
There’d be be no kissing if he had his wish.

She gave me a ring but I diced it away;
I want my girl and I want my pay.

When I’m a veteran with only one eye
I shall do nothing but look at the sky.

W.H. Auden

I.S.

CO-INCIDENCE: TWO EVENTS UNEXPECTEDLY HAPPEN AT THE SAME TIME: Coincidence/Luck/Accident/Chance/Fluke/Twist of Fate

     I’m posting one of the final chapters of my novel today. The idea of fate and destiny are themes the late Polish filmmaker, Krzysztof Kieslowski (the trilogy Blue, White, Red) drew upon in his films. He wrote of the unseen threads which connect people. The idea of meetings and events being pre-destined. I experimented with this theme in my novel. At the time I wrote this story, it was important for me to compartmentalize certain aspects of life and assign them meaning. Even if those ‘meanings’ might never be validated. Human beings are natural story-tellers. We each have the desire to speak of certain aspects of personal histories, perhaps in an effort to allow for some sort of rationale…

     Along with this novel chapter, I’m including this 20 minute clip from a documentary on Kieslowski featuring the sensitive, eloquent and astute commentary of Annette Insdorf, a film studies professor at Columbia University and a connoisseur of Kieslowski’s work (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJhx4XGz6Jc). Insdorf wrote a book on the filmmaker entitled DOUBLE LIVES, SECOND CHANCES which I highly recommend.

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CO-INCIDENCE: TWO EVENTS UNEXPECTEDLY HAPPEN AT THE SAME TIME: Coincidence/Luck/Accident/Chance/Fluke/Twist of Fate

     They were foreigners, each of them in Krakow. This is the story, which is told, whispered. It is said that each of them were driven there by an inexplicable confluence of events. There are those who claim that forces unseen may have driven them together but what of that which comprises the mysterious confluence of events, what of that which comprises the coming together? After college she left for Europe. She left a town filled with farms and factories. On a whim, she made her way to France. She went to Paris. She tried her hand at modeling there. Unsuccessful, she left the City of Light. She traveled around Central Europe: Prague, Budapest, Berlin. Eventually she made her way to Krakow. She took a job at a small school in the city. She took a job teaching English there.

      As for him, the soon-to-be lover, He traveled frequently for business. He was alternately in Durban, in Shanghai, in Pune. This time He is in Krakow. How does the meeting occur? What is the unlikely and unexpected event that drives the two together? This is what happens: one evening she is standing on the sidewalk just beyond His hotel. She is waiting for a taxi. This is the place where He first sees her. The second time He sees her, the occasion on which they actually meet, the occasion on which they actually speak, happens in a medieval-themed restaurant. It happens exactly one week after He sees her for the first time. It is in a medieval themed restaurant where the soon-to-be-lovers first speak.

      She was seated. She was seated with a friend, a fellow teacher whose movements were slow, like those of large underwater sea creatures. She and the friend, this girl of enormous stature, they were seated at a table. They were laughing. They were giddy after having drunk far too much Polish wine: warm, dark, sweet and spiced with cinnamon. They had just walked in from the English language bookstore on 4 Felicjanek Street*. Now they are at this restaurant. He is there. He happens to be seated there at the dinner hour. Each are seated at tables in the medieval-themed restaurant, the medieval-themed restaurant not far from His hotel.

      Like the Russian will do some years later, He will confess. He will confess this was not His first sighting of her. However, unlike the Russian, He does not spy her within the opening pages of a magazine nor does He spy her at the registration desk of a boutique hotel. He spots her on the street in front of His hotel. This sighting is far less glamorous. Social position dictates that she has never seen the likes of a hotel such as the one on Slawkowska Street. Though in later years, hotels across Europe, Africa and Asia will rival the hotel on Slawkowska Street, yet the hotel on Slawkowska Street will remain the harbinger of her most majestic memories.

     She wants to know. She wants to know the details of His first sighting of her. He tells her it occurred the week previous. That evening she had been waiting for a taxi. He had just disembarked from a taxi. He had paid the driver and walked in from the briskly falling snow into the heated interior of the hotel. As He sat alone in the bar of the hotel restaurant, the restaurant designed to resemble the rich interiors of the Czartoryski Palace, He looked up and saw her through a picture window. He said she was standing at the taxi stand, the same taxi stand where He was dropped off an hour earlier. She was standing, juxtaposed against the falling snow and soft darkness.

      Upon first sight of me, through that hotel bar window, He said wanted to go to where I was. Impulsively He attempted to do so. He made His way from the bar into the hotel lobby. He paced the labyrinth corridors of His mind. A sudden rush of emotions bewildered him. What emotions, how might He categorize, define the emotions which overwhelmed Him? He said He was not certain. He went outside, just beyond the hotel entrance doors, in hopes of clearing His mind, in hopes of getting a closer glimpse of me. I was standing there, He said, seemingly, unperturbed by the cold, nonchalant. As He watched me, He felt an anxiety-driven need to smoke, though the anxiety proved fleeting, still, He managed to rationalize, the nicotine might serve to restore His equilibrium. He had hoped a cigarette might stave off the odd sense of vertigo He had begun to feel. Perhaps it would give him the necessary impetus to determine what to say. Resolved, He reached for his lighter. By the time He touched the lighter’s orange flame to the tip of His cigarette, a taxi pulled up alongside me. Opening its door, I started to climb inside. He looked on, helpless and then watched as a sudden gust of blustery wind caught my red scarf in the air. He watched my outstretched hand catch the tail of it and before He knew it, I had departed.

      That night, back in the hotel restaurant dining room He sat over a meal of kluskie slaskie, dumplings served in a rich beef sauce. In the tradition of Poles he had a glass of vodka. Afterwards He remembered drinking a coffee as a somewhat mournful Arthur Rubenstein melody was played by a group of young pale-faced men who composed a string quartet.

      At the moment of her departure that evening, the black sky seemed to soften to violet. As she climbed into the taxi, as if on cue, the snow, which had been falling, shifted to hail. In the restaurant as He slowly ate his meal, pellets of melancholic ice fell from the sky. One week later, at the medieval-themed restaurant, when He would see her again it would be hailing too. In this, their story, the hail is the portent. The hail is the symbol that they were each marionettes brought together by forces beyond themselves.

      As He watched her standing on that sidewalk, waiting for that taxi, a part of His soul remembered her. It was not the face. It was not the features nor was it the comportment of the body. It was not the physical incarnation, instead it was the sense He had upon first sight of her. A small part of Him remembered their buried histories amongst strange and ancient worlds. Their childhood hands linked in matrimony, their innocent foreheads pressed together, He remembered a time when it was just the two of them.

I.S.