Nowhere to hide
April 1, 2012 § Leave a comment
A day spent reading Koper on the private lives of Polish cultural elites of the interwar period: how can one not become darkly depressed? How can one not begin to feel insecure? Witkacy and Tuwim — complete madmen; Lechoń, Leśmian, Iwaszkiewicz — what miserable figures, unable to manage their lives, unable even to grasp it. The Kossak women bouncing from one accidental, bad marriage to another and somehow managing to express confidently — preposterously– views on love and life. There is a cognition problem, as if none of them quite grasped what this is all about. Schulz — ridiculous and pitiful with his ugly drawings of sexual domination — shot like a dog by one gestapo slave-owner to to spite another (“I shot your slave”). Pawlikowski-pere reading endlessly Król-Duch — I downloaded it, printed it out and could not get past page four — as clear a case of compulsive hypergraphia as I have yet seen — Poles translated Słowacki’s body from Montmartre and buried it with pomp at Wawel — Piłsudski: “He was the equal of kings” — yet one look at his portrait here is enough to see the man was misbegotten.
In fact, everywhere I turn it is the same: Guns of August terrify with the enormity of human stupidity — only 3 years before the outbreak of WWI a book was published arguing no such thing would ever take place because the costs would be ruinous — they sure were. The outbreak of the war was greeted with enthusiasm. People volunteered to die in the trenches, for Chrissake.
Elsewhere, Umberto Eco in his Six Walks draws up elaborate diagrams of Pym as hero, Pym as narrator, Pym as Pym, Pym as Poe, etc. Walser writes fifty pages of an absolutely awful logorrhea — I cannot get it through my head — what on earth was he thinking as he wrote that garbage? My mother writes me a flippant message that she is in Poland, and do I want her mobile number.
These people are all mad and there is nowhere to hide from their madness. Every book I pick up is a record of mental malfunction. Nor can one hide in art — as long as it features men: the portraits you look at are of the same people, the sort who write and read these books, who make these sorts of decisions, and who somehow understand them.