A tale of two cities

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A walk in a park, and a reading of Vasily Grossman inspired those lines.

There is the city by the wide river, beyond it there is only the immense steppe, to the sea. There was a turning point, they say, a combat of titans.

Here, the river is slow and narrow, feeling its way to the Elbe. There are, all around, woods and and lakes: water reigns. I walk those streets, haunt those memorials, read the grafiti on the walls of the Reichstag, carefully preserved, that remind us of those who walked all the way from the city by the wide river, to meet their fate here.

I live here, and think constantly of the long road, from the shore of the Volga.

Image: Soviet War Memorial, Schönholzer Heide, Berlin

 

The violin

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She appears suddenly, soon swept away by the camera, behind the violoncellists. Even at a live concert, he has difficulties in seeing her more than fleetingly. Yet he knows her face, a medieval beauty, inspired, aloof, as if out of a distant past. He basked in the symphonic beauty, Tchaikovsky, Alban Berg, Mahler… She’s there, not all the time, over the years she appears not to have changed much. Is she a spirit? Is she the soul of the orchestra? When did he notice her first?

Lost in a dream, he listens, enthralled, expecting an angel to appear.

Untouchable

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I remember the first months in the city, I was puzzled by people wearing black, as if in mourning. Months and years passed. Slowly, I wore darker clothes, without knowing why. Not only during the grey season, all the time.

Did I forget Spring would come, clearer skies? Did I ignore the cheerful chorus of the winged friends?

No, like so many others, as if in a dream, I became untouchable, a silent ghost, sometime observed in the deserted streets, wrapped in darkness.

On the second paradox of Zeno

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The people Marcel loves are people in motion. Like Albertine – always speeding off somewhere on a bike, on a train, in a car, on a horse or flown out of the window; like Marcel’s mother, perpetually on her way up the stairs to kiss him good night; like his grand mother, striding up and down the garden every evening for her constitutional even when it’s pouring rain; or like his friend Robert de Saint-Loup, whom we first glimpse scampering along the top of the banquette in a restaurant to fetch a coat for Marcel, who sits huddled and shivering at the table. Marcel is the still centre of all this kinetic activity, he is like the flying arrow in Zeno’s second paradox, which is shot from the bow but never arrives at its target because it does not move. Why does Zeno’s arrow not move? Because (this is Aristotle’s explanation) the motion of the arrow would be a series of instants, and at each instant the arrow fills that entire space of that instant, and this (Zeno would say) is a description of stillness. So if you add all the instants of stillness together you still get still. No one would deny that Proust’s novel streams with time, and with arrows shooting in all directions. But you could also think of the whole novel in your mind as one big stopped instant, since it takes Marcel the entire three thousand pages of the story to get around to the point of beginning to write it. On the last page he shoots his arrow but he does Zeno one better, he shoots it backwards, since you have just finished reading the novel he is proposing to write. It gives me a bit of a headache to think about Zeno and his paradoxes for very long, although I enjoy his deadpan delivery. Here is a shot of Zeno-antidote from that devoted Proust scholar, the filmmaker Chris Marker (Sans Soleil): “That is how history advances, plugging its memory as one plugs one’s ears… [but] a moment stopped would burn like a flame of film blocked before the furnace of the projector.”

From: The Albertine Workout, Copyright ©2014 Anne Carson, New Directions Poetry Pamphlet #13

Image source: The arrow

Sans Soleil

Anne Carson

On the streets #Berlin #January

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Still remnants of the past Sylvester

and dead Christmas trees

litter the streets,

grey the walls,

sad the dogs,

only the crows find cause to rejoice.

Sparrows sing, in the cold bushes.

The city, lost in a dream,

lets the clowns speak, 

ignores the lies:

she’s heard many others.

Yet Spring will come,

and the Sun will shine again on Mauerweg.

 

Image source

Encounter with an Angel, a pre-Christmas tale

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I stood waiting at the traffic lights with a few other humans, and I noticed her immediately: her posture, the recognisable signs of strength and gentleness. There are some very beautiful beings in this city, but this was enough for me to keep my eyes on her, as the traffic roared past us. She turned her head round toward me, and I saw the light in her blue eyes, and heard the melody of her voice in a concert of crystalline bells:

“You look worried, my friend, and you should not be,” said the Angel with a dazzling smile, “We know that not all is well in this world, but this is no different from all times,” she continued, as I looked at her face in awe. “Besides, there are some very good things happening, even if it is sometime difficult, for you, to recognise them. You should know that every time the Enemy scores one, We win two, sometime even three. So, please relax, and keep your faith in Her, for She won’t abandon you, however stupid you might be, most of the time.”

I was speechless. People walked around me. The lights had changed from red to green and back to red again. The Angel had gone, in a cloud of bells.

Hidden

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The little daemons I used to see, at the crossroads, or standing high up on roofs, pretending to be busy, have gone. Or, perhaps, I have stopped noticing them, or they have stopped inviting me to see them. What does it mean? Is it because the city is now used to me, no longer interested? Or is it me who is now impervious to her mysteries, unable to decipher the signs, to see through the deceptive appearance?

But they are still there, watching, without being watched. They are waiting for my next move: they have all the time, other strangers to amuse themselves with, other tricks to play on the unaware. They know that, day by day, this old man is losing strength.

Soon I will be ripe for the taking, for the offer I cannot refuse. The Master knows.

Image: Nemesis, source

Reaching #writephoto

Thursday photo prompt

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“So we are back”, you said in a tone of voice void of emotions. But I knew better: “back” meant we had failed, together, to adapt to a different life, to create the new, to be reborn. Yet this was our home, the naked ground where we belonged. Even the barren trees were part of us, a befitting reminder of the winter of our souls.

“We’ll find a ruin somewhere, do it up, settle down…” I added, hopeful.

“I love those clouds, and then I am here, still, with you!” You replied with a smile, “I thought we should never regret a failure, the important thing, was to have tried.”

“I knew you would understand,” I said, fixing you, as you were reaching for my hand, “Together we are strong, as strong as ever.”

Of a broken box and a small town

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In the past two weeks my writing output (I did not want to say “literary”) was badly affected by the collapse of my old Mac, bought in 2009. This was the tool for my writing before and after a first (disk) failure, back in 2018. I was then lucky enough to find a local expert (in Gesundbrunnen) to fix it, without loss of anything. So its life was extended by about a year. Ha! the anxiety, those precious manuscripts! I have now bitten the bullet, and got a so-called refurbished recent version of the same, so that I can now, for a while, avoid the usual trap of “too old to be updated etc.” Hence new MacOs and new virus protection. Even an updated version of Scrivener. Sigh… The “migration”, although assisted courtesy Apple™, was an experience… It’s all there as far as I have been able to ascertain, so far. I am now full of enthusiasm, and I am even considering a major reconstruction of my first novel, still languishing on the Cloud (more about this for another post).

In the meantime, on a beautiful and cool Sonntag we have discovered another treasure of Brandenburg, the town of Eberswalde. Treasure because of the location (slightly north-east of the city of Bernau by Berlin, and easily accessible with the regional train, well designed for carrying lots of bicycles), along two beautiful canals, the Finowkanal and the main Oder to Havel canal. Superb riding country, much loved by cycling enthusiasts all year round. The Finowkanal is on its length the site of magnificent industrial buildings in ruins, notably a paper mill dating back to the XVIIth century (and still working in 1991 when the vultures came in), and an electricity generation plant. This inspired me to write about it, and seek its history.

Now let’s go back to work!

Image: old paper mill in Eberswalde, source: Technikdenkmal in Eberswalde

Eberswalde bei Wikipedia.de