Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Terminal Zwei

Very occasionally you come across a first novel that is breathtakingly brilliant. Which is always slightly unencouraging: you will reluctantly google the author to see his/her age at the time of publishing. It is different with mucisians, painters, mathematicians (I claim unfairly): you can see it as a freak of nature, a narrow skill taken to extremes, but literature is different, wider, universal. You think to yourself that no-one should have that wide a scope that young, you are amazed and envious...

This happened today with Jennifer Egan's first publication: The Invisible Circus. Such a mature text and technique, experienced and wise beyond years. Naturally there are some obvious flaws there but what comes across is a cool but fierce assessment of life and history, life in history. It is this combination that lifts the text far above the usual sensitive comedies and tragedies of manner: a private story in the felt context of history, of time. Another striking thing effortlessly portrayed, sensually and analytically, was the physical dimension, manifestation of falling in love - a thing exceedingly rarely well described without any sentimentality or unreality. Astonishing achievement by an author so young.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Being lost in Espoo without anyone missing

After a fun party with fun people, it seemed like a sentimental indulgence to let one remember that it was not the first time to have been drunk and lost on those streets. Then again, it felt not that indulgent, nor sentimental to remember the difference between those times and this. And after that realization the young carefree people on the selfsame streets in the soft fall night did not feel so carefree at all, and pity and compassion seemed just as appropriate emotions as envy.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Remembering friends and lovers

I guess no-one ever seriously entertains the thought of growing old and weary. Nevertheless, uncared by our variously uncaring fates, we do grow old and weary. But it in itself never doesn't change the fact of once having been generous and gentle, among people generous and gentle. It feels like a very significant thing indeed to be able to recollect this fact.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A rose by any other name

Even before Rheinland, sorry, Crimea was annexed with the support of 107% of the Reichstag, sorry, Duma, I was rather flabbergasted at the turn towards crazily chauvinistic nationalism that the Putin cleptocracy, sorry, administration had taken - see the link:

Stalin's willing executioners

But after this latest shameless aggression it has become much harder to think that up to now the rather accurate "cleptocracy" lable is all there is to the story: what else is this militarism and revanchism and increasingly brutal oppression of dissidents, but the actual thing - fascism? It really seems that the 1930's have come again, and no, not as a farce.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Not as a farce

Though there are farcical aspects to the EU:s current 1930's re-enactment project: the ingenious and utterly mad way to circulate money via Greece (like a patient etherised upon a table) in a never ending vicious circle comes to mind. But it is no laughing matter: people suffer and many, probably most, suffer needlessly. I would not have thought this level of incompetence and cynicism possible (and I have witnessed George W. Bush's both administrations), but possible it is, and the grand (if overly bureaucratic and pompous) Franco-German European project lies in ruins.

And Germany really seems hell bent on destroying Europe's economy in every couple of generations - this hysterical, vindictive, sadistic, petty-bourgeois narrow mindedness (not to speak of amazing hypocrisy and dishonesty - whose banks were actually saved??) is indeed as far removed from Keynes as you can humanly be without having panzers involved. Maddening times with nothing learned either from history or macro economics.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

That element of tragedy

Frequently, one has to admit, I am at loss at the idea that one could have genuinely christian-humanist values in this world and somehow live unperturbedly, morally. As every bloody second is a holocaust here: the weak, the innocent, the powerless are horribly, cruelly unjustly tormented every bloody second here. So, we, most of us, actually live here coarsened, hardened, frightened, without a shread of nobility, of any righteousness.

Friday, May 01, 2015

From here to eternity

I have referred several times to that ridiculously preposterous and great concept of Spinoza: under that unalterable view we do dwell here. And don't - in the last analysis we are not able, not capable, we do not ever reach those inhumane altitudes. And even with this certain knowledge, this experience of not ever being able, we still will try: the most futile, the most essential of our human endeavours.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Love can transpose

I think I grow increasingly tired: the landscapes surely shift slower by each year. And still, there is nothing to gainsay the freshest first glimpse into this world - it is ever beautiful still. And ever cruel, heedless. What we have of ourselves is love and literature, feeling and fancy, situation and aspiration. A sweet torment and a most savage, deadly, killing torment. Ever poised, serious and light hearted, us humans here.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The first days are the hardest days

Life surely is a strange, strange experience: we are thrown into this wildly unsafe world without any serious bearings. Well, mostly we are, and if not, the serious bearings will turn out to be woundingly misleading and fundamentally unserious. But that is only ever a part of the story - we can find direction and seriousness even in this world, even if only momentarily. The first days are misleading days: we can build even on these foundations, trusting our love, our intellingence, our reason. This will be permanently so for as long as we will remain human. So, there never, logically, can be a totally hopeless understanding of the world that would simultaneously be a realistic understanding.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The great matter

It wasn't great, of course, it was sordid, several more butterflies to the wheel within the confines of a literally mad system, presided over by a literally mad king. Kings had to be exceptional not to be mad or weak or both and in that sense Henry certainly was not exceptional in his increasing detachment from reason into raving and deadly egomania.

I am re-reading Hilary Mantel's incredibly excellent account of the process. It departs probably seriously from any empirical account (we can't be totally certain as there are these huge gaps about Cromwell, but it is rather unlikely and central to the book that he would have had such an inner life and perception as Mantel provides him with). But the feel of the era, the feel of the murderous high political process of the time - they are amazingly captured, in a way no historian can, whether a good or bad historian.

The great matter is that: the way literature creates and distills meanings, shapes our human perception, captures the essence of it. Mantel's perception is scary, there is a huge intelligence there, a deep, deep understanding of history, the shape of it, the meaning of it. Literature, fiction and poetry, is truly the best we can show of ourselves.