Wednesday, May 25, 2011

the dust in the corners of my mind

I have been wandering around my head for the past few hours, trippped up by the ethics of the atomic bomb and women's role in revolutions. I wanted to write something about Milan Kundera, who is never far from my thoughts, and I wanted to explain how I don't have an ethnic identity but I can feel a heritage, a stereotype, a stencil fitting over my skin and self. But all that is too hard when I have no sense of bien dans sa peau, so instead, I present a joke, from Milan Kundera

A Czech requests a visa to emigrate.
The official asks him, ''Where do you want to go?''
''It doesn't matter,'' the man replies.
He is given a globe.
''Please, choose.''

The man looks at the globe, turns it slowly and says, ''Don't you have another globe?''

Well, don't you?

(joke from here)

(to clarify, because i had a gigantic freak out on the train home - this is not a racist joke. it isn't intended as such. it is an example of what Kundera calls "the Prague spirit" which is "an extraordinary sense of the real. The common man's point of view. History seen from below. A provocative simplicity. A genius for the absurd. Humour with infinite pessimism", which he explains in that interview. Got it? Good. Now, go find me a new globe)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Loneliness of the Long Distance House Sitter // IN THREES

So it turns out that I am a social creature. One never would have guessed it. This is something I had to hear from my brother. With only 294 words left to write on my essay on intelligentsia and state-socialism, I have realised that my thesis statement rings true for me. Just as the intelligentsia can never be separate from state-socialism, neither can I. Despite living under a democracy. Don't ruin the neatness of my intellectual epiphany.

I have been living in Leichhardt now for a month, looking after a dog and two cats. There is another five weeks to go. One of the cats, Fat Vivian, took an immediate dislike to me. The other is just a paranoid idiot. The dog eats the kitty litter, and about half an hour ago, she bit me. Hard enough to bruise, not bleed. I responded by sitting down and crying like a two year old. Unlike the two year old, my mummy couldn't come to rescue me. All that was there to comfort me was a near-complete, utterly dodgy essay and the new Wild Beasts album. Desolate and despairing, I dry heaved.

This is not quite how I imagined my year was going to be. I had plans, I had theories, I had something brilliant on the tip of my tongue. Instead, I am whinging and whining, I am moving in triplicate. I am saying "I AM I AM I AM" and spending my nights awake.

My mind races with these 'white people problems'. My mind throbs with the problem of speaking for others - I will never be a subaltern, I will never have my voice taken from me - even if it is taken, I will still have had a chance at speaking. So why should a dog bite and a dodgy essay cause me more grief than usual?

Because it is only me here. Boring little me. Little me who thinks in threes, like most people do. I read something about that the other day - I think it was AA Gill who said we speak in iambic pentameter, we think in threes. Like Roman triumvirates. Like Caesar, Pompeii, Crassus. Octavian, Antony, Lepidus. Jeremy, Claudia, Madeleine.

There are four of us in this house. A Fat Cat, a paranoid cat, a dodgy dog and me. Four, not three. That's probably why I feel so stuck in a Smiths song, devoid of Morrissey-ian humour. Why I managed to get interested briefly in Czechoslovakia, before I realised how twisted everything is, how inseparable. All I really wanted was to write about Milan Kundera turning his back on a failed socialist dream, not how they all clamoured at Novotny to give them something, anything, that tasted of pure socialism.

In class, I have a mouth that runs like a long distance runner, desperate to make noise that is heard. In class, people are confused - is she a genuine idiot, or an idiot savant? What is her deal with Kundera and Forster? In class, there is so much potential that I find slipping through my fingers. It makes me want to cry, the way I did when the dog bit me.

oh god, this is the worst thing ever. but i wanted to make some noise. any noise. white noise.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

frankenstein's maddie

At the urging of the universe, I went back to university for my final undergrad year. I promptly fell into a term long argument with Henry James*, rediscovered my interest in Indo-Anglo writing**, managed my usual schtick of writing a history essay on something that 'not really historical' *** and fell in love with Eastern Europe****.

Before that I went to Vienna, where this happened.

And then I came home, where this happened.

And now? Well now I am Frankenstein's Maddie, a patchwork of tea consumption, historical generalisations and a marked distaste for Socialist-Christian-Marxists. I am reading too many things with too many words and I am thinking alot about silences. I also work at a place patronised by retirees who have nothing better to do than tell me about how my generation is an evolutionary cul-de-sac.

*based mainly on his hatred for Germany
**and the politics surrounding Indo-Anglo writing - should people write in English? What's magic realism got to do with it? Are we all colonialist pigs?!
***I'm writing a treatise (yes, a treatise) on the importance of American Jazz in WW2 Europe. It's awesome and going to send me to an early grave.
****not really a hardship, seeing as Berlin and Vienna, and now Prague are my three favourite places ever, and grumpy intellectuals like Kundera and Milosz are my role models.