So what then is this journal all about?

September 22nd 2011

Saturday, Bucharest, Romania

N.B. The two little paragraphs below are lifted from my journal which I have oftentimes been happy to share with you. They were drafted on a pleasant September afternoon in Bucharest in 2011. I hope one day to publish it if I can manage to get it into some controllable order. Here I was struggling with the definition of the journal which is a commixture of various literary types ranging from: autobiography, to memoir, to confession, to a history of surveillance, to travel journal, to dream analysis, and to storytelling. But the real question then, as indeed still is now, what is its authentic purpose and what are my true motivations?

… … … … … … … … …

Truth is the correspondence between language and reality, a simple definition which probably sits well with most. Then what of truth in literature?[1] How are we to understand metaphor, myth, or even fairy tale for instance? Is there a better example of the evident stresses that this ‘correspondence’ will often elicit than the battle over the exegesis of the biblical account of creation in the Book of Genesis? What is the cognitive value of this universal ‘story’ and what kind of ‘truth’ is it meaning to convey? And what of the ‘spiritual truths’ put in the mouth of the Starets Zossima by Dostoevski in his masterpiece The Brothers Karamazov? Or how ‘true’ is Plato’s famous allegory of the cave? An autobiography, a memoir, a life-journal, for example, to what extent are they both literature and science? And how long does a text or document maintain a stable and determinant meaning before the deconstructionists get to it and challenge its structures and propositions? These questions became especially problematic for me from the moment I made reference to method and hence appealed to one of the great canons of science.

One way to arrive at some kind of practical resolution is to think in terms of context.[2] In this specific instance the style and genre framing the journal (whether the narrative as a whole or its smaller constituent parts), would determine the exegetical approach that the reader is being asked to follow in the quest to interpret the text. That would assume, of course, that we have come to some agreement as to what we mean by text in the first place![3] As a case in point, it could mean that if the author makes reference to a “dream” then it is a “dream” and not a “vision”, this might seem to be a subtle distinction for some, but in-between a dream and a vision lies another world. So when Samuel Johnson writes “[t]he value of every story depends on it being true”,[4] it all comes down to how we comprehend ‘story’ and what we expect each time we turn the first page of a book. From the moment I reference this document as a life-journal the reader comes to it with certain well founded expectations. First of all, that it is a ‘true story’ which can be tested and weighed up against its fundamental expositions and that it is not a work of fiction (though there might be elements of fiction scattered throughout, i.e. segments of ‘magical realism’).

[1] https://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/truth-lies-and-literature

[2] https://www.etymonline.com/word/context

[3] http://kontur.au.dk/fileadmin/www.kontur.au.dk/OLD_ISSUES/pdf/kontur_07/jan_ifversen.pdf

[4] https://books.google.com.au/books?id=GFtVAAAAcAAJ&pg=PA61&lpg=PA61&dq

Walkabout in Geneva

Geneva, Switzerland

Café de Paris; Hotel Cristal; Genѐve-Cornavin Railway Station; a little girl on crutches chasing after the chocolate wrapper; a man with a huge bag carrying the stories from the night before; a woman smiling into her mobile twirling her black hair; the Holy Mother sculpted from granite is interceding for me; her Only-Begotten carved from fine wood afloat in mid-air; a homeless angel with a yellow scarf sleeping beneath the pew; not long from now one of us will be dead; I was here three decades ago when I would consume Him; let go, Michael, let go; you hear me, let go, Jeremiah, let go; who is eating the flowers; Edelweiss; leaflets in the shape of stars; beware of the pickpockets; lost and found; an angel searching for his wings; an old woman ferrying a broken pram with a blue wedding dress; please, I am still waiting; Pauline always replies even as she orbits the earth; Tchaikovsky’s letters from fevered rooms and anticipating cities; “Once I was seven years old” (Lukas Graham); happy birthday dear Father beneath the earth; Fauré’s Requiem in D minor; a man with an umbrella hanging from his back is riding a scooter; a young man with big eyes is arguing with the mischievous Cupid; Lac Léman is undulating like Rilke beneath the surface of things; will they be interested in what I have to say; they will not stop that which is soon to come; the second death as unexpected as a spider’s web around your left ear; it is getting dark and pieces of water are starting to break; two silver bicycles tied to a light post; “Bicycle Thieves” (Vittorio De Sica); “Seven Samurai” (Akira Kurosawa); “A movie as rich as a buttered steak topped with grilled eel” (a discerning critic); a man and a woman outside are exchanging photos which will prove them wrong in the morning; Harry Chapin and Bob Dylan; story tellers and word painters; a little bird nested on my laptop; Icarus flew too close to the truth; the flying trapeze tricks and catches; 1234, 12, 1234, 12…; OCD the disease of the prophets reminding us of the return; Arrivée; Départ; Place de Cornavin; Rue des Alpes; a bald Chinaman; a blackbird resting on the balcony; a bouncy girl with bumped up ponytails is on the look-out for the old woman with the pram; Thomas Aquinas the simplicity of God; Beethoven loved poets; Irina Ratushinskaya’s old parrot wanted “to swear in every language known to man”; TinTin was here; more homeless angels with baseball caps; “Knowledge can be communicated, but not wisdom” (Siddhartha, H.H.); John Calvin; Karl Barth; Hans Küng; the sounds of a didjeridu; music will remain free but there will be a cost to water; seventy-three of the Psalms are attributed to King David; equality and upward mobility the great paradox; save the middle-class; it is very cold and the nose is running; stories written on shivering skins; I should buy a scarf this morning; the great trees of Notre Dame; Hermann Hesse and Patrick White venerated trees; “Giant Trees of Switzerland” (Michel Brunner); every day twenty two thousand children day from preventable pathologies; quantum mechanics and the smallest unit of time; the age of irreversible innovation; Famous Fresh Baguettes; EdelWeiss Shop; Swiss Watches; booming sales of advertising; Facebook profits surge; Google air balloon Wi-Fi hot spots over parched land; A Father walking with his Son who has a bent back; Jean Dubuffet Métamorphoses du paysage; a woman on the corner waiting for a book; I saw you many years ago in Zermatt outside the bakery; a little boy with winter gloves drinking hot chocolate; “Old man look at me now I’m a lot like you were” (Neil Young); did anyone enjoy the Joe Cocker post; the prophetic insights of Pink Floyd; Sachin Tendulkar does not like Greg Chappell; the umpire’s finger will eventually go up; howzattt; your love dripping down my right shoulder like scalding water; yes, Katina, tear open the envelope; it probably has to do with the little stories from Saigon; Jorge Luis Borges is waiting; tronc pour les fleurs; Ave Maria; La basilique Notre-Dame; I have to go to the post office; Rue du Mont-Blanc; Victorinox is everywhere; I wish I didn’t have to do this; I can’t speak without notes anymore; I only want to collect words and images; “We drilled with wooden rifles” (W.H. Auden); the Venus of Brassempouy; on the tusks of elephants an infallible biography; demand for ivory for piano keys; sucre.cannelle; nutella.banane; Grand Marnier; an angel with long hair and a leather jacket recognizes me and points to the post office; he gives me my ticket; I am writing postcards; keep walking else you will get lost; next to me two friends sharing a joke; a man with a groomed moustache enjoying a beer; a teenage runaway missing two fingers is filling his pockets with milk and sugar; rises in quarterly revenue people dying of hunger; slavery on the rise in the supply chain; human rights versus computer rights; 1234 12 1234 12…; nose bleed last night; dear Jesus how did I get here; the Panopticon; George Orwell; Uberveillance; a man far away from home is playing the harp; a woman lost on the streets nearby is brushing her hair and screaming; a blind man stops to listen; Agnus Dei choral music; help us all dear God; convection another name for thunder storms; Läderdach chocolates; I skipped breakfast this morning; the food industry; “Death in Venice” (Thomas Mann); “Death by Internet” (Joe Cavalko); death by degrees; Michael Eldred introducing Plato to the Blues; B.B. King buried with Lucille; Ray Charles swinging the ivory like on a trapeze; Billy Holliday Ripe Fruit; Consuelo Velasquez Bésame Mucho; Dalida Je suis malade; a man speaking with his mouth agape; an old man with a white ponytail and beard pointing to his walking stick; a couple with their little daughter in the shopping trolley next to the detergents; two women carrying shopping bags see me transcribing them into history; nothing is insignificant all acts touch upon the eternal; “Sonata Mulattica: A Life in Five Movements and a Short Play” (Rita Frances Dove); tomorrow I leave for the Inter Continental; conferences will not change the world; love and destruction change the world; the Apocalypse of John; thanks for the adaptor Charlie; the remote control never works the first time; the body sinks into the bath where for a minute it must drown; “Let us go then, you and I, When the evening is spread out against the sky...” (Prufrock, T.S. Eliot); a tall man with an ill-fitting suit smiles at me; I catch a glimpse of myself on the glass where the colourful balls are; where have I been all these years; like the “five star” squatters in Mozambique; the four men next to me discussing the ‘miracle’ of Leicester have left; the tall man with ill-fitting suit has returned with a young child to buy a red and blue ball; a woman opposite me has fitted her star-studded sunglasses into her hair; a quarter of a century ago she would have cast a furtive glance my way; “I want to eat the sunbeams flaring in your beauty” (Pablo Neruda); I will never get this talk down to three minutes; but I can get it down to three words; surveillance kills context; I miss you Father; old men are as prone to clichés as the hair growing out of their ears; “When you are old and grey and full of sleep, And nodding by the fire…” (When You are Old, W.B. Yeats); the tooth hurts poison seeping into the jaw; another nose bleed; all pain is childbirth; a young woman carrying flowers and apples; Saint Catherine of Siena Giovanni Battista Tiepolo; hullo Katherine Albrecht all will be well; Palais des Nations; the Broken Chair; Cathédrale Saint-Pierre; Jardin Anglais; Avenue Giuseppe Motta; Rue du Rhone; Quai Wilson; Bongo Joe Records; Bon Génie; ICT Discovery; The Art and History Museum; 1234 12 1234 12…; Aleppo cries tonight; baby girl rescued in Kenya from beneath the rubble; authoritarian populism on the rise in America; Pindar already speaks of animated figures; “they appear to breathe in stone” and “move their marble feet”; see Michael Crichton’s Westworld “where nothing possibly can go wrong”; “Car 54, Where Are You”; the great late Fred Gwynne; The Munsters; Bus No. 5; where did the hours ago; packing almost done; airports; cemeteries; the late evening resurrection; Flight EK 414L; Seat 61D; home sweet home.