Zur Frage des männlichen/weiblichen „Gaze“ in der Geschichte

24 02 2012

Перевод (Ru)

Theorie der Medienanalyse spricht oft und nicht grundlos von einem gewissen Konzept: vom Gaze (Blick). In seinen „Notes on „the Gaze“ bezeichnet Daniel Chandler Gaze als einerseits eine Weise, auf die Zuschauer visuelle Kunst (d.h. Filme, Fotos, Bilder usw.) sehen und, andererseits, wie die in diesen Filmen, auf den Bildern und Fotos dargestellten Menschen zurückblicken. Man redet natürlich auch davon, dass es einen bestimmten „männlichen“, sowie einen „weiblichen“ Blick gibt, wobei das Letze eher eine Erfindung der Frauenemanzipation sei (Frauen haben begonnen, auch Männer als Objekte des Schauens zu betrachten, daher auch männliche Sorgen ums Aussehen und Befreiung der armen Frauen von dem jahrhundertelangen Joch der Objektivierung). In dieser Hinsicht werde ich dem Konzept des männlichen Blicks nicht widersprechen. Es wäre meinerseits recht unwissenschaftlich zu vermuten, dass Frauen auf mehreren klassischen Bildern (sh. unten) als keine Objekte des Schauens dienen. Aber die Vorstellung, dass Männer an sich nie Objekte waren, finde ich recht spekulativ.

Thanks http://hoydensandfirebrands.blogspot.com/2012/01/17th-century-beauty.html

Männliche Person, männlicher Körper, Wohlsein, Gesundheit und ästhetische Wert der Männlichkeit können keinesfalls Erfindungen des 20. Jahrhunderts und dessen gesellschaftlichen Umwältzungen sein. Im Gegenteil sind sie tiefst traditionell und archaisch. Ich traue mir zu vermuten, sie stammen aus unserer vorgeschichtlichen Evolution und können allein deswegen als keine viel zu neuen und „unnatürlichen“, „ungewöhnlichen“ Phänomene betrachtet werden.

Es ist durchaus möglich, dass das Begehren der Weiblichkeit (i.e. Früchtbarkeit) und eines weiblichen Körpers ein bisschen älter seien, da das Matriarchat als gesellschaftliches Modell einfach älter ist. Aber wenn wir von Altersunterschieden reden, ist unsere gesamte sapiens sapiens Zivilisation im Vergleich mit der Evolution der Menschheit so jung (nicht zu erwähnen die so genannte moderne, d.h. post-industrielle Gesellschaft, die überhaupt ca. 150 Jahre alt ist), dass es unsererseits schon recht kleinlich wäre, übers prinzipielle Dominieren des Kultus`der Weiblichkeit über den der Männlichkeit auf dem frühen Evolutionsniveau zu sprechen. Sagen wir mal, die Wandlung vom Matriarchat zum Patriarchat ist zu früh vorgekommen, um uns die Polemik über Genderrepräsentation auf diesem Entwicklungsstadium zuzulassen.

Wo man wie wir es schon oben erwähnt haben weibliche Früchtbarkeit, die Mütterlichkeit begehrte, gab es auch Platz der Verehrung der klassisch männlichen Funktionen und Eigenschaften: man sprach vom einem Mann als Jäger, Kämpfer gegen die feindliche Natur, Sieger über deren Kräfte.

Es war einmal modisch, die Ursprünge der europäischen Zivilisation in der antiken Welt zu finden (ich sage nicht „nach denen zu suchen“, weil sie normalerweise ge- oder erfunden waren). Laut dieser tröstenden, aber bestrittenen Theorie stammte die europäische Einzigartigkeit gerade aus der klassischen, griechisch-römischen Exklusivität. Wie wir es heutzutage wissen, stand die Begehrung des menschlichen (männlichen sowie weiblichen) Körpers im Mittelpunkt der klassischen Kultur. Da auch die Homosexualität den Griechen und Römern nicht fremd blieb, war Männlichkeit genauso wie Weiblichkeit engst mit sexuellem Vergnügen verbunden. Männlicher Körper wurde auch als (passives) Objekt des libidösen Blicks  betrachtet. Das allein beweist schon, dass so genannte Objektivierung der Männer durch weiblichen oder homosexuellen Blick keine Erfindung des modernen Liberalismus ist.

Die die Abstammung der europäischen Zivilisation von ihren klassischen Vorfahren umstreitenden Wissenschaftler plädieren dafür, dass es nach den Spuren des Europäismus so wie wir ihn heute kennen erst im Mittelalter zu suchen ist. Aus dem Mittelalter entwickelten sich unsere späteren gesellschaftlichen, ökonomischen sowie politischen Institutionen. Im Mittelalter (zumindest ab 13. Jahrhundert) war die Sexualität (nicht zu sprechen von gleichgeschlechtlicher Liebe) marginalisiert und strengt tabuiert. Das Begehren der Männlichkeit aber nicht.

Man traute sich natürlich nicht mehr, nackte Männer anzustarren: die Kirche sorgte für viel zu empfindliche Strafen für solche Wonne. Stattdessen entwickelt sich aber eine neue Verehrungstradition, die meiner Meinung nach erst im 19. Jahrhundert ihren Hohepunkt erreicht. Nun verewigen endlose Barden, Troubadours, Minesänger für ausschließlich „männlich“ gehaltene Tugenden: Mut, Stärke, Großzügigkeit usw. ad infinitum. Alle bedeutenden mittelalterlichen Helden verfügten unbedingt über zwei Eigenschaften: sie sollten adeliger Herkunft und (prinzipiell wichtig!) attraktiv sein.

Apropos, wenn man mittelalterliche Sagen und Lieder liest, kommt man auf die Idee, dass diese Superhelden ihrer Epochen nicht nur einander grauslichst umbringen dürften, es war aber auch fast vorausgesetzt, dass sie ab und zu sentimentale Gefühle äußerten. Man machte aus jedem Handtuch jeder schönen Dame eine kleine Tragödie und aus jedem Heldentod richtige Passion Christi. Apotheose dieser männlichen Empfindlichkeit findet man (nicht-)überraschenderweise bei Franzosen: im Rolandslied weint jeder und beim jedem Anlass, es gelingt sogar dem guten alten Karl den Großen, zwei oder dreimal ohnmächtig zu werden.

Mein Leser kann jetzt erwidern, dass es alles nur Wörter sein, die keinen Blick im engen Sinne des Wortes zulassen. Stimmt schon. Man darf aber nicht vergessen,  wie prägend jede Art Kunst auf die alltägliche Kultur wirkt. Die Eigenschaften, die die Kunst als positive bezeichnet, werden unvermeidlich zum wichtigen Punkt der Bestrebungen im Prozess der menschlichen Sozialisierung. Kurz und gut: was gelesen wurde, wurde von mehreren Lesern automatisch als guter Ton ins wirkliche Leben übernommen.

Auch auf den wenigen mittelalterlichen Bildern (klerikalen sowie weltlichen) waren es vor allem Männer, die angeschaut wurden, d.h. Objekte vom Gaze waren. Man könnte schon vermuten, mittelalterliche Männer standen unter permanent höherem Druck der Notwendigkeit, gewissen Vorstellungen über Männlichkeit zu entsprechen (was heutzutage von bösen Feministinnen im Zusammenhang mit Versklavung und Objektivierung der Frauen den Männern vorgeworfen wird). Männlicher Gaze des Mittelalters funktionierte als kodifiziertes Regelungssystem: wenn du das und jenes nicht bist, bist du kein echter Mann.

Auch Renaissance hatte Männlichkeit gerne, diesmal auch mit dem männlichen Körper. Es wurde wieder erlaubt, nicht nur von geistigen Tugenden, aber auch von der reinen Attraktivität, von der körperlichen Vollkommenheit eines Mannes, eines Siegers, eines Kämpfers, eines Kranzes der Schöpfung entzückt zu sein. Es gab David von Michelangelo, es gab den virtuvianischen Mensch von Da Vinci. Die Beide entsprechen den heutigen kulturwissenschaftlichen Ideen über die Darstellung vor allem einer weiblichen Figur mit ihrer statischen Passivität, Offenheit dem fremden Blick (sh. unten).

Vielleicht erst in Reinaissance tritt zum ersten Mal ein neuer Mannestyp auf Licht, nämlich jener aktiver, manchmal fast aggressiv wirkender, dynamischer, den Zuschauer direkt und schamlos zurückblickender Typ, den heute zu einer festen und schon stereotypischen Assoziation mit Männern geworden ist.

Während die Männlichkeit im Bereich Gaze schon bereits in Renaissance einen neuen Entwicklungsvektor entwickelt, bleibt die Darstellung der Weiblichkeit bis ins 20. Jahrhundert fast unverändert, d.h. passiv objektiviert. Es lässt sich also feststellen, dass es erst in 13.-15. Jahrhunderten zum Bruch zwischen einander parallel gehenden Darstellungstraditionen (jene eines Mannes und jene einer Frau) gekommen ist. Nach den Ursprüngen der Stagnation mit Weiblichkeit könnte man theoretisch im mittelalterlichen, von der Kirche erarbeiteten Konzept der weiblichen Sündhaftigkeit suchen. Ich erlaube mir aber dieses Thema nicht tiefer einzugehen: für Genderstreitigkeiten gibt es moderne Feministinnen, zu denen ich mich prinzipiell nicht zähle.

Zum Schluss will ich jetzt nur folgende Fragen fürs weitere Nachdenken stellen:

– Wie betrachtet man mit Rücksicht auf die Gaze-Theorie die europäische Barock, die von der Repräsentation nach außen besessen war?

– In welcher Verbindung stehen die Abneigung der Wichtigkeit des männlichen Aussehens mit Biedermeier, Industrialisierung Europas und viktorianischem England?

Der Suche nach den Antworten auf diese Fragen werde ich meinen Kopf in kommenden Wochen widmen. Ich freue mich auch auf mögliche Kommentare zu diesen kaum lesbaren, aber hoffentlich interessanten Überlegungen.

23. Februar 2012,

Wien-Eggenburg-Wien





Endlich bist du hier

22 02 2012

Es ist der 23. Dezember, halb sieben, und die Gasse liegt schon in Halbfinsternis, die nur durchs kranke gelbliche Licht der zwei Fenster im Mezzanin ein wenig verdünnt wird. Ich stehe geduldig neben dem Haupteingang ins Haus, tief im Schatten, so dass man mich nicht gleich bemerkt, wenn man rausgeht. Ich will nicht so viel Aufmerksamkeit. Ich brauche keine Aufmerksamkeit, bin ich ein Kind oder was, bin ich schwach? Nein, schwach bin ich nicht, nur schwache Menschen brauchen Aufmerksamkeit. Rudolph sagt ich brauche Unterstützung, naja, klar. Das sagt er allein deswegen, weil ich ihm dafür bezahle, dass er mich unterstützt. Weil mein Vater ihm dafür bezahlt.

Wie kann er doch so herzlos, so grausam sein? Wie habe ich es früher nicht bemerkt, was für ein Mensch er ist? Man sagt, Liebe ist blind, und das ist offensichtlich wahr. Nichts wollte ich an ihm sehen, was meine verliebte und dadurch gestörte Vorstellung von ihm enttäuschen konnte. Nichts habe ich bemerkt, bevor… Bevor es gestern nicht zum Bruch gekommen ist, bevor es nicht klar geworden ist, was für ein Mann er ist, dass er eigentlich so wie die Anderen ist. Nein, noch schlechter ist er: den Anderen ist es einfach egal, was dir passiert. Er bringt dich durch seine Ruhe, durch seine Fürsorge auf die Idee, als ob es ihm nicht egal wäre, was du denkst und was du fühlst. Und dann – dann zerbricht er alle deine Hoffnungen. Grauslicher Mensch! Grausliches Leben.

Die Tür geht auf und er kommt raus. Kurz fühle ich mich zurückgezogen und erschrocken davor, was ich vor habe. Ich liebe ihn doch! Ich liebe. Diesen. Verräter. Es tut mir leid, dass er ein Verräter ist, ich kann nichts dafür. Ich muss es tun, sonst tut er noch jemandem weh. Ich tue es nur jemandem zugute. Heute mache ich etwas endlich mal richtig.

–          Rudolph. – Rufe ich.

Er dreht sich um und erst jetzt bemerkt mich im Schatten der Hausmauer. Es schaut so aus, als ob er überrascht wäre.

–          Lisa, was tust du hier? – fragt er in seiner leisen und ruhigen Stimme.

–          Ich bin gekommen, um mich von dir zu verabschieden.

Meine Stimme klingt so lustig kalt und fremd. Ich hole die Pistole meines Vaters aus der Tasche raus, und ziehe den Abzug durch.

***

Fünf-und-zwanzig Stunden davor sitze ich im Warteraum seiner Praxis. Ich bin geschmückt, geschminkt und gut angezogen, ich schau genau so feierlich aus wie ein blöder Christbaum. Es ist ein wichtiger Tag für mich. Heute mache ich eine Erklärung.

Rudolph kenne ich seit sechs Jahren, drei Monaten und fünfzehn Tagen, nachdem meine lieben Eltern eines Tages auf eine glänzende Idee gekommen sind, ihrem Schatzilein geht es nicht so gut. Ist schon wunderlich, dass sie überhaupt bemerkt haben. Ich könnte mich genauso gut aus dem Fenster rauswerfen, aber es war mir zu pathetisch (und pathetisch zu sein wollte ich auch mit 12 Jahren nicht). Was ich gemacht habe, ich habe `ne volle Packung Schlafmittel aufgefressen. In zwanzig Minuten war ich schon weit weg, von den schimmernden Sternen und Farbenpfützen – lustige Bilder waren’s!

Meine Eltern waren wie immer anderswo, ich wurde von meinem Kindermädchen gefunden. Die blöde Kuh hasste ich: sie traute sich wie meine Mutter zu benehmen. Noch dazu vögelte sie mit meinem lieben Vati. Das wurde natürlich nie aufgedeckt, aber ich weiß es ganz genau, dass er sie fickte und dass sie es ihrerseits so gerne hatte. Ich habe es doch gesehen, wie sie einander anschauten.

Also, das doofe alte Luder hat mich gefunden und die Rettung angerufen. Ich wurde dann gewaltsam reanimiert. Die depperten Kerle aus dem Notdienst waren sicher sehr stolz auf sich und dachten, ich bin eine von diesen minderjährigen Idiotinnen, die sich ohne Gründe Leben nehmen. Als ob sie es wissen konnten, was ich da innen hatte.

Nach meinem erfolglosen Suizidversuch hat mein lieber Vati mir einen Spezialisten rausgesucht, um mich möglichst schnell zu „reparieren“, d.h. zurück zur unauffälligen Norm zu bringen, damit ich ihm keine Sorgen mehr zufüge und dadurch von seinem ah so wichtigem Leben nicht ablehne. Er wollte natürlich einen ganz respektablen und teuren Spezialisten haben, und so kam ich zu Rudolph.

Rudolph war anders als alle Männer, alle Menschen, die ich je gesehen habe. Er verstand mich. Er hörte zu. Er verlangte nichts, nicht mal dass ich ordentlich sitze oder den Rücken gerade halte oder dass ich die Ärmel nicht über die Finger ziehe. Ich hatte wirklich das Gefühl, mit ihm konnte ich reden.

Seit jenem Tag waren wir zusammen. Jede Woche, eine Stunde lang war er für mich da. Zuerst war ich natürlich recht zickig, aber mit der Zeit gelang’s ihm mich zu öffnen, das heißt zum Sprechen zu bringen. Ich erzählte ihm über die Eltern, über meine doofe Superschule für Superkinder von den Supergeldtaschen und wie ich dazu nicht passte. Ich erzählte ihm, wie meine Mitschüler mich nicht mochten und was sie mir deswegen gemacht haben und wie sie mich verfolgt haben. Die waren wirklich aufdringlich. Sie machten sich lustig über mich, aber noch schlimmer war, sie lassen mich nie allein. Sie zeichneten Skeletten und tote Menschen auf meinem Tisch. Die Toten. Von denen habe ich ihm auch erzählt, von denen aus meinen Träumen und die ich manchmal sah.

Jetzt ganz ernst, so dass man sich keine Gedanken macht. Ich bin nicht verrückt oder was. Aber manchmal sehe ich das, dass jemand bald stirbt. Das sieht man wirklich. Erst von ein paar Tagen habe ich eine Frau in der U-Bahn gesehen. Sie schlief und hinter ihr stand ein schwarzer Engel mit ganz großen Flügeln und einem sehr bösen Gesicht. Ich wusste, warum er böse war. Die Frau war eine Nutte. Nein, sie tat’s nicht fürs Geld, aber weil sie es einfach möchte. Ich wusste sofort, dass sie bald stirbt, die kleine Schlampe. Und ich wusste, dass der schwarze Engel es bemerkt hat, dass ich ihn sehe, und dass es ihm auch klar war, ich verstehe, warum er der Frau das Leben nehmen wird. Er hatte es gern, dass ich’s verstanden habe. Er hat mich angelächelt.

Rudolph hörte immer genau zu und stellte manchmal Fragen. Ein paar Mal hat er auch gefragt, ob ich es selber glauben kann, dass es in der Wirklichkeit so was wie Engel geben konnte. Ich lachte, es war irgendwie berührend, dass er Zweifel hatte. Ich hätte sie auch, hätte ich die Engel selber nicht gesehen.

Gerade für dieses Verständnis liebe ich ihn. Das habe ich vor kurzer Zeit verstanden. Lustig, dass es so lange dauerte, bis ich es endlich kapiert habe, er sei ein richtiger für mich. Er weiß Bescheid, mit ihm kann ich einfach so sein wie ich bin. Er kennt mich. Ich werde ihn nicht enttäuschen, und er mich nicht.

Letzte Woche sah ich dort in seinem Warteraum, geschmückt und geschminkt um eine Liebeserklärung zu machen. Er hat sich komisch benommen. Er schaute eher besorgt als glücklich aus. Ich meine, man muss doch froh sein, wenn man von jemandem geliebt wird, oder? Er war aber nicht froh. Nein sagte er auch nicht, aber er sprach eine Zeitweile davon, dass er das freilich versteht, wie es mir geht und warum es mir scheint, ich liebe ihn. Er hat es auch erzählt, warum wir im Rahmen unseres gemeinsamen Arbeiten nicht zusammen sein können, und dass er für mich immer als Freund und Betreuer zur Verfügung steht. Und dass er sein eigenes Leben hat, genauso wie ich mein eigenes habe.

Ich wurde so recht böse auf ihn. Aber nein, zuerst wurde ich einfach traurig. Ich habe mir gedacht, er traut sich nicht, es mir zu sagen, was er fühlt. Dafür bin ich, nachdem die Stunde zu Ende war, nicht nach Hause gefahren (das heißt: nicht den Fahrer angerufen, weil ein Auto zu fahren darf so was wie ich natürlich nicht. Zumindest glaubt so mein Vater). Ich stand dort, im Schatten der Hausmauer und wartete, was weiter passiert. Er hat noch zwei Stunden beim Arbeiten verbracht. Dann fuhr ein Auto in den Hof hinein. Aus dem Auto kam eine Frau mittleren Alters. Bald erschien Rudolph. Die Frau kam ihn nah, küsste ihn, umarmte ihn, dann setzten sie sich ins Auto und fuhren weg.

Ich glaube ich hatte Fieber. Mein Rudolph hat mich verraten. Er liebte mich nie! Er verstand mich nie, er tat es einfach so als ob er mich verstand und liebte, als ob ich ihm – anders als den Anderen – nicht scheißegal wäre! Was er wollte? Na, ist doch ganz klar! Er war von meinem Vater bezahlt. Alles von meinem Vater bezahlt! Er hat über meinen jeden Atemzug Kontrolle! Er hat mein ganzes Leben unter seiner Kontrolle. Er hat mein ganzes Leben zerstört, er ist schuld, dass ich kein Mensch bin!

Ich schlief nicht und vergas diese Tabletten zu nehmen, die ich immer für Rudolph und im Namen Rudolph angenommen habe. Jetzt war es alles Wurscht. Nichts hatte mehr Sinn.

Erst im Morgengrauen ist mir eingefallen was ich tun sollte. Dieses Mal wird es anders sein! Ich werde dieses Mal kein Opfer sein! Ich werde sie alle bestrafen. Ich werde den Verräter, Rudolph, umbringen.

***
–          Ich bin gekommen, um mich von dir zu verabschieden.

Meine Stimme klingt so lustig kalt und fremd. Ich hole die Pistole meines Vaters aus der Tasche raus. Das ist ein Moment des Willens, das ist ein Hauptpunkt meines Lebens! Ich bin kein ich mehr, ich bin keine behinderte verrückte Tochter, die am besten von der Welt isoliert werden muss, damit man es nicht weiß, dass dem Herrn Minister so ein Missgeschick passieren könnte. Ich bin jetzt eine verratene Frau, die für den Verrat Rache nimmt. Ich nehme Rache nicht allein dafür, dass Rudolph eine Nutte, eine andere Frau hat. Ich räche mich dafür, dass kein Mensch mich jemals ernst genommen hat, dass keiner mich verstanden hat, dass ich immer allein und der Welt entgegengestellt war. Für all dies muss jemand bezahlen.

Ich ziele den Rudolphs Kopf an und es fällt mir plötzlich ein, dass jemand hinter meinem Rücken steht. Ich drehe mich ängstlich um, da ich es schon von vorne herein weiß, wen ich da sehen werde.

Er steht hinter meinem Rücken, der schwarze Engel. Er schaut mich streng und traurig an. Er allein versteht mich so gut. Er allein.

Der schwarze Engel lächelt mich ermutigend an und öffnet seine Arme für mich. Jetzt kapiere ich langsam… Ich bringe die Pistole zu meinem Kopf und lächele zurück.

–          Endlich bist du hier. – Sage ich und ziehe den Abzug voll durch.





Red Riding Hood retold in Stephen King’s manner

13 02 2012

Red Riding Hood clicked the start button of her Walkman as she followed her mother down the forest path. Of course she knew that it was quite rude not to listen, but who cares as long as mom will keep mumbling about what a piece of shit Red’s father was. Yeah, what a piece of shit is it all! Everything is!

Since Mr Hood has packed his things into his old shabby suitcase (the one he had with him when they were off on their honeymoon with mom, yes) and accompanied with shriek of his wife left and hit the door against the door frame so that Blue, Red’s little brother woke up upstairs and started his squealing; since that day mom seemed to be speaking about it only. How crappy her life used to be and how crappy the dad was and so on.

Oh, how I wish she would just shut up and let us enjoy the walk!

Still deep in her thoughts Red mumbled, “I’ll be back in a moment” – and stepped out of the path into the woods.

Bushes scratched her legs as if they wanted to hold her. Good that she put on long jeans. She’d have to be careful though in order not to tear them against these wild crazy plants. Mom would be furious.

What red wanted was actually to pee, and so she did, and then as every reasonable girl, she turned round and went in the direction she meant to be right for coming back to her mom.

Where am I? I should have found her by now! Damn.

A basket with a cake and a pot of butter seemed to be so heavy now. The forest suddenly became so thick and so impenetrable and so wile. There must be wild animals… How do they call them… carni.. carnivorous or something of the kind. Oh damn it damn it damn it! Where is my mom.

Daylight started to bleach, the air looked cloggy and murky and stiff, and Red kept walking in the direction she meant to be right, but there was still no trace of a path or her mother or any signs of human civilization. In addition to that slight fog that started drifting down to the earth in the morning now went up and swirled all around the girl. The fog covered bushes and trees and turned their silhouettes into grotesque monsters spreading their arms to embrace her, to cuddle her, to make her sleep and never wake up… Oh she was so tired! That is when she heard the voice. It was quiet and somehow both sinister and charming at the same time, it seemed to come out of nowhere and from any side she would look at.

“What are you doing here in this wood? Don’t you know little girls are prohibited to walk on their own without some proper company?”

“Who are you? I am not afraid of you! – shouted Red Riding Hood as loudly and as fearlessly as she could do. Her body shook with fear, but, whoever was this creature, it shouldn’t know how horrified she was. – And by the way, I am not little!”

“Aren’t you? – asked the voice rather ironically. – What do you have there in your basket?”

“Tha-that’s not your business!”

“Oh is it? That is how you speak to strangers!”

“Mom taught never to do so!”

“And you always do what your mother says?”

“No!”

Stop doing that. Stop talking to him! He is probably some perverse guy from those news-blocks when mom tells you to go away and not watch and then the whole neighbourhood discusses some girl from the school was found dead or even worse – raped.

Red did not actually know what this word meant – to rape, and when she asked her mother she was told she was still too young to worry about that rubbish. But obviously not too young to get lost in a forest and face some maniac now.

“Show me who you are and then I answer your question!” – She shouted, looking as fearlessly as she could.

And then he stepped out of the fog and darkness. His eyes were shining with cold ruthless, – hungry! – light and he had some fur and big teeth and enormously big paws and he seemed to be a kind of a wolf but bigger and with human face, so merciless human face.

“Who are you?” – The poor child asked.

“I am the Lord of the Lost” – he said and his eyes sparkled and his teeth were so big and so sharp.

And she knew he was what he said, and even more, she knew she already met him before. There and then, three years before as she was visiting her grandmother on Sunday as usually, with a butter pot and a cake as today and the grandmother was no longer there. She was, her body was, but she would never answer as Red called her name stepping over the threshold of the bedroom. In that bed she lay, no blood was there on her face or on the4 bed linen, but in her widely opened eyes stood that terror, that mystical horror of seeing something inhuman. And Red felt it as well, she felt the thickness of air in the room and this tickle somewhere down the spine as if somebody was watching her every move… Now they met. Game over. Now way to escape.

“Give me what you have there” – ordered the voice.

No! Not so easy! You have to resist! Big girls don’t give up so easily!!

Like in slow motion Red Riding Hood threw the basket in the direction where the Lord of the Lost stood, turned round and rushed away. Her heart was beating in a wild tempo now, and the whole body and soul were overwhelmed with prehistoric savage fear and instinct of survival. No one dares to take her life away! Not in that way! Not like this! Not now!

And she ran and ran and ran, and the bushes seemed to grab her with their wooden claws and pull her back to the wolf. She fell once but stood up right away and went on running. The moon disappeared from the sky and the sky disappeared too, the whole world turned into this solid ground under her shoes and the bushes and the fog and the fear…  And then she fell again, this time down the slope into the darkness and as she was rolling down, she though “This is how it always ends in horror movies”. A second after she hit her head against something very big, very cold and very solid and darkness took over her.

……..

The first thing Red saw when she opened her eyes was white ceiling. Then she smelled some mixture of herbs and spirits. Hospital! It was hospital! Back to people!

Red moved her hear and a light sigh escaped her bluish dry lips. Her mother and her father sat there at both sides of her bed. For the first time in many-many months they were not scolding. All they did was looking at her.

“Oh darling you’ve scared us! – Her mother said and her voice trembled. – We thought we would never find you again! But why, why on Earth did you leave the path?!”

“I fought the Lord of the Lost, – replied Red, staring at her father. – I fought him, really”.

We know, darling. You did it great! You are really such a big girl now!” – He answered.

Red Riding Hood closed her eyes. There were so many things to say, but she just had no energy to do it. Some inner feeling told her she would have many other opportunities later, and so she gasped and fell asleep.

The Lord of the Lost closed the door, took off the suit of Red’s father and turned back to the sleeping girl. His eyes glared with carnivorous fire.





Three Little Pigs retold in Austean Style

13 02 2012

Once upon a time when pigs spoke rhyme

  And monkeys chewed tobacco,

  And hens took snuff to make them tough,

  And ducks went quack, quack, quack, O!

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single wolf in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a pig.

However, little is known about the feelings of both the Wolf and the Pig at the moment of their acquaintance and the very development of what later unavoidably leads to a happy union.

Mrs Sow Pig-Bennet suddenly realised that her sweet little piglets Jane, Elizabeth and Lydia were of the proper age to find descent Wolves and start the life of the housewives of their own. These thoughts are quite troubling for every mother, as long as Longbourne, a farm where Mrs Pig-Bennet lived with her husband and children, was by all means quite an average real estate in the middle of the most provincial countryside one could only imagine. In this situation nothing left to poor Mrs Sow than to tell her dearest daughter-pigs now they had to start building their houses without any serious hope some decent wolf would come around and huff and puff on these houses. However, it is better to try than to regret you never dared trying, isn’t it? And so three little pigs started building their houses in hope they would attract attention of some interesting bachelor.

Lydia was the youngest of them and the most creative, even though not the smartest one. She found some straw and made a lovely little house of it. In this house Ms. Lydia Pig-Bennet could drink tea with her friends and dream of a wolf charming once passing by. And that was what happened, indeed.

Mr Wolf Wickham soon appeared in the neighbourhood. As a true Victorian gentleman he had very much money and very few things to do but to travel from village to village and huffing and puffing and the young pigs’ houses.

As soon as Mr Wickham so a lovely straw-house of Ms. Pig-Bennet, he felt an eager desire somewhere at the very depth of his soul to try huffing and puffing it. And so he said to the the little pig:

“Little Lydia, little Lydia, let me come in!”

Oh how happy she was, the little Lydia, that a wolf first saw her and not her elder sisters! What an indecent pleasure it gave her, the knowledge that she was definitely more interesting and appealing to a wolf than her snobbish smart sisters! However, every proper pig knows what is allowed and what is prohibited for a well-bred young pig to do, and, though her heart was trembling with exultant expectation, little Lydia answered:

“No, no, by the hair of my chiny chin chin.”

The wolf then realised that Lydia was quite into playing with him, and of course he answered to that:

“Then I’ll huff, and I’ll puff, and I’ll blow your house in.”

And so he huffed and he puffed and – oh, what a misfortune! The straw house of poor Lydia was completely broken, and she had nothing more that would protect her against the greedy looks of Mr Wolf Wickham. “Isn’t it great?” – thought the little pig and ran away with the wolf, what, of course, was far beyond the borders of what a well-bred pig could allow to happen.

The other little pig was Jane and she was indeed much cleverer than her poor careless sister Lydia. For her own house she used a bundle of furze, and as soon as the house was ready it turned out, one more wolf entered the neighbourhood. This was quite an interesting candidate indeed! Mr Wolf Bingley has even purchased a house of Netherfield near Longbourne and near the place where three little pigs were building their own houses. Oh how happy she would be, the little Jane, if she would somehow draw attention of such a party! And so she sat in her little house and waited till Mr Bingley would probably come round. This is what happened indeed.

First he bowed in a very gallant manner, and the little pig answered with a curtsey. In order to support and develop this success Mr Wolf took little Jane to dance, and there they were swaying in the waves of a refined country music when he finally said:

“Oh my dear little Jane, let me come in.”

“No, no, by the hair of my chiny chin chin.” – She answered, as she was of course taught how to behave with a gentleman.

“Then I’ll puff, and I’ll huff, and I’ll blow your house in.”

So he huffed, and he puffed, and he puffed, and he huffed, and at last he blew her little house down. Jane was so glad to see him being so purposeful, and she decided to write a letter to her dear sister Elizabeth when Mr Wolf Bingley turned round and disappeared in early morning fog somewhere there where behind the horizon the big farm of London lay.

The heart of the poor little pig was completely broken! She spent days and nights weeping and scolding herself for being such a snobbish pig and not showing Mr Wolf how much she cared about him! Couldn’t she build her house of straw or what?

There was one more wolf that appeared in the neighbourhood just at the same time with Mr Bingley. This one was called Mr Bad Bad Wolf Darcy, and everybody said quite soon the world has never seen more snobbish and unpleasant wolf before. What a pity for little Elizabeth that he paid his attention on her!

One day he stood there in front of her house made of lovely pink brick and said:

“My dear not-beloved little pig! Your parents neither have a good fortune to provide you with nice dowry, nor did they have enough brain to bring you up in a proper way. Your elder sister Jane was silly enough to fall in love with Bingley and your other sister was even sillier to run away with Wickham, and so she dishonoured the whole family. I hardly see why I should pay my attention to the pig with such a background as yours, but as long as I am such a true gentleman, I’d still like to try and propose. Would you like to let me come in and marry you and bore you with my snobbism forever and ever?”

“I’d rather hang myself than allow you to do that to me!” – Little brave Lizzy answered.

Mr Darcy was disappointed and charmed at the same time: what a pride and what a temper this lovely little pig had! However, it was more than clear he behaved like a true swine (though he was a wolf), and there was hardly anything in the world that would improve the image of him poor little Lizzy got.

And so he didn’t huff and he didn’t puff, but he went away and did not come back for a very long time. What he did was he found the poor silly Lydia and her Wolf Wickham and brought them back in Longbourne and forced them to marry in a decent way. Then he got to London and brought back his friend Bingley and forced him to beg for Jane’s pardon and then marry her. Finally, he wrote a touching but very immodest letter to Elizabeth in order to show her what sacrifices he had to make in order to deserve her attention.

By this time Lizzy had enough time to think over her behaviour to Mr Bad Bad Wolf Darcy. She suddenly realised to her own dread that she had never been impartial to him. Oh, how cruel she was! Then she got the letter from Mr Darcy and she first cried for a fortnight and then she understood what she had to do. A brave little pig bough some dynamite and blew up her lovely house made of pink brick.

When Bad Bad Wolf Darcy finally visited her again, she was sitting there among the broken bricks in a great mess waiting for him. How happy they were to see each other! Do you know what happened next? Right you are! Mr Bad Bad Wolf married Elizabeth Pig-Bennet and they lived happily ever since.





Notes of a marginal

13 02 2012

One month before visiting my parents this summer I felt obsessive dizziness of homecoming. It is not that I am a great patriot in a geographical sense of this word: the feeling of longing and belonging spreads mainly on people and smaller topographical units for me (cafes, galleries, libraries, university lecture halls). Of course I wanted to see my family, who wouldn’t want that? But the intense nostalgia young people feel living separately from their roots was over long time ago by then: 3 ½ years in Russia were a great preparation after all. What made me almost faint was fear of seeing the country I come from.

Austrians complain about how impolite Viennese can be and how dirty and brownish-grey Vienna looks like. They haven’t seen different societies. Every thought about unwashed pavements made me shudder as I packed my luggage for Aktobe. Every “Russian-speaking European” (let’s put it like that) adores sharing Goosebumps stories about how they visit their historical motherland from time to time. It is said, when you fall out of habit of seeing robot faces in public transport and saliva spits on the sidewalks, you get a true cultural shock, mixed with deep depression. Here I go, dear motherland!

The sense of motherland has actually begun in the duty-free zone of Schwechat. My accent in German is normally connected with South-Western Germany or (on bad days) with Sudetenland, so in the waiting lounge I enjoyed language anonymity and a rare chance to observe the people of my culture (post-Soviet one) from outside.

The first funny thing noticed: Russians form a queue as soon as they get to the waiting lounge, approximately 40 minutes before boarding. All this time they stand there (women on their unthinkably high heels), speak to each other and boast with “Austrian” souvenirs: Givenchy, Gucci and Mozartkugel. I’ve got a sneaky feeling somewhere deep inside they are all afraid the plane will depart without them, so they try their best being as near to the registration as possible.

I should fly through Moscow (what always means the way gets at least 1,5 times longer), read: I was condemned to touristic surrounding during the flight. This meant in particular that the discussion of who bought what and where continued all 2 ½ hours. Only a couple of times such words as “Belvedere” and “Schönbrunn” were mentioned, and, indeed, who needs those palaces as long as there is Givenchy? I wonder why they don’t buy all this stuff at home, you know. In this sense I feel somehow insulted: am I the only creepy pervert who loves Vienna because of music, architecture, coffee and “Fiaker”? No, luckily, there are a couple more of such Russian-speaking freaks here (I should kindly thank them for keeping in touch with me!).

As soon as the landing is declared, a great mess begins. Hundreds of clicks and rustles and crinkles and whispers: women take out their make-up stuff and start “bringing themselves in a proper order”. Odour of perfume fills the air. I smile to myself: welcome back!

The second funny thing noticed: no one smiles but me. I guess I look like a complete idiot in Domodedovo and later on, because smiling and talking to people became automatic since I came to Vienna. So instead of saying “yes” and “no” when asked I answer in long and polite sentences. A week after as I buy something in a supermarket in Aktobe a cashier seems really nervous, she avoids looking at me. There is obvious relief on her face as I pay and go. A minute later I understand: I smiled all along and the poor woman thought something’s wrong with her.

The third funny thing noticed: Aktobe is a (dull but) lovely town. What I call a town has population of 370,000. It is by no means dirty (I was afraid of that so much!), well, not in those parts of the town I normally visit. They have built a couple of more new districts since I’ve been here last time. Young citizens of the young republic leave their newly-built houses and go for a walk in new parks in their hometown that was grounded when St. Stephen’s cathedral was 5 centuries old. They celebrate both Christian and Muslim holidays and sometimes visit either a new cathedral or a new mosque placed within 500 metres from each other. Kazakhs (traditionally Muslim) are as outraged about “strange fashion” to wear hijabs as Russians and about 100 of other ethnic and religious entities. I love it about my native town and my motherland (one of the only things where I feel strong cultural belonging to Kazakhstan that it is exemplary tolerant to differences, especially in comparison with Russia).

Fathers and children

Aktobe, Kasachstan

The problem with litter begins when we decide to go on picnic all together. For post-Soviets “home” ends on the threshold of their flat or house. This is not so obvious in comparatively new houses of my parents and grandparents (the only things reminding it are the light-bulbs in common corridors that disappear with horrible regularity). But as soon as you get out of town, you are violently forced to face this shameful thing: plastic bags and wine and beer bottles, condoms, cigarettes – just everything you can imagine lies around, left on the ground as people leave after having had a nice time. This is where my madness broke out: I pranced all around the place we’ve chosen for having rest, gathering the litter in a plastic bag, scolding like hell in a mixture of Russian (hard-core among swear words) and Viennese (because when someone is Deppert, this cannot be translated into any language). I don’t know if those people were all disabled with their hands paralysed so that they just could not collect all the garbage they left. Something in me says, even if they were disabled, then only mentally.

The fourth thing noticed: the steppe is really nice when seen from the airplane. It is not only this indescribable feeling of free space Austrians can hardly imagine: endless blue sky uninterrupted by any mountains and only ornamented with several towns here and there on the horizon. It is also the beauty of waterless steppe being turned into a place of living: here and there you see gardens and summer houses hidden between narrow twisting rivers. For me this picture, seen from a plane as I was leaving, felt similar as listening to the 9th symphony by Beethoven or the 6th one by Mahler. There is always something superhuman in this wild and rebellious struggle, there is romantic overwhelming of natural difficulties. This struggle makes people to humans, doesn’t it?

The fifth (and final) thing noticed: Process of social integration always takes much time and energy. Living in Vienna feels like “mine” in the very depth of my uprooted soul. When I was packing my luggage for visiting my parents this summer I was seriously afraid of possible rejection of Kazakhstan and culture I was brought up in because of those daily trifles that constitute our lives: dirt on the pavements, gloomy people and whatever else. When I was unpacking my luggage five weeks later, back to Vienna again, there was no fear any longer. Something in me relaxed and stopped aching. I don’t know why, but I have a couple of hypotheses, of course. Let’s see if the time proves or disapproves them.





Gerald Grant’s Story

10 02 2012

‘So, what d’you prefer to drink?’ inquires Gerald as we’re taking seats at the table in the dark corner of the café.

The pub is surprisingly empty for a Saturday evening: there’re only two more visitors apart from us, both male, sitting at the counter with their beers, watching a football match. Manchester versus Liverpool. Sleepy bartender polishes a glass, deep in his own thoughts: what a more boring and typical thing a bartender could do in this world?

‘A kilkenny please.’ I say.

Gerald nods and goes to make an order. He looks pretty much different from what I got used to see in the office – no relaxed self-confidence and restrained “I-keep-smiling-as-long-as-you-keep-the-distance” friendliness. I swear he feels confused and clumsy with me: something I can understand quite well, too. The social distance between us is just enormous: me, a fresh office plankton, still silently rejoicing about a great luck to have got this secretary´s job,  and Gerald, an acknowledged super-star of the journalistics, a photo-reporter for his own articles as well. It wouldn´t be a slightest exaggeration to say he has visited, described and shown in photos all the hotspots of politics of the last 5-10 years. I can think of his earlier photos of Yugoslavia at war. I was about 10 years old when they were published, and I am not sure if these were not my first account of a bigger world outisde of my playroom back then. They stroke my childish psyche like a thunder back then. I also remember on the first time I saw Gerald Grant in person, a firebolt across the editorial rooms (dreamy gazes of our girls included), it was a bit of this professional bliss: jeez, am I that good to be allowed to work fpr the same newspaper?

One may easily imagine my blunt astonishment when he, Gerald Grant, not less, has offered me a drink tonight. I never thought he knew my name. I would have sworn celebrities of this rang never notice the names and faces of people administering their mail or proof-reading their commas back to the grammatical norm. No false modesty, I think I am doing my job well, but hell…

In contrast to those dreamy girls mentioned, surprisingly, not a slightest glimpse of romance occured to me: equally well could I wait for romance from Her Majesty the Queen, whose picture hanged on the nearest wall of the pub. I would suspect sometimes people just want to talk and so they pick up someone able to listen to them. For tonight, I am all ears.

I turned professional with listening and understanding people. Living all alone, in a new country with absolutely no social contacts but the landlady’s cat and the two books you’ve managed to cram into 20kg limit weight package can make one quite a poor speaker – and a good listener. For me these books are “The Little Prince” and “Eleven minutes”, so apart from feeding the cat, a nasty moody beast, I spend my evenings reading either about the fox and the rose, or about the prostitute named Mary. Working overtime is, respectively, no problem for me and, as long as I am paid for that, I am always there. But Gerald, that should be a different story. Seeing him staying overtime yet again for the fourth evening in a raw loosened my tongue and subordination feeling, and, „The Horror! The Horror!“ I asked him why on earth he wasn´t heading home? Was there no… I don´t know, oversized blond chick, her lips and breasts blown up on the brain expense? Was there no true English wife, two beautiful fair-haired boys, a dog and a lawn to run to? No boyfriend? Grant gave me a long thoughtful look most of our office girls would die for and then all of a sudden I was invited for a drink.

Gerald comes back with two beers. He positions himself at the darkest corner  of the tableso that no one but me can see his face – and even I am not able to distinguish his facial expressions. Then he lights up a cigarette, his fingers tremble a little – or it only seems so.

‘You won’t have problems because of being here with me, will you?’ – He asks after a small pause.

‘Hopefully the cat I live with is not too jealous and will let me into the flat after such an unfaithfulness from my side.’

‘You don’t have anyone?’

‘Nope. And my family is pretty far away now.’

‘I see.’ He sighs thoughtfully. ‘Almost like with me.’

‘D’you have a wife living 2500 miles away?’

‘No, she’s kind of farther for the last few years.’

The silence hangs in the air. It feels like he wants to go on speaking about his wife but something keeps him from doing that.

‘Want to tell me about it?’ I ask politely.

‘Are you sure you want to hear a melodrama?’ Gerald’s voice sounds cynically impatient for someone, who was about to speak about his family. I nodded – why not? ‘I order some whiskey for myself then, ok? Want some too?’

I thank and say I don’t. As he goes to the counter again I think with a slight self-irony it will be quite in a style of Stefan Zweig’s novels now: a patient and quiet author listens to a story of someone’s past and shameful passion. I’m not a big admirer of such didactic prose, so let me hope it will just be a trivial story of life and death.

Gerald comes back with a glass of whiskey. He first drinks it up, then takes a deep puff at his cigarette and finally remains silent and strained, blankly staring at the space in front of him.

‘You are free not to tell me anything, if you like.’ I say cautiously. None of the muscles of his face moves, but he says then after a short pause:

‘To tell you how the story ends so that I don’t bore you with too many details, my wife and my little son were hit by a car eight years ago. They died before the driver realized something was wrong. He was drunk like hell. I stood five meters away – wanted to find the car key before crossing the road. My wife was 28, and Tommy, my son, was 3.’

I don’t know if my looks gives out how earth-shuttered I am. It feels so, like the silly joke about the melodrama I made to myself came true just because I did say it. Silly feeling, of course. And again… You always know, we are all mortal. According to some statistics, 2 people on the Earth die every second. Reading newspaper articles about one more tsunami, revolution or terrorist attack one is never stunned, one never feels physically bad about what happened. It all happens somewhere else, in a different universe, not your universe. But when one says, so quietly and impatiently, ‘my wife and my son died, hit by a truck’, it feels absolutely different. It actually aches.

‘You know,’ he continues, without looking at me. ‘I didn’t tell it to anybody. They all seemed to know. Creak, the chief editor of the “Sun” where I worked then, met me with his fucking friendly embrace on the following morning. Told me I should not have come to the office, I should have taken a couple of days off to swallow it all. The whole office was silent when I walked in. And when I came out after talking with Creak. They only stared at me, as if they understood what it was like.’

At this point he squashes his cigarette at the ashtray with anger. Gerald’s hands shake, the sight fixed on the table-top, as if he needed something real to hold on to. It is so silent, that I can hear the ticking of his wristwatch. His mouth is twisted in scorn. He grasps the pack of cigarettes, takes one out with visible effort, lights it and inhales deeply.

‘You know, I never loved her. Christine, my wife. I mean she was alright, she was relatively smart and relatively attractive. She could even cook. She was OK in bed. A good wife, not marvelous, but a good one. ‘

Ah, there’s the rub! – So would I say, speaking Shakespearian English. The feeling of guilt for not being – to his own mind – a loving husband. Loving enough to match some expectations – his or her.

‘You wouldn’t marry her if you didn’t love her at some point, right?’ I said cautiously.

‘Not sure.’ Gerald rubbed his hand over the face. One more puff of the cigarette. ‘I used to work with her father at the very beginning of my career. He was a great man, you know. Taught me everything I know. He was a leading figure in the reportage filming. He began with the Korean War, managed to make photos of the Cultural Revolution in China, then Vietnam, the Falklands, was accredited to work in Cuba for quite a long, in Moscow and made a trip around central Russian cities, something unbelievable at that time.‘

‘We met in Afghanistan at the end of 80s and became kind of friends. Well, you know, like Johnson and Boswell, but Christine’s father also trained his admirer to do something good on his own. I believe I was devoted to him like a dog. To marry his daughter was like to be allowed to stand at the church altar with the priest. A religious rite almost.‘

‘And we did live quite good, we didn’t quarrel much, she didn’t mind living in a tiny flat, the half of which was crammed with films, reagents and so on. She waited patiently and supported me day after day as I climbed my damned ladder of success. When I traveled, she waited at home, she had no problems with her pregnancy, at least I didn’t know about any. She was always there if I needed support or comfort.’ At this phrase he waves his hands passionately, mumbles ‘Hell!’ and remains silent and immersed into his thought.

I feel more like a decoration for his catharsis at the moment, there could be any other person on my place to hear to this story, and it wouldn’t matter much. I only wonder how he managed to keep it all in him for so long.

To my astonishment no one has paid any attention on us – or it only seems to me that Gerald speaks quite loudly – just because of what he’s saying? We are interrupted anyhow, the informs he closes the pub in 20 minutes.

Gerald doesn’t seem to hear it, and I only shake my head – OK, we got it – and then carefully touch Gerald’s hand.

‘Go on please.’

He shrugs his shoulders convulsively.

‘It was all to hell, that she was good, you know. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. It just wasn’t enough. I don’t know if I wanted passion or if I wanted indifference and rejection. Or if I wanted a woman who would be just as strong as me, who would make a scandal because of my trips – and they were dangerous. A woman, who would make a real scandal, a great mess, who would smash dishes and say she just doesn’t want me go, that she doesn’t care if I love my work, that she doesn’t give a damn, if people live or die in my Yugoslavia or Timor, that she needs me, damn, me, not the very fact she is married to a promising journalist, to a ghost of a man, who is never at home. And when he’s at home, he works on his articles or photos. Or he reads. I wanted a wife who would be jealous if some woman would talk to me somewhere in a theater or at an exhibition. That she would be jealous about all female names in my organizer, even if these were my dentist and Tommy’s nanny.

‘I wish she would be able to do anything else but smiling, I wish she could cry from time to time, so that I could stay at home instead of running somewhere, sitting next to her, holding her and, half angry and half touched would hush her down. I wish I could hate her periods, so that she would turn into a harpy and dislike the very smell of mine. And I would be irritated, yes, irritated, but happy. I wish she would have problems with the baby and ask me for help. God, I wish I could feel she was real, she was a normal human-being with all the controversies and vices in addition to her freaking damned virtues!’

‘Xcuseme, guys, but  I ‘ave to close up.’ All of a sudden we both realize the bartender stands right at the table. ‘The bill please. Come round the other time, guys, a bit earlier, yeah?’

Gerald stares at the man like a blind, it seems he doesn’t understand, where he is and what happens and what one wants from him. I grab my rucksack, take the purse and pay the bill. It feels so, as I was caught peeping at the keyhole or just in bed with Grant. Don’t really know why am so confused. With the same expression of boredom, sleepiness and slight irritation the bartender takes the money and follows us to the door.

Cool night air brings Gerald back to earth. He excuses himself, hastily feels in his pockets, pulls out a five-pound-banknote and gives it to me with the expression of extreme confusion:

‘I’m sorry, Ann, I’m so damned restrained. You shouldn’t pay the bill, here, take it.’

‘There is no big deal, really.’

‘Nah, take it, please. I invited you, here, take it. It is already so damned late, I should pay more respect to your time, you should have been home long time ago.’

‘That’s alright, Gerald.’ I don’t like his feverish politeness, people always do stupid things in this state. ‘May I offer you a drink at my place?’

‘Ah, what?’ He stops his bustle for a moment. ‘Nah, nah, that’s fine, I, I shouldn’t better have bothered you with my rubbish, really. Am seriously sorry, Ann. There is no matter. Shall I call you a cab?’

‘Gerald, I really don’t think it’s a good idea for you to stay alone now, it’s better if you stay overnight at my place, it is not that far away and you will still have a human soul to whom you can talk.’

‘Nah, nah, I’m already fine. Are you sure you don’t want me to get a cab for you? Or I can give you a lift – I’ve left my car at the parking lot there near the office… Nah, I don’t need a company, really. I guess it’s much better if I spend some time alone now. I do need it.’

‘OK.’ I finally say. ‘Only promise me not to do anything stupid, OK? And that you’ll be at work tomorrow – or probably already today, yep?’

‚No problem.’ He waves his hand, shifts from one foot to the other in light confusion, waves again then and goes.

I walk the dark narrow streets alone: forty minutes of hard and joyless thinking. Not a single light in the houses around me, I check the watch – it’s half past midnight. Confusion, philosophy and sympathy run through my head. That is so hard to imagine one could go through such a drama… On the other hand, the drama is absolutely banal; there are thousands of such families. And who knows what relations stand behind all those thousands of victims of senseless and silly death.

I should not have let him go. People at such state can do all sorts of stupid things. What if he takes his own life? That is after all more than possible in such a situation! I shouldn’t have let him go like that…

But what can I do now? I have no idea where he lives. Probably the phone, yeah, I can find his phone number at least. Yeah, the contact data from the database I have – something good about being a secretary. But maybe I’m just taking it to close to heart? He’s a man after all, they always feel differently. And he has seen so many war conflicts, he has to know how to treat the stress, even such a deep and personal one…

I lie in my bed sleepless all night long. Not a slightest hope of falling a sleep. Thousands of thoughts. Half a dozen tries to call the bloody Grant and each time I stop myself from doing that, count till ten and go back to bed. Finally, a dim gray morning begins outside my window. The cat wakes up and as if it was a kind of her daily morning exercises starts scratching my soles and biting my toes. I yell and jump. OK, yes, I can may call him now. It’s better to look over-carrying and stupid, than to find out he’s shot himself tonight.

My hand trembles a little as I hold the receiver and count the long tones. Four, five, six, seven…

‘Christine Grant.’ Says a sleepy female voice on the other side of the line.

Taken aback, I hurriedly check the number. Right, here it goes: Gerald Grant, that’s his number.

‘Hullo?’

‘Erm, hullo, I’m really sorry I call that early, and I probably got the wrong number, erm, my database says it’s the number of Mr. Gerald Grunt.’

‘Yes, indeed. He’s sleeping though. Are you from the editorial office, right?’

‘Right.’ My puzzlement cannot be described with words.

‘Ah, he won’t come today, I guess, he’s spent the whole evening working on the material for his new article, got home really late and I believe will sleep till noon at least.’

‘The article?’

‘Well, yes, his study on how people react on strangers’ tragedies and problems, you know. The one for the Sunday number.’

‘Aha…’ I say slowly. The hurricane of thoughts and feelings in my head. I grab on the receiver as hard I can, the room is swimming before my eyes. It takes about half a minute till I can control my voice again. ‘OK then, we won’t wait for him then…’

‘Yeah, that’s senseless. He is about to send the article in the evening though. I believe he does.’

‘Ah, by the way…’ I don’t know why I still ask something. ‘Am I talking to Mrs. Grant, right?’

‘You definitely do.’ She laughs joyfully. ‘Oh, I’m so sorry, the baby’s awake and wants my attention. Is there anything else I can do for you?’

‘Ah, no, no, thank you.’ I assure her quickly. ‘Well, you can give m greetings to Mr. Grant and Tommy. A great husband you have, he is always telling us so touching stories about you two.’

‘Oh yeah, I know!’ The laughter again. ‘I wish you a very good day then!’

‘Have a good day, Mrs. Grant!’

I sit there in my room, with a beasty cat, scratching my linen now as if she wants to tear it to pieces. The receiver in my hand lets out frequent and monotonous busy tone. It’s 6 AM. Really early. But still I’m afraid I will need whiskey in my coffee for breakfast.

March 31, 2011





Good old days: critical glance at the cultural myth of blameless society

10 02 2012

Almost 93 years separate us from the end of the war of 1914-1918. In minds of endless thousands of people the epoch right before the Great War is associated with the last breath of Golden Age in Europe when technical progress and aesthetic affluence were harmoniously combined together. People of that epoch do seem to be purer in their morality; they seem to have been driven by such “anachronisms” as honour, debt and patriotism. But is it really so? Did the humanity really fall so hard and degrade as seriously as many believe? Were they, our great-grandparents, really so irreproachable? To find the answers on these questions let us take a short look at the cultural situation at the beginning of the XX-th century.

At first glance one might legitimately and with light heart object the arrogant hypothesis that we remained the same. For proving such a position one should only say the world looked so much different back at those days, so that any comparisons would be populist.  We have neither colonies nor their owners, we fight for freedom and peace (even when this fight goes wrong suspiciously often), and most of the monarchies of those distant days no longer exist.

But if there would have been a possibility to be transferred to our hundred-year old past the modern observer would actually have been shocked to realize we did not go far in the development of our now so outrageously  “democratic”  societies.  In  fact,  one  often  gets  the  impression  we  did  not  invent anything smarter than just to change the names for the phenomena that continue affecting our society.

MASS MEDIA
The main thing that has changed about the mass media is their spread and level of technical development. There was no television and no Internet at the beginning of the XX-th century, and radio was still at the toddler-age, when it was used for very specific needs only (such as connection between the ships at sea). Row information was still precious back at the turn of the century. Still it is interesting to know, that yellow journalism had already existed by then.

Yellow  journalism  was  the  invention  of  American  newspaper  owners,  mainly  of  Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst. Already by the beginning of the XX-th century many American and European newspapers were full of scaring titles in gigantic print and blood-curdling unchecked improbable details. As the RMS “Titanic” sank 12 years later, the information about the disaster reached America even earlier than the saved passengers were brought to New-York. The method how the journalists got the information about the wreckage is also interesting because the principle it was based on – intrusion – was what mass media used to practise up till very recent past. The journalists overheard the radio-air and witnessed the despaired calls for help of the two telegraphists from “The Titanic” and later the rescue operation of “The Carpathia” and some other ships.

Media also took active part in formation of public opinion, often in dubious and scandalous matters. Back into XIX-th century, Charles Dickens worked like a journalist and an editor for years, and caused a great social scandal by his works (books as well as articles), where he described life of the poorest Londoners. The scandal led to thorough checks of working houses and boarding schools for orphans and poor children. At the very turn of the century mass media played a great role in Dreyfus affair, forming the public opinion on both sides of the conflict. The French felt the power of the media once more when it published the information about the sale of the decorations for the Legion of Honour by a certain Daniel Wilson. The man was unfortunately the son-in-law of François Paul Jules Grévy, the President of France. The president had no other way to escape public scandal and resigned soon after.

POPULAR CULTURE
One could be righteously furious because of the author`s usage of the term “popular culture” with regard to good old days where art seemed to be art. However, the decay of “old”, classical and aesthetic form of it has already begun. Let the author be lapidated for their cultural underdevelopment, but by the beginning of the XX-th century Picasso had already started drawing his mysterious cubic abracadabra. Yes, indeed, at the very beginning of his career the great painter went through two realistic periods: a “blue” and a “rose” one. However, it would be too naive to say Picasso did not work for commercial demand of the growing bourgeois class (i.e for the bad greedy market). I have a sneaky feeling that Picasso knew too well that people would buy any thing, regardless of its objective value, but with a “name”  – and call it revolutionary art.

Add to that Egon Schiele, the „pornographer of Vienna“, as called by Lewis Crofts. At the break of the century Mr. Schiele had already been drawing his explicit pictures for some years. It will remain a mystery forever: if he did really draw Viennese underworld, as politically correct scientists assure us, how comes his wife and her sister also belonged to that “bottom of life”? And how comes they belonged to this underworld in so earthly poses?

The development of print media market had one more curious consequence. The earliest postcards come from the XIX-th century. Back then these were puritan landscapes or famous people; first of all monarchs that were normally depicted on them. By the beginning of the 1914 one more genre of postcard pictures was developed: erotic photos. It is reasonable to object that those photos were far not as filthy and pornographic, as some content an average user can find in the Internet nowadays. The photos depicted naked or almost naked women in standard portrait entourage. The nakedness often seems to be the only thrilling peculiarity of such photos. Why dare I compare this genre with modern pornography? Well, everything begins somewhere: though art nude of the early 20th century may seem almost innocent to us, it was definitely not meant to be so back then. Keep in mind that the previous epoch shamed of saying the word „legs“ and replaced it by more „descent“ „limbs“. And now imagine how scandalous and yet monstrously popular the postcards with naked women were.

WOMEN’S RIGHTS
Women were one of the main headaches of the epoch. They fought for their rights. They fought desperately, violently and often just stupidly. Female society was divided into those active ladies, who wore men`s clothes, wrote petitions, and into those well-bred ladies, who observed those indignities with true horror and disgust. Demonstrations were organized regularly and the slogans and the demands were terribly well-known to modern world: equal pay for equal work, birth control,  abortions.  The  main  aim  was,  however,  the  right  to  vote.  The  culmination  of  this extravaganza happened when Emily Davidson stepped out of the fence at the Epsom Derby just to be hit by the King`s horse.

There were of course positive sides in the movement for women`s rights. Let us recall the women who did not shout and did not shock, but achieved acknowledgment by doing their job really well: Marie Curie, Maria Agnesi, Sofia Kovalevskaya. There was also Marie Stopes, a remarkable woman who propagated marriages based on respect and love, female sexual hygiene and birth control.

It can sound shocking, but the ideas of free love were also known at those times. They actually came from America, where the ideas of Owen`s communitarianism had become popular among liberal and anarchist people. Miss Victoria Woodhull even ran for Presidency in 1872 with the platform that proclaimed free love. It didn’t work of course. However, I doubt if such platform would send her into the White House nowadays. Hardly.

FASHIONABLE PEST
As the last point of this analytical baby-beating the author would like to pay attention to the social diseases of the epoch. There is hardly a person nowadays, who has never heard the words “terror” and “terrorism”. Many sincerely wonder how and from where it came from. The past seems to us virginally pure when we speak about this aspect of life.

However, those interested in political history may recall with effort, that the formal reason for the First World War was exactly a terrorist attack: the assassination of the Austrian crown prince Franz Ferdinand and his spouse. A few more would recall that the Russian Emperor Alexander II was killed by a bomb. It is important to mention, that the event of March 3, 1881 was already the eighth attempt on the life of the Russian Emperor (one could have got used by then). The event caused a great shock in society, however Russia was by that time full of terrorists, who were ready to do everything to force the government to start the reforms. In 1905 one more member of Russian royal family, this time the Governor of Moscow was killed in one more bomb attack. The most common joke of the Russian society that year was  that  His  Highness  finally  started  cudgelling  his  brains.  Political  correctness  wasn`t  that fashionable at the beginning of the XX-th century.

Not only Russia, country where people are hardened by nature and life, had troubles with terrorist attacks. Marie François Sadi Carnot, the president of the Third Republic of France, was stabbed by Italian anarchist in 1894. In 1898 the other anarchist, coincidentally also from Italy, killed the Austrian Empress Elisabeth. Not a single edge of Europe was secure from attacks, so as today actually. The main difference to the beginning of the XX-th century is in the origin of the terrorists. Back then these were the people from the same continent: from Balkan countries and south of Europe mostly (Russia, of course, had its own “inland supply” of terrorists). All of them were inspired on their acts by the idea of freedom for their nation, ethnic or religious group, they believed to fight against the capitalist enslavers.

It seems to be probable, that these motives are shared by modern terrorists as well, though nowadays they come from former colonies, now judicially independent states. Unfortunately for these countries, it is absolutely right what Benjamin Disraeli once said: colonies do not seize to be colonies because they are independent. Neither of countries which were under European rule in past succeeded in overcoming its colonial heritage. Though the people are predictably infected with post- colonial syndrome in thinking, i.e. do their best forgetting their past and avoiding uneasy memories of foreign rule, these efforts are in general almost alike to those they great-grandparents paid while belonging  to  gigantic  empires  of  the  past.  The  governmental  systems  seem  to  be  similar,  the language of former “enlightening” enslavers remains the  language of culture and public life, the colonial culture lives in people`s minds. Let us also not forget that the acknowledged independence did not abolish the economic interest of former “masters”, but just limited their presence in national economies. This factor, so as the likeness that the people try to fight leads to what can literary be called behaviour of teenage rebel in relation to his parents. It is highly improbable that the terrorists who horrified civilized Europe at the turn of the century were different from what we observe today.

To sum up all written above there is a good reason to say that the European society as it stepped in the XX-th century was neither better nor worse than what we have now. Sociocultural situations of both epochs have their advantages and disadvantages, but the main course was the same. Therefore it is irresponsible, senseless and depressive to suppose that the epoch before the outbreak of the First World War was the last Golden age in our history. The only thing that speaks for that is probably the fact the younger generation then was fascinated by Mahler instead of Fifty Cent. And this is quite a serious argument.

May 17, 2011