Having abandoned writing a history of ourselves because for quite some time now one can’t rely on anything I say, or anything you say either for that matter, we have been given permission to travel everywhere. That is the message today from Ubu Roi. What I say is always simply another event. What you say is just another historical observation, but together in the form of the serial feulleton we seem to have chanced upon a method to allow us to seek for work without troubling too much about having a status, fixed situation or known position. Seeking a publisher, we are at the gateway of the world, the threshold of all people…
… and I am back on the shores of the Arabian Sea for two weeks in southern India, staying at a kind of Asclepion hotel where the gaps between dreams and waking have
become even more porous than usual. Sinbad is here fishing offshore in his dugout canoes and telling stories to himself all through the night, and so quite probably is Sherehezade tapping at her tablet on the beach before winging her piece back to Benno (the feuilleton editor) for publication. The 1002nd Arabian Night and so on, in and out of history and backing on to the ocean, there is music everywhere, floating through the coconut groves which fringe the sea from black speakers te size of double-beds.
Yes, our narod – our people – is recomposed, including the Russians who are also back here. There the same ones who I wrote about last year who glow with an intense and restless kind of roaming energy and swim far out to sea five times a day. We are all about the same age, but there are of course many more of them than us, and back home the men work in the nuclear energy industry, running their own businesses with similar robust vigour and will power, and so making themselves reasonable profits (they are as it were well to do borgeoise intellectuals but not the super-rich) sufficient to travel so that we can meet here to the tip of southern India, and break the ice of the Volga in winter to go for a regular dip. So far as I am able to understand them because neither of us speak each other‘s tongue. However, we are all inhabiting a kind of “novelletish world” as Roth wrote in his feuilleton to the F.Z (published 26th August 1925), and we have no trouble filling the gaps between the words with our imagination.
East and West, Roth continues in the same piece, “From wealth to poverty is but a step. The homeless sleep on the palace steps”. We have got on to politics in our conversation, and I ask one of the Russian men for his opinions. It appears he longs for the return of Tzar Nicholas. At any rate he cannot stand Putin and the rest of the toting laptop parvenus with their Social Democrat pretensions, and fat wives with heelless sandles which they buy from the most expensive shops in Italy. It was the same with Rot Roth, the “revolutionary” as he was called, who writes a letter to Benno (the feuilleton editor) in which he tells him how much he cried when Franz Josef died. Like Andrzej Stasiuk too, who I quoted at some length a week or two back, toasting the birthday of the old emperor in East Hungary.
The ends of epochs but without any feelings of nostalgia, and this longing for caesars from another time. We should note that – Plato was of the same viewpoint. Or the longing in our case for an editor like Benno, who will rule us with a firm but kindly hand (“on the one hand feullieton editor, on the other well-disposed human being” as Roth put it in his letter of 30th August 1925).
Do we not share this longing for caesars, editors who will publish us, making deadlines, and demand clarity, and give us back morality? Yes! – Truth in half a page.
That was Roth's definition of the feuilleton by the way. I will leave it to you to check if this Benno is the same one who fulfils the editor role for the hero of Bolano’s 2666. Quite probably.