From Feuille (fr. Leaf, or sheet), like the brown coloured leaves spread out upon on the road in front of me, which the lens of my camera had looked down upon, almost inadvertently or mischieviously it seemed to me, while I was attempting to photograph the revolutionary encampment on the outskirts of the city of Via Reggio two weeks ago.
Spaziergänge was the original title for Joseph Roth’s feuilleton in the Berliner Börsen-Courier, May 24, 1921, translated as ‘Going for a Walk’ by Michael Hofmann (What I Saw. 2003, Granta Books, P23-27). It was one of his early masterpieces of the feuilleton, and perfectly demonstrates Roth’s method, including the essential characteristics of brevity (word count between 2,000 and 4,000 words), precise location “Unter dem Strich” (under the line) and thereby separated from all other forms of ‘legitimate’ writing by the thick horizontal band of ink printed accross page, and lastly his personal style. “Der Rahmen is der stil, bin ich” (the framework is the style, I am) wrote Roth elsewhere, in a sentence that happens to approximate quite closely to what Saramaga had also written in his own blog (published in The Notebook), In short, I learn as I go along, through the words I speak.
What I saw out bicycling, the encampment, and caught on camera, confronting the revolution that is never quite happening.
A possible politics?
According to Siegfried Kracauer (The Mass Ornament, tr. T Lewin. P 130), ‘It is less essential to go into historical problems than it is to elaborate the spiritual (seelische) situation in which the people at issue here find themselves in’, and he goes on to describe our experience of a kind of dispossession, or exile that is governed by a Horror Vacui (fear of emptiness). He then lists the main classes of attitude we energetically engage in order to fill the thoroughly unpleasant experience of this gap (including of course the political gap of the revolution which is never quite happening) including:
Messianic (Belief and Non-belief) people
Old humanist doctrinalist (fans of the Big Society etc…)
Skeptic as a matter of principle (such a cold and lonely existence!)
The ‘short-circuit people’ are a class perceptively identified by Kracauer as those who survive (and perhaps flourish, some may even achieve sainthood) through the exercise of the will, the ‘will to faith’ as he puts it.
Otherwise… on my travels from one encampment to the next… do I observe any other grouping which so far has been left out from the above list?
‘Perhaps the only remaining attitude is one of waiting’ Kracauer concludes (in his 1920’s essay entitled Those Who Wait)… on my travels upon a mechanical movement tool, or via the technology of translation if you prefer… I am - Der Rahmen (the framework) – upon a bicycle, such as:
Each of us (is) like one of those bicycles put together from old parts,
a rusty chain, racer handlebars, mudguards, an odd wheel.
When people see you their eyes say what a hybrid,
how weird, how cool, how funny,
awesome. They laugh. It may even have a rusty bell
or horn to warn people to get out of the way, look out.
Still it gets you where you are going. The wheels turn.
(Part of Recycling by Greg Delanty, a translation from the poem by Gregory of Corkus in the Greek Anthology, Book XVII [The Poetry Review, Summer 2010. Vol100:2, P 40])
And the camera? It is my Birthday soon. Ideally I would like something like a box brownie, with a between-the-wars German tele-photo lens attachment, and one of those exploding flash bulb devices which American reporters use in the old 'B' movies, along with an ancient and discontinued form of digital uploading software. I am sure you have got the general idea by now. Go to it. Click. Click. Waiting for the light to change.