“Das aesthetische Wiesel”
sass auf einem Kiesel
verriet es mir
tat's um des Reimes willen.
—By Christian Morgenstern
Another self-explanatory poem. Johannes Beilharz places it on a page of “nonsense poetry” but that's a premature classification, for the final lines give it a clear rhetoric, and in that regard the “poem” functions almost like an aphorism or maxim of sorts. And the rhyming nonsense serves a purpose, illustrating the point of those last verses.
As Beilharz notes, Knight's translation is from The Gallows Songs Christian Morgenstern's Galgenlieder: A Selection, translated by Max Knight (U of California P, 1964).
When it comes to incomplete history, one needs to encircle the truth, not bound at it like an amorous kangaroo. (Egyptologist 334)
Yesterday afternoon at Fair Trade I finished The Egyptologist by Arthur Phillips. I began it before my trip to New York but after I started Prague, the author's first novel. I returned to Prague (which is about Budapest) this afternoon, and it's as great a pleasure as The Egyptologist, but I'm ahead of myself. Or I'm just being vague and vacuous. It wouldn't be the first time.
I've read good books and bad books, or at least good books and mediocre books this last year. If it's bad without being at least supremely entertaining I don't get into it. I behave a bit differently with comics, at least the serial ones, for I'll accept a bad issue or two if it serves the story or continuity and paves the way to or smoothes the edges between better issues. Of the “good” and “fun” novels I've read in the last year I can't really name “the best,” but Marisha Pessl's Special Topics in Calamity Physics (mentioned in other boiaries and husiaries by other Husites many times) qualifies as a rollicking good read, full of over-the-top language executed throughout as the voice, not just a gimmick, as well as faux literary references that might have made Eco proud. The Egyptologist, from 2004, is perfect for those who liked Special Topics ... but who are also comfortable with “plot” happenings that occur only implicitly, between the lines.
Just as David Mitchell with Cloud Atlas Phillips is able in The Egyptologist to fully and convincingly juggle distinct styles and voices, and here it's two first-person narratives told three decades apart, the earlier, by Ralph Trilipush, in the form of letters, journal entries, and the book he is writing, the latter, by Harry Ferrell, in the form of letters about a case he was involved in that led to his entanglement with Trilipush. There's a great deal of deception at hand, and more than a little of it is of the self- variety.
In a story like this you expect the characters eventually to meet, and that meeting serves as a turning point, a catalyst, a method of clarification. See Ken Macleod's Cosmonaut Keep for an example of two distinct narratives (one first-person, one third-person) that finally converge, making everything clear. That doesn't happen here; the meeting doesn't resolve matters, though other material at the end sort of does, except insofar as it puts the knowledge and motive of one of the other characters, whom we think we've figured out, in question.
He is in a line of work not dissimilar to my own, except that he is incompetent. (Egyptologist 334)
This afternoon I returned John R. Searle's Mystery of Consciousness, a collection of previously-published essays edited and revisited (with input from those whom he attacked in his original reviews), which had been recalled on me for some reason by some other student. Or perhaps faculty member. It wasn't due back until next week, but since I wanted to check out new books I figured it was a good idea to return it.
I also returned The Egyptologist.
Later at Fair Trade I returned to Prague and am finding it as enjoyable if not more so than The Egyptologist, perhaps because of the soft spot I retain for Budapest. And although Phillips, who lived in Budapest from 1990–92, presents the Budapest of 1990, much of it is familiar to those of us who lived there in 1995 and '96. The city has changed a lot since then, though.
Over in the channel komet, I believe, provided a link to the BBC on a hotel that offers ‘East German chic’—the Plattenbau exterior reminds me of places I've lived. Last night we were provided with a view about (but not of) anal bleaching, but that's neither here nor there.
“The Aesthetic Weasel”
perched on an easel
within a patch of teasel.
The Moon Cow
whispered her reply
did it just for the rhyme.
— Translated by Max Knight
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