kill all my demons and my angels might die too
It was the 2013 film trailer by the same title that moved me to read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, but even the film’s roughly 100 million dollar budget is unlikely to conjure imagery that matches or improves on the prose in the pages of the book.
The author has an insight into human nature which leaves you feeling as if he lay bare the ugly character traits that one might otherwise remain blind to in himself or in others.
He smiled understandingly-much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced–or seemed to face–the whole eternal world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself, and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey.
I couldn’t forgive him or like him, but I saw that what he had done was, to him, entirely justified. It was all very careless and confused. They were careless people, Tom and Daisy – they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made…
“With infinite life comes an infinite list of relatives. Grandparents never die, nor do great-grandparents, great-aunts… and so on, back through the generations, all alive and offering advice. Sons never escape from the shadows of their fathers. Nor do daughters of their mothers. No one ever comes into his own… Such is the cost of immortality. No person is whole. No person is free.”
The passed month – with everything that I crammed into the days since I flew out of Canada – feels as if it spanned triple the time. A good way to make time tangible is to cram a lot into said days and weeks. The longer an account you can give of your days passed, the slower the clocks seem to be ticking (an imprecise statement given the exceptional skills of some fellow men in vigorously reporting the completely banal and trite.)
Yesterday night – with the ‘last minute’ renovations lasting days finally in some semblance of completion by the eve – was the first my new apartment felt like a home. This morning was the first I’ve spent outside the company of my vexatious but ultimately well meaning landlord after semi-politely objecting to his idea for another round of butchered renovations today.
Watching these videos makes me really glad I’ve a relatively healthy fear of heights, but kudos to him. If there is one thing I envy – beyond the obvious thrill of the view – it’s the solitude he gets up so damn high. (Mobile technology FTW, we live in amazing times.)
The acoustic version is really good too
Głos Pana Piłsudskiego (Mr. Pilsudski’s voice)
(My quick Polish to English translation follows the Polish text. Or listen to the actual recording.)
“Stoję przed jakąś dziwną trąbą i myślę, że głos mój ma się oddzielić ode mnie i pójść w świat beze mnie, jego właściciela. Zabawne pomysły mają ludzie! Doprawdy, trudno się nie śmiać z tej dziwnej sytuacji, w której nagle głos pana Piłsudskiego się znajdzie. Wyobrażam sobie tę zabawną chwilę, gdy jakiś ananas korbą nakręci, śrubkę naciśnie i jakaś trąba, zamiast mnie, gadać zacznie. Ciekawe! Chciałbym widzieć wtedy zebrane dzieci, do których ta trąba ludzkim głosem gada. A gdy pomyślę, że wśród tych dzieci nagle znaleźć się mogą moje własne, które na pewno pomyślą, że tatuś z nimi gdzieś za trąbą w chowanego się bawi, pusty śmiech mnie bierze, że ten biedny mój głos, ode mnie oddzielony, przestał nagle być moją własnością i należy już, nie wiem do kogo, nie wiem do czego: do trąby czy do jakiegoś akcyjnego towarzystwa. Najzabawniejsza jest jednak myśl, że kiedy mnie już nie będzie, głos pana Piłsudskiego sprzedawany będzie za trzy grosze gdzieś na jarmarkach, prawie na funty, jak pierniki, prawie na łuty, jak jakie cukierki. I gdy przed tą maszynką stoję, wciąż mnie jedna myśl prześladuje, bym mógł uwiecznić nie głos, lecz śmiech.”
[Jeśli macie tłumaczenie na inne języki, chętnie dodam.]
I stand in front of some unusual trumpet thinking about how my voice is to separate itself from me and go out into the world without me, its owner. People have funny ideas! Truly it is difficult not to laugh at this unusual situation in which the voice of Mr. Pilsudski will suddenly find itself. I imagine this funny moment when some simple man will turn a crank, press a screw and instead of me, a trumpet will start talking. Interesting! I’d like to see the the gathered children, to which the trumpet speaks with a human voice. And when I consider that among these children might be my own, which no doubt will think that daddy is hiding somewhere behind the trumpet playing hide-and-seek, I’m filled with empty laughter that this poor voice of mine, separated from me ceases to be my own and now belongs to I don’t know whom, or what: to the trumpet, or some collective society. But the most intriguing idea is that when I’m at last gone, the voice of Mr. Pilsudski will be sold for three grosze at some market, almost per pound, like honey-cakes; almost by the lot, like candy. And when I stand in front of this device, one thought nags at me – that I may forever preserve not voice, but the sound of laughter.
Three times the construction has been halted. A city official says that clearly the building is higher than the others, which supposedly is against city regulations. The developer retorts with ‘we’ve not deviated from the original building plans approved by the city.’ In true eastern European style, there are allegations of exploitation of personal connections to get the plans approved, and the drama goes on.
But what I found really interesting (the Mariott Hotel story is all too typical to be newsworthy in itself) are the comments below the story. In them are several complaints about the continued expansion of the city through ever taller buildings. And where I sit and write this now in central Canada, urban sprawl is a big problem (no pun intended.) The city has gotten so large that no public transit can cover it efficiently, which means more roads, more cars, more pollution, and more time behind the wheel adding to the obesity problem. (Snow removal alone cost the city about 30 million Canadian dollars for the last winter – more roads and tiny buildings in an area where few have more than two storeys is creating expensive problems.)
Wherever you’re reading this, if you’ve a view from one of these type of buildings, send me a photo. I want to see the other side of the story, the one looking down. And seeing these photos, maybe the citizens of Wrocław can breathe a little easier knowing that things are not that bad.
As for me, this weekend I’m one of the lucky ones to see the inside of the new Human Rights museum which is set to open next year.