Adam Zagajewski, Another Beauty
Translated by Clare Cavanagh
Memoirs of a young poet who studied in Krakow. Mostly it is the short aperçus that captured my attention and interest, plus the method of writing a narrative, broken up time-wise here and there, and then he comes in with more epigrams. He offers extended portraits of women whom he rented from, his teachers (“Professor Leszczynski never removed his green overcoat”), other students and poets, acquaintances (“He was a bachelor, a gallant gentleman, a troubadour ready to serve any lady in the most disinterested and noble fashion”) whereas my portraits are all too brief – I need to flesh out much more fully. He reviews his time in Paris and the US as well as his love for classical music, such as Mahler’s 9th and the glorious first movement, or Schumann’s third piano concerto. He regrets becoming a poetic ideologue and propagandist. I ordered this book on impulse, thinking his structure would be convergent with my own, but it’s not: mine is bolder! (Or, some may say, more chaotic).
I’d try to summon up that whole vanished culture, killed off by the Germans and Russians, the large apartments with paintings on their walls, the vast bookcases, and most of all the clear sight and free souls of people who had chosen their own convictions, who had handpicked their pessimism, people who didn’t live yet in the shadow of that Moloch, the one and only all-consuming Party.
Inscription on a gravestone found in North Africa: “I, a captain in the Roman legions, have thoroughly considered the following truth. There are only two things in life, love and power, and no one can have them both at once.” Read the rest of this entry »