Letishist’s Labor of Love

Вряд ли где можно было найти человека, который так жил бы в своей должности. Мало сказать: он служил ревностно, нет, он служил с любовью. Там, в этом переписываньи, ему виделся какой-то свой разнообразный и приятный мир. Наслаждение выражалось на лице его; некоторые буквы у него были фавориты, до которых если он добирался, то был сам не свой: и подсмеивался, и подмигивал, и помогал губами, так что в лице его, казалось, можно было прочесть всякую букву, которую выводило перо его. — Николай Гоголь, «Шинель» (1842)

It would be difficult to find another man who lived so entirely for his duties. It is not enough to say that Akakiy laboured with zeal: no, he laboured with love. In his copying, he found a varied and agreeable world. Enjoyment was written on his face: some letters were even favourites with him; and when he encountered these, he smiled, winked, and worked with his lips, till it seemed as though each letter might be read in his face, as his pen traced it. — Nikolai Gogol, “The Overcoat” (1842)

Post-Performative Post-Scriptum

Бу́ква, búkva, the Russian for “letter”, may be related to the German Buche, meaning “beech”, which in its turn may be related to the English word “book”. Why so? Because beech-bark was once used for writing.

He Say, He Sigh, He Sow #49

• «Планета есть колыбель разума, но нельзя вечно жить в колыбели.» — Константин Эдуардович Циолковский (1911)

• “Planet is the cradle of mind, but one cannot live in the cradle forever.” — Konstantin Tsiolkovsky


Album primo-avrilesque, meaning April-Foolish Album, is a collection of visual jokes published by the French humourist Alphonse Allais (1854-1905) on 1st April 1897. Note that some of the captions can’t be translated fully into English, because they use French idioms that refer to color.

Combat de nègres dans une cave, pendant la nuit
Negroes fighting in a cellar at night

Stupeur de jeunes recrues apercevant pour la première fois ton azur, O Méditerranée!
Astonishment of young naval recruits seeing for the first time your blue, O Mediterranean!

Des souteneurs, encore dans la force de l’âge et le ventre dans l’herbe, boivant de l’absinthe
Pimps, still in the prime of life and with bellies to the grass, drinking absinthe
(Pimps were then known as dos verts or “green-backs”)

Manipulation de l’ocre par des cocus ictériques
Handling of ochre by jaundiced cuckolds
(According to one page I’ve found, coucou is the name given to some yellow wild-flowers, and cuckolds can be yellow with jealousy)

Récolte de la tomate par des cardinaux apoplectiques au bord de la mer Rouge (Effet d’aurore boréale)
Harvesting of tomatoes by apoplectic cardinals on the shore of the Red Sea (effect of the Aurora Borealis)

Ronde de pochards dans le brouillard
Dance of drunks in the fog
(Slang for “drunk” in French is gris, which also means “gray”)

Première communion de jeunes filles chlorotiques par un temps de neige
First communion of anaemic young girls in snowy weather

Marche funèbre, composée pour les funérailles d’un grand homme sourd
Funeral March, composed for the obsequies of a great deaf man

Nail Supremacy

Ὁ γαρ ἡδονής και ἀλγηδόνος ἧλος, ὃς πρὸς το σώμα τήν ψυχην προσηλοῖ, μέγιστον κακὸν ἔχειν ἔοικε, τὸ τα αἰσθητά ποιεῖν ἐναργέστερα τῶν νοητῶν, καὶ καταβιάζεσθαι καὶ πάθει μᾶλλον ἢ λόγῳ κρίνειν τήν διάνοιαν.

• ΠΡΟΒΛΗΜΑ Β’. Πώς Πλάτων ἔλεγε τον θεὸν άεὶ γεωμετρεῖν.

Nam voluptatis et doloris ille clavus, quo animus corpori affigitur, id videtur maximum habere malum, quod sensilia facit intelligibilibus evidentiora, vimque facit intellectui, ut affectionem magis quam rationem in judicando sequatur.

• QUÆSTIO II: Qua ratione Plato dixerit, Deum semper geometriam tractare.

For the nail of pain and pleasure, which fastens the soul to the body, seems to do us the greatest mischief, by making sensible things more powerful over us than intelligible, and by forcing the understanding to determine them rather by passion than by reason.

• Plutarch’s Symposiacs, QUESTION II: What is Plato’s Meaning, When He Says that God Always Plays the Geometer?

He Say, He Sigh, He Sow #48

• « S’il est un homme tourmenté par la maudite ambition de mettre tout un livre dans une page, toute une page dans une phrase, et tout une phrase dans un mot, c’est moi. » — Joseph Jourbet (1754-1824)

• “If there is a man tormented by the cursed ambition to compress an entire book into a page, an entire page into a phrase, and that phrase into a word, it is I.” — Joseph Jourbet

A Seriously Sizzling Series of Super-Saucy Salvadisms

Some good quotes by Salvador Dalí (1904-89), who will need no introduction to keyly committed core components of the quixotically contrarian community. The Spanish should be reliable, but the English translations may not be (coz i dun em).

• A los seis años quería ser cocinero. A los siete quería ser Napoleón. Mi ambición no ha hecho más que crecer; ahora sólo quiero ser Salvador Dalí y nada más. Por otra parte, esto es muy difícil, ya que, a medida que me acerco a Salvador Dalí, él se aleja de mí.
 — At six years of age I wanted to be a chef. At seven I wanted to be Napoleon. My ambition has only grown since then, but now I only want to be Salvador Dalí and nothing more. Still, it’s very difficult, because the closer I get to Salvador Dalí, the further he gets from me.

• El canibalismo es una de las manifestaciones más evidentes de la ternura.
 — Cannibalism is a sure sign of affection.

• El que quiere interesar a los demás tiene que provocarlos.
 — He who wishes to interest other people needs to provoke them.

• …Es curioso, a mi me interesa mucho mas hablar, o estar en contacto con la gente que piensa lo contrario de lo que yo pienso, que de los que piensan lo mismo que pienso yo.
 — …It’s strange, but I’d much rather talk with or be in touch with people who think the opposite of what I think than with those who think the same as I do.

• Es fácil reconocer si el hombre tiene gusto: la alfombra debe combinar con las cejas.
 — It’s easy to tell if a man has good taste: his carpet should harmonize with his eyebrows.

• De ninguna manera volveré a México. No soporto estar en un país más surrealista que mis pinturas.
 — Under no circumstances will I return to Mexico. I cannot bear to be in a country more surreal than my own paintings.

• Hoy, el gusto por el defecto es tal que sólo parecen geniales las imperfecciones y sobre todo la fealdad. Cuando una Venus se parece a un sapo, los seudoestetas contemporáneos exclaman: ¡Es fuerte, es humano!
 — Today, a taste for the defective is so strong that the only things that seem attractive are imperfections and, above all, ugliness. When a Venus looks like a toad, the pseudo-aesthetes of today shout: “That’s great, that’s human!”

• Los errores tienen casi siempre un carácter sagrado. Nunca intentéis corregirlos. Al contrario: lo que procede es racionalizarlos, compenetrarse con aquellos integralmente. Después, os será posible subliminarlos.
— Mistakes almost always have a sacred character. Never try to correct them. On the contrary, you need to ponder them, to examine them from every angle. Afterwards, you will be able to absorb them.

• La Revolución Rusa es la Revolución Francesa que llega tarde, por culpa del frío.
 — The Russian Revolution is the French Revolution arriving late due to the cold.

• La única diferencia entre un loco y Dalí, es que Dalí no está loco.
 — The only difference between a madman and Dalí is that Dalí is not mad.

• La vida es aspirar, respirar y expirar.
 — Life is aspiring, respiring and expiring.

• Lo importante es que hablen de ti, aunque sea bien.
 — What’s important is that people talk about you, even if they only say good things.

• Lo único de lo que el mundo no se cansará nunca es de la exageración.
 — The only thing the world never tires of is exaggeration.

• ¡No podéis expulsarme porque Yo soy el Surrealismo!
 — You cannot expel me: I am Surrealism! (After being expelled from the surrealist movement in Paris.)

• Picasso es pintor. Yo también. Picasso es español. Yo también. Picasso es comunista. Yo tampoco.
 — Picasso is a painter. So am I. Picasso is a Spaniard. So am I. Picasso is a communist. Nor am I.

• Sin una audiencia, sin la presencia de espectadores, estas joyas no alcanzarían la función para la cual fueron creadas. El espectador, por tanto, es el artista final. Su vista, corazón, mente — con una mayor o menor capacidad para entender la intención del creador — da vida a las joyas.
 — Without an audience, without a circle of spectators, these jewels would never realize the purpose for which they were created. The spectator is therefore the final artist. His eyes, his heart, his mind — whether better or worse equipped to understand the purpose of the creator — give life to the jewels.

• Llamo a mi esposa: Gala, Galuska, Gradiva; Oliva por lo oval de su rostro y el color de su piel; Oliveta, diminutivo de la oliva; y sus delirantes derivados: Oliueta, Oriueta, Buribeta, Buriueteta, Siliueta, Solibubuleta, Oliburibuleta, Ciueta, Liueta. También la llamo Lionette, porque cuando se enfada ruge como el león de la Metro-Goldwyn Mayer.
 — I call my wife Gala, Galuska, Gradiva; Oliva for her oval face and the colour of her skin; Oliveta, diminutive of Oliva; and its delirious derivations: Oliueta, Oriueta, Buribeta, Buriueteta, Siliueta, Solibubuleta, Oliburibuleta, Ciueta, Liueta. I also call her Lionette, because when she’s angry she roars like the MGM lion.

• Sólo hay dos cosas malas que pueden pasarte en la vida, ser Pablo Picasso o no ser Salvador Dalí.
 — There are only two things that can go wrong for you in life: being Pablo Picasso or not being Salvador Dalí.

• Si muero, no moriré del todo.
 — If I die, I will not die completely. (Compare Horace’s Non omnis moriar, I will not wholly die.)

• La inteligencia sin ambición es un pájaro sin alas.
 — Intelligence without ambition is a bird without wings.

• No tengas miedo de la perfección, nunca la alcanzarás.
 — Don’t be afraid of perfection, because you’ll never achieve it.

• Para comprar mis cuadros hay que ser criminalmente rico como los norteamericanos.
 — To buy my paintings you have to be criminally rich like the Americans.

• Hay días en que pienso que voy a morir de una sobredosis de satisfacción.
 — There are days when I think that I will die of an overdose of satisfaction.

• El termómetro del éxito no es más que la envidia de los descontentos.
 — The thermometer of success is nothing more than the envy of the discontent.

• Lo menos que puede pedirse a una escultura es que no se mueva.
 — The least that one can ask of a sculpture is that it stays still.

• Mientras estamos dormidos en este mundo, estamos despiertos en el otro.
 — When we are asleep in this world, we are awake in another.

• Yo no tomo drogas. Yo soy una droga.
 — I do not take drugs. I am a drug.

• Los que no quieren imitar nada, no producen nada.
 — Those who refuse to imitate will never create.

• Las guerras nunca han hecho daño a nadie, excepto a la gente que muere.
 — Wars have never done harm to anyone, except to those who die.

• Gustar el dinero como me gusta, es nada menos que misticismo. El dinero es una gloria.
 — To relish money as I do is nothing short of mysticism. Money is a glory.

• La existencia de la realidad es la cosa más misteriosa, más sublime y más surrealista que se dé.
 — The existence of reality is the most mysterious, most sublime and most surrealist thing of all.

Hymne à la Chim’ !

« Quelle chimère est-ce donc que l’homme, quelle nouveauté, quel monstre, quel chaos, quel sujet de contradiction, quel prodige, juge de toutes choses, imbécile ver de terre, dépositaire du vrai, cloaque d’incertitude et d’erreur, gloire et rebut de l’univers ! » — Pascal

“What a Chimera is man! What a novelty, a monster, a chaos, a contradiction, a prodigy! Judge of all things, an imbecile worm; depository of truth, and sewer of error and doubt; the glory and refuse of the universe.”

Performativizing Papyrocentricity #65

Papyrocentric Performativity Presents:

Fratele Gets You NowhereO mie nouă sute optzeci şi patru, George Orwell, translated by Mihnea Gafiţa (Biblioteca Polirom 2002)

Whole Lotta ScottHighway to Hell: The Life and Times of AC/DC Legend Bon Scott, Clinton Walker (Pan Books 1996)

The Bella and the BoltonianA Forger’s Tale: Confessions of the Bolton Forger, Shaun Greenhalgh (Allen & Unwin 2017)

Clubbed to DeafThe Haçienda: How Not to Run a Club, Peter Hook (Simon & Schuster 2009)

Dizh Izh Vizh BizhVilest Visions: The Darkest, Despicablest, Disgustingest Decapitations vs The Nastiest, Noxiousest, Nauseatingest Necrophilia, Dr Samuel P. Salatta and Dr William K. Phipps (Visceral Visions 2018)

Or Read a Review at Random: RaRaR

Ratschläge einer Raupe

“Alice and the Caterpillar” by John Tenniel (1820-1914), from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland (1865)

Ratschläge einer Raupe is one possible German translation of “Advice from a Caterpillar”, which is the title of chapter five of Alice in Wonderland. But the drawing above doesn’t need a translation. John Tenniel and Lewis Carroll were a classic combination, like Quentin Blake and J.P. Martin or Thomas Henry and Richmal Crompton. Tenniel drew fantastic things in a matter-of-fact way, which was just right.

But that makes me wonder about Ratschläge einer Raupe. In German, Rat-schlag means “piece of advice” and Ratschläge is the plural. At first glance, the title is more fun in German: it alliterates and trips off the the tongue in a way the English doesn’t. And Schlag literally means “blow, stroke”, which captures the behaviour of the caterpillar well. Like many of the characters Alice encounters in Wonderland, he is a prickly and aggressive interlocutor. “Advice from a Caterpillar” is plain by comparison.

So perhaps that makes it better: it’s a matter-of-fact title for a surreal chapter. Tenniel’s art echoes that.

Der Sechsimus in der Musik

• Als Heifetz das Werk dann durchspielt, scheitert er mehrmals an einer extrem schwierigen Passage. Der unfehlbare Heifetz soll zu Schönberg sagen: Dafür müsste ich mir sechs Finger wachsen lassen. Schönberg erwidert angeblich: Na ich kann warten.

• When Heifetz then played through the work, he made several mistakes in a very difficult passage. The impeccable Heifetz said to Schoenberg: “I’d need to grow six fingers for that!” Schoenberg allegedly replied: “Well, I can wait!”