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This Recording

is dedicated to the enjoyment of audio and visual stimuli. Please visit our archives where we have uncovered the true importance of nearly everything. Should you want to reach us, e-mail alex dot carnevale at gmail dot com, but don't tell the spam robots. Consider contacting us if you wish to use This Recording in your classroom or club setting. We have given several talks at local Rotarys that we feel went really well.

Pretty used to being with Gwyneth

Regrets that her mother did not smoke

Frank in all directions

Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais

Simply cannot go back to them

Roll your eyes at Samuel Beckett

John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion

Metaphors with eyes

Life of Mary MacLane

Circle what it is you want

Not really talking about women, just Diane

Felicity's disguise

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Tuesday
Aug232011

In Which Harold Pinter Changes Marcel Proust

Judge of Proust

by ALEX CARNEVALE

Proust is completely detached from all moral considerations. There is no right or wrong in Proust nor in his world.

- Samuel Beckett

When Harold Pinter's screenplay of Proust's In Search of Lost Time was published in 1978, the playwright's lifetime ignorance of his critics softened. He paid attention to what they wrote because what he made was not entirely his own, and since Proust was no longer living to judge his adaptation, he was prepared to be crucified by the man's inheritors.

1972 had been a year of reading and writing in fits and starts. He worked with Beckett's mistress/scholar/translator Barbara Bray, whose knowledge of Proust's opus far exceeded his own. Pinter had only read Swann's Way, so the first idea to adapt the novel to the screen consisted of Swann's Way as the entire movie, with allusions to a larger whole. Pinter and Bray rejected this limitation immediately, and his dismissal of Swann's Way was wise many of the events of the book simply don't revolve enough around Marcel for a drama.

with Vaclav Havel a year before the Velvet Revolution

For the most part, Pinter views In Search of Lost Time as a comedy. In The Guermantes Way Proust recalls his visit to the home of Charlus, an emotional scene where the comic aspect is largely ironic. Pinter brings it out into the open:

INT. BARON DE CHARLUS' HOUSE. THE BARON'S ROOM. NIGHT.

Charlus, in a Chinese dressing gown, throat bare, is lying on a sofa.

The Valet shows Marcel into the room and withdraws.

A tall hat, its top flashing in the light, sits on a cap on a chair.

Charlus stares at Marcel in silence.

MARCEL: Good evening.

No reply. The stare is implacable.

May I sit down? Silence.

CHARLUS: Take the Louis Quatorze chair. Marcel sits abruptly in a Directoire chair beside him. Ah! So that is what you call a Louis Quatorze chair! I can see you have been well educated. One of these days you'll take Madame de Villeparisis' lap for a lavatory and goodness knows what you'll do in it. Pause. Sir, this interview which I have condescended to grant you will mark the end of our relationship. He stretches an arm along the back of the sofa. Since I was everything and you were nothing, since I, if I may state it plainly, am a prodigious personage and you in comparison a microbe, it was naturally I who took the first steps towards you. You have made an imbecilic reply to what it is not for me to describe as an act of greatness. In short, you have lied about me to others. You have repeated calumnies against me to others. Therefore these are the last words we shall exchange on this earth.

Pause.

MARCEL: Never, sir. I have never spoken about you to anyone.

CHARLUS: You left unanswered the proposal I made to you here in Paris. The idea did not attract you. There is no more to be said about that. But that you did not take the trouble to write to me shows that you lack not only breeding, good manners, sensibility, but common or garden intelligence. Instead, you prove yourself despicable in speaking of me disrespectfully to the world at large.

MARCEL: Sir, I swear to you that I have said nothing to anyone that could insult you.

CHARLUS (with extreme violence): Insult me? Who says that I am insulted? Do you suppose it is within your power to insult me? You evidently do not realize to whom you are speaking. Do you imagine that the envenomed spittle of five hundred little gentlemen of your type, heaped one upon the other, would succeed in slobbering so much as the tips of my august toes?

Marcel stares at him, jumps up, seizes the Baron's silk hat, throws it down, tramples it, picks it up, wrenches off the brim, tears the crown in two.

CHARLUS: What in heaven's name are you doing? Have you gone mad?

Marcel rushes to the door and opens it. Two footmen are standing outside. They move slowly away. Marcel walks quickly past them, followed by Charlus, who bars his way.

CHARLUS: There, there, don't be childish. Come back for a minute. He that loveth well chasteneth well. I have chastened you well because I love you well. He draws Marcel back into the room.

CHARLUS (to footman): Take away the hat and bring me a new one.

MARCEL: I would like to know the name of your informer, sir.

CHARLUS: I have given a promise of secrecy to my informant. I do not intend to betray that promise.

MARCEL: You insult me, sir. I have already sworn to you that I have said nothing.

CHARLUS (thunderously): Are you calling me a liar?

MARCEL: You have been misinformed.

CHARLUS: It is quite possible. Generally speaking, a remark repeated at second hand is rarely true. But true or false, the remark has done its work. Pause.

MARCEL: I had better go.

CHARLUS: I agree. Or, if you feel too tired, I have plenty of beds here.

MARCEL: Thank you. I am not too tired.

CHARLUS: It is true that my affection for you is dead. Nothing can revive it. As Victor Hugo's Boaz said, "I am widowed, alone, and the dark gathers o'er me."

INT. CHARLUS' HOUSE. DRAWING ROOM.

Charlus and Marcel walking through the green room. Music is heard from another floor. A Beethoven romance. Charlus points at two portraits.

CHARLUS: My uncles. The King of Poland and the King of England.

EXT. CHARLUS' HOUSE. THE FRONT DOOR.

The carriage waits. Charlus and Marcel look up at the night sky.

CHARLUS: What a superb moon. I think I shall talk a walk in the Bois.

Marcel does not respond to this.

CHARLUS: It would be pleasant to walk in the Bois under the moon with someone like yourself. For you're charming, really, quite charming. When I met you first I must confess I found you quite insignificant.

He takes Marcel to his carriage. Marcel gets in.

CHARLUS: Remember this. Affection is precious. Do not neglect it. Thank you for coming. Good night.

Unlike Victor Hugo, Pinter's own plays and prose are obscured and difficult, the very opposite of Hugo's pandering. During many moments in The Proust Screenplay, he thrives by keeping the audience in darkness. Pinter uses a honed dramatic convention of setting up a variety of concurrent mysteries and having some of them answer others. The world of Proust, like any drama, is a lot better if you are excited to find out what happens next.

Samuel Beckett was Pinter's guide in this, and all things. He never refuted his mentor, and took every word from the man's lips as the gospel. It was Beckett's inspiration, primarily, to orient the film version around Le Temps retrouvé, the final volume in the book and the one most near and dear to scholars and critics. The adaptation is also structured around the idea of Proust preparing to write In Search of Lost Time, of the experiences that most revolve around the glimmering possibility of becoming the writer he wished to be.

a Japanese production of "The Caretaker"

It is impossible not to feel some of the doubts Pinter himself felt as a young writer in Marcel's story, and the reflections of his most famous play, Betrayal, in Marcel's scenes with Albertine.

INT. MARCEL'S HOTEL. SITTING ROOM. DAY.

Marcel and Albertine enter the room. He closes the door. She speaks at once.

ALBERTINE: What have you got against me?

Marcel walks to the window, turns from it, sits, looks at her gravely.

MARCEL: Do you really want me to tell you the truth?

ALBERTINE: Yes, I do.

He speaks quietly.

MARCEL: I admire Andrée... greatly. I always have. There you are. That's the truth. You and I can be friends, I hope, but nothing more. Once, I was on the point of falling in love with you, but that time... can't be recaptured. I'm sorry to be so frank. The truth is always unpleasant - for someone. I love Andrée.

ALBERTINE: I see. I don't mind your frankness. I see. But I'd just like to know what I've done.

MARCEL: Done? You haven't done anything. I've just explained it to you.

ALBERTINE: Yes, I have. Or you think I have.

MARCEL: Why can't you listen?

ALBERTINE: Why can't you tell me? Silence.

MARCEL: I've heard reports. She gazes at him.

MARCEL: Reports...about your way of life.

ALBERTINE: My way of life?

MARCEL: I have a profound disgust for women... tainted with that vice. Pause. You see, I have heard that your...accomplice...is Andrée, and since Andrée is the woman I love, you can understand my grief.

Albertine looks at him steadily.

ALBERTINE: Who told you this rubbish?

MARCEL: I can't tell you.

ALBERTINE: Andrée and I both detest that sort of thing. We find it revolting.

MARCEL: You're saying it's not true?

ALBERTINE: If it were true I would tell you. I would be quite honest with you. Why not? But I'm telling you it's absolutely untrue.

MARCEL: Do you swear it?

ALBERTINE: I swear it. She walks to him and sits by him on the sofa. I swear it. She takes his hand. You are silly. She strokes his hand. All those stories about Andrée... She touches his face. You are silly. I'm your Albertine. She strokes his face. Aren't you glad I'm here...sitting next to you?

MARCEL: Yes. She attempts to kiss him. His mouth is shut. She passes her tongue over his lips.

ALBERTINE: Open your mouth. Open your mouth, you great bear. She forces his mouth open, kisses him, forcing him down on the sofa.

as bassanio in "The Merchant of Venice"

EXT. BEACH. BALBEC. DAY. 1901.

Marcel and Mother sitting in deck chairs.

MOTHER: I think you should know that Albertine's aunt believes you are going to marry Albertine.

MARCEL: Oh?

MOTHER: You're spending a great deal of money on her. They naturally think it would be a very good marriage, from her point of view. Pause.

MARCEL: What do you think of her yourself?

MOTHER: Albertine? Well, it's not that I will be marrying her, is it? I don't think your grandmother would have liked me to influence you. But if she can make you happy...

MARCEL: She bores me. I have no intention of marrying her.

MOTHER: In that case I should see less of her.

performing in a production of his play "The Hothouse"

The collaboration between Harold Pinter and Joseph Losey on an adaptation of L.P. Hartley's novel The Go-Between convinced producer Nicole Stéphane the duo were capable of properly distilling source material this voluminous. Before The Go-Between was a hit at the 1970 Cannes Film Festival, Stéphane and her lover Susan Sontag had brainstormed possible directors: at times François Truffaut, René Clément and Luchino Visconti were all attached to the project, with Visconti going so far as to scout locations and commission a rough script modeled on Sodom and Gomorrah.

Pinter was 21 years Losey's junior, and he respected the filmmaker immensely: he never imagined The Proust Screenplay without him. Pinter's two other films with Losey The Servant and Accident share a similar haunting tone and perspective on class boundaries, so it was not surprising that he desired a director with whom he shared both kinship and confidence. Ironically, his devotion to Losey was what doomed the project. The once blacklisted director's films never did well in America, and he was considered box office poison.

Jacqueline Sassard and Dirk Bogarde in 1967's amazing "Accident"

Just as Pinter's plays are dark and sometimes frightening, so were Losey's menacing adaptations of his screenwriting. I don't know how they thought these sort of films would appear to a mass audience. Some scenes are heavy with dialogue, others extremely dependent on Losey's masterful editing. In refusing to decide between being stage plays or art films, they used the most exciting conventions of both genres and managed to appeal to neither audience.

In The Proust Screenplay Pinter is more accessible than in any of his stage works, taking a familiar story and never shying from a crowd-pleasing line or innuendo. It is his broadest masterpiece.

When biographer Michael Billington asked Pinter why another director was never approached, he said, "Nobody ever suggested that to me. It would have been quite pointless to say that to me. They may have suggested it to Barbara. Nobody did to me because I wouldn't have given it house-room." He values loyalty in a way Marcel does not.

Pinter with Liv Ullman in a revival of his "Old Times"

EXT. PARK AT TANSONVILLE. DAY. 1915.

The pond, seen through a gap in the hedge.

A fishing line rests by the side of the pond, the float bobbing in the water.

Marcel and Gilberte appear and walk to the side of the pond. They are both aged thirty-five and both dressed in mourning.

GILBERTE: Two days after Robert was killed I received a package sent anonymously. It contained his Croix de Guerre. There was no note of explanation, nothing. The package was posted in Paris. Pause. Isn't that strange?

MARCEL: Yes.

GILBERTE: He never mentioned, in any letter, that it had been lost, or stolen.

in his acting days, after a performance of Lady Windermere's Fan

INT. DRAWING ROOM. SWANN'S HOUSE AT TANSONVILLE EVENING.

Marcel and Gilberte stand by the windows.

GILBERTE: I loved him. But we had grown unhappy. He had another woman, or other women, I don't know.

MARCEL: Other women?

GILBERTE: Yes. He had some secret life, which he never confessed to me, but I know he found it irresistible.

with Julie Christie on the set of "The Go-Between"

EXT. PARK. TANSONVILLE. MORNING.

Marcel and Gilberte walking.

GILBERTE: Do you remember your childhood at Combray?

MARCEL: Not really.

GILBERTE: How long is it since you've been back?

MARCEL: Oh, a very long time. It's changed.

GILBERTE: The war has changed everything.

MARCEL: No, it's nothing to do with the war.

GILBERTE: But are you saying that these paths, these woods, the village, excite nothing in you?

MARCEL: Nothing. They mean nothing to me. It's all dead. I remember almost nothing of it. Pause. I remember seeing you, through the hedge. I adored you.

GILBERTE: Did you? I wish you'd told me at the time. I thought you were delicious.

Marcel stares at her.

MARCEL: What?

GILBERTE: I longed for you. Of course I was quite precocious, I suppose, then. I used to go some ruins - at Roussainville - with some girls and boys, from the village, in the dark. We were quite wicked. I longed for you to come there. I remember, that moment through the hedge, I tried to let you know how much I wanted you, but I don't think you understood. He laughs.

GILBERTE: Why are you laughing?

MARCEL: Because I didn't understand. I've understood very little. I've been too... preoccupied... with other matters... To be honest, I have wasted my life.

with Nicaraguan poet Ernesto Cardenal

Pinter largely ignores the portrayal of Jews in In Search of Lost Time. Marcel hears gossiping about the Dreyfus affair but that it is all his Jewish friends and acquaintances have vanished like Marcel's familiar madeleine cookie. Pinter's people were a band of North London Jews; Pinter's paternal grandfather fled from a Russian pogrom. Passover was a big event in his house as a child, but like many European Jews, he rejected the religious dogmatism of his parents. He was concerned with "world affairs" and considered himself a man of Earth.

Proust is not concerned with morality, but like all self-righteous atheists, Pinter is obsessed with it. Primacy to his own experience was Marcel's ideal, Pinter's is primacy to his own moral code. In every scene of The Proust Screenplay, he casts his own judgment over the proceedings. The challenge to Losey is huge. Although he lists shots, so much is left off, can only be hinted at:

Pinter's adaptation of Proust requires another creative mind to infiltrate his own, and find the perspective justified, confirm his suspicions about the characters and events. Because The Proust Screenplay is only a script, we are given this interpretive task as readers. Even in the work's harshest and most mind-rending moments, it is the thrall of being correct and therefore superior, the rationalization following our primal emotions, that lies closer to Harold's heart. He is watching these people and telling us how to live with what they said and did. He writes,

Proust wrote Swann's Way first and Time Regained, the last volume, second. He then wrote the rest. The relationship between the first volume and the last seemed to us the crucial one. The whole book is, as it were, contained in the last volume. When Marcel in Time Regained says that he is now able to start his work, he has already written it. We have just read it. Somehow the remarkable conception had to be found again in another form. We knew we could in no sense rival the work. But could we be true to it?

Every adaptation is a moral act; imagine Proust trying to do to In Search of Lost Time what Pinter did to it. He would never, and he would wonder why it needed to be done.

with joseph losey and james fox (left)

In 1930, Samuel Beckett related his view of Proust in his bizarre and brilliant monograph on the author, a piece hellbent on serving its author more than its ostensible subject. (Beckett was perhaps overly critical of his younger self when he later wrote, "I have written my book in cheap flashy philosophical jargon.") It was Beckett's mature view of À la recherche du temps perdu that informed every step of Pinter's process.

There is no more exciting interaction of two European masters except possibly in Freud and Jung. Beckett's view is necessarily bleaker it is the contrast between the two similar styles that keeps Pinter's work hopeful enough to survive in the theater. For in Pinter's drama, joy never comes easy.

The cinematic image, then, becomes home to the explosive feelings he can't handle through speech. Proust's constant exposition and narrative meandering is anathema to a playwright; instead of representing them literally, as he is loathe to do, Pinter places them in the stage directions for Losey to visualize. (Ever watched a director during his own screening?) Later, he plans to silently and morbidly screen the final product with the director he called Joe, obsessing in the same fashion others view old photos of lost friends. Because The Proust Screenplay never received the elaborate production it deserves before his death, Pinter was denied the feeling disconsolate or euphoric of witnessing himself.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. He tumbls here and twitters here. He last wrote in these pages about Jim Henson and Sesame Street.

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"Children" - The Rapture (mp3)

"Roller Coaster" - The Rapture (mp3)

"In The Grace Of Your Love" - The Rapture (mp3)

The new album from The Rapture In The Grace Of Your Love comes out on September 6th.

Monday
Aug222011

In Which He Is The One Who Knocks

Better Business

by DICK CHENEY

Breaking Bad
creator Vince Gilligan
Sundays at 9 on AMC

Once Lee Iacocca asked me to serve on the board of Chrysler; I laughed in his face and told him to go fuck a Plymouth Prowler. I'm dumb but I'm not that dumb.

I'm sorry for what I said, Lee. I felt justifiable anger towards you on behalf of the all business owners who don't get a handout from the government every quarter. If that's not enough, a businessman today has to be insulted by Warren Buffett. Mr. Buffett, who knows only rich fucks like himself, thinks that the very rich can afford to pay more in taxes. Thanks, guy. Of course they can. Because some douchebag can write a check for what Buffett believes he "owes" to society doesn't make it right.

If you do feel so inspired, don't wait to write a NYT editorial on the subject. You can send your checks to

Gifts to the United States
U.S. Department of the Treasury
Credit Accounting Branch
3700 East-West Highway, Room 622D
Hyattsville, MD 20782

There's a dwarf waiting there whose only job is facebook the sender and emit a sinister chuckle. Warren Buffett has a goldplated portrait of himself hanging from his belly-button. It's a joke about "navel-gazing", don't ask me.

Breaking Bad's Gustavo Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) is another of these small business owners. He pays taxes on his straight business, a fried chicken restaurant called Los Pollos Hermanos that I would eat at every single day of my life were it to actually exist.

In the eyes of the law, Gus' food service venture is in the clear. They pay the handout required of them, they compensate New Mexico and the federal government by doling out "the cost of doing business." Gus doesn't pay taxes, however, on his real, high-margin enterprise: the production and distribution of crystal methamphetamine. This setup is identical to Google's in nearly every aspect except one company has far gaudier office parties.

Also, the only backtalk Google executives have to deal with at work is the poaching of their middle management. In order to convince Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) of his crucial role in the proceedings, Gus sets up an elaborate scheme in which Jesse manages to "foil" a robbery at one of their dead drops.

Gus' passive-aggressive management style strikes a real chord with me. I once made John Bolton launch a Navy Seal team into combat to make him feel more like a real man. It worked for about an hour and then the guy went back to playing Banjo-Kazooie on his N64. It was a different time, an era when you could touch yourself at the sight of Sonic the Hedgehog's female companions without irony or affectation.

Tipped off by his meth-cooking partner Walter White (Bryan Cranston), Jesse asks Gus why he has been chosen to leave the relative safety of the meth laboratory in order to venture out into the wide world of drug distribution. "I like to think I see something in people," Gus tells him. It is a cliché every chief executive in history has forced upon his proteges, but as a "let's get along" motivator it certainly beats Walter's stratagems.

Unlike Gus, Walter's business techniques originate in one of two places: acting from shame and desperation when confronted with jobs he can't do himself, or acting from shame and humiliation when things aren't going as he planned. A chemist is inured from the delicate work of manipulating people; to a drug dealer it's not just part of the business, it is the business.

We are always managing and recalculating the control we exert over others, ask Wesley Snipes. Walter White is not very good at exerting this control. He lacks empathy; he does not understand how other people stand in relation to him. He believes he is A, and when someone thinks he is B, instead of calculating the distance between the two points, he substitutes the new answer, the one he in his heart believes is more accurate, like any scientist.

Walter's wife Skyler (Anna Gunn) begs him to turn himself over to the police before Gustavo Fring tries to eliminate him again. She has been listening to an answering machine message he has left her under the pressure of his job. At first she had heard the strength and love in what he presumed were his last regrets, but a second time changes the story. This is not her husband, the man she married years ago.

Walter tells her that if he doesn't go into work, a business the size of those traded on the NASDAQ goes belly-up, ceases to exist. "You clearly don't know who you're talking to," he explodes. "I am not in danger, I am the danger."

Skyler White responds in the passive-aggressive fashion reminiscent of Walter's other boss. She drives their infant daughter to the Four Corners Monument at the intersection of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah. She tosses a quarter into a wishing well that does not exist. The look of disgust on her face is equal parts anger at her husband and shame at having to live under the long, thieving arm of the law.

In last week's episode, Walter White purchased a car wash. If he knew the kinds of taxes he'd be paying to wash other people's vehicles, he might have thought twice before embarking on this plan. The government will ask Asian children running a lemonade stand to pay their "fair share", it is more a simple reflex than any kind of malice.

"You're the boss now," the outgoing car wash owner tells Walter. "Do you think you're ready?"

American life hasn't been this melodramatic since the 1920s; American television has never been this good.

I don't blame Gustavo Fring or Google for their tax evasion, no more than I would any man who doesn't want to pay money he does not owe. The super-rich already write checks you and I cannot even imagine. Ask for more, and can you really blame them if they take their business to a country that is satisfied with less than half? How does driving the wealthiest American citizens to foreign lands help our country?

You can't blame Mr. Buffett for losing perspective: everyone he knows owns an Olympic-sized swimming pool. Walk down the street of any rich suburb in America and envy will flow through your veins. Bravo. You have made being rich being bad. It is not. Money is no more a value than television. Some I know say, "I don't like television." Terrific. How do you feel about the microwave?

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording. He last wrote in these in pages about Curb Your Enthusiasm.

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"Magic" - GIRLS (mp3)

"Just A Song" - GIRLS (mp3)

"Myma" - Girls (mp3)

Father, Son, Holy Ghost is the new album from Girls, and it will be released on September 13th from True Panther Sounds.

Friday
Aug192011

In Which Fernando Pessoa Reports His Own Death

Act In Small Things

In 1907 the nineteen year old Portuguese writer Fernando Pessoa was afraid of going mad. His obsessiveness had reached critical mass, and he was constantly regaled with tales of those in his family who succumbed to their instability. Driven to the brink, he wrote letters to two former teachers under the nom de plume of Dr. Faustino Antunes, asking for information about a mentally deranged patient, one "Fernando Pessoa."

Here is the unsent first draft of a letter he wrote to former classmate Clifford Geerdts:

Mr. Geerdts,

I am writing you about the late Fernando Antonio Nogueira Pessoa, who is thought to have committed suicide; at least he blew up a country house in which he was, killing he and several other people - a crime which caused a great sensation in Portugal at the time (several months ago). I have been requested to inquire, as far as is now possible, into his mental condition and, having heard that the deceased was with you in the Durban High School must beg you to write to me frankly how he was considered among the boys at the said institution.

Write me as detailed an account as possible on this. What opinion was held of him? Intellectually? Socially? etc. Did he seem or did he not seem capable of such an act as I have described?

I must ask you to keep, as far as possible, silence in this matter; it is, you understand, very delicate and very sad. Besides, it may have been (how I wish it may have been!) an accident, and in that case our hasty condemnation would itself be a crime. It is just my task, by inquiring into his mental condition, to determine whether the catastrophe was a crime or a mere accident.

An early reply will be very much obliged.

Dr. Faustino Antunes

Both Geerdts and Pessoa's English teacher at Durban, a Mr. Belcher, replied to the letters of "Dr. Faustino Antunes." Geerdts' response included the following observations:

He was pale and thin and appared physically to be very imperfectly developed. He had a narrow and contracted chest and was inclined to stoop.

He was inclined to be morbid.

He was regarded as a brilliantly clever boy.

He had learned English so rapidly and so well that he had a splendid style in that language.

He was meek and inoffensive and inclined to avoid association with his schoolfellows.

He took no part in athletic sports of any kind and I think his spare time was spent in reading. We generally considered that he worked far too much and he would ruin his health by so doing.

Incredibly, Pessoa recorded some of Mr. Belcher's comments to Geerdts in a follow-up letter and asked him if he agreed.

Rule of Life

by FERNANDO PESSOA

1. Make as few confidences as possible. Better make none, but if you make any, make false or indistinct ones.

2. Dream as little as possible, except where the direct purpose of the dream is a poem or a literary product. Study and work.

3. Try to be as sober as possible, anticipating sobriety of body by a sober attitude of mind.

4. Be agreeable only by agreeableness, not by opening your mind or by discussing freely those problems that are bound up with the inner life of the spirit.

5. Cultivate concentration, temper the will, make yourself a force by thinking, as innerly as possible, that you are indeed a force.

6. Consider how few real friends you have, because few people are apt to be anyone's friends.

7. Try to charm by what is in your silence.

8. Learn to be prompt to act in small things, in the trite things of street life, home life, work life, to brook no delay from yourself.

9. Organize your life like a literary work, putting as much unity into it as possible.

10. Kill the Killer.

Pessoa only wrote love letters to one woman. Her name was Ophelia Queiroz. She was a secretary at a firm in Lisbon where the 31 year old Pessoa worked as a translator. After trading a few notes and glances, he approached her with the appropriate lines of Hamlet in the office and kissed her. He wrote his first real letter to her shortly thereafter. She was 19.

1 March 1920

Ophelia:

You could have shown me your contempt, or at least your supreme indifference, without the see-through masquerade of such a lengthy treatise and without your written "reasons," which are as insincere as they are unconvincing. You could have just told me. This way I understand you no less, but it hurts me more.

It's only natural that you're very fond of the young man who's been chasing you, so why should I hold it against you if you prefer him to me? You're entitled to prefer whom you want and are under no obligation, as I see it, to love me. And there's certainly no need (unless it's for your own amusement) to pretend you do.

Those who really love don't write letters that read like lawyers' petitions. Love doesn't examine things so closely, and it doesn't treat others like defendants on trial.

Why can't you be frank with me? Why must you torment a man who never did any harm to you (or to anybody else) and whose sad and solitary life is already a heavy enough burden to bear, without someone adding to it by giving him false hopes and declaring feigned affections? What do you get out of it besides the dubious pleasure of making fun of me?

I realize that all this is comical, and that the most comical part of it is me.

I myself would think it was funny, if I didn't love you so much, and if I had the time to think of anything besides the suffering you enjoy inflicting on me, although I've done nothing to deserve it except love you, which doesn't seem to me like reason enough. At any rate...

Here's the "written document" you requested. The notary Eugenio Silva can validate my signature.

Fernando Pessoa

19 March 1920

at 4 a.m.

My dear darling Baby:

It's almost four in the morning, and I've just given up trying to fall asleep, even though my aching body badly needs rest. This is the third night in a row this has happened, but tonight was one of the worst nights of my life. Luckily for you, darling, you can't imagine what it was like. It wasn't just my sore throat and the idiotic need to spit every two minutes that kept me from sleeping. I was also delirious though I had no fever, and I felt like I was going mad, I wanted to scream, to moan at the top of my lungs, to do a thousand crazy things. It's not only my physical illness that put me in such a state but the fact I spent all day yesterday fretting over the things that still need to be done before my family arrives. And to top it off my cousin came by at half past seven with more than a little bad news, which I won't go into now, darling, because fortunately none of it concerns you in the least.

Just my luck to be sick right when there are so many urgent things to do things that no one but I can do.

See the state of mine I've been in lately, especially during the last two days? And you've no idea, my adorable Baby, how constantly and insanely I've missed you. Your absence always makes me suffer, darling, even when it's just from one day to the next, so think how I must feel after not having seen you for almost three days!

Tell me one thing, love: Why do you sound so depressed in your second letter - the one you sent yesterday by Osorio? I can understand you missing me, just like I miss you, but you sounded so anxious, sad and dejected that it pained me to read your letter and feel how much you're suffering. What happened to you, darling, besides us being separated? Something worse? Why do you speak in such a desperate tone about my love, as if you doubted it, when you have no reason to?

I'm all alone — I really am. The people in this building have treated me very well, but they're not close to me at all. During the day they bring soup, milk, or medicine, but they don't ever keep me company, which I certainly wouldn't expect. And at this hour of the night, I feel like I'm in a desert. I'm thirsty and have no one to give me a drink. I'm going crazy from this sense of isolation and have no one to soothe me, just by being near, as I try to go to sleep.

I'm cold. I'm going to lie down and pretend to rest. I don't know when I'll mail this letter or if I'll add anything to it.

Ah my love, my doll, my precious Baby, if only you were here! Lots and lots and lots of kisses from your always very own

Fernando

5 April 1920

Dear naughty little Baby:

Here I am at home alone, except for the intellectual who's hanging paper on the walls (as if he could hang it on the floor or ceiling!), and he doesn't count. As promised, I'm going to write my Baby, if only to tell her that she's a very bad girl except in one thing, the art of pretending, and in that she's a master.

By the way — although I'm writing you, I'm not thinking about you. I'm thinking about how I miss the days when I used to hunt pigeons, which is something you obviously have nothing to do with...

We had a nice walk today, don't you think? You were in a good mood, I was in a good mood, and the day was in a good mood. (My friend A.A. Crosse was not in a good mood. But his health is okay — one pound sterling of health for now, which is enough to keep him from catching cold.)

You're probably wondering why my handwriting's so strange. For two reasons. The first is that this paper (all I have at the moment) is extremely smooth, and so my pen glides right over it. The second is that I found, here in the apartment, some splendid Port, a bottle of which I opened, and I've already drunk half. The third reason is that there are only two reasons, and hence no third reason at all.

When can we be somewhere together, darling — just the two of us? My mouth feels odd from having gone so long without any kisses... Little Baby who sits on my lap! Little Baby who gives me love bites! Little Baby who... (and then Baby's bad and hits me...) I called you "body of sweet temptations," and that's what you'll always be, but far away from me.

Come here, Baby. Come over to Nininho. Come into Nininho's arms. Put your tiny mouth against Nininho's mouth... Come... I'm so lonely, so lonely for kisses ...

If only I could be certain that you really miss me. It would at least be some consolation. But you probably think less about me than about that boy who's chasing you, not to mention D.A.F. and the bookkeeper of C.D. & C.! Naughty, naughty, naughty, naughty... !!!!

What you need is a good spanking.

So long: I'm going to lay my head down in a bucket, to relax my mind. That's what all great men do, at least all great men who have:

1) a mind,

2) a head, and

3) a bucket in which to stick their head.

A kiss, just one, that lasts as long as the world, from your always very own

Fernando (Nininho)

ophelia

27 April 1920

My lovely little Baby:

How adorable you looked today in the window of your sister's apartment! You were cheerful, thank goodness, and seemed happy to see me.

I've been feeling very sad, and also very tired — sad not only because I haven't been able to see you because of the obstacles that other people have been putting in our path. I'm afraid that the unrelenting, insidious influence of these people — who don't censure you or express outright opposition but who work slowly on your mind — will eventually make you stop liking me. You already seem different to me. You're not the same girl you were in the office. Not that you've even noticed this, but I've noticed, or at least I think I have. God knows I hope I'm wrong...

Listen, sweetie: the future all looks hazy to me. I mean, I can't see what's on the horizon, or what will become of us, since you've been yielding more and more to the influence of your family, and you disagree with me in everything. In the office you were sweeter, more gentle, more lovable.

Anyway...

Tomorrow I'll go by the Rossio train station at the same time as today. Will you come to the window?

Always and forever your

Fernando

31 July 1920

Dear Ibis:

Excuse this shoddy paper, but it's all I could find in my briefcase, and they don't have any stationery here at the Cafe Arcada. You don't mind, do you?

I just received your letter with the cute postcard.

It was a funny coincidence, wasn't it?, that I and my sister were downtown yesterday at the same time you were. What wasn't funny is that you disappeared, in spite of the signs I made you. I was just dropping off my sister at the Avenida Palace Hotel, so she could buy some things and take a walk with the mother and sister of the Belgian follow who's staying there. I came back out almost immediately, and expected to find you waiting there, so that we could talk. But no, you had to rush to your sister's place!

What's worse is that, when I came out of the hotel, I saw your sister's window outfitted like a theater box (with extra chairs) to enjoy the show of me walking by! Realizing this, I naturally went on my way as if no one were there. The day I decide to play the clown (which my character isn't really suited for), I'll offer my services directly to the circus. Just what I needed right now — to serve as comic entertainment for your family!

If you couldn't avoid being at the window with 148 people, you should have avoided the window. Seeing as you didn't feel like waiting for me or talking to me, you might at least have had the courtesy — since you couldn't appear alone at the window — of not appearing.

Why should I have to explain these things? If your heart (presuming this creature exists) or your intuition can't instinctively teach them to you, then I can't very well be your teacher.

When you say that your most fervent wish is for me to marry you, you shouldn't forget to add that I would also have to marry your sister, your brother-in-law, your nephew and who knows how many of your sister's clients.

Always your very own

Fernando

I forgot as I wrote this, that you're in the habit of showing my letters to everyone. If I'd remembered I would have toned it down, I assure you. But it's too late, and it doesn't matter. Nothing matters.

15 October 1920

Little Baby,

You have thousands, even millions of good reasons for being irked, offended, and angry with me. But I'm not the one to blame. It's Fate that has condemned my brain — if not definitely, then at least to a condition calling for serious treatment, which I'm not so sure I can get.

I plan (with yet resorting to the celebrated May 11th decree) to enter a clinic next month, where I'm hoping for a treatment that will help me fend off the black wave that's falling over my mind. I don't know what the result of all this will be — I mean, I can't imagine what it could be.

Don't wait for me. If I come to see you, it will be in the morning, when you're on your way to the office in Poco Novo.

Don't worry.

What happened, you ask? I got switched with Alvaro de Campos!

Always your

Fernando

29 November 1920

Dear Ophelia:

Thank you for your letter. It made me feel both sad and relieved. Sad, because these things always bring sadness. Relieved, because this really is the only solution — to stop prolonging a situation that's no longer justified by love, whether on your side or mine. For my own part there remains an abiding estreem and a steadfast friendship. You won't deny me as much, will you?

Neither you nor I are to blame for what has happened. Only Fate might be blamed, were Fate a person to whom blame could be imputed.

Time, which grays hair and wrinkles faces, also withers violent affections, and much more quickly. Most people, because they're stupid, don't even notice this, and they imagine they still love because they got used to being in love. If this weren't so, there would be no happy people in the world. Superior creatures cannot enjoy this illusion, however, because they can't believe love will endure, and when they see it's over, they don't kid themselves by taking what it left — esteem, or gratitude — for love itself.

These things cause suffering, but the suffering passes. If life, which is everything, finally passes, then won't love and sorrow also pass, along with all the other things that are only parts of life?

You're unfair to me in your letter, but I understand and forgive. You no doubt wrote it with anger and perhaps even bitterness, but most people in your case — men or women — would write things that are even less fair, and in a harsher tone. But you have a wonderful disposition, Ophelia, and not even your anger is capable of malice. If, when you marry, you're not as happy as you deserve, it will be through no fault of your own.

As for me...

My love has passed. But I still feel a steadfast affection for you, and you can be sure that I'll never, never forget your delightful figure, your girlish ways, your tenderness, your goodness, and your lovable nature. It's possible that I fooled myself and that these qualities I attribute to you were my own illusion, but I don't think so, and even if they were, it did no harm to have seen them in you.

I don't know what you might like to have back — whether your letters or other things. I'd prefer not to give back anything, and to keep your letters as the living memory of a past that died (the way all pasts do), as something poignant in a life like mine which, as it advances in years, advances in disillusion and unhappiness.

Please don't be like ordinary people, who always act petty and mean. Don't turn your head when I pass by, and don't harbor a grudge in your remembrance of me. Let us be like lifelong friends who loved each other a bit when they were children, only to pursue other affections and other paths as adults, but who nevertheless retain, in some corner of the heart, the vivid memory of their old and useless love.

These "other affections" and "other paths" concern you, Ophelia, and not me. My destiny belongs to another Law, whose existence you're not even aware of, and it is ever more the slave of Masters who do not relent and do not forgive.

You don't need to understand this. It's enough that you hold me in your memory with affection, as I will steadfastly hold you in mine.

Fernando

After nine years of total and complete silence, Pessoa contacted Ophelia and she said she would be happy to hear from him if he wanted to write to her. She again became captivated by him. Below is one of his last letters from that period.

9 October 1929

Terrible Baby:

I like your letters, which are sweet, and I like you, because you're sweet too. And you're candy, and you're a wasp, and you're honey, which comes from bees and not wasps, and everything's just fine, and Baby should always write me, even when I don't, which is always, and I'm sad, and I'm crazy, and no one likes me, and why should they, and that's exactly right, and everything goes back to the beginning, and I think I'll call you today, and I'd like to kiss you precisely and voraciously on the lips, and to eat your lips and whatever little kisses you're hiding there, and to lean on your shoulder and slide into the softness of your little doves, and to beg your pardon, and the pardon to be make-believe, and to do it over and over and period until I start again, and why do you like a scoundrel and a troll and a fat slob with a face like a gas meter and the expression of someone who's not there but in the toilet next door, and indeed, and finally, and I'm going to stop because I'm insane and I always have been, it's from birth, which is to say ever since I was born, and I wish Baby were my doll so I could do like a child, taking off her clothes, and I've reached the end of the page, and this doesn't seem like it could be written by a human being but it was written by me.

Fernando

You can read Fernando Pessoa's Aspects here.

"All Over Gently" - Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks (mp3)

"Forever 28" - Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks (mp3)

"Tune Grief" - Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks (mp3)

"Share the Red" - Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks (mp3)