In the summer of 2017 Davor Branimir Vincze asked me if I could provide him with texts to accompany one of the concerts of his festival, Novalis, in Croatia. The texts would be read alongside extracts from Novalis’ Hymns to the Night. He has all my gratitude for this generous invitation.
I do not know you, Novalis, not well at least, no, not well at all. I do not know you and I foresee this may always be the case. Yes, it rings true, despite a sense of the uncanny: I will never know you. Perhaps it is because of the mad loss, that I haven’t experience. Perhaps it is your sturdy love of dreams. I do not know. Perhaps it is all wrong. Perhaps my world will be crushed soon, that is, even more than it has been. Perhaps I will embrace the Night then, Its call will be too strong, and the Light’s gaze too crushing. I do not know. Then what is it going to be today, Novalis? A short encounter, yes, in passing. A quickie. The kind of hook-up you write about so often in your poems, rough and spiritual, in the backroom of some tavern in Jena.
The Night did come for me, too. I remember it well. Ashen. The dark spreading over my world, whirlwinds of dust, grief unbound. Endless plains, waste lands, to meander. The zombie life. I too couldn’t go on, nor turn back. Still can’t. Things are still too fucked. Ok, be that as it may, but where is love then? Isn’t it supposed to be part of the package? Where are the eyes? None of this in these parts that’s for sure. No priestesses of lust, no brown orgies either. Nothing. So, to sum up, it has become dark, but it isn’t night. That’s right. Counterintuitive, isn’t it? No face either, as said, anywhere, beloved or otherwise. Old bonds are there, grinding our bones like never before. No fresh ones to dissolve oneself into. Oh they’ll come soon enough, I’m sure, I’m sure. I’m surprised at how unbearable these old ones have become. Really quite unbearable, I must say. Were I a little less insensitive, just a little less, yes, I’d certainly call that torture. Oh yes, sheer, brutal torture, that’s isn’t too strong a wording, according to my last estimates at least. Let us think about this for a minute. This may all just be the old ‘old world / new world’ problem. The latest remake. This one is expected to be an acute version. Some new world is inevitable, and quite badly needed. But isn’t there yet, and is too slow to come. For now I don’t see any way not to look back to the old forever, or to escape being stuck waiting for the new in vain. Not that I like that, or want that. Not at all, quite the contrary. I’m hating it. That goes without saying. Let’s try again. The night came, and then, the usual. Ravage, impotence. The Old took back control, stifling everything. Rather odd that I’m still around to babble about it. We all had to go inside, deep inside, we had to close down everything. Yes, that’s how it happened. And, as said, that’s not the night. Not the real one. Or, you could say, it was the night to me. Still is. Wasn’t there a new world, at some point? A whiff of it. Back then. I seem to remember. It’s a blur of course, you know, these days. It’s all gone now. Yes, all gone. The bunker is shut. We are waiting. How to look into the future and not want to eat the walls? That’s a fair question. We look at the walls, we look at the concrete and the steel. We are waiting. No that can’t be. Get back out there. You have to. Conquer the light, reach it, no matter how long it takes, how hard it is. You can’t give it up. You just can’t. You won’t. Night denier, that’s what you’ll be, what you want to be, what you are, fuck, yes, fuck the night!, yes!, that’s it!, repeat after me!, fuck the night!, fuck the night! Ah, that was good. It failed of course. Pathetically. Deny the night at your peril. Oh well, one can’t be blamed for trying. No, one can’t, surely no. Is it because I am a man of the new world that I have so much trouble getting born? For my world isn’t here yet, unborn like me. I am here, crushed and lost, toiling toward a home that does not exist yet, that stubbornly refuses to come to be. I used to be an adorator of the night. It used to be cool, somehow, now it’s just shit. But remember, you already pointed out there is no real night. Night in the real sense. Yes. Just the dark, oh yes, that shit dark that brings us nothing, takes us everything. That must be it. To put it sketchily. Another memory. There had to be a departure. Away! Away! I remember the screams, the fire. Those were good days. Who would have thought? Nothing came of it. Sure thing there is no turning back. We are still floating. The ugly sea in every direction. Sargasso sea. No new land in sight. No land at all. We exhausted most of our food, drank most of our piss. Teeth are starting to fall. Anger is boiling up. And yet, more days, more days, the nasty sea indifferent as ever. How to look into the future and not wish to eat your friends alive? Fair question, fair question.
Best name for the bride: Sophie von Cunni.
A pity she was (most likely) never thus honoured.
There was this love. It died. You let it die. It could have worked. Some say it still could. You let it die. There isn’t much left. Nothing ahead. No home either to come back to. Its music slaughtered, the world is silent. Odd that I am still alive, to be frank. A part of me thinks I should not be around. Sometheing wrong there. Still incomprehensible. But perhaps I may not be alive after all. ‘Music died, or rather I did’, that line of reasoning. One and the same, really, from this vantage point at least. Interesting hypothesis. Hard to say after all. ‘I’m alive’ certainly doesn’t ring true. But then being dead isn’t very convincing either. Never-ending conundrums. It reappears in more banal forms: why, for instance, a Beethovenian through and through, I can worship Schubert, while is it so hard with your kind. Plain and simple. Don’t look too far. I may have no literature. Or, more ontologically, because words are weak and music is might. All of it within of course, my words, my music, sure, it goes without saying. Is it some historical conjuncture? According to Professor Raymond Geuss from Cambridge University, this would have been the plight of Friedrich Nietzsche, when he looked up to his arsehole of a friend, Richard Wagner. In the late European 19th century, revolutions had long been buried and with them the idea of philosophy as an active intellectual force for change, as was practiced by Hegel for instance. It had become academic and, like society at large, for the most part conservative. Music, on the contrary, flourished. Let there be swords, virgins surrounded by fire, and old gods faffing about, hoping for death. Therefore poor Nietzsche was all weak and full of complexes. That sounds all very much bogus. As bogus as it is boring. But tempting somehow. Yes. Tempting.
How many of them don’t touch themselves still today on your white bust. How many don’t dream of making it more white and dripping, how many don’t dream of squirting it all awash.
The son of a noble family in Saudi Arabia. His dad works in the oil industry, inspects the wells, etc. He studies either an MBA or law, then goes on to work for ARAMCO. When he is 22 he happens to travel from Riyadh to Jeddah he stops either in Al Humiyat, Dhalm or Taif. There he stays with some family, friends of his, and meets that young lady, one of five children in the household. He falls in love. The Imam is ok with them getting engaged when she’s 13. It is not clear what illness takes her life when she’s 15. HIV would be utterly improbable, as she remains a virgin and the marriage never takes place. He writes poems about her afterward.
O! I too would call for that new life.
Ein neues Leben. Vita nuova.
(Dante, unsurprisingly, also had a thing for dead chicks.)
I too would live through that which that would make me human.
&, torn apart, catch beyond the grey a glimpse of the new world.
I must depart for foreign lands. Perhaps I shall be back soon, perhaps never more. I do not know what is the matter, something drives me away; whenever I want to think of old times, mightier thoughts rush in immediately; my peace is gone, my courage and love with it, I must go in quest of them. I should like to tell you whither, but I do not know myself.
He tore himself away and departed. His parents lamented and shed tears. Roseblossom kept in her chamber and wept bitterly. Hyacinth now hastened as fast as he could through valleys and wildernesses, across mountains and streams, toward the mysterious country. Everywhere he asked men and animals, rocks and trees, for the sacred goddess (ISIS). Some laughed, some were silent, nowhere did he receive an answer. At first he passed through wild, uninhabited regions, mist and clouds obstructed his path, it was always storming; later he found unbounded deserts of glowing hot sand, and as he wandered his mood changed, time seemed to grow longer, and his inner unrest was calmed. He became more tranquil and the violent excitement within him was gradually transformed to a gentle but strong impulse, which took possession of his whole nature. It seemed as though many years lay behind him. Now, too, the region again became richer and more varied, the air warm and blue, the path more level; green bushes attracted him with their pleasant shade but he did not understand their language, nor did they seem to speak, and yet they filled his heart with verdant colors, with quiet and freshness. Mightier and mightier grew within him that sweet longing, broader and softer the leaves, noisier and happier the birds and animals, balmier the fruits, darker the heavens, warmer the air and more fiery his love; faster and faster passed the Time, as though it knew that it was approaching the goal. One day he came upon a crystal spring and a bevy of flowers that were going down to a valley between black columns reaching to the sky. With familiar words they greeted him kindly. “My dear countrymen,” he said, “pray, where am I to find the sacred abode of ISIS? It must be somewhere in this vicinity, and you are probably better acquainted here than I.” “We, too, are only passing through this region,” the flowers answered; “a family of spirits is traveling and we are making ready the road and preparing lodgings for them; but we came through a region lately where we heard her name called. Just walk upward in the direction from which we are coming and you will be sure to learn more.” The flowers and the spring smiled as they said this, offered him a drink of fresh water, and went on.
Hyacinth followed their advice, asked and asked, and finally reached that long-sought dwelling concealed behind palms and other choice plants. His heart beat with infinite longing and the most delicious yearning thrilled him in this abode of the eternal seasons.
I have this flower that I keep with me at all times. I do not know since when I had it. I do not know if it was given to me, or if I found it. I keep it with me at all times and I use it a lot. That is because they like it, all of them. When I hold it in my hand and touch them down there with it, they really like it. They want more. Then they turn blue and, before they are fifteen, they are gone, cold and unwed.
Hegel, that big fat love. ‘The owl of Minerva spreads its wings only at the break of dusk.’ So strong, so beautiful. He wrote about you, you know. How striking, how true! ‘The subjectivity consists in a lack, but also an urge, toward something stable, and remains in yearning.’ He calls you a beautiful soul, yes, a beautiful soul, with scorn I’m sure, and he says, you remain in that yearning, you don’t come to anything substantial, you smoulder away, ever stuck inside, yes, inside yourself, weaving and drawing lines, inner life and intricacy of all truth. Fussiness, really. Isn’t that poetry, really? That is, Romantic poetry? Strong precisely because it is fragile, beautiful in its craving and insecurity? Yes, again, I agree, ‘the extravagance of subjectivity often becomes madness’, but that’s more Nerval, Poe. ‘Remains in thoughts, and thus is caught in the whirl of’, let’s put it this way, ‘brainy ratiocination, always negative against itself’, yes, yes, once more! I see that at every page! Why must it be the case that your lovers reject that, desperately try to disprove this. Of course that says nothing about poetry, oh no, that’s the whole thing. Only philosophy, where your fragments, your frantic intertwining of everything cannot but be the radical opposite of the professor’s system. Can’t one say, yes, that is true, all too true, so finely seen, but also, that this does not even start talking of poetry, of literature? It is odd. I feel such a Hegelian. Yet I have no system. And believe me I wish I had one. I turn round and round in my head, mad for want of the sturdy outside, oh yes. And until now I haven’t heard the call of Night. But I do hate fragments. Oh yes, I hate them, you can say that. So much. How come I haven’t been able to speak, for so long? How come it is still the case? Now. This very minute! It is high time to speak. It is urgent. Open the floodgates of revolt! Let loose the fury! Fuck the fragment! Love thy system as thyself!
Odi et amo. The love hate thing. Well, Odi for now. We’ll see about amo. Pretty sure it’ll come. With patience. Time does things to you, you know. One day I may see what you have opened. The new worlds you have sired. They talk about you as the revolutionary who brought dreams, the unsconscious into the game. The one who broke away from Goethe’s stiff late stye. And you do, you do. Sometimes in History there is something like a Night of the New. The New passing into darkness, into the negative, when the Sun is no longer an option. When all light is corrupt or fucked. Keep thinking like this. Who knows, some day your distasteful obscurity might not affect me any longer. Sooner than you think. We might well be on the brink, many cracks are already to be seen. No, no, that’s all wrong. It’ll never happen. I’ve avoided enlightenment resolutely. The kind of enlightenment you peddle. I shall not stop. You are the Enemy, the graceful, the sublime. The Enemy nonetheless. You traded bonds for other bonds. Old chains for even older chains. Your freedom is bitter, your joy sombre. Let us think positive. Now thanks to you I know better who I am. Perhaps it’s just easier to know that after seeing what, who, one does not want to be. Easier repelled than attracted. I don’t think I agree with that. I certainly don’t like it. It seems that it’s what I have got. Had I read you when I was younger, you would probably have hurt me. I would not necessarily have known why. Now I think I know. More clearly than ever. I know now why I don’t like you, why I will turn away from you. Why is there so much hatred in me? Where does it come from? We know it well, we know it well. Uninteresting of course, let us pass over this in silence. Could that be my night? It would be good to be able to assume so. Doubtful, however. Perhaps some perpetual dusk. Semi-dusk. No light, no night, something of the sort. Maybe then that is what I am. What I have become. Irromantic. Immagic. Immystic. Impoetic as well, while we are at it. Something positive here would be judicious. Let us try a few substantives. Uninvocator, disenchanter, misconjuror. More negatives. That doesn’t sound that well, does it? Has it always been like that? Could it change? Useless questions.
The Earth has known too many woes. Many had to flee to the new worlds.
Through the window of your spaceship’s verandah, you watch the endless night.
You have been reading Novalis for a few weeks now. Again and again. Obsessively.
You understand him better than any reader before you. Better than anyone on Earth.
Better than he himself.