Friday, 22 August 2008

The Electrification of the Soviet Union

Woke late yesterday. Very late – close on 10 am. I could not begin to explain how unusually late that is for me. So unusual I cannot remember ever waking so late in the morning. But good – I think we must have needed it. It was already hot and was to get hotter, rising to 34C by mid afternoon.

First there was some phoning around to do and answering emails as well as writing yesterday’s post. Arrangements to be made here and there. Eventually we walked down to Moszkva tér, the big square at the bottom of the hill, taking in a bank and lunch along the way.

At lunch we talked about love, chiefly parental love. C still keenly feels the death of her father. Some part is broken there. Fathers and daughters, she said. She was particularly close to him, but thinks there often is such a relationship between daughters and fathers. I said it was my impression that women tended to look for their own fathers in their choice of men, that is providing the father was the right father for them. And if their real father was not somehow ‘right’, they would look for that right father in the men they met as a kind of redress. Is this true? I don’t know but I have occasionally sensed it. Then, of course, it turned the other way, speaking about men seeking their mothers, or something of their mothers in potential wives.

Maybe that is true too. I have no real idea what I felt about the death of my mother in 1975. I seem to have written a lot of poetry with her in it, but whether that was love, or could be described as anything that had a name, I really don't know. We write because we don't know. We write to find out, and still we don't know. We only know we have made a shape and the shape is the equivalent of that which we do not know. More or less. If we are lucky. On reading my longest poem 'Metro' - yes, he actually read it! - my father said it was like moving around inside her. Is that then love? Can't tell.

We may, of course, fall in love with, or even marry, those who seem least like our parents. And yet there is, I suspect, some quality in the other that still echoes that which is rooted in us as our first and original apprehension of intimate life. Losing that does sort of break things up a little.


And how did our parents love us? Some parents, usually fathers, never use the word ‘love’ or rarely so. C’s father was like that, yet she knew he had loved her. But what does love mean when it is not avowed as such? We went through the feelings grouped under the term love. How vast that term is. It seems to me, I said, a term as vast as Russia. Continent sized. So vast it seems almost useless. Moreover it is a country of which every part is charged. The whole territory is electrified or radio-active. Trying to locate the source, or sources, of the radio activity, some Chernobyl of the emotions, defining the position of the generator is hard. Love is the electrification of the Soviet Union.


The word is imprecise: that is why some people don’t use it. They feel intensely and are aware of a mixture of feelings: anxiety, fear of loss, admiration, tenderness, pride, fulfilment, an increased sense of mortality combined with its direct opposite, a being-outside-time. I could run through the entire Shakespeherian list. Love is this, love is that, love is that happily defunct newspaper cartoon series called Love Is… in which two toddler-sized people, a boy and girl, deprived of their sexual organs, enacted a whole series of tokens or proofs of love. ‘If you loved me you’d bring me a box of chocolates every Tuesday’, ‘If you loved me you wouldn’t blow your nose in public’, 'If you loved me you’d do your homework and get straight As’… The word can be applied as a balm. Some people cannot bring themselves to apply balms. They want their words to be connected to something precise. C’s father was like that. And besides, he was a deeply shy man. As are many men, far more than the world might think.

Then, it being almost 3pm, we decided to go either to the zoo or to the Test és Lélek (Body and Soul) exhibition of photographs at the Fine Art Mueum. Too hot to walk around a zoo really, however architecturally strange the Budapest Zoo is, so to the exhibition on the other side of the Danube, in Pest.

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