We have started our summer in Athens to look at this year’s big exhibition, Documenta 14. Yesterday, we paid a brief visit to the Acropolis, but the queue was long, and the weather was even warmer, so we chilled in a nearby shabby chic cafe, sipping iced Frappes instead. More about our visit to Athens later! For now, we thought we would share some summer study tips to fill your cozy days at the cabin, lonely nights in thunderstorms, hiding from drunk relatives, or lazy days at the beach.
I’ve been submerged in literature about the Holocaust lately. It’s not the most cheerful topic to bring to the barbecue party, but I recently saw the Italian writer and Auschwitz survivor, Primo Levi, referenced here and there. This quote in the essay Refugee Stasis at N+1, by Omar Robert Hamilton, quote caught my eye:
In every part of the world, wherever you begin by denying the fundamental liberties of mankind, and equality among people, you move toward the concentration camp system, and it is a road on which it is difficult to halt.
The quote is from Levi’s book If this is a man, where he’s describing his year in a labor camp by the Auschwitz, and I think there’s a lot of truth to what he is saying. When you set those wheels towards the concentration camp in motion, it becomes a matter of how to manage huge masses of people. This is not a question of moral, but one of logistics. Levi also wrote Truce, a of follow up where his travel back to his Italian hometown is the topic. Here, writes how Europe was in complete disarray after the war, with masses of people moving everywhere; prisoners, refugees, soldiers, politicians, VIPs, in a time marked by endless waiting, stillstand and coming to grips with the recent horrors.
Then it’s Anne Frank’s diary. I hadn’t read it before, and no one told me how this book is mostly about Anne fighting with her parents and the Van Daan’s, the other family in hiding. She’s kinda precocious, a trouble maker with a big mouth, and it’s not really a book about the war, or intense, dramatic scenes. Instead, it’s the story of a teenage girl, how she falls in love with Peter, getting her first period, and how she wants to study art history and become a journalist traveling to Paris and London. It ends very abruptly. There’s no hint of the police coming, but it just shuts down with another one of her entries about she learning to grow up, with out providing the dramatic suspense and relief of the Gestapo arrest. The end.
Because of the recent release of Twin Peaks season 3, I have been revisiting David Lynch. The last time I saw his movies I just let the scenes and textures of the film wash over me like abstraction or sunlight. Now I feel like being more analytical, no urge to be chill and let the art just be art. I feel like dissecting – this is probably because of the bubbling up of nightmare shit America is going through, the black lodge and mysterious creatures of evil are allegorical to violence and abuse. Obviously there was never an era of innocence, Lynch acknowledges the darkness and evil. Also I there are simple answers to things in the movies that dont seem to make any sense. Rite now, I´m talking about the 1997 film Lost Highway. I rewatched the movie and then found THE ART OF THE RIDICULOUS SUBLIME On David Lynch’s Lost Highway Slavoj Zizek. Its a piece of academic writing that, true to his style, is written in an academic style that is so extreme that it seems like a joke on the genre of text. Anyway, if you can sift through the wording its a great clarifying text on the movie and is a place to start in taking the Lynch collection seriously enough to reach out for reasons. this text can be used as a kind of rosetta stone to everything. He does a psychoanalytical read of the characters and he takes weird jumps that at first feel like flippant surrealism and proposes them as us the audience looking into their fantasies. The reading is also placed into the context of film history and Lynches statements on subject like the femme fatal in film since 1940s noir. There is also room for magic and force fields.
Last week I had the beginning of a root canal done. I went home and took a crazy nap. when I woke up I decided to watch what is considered to be Lynches weirdest movie The Straight Story in which Richard Farnsworth goes on a long haul drive on a lawn mower to visit his brother after a stroke. He cries with a fellow veteran about his accidental friendly fire in world war two. I love movies about elderly people. I love quixotic tales. So if you do too this is the film for you. It makes me sad because when people say make America great again, this is the America they might be referring to but this is a movie and even the sweetest old white man is still battling with the years he spent killing and fighting in a war.