Friday, November 19, 2010

Lying fallow

It's a bit weird that every time it's my time on the blog, I've just returned from a business trip. First Moscow, then Chicago, then Warsaw. I can't tell you much about Warsaw. I can talk about a local five star hotel and that it has very comfy beds and a restaurant that serves a strange mix of Asian foods, from Chinese, Thai, to Japanese, and compared to other places where I've eaten, you get skinned alive with the bill.

Warsaw is a haunted city, a city of ghosts. I'm not sure November is the best time to visit it. I missed both the National Museum and the Warsaw Uprising Museum. But the scars of history run deep in this odd place, full of classisist facades meant to impress and then the crooked, aged, fading Old Town. Where the taxi driver points out the war memorial, saying "voina, voina", and I'm the only guest in the taxi who knows voina is war. Not that it was ambivalent when the taxi driver added "Hitler, Hitler". I certainly want to go back and explore the history of the place and see it in daylight. In a foggy late November evening, Warsaw only showed two faces, and that clearly wasn't all there was to it.

Not that I'm going anywhere near Poland with my current World War II novel. Maybe I should. Maybe I should write another, a different story, dealing with the things that happened there. The sheer amount of suffering almost demands it, and also adds a "stay away", if we're talking romance. You need huge amounts of skill and mental fortitude to cut fiction from the bleeding wounds of history - respecting your material (and the people who died and suffered) on one hand, and at the same time telling the story.

I'm deeply ambivalent about touching anything relating to the Third Reich. I can't delude myself I'm doing it for art, for one, like the literary writers. I aim to entertain, primarly. But I'm aware I'm treading ground where only a thin layer of time covers the millions of skeletons under my feet. Rarely am I more aware of my nationality and birth language/mother tongue than where my ancestors have spilled blood, and within living memory.

While immersing myself into the history of the Third Reich and its people (in many ways, it's a foreign culture and a different planet), I'm fallow as a writer. I haven't written any meaningful quantities for three weeks now, partially because I've just finished a couple novels, partially because I've been away on business, and strangely, I struggle to write while sitting in a hotel in a foreign country.

It's disconcerting in that "oh ye gods, I'll never write again!" kind of way, but I know stuff is going on in my subconsciousness. Thoughts, feelings, energy. Much of the stuff writers work with is intangible. As a famous writer said, writers and spiders make a living from their guts. I know things are going on, I can feel the current pull and move, but the surface is untroubled. I'll have to trust that things will begin emerging when they are ready.


Unknown said...

Touching and well written, as always. You always make me think.

Cynical Romantic said...

Warsaw struck me in exactly the same way - as a city of ghosts. Layers upon layers of them.

There is something inspiring about a place with so much *atmosphere* and I can completely understand how it could at once make you want to write, and at the same time make you want to run from it.

A.B.Gayle said...

I second Britta's comments. It's the deep understanding you have of the world and your place in it added to your awareness of your effect on it that makes you the writer you are.
Inspiration will come when it's ready.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps you're not producing "meaningful quantities", but you've definitely produced meaningful prose here. Once again, you've hit that place in my gut that makes me pause and catch my breath, recognizing the history and soul (or perhaps, the souls) behind the words.

Thanks for that, Aleksandr


Monika said...

I agree whole-heartedly with everyone above. Especially, VJ.

Aleks, you never cease to amaze me with your words, whether in your novels or a random comment posted. I have never known anyone who 'sees' everything and can 'paint' his thoughts so beautifully. It's just this thing that keeps me in 'forever fangrrl' mode. Full-on melting and swooning over every last thing you write. Sorry, but it's true. :)

much love and admiration,

Anonymous said...

I felt the same way about Warsaw. I love Poland, so much, but Warsaw is definitely filled with ghosts.

If anyone could write such a story, it would be you, but I can absolutely understand what a mountainous task it would be.

Mel said...

Wow Aleks, every time I read something of yours, you manage to move me. I completely agree with the comments above. And I totally second the fangirl mode :)


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