Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Work of Art. By Anton Chekhov

Though this picture is an example of Chekhov´s story, I´d like to add that the article by W. A. Demers ¨Strong Sale At Clarke Auction Packs Gallery To the Gills¨, dated April 14th, 2009 states that this pair of dore bronze figural candelabra, part of a Tiffany collection from a Riverdale, N.Y., estate, led the sale, finishing at $8,225. (!). Now, the story:

SASHA SMIRNOV, the only son of his mother, holding under his arm, something wrapped up in No. 223  of the Financial News, assumed a sentimental expression, and went into Dr. Koshelkov's consulting-room.
"Ah, dear lad!" was how the doctor greeted him. "Well! how are we feeling? What good news have you for me?"
Sasha blinked, laid his hand on his heart and said in an agitated voice: "Mamma sends her greetings to you, Ivan Nikolaevitch, and told me to thank you. . . . I am the only son of my mother and you have saved my life . . . you have brought me through a dangerous illness and . . . we do not know how to thank you."
"Nonsense, lad!" said the doctor, highly delighted. "I only did what anyone else would have done in my place."
"I am the only son of my mother . . . we are poor people and cannot of course repay you, and we are quite ashamed, doctor, although, however, mamma and I . . . the only son of my mother, earnestly beg you to accept in token of our gratitude . . . this object, which . . . An object of great value, an antique bronze. . . . A rare work of art."
"You shouldn't!" said the doctor, frowning. "What's this for!"
"No, please do not refuse," Sasha went on muttering as he unpacked the parcel. "You will wound mamma and me by refusing. . . . It's a fine thing . . . an antique bronze. . . . It was left us by my deceased father and we have kept it as a precious souvenir. My father used to buy antique bronzes and sell them to connoisseurs . . . Mamma and I keep on the business now."
Sasha undid the object and put it solemnly on the table. It was a not very tall   and artistic workmanship. It consisted of a group: on the pedestal stood two female figures in the costume of Eve and in attitudes for the description of which I have neither the courage nor the fitting temperament. The figures were smiling coquettishly and altogether looked as though, had it not been for the necessity of supporting the candlestick, they would have skipped off the pedestal and have indulged in an orgy such as is improper for the reader even to imagine.
Looking at the present, the doctor slowly scratched behind his ear, cleared his throat and blew his nose irresolutely.
"Yes, it certainly is a fine thing," he muttered, "but . . . how shall I express it? . . . it's . . . h'm . . . it's not quite for family reading. It's not simply decolleté but beyond anything, dash it all. . . ."
"How do you mean?"
"The serpent-tempter himself could not have invented anything worse. . . . Why, to put such a phantasmagoria on the table would be defiling the whole flat."
"What a strange way of looking at art, doctor!" said Sasha, offended. "Why, it is an artistic thing, look at it! There is so much beauty and elegance that it fills one's soul with a feeling of reverence and brings a lump into one's throat! When one sees anything so beautiful one forgets everything earthly. . . . Only look, how much movement, what an atmosphere, what expression!"
"I understand all that very well, my dear boy," the doctor interposed, "but you know I am a family man, my children run in here, ladies come in."
"Of course if you look at it from the point of view of the crowd," said Sasha, "then this exquisitely artistic work may appear in a certain light. . . . But, doctor, rise superior to the crowd, especially as you will wound mamma and me by refusing it. I am the only son of my mother, you have saved my life. . . . We are giving you the thing most precious to us and . . . and I only regret that I have not the pair to present to you. . . ."
"Thank you, my dear fellow, I am very grateful . . . Give my respects to your mother but really consider, my children run in here, ladies come. . . . However, let it remain! I see there's no arguing with you."
"And there is nothing to argue about," said Sasha, relieved. "Put the candlestick here, by this vase. What a pity we have not the pair to it! It is a pity! Well, good-bye, doctor."
After Sasha's departure the doctor looked for a long time at the candelabra, scratched behind his ear and meditated.
"It's a superb thing, there's no denying it," he thought, "and it would be a pity to throw it away. . . . But it's impossible for me to keep it. . . . H'm! . . . Here's a problem! To whom can I make a present of it, or to what charity can I give it?"
After long meditation he thought of his good friend, the lawyer Uhov, to whom he was indebted for the management of legal business.
"Excellent," the doctor decided, "it would be awkward for him as a friend to take money from me, and it will be very suitable for me to present him with this. I will take him the devilish thing! Luckily he is a bachelor and easy-going."
Without further procrastination the doctor put on his hat and coat, took the candelabra and went off to Uhov's.
"How are you, friend!" he said, finding the lawyer at home. "I've come to see you . . . to thank you for your efforts. . . . You won't take money so you must at least accept this thing here. . . . See, my dear fellow. . . . The thing is magnificent!"
On seeing the bronze the lawyer was moved to indescribable delight.
"What a specimen!" he chuckled. "Ah, deuce take it, to think of them imagining such a thing, the devils! Exquisite! Ravishing! Where did you get hold of such a delightful thing?"
After pouring out his ecstasies the lawyer looked timidly towards the door and said: "Only you must carry off your present, my boy. . . . I can't take it. . . ."
"Why?" cried the doctor, disconcerted.
"Why . . . because my mother is here at times, my clients . . . besides I should be ashamed for my servants to see it."
"Nonsense! Nonsense! Don't you dare to refuse!" said the doctor, gesticulating. "It's piggish of you! It's a work of art! . . . What movement. . . what expression! I won't even talk of it! You will offend me!"
"If one could plaster it over or stick on fig-leaves . . . "
But the doctor gesticulated more violently than before, and dashing out of the flat went home, glad that he had succeeded in getting the present off his hands.
When he had gone away the lawyer examined the candelabra, fingered it all over, and then, like the doctor, racked his brains over the question what to do with the present.
"It's a fine thing," he mused, "and it would be a pity to throw it away and improper to keep it. The very best thing would be to make a present of it to someone. . . . I know what! I'll take it this evening to Shashkin, the comedian. The rascal is fond of such things, and by the way it is his benefit tonight."
No sooner said than done. In the evening the candelabra, carefully wrapped up, was duly carried to Shashkin's. The whole evening the comic actor's dressing-room was besieged by men coming to admire the present; the dressing-room was filled with the hum of enthusiasm and laughter like the neighing of horses. If one of the actresses approached the door and asked: "May I come in?" the comedian's husky voice was heard at once: "No, no, my dear, I am not dressed!"
After the performance the comedian shrugged his shoulders, flung up his hands and said: "Well what am I to do with the horrid thing? Why, I live in a private flat! Actresses come and see me! It's not a photograph that you can put in a drawer!"
"You had better sell it, sir," the hairdresser who was disrobing the actor advised him. "There's an old woman living about here who buys antique bronzes. Go and enquire for Madame Smirnov . . . everyone knows her."
The actor followed his advice. . . . Two days later the doctor was sitting in his consulting-room, and with his finger to his brow was meditating on the acids of the bile. All at once the door opened and Sasha Smirnov flew into the room. He was smiling, beaming, and his whole figure was radiant with happiness. In his hands he held something wrapped up in newspaper.
"Doctor!" he began breathlessly, "imagine my delight! Happily for you we have succeeded in picking up the pair to your candelabra! Mamma is so happy. . . . I am the only son of my mother, you saved my life. . . ."
And Sasha, all of a tremor with gratitude, set the candelabra before the doctor. The doctor opened his mouth, tried to say something, but said nothing: he could not speak.


Concept of time in Chekhov’s Short Stories

Anton Chekhov. From

“What a fragment is in space, a moment is in time. The moment has been greatly exploited in fiction, more particularly in short fiction. Chekhov, perhaps, was the first to exploit the moment in the short story. …There’s his story which tells of a man going out to post a letter. He stands by the post box, wondering if he should send it. At last, after a great deal of hesitation, he looks down and observes that he has his bedroom slippers on, which is a violation of bourgeois decorum. This discovery is decisive. Promptly the letter is dropped into the box, though heaven knows it may change the whole course of his life.
There is another Chekhov story, which tells about a man who contemplates suicide. He enters a shop which sells firearms, with the idea of buying a revolver. The shopkeeper, expansive in the way of a salesman bent on making a sale, dwells on the merits of this or that weapon, describing its particular function and virtue, until the self-destructive mood of the prospective buyer becomes dissipated and he leaves the shop after making the purchase of a bird-cage or some such article.
Note the ephemeral nature of the persons in these two stories; they are persons of the moment who live for the moment. Durability –that is, character- is absent. Chance, accident, moves them to make decisions of import; it is equally possible that another kind of moment would reserve their decision. This is peculiarly of our time; since the day that Chekhov wrote the tendency here described has increased rather than diminished; it has influenced our fiction. It is highly symptomatic of the malady of the age: absence of faith and deterioration of character. If Art is a reflection of the time –and that may be accepted as an axiom- if it is a faithful mirror of what goes on in the human psyche, then for better or for worse, the fact must be accepted, and we must make the most of it.”

Introduction for the Book A World of Great Stories. By John Cournos. P. 8-9. New York, 1947

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Huevos de Pascua invaden Viena

Diseños de Huevos de Pascua. De

Volviendo al tema de las Pascuas, esta nota de la redacción del periódico El Pueblo (de Chihuahua, México), me resultó muy simpática e ilustrativa de la variedad de diseños -cada vez más curiosos- de los huevos de Pascuas.

No parece haber límite para la variedad de diseños, tamaños y precios, tanto para los huevos comestibles como para otros de uso decorativo.
Los motivos pintados en ellos pueden ser religiosos o paganos, abstractos o figurativos, originales o inspirados en obras famosas, como las del pintor austríaco Gustav Klimt.
Además de los huevos duros pintados, son tradicionales los de chocolate, solo o con licores, mazapán y diversos sabores, así como de chocolate blanco o merengue, que hacen las delicias de niños y adultos.
En Viena, siguiendo el ejemplo de los exitosos mercadillos navideños, en la última década se han establecido también mercadillos de Pascua. 
Con 52 expositores, el Altwiener Ostermarkt (antiguo mercadillo vienés de Pascua) en la pintoresca plaza de Freyung se precia de poseer "la mayor montaña de huevos de Europa".
Y es que una enorme cantidad de huevos duros pintados con vivos colores y adornados con lazos se amontonan sobre esta plaza, situada delante de la Iglesia de los Escoceses.
Numerosos objetos de artesanía inspirados en la Pascua se ofrecen aquí, además de golosinas para los niños y la posibilidad de que ellos mismos puedan pintar unos huevos.
También las más refinadas confiterías y supermercados vieneses compiten entre sí con unos escaparates acaparados por gigantescos modelos del huevo y del conejo de pascuas, que, según la leyenda, lo trae y los esconde para ser descubierto el domingo de estas fiestas.
Es el caso de la antigua confitería de la Corte imperial de los Habsburgo, Demel, que este año ha optado por presentar una gran gallina de merengue, rodeada de pequeños pollitos blancos.
En el interior se acumula todo tipo de chocolates y otras delicias creadas con recetas secretas y codiciadas.
Pero el huevo, cuyo significado ritual como símbolo de la renovación de la vida y de la fertilidad se remonta a los tiempos paganos más remotos, ha invadido también las tiendas de libros y decora estos días los escaparates de renombradas perfumerías, joyerías, relojerías y hasta farmacias.
"Las fiestas de Pascua son, sin duda, una de las épocas más bonita del año" , se afirma en una página web para niños dedicada exclusivamente a estas festividades.
Agrega que "se despiertan los sentimientos primaverales y también el conejo de pascuas sale a regalar a los niños una cantidad de huevos de colores y obsequios".
La tradición en Austria es similar a otros países de la región: el de Pascua es un huevo duro teñido y pintado, en general con colores naturales, que se esconde el domingo de Pascua para que los niños salgan a buscarlo.
En muchas culturas el huevo es considerado símbolo de fecundidad y se relaciona con la primavera, entre otros argumentos, porque son numerosas las aves que regresan a las tierras nórdicas tras la migración invernal.
Otra teoría está relacionada con el fin del ayuno cristiano, puesto que en algunas zonas el huevo se consideraba "carne líquida" y, por lo tanto, era un alimento prohibido durante ese período, pero a fin de no perder esa fuente alimenticia los campesinos los hervían para poder guardarlos y comerlos duros después.
Pero, si hay diversas explicaciones para el huevo, el misterio rodea a la figura del conejo, cuya función estos días, semejante quizás a la del Papa Noel que trae los regalos en Navidades, presenta más incógnitas que respuestas. 

Esta foto pertenece al blog de los diseñadores Para muestra, un botón.
Esta foto pertenece al blog de los diseñadores Para muestra, un botón.

Comidas típicas de la Pascua Judía

Guefilte Fish. Uno de los platos más tradicionales del Pesaj. Foto de la guía de restaurantes de Clarí

He aquí algunos párrafos de la nota de Sebastián Espiño, para la guía de restaurantes del diario argentino Clarí, publicada el día de hoy. Para recordar que los eventos religiosos de esta semana no son sólo católicos.
El Éxodo es el segundo libro de la Torá, el escrito de las enseñanzas del pueblo judío, y también del antiguo testamento en la Biblia cristiana. En él se develan las dificultades y los trances que vivió el pueblo hebreo hace más de 3000 años cuando emprendió su partida de Egipto, dejando atrás la opresión que en ese imperio padecía. Ayer, con la salida de la primera estrella, la cultura judía comenzó a recordar a sus antepasados, conmemorando Pésaj.
Son muchas las costumbres que se respetan para esta fecha y la gastronomía no escapa a ello. La cocina es uno de los ámbitos donde se siguen las tradiciones ancestrales y entre sus protagonistas aparecen la harina de matzá y algunas especies de pescado con los que se elaboran platos típicos de la comida judía. Es que durante 7 días -y en cumplimiento con los estatutos que Jehová entregó al pueblo- se debe celebrar la fiesta del pan sin levadura (panes ácimos), en solidaridad con los antepasados que emigraron desde Egipto con carencias, incluidas las relacionadas con lo culinario.
Entre las preparaciones con pescado se destaca el "guefilte fish". Se trata de esferas de  pescado molido, mezclado con cebolla, huevo y condimentos. También el pollo está dentro de las preferencias en la mesa: el caldo puede acompañarse con "kneidalaj" (bolitas de hariná de matzá condimentadas).
Para completar la lectura de este artículo

Monday, March 29, 2010

Carl Jung´s Red Book

The text below is an excerpt from an article by Sara Corbett, ¨The Holy Grail of the Unconscious¨, for the New York Times, published on September 16, 2009.
This is the story of the ¨hidden¨ book by the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung (July 1875 – 6 June 1961). The New York Times on line has a huge file with pictures of the book, I took my time to separate the beautiful images into six pictures.

¨This is a story about a nearly 100-year-old book, bound in red leather, which has spent the last quarter century secreted away in a bank vault in Switzerland. The book is big and heavy and its spine is etched with gold letters that say “Liber Novus,” which is Latin for “New Book.” Its pages are made from thick cream-colored parchment and filled with paintings of otherworldly creatures and handwritten dialogues with gods and devils. If you didn’t know the book’s vintage, you might confuse it for a lost medieval tome.
Some people feel that nobody should read the book, and some feel that everybody should read it. The truth is, nobody really knows. Most of what has been said about the book — what it is, what it means — is the product of guesswork, because from the time it was begun in 1914 in a smallish town in Switzerland, it seems that only about two dozen people have managed to read or even have much of a look at it.
Of those who did see it, at least one person, an educated Englishwoman who was allowed to read some of the book in the 1920s, thought it held infinite wisdom — “There are people in my country who would read it from cover to cover without stopping to breathe scarcely,” she wrote — while another, a well-known literary type who glimpsed it shortly after, deemed it both fascinating and worrisome, concluding that it was the work of a psychotic. 
So for the better part of the past century, despite the fact that it is thought to be the pivotal work of one of the era’s great thinkers, the book has existed mostly just as a rumor, cosseted behind the skeins of its own legend — revered and puzzled over only from a great distance.
Whether or not he would have wanted it this way, Jung — who regarded himself as a scientist — is today remembered more as a countercultural icon, a proponent of spirituality outside religion and the ultimate champion of dreamers and seekers everywhere, which has earned him both posthumous respect and posthumous ridicule. Jung’s ideas laid the foundation for the widely used Myers-Briggs personality test and influenced the creation of Alcoholics Anonymous. His central tenets — the existence of a collective unconscious and the power of archetypes — have seeped into the larger domain of New Age thinking while remaining more at the fringes of mainstream psychology.
Jung soon found himself in opposition not just to Freud but also to most of his field, the psychiatrists who constituted the dominant culture at the time, speaking the clinical language of symptom and diagnosis behind the deadbolts of asylum wards. Separation was not easy. As his convictions began to crystallize, Jung, who was at that point an outwardly successful and ambitious man with a young family, a thriving private practice and a big, elegant house on the shores of Lake Zurich, felt his own psyche starting to teeter and slide, until finally he was dumped into what would become a life-altering crisis.
What happened next to Carl Jung has become, among Jungians and other scholars, the topic of enduring legend and controversy. It has been characterized variously as a creative illness, a descent into the underworld, a bout with insanity, a narcissistic self-deification, a transcendence, a midlife breakdown and an inner disturbance mirroring the upheaval of World War I. Whatever the case, in 1913, Jung, who was then 38, got lost in the soup of his own psyche. He was haunted by troubling visions and heard inner voices. Grappling with the horror of some of what he saw, he worried in moments that he was, in his own words, “menaced by a psychosis” or “doing a schizophrenia.¨ 
He later would compare this period of his life — this “confrontation with the unconscious,” as he called it — to a mescaline experiment. He described his visions as coming in an “incessant stream.” He likened them to rocks falling on his head, to thunderstorms, to molten lava. “I often had to cling to the table,” he recalled, “so as not to fall apart.”
Had he been a psychiatric patient, Jung might well have been told he had a nervous disorder and encouraged to ignore the circus going on in his head. But as a psychiatrist, and one with a decidedly maverick streak, he tried instead to tear down the wall between his rational self and his psyche. For about six years, Jung worked to prevent his conscious mind from blocking out what his unconscious mind wanted to show him. Between appointments with patients, after dinner with his wife and children, whenever there was a spare hour or two, Jung sat in a book-lined office on the second floor of his home and actually induced hallucinations  — what he called “active imaginations.” “In order to grasp the fantasies which were stirring in me ‘underground,’ ” Jung wrote later in his book “Memories, Dreams, Reflections,” “I knew that I had to let myself plummet down into them.” He found himself in a liminal place, as full of creative abundance as it was of potential ruin, believing it to be the same borderlands traveled by both lunatics and great artists.
Jung recorded it all. First taking notes in a series of small, black journals, he then expounded upon and analyzed his fantasies, writing in a regal, prophetic tone in the big red-leather book. The book detailed an unabashedly psychedelic voyage through his own mind, a vaguely Homeric progression of encounters with strange people taking place in a curious, shifting dreamscape. Writing in German, he filled 205 oversize pages with elaborate calligraphy and with richly hued, staggeringly detailed paintings.
What he wrote did not belong to his previous canon of dispassionate, academic essays on psychiatry. Nor was it a straightforward diary. It did not mention his wife, or his children, or his colleagues, nor for that matter did it use any psychiatric language at all. Instead, the book was a kind of phantasmagoric morality play, driven by Jung’s own wish not just to chart a course out of the mangrove swamp of his inner world but also to take some of its riches with him. It was this last part — the idea that a person might move beneficially between the poles of the rational and irrational, the light and the dark, the conscious and the unconscious — that provided the germ for his later work and for what analytical psychology would become.
The book tells the story of Jung trying to face down his own demons as they emerged from the shadows. The results are humiliating, sometimes unsavory. In it, Jung travels the land of the dead, falls in love with a woman he later realizes is his sister, gets squeezed by a giant serpent and, in one terrifying moment, eats the liver of a little child. (“I swallow with desperate efforts — it is impossible — once again and once again — I almost faint — it is done.”) At one point, even the devil criticizes Jung as hateful.
He worked on his red book — and he called it just that, the Red Book — on and off for about 16 years, long after his personal crisis had passed, but he never managed to finish it. He actively fretted over it, wondering whether to have it published and face ridicule from his scientifically oriented peers or to put it in a drawer and forget it. Regarding the significance of what the book contained, however, Jung was unequivocal. “All my works, all my creative activity,” he would recall later, “has come from those initial fantasies and dreams.”
Jung evidently kept the Red Book locked in a cupboard in his house in the Zurich suburb of Küsnacht. When he died in 1961, he left no specific instructions about what to do with it. His son, Franz, an architect and the third of Jung’s five children, took over running the house and chose to leave the book, with its strange musings and elaborate paintings, where it was. Later, in 1984, the family transferred it to the bank, where since then it has fulminated as both an asset and a liability.
Anytime someone did ask to see the Red Book, family members said, without hesitation and sometimes without decorum, no. The book was private, they asserted, an intensely personal work. In 1989, an American analyst named Stephen Martin, who was then the editor of a Jungian journal and now directs a Jungian nonprofit foundation, visited Jung’s son (his other four children were daughters) and inquired about the Red Book. The question was met with a vehemence that surprised him. “Franz Jung, an otherwise genial and gracious man, reacted sharply, nearly with anger,” Martin later wrote in his foundation’s newsletter, saying “in no uncertain terms” that Martin could not “see the Red Book, nor could he ever imagine that it would be published.”
And yet, Carl Jung’s secret Red Book — scanned, translated and footnoted — will be in stores early next month, published by W. W. Norton and billed as the “most influential unpublished work in the history of psychology.”

Read the full story:

This special book was translated by Sonu Shamdasani, Mark Kyburz and John Peck. Editor is Sonu Shamdasani. The price in Amazon is $123/$145 in round numbers.
Historian Sonu Shamdasani, an employee of the Jung heirs and their advisor in the handling of unpublished Jung material, and Stephen Martin, a Jungian analyst, created the Philemon Foundation  in order to facilitate publication of Jung's works.
Ulrich Hoerni, Jung's grandson and manager of the Jung archives, decided to publish it after three years of persuasion by Shamdasani. (From

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Versión Griega de la Leyenda del Loto

Priapus y Lotis, III cuarto del SXVI, de autor no identificado, posiblemente Jacopo Bertoia, italiano, 1530-1575 o Francesco Parmigianino, italiano, 1503-1540

Antes que se venerara a los santos como guardianes y protectores de los jardines, Priapus o Priapos –Mutinus Mutunus en su versión romana- fue adorado por griegos y romanos como el dios de la procreación, extensivo al ganado, los jardines y viñas. Sus estatuas eran colocadas en los jardines para protegerlos de depredación, especialmente de los cuervos. Con el tiempo, dichas estatuas fueron consideradas obscenas, ya que mostraban la permanente erección del dios.
Priapus fue descripto como el hijo de Afrodita y Dionisio, como hijo de alguna ninfa local, como padre o hijo de Hermes, o hijo de Zeus, dependiendo de la versión del mito. Hera, celosa porque el héroe Paris se atrevió a juzgar a Afrodita más hermosa que a ella, maldijo al hijo de Afrodita con impotencia, fealdad y una mente poco inteligente, mientras aún estaba en su vientre. Otros dioses rehusaron permitirle que viva con ellos en el Monte Olimpo, y lo arrojaron a la Tierra, donde fue eventualmente encontrado por pastores. Priapus, eternamente frustrado por su impotencia, se unió a Pan y otros sátiros como un espíritu de fertilidad y crecimiento.
Ovidio (Publius Ovidius Naso 20 Marzo 43 AC –17 o18 DC ), menciona dos veces la versión de la creación de la flor de loto.
Cierto día, Priapus intenta violar a la ninfa Lotis, pero el fuerte rebuzno de un asno allí presente, logró que él perdiera su erección y que Lotis, quien se hallaba dormida, despertara. Priapus persigue a la ninfa desesperada, hasta que los dioses, apenados por tal situación, la convierten en un loto de hermosa flor.
En The Merchant´s Tale, de los Canterbury Tales (Los Cuentos de Canterbury), Geoffrey Chaucer, invoca a Priapus con las siguientes palabras:
Ne Priapus ne myghte nat suffise,
Though he be God of gardyns, for to telle
The beautee of the gardyn and the welle,
That stood under a laurer alwey grene.
¨Priapus puede no proveer, a pesar de ser el dios de los jardines ,decir de la belleza del jardín y el pozo que se encuentra bajo el laurel, siempre verde¨. (traducción personal).

Historias sobre tulipanes negros

Alejandro Dumas (padre) escribió una novela –The Black Tulip- acerca de una competición en el S.XVII para cultivar un verdadero tulipán negro. En la intriga, se pierden tres vidas.
Dónde yace la importancia del tulipán absolutamente negro? Tal vez, en la rareza del color para la botánica; el negro también tiene connotaciones demoníacas, y puede ser relacionado con pecados.
Existe otra historia, que sea posiblemente real, según la versión del poeta y escritor polaco Zbigniew Herbert (1924-1998).
Un tulipán negro fue encontrado por un zapatero pobre en la época del furor del comercio de tulipanes en Holanda. Un día, cinco hombres de la Unión de Floristas de Haarlem, vestidos de negro, lo visitan y le prometen dar una muy buena paga por el bulbo de su tulipán. El zapatero, consciente de la avaricia de estos hombres, comienza a discutir el precio, y finalmente cierran el trato en la cantidad de 1500 florines, lo cual, para él, es mucho dinero. Los visitantes, ya con el bulbo en su poder, lo aplastan, destruyéndolo totalmente.
¨Idiota!¨, le gritan al estupefacto zapatero, ¨nosotros también tenemos un bulbo de tulipán negro. Aparte de nosotros, nadie más lo tiene en el mundo, ni rey, ni emperador, ni sultán. Si Ud hubiera pedido 10000 florines por su bulbo, más un par de caballos, se lo hubiéramos pagado sin protestar. Y recuerde esto. La buena fortuna no le sonreirá dos veces en su vida.¨ El zapatero, devastado, se apuñala tendido en su cama en el ático, y muere.
Para Herbert, la tulipomanía de la época es negra; ese deseo de la posesión del famoso tulipán y el febril comercio desarrollado en Holanda, no se basa en la idea de belleza, sino en la consumación diabólica de la idea fija, un fenómeno que puede destruír ¨los santuarios¨ de la razón.

Para leer acerca de la historia de las primeras plantaciones masivas de tulipanes en Holanda:

The Botany of Desire. By Michael Pollan. Chapter The Tulip. New York, 2001

Extranjero. Novela Digital por Luis Makianich

Concepts on Mythogeography: Interview with Phil Smith

Phil Smith is an academic, writer and performer, who lives in South Devon, UK. For twenty years he worked predominantly as a playwright in experimental, physical, community and music theatres, during which time over one hundred of his plays received professional productions.
Phil Smith was one of the organizers of the first symposium on Mythogeography in October 2008 at the University of Plymouth, where he was, until recently, a Senior Research Associate and where he is now beginning three years' funded research making and studying interventions in touristic and heritage space.

He says of himself:
'The Crab Man', Phil Smith, is a middle-aged, gadfly academic and artist currently based in and around Exeter. He admits to having struggled with the vagaries of making politics as a form of performance and to having experimented at length with performances in unusual sites.
He also says that he intends to develop walking as a generator for extreme pleasure and a means of activism and resistance.
His book Mythogeography was published by Triarchy Press on 26th January 2010, here is the link for further information:

The following text is my interview with Phil Smith, on March 27, 2010; the pictures belong to Phil Smith and drifters and can be used only in the context of Mythogeography theory, with permission:

M M: Could you please explain the difference between Mythogeography and the Psychogeography´s theory and practices developed by Surrealists, Dadaists, Lettrists and Situationists from the 30´s to the 60´s?

P S: Psychogeography is the study of how places affect the psychological states of those who pass through them. With a reciprocal meaning: that the places might be changed in order to alter the experiences and mental states of their residents and visitors. This was part of a theory of radical activism for the transformation of cities through the creation of exemplary ways of living (“situations”). In the United Kingdom the concept of Psychogeography has become somewhat detached from its original activist and unitary-urbanist meanings and reconfigured as a literary practice in the work of writers like Iain Sinclair. It has also gathered some occult trappings during this time from Sinclair, Peter Ackroyd, the graphic novelist Alan Moore and others.
Mythogeography describes a way of thinking about, passing through and using those places where multiple meanings have been squeezed into a single or restricted meaning (for example, heritage, tourist or leisure sites that are often presented in a singular and privileged way, when they may also be (or have been) homes, jam factories, battlegrounds, lovers' lanes, farms, cemeteries or madhouses). Mythogeography emphasizes the multiple nature of such places and suggests multiple ways of celebrating, expressing and weaving those places and their many meanings.
Mythogeography is influenced by, and draws on, Psychogeography – seeking to reconnect with some of its original political edge as well as with its more recent occult and literary additions. While engaging seriously with academic discourses in areas like Geography, tourism studies and spatial theory, Mythogeography also draws upon what Charles Fort might have described as ‘the procession of damned data’ and unrespectable discourses that it may use for metaphorical or literal explanation. So, occulted and anomalous narratives are among those available to Mythogeography, rarely as ends in themselves, mostly as means and metaphors to explain, engage and disrupt.
The term “Mythogeography” arose from the work of Wrights & Sites (a group of site-specific performance makers based in Exeter, UK).

M M: It is really interesting that you mention the clouds spiral pattern in your text Apocalypsis Cum Spiralis. Do you think that this fractal growing pattern is a means to a ¨walk¨ through the sky while we are still standing on earth?

P S: It is a phenomenon with many associations, which is perhaps why it is particularly attractive to a mythogeographer: natural, military, supernatural, geometrical and popular-cultural.
It is an accidental invitation to a kind of thinking that might well be described as a ‘walking in the sky while standing on the ground’. Such a behaviour resonates with one of the associations of the spiral, which is that of the detached eye; the idea here (taken from the comics and film of the Uzumaki narrative) is that the mythogeographer can learn how to re-site their point of view away from their subjective position (corporeal or otherwise).
The cloud phenomenon in Scandinavia (I rather lightheartedly suggest) is a portent for a more widespread, even apocalyptic, displacement of viewpoint. That it is a natural or covert-military phenomenon with the metaphorical potential to become a social one.

M M: In your book, you are searching for oaks, you had a purpose for your walk. Does a ¨drifter¨ need to have an objective?

P S: No. Indeed it is the very lack of an objective that imbues most drifts with their particular qualities. My search for oak trees was a genuine quest, I had no idea if I would find any not if any of the oak trees I sought were still alive, I was genuinely searching for them, but at the same time the real objective of my walk was not the oak trees, but rather the experiences and encounters of my walk. The oak trees served as a repeated ‘catapult’ for my journey, launching me each day, but most of the time I allowed myself to be repeatedly distracted by whatever atmospheres, spectacles or personalities attracted me along my way, the quest eventually pulling me back to my search. Such an ‘objective’ as the oak trees operates like a MacGuffin in a Hitchcock movie – it appears at first to be a defining reason but in fact it is simply an excuse to become involved in an intense engagement with the world. (I was also fortunate in that my quest revealed its own ironies and multiplicities, adding to the drift-like qualities of my journey.)

M M: How do your plays affect the experience of walking?

P S: At first my walking seemed to be a walking away from, a turning my back on, theatre, a rejection of histrionics for the less extravagant poetry of the everyday. However, I have become increasingly aware of how my walking-journeying comes from the journeying of theatre – my work in theatre has been predominantly with touring rather than building-based theatres. Equally, I now draw upon a thinned-out and subtle theatricality to enact intense encounters on my ‘drifts’ and quests. I recently wrote of the double nature of this movement away from and back to theatre:
“a journey from TNT’s touring theatre (its roots in para-theatre and popular performance) – within which, as company dramaturg, I had a brief ‘to enhance theatricality’, resting on a semi-fictional notion of nineteenth century German dramaturgs adapting the conceptual plays of poets for the practical stage - to a dispersed performance of journey, site and ‘walking as art’ with Wrights & Sites. But there has always been a complementary motion, a plane of activity sliding in relation to dispersal that began in the theatricality of a ‘rough’ dramaturgy. Through a spacing and thinning out of that theatricality, this dramaturgy has returned, in certain kinds of performative intervention, as remnant, revenant and trace: assemblage and weaving, vernacular intervention, character in myth, separatedness (the ‘ands’), sitedness (acting machine and theatre building as media not containers), the simultaneous dissimilarities of the grotesque, folding back, and framing.”   (Burning the Box Office: locating the relics of theatricality in a dramaturgy of the everyday”  Performance Research  Vol 14 (3). )
The terms are rather dense here (though explained in the paper), but they each refer to some theatre-like tactic that I draw upon when walking or exploring. They may help me to gain entry to a restricted space or be the means to generate semi-theatrical encounters, they may help me to use senses or body to explore the texture or shaping and massing of a built environment or they may be the means to create one’s own limitedly-mythic persona. Theatre has become a playfulness, but that is not a naïve, childish form of play, but a subtle and crafty play; sometimes subversive, sometimes malevolent.

M M: Is there a prevalence of any of our senses while walking or do we have to experience Mythogeography through all of them?

P S: There is no “have to”. It is more a case of playing the senses like a collection of instruments, sometimes solo, sometimes together; mixing and blending them. But most important is to understand the senses as active, not passive. Our senses seek out the world as if they were tentacles or lophophores. Mythogeography has been much affected, in this respect, by James J. Gibson’s theories of active perception.

M M: Would you recommend to make the same journey many times, for example, after a storm, in winter, in summer, under the rain or is it preferable to change the locations?

P S: I believe that the English psychogeographer Iain Sinclair takes the same walk in the Hackney area of London every day when he is not travelling away from the city. This is probably a tactic best deployed by those with considerable experience of disrupted walking, with the mental tricks and self-provocations to make the repeated walks exploratory ones. Undoubtedly the experience will reveal changes, but it will also reveal longstanding features that the walker has, for reasons it will be hard to discover, never ‘seen’ or noticed despite passing them many times.
We are remarkably selective in what we ‘see’. This seems to be a hardwired skill we have, cutting out the details to see the world as a kinetic environment – what angles suit us, what inclines threaten us. We need to find ways to trip up or disrupt the usual, efficient functionality of our senses. If repeated walking of the same route does that for you (without it making your walking a bore), then embrace it as a useful tactic.
I have walked a great deal in my home city (which is a small city) and recently wondered if I could easily find new routes. The other day I jumped onto a traffic island at the end of the city main street and discovered that its inner grassed area was remarkably sheltered, unvisited and quiet. Leaving this island and walking along a central reservation in between two lanes of traffic, feeling slightly vulnerable, I spotted a small side-street I did not recognize and proceeded to walk for almost an hour along unfamiliar streets, paths and parks, aware that always just a few yards to either side, were roads and tracks I knew well.

M M: It seems that current practitioners drifting in groups, usually to comply with an exercise for College, do not agree to follow the same paths, and some discussions aroused. What would you recommend for a group?

P S: To follow atmospheres, not intellectual opinions. To allow the periphery of the group to lead. To go backwards or stop. To seek tangents. To allow feelings to guide. not to be anxious if the walk takes a while to reveal its gems and treasures. If necessary, to use some instrument of chance for deciding what way to go at junctions. To have some conceptual task to perform – something frivolous, something playful (seek ‘wormholes’ or ‘voids’ or hidden things). But pursue this frivolity seriously; and when serious materials present themselves, allow them to shape a new behaviour, engaging your anger, your active sympathy. Change everything if a new kind of opportunity presents itself.
Groups of more than 5 or 6 members will probably split ‘naturally’ to allow everyone the chance to experience the walk with the intensity they deserve.
Concentrate on experiencing and enjoying the walk and not organizing it. No one needs to take any more responsibility for the walk other than simply looking out for each other’s safety.  Not every walk will (or can) have the intense pleasure of the model drift, but when they do – then there is probably a sign there that that group should keep drifting together; that there is some ambiguous potency in that group,  that it has other identities, quests and exemplary behaviours still to discover.

M M: Let us imagine walks through a battle field, even if there are no monuments, no buildings, just the landscape, as the beautiful poppy fields in England. Can imaginary memories, feelings, help in the journey?

P. S: Do the walkers know that this was a battlefield?
There is a certain sense in which whenever I walk through any fields in England not far from the towns, I sense that I might be walking across a Civil War (1640-1660 CE) battlefield. Because for those twenty years England was a battlefield, the whole of it. With the actual set piece battles simply foci for what was happening everywhere in the country. That plane of history still lies somehow lodged in the landscape, in places dislodged and faulted into institutions, elsewhere tilted into principles that are resolutely defended by small groups. Sometimes the vaguer planes are acknowledged and made a ‘heritage’ and sometimes unacknowledged and yet subtly manifesting its marks and strains and striations.
There are certain cliff-like landscapes that have for me a strange foreboding and I can directly trace this perception to a film I saw as a child – this is my own personal root/route into the general-ideological experience of ‘the Sublime’. Such matrices (or webs) of historical and subjective associations are part of the multiplicities beloved by Mythogeography.

M M: So, based on your research about heritage space, at last it is not important for the drifter to know about the history of the place or the buildings he sees, is then Mythology a discipline of applied phenomenology (in the sense of urban/rural perception)?

P S: There is always a danger that Mythogeography (and the same is true of Psychogeography) can be mistaken for an exotic branch of local history. To learn how to drift without any local knowledge is a useful weapon in the face of this danger. There is undoubtedly a phenomenological aspect to this practice, though Mythogeography prefers the more inconsistent and tendentious branch of phenomenology exemplified by Hans Jonas (rather than the more generally favoured tradition of Heidegger).
The key principle of Mythogeography is the setting in motion of various discourses and the learning from the nature of their orbits about each other. The provocative and willful absence of a discourse such as history will create significant and illuminating instabilities in the understanding of a place. This is a temporary tactic, rather than a celebration of ignorance. It is a gesture of disruption for the revealing of a taken-for-granted familiar.
One further contrast between Psychogeography and Mythogeography is relevant here: whereas Psychogeography was about the collection of emotional and atmospheric data in preparation for the re-sculpting of the city according to the principles of unitary urbanism, Mythogeography’s architectural ambitions are different in tactics if similar in strategy. While Mythogeography may embrace – as an evocative set of aspirations – the exotic quartering of cities (Bizarre, Dark, etc.) - it favours the re-making of the city through transitory interventions rather than New Babylonian planning: informal re-namings, the covert amendment of signs, soft architecture, the protection of rot and decay, the framing of abject vistas, re-assemblage through re-mapping, mental demolitions, absurdly hopeful planning applications, miniature utopias, new nations established on pavement slabs, ceremonies for establishing the centre of cities in side streets, the hijacking of guided tours, tiny parks and sports fields suspended above the commuter crowds, chapels for the saying of prayers for economic well-being, the opening of factories (plus forges and government ministries) as rights of way, radio updates on the status of voids (silence about road traffic), the preservation of libraries as subversive anachronisms…

M M: When I was a child, I used to be unconsciously involved in Mythogeography while walking through the cemetery. Better than this, we had a family and friends walk in the famous cemetery of Recoleta, in Buenos Aires, full of statues and ghost stories, have you ever tried with an environment different from the typical urban-rural?

P S: I am not sure what a typical urban or rural environment might be. In fact, part of the mission of Mythogeography is the disassembling of the idea that there might be such a thing. Very often it is inside what might appear to be (or is designated as) “typical” that the most profound anomalies begin to appear.
For example, I live about 20 miles from an area of “bleak moorland” – there are rocky tors and valleys full of boulders, streams and twisted trees. Nowhere could appear more wild and ‘natural’. Yet if one looks carefully (most people do not) in the ground one may see the remnants of chiseled lines in granite that emerges from the grass cropped by the many wild ponies. These lines are the grooves of an extensive railway track (made from granite rather than the usual steel) and the last remains (but for an occasional fallen wall) of a massive mining and quarrying industry (that ended about 150 years ago). What is taken for “natural” and “wild” on this moor is very often a remnant of industry: piles of boulders that appear to be (and are often taken for) the result of some landslip or avalanche of stones, are broken slabs discarded by the long-disappeared quarrymen.
Equally I could take you to my local shopping centre and in the shadowy corner of an entrance to one of the modern stores (Marks & Spencer), ignored by all who pass by, is a small bricked area within which is a fragment of reconstructed Roman road (so badly done that it appears to be an abstract design).
Such atypicalities are ‘typical’ (!)
Having said all that, cemeteries can be fabulous places to drift. Recently, while walking simultaneously with Kinga Araya (who was walking the line of the Berlin Wall) I entered a cemetery (not far from the moor mentioned above) and studied its map on a noticeboard: this map showed where people of different religious (Christian) denominations were buried (this is NOT a common mapping in a UK graveyard, where such divisions would usually be implicit rather than explicit). A woman passed by and we spoke – and she showed me some of the less explicit (unmapped) but readily observed delineations of this cemetery: the plot of local gypsy families with highly ornamented stones and florid texts and the plot of a local community of WW2 Polish refugees.

M M: What happens if suddenly the drifter feels lost, this feeling could improve the walk or spoil it, if his thoughts are blocked by the concern of being lost?

P S: There is little pleasure in becoming scared. If to be lost is to put oneself at unreasonable risk then there is little virtue in it. However, if all it means is an extra hour’s walking to get back to known territory, then for a while it may be liberating to have no recognizable markers or signposts. Having said that, aggressively seeking to get oneself lost can be a distraction from the mysteries that are present in territories one knows well. 

M M: I presume this discipline could be a psychological therapy, specially for those who are confined to a wheel chair. Is there any medical experience in these respects?

P S: I think there are therapeutic benefits to good drifting. Certainly many people have told me of feelings of wellbeing and relaxation the day after a previous day’s drift. But as far as I know there is no clinical evidence. I have drifted in a motorized wheelchair along with a regular user and this was a revealing experience. My eyeline was lower than usual and I saw many new things – signage and texts that I had not noticed before - while the sometimes forbidding texture of the ground and the bumps and drops became vividly evident to me; a policing of space that I had only understood previously in the crudest of terms.

M M:  Which is the strongest relationship between Arts and Mythogeography?

P S: In common with the situationists, Mythogeography has a somewhat pessimistic view of the arts, and takes it upon itself to enjoy the cultural ineptness of much contemporary public art and to seize and re-use examples of such moribund art in acts of ‘détournment’ (adapting banal art to transcendent functional uses). One of these acts might be the re-use of music as a personal soundtrack for the city, as a catapult to a solo drift, allowing arbitrary juxtapositions of music (using a shuffle setting on a player) to change the walker’s perception of space and their choices of direction.

M M: Dear Phil, thank you so much for sharing your concepts  with us, it has been a pleasure to learn about Mythogeography in your words.

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