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The Problem

The Problem He was astonished to discover that after he had solved the problem on which he had worked for twenty-seven years, after he had disposed of all the objections to his proof, he missed the problem in its unsolved state. Yes, there had been great satisfaction in completing the proof, even exhilaration Yes, there had been an access of inner pride, a sense of validation after long years of wandering in what felt like a succession of deserts.   Yes, he had enjoyed the discomfiture of rivals who had come close to mocking him and his methods over the years,   All that was true.   He had achieved a new degree of eminence and was treated with new respect. But he missed the problem in its raw state, when it was new and tantalizing, when it seemed like it would defeat him countless time, when it allowed him hints as to how to approach and that showed him that those hints were spurious, perhaps deliberate ruses to throw him off. It was not only that he had no idea what to do with himself, how to invest his heart and mind. He was an empty creature and felt lost in his emptiness. All this was the case, indubitably so. However, the real ache was more intimate, nearer his heart,     He missed the problem the way you might miss a lover, but not just any lover, rather one who had been everything to you, so that that lover had been all that you really knew of yourself over a very long period of time.   While you were so engaged that long... read more

Help And Hell

If you ask for help and catch hell, you will learn not to ask for help.  The result is solitary confinement. read more

Henri Michoux

When we lived in Paris in the early fifties of the last century when I was a little boy of six, seven, maybe eight, my father was a mystery.   For me as a child (and perhaps for all the rest of me as well) everything was mystery. It surged before me in sensory immediacy, just as it was, yet always changing, full at once of caprice and the immutability of actually being.   Looking back I see that we lived well as citizens of a conquering/liberating power, even though we had no refrigerator and the furnace worked intermittently.   We were privileged, an anomalous status for people who belonged to a faith whose remnants were just clinging to life and trembling with knowledge of the once and future terror. The Second World War was not truly over.   It raged on in the heads and hearts of so many who were silent, including my father. The dead had met their deaths by combat, by extermination, by accident, by hidden acts of cruelty intimate beyond naming and yet they were not dead because the living clung to them, scrapped desperately to reach them and failed. The living were thrown back on their own minuscule and diminished resources. This was all they had as their dreams in nights of fitful sleep kept reminding them of the radical amputations they had suffered. Three or four times of a Sunday afternoon my father and I walked along the banks of the Seine.   I had no idea what he was thinking nor even did I have an idea of trying to form an idea of what he... read more

Guabacaste, 2017

I’ve just turned 71. The reversal of the digits from 17 to 71 took 54 long years, 54 short years, 54 inscrutable years.   There is no way to make a map of the way. So many people I’ve loved are dead and gone and yet alive and not gone in my mind. When I was 17 the outer population was greater than the inner population. At 71 it is exactly the reverse – the inner population is greater than the outer population. I don’t have to spill blood libations to court them.   They come in my dreams, looking exactly like themselves from long ago and faraway.   My Great Uncle Manny wears the forty year old blue shoes back again in fashion. He loved them and loved the revolution that brought them back. I loved them because he loved them. That was enough. We get swept up in the currents and eddies of other people’s lives.   That is what love does, also what hate does. But how does the dream machine hold so much – shoes, faces, voices, the banks of the Seine, my father’s pipes and his Latakia tobacco? I appear sometimes as myself with and without a befuddled expression. And women, too, starting with my mother and proceeding from there, I have been listening and listening down the years and down the decades. I have heard voices from outside and voices from inside.   I have heard the voices of some who lived and died before I was born, some long before. Ancients have been my contemporaries. I have tried to make a music of what I have heard... read more