Saturday, December 01, 2012

The Archivist of Affronts

In Claudio Magris's splendid Danube, the story of Ferdinand Thrän, a 19th century cathedral restorer and author of a diary of all the injustices of his life, titled File of Rudenesses Received:

If genuine writing is born from the desire to account for the copious inconvenience of living, then Thrän is a real writer. Literature here is accountancy, the ledger of profit and loss, the balance sheet of an inevitable deficit ...Thrän impartially records the knavish pettiness of men and things, the intrigues of building-inspector Rupp-Reutlingen and the malevolence of the storm that ruined the central nave for him, filling the cathedral with flakes of plaster, the decision which assigned him a salary with no pension attached and the nervous fevers with which he is afflicted, his eleven falls from horseback – imputed to the poor quality of his old nag, which was, however, the only sort of horse he could afford on his income – and the deaths of four of his children, the frequent accidents which cause him to fall of the scaffolding or end up in the Danube, the inconvenience and risk of being impaled while being fished out with a boat-hook. Tragedies and mere vexations are all put on the same level, because the real tragedy of life is that it is, solely and entirely, a nuisance.The Archivist of Affronts

And yet… There is something about coming to a new city, even an old new city, that makes me feel like saying: if only I lived here, I would not grow old; I would not be prone to fatal illness; the memories I hold dear, the memories that constitute me and give me my orientation in the world, would not constantly slip further into the irrelevant past. This is where I need to be, not that other place I just happened to end up.