prose

Senko Karuza: Is There Life Before Death?

Friends, it seems my troubles are ending. Will this be enough? Is it worth it at all? Let me know, I’d like to know. I’d like to drink myself under the table!



When Miroslav suggested some years ago that I write a text for Quorum in order to introduce myself, I declined with an apology and the reason that someone with only one book had no right to present himself as a writer. Chief, he said then, whatever you may think of yourself, you are a writer and you should do it. Flattered by these worlds, but still unsure, I began searching for a way to write the text. I did not want the dimension of doubt, an important link in my entire life, to be hidden in a bare sequence of biographical dana and general phrases on how an artist works and lives.

One of the possible options on this level, which unfortunately was never finished, was a dialogue with Miroslav. He would send me questions, doubts or suggestions and I would reply, or the other way around. For unknown reasons we stopped this at the very start. But for me this was a form of initiation, something that created an obligation. Out there, on the most remote island in the Adriatic, that was an additional escort to my solitude. Neglected like my other obligations, it quickly turned into an enemy. Then Roman intervened. Every time we spoke on the phone or met, Roman and Miroslav discretely let me know they were waiting. I lied that I was working on the text. But I only struggled. Did not work. In the end, there was only surgery left as the only possible text resistant to manipulation.

I sent an e-mail to Roman and Miroslav and asked them what they were thinking about this idea:

the text may start with selected chapters from a diary. An account of the horror of writing, the pain and the suspense, of doubts and the inability to define, decide and begin, of the incapability or meaninglessness to finish. Crying as a being. Postponing as an escape from the thinking.

A life without an error... is this right?

It’s all right, they say. Let’s see more.

And then I went on:

An autopoetic text – what is this?

A commissioned biography of an appropriate character, story, a chance to create a self-illusion, to present ourselves to others as we wish them to see us and not as we really are? Or none of the above? The most common way to present ourselves and fulfill our duty, to offer additional information to stories we detached from ourselves?

Whichever answer I accept, the uneasiness of exposing my personality remains. A small rescue lies in the word “poetic”, offering me a chance that things relevant for us we do not have to hide, that we can mask them also with a painless form of the story. Why do I believe that stories are painless? Does it not mean then that “life” is painful? Or at least different from stories? And what are the stories for after all? Just to entertain and educate but in no way to reveal the actual state of things?

The fact that questions and wonderings around the text hiding the facts, actually strip the writer bare and present him, is encouraging for a curious reader and consoling for the writer who must bow down before this obligation.

 

Split, March 5, 1992

Is there any point of going out into the night? It seems the pain bearers have a repulsing spasm in their facial expressions which naturally protects them from pleasant people.

 

Split, March 6, 1992

Reading Kafka’s diary. The pain and the void are more exposed, the deeper the deposits, the longer the heavier, the fuller and the more stammering the speech is...

Curiously, it has reached the point when satisfaction is gained by the sheer fact that something was written, even if it were a simple note on the inability to write. The constant sense of the time flow, until the pain.

I am sitting in a room, staring, for hours. Not doing anything. Guilt.

Irreplaceability. Transience. Aging.

Irretrievability. The time lost.

 

Molo Trovna, July 6, 1992

I am sinking into madness. Unable to stop even the least important emotions, dissatisfaction oozes through every pore of my body, incompleteness and repugnance seethe from the surrounding things I have made. The intensive feeling of being imprisoned and the everyday question: why do I agree to this? Is there no alternative? Of all possible, the worst is the voluntary prison.

I prepare my body for the new loss.

The sea roars, the southern wind and rain: nostalgia for the big city: how different everything is there! Creating is different if cramped by people and buildings. Nature has a distinct grip, the struggle is more demanding, things are turned inwards, the results invisible. So, what would I like for myself now, for the future? A safe place or a safe thought?

The rain is relentless over the boiling sea. Pleasant fresh air, a wish for a coat, for a warm bed, the joy and sorrow in a deep abyss of the soul in a somehow healthy correlation, as if we were approaching that what had always been hidden, but also the fear that this touch would reveal and destroy the last meaning of the secret.

 

Komiža, November 11, 1990

Only an attempt itself to get up at dawn. I open the windows and sigh. Only a desperate attempt, for there is nothing before me.

 

Komiža, February 7, 1993

I am living on an island that managed over all these years, despite my universal dissatisfaction, to make me understand some important “values” of my choice, which I still do not handle well. My isolation has brought me these benefits: the curse and the pleasure of solitude, the understanding of desperation and the desperation itself, ascetism and the unexpected tensions of rapture and lucidity, hope, the cleansing the inhibitions of the superfluous, the struggle for survival, lack of any kind of recognition and, occasionally, peace and solitude, especially its worst, physical component. I could go on.

 

Ljubljana, June 27, 1993

Every attempt is silly, every act infinite in its own misery. I am creating a system to trick my own nature... Now there is also the nostalgia for delusion.

We have learned that the world is controversial, that chaos is another modern excuse for the endless disappearing, another expression of hope, regardless of the horror of its manifestation. How to express pain in the best possible way, show the spasm nicely and convincingly, use the clear symmetry to present the wasteland – what is it all about? The bravest and the visionaries dare to slightly hint the silence. Many have already given up their testimony.

Suffering duration speaks a new language. By silence and suffering duration. Life slowly becomes eerily similar to boredom.

 

Komiža, April 17, 1994

Pesticides Are My Reality

Banbaliere escalare bratimo e tre hano dividire aano trentorinini dobrisimo ce suolto solari dice je nova partalunga frigoretica.

Another peak in the search for the expression. In the struggle with the senselessness. The boredom of information. The rare wonders. The miracle of life, completely hidden.

With several friends I spend my days again in mutual comfort and convincing each other of the rightfulness of the decision to live on an island. Beside the actual skillfulness, we also develop skills in recognizing things we lack. The absence of the outer world thus opens the space of our souls if we are educated and brave enough to accept such an obligation and freedom. The peculiarity of the situation creates a different logic but a common hermetism. Solitude is an excess which closes all doors. Education and braveness no longer live here. The price is irrelevant.

 

Komiža, March 5, 1995

In the morning the southern wind is blowing. The early riser without a reason, with a hazy hope and need.

Thoughts clear, but vacant. Hope without a content, almost a void, but not boredom, no! Comfortably wrapped and warmed up gut spasm, totally calm, inactive, safe and protected. Hidden behind the effort to write clearly and readably. But, when it suddenly leaps and hits, not over the teeth, the shithead, will the pain be different when I exit as a warrior with stories to tell?

Yeah, right!

 

Molo Trovna, April 25, 1995

At six in the morning

in the skyscraper

on the Ban Jelačić Square

then called the Square

of the Republic,

for it was, for heaven’s sake,

in the eighties,

early spring,

I sat on the window overlooking

the trams

and felt like a turd turned up from

the province.

The flat was large, urbane,

the rooms filled up with loss

after the last night’s party.

Everything was O.K.

I have no fucking idea what

I want with this poem

when everybody knows

I am not one of those

who fucks the fairies.

 

Komiža, November 21, 1996

On most of the things in this world I have no knowledge. Perhaps this is the reason why all these problems already accumulated so much that I do not even notice them. I simply leave the effort to resolve aside and live on angrily.

 

Split, December 2, 1996

Vacation? From what? Autumn has past and I keep rotting. Not finding my way. Not getting what I want. Not even knowing what this should be.

And I would like to know, badly, badly... Mama...

 

Split, December 14, 1996

What to do with yourself when the metaphors we usually use to express the state of our spirits and needs become silly and insufficient? Introduce a new religion?

 

* * *

It bothers me that I could not remember my childhood. How was it, I ask my father. How was it, says he, hard, that is how it was. Tell me something, I insist, tell me how something happened. Eh, how it happened, you were a little devil, you cried, you took a lot of effort. Not this, I say, something you remember, something I did, how I was, this is what I’d like to know. How, how... that is how!

 

Komiža, December 20, 1996

What is another entry of horror for?

Just an annual report!

Year 1996:

about 150 kg of bread

about 30 kg of meat

and meat products

about 100 kg of fish

about 50 kg of fruits and vegetables

about 500 liters of wine

and other liquids.

 

Komiža, February 17, 1997

My future prospects do not promise security. I am torn between many various jobs, I am frozen in motion. I am not making it. I am not producing enough quantity of any material that could make my living.

 

Molo Trovna, September 3, 1997

The time of impotence advances

articulate dream

almost a movie

whack smack

to the track

 

Molo Trovna, March 12, 1998

The inability to live is the same as the inability to write. My thoughts are unsettled and heavy, confused and incomplete. I am cold and have a headache. I trot with difficulty over the well-known space. I dissipate on repeating the matter indeterminate.

What should my happy world look like? I get no elation from work. I abhor indolence, makes me sick. I do not know what to do. Or who I am.

Is it time for a novel?

 

Komiža, October 31, 1998

“I felt so little for so long.”

Marien to Robin Hood.

 

Molo Trovna, May 6, 1999

It is impossible to determine the limits of desisting in a life made up of questions.

 

Molo Trovna, May 14, 1999

Is it not silly to pick rosemary and hop about like a hillbilly when you are forty? No! This intoxicating, vicious fragrance, this toilsome work, this real sweat...

I have always been good at this:

drenched in wine! But, why am I not writing, then? What am I waiting for?

For whom? And why am I so damn unhappy? Why is so much more attractive to be lost in a city?

 

Molo Trovna, June 26, 1999

I am failing to collect my thoughts.

More absent-minded then ever. Not only fretting about. I am afraid. Things become boring and tiresome. I am faltering in a search for a way out. I do not lie daydreaming. The boredom does not kill me. Sometimes, my weakness utters an UH. And that is all. Will I ever be able to invent a story to amaze myself? Or meet such a man? A woman? It is unthinkable that I should ever kiss anyone again.

Am I sick?

 

Molo Trovna, December 26, 1999

Is there a disease of the soul? Daily laughter is not a good therapy, the sickness is incurable. I am almost unable to imagine myself as a man, but only as an illness which attacked the moment in time. I am going insane. My prison is voluntary and the result of the awareness that I am unable to move my own body. The facts are hideous and represent the most basic power struggle in nature. Why write, then? Another manufactured illusion for a faster oblivion of being?

Or a painful reminder that the illusion is necessary?

Noble virtues – what are these?

The sacrifice to condemn the seed of our parents!

 

* * *

I have become an ancient bird hunter, I make traps, I feed, I live. I am the beast whose existence is justified by illing. Not the other way around.

 

Komiža, February 6, 2000

The decision to be a writer – what is it about? Another confirmation that there are no rules – I may feel silly for sitting all serious at my desk. Is my life reflected in my writing or does the writing determine my life?

It is getting harder for me to enjoy a conviction. Another disease of the soul? Still, the passion of story-telling spouts at the unplanned moment like a poem. Like a machine. I know nothing. And penetrate myself with difficulty. Bukowski knew how to express this nicely. Or Henry Miller. Or Tin. This eternal submersion in the meaninglessness of own existence, the patient waiting for death and considering coincidence as the greatest blessing. Not a hint of effort to change anything at all, just the recording of the unremitting pain. Perhaps it is a genuine relief. From the illusion. Or illusions!

 

Komiža, February 6, 2000

... for there is a marked difference between a blind person who is sleeping and a blind person who has opened his eyes to no purpose. Saramago.

 

Komiža, October 6, 2000

I cannot write a single word! I am hurt worst by statements of some authors how they sober up just to see that anything they wrote drunk or drugged is worth nothing.

 

Vienna, November 15, 2001

A morning in Vienna as in Zagreb, home. Vesna, Roberto and children have moved! To me it seems they changed the neighborhood, to them as if they switched the planet.

But we carry it all inside. How will I feel over the next few days in Vienna? Actually, I’d like to be with Robi...

And writing? What with the plan to finish my stories? What with the unfinished things? Will this be repeated eternally? Will I forever remain a writer in waiting? Delay? Disability?

Lack of meaning? Being lost? Absurdity?

A schizophrenic situation manifesting in the fact that I venture numerous things, abandon nothing, leaping from one to the other, without end.

 

Vienna, November 21, 2001

We’ll see how this story turns out. If it ever gets written. I hate my sleeping, the constant drowsiness. Or is this my assistant against boredom?

I dreamt of hundreds of small chickens and how I struggle to put them in a cage.

 

Vienna, November 23, 2001

Two stories finished. Short breath.

Searching for new spaces. I am always scared of the easiness with which I create stories of the same pressure. As if I am letting the rosary beads slip through my fingers. The second one already starts a boring sequence.

 

Komiža, March 7, 2002

An egg a day. The hen if and when.

What to do with Quorum?

I should start writing stories about days. Read and write more, work less. Could I describe my childhood, a segment thereof, my mom, dad, their characters, something no longer existing? Or tell a story about a day, what happened to me, whom I met, the dream I had?

 

I had a dream of my dad dying and my helping him get back, although the casket was already ready. Then I was in a vineyard, dissatisfied by his work. And how he stole mom’s money from the sink and she accepted this without a comment. Then I woke up, tried to write, but there was little time. Girls went to school and I went to the vineyard. And that was all. Is there life before death?

 

Komiža, March 9, 2002

Sometimes notes become obsolete and somewhat boring. Who knows what should be revised? Perhaps notes are just a delay, life postponed for later. And later being no clearer either.

 

Komiža, March 14, 2002

A small delay due to field chores. The void may well be a feature of a soul. The only way to fight it is to build up a story to settle in when the empty passes by.

“A countryside is a landscape of green mysteries for a boy coming from the town.” – Pavese

 

Komiža, April 8, 2002

Zagreb, Ljubljana, Škofja Loka, Venice, Vienna and the notes. When the empty passes by, one could say. But, what forms does this empty take? Where does it live anyway, what does it eat? Does it not dwell in the full?

Komiža, that afternoon

– Why do you go on if it is not working? – I could not bear it if all these years were in vain...

* * *

A short story is like a decisive uppercut blow. If the strong opponent does not fall after the first blow, consider yourself dead!

 

Komiža, October 20, 2002

I sent my proposal for an “autopoetic text” for Quorum to Miroslav and Roman. Several random passages on struggle and indecisiveness, mostly related to writing. I am not sure it was a good idea. As if I were exposing an open wound, the records of an illness. When I had read those notes, torn from the rest, thusly condensed, an anxiety ensued. Is this really me? I am waiting to see where will it hurt next.

 

Quorum 1(2003)

 

Translated by Tatjana Jambrišak

 

Photo: Tina Polanec

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