Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Thoughts and quotes: Un Bel Morir and The Tramp Steamer's Last Port of Call by Alvaro Mutis
The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll (New York Review Books Classics):
UN BEL MORIR and THE TRAMP STEAMER’S LAST PORT OF CALL
by Alvaro Mutis
NYRB Classics (2002), Paperback, 768 pages
UN BEL MORIR
(or Un bel morir una vita honora from Francesco Petrarca
A Beautiful Die a Lifetime Honor)
‘I imagine a Country, a blurred, fogbound Country, an enchanted magical Country where I could live.
What Country, where? …
Not Mosul or Basra or Samarkand. Not Karlskrona or Abylund or Stockholm or Copenhagen. Not Kazan or Kanpur or Aleppo. Not in lacustrian Venice or chimerical Istanbul, not on the Ile-de-France or in Tours or Stratford-on Avon or Weimar or Yasnaia Poliana or in the baths of Algiers.’ (page 286)
The Gaviero takes lodging in La Plata and finds a room in the house of a blind woman. Under his room, the river: ‘The room resembled a cage suspended over the gently murmuring, tobacco-colored water …’ (page 193)
Quiet living is not for the Gaviero, so he is hired to transport supposed railway materials upriver. The job turns out to be very dangerous, and ‘His wide-open eyes were fixed on that nothingness, immediate and anonymous, …’ (page 294)
The Gaviero’s question, where ‘I could live?’, has only one answer: everywhere, and always with water (a river or the ocean) which faces and leads to another place.
THE TRAMP STEAMER’S LAST PORT OF CALL
Alvaro Mutis tells about his ‘meetings’ with a dying tramp steamer, the Halcyon, all around the world.
‘The tramp steamer entered my field of vision as slowly as a wounded saurian. I could not believe my eyes. With the wondrous splendor of Saint Petersburg in the back ground, the poor ship intruded on the scene.’ (page 301)
The tramp steamer as a talking soul suggests to Alvaro Mutis about ‘the world of dreams and fantasy’.
But ‘Life often renders its accounts, and it is advisable not to ignore them. They are a kind of bill presented to us so that we will not become lost deep in the world of dreams and fantasy, unable to find our way back to the warm, ordinary sequence of time where our destiny truly occurs.’ (page 302)
The bill is presented to Alvaro Mutis in form of the Halcyon’s captain; who recounts his love affair with Warda, and the Halcyon.
Warda is the sister of Abdul Bashur, close friend of the Gaviero.
Abdul Bashur warns the Halcyon’s captain: ‘What you two (Warda and the captain) have will last as long as the Halcyon.‘ (page 349)
Alvaro Mutis needed to know Halcyon or the idyllic time of the past.