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A Calm Swim /by Irakli Charkviani/

Size: 137x198 mm
Number of pages: 180
Paperback "Siesta"
(...Thus Spoke a King)
What do they have in common — a young Afghan suicide bomber called Rumi
and a Georgian underground idol, Irakli Charkviani. The latter is the author of the semiautobiographical novel and Rumi is his alter-ego. They both co-exist in this book describing real and imaginary lives entangled.
Irakli Charkviani's daring narrative covers the real lives of himself and his friends in Perestroika and Post Soviet period Georgia. He tells the story of a truly lost generation of talented young people in 1980-90-ies. The novel in its unusual structure unfolds the emotional life of an imaginary reincarnation of legendary Persian poet, Rumi who has turned into a suicide bomber sitting in an airplane. The moment before he presses the button and kills over 200 passengers of the plain is halted to eternity.
A Calm Swim was meant to be the first part of a trilogy unrealized due to his death.




My English is inadequate to the task -- I'm not a native speaker. Besides, I'm not quite sure what makes me write about a mysterious woman coming from Scandinavia to the South Caucasus to be shot dead by one of her admirers in my hometown more than one hundred years ago. Moreover – I'm a bad man: I don't know what love is and, yes, there must be something definitely wrong with my liver, because I drink too much… Actually, maybe I drink because I don't know, or maybe I don't know because I drink? Here, here! St. Paul, the thirteenth of the twelve, who spoke with the tongues of men and angels, knew what love is. A long time ago he wrote to the Corinthians: "…and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing." And more importantly: "… Love suffereth long and is kind … Love doth not rejoice within iniquity, but rejoiceth within the truth." …

Well, what shall I say of this knowledge?! Me personally rejoiceth within alcohol, which for sure might contain some truth in it, as the Latin saying has it, however mostly it contains some regular stuff distilled from grapes, barley, grain, or berries, or whatever, which bathes and then shrouds my brain and then buries it… And yes, love is also there, but as far as I can savor it within the 40% per volume it amounts to less than one percent, especially if one drinks alone. Thus to highjack that very St. Paul, the way I understand love is almost the same as a sounding brass or a clanging cymbal would understand the sounds they make or, to be more precise, my knowledge of love equals the knowledge of love 'experienced' by, say, Eric Dolphy's flute, when the guy played that old jazz standard You Don't Know What Love Is on the very same flute.

No doubt the flute as a musical instrument is something extraordinary: it was invented by atheriomorphic creature, a half-goat-half-god, to celebrate the moment when the physical matter went mad, all in a golden afternoon... As some Gaelic bards suggest, the best flute is made of bone taken from the thigh of a heron crazed by the moon. Maybe this is why nearly all flute players are slightly nuts, like the most obvious of them – Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson. And yet, the maddest of them was a Russian one – Vladimir Mayakovski: once he even ventured to play his spinal column like a flute… Just imagine him standing on one leg, the other one up, and with his eyes wide shut blowing into the vertebrae – flying so high, trying to remember…

May I suggest here a music-orthopedic definition of love? Love is when her/his breath is filling up your spinal column with sounds… and the gentle wind moving silently, invisibly… Love that never told can be… Here, here!

O yes, Dagny Juel Przybyszewska must have been such a kind: she would play the spineflute of the men around her, stirring jealousy with excitement, mixing orgasm with dying, and transforming their sexual fears into the destructive aesthetics of the fin de siecle. The Nordic Sphinx, as they called her, she would strangle them with her illuminating riddles, like a fetus strangled inside the spectacular belly of Our Lady of the Life-in-Death-and-Death-in-Life-as-Art. The High Priestess of Berlin bohemia, the midwife of the Terrible Beauty that was being born; she was their Androgyny and the absolute source of ecstasy, madness and inspiration. And they all desired her, desired this Botticellian-Rembrandtian-Rosettian vampire of the soul: curly, silken, fine, convoluting, airy, overpowering, aristocratic, atmospheric, bloody, murky, shady, tall, lean, supple, dry, stiff, bristling, rejecting the innocence for the real selfhood reflected in the dark mirrors… and she was shot dead by a neurotic young admirer, who shot himself afterwards… Screeeeam!

"You had to experience her to be able to describe her", Edward Munch, her fellow Norwegian and painter of that very Scream said of her; Munch was allegedly the first to experience Dagny, as one experiences the odor of a freshly picked flower… Actually, the smell of deflowering is more intricate by far -- like the smell of Lebanon?!..

I don't remember; it was many and many a year ago… Either way, as Dagny Juel was killed in a hotel room in Tiflis, Russia (read: Tbilisi, Georgia), as long ago as June of 1901, my chances of experiencing her and respectively – of 'describing' her, are rather slim.

What brought this mythical woman with her roaring past in the major artistic centers of Europe, to the
town of Tiflis – "near the Black Sea", as she wrote in a post-card?! Come on, Tiflis has never been "near the Black Sea" – it's hundreds of kilometers to get there from the city. Sure, some tens of million years ago Tiflis was the bottom of the sea covering the whole Transcaucasia and inhabited by the relevant paleontological creatures. But the same is true of many other cities, like, say – London, as some have proved recently.* Actually, Tiflis, or Tbilisi will always be a Winedark Sea, as people drink here a lot, and I am one of the surviving species – truly a fossil.** …

Was it poverty or despair that pushed this woman to come to this place ultimately…What is the force that makes animals wander, that they shall not cease from exploration, and leopards then end up on snowy hills?.. Hey, more than thirty years after Dagny's murder a tiger was shot in Georgia near Gori, the birth place of Joseph Stalin by the way (yes, the 'gory' guy was supposed to have been born in a town named Gori). The thing is that tigers had been extinct in this country for centuries – this particular one obviously came from Persia, thus having covered a huge distance. A la Salman Rushdie, one may presume that the tiger was Dagny Juel's reincarnation – she came back for revenge. If so, she hit the wrong place; she should have gone to Poland: some feminist biographers hold that her destruction began there; it was her husband, the demonic Polish writer Stanislaw (Stach) Przybyszewski, who shattered the poor thing psychologically***… Oh, that male chauvinist piggyszewski!..

* See Peter Ackroyd, London: a Biography.
** Cf. Zurab Karumidze, The Winedark Sea (a novel).
*** See Mary Kay Norseng, Dagny Juel Przybyszewska, the Woman and the Myth.


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