Platforms and Residences

Archway. City Gate. Junagadh, Gujerat, India. 1995. Scan from 8x

Archway. City Gate. Junagadh, Gujerat, India. 1995. Scan from 8×10 negative.

In the previous post, I mentioned how reading John Berger brought me to reading Andrei Platonov’s ‘Dzahn’. I got to Berger’s profound ‘Afterword’ for the New York Review Books Classics edition via another Berger piece, Ten Dispatches about Endurance in Face of Walls from his book, Hold Everything Dear. (I have lost count of how many copies of this book I have bought and given away to friends and students.) Here’s a short excerpt:

“The poor are collectively unsuitable. They are not only the majority on the planet, they are everywhere and the smallest event speaks of them. This is why the essential activity of the rich today is the building of walls – walls of concrete, of electronic surveillance, of missile barrages, minefields, frontier controls, and opaque media screens….Platonov often used the term dushevny bednyak, which means literally ‘poor souls’. It referred to those from whom everything had been taken so that emptiness within them was immense and in that immensity only their soul was left – that’s to say their ability to feel and suffer. His stories do not add to the grief being lived, they save something.[my underscore] ‘Out of our ugliness will grow the world’s heart,’ he wrote in the early 1920’s…. Platonov understood living modern poverty more deeply than any other storyteller I have come across.”

That ‘something’ is what I referred to in earlier posts as the sublime, and the ‘belief’ gene. There are some parallels here also with zen practice.

View All

One Comment

  1. Do you know the track “The Cool, Cool River” on the album “The Rhythm of the Saints” by Paul Simon? Simon seems to have an insight into poverty and spirituality that is uncanny, given his background and (presumably) privileged life.

    If you don’t know it, that whole album is worth close attention. I can’t think of anyone else who explores the way abject poverty, spirituality and hi-tech materialism co-exist the way he does.

    Mike

comment...