Am reading Hermann Broch's novel Death of Virgil. Very absorbing, beautiful writing. Translator seems to be echoing Whitman (a lot of anaphora - repetition of words at beginning of sentence or phrase (along with vast cosmic-natural imagery). Wonder if it's that way in the original).

Started writing a novel myself on Saturday. When I was done (with a couple pages written) I learned that the Pope had died. It's been a strange Easter/Passover time this spring, the past week or so.

I went to church yesterday. It was my turn to read the Prayers. So I included John Paul II in them (I'm Episcopalian).

Odd time in the church year, when you're confronted intellectually with the mystery of the Resurrection. It affects the sermons. It's something that the intellect & common sense cannot accept, that is, on a rational plane.

A season when the gulf between faith & scepticism yawns widest.

Are we confronted here with a primitive remnant, something from a previous phase of the human mind? Or is there an aspect of willed or motivated contradiction at play? That is, with the mystery of the Resurrection, a line of estrangement is drawn between God and the world, between spirit & flesh. A veil, wrapped around a single person, a single individual (Christ). Which in turn "personalizes" the relationship between Spirit & humanity.

From another angle, the Resurrection "naturalizes" - even "historicizes" - a spiritual reality which is familiar & accessible through many religious traditions (orthodox & fringe) : the reality of "cosmic consciousness". The idea that the end of the physical body is not an absolute end : that, in some unknowable dimension, there is no death : that the soul is immortal. "What will be is only a promise." I think of certain Yeats poems.

(Riddle of the icon - the representative figure ("the Son of Man"). A unique person is commissioned to undertake a collective, historical role. Archetype. It's like an Escher drawing - a "figure/ground" problem in continual oscillation or reversal.)

Which reminds me of this spring poem, one of Mandelstam's last:

To Natasha Shtempel


Limping against her will over the deserted earth,
with uneven, sweet steps,
she walks just ahead
of her swift friend and her fiance.
The restraining freedom
of her inspiring disability pulls her along,
but it seems that her walking is held back
by the charity of a concept:
that this spring weather
is the ancestral mother of the grave's vault,
and that this is an eternal beginning.


There are women, who are so close to the moist earth,
their every step is a loud mourning,
their calling is to accompany the resurrected,
and to be first to greet the dead.
It is a crime to demand kisses from them,
and it is impossible to part from them.
Today angels, tomorrow worms in the graveyard,
and the day after, just an outline.
The steps you once took, you won't be able to take.
Flowers are immortal. Heaven is integral.
What will be is only a promise.

(Sorry, I don't know who translated this. This poem does strange things to me, like certain passages in Beethoven. It brings tears to my eyes.)

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