II

I’m dying. No, I can’t be dying because I’m already dead…but if I’m dead, why the heck does it hurt so much? Since I wasn’t gonna see the movie of my life (neither me nor anyone else would have been willing to pay for a viewing) or the light at the end of the tunnel, I decided I’d better open my eyes. The first thing I saw was a long, bleeding scratch on my side. I tried to lick it, but it hurt – like being branded with a red-hot iron. Don’t know how many lives I’ve got left, but I had been lucky enough to escape alive from – it seemed – a gunshot.

The hitmen had left me lying on the ground, thinking I was dead, and also because nobody thinks that black cats lives matter. Throughout my life, I’ve had many occasions to confirm that this is true. But if I had been injured, Edelmiro probably had been as well. I looked around. There were no traces of either the horse, nor Edelmiro. I sniffed the ground and walked around painfully trying to find my friend’s scent or any other scent that would help me find him.

I was aware of Edelmiro’s past. I knew perfectly well that he killed my previous master: May he rest in hell. And I knew that bad people from his previous life would someday find him. No hitman reaches an old age. It’s weird to love an individual so used to killing, isn’t it? How strange knowing that he made a living out of it. Will he ever be sorry about his victims? I know most of them were scum, killers themselves. Does that make it morally acceptable? I do not know. I’m just a cat, and cats don’t usually engage in moral discussions. When I die, my conscience will just disappear, and it will be as if I just never woke up from a nap. My feelings, memories and lessons learned shall vanish into the immensity as if they were dust… And all the more so for humans. It’s just that they are afraid to acknowledge it. Oh, come on! – It is just that the injury in my side aches like hell, and when I’m ill, I get too intense and nihilistic. I’ve seen “the lady and the tramp” and “all the dogs go to heaven” several times. Believe me, if dogs can go to heaven, we cats can too. It’s just that I hope nobody punishes me for the mice and lizards I’ve killed for food. But I wasn’t gone then. Not at the moment. I had to keep on searching…

Yes, I know, I knew, back then, that Edelmiro had changed. I knew he had changed because he loves me and cares for me and for the girls too. We are a family and we deserved our little piece of happiness after so much trouble.

I could barely walk, but, limping a little, I reached one horse’s footprint. The poor thing must have run away, scared by the shots. Who knows where he could be then, and I wasn’t willing to run across the whole island to find it. Even if I did, I didn’t know what to say to make him come back home. I assumed he would try to return on his own when he calmed down.

I was thinking of this and many other things when I found a scent that was familiar to me. I tried to follow it but it was too faint… Then I discovered a few drops of blood… I needed to find out where my master was,… but walking was so hard. And forget about running. I expected to figure out where he was and then reach out for help, but every step was quite painful…

III

“I can’t believe how stupid you are, Ramiro. There was no need to shoot. We could have got caught. Some neighbor might have heard the shot,” – the shorter man of the two gesticulated aggressively as he told off his partner in crime, chastising his lack of professionalism. Both seemed very worried. So much so, that they didn’t realize that Edelmiro was awake again. They had tied him to a post of the cottage they were in, hands behind his back, like in an old gangster movie.

Edelmiro writhed in pain. Even so, he dared to say, “Could you both shut the fuck up? I was sleeping…You look and sound like the bad guys in “Home Alone” but… couldn’t end the sentence as a hard kick on the 7th left rib left him breathless. “You better keep your witty comments to yourself, payo. You aren’t getting out of this cottage alive, bastard. We have come to avenge the death of you know who.”

IV

Luisa and Moneiba had come to visit, and we were playing cards on the porch. We were really having fun and laughing out loud. All of a sudden, we were surprised by the dark figure of Aunt Amalia approaching us from behind the house, “Is your mom at home, honey? I’ve brought a few figs and some other fruit for you all. By the way, how is Edelmiro doing?” “Actually we haven’t seen him since yesterday, he didn’t come home last night.” “That’s strange,” replied the old lady with a bizarre look in her eyes. She entered the house, and we kept on playing.

After a few minutes we saw the second dark figure of the afternoon. It was Kunta. It was moving very strangely and walked as if it were drunk. It began meowing and making very weird sounds. “That’s Kunta isn’t it?” said Luisa as sharply as usual. When Aunt Amalia and mom came out of the house, Aunt Amalia stared at Kunta as if she could understand it. If it wasn’t a cat, you would have thought that it was mimicking or speaking weird sign language. It lay down on the ground and stiffened one of its legs; it put its little paws on its neck and showed its tongue.

“This cat has been shot.” Kunta nodded desperately, then grabbed an invisible firearm with its little front legs and made a strange sound. “Wow, auntie! Did you figure that out because you saw it in its eyes? Do you understand the language of cats?” asked Luisa. “Of course not, you silly girl, I know it because of the blood on its side. “Something really bad must have happened to Edelmiro… Do you want us to follow, Kunta? Go, Kunta, go!”

The knackered cat tried to lead the way into the forest but fainted and slumped to the ground after a few meters…

(…to be continued…)

Series – Evanescent

January: If Something Can Go Wrong…It Will – Jonay Quintero Hernández (Spain)

February: The Planet of Pleasure – Nane Sevunts (Armine Asryan) (Armenia)

March: The Evening with Jackie Lee – Gennady Bondarenko (Ukraine)

April: Vuvuzelas, Walkie-Talkies and Madiba Magic – Sarah-Leah Pimentel (South Africa)

May: Remembering – Seyit Ali Dastan (Turkey)

June: 5-4-3-2-1 – Talia Stotts (America)

July: Getting Ready for Newborns – Marilin Guerrero Casas (Cuba)

August: Regrets – Kate Korneeva (Russia)

September: To be announced

October: The Test – Alejandra Baccino

November: To be announced

December: Translation Perfect – Zhang Lu (China)

Background – Context

Conceived – Childhood Transadapted, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2021)

In the Middle – Prelude to a Contemporary Transadaptation, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2020)

Peripatetic Alterity: A Philosophical Treatise on the Spectrum of Being – Romantics and Pragmatists by Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)

La Syncrétion of Polarization and Extremes Transposée, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)

The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2018)

L’anthologie of Global Instability Transpuesta, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2017)

From Wahnsinnig to the Loony Bin: German and Russian Stories Transposed to Modern-day America, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2013)

Emblems and stories on the international community

Perception by country – Transposing emblems, articles, short stories and reports from around the world

Credits

Cover photo: Composite of Aragon, Spain – Gudar mountains – Ana del Castillo (Shutterstock) and Red clock – Underworld (Shutterstock)
Source: The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed

I

“The standard deviation can be found by square rooting the addition of all the elements squared, minus the average, divided by the number of data minus one” – boring, boring, awfully boring. There is hardly anything more tedious than mathematics, and, within it, statistics is second to none. “Wake up guys! I know it is early in the morning on a Monday, but I need you to understand this as there will be a surprise test on Thursday… Ooops! My fault! I have spoiled the surprise, but I know you will enjoy the test anyway…” “Oh! Come on, doña Lola! Give us some more time,” cried the entire class in unison.

Certainly, doña Lola was very patient with us but also inflexible when it came to doing our home- or classwork. She kept on explaining the intricacies of something called the ‘Z score’ while I was thinking about which of my sins in previous lives might be causing me to suffer so much in this one. My thoughts flew from Hindu karma to the last K-Pop band I had danced to with Moneiba and Luisa, to what I wanted for my birthday – since my birthday was going to be soon – and then also to a weird feeling I had had down in my belly throughout the morning. Maybe I ate too much at breakfast…

My mind kept on wandering around other worlds: What could dad and my friends be doing in Madrid. It is strange, but I couldn’t remember the last time I thought of them. They seemed so far away now… If I hadn’t been so happy in my new home, I would have felt as isolated as the man from that novel, although I haven’t really read the book, I just saw once a series based on it on Cashflix… what was it called, I think he was a castaway and had a black friend,… well, who cares.

My mind had moved so far away that I couldn’t take it back, before, all of a sudden, something happened that made me come back down to Earth. It was a strange sensation between my legs. It was as if I had … Oh no! What the he… Out of despair, I tried to contain it as much as I could but failed miserably.

Then I felt as If I was sitting on a wet towel, I looked down at the chair beneath my bottom and fortunately my sensations were completely subjective and very far from reality as only two reddish drops could be seen on the chair. I wouldn’t have been more worried or embarrassed if I had peed in my pants. I could feel the stinging tears in my eyes and the warmth of my blushing cheeks.

“Welcome to the club girl, aren’t you happy?” “No! For God sake I’m not!” I said completely overcome by shame, nervousness and a thousand other negative feelings. I couldn’t finish the phrase as Moneiba, to my terror, took a tissue from her bag, cleaned the chair and threw it in the dust bin in front of us. She tenderly caressed my cheek, but I quickly called for doña Lola to come to my rescue.

She immediately understood, told the class to do a few exercises from the book, and took me out of the classroom. As I stood up I hardly dared to look around the class. I expected that everyone would be laughing or talking about me. Yet unexpectedly, the boys sitting behind me and witnessing the whole scene were commenting on last night’s football match or pretended they were doing exercises. Their attitude somehow surprised me.

“Why are you so nervous? There is nothing wrong with what is happening to you. Hasn’t mom or dad talked to you about this?” For some reason her being so nice and sympathetic was starting to annoy me. I couldn’t avoid a sour reply: “Of course I know I’m having my period, doña Lola, but I didn’t expect today to be my first time and of course not in front of everyone!” Doña Lola seemed a bit surprised by my reaction and didn’t understand why I attached so much importance to the event. “Why all the fuss?” she said, “You haven’t shown your classmates anything that they haven’t seen before.” “Well, let’s call your mom to take you home, I think you can rest for today, and a lot of hugs and kisses from her might do you some good.” “And a shower,” I replied.

Mom picked me up in our family car and took me home, we had a great time together talking about all sorts of things, but not about my period and all of its drawbacks. I drank a hot chocolate and enjoyed having my mom to myself alone. We were having a great time, but even so, we both, at some point, wondered where Edelmiro and Kunta could be.

I couldn’t help but think of my classmates’ reaction as well as doña Lola’s attitude. I had already noticed how freely boys and girls used to speak about their bodily functions on this island. Their favorite answer to anything was, “That’s nature, girl.” To be honest I appreciated their reaction. I know for sure that if the same would have happened to me in a classroom in Madrid, everyone would have laughed at me. I’m aware that children in a big city might consider people from the countryside to be less civilized, modern or even less intelligent, but now I wasn’t so sure about that.

Indeed, this made me better understand an event that took place a few weeks before I got visited by the “red lady” for the first time. Most boys and girls in my class are sons and daughters of farmers. They live in close contact with animals and see from an early age everything they do. In that context, the question of “where do babies come from?” doesn’t make a lot of sense, but if it comes up, the parent in question simply explains, in crude plain words, everything about it and, when possible, shows a practical example with the animals around.

That being said, doña Lola had warned us that one day we would have a master class on “Sexuality and understanding our emotions,” taught by someone from the Education Division of the Regional Government. The day arrived and we were all very positively surprised by our new teacher. She was a young, pretty lady, dressed in a very cool way and wearing a metal ring in her nose. The boys paid full attention to her because she was beautiful; the girls did the same because we wanted to ask her questions about her outfit and apparel and also because we admired her cool, outgoing ways.

She began talking about sexuality, and all the boys raised their hands, fought among themselves for her attention and tried to impress her by providing the most accurate answer to every question she asked. She seemed somewhat impressed by their answers: “You know a lot about this. You are 12 or 13, right?” Then she went on to talk about gender theory, the patriarchy and the need to use non-sexist models in education. The girls and boys apparently agreed with everything that was being said.

However, a few expressions of worry and butting of elbows were seen when the topic of “new masculinity models” was raised. “Is this gonna hurt us?” asked one boy. “No, no,” replied the speaker. “Will we get operated on?” “Are we bad?” “Will we all have to change?” The young lady sighed, rolled her eyes and patiently tried to explain those difficult concepts. The girls looked at the boys with naughty smiles on their faces. The boys were not smiling any more.

The last point of the talk was about “fluid gender” and “non-binary genders.” This time girls and boys were having problems understanding, some of them were yawning. “We all know homosexuality exists; we have seen animals of the same sex having sex,” said Luisa. “But they are still males with males and females with females; they aren’t anything in between,” added another boy. At this point, the young lady had run out of patience, she wasn’t friendly anymore and abruptly answered: “Biologicists! Savages! You’ve been raised by fascists!” She stormed out of the classroom as her face turned red.

One of the girls stood up and said: “You seen that? She tried to piss over our heads and then convince us that it was raining! What a liar!”

(…to be continued…)

Series – Evanescent

January: If Something Can Go Wrong…It Will – Jonay Quintero Hernández (Spain)

February: The Planet of Pleasure – Nane Sevunts (Armine Asryan) (Armenia)

March: The Evening with Jackie Lee – Gennady Bondarenko (Ukraine)

April: Vuvuzelas, Walkie-Talkies and Madiba Magic – Sarah-Leah Pimentel (South Africa)

May: Remembering – Seyit Ali Dastan (Turkey)

June: 5-4-3-2-1 – Talia Stotts (America)

July: Getting Ready for Newborns – Marilin Guerrero Casas (Cuba)

August: Regrets – Kate Korneeva (Russia)

September: To be announced

October: The Test – Alejandra Baccino

November: To be announced

December: To be announced

Background – Context

Conceived – Childhood Transadapted, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2021)

In the Middle – Prelude to a Contemporary Transadaptation, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2020)

Peripatetic Alterity: A Philosophical Treatise on the Spectrum of Being – Romantics and Pragmatists by Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)

La Syncrétion of Polarization and Extremes Transposée, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)

The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2018)

L’anthologie of Global Instability Transpuesta, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2017)

From Wahnsinnig to the Loony Bin: German and Russian Stories Transposed to Modern-day America, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2013)

Emblems and stories on the international community

Perception by country – Transposing emblems, articles, short stories and reports from around the world

Credits

Cover photo: Composite of Coruna, Spain – Before the market – Roi Rios (Unsplash) + El Draguillo, Spain – On the island – Sergey Kohl (Shutterstock)
Source: The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed

by Angelika Friedrich and Henry Whittlesey

Yesterday, we rang in the new year once again with the print publication of the transadapted stories serialized here online in 2021:

Conceived – Childhood Transadapted, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2021)

To improve your understanding of the perypatetik project, transadaptation and the relationship between the stories and perypatetikally defined romanticism (and pragmatism), we have also provided a lengthy foreword tying together a number of loose ends. Extracts of it are provided below, but the best grasp can be gained from the full introduction in the print and kindle editions, the expository work at perypatetik.net, in the treatise Peripatetic Alterity and the introductions to the transposition and transadaptation collections:

In the Middle – Prelude to a Contemporary Transadaptation, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2020)

Peripatetic Alterity: A Philosophical Treatise on the Spectrum of Being – Romantics and Pragmatists by Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)

From Wahnsinnig to the Loony Bin: German and Russian Stories Transposed to Modern-day America, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2013)

Volume 2 in our annual series of transadaptation anthologies contains stories by eleven returning international authors as well as an extended foreword on perypatetikally defined romantics and transadaptation.

The theme transadapted this year is childhood.

Youth is charted across an ocean of plots, characters and settings. However, the stories are overwhelmingly couched in the imagery and representation of romanticism as defined in Peripatetic Alterity.

One romantic characteristic, acceptance of fate, is embodied in Amelia from Another World by Jonay Quintero Hernández while another – being in touch with nature – recurs in The Girl Who Chased the Rainbow by Sarah-Leah Pimentel and The Pack by Alejandra Baccino. Natural impulses in childhood (The Pink Shirt by Talia Stotts and The Railway by Seyit Ali Dastan) are shown to diverge from knowledge derived from more experience in adulthood. The trope of falling-in-love as a means of depicting romanticism can be found in Spring by Marilin Guerrero Casas. A second self as a vehicle for exploring alternatives may trace back at least to Dostoevsky in The Idiot, but is (unconsciously) transadapted in Life after Nare by Nane Sevunts (Armine Asryan). The divergence between a childhood self and adult self is broached in multiple stories (Meeting My Homeland by Rayan Harake, Every Little Thing by Gennady Bondarenko, and Dragging the Past out into the Light by Kate Korneeva). Finally, The Railway, Another World and Life after Nare repackage the historical and contemporary relationship between romanticism and being outdoors, i.e., in open air, by consistently showing outdoor settings to be positive and often in contrast to broadly interpreted indoor ones (Catching Water II).

In this collection, we see that works by authors published in the context of the perypatetik project have not sought to redress the tight blend of literary fiction and romanticism, but rather transadapted it to the modern-day context.

Besides interpreting the works as further documentation of internationally and historically recurring aspects today, we can also analyze them against the backdrop of pragmatism and romanticism.

The characteristic of being metaphysical/spiritual makes up the core of romantics in Peripatetic Alterity, but a number of romantic characteristics feature especially prominently in childhood. The nubs of romanticism in childhood are (i) the spiritual/metaphysical (see chs. 3.1 and 6.2.1 of Peripatetic Alterity), (ii) accepting fate (ibid, chs. 3.2 and 6.2.2), (iii) life as a process (ibid, chs. 3.3 and 6.2.3), (iv) humor/laughter (ibid, chs. 3.8 and 6.2.8) and (v) love of freedom (chs. 3.12 and 6.2.12). They are the pieces that each child takes from the scaffolding around the building they are erecting and enjoys fiddling with in their construction until they disappear behind smooth facades and are often lost forever once the scaffolding is removed in adulthood.

Whereas the philosophical treatise adopts the approach of delineating the differences between pragmatists and romantics primarily on the basis of contemporary empirical findings, this collection shows the forms the metaphysical/spiritual takes in literary fiction, above all how childhood and youth are seamlessly interwoven with characteristics of romanticism.

Childhood and romanticism transadapted

The authors in the perypatetik project furnish a laundry list of transadaptations drawing on the themes of simplistic poetic romanticism and decay in materialism and consumption. In this volume Conceived, which is a collection of stories about childhood around the world, it is easy to see a contrast between the innocence of youth and worldly concerns of adulthood. In The Railway, for example, Seyit Ali Dastan recounts the innocuous story of a boy walking home from the hospital with his mother (who went for a pregnancy diagnosis). He slides down an iron guardrail again and again, races ahead of his mom on a tunnel-like path, climbs a bank, swings, disappears out of sight. This carefree youthfulness appears in direct contrast to his mother. She scolds him for falling from the guardrail, grabs his hand to keep him from running off, yells for him to come down from a bank, and so on. As a child, he is unaware of the risks and threats she knows from more experience. She is tied to the constraints imposed by the need to survive, bringing them to the attention of her son by correcting his natural risky impulses. Like the scene where Natasha Rostova spontaneously knows the dance steps in War and Peace, Ufuk, the boy, simply acts without consideration or knowledge of the consequences.

Acceptance of fate is another characteristic of romantics. Since children are largely forced to follow the dictates of their parents, they effectively exhibit this trait by nature, as Jonay Quintero Hernández depicts in Another World here. The story continues the plot of Amelia’s Euphemism from In the Middle. Evelio, the former(?) contract killer, Kunta (the cat he found), Luisa (a mother, Evelio’s neighbor) and Amelia (her daughter) moved from Madrid to El Hierro after Luisa murders her abusive husband and Evelio disposes of the body. Luisa knows none of this, essentially just waking up in El Hierro overnight and adopting the place as her home: “I felt quite disappointed and amazed about our sudden departure from Madrid … It feels kind of safe here with him.” Amelia’s judgment of the move does not extend beyond this. It is a fact. Fate.

Rather idiosyncratic coincidences between stories in Conceived and the characteristics of romantics can be seen in The Girl Who Chased the Rainbow and The Pack. One of the distinctions between romantics and pragmatists defined in Peripatetic Alterity is the former’s tendency to live in harmony with nature rather than chain themselves to obligations (chs. 2.12, 3.12 and 6.2.12). Living in harmony with nature is understood as “doing what comes naturally to each individual” (not something related to the environment, Henry David Thoreau, climate change, etc.). Although this characteristic is not associated with youth or childhood in Peripatetic Alterity, it is endemic to that phase of life. If you think of children in the playground, when they get bored of a game, they just stop without thinking about it. There is no analysis, no consideration of the other children’s feelings; they instantly end it. We see a brutal side of this in The Pack by Alejandra Baccino where three teenagers beat up a young homeless girl, the lead protagonist “Tina,” and steal her belongings. Similar to what we encounter in the other representations of childhood in this volume, the act is merely accepted as a fact and the protagonist continues (eventually even joining up with her attackers). An inspiring example of children’s acceptance of what is naturally present and thus their living in harmony with nature is told by Sarah-Leah Pimentel in The Girl Who Chased the Rainbow. This story is set in a multicultural Catholic school during the period of transition from Apartheid to democracy in South Africa (1990s). Since the Catholic schools there were private and did not have to abide by the segregated school policy during Apartheid, a diverse group of Black, Indian and White kids attended the one in Pimentel’s story. In the tense and fluid environment, race was obviously a topic of discussion in places like history class, especially just prior to the 1994 election of Nelson Mandela. When the narrator becomes an adult in the still fraught environment of the 21st century, she recalls the ease with which they had been able to have even explosive arguments and discussions during their school days because the pupils were accustomed to a multicultural environment and differences of opinion. Not mentioned, but implied is that the age, idealism and naturalness of childhood also contributed and accounts for the problem South African society has faced with this issue since then.

The natural innocence of children is also masterfully depicted in Talia Stott’s short story The Pink Shirt. A young boy goes shopping with his two sisters and mother. When he shows off his new salmon shirt to his dad, it is met with adamant disapproval because his father views the color as feminine and wants a masculine son. This prompts confusion and tears in the boy. When his mother (confusedly) tries to lay out her husband’s concerns, the boy replies, “I don’t like boys,” followed by the narrator revealing his interior monologue: “I didn’t like anyone. I had friends that were boys and some that were girls, but I hadn’t like liked anyone yet.” He just wants to play games and watch TV, as he explains later. His carefree childhood is not preoccupied with sexuality, its implications, the family politics surrounding it. His nature tells him that he likes a salmon shirt, and it is fashionable. End of story. In contrast to this natural impulse, especially his father interprets something. He judges, analyzing his son against an ideal he has in his head.

Modern-day love

“And then there’s me, I’m the kind of girl who thinks ‘the greatest gift in life is to love and be loved in return’, a frase famose I can’t forget from the filme Moulin Rouge,” (92) says the first-person narrator in A Girl Pedaling by Marilin Guerrero Casas. She expands on this theme, by which she means “falling-in-love,” in Spring, recounting her own amorous adventures as well as those of her friends. She describes falling-in-love in passionate language tied to expectation/hope, associating it unambiguously with the season of spring: “Winters can be hard. Some of us think of them as the worst season of all but they are so much more bearable when you are looking forward to spring. So, keep holding on. Life is so much better when you don’t easily give up, when you fight strongly for what you believe in. And I believe in hope.”

Consistent with one of the defining traits of metaphysical romantics, falling-in-love for Casas is destiny, something totally out of her control and to which she willingly submits. When she meets her new boyfriend, it is initially something intended to be a relaxed, fun friendship with benefits: “I wasn’t sorprendida when he told me he was an arquitecto. Certainly he was. The way he dressed and his ‘I do what I feel like’ estilo revealed too much of him. The atracción was immediate. It was tiempo de relajación and fun with a bit of romance, of course. That was just me. We spent great nights together drinking wine, listening to Ed Sheeran songs and having mind-blowing sexo.” Without any interruption in the plot, the first-person narrator moves immediately to the possibility that this relationship is destined to be more than she anticipated. Rather than resist, rather than try to guide it, she readily acquiesces:

“And suddenly I was involved in another relación when I hadn’t even asked for it. Life can be very impredecible sometimes. When you don’t want things heading in one dirección, somehow they mágicamente wind up the way you didn’t expect it. And I couldn’t help but wonder, do we always need to take control of our lives or is it sometimes better to follow the path that some fuerza sobrenatural has designed for us? Well, if you believe in destino… then you have your answer.”

This acquiescence to fate intensifies the romantic orientation of the protagonist Pat. Accepting fate is one of the core characteristics of a romantic (as opposed to pragmatists who determine their fate – see chs. 3.2 and 6.2.2 in Peripatetic Alterity). Pat’s rhetorical questions here are implicitly answered by the suggestion that she believes in destiny (destino). These characteristics are also in harmony with her acceptance of processes, another core trait of romantics (see chs. 3.3 and 6.2.3 of Peripatetic Alterity), as we saw above in Pat’s attitude toward the seasons (“Winters can be hard… [they are] more bearable when you are looking forward to spring”]. Casas’s deep-seated belief in the process of life is explicitly announced at the beginning of A Girl Pedaling: “Life is a roller coaster. There are rises, falls, twists and turns we cannot always anticipar. (In the Middle, 89).

Casas also sees a downward trajectory from the period of falling-in-love, not unlike what we witness with Avdotya in The Harvest. Whereas the narrator suggests this in Avdotya’s move from outdoors to indoors, Casas shows the departure from this divine phase in the protagonist’s decision to live together with her boyfriend (or attempt it): In the first case, which unfolds in A Girl Pedaling and is revisited briefly in Spring, the partner turns out to be an “absolute asshole”; and in the latter story, the first-person narrator is hesitant when her boyfriend suggests it.

This theme of deterioration in love also crops up in Till Love Do Us Part. Alejandra Baccino charts out the full cycle of a relationship from falling-in-love to discovering betrayal. The protagonist falls in love with an intense, dominating guy. Naturally, she is very happy in the early days and enjoys the type of bliss common during the falling-in-love phase. Yet, as the relationship deteriorates, he becomes physically violent, mentally abusive and ultimately cheats on her, she adamantly defends him because he still brings her such pleasure at times. In other words, she is able to depart from the banality of worldly matters through this relationship. Presumably, this is the only avenue she has to achieve these metaphysical moments, so she is very reluctant to abandon him. After the early phase (falling-in-love), the parts not relating to abuse and violence are teeming with physical objects as a representation of alleged love. Baccino shifts from telling about intense eyes, staring, passion and emotion during the falling-in-love phase to classic cars, a white suit, a bouquet of flowers afterwards. And, not surprisingly, the next stage after this material turn is for her to find him in bed with another woman.

Two selves today

In the first volume of these transadaptations, In the Middle, Nane Sevunts (Armine Asyran) shows how the socially constructed self is sometimes posited in sharp contrast to an alternative identity that enjoys unlimited freedom (воля). In Unreal Reality, we see Julie gain access to this second self in Nare. Fear, special treatment, loneliness and depression are what she has felt since the moment her toy teddy bear emitted a ‘booo’: “Fear. The first emotion she experienced from interaction with the world was fear. She simply assumed that the world was not a safe place.” (In the Middle, 1) Eventually, after leaving her family and travelling aimlessly, she lands in a mental hospital. In the subsequent course of events, we realize that Julie’s collapse was brought about by her incompatibility with the limitations in material life. The language completely changes between the phases when Julie escapes with Nare (i.e. free) and when she is alone without her (i.e. constrained): The language in society is couched in negativity: “suffering,” “overcoming emotional barriers,” “shrinking,” “violent face,” “brutal treatment,” “demons,” “hell,” “depression,” and “pills”; when released from the constraints, it is infused with the buoyancy of “unlimited possibilities,” “light,” “songs of the birds,” “nourishment,” “happiest,” “laughing and running.” The words laughter and happiness are repeated in many different contexts shared by Julie and Nare. Without directly declaring that her unhappy state is brought about by the materialism of her surroundings, Julie clearly depicts the flights into her alternative self as metaphysical:

From time to time, Julie would leave Nare and return to the real world. She was bored and unhappy in this world, but these moments happened. Most of the time she was in the real world. The world offered nothing to her but wanted her attention and care and love. The world gave nothing to her but wanted every single element of her. And she was exhausted in this world. (6)

The second self is effectively identified as metaphysical while the first self is material. The narrator blurs the boundary between Julie and Nare, leaving it unclear whether they are the same person or whether Nare is a special friend who gives Julie access to her alternative self. Either which way, Julie with/as Nare is liberated from social constraints, while Julie without Nare is restrained by them. The deixis of “this world,” “real world” vs. “that world” emphasizes the duality. Furthermore, as mentioned above, the language changes between them. The value judgements on each are also unambiguous: The metaphysical one consists of “precious moments,” while the material one is “full of hatred and humiliation.”

In this volume, the authors repeatedly show the strengths and weaknesses of romanticism in childhood. A child’s lack of experience means that they must rely on their parents for “knowledge.” This age-imposed naivety can result in a distorted picture. In Meeting my Homeland, Rayan Harake describes a child’s assumption of normality in her earliest days similar to the other authors. Likewise, the abnormal aspects of this upbringing are only realized retrospectively as an adult. While the protagonist has some idea that her father’s domineering nature, his mockery of emotions, and strict censorship of television are excessive, she has no idea, for example, that headaches exist, in part because she doesn’t suffer from them and in part because her father adamantly denies their existence. That is the natural world she grew up in, at best only partially questioned.

Childhood also assumes romantic characteristics in Gennady Bondarenko’s story Every Little Thing. Its mixture of fun, inspiration and humor is viewed in contrast to adulthood, with the dividing line between the two phases being marked by the end of high school, specifically a motorcycle crash. In the story mostly about Klaus and Igor during their last year of high school, the teenagers relate funny stories from the past or goof around: Klaus is supposed to play the Russian Father Frost, Ded Moroz, but turns up as Santa Claus with a cotton beard, hence his name; in class, they sing a Beatles song to introduce their city of Odessa (and the teacher catches them, but gives them the best grade anyway); in another anecdote, the boys have written to the Beatles Fan Club in England and received a response from it, which they open to much amusement at their new English teacher’s apartment.

This youthful phase of fun and games ends after graduation: “the beginning of adulthood caught us unexpectedly,” says Igor. Now the language turns into “smiling mysteriously into his beard,” “no regrets,” and moral judgements such as “it is plain weird when you don’t know your native language.” In the fall vacation, the end of youth is depicted in even clearer terms when the former band member Klaus can no longer sing and play (“No way! Out of practice”), but then performs an acoustic song prompting Igor to despair: “it only took you a few months after school to become such a…”

This shift from humor or fun for the sake of fun in youth to morality in adulthood mirrors a classic distinction between romantics and pragmatists (see chs. 2.8, 3.8 and 6.2.8 in Peripatetic Alterity). Bondarenko does not necessarily see humor as absent from adulthood, as he has shown in House with a Stucco Ship. Here, however, youth is associated with humor and, similar to Turgenev, cultural fantasy through Santa Claus and contemporary fantasy through the Beatles and thus the implied dream of becoming rock stars.

Another contrast between the innocent acceptance of youth and critical judgement in adulthood unfolds in Dragging the Past out into the Light by Kate Korneeva. In reflecting on the cause of her current issues, the narrator realizes that the unconscious suppression of her femininity in childhood had a detrimental impact. In other words, because her mother had a preference for boys, the narrator instinctively acquired masculine characteristics to feel the parental love she craved. Yet she wanted emotion (a “mom’s emotional embrace, wealth, intimacy”), which her mother refused to give. This causes her pain to the present day, when she, as an adult and thus no longer accepting fate unquestioningly, wants to change her: “My pain is not only about not having a mother with her acceptance and unconditional love. It is also about being unable to change her now.” The adult narrator no longer accepts fate. She has broken with this core characteristic of romanticism, having evidently converted to pragmatism, the shaping of people and the determining of the future (see chs. 2.2 and 6.2.2 of Peripatetic Alterity).

Transadapting freedom

Enclosed places often bear negative connotations of confinement and dissatisfaction, while the reverse holds true in open areas. These settings mirror another side of the nature theme looked at earlier in the context of youth and discussed at length in Peripatetic Alterity. Many stories in the anthologies In the Middle and Conceived suggest that the authors share similar views. While certainly not universal, the authors frequently set negative plot developments either indoors or in cities. Furthermore, characters that are more problematic or have more issues are found in urban contexts. By contrast, freedom is implied by plots unfolding in natural environments or at least outdoors.

In The Railway by Seyit Ali Dastan, the two characters leave a hospital, where the mother had pregnancy tests, and walk home through rural farmland on the outskirts of the city. The seemingly innocuous story about an energetic Turkish boy constantly escaping from his attentive mother becomes particularly interesting when viewed against two urban stories by Javier Gomez, also in the collections: Catching Water I and II. Here, the protagonist Nadia is in an abusive relationship with her boyfriend. The Turkish boy may slightly hurt himself, get a little lost, disregard his mother, but these developments are harmless and coupled with moments of exquisite beauty, such as when he sees his mother standing with her headscarf removed, her coat blowing in the wind, not moving at all. By contrast, Nadia, in the midst of an Argentinian city, working in a bookstore, living in an apartment, constantly faces the threat of her boyfriend’s aggression. In one instance, he beats her badly; in another, even the park cannot help them, as they start yelling and then physically fighting.

The constituent elements of their lives reflect the existential innocence of the boy and the material desolation of the girl. Dastan’s story is teeming with grass, brush, spring rain, cabbage, silverberry trees, irrigation channels, a creek, pebbles, poplar trees, while Nadia’s profanity-laced environment, beginning with a plant she sends “on a suicide mission towards the floor,” consists of rock bands, headphones, smoke, hangovers, weed, beer, etc. It should come as no surprise that the stories wrap up on completely different notes: The boy and his mother continue their walk home together, with the narrator joking about unrealistic promises the boy made, but failed to keep; Nadia, by contrast, has a “black eye and a shattered crystal heart” without any likelihood of being able to reset her life.

This divergence between urban (indoor) and rural (outdoor) life is illustrated spectacularly in Jonay Quintero Hernández’s two (serialized) stories Amelia’s Euphemism and Another World. The former is set in Madrid, the latter in El Hierro. Amelia’s Euphemism begins with the lead protagonist, Edelmiro, a professional assassin, blowing the brains out of a man near the slums of Madrid. It continues in chapter two with a gipsy clan that controls the narcotics market in the south of the city, where the leader neglected and abused a cat subsequently named Kunta, nearly killing him before Edelmiro finds and rescues him. The cycle of violence does not end there. In later chapters we learn about Edelmiro’s neighbor, Luisa, who is regularly abused by her husband. One night she fights back with one of his trophies, and Edelmiro disposes of the body for her. This series of events in the urban environment is nearly completely in contrast to Edelmiro’s and Luisa’s life in the rural setting of El Hierro, where they move after the murder. Another World may begin with a foggy sky, chilly air, but this weather along with squawks, moos, and neighs is a far cry from the contract murder to start Amelia’s Euphemism. On El Hierro, animals are thriving; kids are “taller, stronger,” and practice “a lot of outdoor sports like soccer, swimming, mountain biking, fishing, etc.” One teenager is building a house with his father. The idyllic backdrop climaxes with Edelmiro and Luisa dancing at un baile in the village’s main square.

These scenes during the day in Another World capture a range of harmonious environments from the island as a whole with beauty and nature and festivals to the improvised family life, kids at school and “related” neighbors. Daytime, however, appears to be factor as well. There is a recurring difference between being outside during the day and at night. The former is almost universally associated with positive plot twists or scenes in the stories of both In the Middle and Conceived. As we just described, all of Hernandez’s outdoor, daytime scenes can be characterized as such, but not necessarily night-time ones: In both Amelia’s Euphemism and Another World, a person is shot outdoors at night. We see a similar ambiguity with night-time scenes in Catching Water II. Nadia is often in the city parks without her boyfriend, many of which are perfectly pleasant fun and certainly without violence or conflict – during the day. It’s a different story at night: To start Catching Water II, Gomez describes Nadia on her rooftop at night, brooding over “something [that is] off”; at a party later, again in the dark of evening, she is dragged inside by her boyfriend who then assaults her. Finally, a walk in the lamp-lit park shifts from pleasant silence to a physical fight when Ale confronts her about kissing another guy (in the past).

An outdoor setting is also frequently the stage for regeneration and humor. In Life after Nare, Julie receives critical advice in a park, an experience that sparks her regeneration. The two funniest scenes in Meeting my Homeland occur outside: one being when the protagonist puts on her hijab the wrong way and goes outdoors; the other being when she forgets it and only realizes this in front of her building as she sees her cousin approaching. Presumably, the author, similar to Bondarenko, has related these humorous anecdotes because they suit the story, but, by integrating laughter for the sake of laughter (not a moral agenda), she, he or they have tapped into one of the defining traits of romantics.

Conclusion

While all these depictions share certain commonalities, in particular the broaching of the romantic orientation as a poetic alternative even in the event of worldly failure, the authors’ immediate treatment of each topic is complemented by an even more far-reaching, extensive and nearly universal aspect of the metaphysical: the shifting between different worlds, diverging states, the cyclicality of being when a worldly person consciously or unconsciously embraces romanticism. In part, this is an inevitable consequence of a metaphysical orientation. As Julie says in Unreal Reality, it is necessary to return to the real world from time to time. It is not possible, and for many not even desirable, to remain in one state, whether positive or negative, for an interminable amount of time. Romantics live for this diversity, as is revealed time and again in literary fiction and our everyday lives. What we need to fathom it, is very simple, just one thing: air.

There is both literal and metaphorical significance to the term air.

On the one hand, it is physically required for achieving the necessary balance to reject materialism and embrace the metaphysical, as we have discussed in Peripatetic Alterity and can see explicitly in Life after Nare by Armine Asryan. When Julie is having difficulty in the confines of society again, she goes to a park (i.e. again outdoors) and consults an elderly man with “the first miracle smile she had ever seen.” His ideas help Julie restore balance, with the second one being “to work with your breath”: “Julie started working with her breath before the candle. Every day. She was persistent. She wanted to save herself. She lost a couple of pounds after the breathing exercises. That was funny because she never thought she would lose weight from the breathing exercises. She felt stronger and stronger.” In the fresh air of the park, she learns about deep breathing that in turn liberate her from being the allegorical mosquito that is sucking the blood of other people around her to survive, i.e. ‘consuming’: “She wished she could fall down one day like a little mosquito and die. But that would be too easy for someone that had a long way to go. She did not die and she continued sucking the blood of the others.” Yet now Julie needs nothing but air to survive.

On the other hand, air acts as a symbol for the presence of the metaphysical at given moments. It is certainly possible that this practice derives from Christianity (e.g., air is often associated with the Holy Spirit) and that Christianity drew on pagan or other traditions that adopt air, wind, the ether, etc. for the spiritual. In episodes of metaphysical exposure discussed elsewhere, the word air or wind either appears, is implied or can be assumed in almost every context. For example, in Elias Portolu, Zia Annedda indirectly refers to the idea of air by tapping her breast and referring to a bird flying (in the air). In Anna Karenina, Levin’s realization comes as thunder clouds are gathering and it begins to rain – almost certainly accompanied by wind. The evidence of the domovoy in Byezhin Prairie is proven by gusts of wind opening doors. There is a direct reference to wind in The DNA of Angels, when the narrator describes Masha’s final vision of her late husband: “The wind swept over the field…” Flags rippling (in the wind), her soul soaring (through the air), are part of the description in the trope of Avdotya’s falling-in-love in The Harvest. By the same token, the concept of air is also implied throughout Unreal Reality, with the metaphysical scenes set outdoors under the open sky (rather than indoors), and in Life after Nare, with the park scene and the allegorical story of the rabbit that is unhappy at home and goes outside for freedom. Finally, when Ufuk sees his mother standing with her coat blowing in the wind, arms extended, in The Railway, she is visualizing the girl in her womb.

(For full version, please see foreword in print or kindle edition of Conceived)  

Series

January: The Pack – Alejandra Baccino (Uruguay)

February: The Pink Shirt – Talia Stotts (America)

March: Dragging the Past out into the Light – Kate Korneeva (Russia)

April: Looking Forward to Spring – Marilin Guerrero Casas (Cuba)

May: Every Little Thing – Gennady Bondarenko (Ukraine)

June: The Girl Who Chased the Rainbow – Toni Wallis (Sarah-Leah Pimentel) (South Africa)

July: Another World – Jonay Quintero Hernandez (Spain)

August: Life after Nare – Nane Sevunts (Armine Asryan) (Armenia)

September: Meeting My Homeland – Rayan Harake (Lebanon)

October: Catching Water (Part Two) – Javier Gomez (Argentina)

November: Remember – Seyit Ali Dastan (Turkey)

December: Exposition: Conveyors of the Metaphysical in Literary Fiction – Cases Studies from In the Middle, Conceived and Literary Fiction

Background – Context

In the Middle – Prelude to a Contemporary Transadaptation, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2020)

Peripatetic Alterity: A Philosophical Treatise on the Spectrum of Being – Romantics and Pragmatists by Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)

La Syncrétion of Polarization and Extremes Transposée, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)

The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2018)

L’anthologie of Global Instability Transpuesta, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2017)

From Wahnsinnig to the Loony Bin: German and Russian Stories Transposed to Modern-day America, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2013)

Emblems and stories on the international community

Perception by country – Transposing emblems, articles, short stories and reports from around the world

Credits

Cover photo: Eskişehir, Turkey – Schizophrenia – Phovius (Unsplash) + Yellow – Sergeon (Unsplash)

Source: The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed

by Angelika Friedrich and Henry Whittlesey

Falling-in-love as a trope for the metaphysical / the dissipation of love as gravitation toward materialism – The Harvest by Galina Nikolaeva and The Love of Three Generations by Alexandra Kollontai

The former lizard, Avdotya, has become a mere appendage of her husband. At home she cooks, cleans, raises their daughter, and works in the vegetable garden. It is a life that pales in comparison to her youth as a respected group leader, an award-winning potato collector and seducer of the highly desirable tractor driver Vassily.

Galina Nikolaeva tells the story of Avdotya (Dunya, Dunyasha) Oserova and Vassily Kusmich in The Harvest. During the halcyon days of her childhood, Dunya jumps through fires (literally), draws the attention of the somewhat older Vassily, dancing, playing, dreaming and working in the fields with him. Life is otherworldly for her. Even when he breaks off their friendship, she is confident that they are in love with each other, and if he is not, then she wants no part of it. His position, the rumors resulting from their friendship, or the security of being married are nothing without love: “If you loved me, Vasya, the slander would not bother me. If you loved me, I wouldn’t hesitate for a minute.” (126-7) And she continues to immerse herself in life, loving unilaterally and using that metaphysical strength to contribute to the societal dream, which in turn feeds back into her love. Hence, she becomes famous for her potato harvesting and when Vassily writes her after a lengthy work-related interruption, she doesn’t harbor any doubts, running to meet him again: “No trace of doubts, criticism or tears. So trusting, faithful, open to joy; she played and sang.” (128) She becomes even more beautiful, and Vassily falls passionately in love with her. They marry.

On the day of their wedding, the narrator sums up Dunya’s otherworldly existence in the state of love that the reader has learned about primarily from his perspective:

Since the moment she had seen Vassily under the flags on the tractor decorated with rowan berry branches and heard his unusually passionate speech, her life had been pure happy expectation. She herself did not know what she was expecting; some kind of wonderful life in which her entire soul soared appeared before her eyes, and Vassily was the man, the best of all, the eternally loved man, with whom she now began this life. Their existence together to date was only the harbinger of something greater. When would it begin, that which she desired? What is it, how is it? (128-129)

The words in this passage capture the proximity between love and the metaphysical: life is a wonder (wonderful life); her soul soars – the soul being a central characteristic of the religious metaphysical and flying associated with the extraterrestrial; “the sign of something greater” ties into the spiritual theme of meaning beyond what we can comprehend on the basis of everyday, material existence. The same is suggested by the adjectives (great, desired) turned into nouns, a linguistic characteristic of the metaphysical, like the word metaphysical itself.

Yet “frosty and clear came the morning” – heralding the end of metaphysical love and the decent into the materialism of daily life. Despite efforts to stem the fall, Avdotya is helpless for a long time, as she cannot understand what is happening. She is lonely at home handling the domestic chores; her husband is at work most of the day and they share little common ground (“common language”). Although the narrator authoritatively declares that he is a faithful husband and there are no marital problems, Avdotya suffers in her position.

As Avdotya watches her dreams of some unclear expectation dissipate into the child, housework, cooking, she also finds herself predominantly in a different location – indoors. When she is falling in love, the scenes are almost all outdoors. She meets Vassily at an open-air festival. They hang out under the open sky, and even when they break off their friendship, it occurs on Avdotya’s porch. In this phase, by contrast, she may be in a clean, cozy, homy room with flowerpots on the windowsills, but her eyes have glazed over; she feigns joy with her child, and eventually resolves to start working at the kolkhoz again. This return to an environment often outdoors is suggested to result in an improvement. Vassily talks with her again, saying “When your wife is doing well, her husband is diligent.” (140)

In 1941 Vassily is evidently killed in the war, which allows Avdotya to start over. She makes private and professional changes. Privately, she lets Stephan, an injured war veteran, move in with her family; professionally, she dedicates herself to the dairy business of the kolkhoz. Although the two are only roommates, so to say, they live like a couple, spending evenings with Avdotya’s kids reading as they knit and repair shoes. With the passage of time (together), she experiences even more intense love than with Vassily: “No matter how much she had loved Vassily, she had never felt such a unity of feeling and thought, such pure harmony in everything.” (144) Her eyes are big and her pale face smiles; they agree on the sowing of the seeds, making them “feel so close, as if nothing could bring them closer.” (146) To emphasize the immensity of their love just prior to consummation, the author then describes various classical metaphysical tropes such as birth/germination (a nest of fawns discovered while mowing grass at night; seeds sowed), girls’ intoxicating and gentle singing, millions of stars twinkling, flickering and flashing, then a shooting star. Similar to the scenes when Avdotya falls in love with Vassily, the two lovers are primarily depicted outside – in fields, under starry skies – especially as their love climaxes, and repeatedly encountering youth or early phase development (seeds, birth, girls).

Finally – to remove any doubt that the author views (falling-in) love as a trope for the metaphysical and the decent out of love as a reversion to the materialism of worldly life – Avdotya and Stephan marry, and Advotya begins to believe that her happiness is solid and impermeable – until “Vassily returns.” Accordingly, we can say that falling-in-love is equated to a metaphysical state, whereas daily life in a relationship becomes material. This interpretation also plays out indirectly in Avdotya’s first marriage and is implied by the words “Vassily returns.” The state of marriage and end of the falling-in-love phase gives way immediately to domestic chores: material love.1

The early Soviet writer Alexandra Kollontai depicts exactly these two opposing kinds of love in her story The Love of Three Generations. One colleague tells another about her mother’s amorous relationships, her own and her daughter’s. Both she and her mother fall hopelessly in love with varius men. Initially, her mother ignores the opposition of her parents to marry an officer (“My mother had married for love and against the will of her parents” (11)). When this mother meets her soulmate, however, she leaves the officer, justifying her action on the basis of, as she viewed it, “the law of love was stronger than the duties of marriage! Love was something great and holy to her.” (12) The woman of the second generation experiences two kinds of love simultaneously: one logical with Konstantin and the other ‘different’ and unexplainable with the engineer M. Olya Sergeyevna (Olga), the woman of the second generation and narrator, then eventually explains that she cannot choose the ‘different’ love because it would be “spiritual bankruptcy for her.” (24) The stark contrast between metaphysical love and absolute pragmatic love without emotion can be seen most starkly with the pure convenience love of the third generation. Eventually, Olga separates from both of her partners and has a close (marriage-like) relationship with a younger comrade named Andrey Ryabkov. He subsequently has a relationship with Olga’s daughter Genia from the engineer M. However, Olga is not shocked by her daughter’s relations with her partner Andrey, but by her attitude towards it: She saw “an incomprehensible heartlessness, a calmness, a person convinced of her right… something cold, rational, almost cynical … not love, not passion and no effort to escape from her position. (30-31)

While Alexandra Kollontai almost certainly did not intend to negatively depict the first generation of Soviet-born and raised children as materialistic in their love and place love within the materialist agenda that pervaded all communist ideology, she does ultimately produce such a narrative. All of the women are communists. Yet both Olga and her mother grew up in Czarist Russia with its greater balance between materialism and the spiritual/metaphysical. Those two generations, irrespective of political ideology or perhaps even as a contrast to it, embrace passionate love, although their views of handling this differ. Genia has been surrounded by nothing other than Marxism her whole life, and her love is absent of any association with something otherworldly, unexplainable, abstract. It is purely physical lust. This is underscored by Genia’s decision to have an abortion: All three have dedicated their lives to the proletariat revolution, but only the third views conception as a material impediment to be eliminated. Genia also exhibits no qualms about her decision to ultimately leave her mother and Andrey. Metaphysical falling-in-love is completely absent from her relationship with Andrey. It has begun and ended in pure materialism.

(…to be continued…)

Footnotes

1. In a modern-day context, the proximity between love and the metaphysical is observed in Alejandra Baccino’s story Till Love Do Us Part. The protagonist falls in love with an intense, dominating guy. Naturally, she is very happy in the early days and enjoys the type of bliss common during the falling-in-love phase. Yet, as the relationship deteriorates, he becomes physically violent, mentally abusive and ultimately cheats on her, she adamantly defends him because he still brings her such pleasure at times. In other words, she is able to depart from the banality of worldly matters through this relationship. Presumably, this is the only avenue she has to achieve these metaphysical moments, so she is very reluctant to abandon him.

Series

January: The Pack – Alejandra Baccino (Uruguay)

February: The Pink Shirt – Talia Stotts (America)

March: Dragging the Past out into the Light – Kate Korneeva (Russia)

April: Looking Forward to Spring – Marilin Guerrero Casas (Cuba)

May: Every Little Thing – Gennady Bondarenko (Ukraine)

June: The Girl Who Chased the Rainbow – Toni Wallis (Sarah-Leah Pimentel) (South Africa)

July: Another World – Jonay Quintero Hernandez (Spain)

August: Life after Nare – Nane Sevunts (Armine Asryan) (Armenia)

September: Meeting My Homeland – Rayan Harake (Lebanon)

October: Catching Water (Part Two) – Javier Gomez (Argentina)

November: Remember – Seyit Ali Dastan (Turkey)

December: Exposition: Conveyors of the Metaphysical in Literary Fiction – Cases Studies from In the Middle, Conceived and Literary Fiction

Background – Context

In the Middle – Prelude to a Contemporary Transadaptation, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2020)

Peripatetic Alterity: A Philosophical Treatise on the Spectrum of Being – Romantics and Pragmatists by Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)

La Syncrétion of Polarization and Extremes Transposée, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)

The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2018)

L’anthologie of Global Instability Transpuesta, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2017)

From Wahnsinnig to the Loony Bin: German and Russian Stories Transposed to Modern-day America, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2013)

Emblems and stories on the international community

Perception by country – Transposing emblems, articles, short stories and reports from around the world

Credits

Cover photo: Eskişehir, Turkey – Schizophrenia – Phovius (Unsplash) + Yellow – Sergeon (Unsplash)
Source: The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed

by Angelika Friedrich and Henry Whittlesey

Spirits on earth, fantasy and visions of the dead – A Sportsman’s Sketches by Ivan Turgenev, Every Little Thing by Gennady Bondarenko, and The DNA of Angels by Valentina Akssy

Classical spirits

The idealization and longing for youth in Russian literary fiction has a long tradition stretching back at least to Alexander Pushkin. Often it is associated with innocence, naivety and freedom, especially vis-à-vis adulthood. A subject examined less extensively and less obviously apparent is a possibly unconscious positing of youth as a metaphysical stage in a person’s life before they ‘develop’ into mature materialists.

As always with the subject of the metaphysical, it is hard to define exact criteria that need to be present for us to identify a person, character or mindset as such. In literature, as we saw above in the context of Elias Portolu and Anna Karenina, authors tend to show or depict characters and scenes in a manner that must be connected with the metaphysical or material (or any other classification) rather than telling or stating in an expository manner that such is the case.

In Ivan Turgenev’s story Byezhin Prairie, one of the ‘sketches’ in the collection titled A Sportsman’s Sketches, the hunter or sportsman who is wandering through the countryside, meeting with various peasants and describing their lives, encounters a group of boys sitting around a fire in the evening. He spends the night with them, listening to a series of tales exclusively about spirits, witches, mermaids and supernatural powers.

First, listeners hear about a domovoy, a kind of house spirit, still believed in despite the long tradition of Christianity in Russia. In this instance, the boys were spending the night in an old paper mill where they worked to avoid wasting time. When they are lying down to sleep, someone starts walking around on the floor above, right after they ask whether the domovoy will come. Then water begins to drip, a wheel starts to rattle and then turn. Soon the sound of steps is heard on the staircase; the door flies open, but they see nothing: Now the nets on the vats begin to move; a hook comes off its nail, and there is a cough. (72-3)

The next tale of spirits a boy tells to the circle relates to a mermaid in the forest (mermaids in Russian were not exclusively confined to the sea). Called russalki, these mermaids were essentially considered witches. When the local carpenter encounters one singing in the forest, he crosses himself for protection. This causes the mermaid to shift from singing to crying: She laments the crossing, explaining that he would have lived in happiness with her until the end of his days, (74) but now both she and he will grieve until death. Although the duty of a Christian, according to the boys, is to ward off such spirits just as the carpenter did (“but how can such an evil thing of the woods ruin a Christian soul – he did not listen to her, right? (74)), the carpenter is punished for vacillating. Whereas the children in the old mill fully believe in the domovoy and ultimately are left unharmed by the spirit, the adult carpenter is ruined for acting on instinct and out of routine rather than embracing the metaphysical one way or the other (choosing the pagan spirit or Christian God). Initially, he faints, then wants to yield to the mermaids’ wishes and only half-heartedly crosses himself (“the Lord put it into his heart, doubtlessly” (74)).

The five boys recount a variety of other stories about spiritual powers on earth, with all being taken for deadly serious except for one about a type of anti-Christ called Trishka, which is sightly undermined by the teller Pavel. None of the boys, including Pavel, doubts the existence of Trishka or his superhuman powers to elude capture, escape and lead Christ’s people astray. (78) However, Pavel, who has yet to share a story, tells about an incident where Trishka was expected in their parts on account of a heavenly portent. Suddenly, a man with an odd-shaped head was seen descending the mountain in their area; everyone scattered, screaming and hiding, but it turned out to be the town cooper, who had bought a new pitcher and put it over his head. Pavel is also the boy who exhibits the least fear in the face of these spiritual powers. Earlier, shortly after the mermaid story, he jumps on a horse and rides off into the dark to check the other horses when their dogs start barking convulsively; following a story about wood-spirits and groaning in water pits, Pavel goes to the river to get water. While Pavel does not doubt their existence and presence – he even says he heard his name called in the water as he stopped to fill the pitcher –, his actions demonstrate that he has no fear of them: “No one can escape their fate,” he says. (82) In the story recounted about Trishka, he makes a slight mockery of it with the pitcher-on-head detail. Interestingly, however, the narrator closes the tale by mentioning that (of the five) Pavel was killed that year in a fall from his horse. Not only is youth mingled with the metaphysical by having boys tell stories about spirits (while an older silent narrator documents them), and young believing boys are spared as opposed to half-hearted men, but the boy with the least orthodox attitude toward them dies.

Youth, humor and fantasy

Childhood also assumes existential characteristics in Gennady Bondarenko’s story Every Little Thing. Its mixture of fun, inspiration and humor is viewed in contrast to adulthood, with the dividing line between the two phases being marked by the end of high school, specifically a motorcycle crash.

In the story mostly about Klaus and Igor during their last year of high school, the teenagers relate funny stories from the past or goof around: Klaus is supposed to play the Russian Father Frost, Ded Moroz, but turns up as Santa Claus with a cotton beard, hence his name; in class, they sing a Beatles song to introduce their city of Odessa (and the teacher catches them, but gives them the best grade anyway); in another anecdote, the boys have written to the Beatles Fan Club in England and received a response from it, which they open to much amusement at their new English teacher’s apartment.

This youthful phase of fun and games ends after graduation: “the beginning of adulthood caught us unexpectedly,” says Igor. Now the language turns into “smiling mysteriously into his beard,” “no regrets,” and moral judgements such as “it is plain weird when you don’t know your native language.” In the fall vacation, the end of youth is depicted in even clearer terms when the former band member Klaus can no longer sing and play (“No way! Out of practice”), but then performs an acoustic song prompting Igor to say: “it only took you a few months after school to become such a…”

This shift from humor or fun for the sake of fun in youth to morality in adulthood mirrors a classic distinction between romantics and pragmatists. Bondarenko does not necessarily see humor as absent from adulthood, as he has shown in House with a Stucco Ship. Here, however, youth is associated with humor and, similar to Turgenev, pure fantasy with Santa Claus and contemporary fantasy associated with the Beatles and thus the implied dream of becoming rock stars.

The spiritual envisioned

The spiritual can also appear in reality through visions a person has. Such visions may consist of imagining the presence of someone or something in a place, daydreaming or dreaming of a person or thing that does not currently exist. Even mistaking A for B might reflect a case where the metaphysical/spiritual makes its presence felt. In Valentina Akssy’s story The DNA of Angels, we delve into a case of the imagined presence of a physically dead person:

During period after death:

I hate sunflowers. I’ve hated them for four years now. And I dream about them almost every night, and then they hover in front of my eyes all day and don’t disappear: I push ahead, running between these hateful sunflowers, as rough stems nastily scratch my arms and legs. I try to catch up to my Slavik, but he doesn’t even turn around, as if he doesn’t hear me. Striding ahead, he pushes aside the high stalks with his broad shoulders and disappears under the yellow petals. I stumble, fall, but I don’t stop and yell to him from behind: “Slaavik.” And the sunflowers, like living ones, are closing closer and closer to each other, and I can no longer squeeze through the palisade of stalks. I can only see the crown of my husband’s head under the swinging yellow baskets, farther and farther…

As he is dying:

I fell into a deep sleep and dreamed of Slavik, when he was young, when I met him, going somewhere through a field of sunflowers.

Coming to terms with her husband’s early death:

I sat on the side of the road, with my face to the sun, and smiled. It seemed to me that Slavik was watching them from the sunflowers and smiling at our angels too.

The wind swept over the field and made the yellow flower petals sway. In the distance, several sunflowers parted, forming a narrow path, as if someone was walking between them, spreading the tall stems with his broad shoulders…

In the two passages, Masha, the first-person narrator, sees her late husband in a dream, with the second instance occurring simultaneously to his death in a battle between Ukrainian and Russian forces in East Ukraine. In the third passage, she envisions him during the day as their children play in the field. Whereas Turgenev embeds the spiritual sphere in his narrative by invoking actual spiritual figures witnessed by humans, Akssy depicts the metaphysical with a formerly existing person reappearing in dreams and visions. In each case, the author departs from the documentation of the objective material world to give their readers access to an alternative.

While the metaphysical element of the dream/vision is not unambiguously reinforced by the backdrop of the metaphysical or material, we do observe two interesting developments. Masha’s three visions of her husband unfold in two different contexts: The first two, both negative, are dreams she has asleep and thus presumably indoors. The third vision, by contrast, occurs outdoors and is positive. Hence, the indoor-outdoor dichotomy within the metaphysical suggests a hierarchical ranking of visions, with outdoor ones being more positive. Furthermore, this last vision is accompanied by children scampering through the field, thereby uniting (metaphysical) youth with (metaphysical) visions of the non-existent. And the worldly result of this moment is: a smile, perhaps what was on Levin’s face when he listened to Fedor’s explanation of the truth.

(…to be continued…)

Series

January: The Pack – Alejandra Baccino (Uruguay)

February: The Pink Shirt – Talia Stotts (America)

March: Dragging the Past out into the Light – Kate Korneeva (Russia)

April: Looking Forward to Spring – Marilin Guerrero Casas (Cuba)

May: Every Little Thing – Gennady Bondarenko (Ukraine)

June: The Girl Who Chased the Rainbow – Toni Wallis (Sarah-Leah Pimentel) (South Africa)

July: Another World – Jonay Quintero Hernandez (Spain)

August: Life after Nare – Nane Sevunts (Armine Asryan) (Armenia)

September: Meeting My Homeland – Rayan Harake (Lebanon)

October: Catching Water (Part Two) – Javier Gomez (Argentina)

November: Remember – Seyit Ali Dastan (Turkey)

December: Exposition: Conveyors of the Metaphysical in Literary Fiction – Cases Studies from In the Middle, Conceived and Literary Fiction

Background – Context

In the Middle – Prelude to a Contemporary Transadaptation, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2020)

Peripatetic Alterity: A Philosophical Treatise on the Spectrum of Being – Romantics and Pragmatists by Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)

La Syncrétion of Polarization and Extremes Transposée, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)

The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2018)

L’anthologie of Global Instability Transpuesta, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2017)

From Wahnsinnig to the Loony Bin: German and Russian Stories Transposed to Modern-day America, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2013)

Emblems and stories on the international community

Perception by country – Transposing emblems, articles, short stories and reports from around the world

Credits

Cover photo: Eskişehir, Turkey – Schizophrenia – Phovius (Unsplash) + Blue – Steve Johnson
Source: The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed

by Angelika Friedrich and Henry Whittlesey

Eternity vs. mortal existence: the gender of the metaphysical and material – Elias Portolu by Grazia Deledda and Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Right at the start of Elias Portolu by Grazia Deledda, we learn about the clear distinction between material men and metaphysical women. The father of the eponymous protagonist refers to his sons as strong, which results in impressive production and the ability to dominate (“He’s a marvel! He’s sown ten measures of barley and eight of wheat and two measures of beans.” (5); “Now that Elias is back we are like four lions” (5); He [Elias] wouldn’t have allowed it. He would have broken his teeth with one blow. Elias is a man. We are men, we are, we aren’t puppets made of fresh cheese like the continentals” (9)).

By contrast, Elias’s mother and the future mother-in-law of another son of hers confide in each other that men are too material (“attached to the things of this world” (12; repeated in other contexts on pages 33, 48)). This direct connection between men and this world is juxtaposed to the existential place of women:

“…But what were we saying? Men think only about things of this world. If they would think just a little about the other world, they would go straighter in this one. They think this earthly life will never end; but it’s a novena, this life, a novena and short as well. We suffer in this world; we do so so that this little bird here,” she touched her breast, “is calm and free of guilt; let the rest go as it likes. Take some sugar, Arrita;…”

To emphasize the universality of this statement, furthermore, Zin Annedda, Elias’s mother, speaks using the “we” form (“What were we saying?”). In the immediate context of the narrative, this form is logical because she is concurring with her friend’s remarks on ‘this world’. Yet her words gain authority from the collective form to introduce her opinion on how you would conduct yourself with an eye on the metaphysical (‘other world’). As opposed to her husband’s banal associations in material everyday life (barley, wheat, beans, tigers), Zia Annedda touches her breast, describes it as a little bird, and the first object she mentions in reverting back to the current reality is sugar, as if to ingrain in the reader’s mind the sweetness of women’s metaphysical worldview. Finally, the representative of the metaphysical on earth at that time is a member of the clergy. In the novel, this is Father Porcheddu who echoes Zin Annedda’s words as he discusses Elias’s wavering plan to become a priest: “You are still attached to the things of this world?” (155) And when Elias attempts to break firmly with the materialism of pragmatism, he retorts: “I want to show you that I am not attached to anything.” (155)

“…[I]f Elias remained in the world he was lost. Zia Annedda was thinking along these lines because she knew her son.” (5) In the novel, Elias has returned from a 3-year prison sentence for a crime that remains unspecified, but is not sufficiently abominable to damage the family’s reputation or his reintegration into Sardinian society of his native village. His return is celebrated, and he is included, although not forced to participate in every aspect of life (marriage is open to him, and eventually he becomes a priest, albeit a sinning one). Even after his return and despite his good intentions, Elias is repeatedly described as (mentally/spiritually) troubled. He does not join his brothers and father in the pasture, behaves erratically (pale (13, 23), laughed until he turned purple (47), beats his breast (51)), and falls in love with his brother’s future wife. He is also considered feminine by both his father and mother, with the associated value judgement depending on the speaker’s perspective. As we have seen above, Zia Annedda, Elias’s mother, is critical of the material world; whereas Zio Portolu embraces it fully. Elias, as an effeminate man, lies somewhere in between: Since he is not an Ur-male like his father and brothers, he cannot identify with their life. Yet he knows no alternatives until he comes upon the idea of becoming a priest. It is his announcement of this idea that prompts Zia Annedda to say in relief that “in the world he was lost.”

Viewed along these lines, the story of Elias Portolu can be regarded as a romantic man confused by his inability to embrace the pragmatic way of life into which he is expected to assimilate. His prominently developed feminine side seeks an alternative to the materialism of pragmatism, but has immense difficulty finding a plausible path and even then struggles with the memes of pragmatism. As Zia Annedda explains to her daughter-in-law Maddalena: “he can be led into temptation because you know that the devil is always doing his work around us, but Elias knows how to fight him and would die before committing a mortal sin.” (52) Although her faith is ultimately betrayed, Elias’s mother understands a metaphysical romantic’s struggle in a world of material pragmatists, especially when you are expected to be one of them.

In Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, the lines between genders are not as clearly drawn as in Grazia Deledda’s work. Nonetheless, Tolstoy portrays Levin as at least a man struggling to grasp the meaning of life and finding it in religion. Furthermore, tying into our third binary construct of wealth/poverty, the great Russian writer notes that Levin becomes able to recognize the metaphysical through a peasant:

“Fedor says that Kirillov, the caretaker, lives for his belly. It’s understandable and reasonable. We all, like rational beings, cannot live otherwise, than for the belly. And suddenly the same Fedor says that it is bad [to live] for the belly; rather it is necessary to live for the truth, for god, and I understand him! And I and the millions of people who lived centuries ago and are living now, the peasants, the poor in spirit and the wise, who thought and wrote about it, speaking the same thing in their obscure language – we all agree on this one thing: why we should live and what is good. I, and all these people, have only one solid, unquestionable and clear knowledge, and knowledge cannot be explained by reason – it is beyond reason and has no reason and can have no consequences.” (778)

In addition to a peasant conveying this undisputed truth to a landowner trying to live like a peasant, we encounter reason (rationality) being linked to the material, while the obscure language of the truth, the universal (“one solid, unquestionable and clear knowledge”), cannot be explained by reason. Tolstoy directly ties materialism to not only the body, but also the part of the body, the belly, that literally receives food, while the contrast is something “we all know,” but cannot be pinned down anywhere in this world. Specifically, this plays out in the titular character Anna who does not discover Levinesque spiritual enlightenment, killing herself instead as she is unable to come to terms with the limitations of earthly existence, specifically the limits of worldly love. It cannot, however, be said that all women in Tolstoy are materialistic: Both Kitty in Anna Karenina and especially Natasha Rostova in War and Peace bear and achieve an absolute symbiosis with the metaphysical.

In the case of the impish Natasha Rostova, she goes out on a hunt with her brother Nikolai. When they stop at an uncle’s log cabin, the host pulls out a guitar. Both Natasha and her uncle separately enter into a different realm (without any romantic interest in each other). First, he is described as assuming a new personality: Previously serious and quiet, he now becomes funny and laughs. Yet Natasha’s metamorphosis surpasses him by far: Not only does she transform herself by dancing, but she does so by exhibiting complete harmony with the Russian folk, although she has been raised in the aristocracy by a French governess. Without any experience in folk dancing, she knows all the steps, does everything right, as if she had “imbibed this spirit from the Russian air.” The narrator further points to the metaphysical nature of this moment by posing questions in the text and describing spectators as vacillating between laughter and tears at the beauty.

While gender distinctions cannot be assigned in Tolstoy, he does tie humbleness, simplicity, asceticism, labor and a lack of rationality/reason to the metaphysical. Fedor is a peasant. Levin may be an aristocrat, but he disdains high society, choosing farming and philosophical reflection instead. Kitty nearly dies when she becomes enamored by the glamorous solider Vronsky and finds happiness in the countryside with Levin. Natasha Rostova, also a member of high society, imbibes the spirit in a log cabin in the forest. The truth is experienced in fields and is beyond reason as Levin discovers through the peasant Fedor. By contrast, socialites like Anna and Vronsky ultimately commit suicide (Anna) or seek to die (Vronsky) when they run out of worldly distractions to keep them occupied.

(…to be continued…)

Series

January: The Pack – Alejandra Baccino (Uruguay)

February: The Pink Shirt – Talia Stotts (America)

March: Dragging the Past out into the Light – Kate Korneeva (Russia)

April: Looking Forward to Spring – Marilin Guerrero Casas (Cuba)

May: Every Little Thing – Gennady Bondarenko (Ukraine)

June: The Girl Who Chased the Rainbow – Toni Wallis (Sarah-Leah Pimentel) (South Africa)

July: Another World – Jonay Quintero Hernandez (Spain)

August: Life after Nare – Nane Sevunts (Armine Asryan) (Armenia)

September: Meeting My Homeland – Rayan Harake (Lebanon)

October: Catching Water (Part Two) – Javier Gomez (Argentina)

November: Remember – Seyit Ali Dastan (Turkey)

December: Exposition: Conveyors of the Metaphysical in Literary Fiction – Cases Studies from In the Middle, Conceived and Literary Fiction

Background – Context

In the Middle – Prelude to a Contemporary Transadaptation, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2020)

Peripatetic Alterity: A Philosophical Treatise on the Spectrum of Being – Romantics and Pragmatists by Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)

La Syncrétion of Polarization and Extremes Transposée, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)

The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2018)

L’anthologie of Global Instability Transpuesta, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2017)

From Wahnsinnig to the Loony Bin: German and Russian Stories Transposed to Modern-day America, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2013)

Emblems and stories on the international community

Perception by country – Transposing emblems, articles, short stories and reports from around the world

Credits

Cover photo: Eskişehir, Turkey – Schizophrenia – Phovius (Unsplash)
Source: The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed

by Angelika Friedrich and Henry Whittlesey

The characteristic of being metaphysical/spiritual makes up the core of the distinction between pragmatists and romantics in Peripatetic Alterity. This treatise posits the materialist worldview of pragmatists as being in contrast to the metaphysical orientation of romantics. Whereas the philosophical treatise adopts the approach of delineating these differences primarily on the basis of contemporary empirical findings, we will address some forms the metaphysical/spiritual takes in literary fiction and attempt to show how the one or the other is associated with certain secondary characteristics that often underscore the author’s perspective.

To keep the scope of this paper manageable, we will confine our examination to four metaphysical phenomena expressed in earthly reality: i) the first is comprised of the classic invocation of religious beliefs. The dyad here is shaped by the conventional differentiation between focusing on life before us versus attending to the afterlife while on earth; ii) second, “evidence” of and belief in metaphysical forces on earth constitutes a means of contextualizing the metaphysical in the “physical”; iii) the third appears in the state of falling in love, which is often a trope employed by authors to reveal the metaphysical mindset of romantic characters; iv) finally, a second self or alternative identity, sometimes discovered through illness or disease, acts as a means for representing the metaphysical.

This metaphysical/materialist duality is observed in many binary constructs that act as a backdrop to emphasize the respective characterization. One common place we can unearth it is in gender, although no gender is consistently associated with one pole or the other: Sometimes women are ascribed as closer to the metaphysical, other times men. Another dichotomy revealing a division can be found in youth and its proximity to existentiality against adulthood and the need to survive materially. However, old age may prompt a return to an existential mindset. A third surfaces with wealth in contrast to poverty, where the accumulation of assets is logically viewed as an outgrowth of a material approach, while the precariat is endowed with an innate understanding of the otherworldly. Additional frameworks include indoors/outdoors or materialist political ideology (capitalism or socialism) vs. balance between various stakeholders, with outdoors and balance being tied to the metaphysical.

Although we will not delve into the topic of materialism here, it is helpful for producing a clear picture of the world being described to remember that materialism is the foil or contrast to the metaphysical. It is understood to be a dismissal of the unknown for the benefit of concentrating on our immediate surroundings. As discussed at length in Peripatetic Alterity, it is closely tied to consumption. The accumulation of assets, property and objects generally reflects such materialism.

Below we will present some case studies with a wide range of authors. A few are well-known classicists from various countries – Grazzia Deledda (Italy), Leo Tolstoy (Russia), Fyodor Dostoevsky (Russia), Ivan Turgenev (Russia), Paul Auster (America) – while others are lesser known writers – Valentina Akssy (Ukraine), Galina Nikolaeva (former Soviet Union), Alexandra Kollontai (former Soviet Union), and contributors to our project. The paper is broken down into the four aforementioned metaphysical phenomena, each examined in the context of specific works of literature. These examples further reveal the constructs adopted by authors to portray the metaphysical/spiritual by also integrating a secondary characteristic to ensure correct interpretation by the reader.

(…to be continued…)

Series

January: The Pack – Alejandra Baccino (Uruguay)

February: The Pink Shirt – Talia Stotts (America)

March: Dragging the Past out into the Light – Kate Korneeva (Russia)

April: Looking Forward to Spring – Marilin Guerrero Casas (Cuba)

May: Every Little Thing – Gennady Bondarenko (Ukraine)

June: The Girl Who Chased the Rainbow – Toni Wallis (Sarah-Leah Pimentel) (South Africa)

July: Another World – Jonay Quintero Hernandez (Spain)

August: Life after Nare – Nane Sevunts (Armine Asryan) (Armenia)

September: Meeting My Homeland – Rayan Harake (Lebanon)

October: Catching Water (Part Two) – Javier Gomez (Argentina)

November: Remember – Seyit Ali Dastan (Turkey)

December: Exposition: Conveyors of the Metaphysical in Literary Fiction – Cases Studies from In the Middle, Conceived and Literary Fiction

Background – Context

In the Middle – Prelude to a Contemporary Transadaptation, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2020)

Peripatetic Alterity: A Philosophical Treatise on the Spectrum of Being – Romantics and Pragmatists by Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)

La Syncrétion of Polarization and Extremes Transposée, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)

The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2018)

L’anthologie of Global Instability Transpuesta, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2017)

From Wahnsinnig to the Loony Bin: German and Russian Stories Transposed to Modern-day America, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2013)

Emblems and stories on the international community

Perception by country – Transposing emblems, articles, short stories and reports from around the world

Credits

Cover photo: Eskişehir, Turkey – Schizophrenia – Phovius (Unsplash)
Source: The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed

By Seyit Ali Dastan

We walked for some time until another dirt path crossed the railway. “We will go this way,” – my mom pointed toward the turn. I jumped on the railway again and passed across it. There were reeds swinging in the wind. It was still daytime, but the evening was getting closer and there were some intermittent gusts.

I saw a strange bird with a reddish crown on it. Probably an endemic species of songbird. I started to chase after the quite uncommon sight for a kid like me. The bird was not flying high, so could easily be followed. It disappeared, but I found it again from its song. This lingered a while. In the end, however, I lost it. I could neither see it nor hear its warble.

Then silence prevailed: no bird calling, no wind whipping, no tree rustling, and no footsteps. But wait, where was my mom? The path of the railway made a half turn, and I could not see beyond due to the long reeds. I started to look at the turn and wait for my mom to come after me. But she was not there. I was out of her sight, and she was out of mine. She usually did not let me go so far away from her, and now she was not coming. I felt lost. Where was she?

Then I dared to walk back to the railway. My slow steps turned faster as I reached the curve. After I had rounded it, I saw my mom on the railway. She was just standing on it, not moving at all. She had taken off her headscarf, and the wind was blowing it together with her coat. It seemed to me as if her body was hovering over the railway. This impression was magnified by the light of the setting sun, which let me see her in a silhouette against the dark orange sky background.

I shouted “Mom!” and started to run towards her. I was leaving dust behind so fast did I run. But she stood still on the railway and did not call me or come to me. I finally reached and hugged her. As she did not bend down, I could just put my head to her belly. She finally responded to me. She grasped my head and gently touched my hair. I felt the same warmth from these hands when they were swinging me a while ago below the willow tree. And the scent of my mom’s purple coat alone was giving me the same sense of endless trust. But my ears on my mom’s belly cannot yet hear the beats of my sister who was still nothing but a tiny hearth inside my mom, and I did not know we were taking three people on our path home that late afternoon.

As we left the railway, I held my mom’s hands tightly and said, “Never let go of my hand again.” Admittedly, during the rest of my life, I did not hold her to this promise. And I lost the gifted coin a few years later. And one evening some 30 years later I took the train to Ankara Airport’s international terminal, leaving her hands back in Kayseri. But in any case, on that late 1984 afternoon, a passenger in a train racing by us would see a mom holding the hand of a kid as well as a kid holding his mom’s hand. And the train would be so fast that our image was momentarily one, and we were in the midst of a swirling pattern of green fields and orange sky, like two indistinct figures in a Van Gogh painting. The metamorphosis from childhood to boyhood and then to manhood might have been started on that fabulous day, each stage leaving some stationary steel traces behind.

2021: Conceived – Volume 2 of a Contemporary Transadaptation

January: The Pack – Alejandra Baccino (Uruguay)

February: The Pink Shirt – Talia Stotts (America)

March: Dragging the Past out into the Light – Kate Korneeva (Russia)

April: Looking Forward to Spring – Marilin Guerrero Casas (Cuba)

May: Every Little Thing – Gennady Bondarenko (Ukraine)

June: The Girl Who Chased the Rainbow – Toni Wallis (Sarah-Leah Pimentel) (South Africa)

July: Another World – Jonay Quintero Hernandez (Spain)

August: Life after Nare – Nane Sevunts (Armine Asryan) (Armenia)

September: Meeting My Homeland – Rayan Harake (Lebanon)

October: Catching Water (Part Two) – Javier Gomez (Argentina)

November: The Railway – Seyit Ali Dastan (Turkey)

December: Los Caminantes – Veronica Cordido (Venezuela)

Background – Context

In the Middle – Prelude to a Contemporary Transadaptation, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2020)

Peripatetic Alterity: A Philosophical Treatise on the Spectrum of Being – Romantics and Pragmatists by Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)

La Syncrétion of Polarization and Extremes Transposée, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)

The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2018)

L’anthologie of Global Instability Transpuesta, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2017)

From Wahnsinnig to the Loony Bin: German and Russian Stories Transposed to Modern-day America, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2013)

Emblems and stories on the international community

Perception by country – Transposing emblems, articles, short stories and reports from around the world

Credits

Photo: Turkey – Stony road – vetasster (Shutterstock)
Source: The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed

By Seyit Ali Dastan

I was walking right on the railway itself, while my mom was on the ground. The bed of the tracks was a bit higher than the ground, like half a meter, and there were no trees close to it. I was moving on the steel bars like an acrobat, changing and running between them by leaping and hopping over the tracks like a squirrel.

At one point my mom called me “Ufuk! Son, Wait.” I stopped and looked at her. She continued “Don’t make noise!” At that moment of silence, I was barely standing while my arms were open to keep balance with a single foot on the track. The only thing I could hear was some calls of the birds and the rustling of the wind on the plants. Then, my mom climbed the railway. She put her head on the iron bar for a second and then called to me, “Come here son, put your ear on the bar like me.” She put her left ear on the bar and I put my right ear on it. We faced each other so close that I could feel her breath. As I gazed in her eyes, I saw thin bloodlines in the whites, as if she had just cried.

She said quietly, very quietly:

“Can you hear that?” – She focused on and repeated, “Can you hear that?”

“No, mom,” I replied. “What am I supposed to hear?”

“Shh!” she said and stressed, “Just listen; you can hear it”.

As I was looking right inside the pupils of her eyes, I could hear a deep noise or a deep roar. Where was this sound coming from? From the depths of the world or from somewhere inside of my mom? Was it the whizz of the big bang or our hearts beating? At that moment, I had no idea what that sound was as it increased every second. Then, my mom lifted her head from the track and looked in both directions. She took the last coin, 50 kurus, from her pocket, put it on the track, pulled me away from the railway by my hand: “Watch it now!”

Our eyes fixed on the coin, I started to hear the sound that I had just heard on the surface of the track. As the roar got louder, I finally saw the train coming from where we were heading. The operator blew the horn as it approached us, probably trying to keep us away from it. It was a passenger train with wide windows, so the passengers might see a mom with a purple coat and his little boy holding each other’s hand.

After the train went by in less than a minute, we checked the coin. It was so crushed that it had become a sharp metal cylindrical plate. My mom then put the coin in my small pocket and said,

“This is a gift for you.”

“A gift? But it is no longer money.”

“Don’t worry, it does not really have value as money anyway. Just keep it as it is.”

“Until when?” I asked.

“Forever!”

“When does forever end, mom?”

“Until…” She stopped thoughtfully as she probably realized that I was not old enough to understand her words. She looked at the railway in both directions again and, fingering it, added, “Until this railway ceases to be here.”

My mom was just trying to evade my questions. She could not know that the railway would survive the transformation of this area in the coming years. As the streams and the creeks dried up, the farms were left to some wild weeds, the trees were cut, a new district rose up with a new form of life. However, the railway remained in place, even the buildings were set back many meters. And if somebody were to time-travel from the past to today, the railway is the single benchmark that was both present then and now… A new district has born, grew and changed all around the constant steel tracks of the railway. Those who travel on the trains once saw farms, cows and scattered trees, while now they gazed on fences, apartments, roads and people all around.

(…to be continued…)

2021: Conceived – Volume 2 of a Contemporary Transadaptation

January: The Pack – Alejandra Baccino (Uruguay)

February: The Pink Shirt – Talia Stotts (America)

March: Dragging the Past out into the Light – Kate Korneeva (Russia)

April: Looking Forward to Spring – Marilin Guerrero Casas (Cuba)

May: Every Little Thing – Gennady Bondarenko (Ukraine)

June: The Girl Who Chased the Rainbow – Toni Wallis (Sarah-Leah Pimentel) (South Africa)

July: Another World – Jonay Quintero Hernandez (Spain)

August: Life after Nare – Nane Sevunts (Armine Asryan) (Armenia)

September: Meeting My Homeland – Rayan Harake (Lebanon)

October: Catching Water (Part Two) – Javier Gomez (Argentina)

November: The Railway – Seyit Ali Dastan (Turkey)

December: Los Caminantes – Veronica Cordido (Venezuela)

Background – Context

In the Middle – Prelude to a Contemporary Transadaptation, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2020)

Peripatetic Alterity: A Philosophical Treatise on the Spectrum of Being – Romantics and Pragmatists by Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)

La Syncrétion of Polarization and Extremes Transposée, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)

The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2018)

L’anthologie of Global Instability Transpuesta, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2017)

From Wahnsinnig to the Loony Bin: German and Russian Stories Transposed to Modern-day America, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2013)

Emblems and stories on the international community

Perception by country – Transposing emblems, articles, short stories and reports from around the world

Credits

Photo: Kayseri, Turkey – The road home – Abdullah Durman (Shutterstock)
Source: The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed

By Seyit Ali Dastan

We walked across the highway, with my mom was firmly holding me. She said we would take a shortcut through the fields away from the roads so that she would not need to hold my hand. We then entered a path through the fields. It was a little wider than a trail and lined by tall grass from the spring rain. Even though I was able to partly see these fields from above when we went by bus or minibus, this was the first time I passed through them. I was walking in front of my mom. The grass was so high that I felt like walking inside a tunnel towards an unknown world.

The notable difference between the center of town and these fields was that I could feel the wind much better. The wall of the tunnel, grass and brush were moving with the wind and I felt like I was ensconced by rhythmically swinging plants around me. The ground was dry. Even if it was spring. May at that year must have been warmer than normal since otherwise the ground would be wet and we would have to avoid mud. I was walking quickly in this strange world and sometimes getting out of my mom’s sight. In such cases, she would yell from behind me “Ufuk! Wait, son!” I would stop for a moment, letting her see me, and then speed up again and even run.

This chasing and game of hide-and-seek ended when I reached a tiny creek. These creeks were either natural branches of a river, a terminating and fading edge of a larger river, or an irrigation channel. In every case, they were used to irrigate the vegetable planting in these areas. As I reached the creek, I climbed a smallish bank to look around. Ahead of the creek, there was lettuce and cabbage lined up waiting to be harvested. The rows of beans were yet to grow but the sticks that beans would cling to and rise on were already fastened in the soil. The patch was filled with some tinier and shorter greenery such as parsley and spinach. There were some silverberry trees randomly scattered around with dizzying scents permeating the area.

When I turned back, I saw my mom putting one of her hands on her forehead and looking at me. She was hardly breathing and seemed tired, although we hadn’t walked too much.

– “Come down son! What are you looking at?”

– “I am trying to see our home, mom.”

– “You can’t see it yet. We need to walk a bit further.”

I went back to her. She extended her hand but I ran away again. She yelled from behind: “Slowly, please. Walk near the creek. Don’t get too close to it!”

We started to walk alongside the creek. This creek and others around it would be the first to die in the transformation of these areas over the coming years. They were dried out, and the vegetable farming ended. Farmers and landowners started to sell their fields to building contractors to develop the area. During the next ten years, almost the entire space we were then walking through would turn into a new district within the city. The area where we were walking at that time would host streets, shopping centers, mosques, municipal social facilities, schools, and of course residential units. The original city dwellers would remain in more central locations for another decade or so, while these newly opened construction areas were filled by immigrants. But these new districts would get older residents in just two decades and then, in the 2010s, streams of new immigrants flocked to them.

At some point, the creek became wider and thus shallower. It looked like a small pond encircled by local trees. These were poplars and willows commonly found in central Anatolia. They can easily and vigorously grow in watery areas like this. The willows create a poetic impression while the poplars produce harmonious sound in windy weather. That is why this place seemed to be used by locals and farmers as a picnic or resting area. There was burned charcoal, some purposefully placed smooth stones for sitting as well as pieces of wood. I started to throw pebbles at this pond-like body of water while waiting for my mom to catch me. She finally came there and leaned on a stone. As I was throwing the rocks, we were both listening to a pastoral symphony of rustling poplar trees, and plops in the water from the falling pebbles and the gentle splash of the creek. It was an exceptional moment. I was feeling the eternal resonance carved in my soul. A kid does not have the woes of the past because he doesn’t have a past, and he has no concerns for the future because he can’t comprehend the predicaments ahead. That often makes childhood the most beautiful interval of a person’s entire life, a period which many people reminisce on later. This was my case. On the other hand, my mom is like a Tarkovskian character behind me, sitting and resting on a cold stone, looking at me and struggling to drift through the turbulence of her life.

This hypnosis enslaving both of us finally ended when I see a swing hanging on the willow tree and emptily moving with the wind. I asked my mom to swing me on it, and she agreed to do it. After a few minutes, she said that we need to go and arrive home before the sunset. We kept walking next to the creek until it reached a railway. At that cross-section, the creek was sent through a large concrete pipe under the tracks. This was where we changed our path and started to walk along it.

(…to be continued…)

2021: Conceived – Volume 2 of a Contemporary Transadaptation

January: The Pack – Alejandra Baccino (Uruguay)

February: The Pink Shirt – Talia Stotts (America)

March: Dragging the Past out into the Light – Kate Korneeva (Russia)

April: Looking Forward to Spring – Marilin Guerrero Casas (Cuba)

May: Every Little Thing – Gennady Bondarenko (Ukraine)

June: The Girl Who Chased the Rainbow – Toni Wallis (Sarah-Leah Pimentel) (South Africa)

July: Another World – Jonay Quintero Hernandez (Spain)

August: Life after Nare – Nane Sevunts (Armine Asryan) (Armenia)

September: Meeting My Homeland – Rayan Harake (Lebanon)

October: Catching Water (Part Two) – Javier Gomez (Argentina)

November: The Railway – Seyit Ali Dastan (Turkey)

December: Los Caminantes – Veronica Cordido (Venezuela)

Background – Context

In the Middle – Prelude to a Contemporary Transadaptation, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2020)

Peripatetic Alterity: A Philosophical Treatise on the Spectrum of Being – Romantics and Pragmatists by Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)

La Syncrétion of Polarization and Extremes Transposée, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)

The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2018)

L’anthologie of Global Instability Transpuesta, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2017)

From Wahnsinnig to the Loony Bin: German and Russian Stories Transposed to Modern-day America, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2013)

Emblems and stories on the international community

Perception by country – Transposing emblems, articles, short stories and reports from around the world

Credits

Photo: Erzurum, Turkey – Tracks – Bekir Vahit Telli (Shutterstock)
Source: The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed