Archive for the 'prose' Category


The Black Box – short presentation of the book

This is a novel about artists and about art, with sometimes satirical, sometimes nostalgic accents. The action takes place in England and follows the characters throughout half a century, beginning with the ‘60s. It is a book that tries to raise certain questions regarding the boundaries of freedom or the powers of desire, pleasure and beauty. “The Black Box” is a metaphor for memory and I’m not referring only to individual memory, but also to a visceral memory, which manifests itself like a kind of instinct.

The three main characters may appear to be the three heads of the same “dragon”. In his “Republic”, Plato elaborated the idea that the soul is made up of three parts: a sensory one, tied to carnal impulses, a passionate one and an intellectual one. Being a rationalist, of course he placed the intellectual part of the soul, which was also endowed with transcendental functions, above the other two. Contemporary science has detected four functioning systems of the brain and has clarified that our passions stem from the area of the reptilian brain, whereas reasoning from areas of the brain which are a more recent product of evolution. Indeed, there is a reflexive brain, which is responsible for reasoning and which can be considered to be the home of the intellectual part of the soul, and a purely instinctual brain. I, for one, would claim that the entire cerebral system is a compass, a factory of discernment and that discernment manifests itself as instinct in a certain line of it and as reasoning in another line, but I wouldn’t prioritize matters, I wouldn’t say: the primitive brain is the inferior one, because its products are the most transcendental and super-personal ones. Our passions and sensitive experiences are our vital engine and our pièce de résistance, it is because of them that we have become what we are as a species, and they comprise the entire experience of the adaptive and evolutional process that we have undergone. The figments of the intellect and of consciousness disappear together with our physical disappearance, whereas the substance which passions and emotions are made of are handed down to the following generations, they are the connecting element and the coagulation substance between us, as representatives of the same species. I recommend the books written by an anthropologist specialized in neuro-biology on this subject; her name is Helen Fisher. She is the person who has apparently gone the furthest in the research regarding passion and the way it ensures and has ensured our survival. Let’s go back to Plato and the model of the soul that he imagined. I too tend to represent the soul on three levels, which, however, I don’t arrange into a hierarchy. I consider them absolutely vital for one another. The three levels are: the emotional and passionate level that we traditionally attribute to the heart, the intellectual level that we associate with the products of consciousness, and the transcendental level, in which revelations and intuitions manifest themselves and which, I might add, is responsible for forms of pre-cognition and spontaneous cognition, and which practically somehow captures something of the collective experience and knowledge; it is the level that puts us in touch with the truths of the species, with the legacy of wisdom. Well, the three main characters of the novel may be understood as embodiments of these three levels of the soul. They are interdependent…. Each of the three protagonists is tied to the other two, through all the fibers of destiny. They are two men and a woman. And, despite common sense clichés, the female character is the representative of the transcendental part of the soul, whereas the male characters designate the intellectual level, namely the passionate level of the soul. A subsidiary theme of the novel is the one originated from Plato, which connects the roots of erotic experience with the ones of aesthetic fascination.


Fragment from the novel ‘The Center of the World’

‘It has happened to all of us, and not once, on a May or June evening, to find ourselves at sunset lying in bed with a book in our hands. The book takes us outside of time, in a present in which the mind takes refuge when it doesn’t find a foothold in the temporal present. Reading is the simplest and most direct contact with eternity, an eternity which is not at all infinite time, but non-time, beyond-time. If you put down the book for a second and turn off the light, if you confide yourself even for an instant to crepuscular rumors, to the murmur coming from the street, blended with the shadows around, you realize immediately that you are in the center of the world. For such an experience, you have to live in a big city and in a very populated area of it. On May and June evenings, when it’s not too hot outside, it’s full of children. But the scene could take place anywhere and anytime, on a street in Algeria, Argentina, France or China. The children yell, play, quarrel, whistle, you hear a “moron” or a “chicken head” or a “mom, mom” from time to time. These words are important, because they are basically the basis of mundane existence. Incarnated or not, present or not, the mother represents unconditional love towards the poor, miserable, oppressed individuals that we are. Everything that inspires us and sets in motion the adult gestures, the acts, the human facts, concerns either the “longing” and need for unconditional love – because that’s what a mother stands for – or the need to repair, to defeat, to surmount various accidents of fate, to survive the contact with “idiocy”. The idiot man and woman are the mediators of accidents. They are neither villains (they don’t intend to do harm), nor virulent and active stupid people (natural pests); the idiot does harm without wanting to and is stupid without wanting to. When we are in the soul of the world, we know that only mothers and accidents exist.

Even if the world was completely extinguished, if it disappeared without a trace, swallowed up by the darkness of a universe that creates and destroys relentlessly, this scene ensures its eternity; even if our human world will no longer exist in the memory of a single being, even if there was no consciousness to mentally reproduce it, to invoke it.

Melancholy is the same with love. The being’s separation between here and now, respectively there and then, is not a work of embodied life. Melancholy is the very expression of the assiduous, invincible need of the individual to merge with another being. It’s a need that no language, no doctrine, no ideology could invent. It is. It preexists any language, any doctrine. An ideology can only speculate what is already seeded inside the human being, what is already common cause and body with it. An ideology can pervert, can manipulate, but it cannot create human feelings, intimate experiences. We can be mistaken with regard to the soul, we can bury it in mystifications, but what makes us perceive or understand existence is genuine, it erupts from our depths. The belief in the existence of the soul is a vital need, it is consubstantial to human nature. The myths of the couple belong to this limited, conditioned, lonely being who is man. Even if they are the scaffold of certain illusions, they are vital illusions. In the end, everything is reduced to longing, to that hunger of the being to get out of the ring of fire, of the bubble of air, of the patch of ground, of the aquatic channel of solitude.

There is no solar love, you cannot banish pain from love, you can’t put it on the list of optional courses. Love is pure melancholy because it’s not just desire, it’s not just search for the self, but it is especially thirst for immortality, even if we are mortals, precisely because we are mortals. Love is our individual way of saying we want to be in life and in bodies. But we know very well that this can’t last forever, temporality crushes our being… it fills it with shadows. Stop running for a second, man! That’s why I’m writing a poem from the center of the world for you, from the optic nerve of solitude, from the womb of melancholy, to ask you to stop for a second in your mad rush to God knows where. Forget for a while about all those to whom the child within you would have yelled “moron!” at, on the street, at sunset, in a city from the thousands of cities in the world, in an age from the hundreds of ages when children played in the streets. Take a break. Take a deep breath. Be! Just be! Say “mother” and you will realize that the civil war taking place inside of you can reach a truce. The woman in you who says “moron” can shake hands with the man who says “mother”. There is nothing Freudian here, because it’s not about a certain mother in flesh and blood, but about the mother in the human being. Forgiveness is the work of this mother… it’s her breath. How can you love serenely when there is hunger? When there are children being tortured, women raped, women in love forced to defeat their desires, and by woman I mean heart? By taking refuge, by burying yourself in the bunker of a identity counterfeited through social contagion? By fleeing from yourself at the periphery of the being, in that obscure area where you can live peacefully the illusion of isolation? How can you reach that beyond suffering, lucid??? Hedonism is an infantile utopia… a utopia possible only before the first contact with reality.’

‘Nothing injected melancholy into my bloodstream, no experience and no crisis,’ Cosmin thought. It had been there for a long time… forever. He first felt it when he was around 10 years old, one summer evening, when the murmur of the street and the cries of the children blended with the shadows around. And tears gushed from his eyes because he loved all those children immensely, he loved all the creatures of the world without limits, and they would all disappear one day, they would suffer, they would be the victims of morons and the orphans of mothers.

‘… There is no individual, there is no I… they are mere fictions of the subject. I am those children who here and now, in Peru, in Russia, in China, in France, are running around in the street at sunset and yell and play and rejoice or quarrel. I am all those children. The universal mother – not a virgin – suffers inside of me for each of them, she worries for each of them, the universal man desires through me all possible caresses, the universal woman in me doesn’t cease to rebel and grumble between her teeth: “you morons!” Or the other way around… All these god-people are right, they are legitimate, they all have reasons, they all have expectations and what is tragic is that they all coexist in each of us, even when the voice and will of one of them is subordinated and silenced by the voice and will of the other.

This is a poem without a name. In the center of the world, we all have the same name: HUMAN or ANDROGYN. There are no proper names, but it’s all good. That’s what ensures our chance to immortality. Cats are eternal, one of my friends would say. Fir trees are eternal. And we, humans, could be eternal if we lived like cats or like fir trees. We are not mortal or immortal optionally. If you want to live like an immortal, you can. Neither Paul, nor Freud, nor Democritus will stand in your way. But immortals are no strangers to melancholy. Melancholy is their second nature. When you understand that there is nothing personal in what you feel, it gets quiet.’

copyright Ilinca Bernea


"For moral reasons ... the world appears to me to be put together in such a painful way that I prefer to believe that it was not created ... intentionally."
- Stanisław Lem

"The most henious and the must cruel crimes of which history has record have been committed under the cover of religion or equally noble motives".
- Mohandas K Gandhi, Young India, July 7, 1950

“Organized Christianity has probably done
more to retard the ideals that were it’s founders
than any other agency in the World.”
– Richard Le Gallienne

"I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires." - Susan B. Anthony

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