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On Reading Rene Daumal’s Mount Analogue  |  Kyrie   |  Mansion

On Reading Rene Daumal’s Mount Analogue

First I’d have to say a few things about Bookstores in Buenos Aires.
Everyone that knows me knows I have a very strained relationship with my motherland. Some days I regret anything that is Argentinean in me or in others, with a few exceptions; some others I wear my National Soccer Team shirt
Argentinean soccer still makes me vibrate at the very least once every four years. I regularly listen to Tango music and adore some of its poets. It is very hard to find me without a Mate in my hand - no matter what the time of the day is.
And I am always looking to find something close to a Buenos Aires Bookstore, wherever I go.
To be more precise, there is two kinds of Bookstores there, or rather there was until the mid-seventies. On one hand there is the same stores you’d find anywhere else in the world, from the outlets to grand scale publishers, the discount book trade, and the same impersonal franchised bookstores as elsewhere. On the other hand...
On the other hand there is the out-of-the-way bookstores in the side streets and in the distant districts, where you can find the rarest editions and the unique prints. But mostly you’ll find the wealth of wisdom and dedication of their owners/salesmen, undoubtedly one of the rarest birds of Buenos Aires. This people you can rely on for guidance in all literary matters, from finding a scarce book to planning a conscientious reading - a literary school, an author and his influences, you name it - They’ll know about it all and guide you through it, quite often to their own economical prejudice, giving hours of their time to end up selling much less, or cheaper books than they could have done, had they not such demanding scruples.
A family that cultivates the habit of reading in Buenos Aires, has their own "librero" (bookstore owner), as they have their doctor or dentist to whom they visit periodic and faithfully. When the child decides he wants to learn to play chess, the librero provides the best chess primer for that particular lad, if there is interest in the French Symbolists, or the German Romantics, he will provide a carefully planned selection. The service is not only wholesome, but also intensely personal. You swear for your librero, you recommend him to your friends, and above all you always trust his judgment.
Our "librero" was Enzo Fiorentino. We had a running tab at Enzo’s. He was very good and knowledgeable, and had a number of customers interested in the then obscure areas of thought that have developed into almost mainstream sciences henceforth such as Semiology and Epistemology as well as the more traditional History, Philosophy, Linguistics and Philology.
I do not know how Enzo and his group of customers became obsessed with Rene Daumal. I do know that finding a copy of "Mount Analog" was of the utmost importance. The book was not in catalog at the moment from any available source. Locating a pirated volume - I was never clear it this was either a copy already translated by a student or a French tome that Enzo paid a student to translate - and producing a small number of linotyped copies for his clients was undoubtedly Enzo’s crowning achievement.
This book was also my father’s pride. We lost it briefly a couple of times, the first time when we left Argentina, and then in Spain when we loaned it to someone that loaned it to someone... But we always manage to recover it.
The "Mount Analog" was not kept in the shelves with the rest of the books, of that I am sure. I have an ingrained visual recollection of the books in the shelves: their titles, how they look, in which shelf they were at each point in my life, in the company of what titles. I loved the bookcase and visited it often, but I have no recall, no inkling of how the most important book in our household looked.
I suppose then, that my father kept it somewhere else, perhaps because of its physical characteristics, the inherent fragility of its more or less homemade condition. Or perhaps it was because some of our friends had the habit of helping themselves freely to the contents of our library. To have read "Mount Analog" - and conversely to know other people did not - was one of the sources of my father tranquil sense of superiority.
Something like what exudes from a person that has had a unique, definitive life changing experience, but translated to the realm of the intellectual.
If I were given to cynicism I would suggest that this was precisely the reason why he never volunteered that I read it. Most likely he thought I wasn’t ready yet.
And then I left Spain and came to Canada...
That was 1984, a great deal of time and books and absences passed by until an afternoon in March 2001. I have acquired the habit of looking for cheap used books in secondhand stores such as the Salvation Army, to feed a whim of actually possessing the books I read - in this wonderful Canada I live in, this is surely a superfluous and wasteful idea, with the myriad of public libraries available.
The process is rather tedious and even painful, for you have to skim over hundred of book-spines, mostly from the lowest end of the literary continuum, so that your neck starts to ache from the prolonged bending. Soon your eyes stop seeing, but this takes a while to sink in, and by the time you realize it you might have missed an entire shelf and have to recommence it... and this is exactly where I was at, when my eyes fell upon a copy of "Mount Analog".
Not a linotype copy of "Mount Analog", or by any other means a remarkable edition in itself, but a simple, homely Penguin Paperback edition of "Mount Analog", the former pride of the Wainer.
The way back home, safely clutching my "prrrrreciousss" book, was full of anticipation. My life was surely about to change. Never since I finally gathered all the volumes of "A La Recherche Du Temps Perdu" I had such high expectations from a lecture.
All other reading projects where left aside and after wrestling with doubts and foreboding I immersed myself in the book.
How strange what overblown expectations can do to your perception of an experience!
The book is simply put marvelous. To an extent I suspect it really is life changing, since it forces you to review and resize yourself.
But I did not wake up the next morning to found myself changed into a fabulous animal. I had not grown an extra limb, head or even wings.
I am still I. Or almost I, until I abandon the earthly dead weights I always carry, and finally climb the mountain.
Alejandro Wainer; May 28, 2001
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The voices run through me even after the music stopped. I needed to suffer them away. Suffer them out of the soles of my feet by a compulsive walk. Burn the energy that kept the pain going until exhaustion open the doors to the stillness of the soul that was my cross never to achieve in full, if lucid.
Oh, but how Mozart mocked me, duly prodding a pain that wasn’t even mine. My feet flew under me - I was barely aware of moving, the music fuelled them so. Did he ever felt that hurt or as a drug dealer that never touches his own merchandise, he was merely able to conjure it for us to suffer?
The streets melted away in the music, and the cold dissolved away, so I ended up not noticing the resistance of the elements. Flying. Thus I couldn’t notice the world had ended, I had moved into my own time when the world just ran out of time.
I somehow manage to notice I had reached the end, for a while things around me seemed unfinished and then the canvas was white and further on there was not even canvas. And I stopped because I knew that I had left the world. I had exceeded the time of the world. The voices were still there, but now they were outside of me, as if they themselves had regained their own time outside of time.
In the darkness the painter was looking stupefied in my direction. If he was God, he sure was a surprised one. After a short while he shook his brush in the air, and in a swift movement he erased the music. He never saw me, for in the dark of the chaos I was well hidden. I stayed for ages in the shade of the canvas, where the world was no more. The painter had tired of it and whitewashed it.
I couldn’t hear the music, nor I hungered or suffer thirst, because outside of time I had no need of gathering energy to spend.
I just stayed in there thinking, about this god that had not care for us, not even knowledge of us. In spite of all the lives spend for Him, in spite of all the death, of all the cruel persecutions and all the embittered lives. He was worst than loveless or cruel: He was oblivious.
And then a drop of turpentine fell on me and dissolved me into a welcomed nothingness together with all that was, all that had never been and all that should have been, but got lost in the loins of our impervious painter.
Alejandro Wainer; August, 2001
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"What a beautiful house!" He said no sooner had he entered her "What a humbling mansion!"
And the house, she loved him for that. For him she was not grey nor cold, nor old and ruinous, but a humbling mansion instead. He always saw her as a palace and she always was a palace for him.
She saw him killed inside her one day - Murdered by intruders she had been powerless to stop. Broken her doors and trodden her soul, she was sold, condemned and abandoned. And for a while forgotten.
Her loneliness was a bitter balm that healed the wounds of her soul by changing her love into hatred, her pain into patience to lie in waiting.
Eventually they remember her: a place for crime once, now was sought as a safe haven after further crimes, a hideaway for the undesirables and their loot - their mocking presence in the belly of their victim, burning like a cancer inside a dying patient.
She certainly tried to expel them, to punish them, to somehow touch them with her loathing will, but they were deaf and impervious to the storm of her silent wrath. She remained stone, wood and glass - dead for all purposes to the world of men.
Sometimes her hatred collapsed into humiliated defeat and a tear would appear in her eyes; a tear shaped on his image; a silhouette behind a window. Eventually someone saw it and alerted the police. The house was raided, their hiding villains found and detained, and their loot was the witness of their malefaction, yet the man at the window was never accounted for.
The house was once again left alone and the legend grew. Now the doors needn’t be nailed because what kept the people out was fear.
One day another man came - another man with sincere sounding admiration in his voice: "what a house, what a lovely palace, and what magnificence! " and the house had been lonely for so long that she gave once more her heart away.
But this one didn’t come alone. It come with the smile and the voice ahead of him but the ball and hammer behind his back - and before she could withdrawn her love she was coldly murdered herself at the hands of her latest lover.
There was no heart of stone left to cry behind her, no wrought iron that couldn’t be melt in the foundry, no piece of glass that couldn’t be crushed to powder or wooden beam that wouldn’t burn or decompose.
Victoria, Wednesday, November 05, 2003
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