It's a familiar feeling isn't it, the one described by Erin, in her comment On A Year with Rilke – this closeness to someone when their art touches you, someone one has never met, who may not even be alive....
[she wrote, of Chagall - i don't know how to write his name without saying, dear marc... ]
This love for the distant, for those-not-there and maybe long dead, so-called...
And I was looking at the photo of Annemarie Schwarzenbach, and how she leans on someone else half possessive half afraid, and looks the other way, not at her, she looks to the roadside, sombre, her expression dreamy, her stance though, is robust, determined....She is standing on the road beside the car, and her companion sits on the car bonnet, this famous car they drove across the orient, and she leans against her companion's leg and looks the other way. Ella, her companion, also writer and seeker for life's meaning, traveller, one who sets off and travels into yet more life, she smiles, and her hand rests on her companion's shoulder, the one who leans onto the bonnet of her car and onto Ella's leg so comfortable so intimate, or – so determined to be close, so close as water is, or weather, she says, look, this is as natural as sunlight and will not look her feelings in the eye, she has to look away.
I address my thoughts to her I say, as I translate her work, is this a good word, what did you think, what did you feel, how much of what you did not write is there in that gesture, that longing for consolation, that no-one ever gave you, ever, but a tree gave you, somewhere in Africa, in the Congo, somewhere during the war as you wrote reports and people acted wary of you, there were rumours that you were a spy, because you spoke the language of the enemy, a German-speaking Swiss, hardly to be trusted. No consolation there. But then there was this tree -
A tree gave it to you – vision, consolation, breaking up perceptions into shards of light and colour. A tree in Africa. Strangely, what you wrote about that tree, after you'd returned to Engadine, was never published so I think, it lies in some vault in Berne, in Switzerland, for your friends said, no, that's not the way to write about it, try –
and then you died. You had your vision, and you left, ange inconsolable, as Roger Martin du Gard called you. I am travelling in your writing's footsteps, listening for the echo of the unsaid, the hand you grasped then - when it slipped from yours, the journey to the mountains in an Afghan winter, pressing other hands into your own, but always leaving empty handed.
I wish I was that tree, the rainforest, the heat, the light that reached you, Annemarie.