Perhaps I’m going native: I feel like England after the war. Victorious, but exhausted. Just about beaten the flu, but now I need to sleep for a week and still can’t write anything without it descending into crabbed, stilted bile.
Somewhere in one of my crates which are, hopefully, on the sea by now and heading this way, is my rather grubby copy of Wyndham Lewis’
novel Self Condemned
, an exemplary diagnosis of the condition of the exile. It is a book I have frequently turned to seeking understanding of three hellish years spent in Brisbane. The personality stripped of all memory and identity becomes reduced to a nervous system exposed to the elements, instinctively responding to each stimulus with anger and fear. It is a condition I have been battling against for the past week. Mostly with drugs. Lovely, lovely drugs.
Speaking of drugs, crabbiness and exile, it’s time to get back to the anglophone Muscovite newspaper The Exile
*. I’d previously linked to their beautiful, Jove-like annihilation
of the worst book ever written, which popped back into my head when I read something about it now being turned into a movie. This does not surprise me: it is the destiny of all faketion
. The book itself is a codicil to the book deal, the film rights. Every one of these bookoid wastes of space has been bought and sold a dozen times over before they hit the shelves. The ones we notice are scattered eructations of a common canker that runs beneath the surface of our attention.
Speaking of The Exile
, it’s always invigorating to meet such an accomplished bunch of haters. Anyone who can publish a Shit List
that kicks off with The Holy Ghost and Bob Dylan isn’t afraid of setting themselves high standards. There’s much gratuitous shitkicking perculiar to middle-aged adolescents away from home, but it’s worth sifting while pretending to work or write your thesis.
Ever wanted to catch a train across Siberia? Don’t
Up until that point, the car had a slowly intensified, relatively bearable acidic smell of unwashed bodies. I only noticed it when I’d been outside. Each wagon had a distinct smell and I learned to appreciate our own. I doubt it was better or worse than any of the others, but after so many hours it had grown familiar, almost homey. They say even tanners stop noticing the smell after a while. The important thing was to avoid close quarters with any of the serious offenders, none of whom, thankfully, were bunking with me. Other cars’ musk would burn my nostrils, make me breathe in short gasps for the length of the corridor.
And after you’ve been trapped in this tiny, uncomfortable, constantly rattling room for five days straight, you’re stuck in a godforsaken frozen shit-town, with another five-day journey before reaching anything like civilization again.
You can also find helpful advice from perpetual dissident Edward Limonov (possibly the only one to be expelled by the Soviet Union and charged with sedition by a post-communist Russian government**) on what to do if you’re arrested
. I expect this is more useful and to the point than the usual stuff you’ll find in those ‘Know Your Rights’ pamphlets.
In order to not provoke unnecessary violence on you don’t tease them, don’t mock them: speak seriously, with determination, straight-forward. They will see what kind of man you are in a few first hours of interrogation: you should control yourself at least during three days. If by the chance you are not tortured in those three days, very unlikely that you will be physically abused later.
You might want to memorise this as a precaution, what with your local MP and copper getting very keen on detention without charge in this difficult international climate. It’s unlikely, sure, but mistakes happen. Just make sure you rat out one of your neighbours after the kerfuffle’s been sorted out. You know, the one with the noisy fucking monkey bike.
* Not to be confused with Ezra Pound’s
short-lived literary mag of the same name; that was back in the 1920s. Probably not online.
** Charges including conspiracy to overthrow the state of Kazakhstan
Filed under: Writing by Ben.H