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Spotlight on … Max Frisch Man in the Holocene (1979)



The simple thunder crack.


Stuttering or tottering thunder: this usually comes after a lengthy silence, spreads across the whole valley, and can go on for minutes on end.


Echo thunder: shrill as a hammer striking on loose metal and setting up a whirring, fluttering echo which is louder than the peal itself.


Roll or bump thunder: relatively unfrightening, for it is reminiscent of rolling barrels bumping against one another.


‘Geiser is listening to the thunder and thinking about past thunder as well as thun­der in the abstract, trying to make rational classification. And again he is weighing the evidence: based on the sounds, how dangerous is this series of storms? Possibly a great deal so, possibly not. The evidence is inconclusive, and he has no way of knowing what will happen next. His study here, how­ever, is only indirectly related to the threat. I doubt thunder is an appropriate subject for scientific study, and if it were, it would be related more to atmos­pheric con­ditions and causes, not types of sounds, and discussed in quantitative terms, not metaphorical. Rain, landslides, and lightning inflict damage, not noise. What he is really con­ducting is a phe­nomenological study of his fear, which sound does influence, and its causes and effects. Not nature, but man’s perception of and relation­ship to it is the subject of Geiser’s thoughts and of the novel as a whole.

‘Geiser, of course, is not a philosopher, but it is as valid to call him one as it is a lunatic (and we might decide there is some relationship between the two). If Geiser does not find any way to bring the texts or his observations together into some coherent, explicit understanding, it is in part because he has limited abilities to do so. After all, “Man remains an amateur”. But our criticism here would not be of what he is attempting but that his efforts are incomplete and sketchy. Still, if there are any ideas that can explain whatever it is that is going on out there, an average man should be able to comprehend them to some degree, and whether he fully understands them or not, his life will be influenced by the forces they try to explain—and he will feel these forces in palpable ways. And in many ways, the nar­rative encourages us to take Geiser as an average person, as one of us. The slow and incomplete development of Geiser’s character forces us to create some kind of abstract person to absorb the information as it comes, and this abstract person could be anyone—thus everyone. The frequent use of the impersonal pronoun “one” has a similar effect. And unless we judge too quickly, we realize that Geiser, aside from his age, is no different from most of us. We simply don’t know enough about him to make any solid personality assessment. The suppression of details that might help us get a better fix on his personality cannot be attributed to denial. If Geiser had some essential flaw, it would still appear obliquely in the text and we would feel the tension of his repression. Rather, Frisch has not given these details because they are not essential to what he is doing. He has deliberately created an ambiguous—and prototypical— character. Geiser is everyman, man in the Holocene.

‘Then again, Geiser may be better equipped than many of us for this inquiry. He is capable of grasping abstract concepts, and his resolve keeps him from shying away from where they might lead. Also, his age brings him closer to what the younger among us can for the time being ignore, our mortality and what causes it. And his isolation, caused by his retirement in the valley and exacerbated by the storm, means that he will not have anything to distract him in his inquiry. If we reject the thread of his thoughts—and ignore reading the texts on the wall—what is our justification? We are turning our backs on the only real authority in the novel, but replacing it with what? We may simply be responding from reflex, like the vil­lagers, caught up in what we expect to read about in novels—about “people and their relationships, with themselves and others, fathers and mothers and daugh­ters or sons, lovers, etc., with individual souls, usually unhappy ones, with society”—to see anything larger.

Then what does Geiser find out about himself—about man in the Holocene?

Man has always been conscious of the mystery surrounding his origin and development as a species, and an inexhaustible field of inquiry is opened to him by his ability to regard himself (the “subject”) in relation to the world in which he lives (the “object”)—see Philosophy …

Since M. is unable to understand himself through insight, he has from earliest times tried to reach out toward the idea of a divine being (see Religion) or some other nonhuman presence, to which he equates himself while at the same time distinguishing himself from it: it may be an animal (see Totemism), the spirit of an ancestor (see Ancestor Worship), or some other alter ego (see Mask); in rationalistic times it might even be a machine …

‘If this source is right, and Geiser has found nothing in his other reading or his experience to contradict it, then all our attempts to give meaning to our place in the world are our own projections, illusions created by ourselves that are perhaps self-serving, and not revelations from some beyond. There is no relationship between “subject” and “object” beyond the effect physical forces of the object have on sub­jects. These forces make us appear and grow and age—and die and disappear. That’s it. We may look at nature and think about what we see, but we will get no response to our thoughts. As Geiser later notes, “only human beings can recognize catastrophes, provided they survive them; Nature recognizes no catastrophes”. If Geiser’s thoughts have lost proportion, it is because there is no frame of reference on a human scale. If Geiser cannot find any meaningful connections between the texts, it is because there aren’t any. We may need other people—and Geiser may have to recognize this need—but our relationships with others do not bring us closer to the world. And we may not have any stable or even real way to define or validate these needs. The Matterhorn memory about the help from his brother is balanced against but does not cancel out what he remembers from Iceland, the potential violence and absolute indifference of nature. The novel ends where it started. Geiser—man in the Holocene—is alone. If we feel distant from Geiser, it is because we are all isolated from the world and from each other. The way the narra­tive is built reflects this state. We are even isolated from our own selves, because, paradox­ically, the more Geiser looks at the contents of his mind, the less he feels they belong to him, and the closer we get to Geiser’s mind, the more we become aware of this distance.

‘Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how strong or smart or sane Geiser is: no one has the strength or knowledge to stand up against the void. What Geiser can’t do, Frisch or his narrator can’t do either. No one can provide the perspective in which to view someone else’s behavior because no one can claim any authority to explain what does not exist. There is no definite point of view in the novel because there is no definite Point of View. Still there is the desire to push against whatever it is that surrounds us, and to find ways to talk about it, and even to write about it. Perhaps these efforts are the ones that most define us as humans and are the ones that are most worthwhile. Stiller, the protagonist of Frisch’s first novel, I’m Not Stiller, sees death—by suicide—as the only other alternative. He realizes that suicide itself is an illusion, and concludes “. . .I must fly in the confidence that the void itself will bear me up, that is to say a leap without wings, a leap into nothingness. . .into emptiness as the only reality which belongs to me, which can bear me up. . .”. That Geiser can look at himself and at the world from a distance posits another self that can look, perhaps the self that most matters, and while we may not be able to locate this self or place it in the world, we discover the inviolability of the fact this self exists—and sense the presence of something that pushes back against us. But we also real­ize this self is impermanent and will perish. Geiser must know, as Stiller does, that “In face of the fact of life and death there is nothing whatever to be said”. And what pushes back, we can’t know, much less put faith in: Stiller’s hope in the void has to be pitted against despair. We can only find ways to talk around what cannot be said, and when we write, if we write honestly and carefully, we construct narra­tives that do not violate the ineffable by having narrators or characters say more than they can say. As Frisch himself explains about his writing:

What is important is what cannot be said, the white space between the words. The words themselves always express the incidentals, which is not what we really mean. What we are really concerned with can only, at best, be written about, and that means, quite literally, we write around it. We encompass it. We make statements that never contain the whole true expe­rience: that cannot be described. All the statements can do is to encircle it, as tightly and closely as possible: the true, the inexpressible experience emerges at best as the tension between these statements.

‘He compares himself to a sculptor, who can only carefully chip away at the stone but not see what he creates. Language is his chisel, which “works by bringing the area of blankness in the things that can be said as close as possible to the central mystery, the living element.” It is Geiser’s partial apprehension of this mystery which makes him as a character more than an oddity in a case study, and it is our apprehension of the mystery through Geiser that makes Holocene a profound and disturbing work. Like Geiser, we are moved, we are frightened, and then confused and perhaps exhausted, but at the end, we can only draw quiet.’ — Gary Garvin



MF @ Wikipedia
The Max Frisch Archive (in German)
MF interviewed by the Paris Review
Books by MF
Videos of and about MF
Volker Scholndorff’s film based on MF’s ‘Homo Faber’



Max Frisch – Die Schweiz als Heimat? (Rede)

Max Frisch – Eine Biographie

Max Frisch Citoyen 1/10

Max Frisch – Selbstanzeige






JODI DAYNARD: Dialogue seems important to you.

MAX FRISCH: When I started to write in college, I wrote plays, not narrative. I was afraid of narrative. My first interest was the theater, not literature. It has to do with what I tried to say before, this fascination with the court language, which is all dialogue. As soon as I start to tell a story or describe a landscape, I can’t keep to this ritual language.

JD: Many of your heroes after I’m Not Stiller are technocrats, or men who are not self-reflective, who give a very flat testimony of their lives.

MF: Yes, that’s especially the case with Homo Faber. That was the point, that a man is giving an interpretation that is flat, flatter than life is. Walter denies he has experiences because he’s very helpless in expressing his emotions. So he describes himself as flatly as possible. He has the arrogance to say nothing. He realizes too late that he was engaged emotionally in many, many things. I think Stiller is much more telling about his feelings.

JD: In Bluebeard, too, Herr Schaad says, “What helps is billiards.” He never says, “I’m suffering.”

MF: That’s perfectly true. Actually, it has to do with my own personality, probably. I have very strong feelings but I don’t like to describe them. There are other ways to show them—body language, or silence—that can be very strong. And maybe, too, one has a distrust of words; one fears that they won’t be interpreted correctly. It’s very difficult to describe a feeling and not to lie a little bit, to put it on a higher level or to blind yourself. So I don’t trust myself to describe my feelings, but I like to show them by a piece of art. And as a reader I’m the same, I don’t like it if the author tells me what I have to feel. He has to urge the reader to get a feeling of shame or of hope. So there’s a lot of feeling, there’s a lot of emotion, but . . . not expressed in words.

JD: In that sense your writing hasn’t been given over to the prevalent mode of confessional writing, the writing of what one might call “psychoanalytic culture.”

MF: Yes, I hate that in literature. I have a good friend who is excellent at that, but I always feel as if I’m sitting in a therapy session with him.

JD: When did you first decide to create the flat, cold, “affectless” hero we have been discussing?

MF: Hard to know. I think I made it not all at once, but slowly; gradually it felt more and more comfortable. Just now I think—I don’t know if it’s right or wrong—that if you describe emotions, or the hero describes his emotions, as in the work of Dostoyevsky, for instance, or Melville, or other great writers, the danger that you will fall into the conventional is very great. It was Goethe who told us how we feel if we are in love with a girl—there are forms for that. But suppose you try to establish a situation, a movement, to show gestures and faces, and not talk about it. This is closer to film than old literature was. We have learned a lot from movies about what can be expressed without words. I would be proud or happy if a reader could feel the essential situation of, say, the man in Man in the Holocene, to feel how it is to be wet in your pants, how it’s getting colder, the feeling of growing tired, of melancholy or despair. That you get without using all those words. That you feel sensually and see with your eyes. I want to give that, or I try, anyway.

JD: By creating these flat characters you’re also giving them the freedom to express themselves metaphorically, through objects. “What helps is billiards,” to come back to that phrase.

MF: That’s right. If Herr Schaad would write a letter to a friend, “Now I am free, I can do what I want and I’m perfectly depressed, I’m desperate, and I’m poor,” I’d say, “Well, come on over, have a drink.” But if all he says is “the only thing that helps is billiards”—that’s desperation. If a friend phoned me and said something like that I’d say, “I have to go, I have to have a look at him.”

JD: Why do some of your characters, as different from one another as they are, possess your own traits? They all seem to smoke pipes or their first girlfriends are Jewish.

MF: It’s a kind of laziness. Some friends warned me. Uwe Johnson said, “Max, is it really necessary for this guy to smoke a pipe?” We both smoked a pipe at the time. And I didn’t even realize it. It’s just laziness. And I forget. I forget that I’ve written it so many times. It’s a little mistake, but I feel it is a mistake. All the boyfriends have the same car, a Jaguar. And if I see it later I’m not pleased with it. I’m angry about always taking things that are next to me [taps pipe], instead of getting up and taking something from the kitchen.

JD: As a writer, what does it mean to have an experience, to want to write about that experience?

MF: I think that one has experiences without having the means to verbalize them, and this is my situation. Speaking frankly, I don’t want to write about experiences I’ve had that I’ve already written about. I could write them better, but that’s not so interesting. I’m experiencing something now and I don’t know what it is. And that makes me silent. And easily bored by everything else. But what is this experience? What is it? And if you asked me I’d say, “Well, I don’t know.” It’s not nothing, it’s not emptiness, and the hope is that sometimes this finds expression.

JD: I’d like to demystify your writing process, if that’s at all possible. Can you tell me in concrete terms how you go from a sketch to a book?

MF: In Triptych, for example, I know that I didn’t have an idea. I didn’t think about Hades or anything like that, but about a theatrical situation: in a rocking chair, a youngish woman—she has a bodily presence, with a voice, an erotic, magic presence. And she speaks as a dead person, that’s all we see for the moment. This contradiction was the start for Triptych. The entire play is built around this. In general, I see a scene or a situation that inspires me to write, but I don’t know if it’s in the middle of the whole thing, or if it’s the beginning. You grope your way. I don’t want to have a plan. If I do, I’m certain not to write from genuine experience. Take, for instance, the incest in Homo Faber. Only after I wrote the book did I understand where the thought had come from. And if I had known where this thought had come from, I’m sure I wouldn’t have had the courage to touch the whole thing. But the story in itself, the story worked. And before you have a chance to get frightened, it’s already written.

JD: Do you have a kind of control that is not within your conscious grasp?

MF: Yes, I have this control that tells me when to cut something, improve it, or give it up, often without knowing why. But just how much of this capacity you have is important in determining, I think, whether you’re a writer or not. If you criticize what you’re doing too early you’ll never write the first line. Then, if you don’t have this capacity at all, that’s also a danger. Before I published Man in the Holocene, it was not a bad book, but I had an uncomfortable feeling about it. That’s criticism. Then after I wrote a second draft I had the feeling, “Now it works, now it’s okay.” And afterwards, again this shock that it didn’t work. If I hadn’t had that feeling it would have been published and I would never have reached the point I could reach. You’re awfully dependent on that critical sense. When I was young, around thirty, it took me much more time to get the feeling of a scene, to know whether it worked or not, and to be able to give up on it if it didn’t. I would work for half a year sometimes on something that didn’t work—I couldn’t give up.

JD: I suppose when you’re young you’re not sure that if you cut those flowers others are going to grow in their place.

MF: Yes, that’s right. Later you say, “I’m not sure, but I have a right to hope.”

JD: What would your advice be to a beginning writer?

MF: For someone who is serious and who already has a sense of his or her own talent, I would say to continue without involving too many people who think in commercial terms. When I was younger I felt it was dangerous to talk about my work with others. In the beginning, I didn’t inform anybody at all, not my wife, not friends, not my publisher. I remember my publisher asked me when I came back from the United States, “Are you working?” “I’m working, I’m working. Wildly,” I told him. He didn’t ask what it was and I didn’t tell him whether it was a play or a novel. Then one day I arrived in Frankfurt and said, “Here it is.” “What is it?” “It’s a novel.” That was Stiller. I would also say to measure yourself by very high standards. The greatest help is to have a friend who can criticize you from high standards. I had that with Peter Suhrkamp. He had courage and another marvelous quality, which is that his judgment didn’t change according to whether something was a success or failure. In some cases he would say, “Well, well, that’s great. It got marvelous reviews, and now you think, Max, that it is a good book? I don’t think so.” He was a great man, but not an easy man. In general I’ve had more help from writers than from critics. A writer is not less critical, but he knows about empty paper. A writer like Friedrich Dürrenmatt knows, for example, “Oh, you have great possibilities here.” A critic doesn’t see the chance you have in a project. If Shakespeare had talked about the project of Hamlet with a critic, he would have been told, “Look, man, you’d better write a novel. That’s a man who can’t act. You want to do theater with that? The hero is not special; his only special quality is that he hesitates, that he can’t act and so finally he gets killed. That’s not good for theater!”



Max Frisch Man in the Holocene
Dalkey Archive Press

‘A stunning tour de force, Man in the Holocene constructs a powerful vision of our place in the world by combining the banality of an aging man’s lonely inner life and the objective facts he finds in the books of his isolated home. As a rainstorm rages outside, Max Frisch’s protagonist, Geiser, watches the mountain landscape crumble beneath landslides and flooding, and speculates that the town will be wiped out by the collapse of a section of the mountain. Seeking refuge from the storm in town, he makes his way through a difficult and dangerous mountain pass, only to abandon his original plan and return home.

‘A compelling meditation by one of Frisch’s most original characters, Man in the Holocene charts Geiser’s desperate attempt to find his place in history and in the confusing and fragile world outside his window.’ — Dalkey Archive



It should be possible to build a pagoda of crispbread, to think of nothing, to hear no thunder, no rain, no splashing from the gutter, no gurgling around the house. Perhaps no pagoda will emerge, but the night will pass.

Somewhere a tapping on metal.

It is always with the fourth floor that the wobbling begins; a trembling hand as the next piece of crispbread is put in place, a cough when the gable is already standing, and the whole thing lies in ruins—

Geiser has time to spare.

The news in the village is conflicting; some people say there has been no landslide at all, others that an old supporting wall has collapsed, and there is no way of diverting the highway at that spot. The woman in the post office, who ought to know, merely confirms that the mail bus is not running, but she stands behind the little counter in her usual care-laden fashion, keeping usual office hours, selling stamps, and even accepting parcels, which she places unhurriedly on the scales and then franks. It is taken for granted that state and canton are doing everything in their power to get the highway back in order. If necessary, helicopters can be brought in, unless there is fog. Nobody in the village thinks that the day, or perhaps the night, will come when the whole mountain could begin to slide, burying the village for all time.

Somewhere a tapping on metal.

It is midnight, but still no pagoda.

It started on the Thursday of the previous week, when it was still possible to sit out in the open; the weather was sultry, as always before a thunderstorm, the gnats biting through one’s socks; no summer lightning, it just felt uncomfortable. Not a bird in the grounds. His guests, a youngish couple on their way to Italy, suddenly decided to leave, though they could have spent the night in his house. It was not actually cloudy—just a yellowish haze, such as one sees in the Arabian desert before a sandstorm; no wind. Faces also looking yellowish. His guests did not even empty their glasses, they were suddenly in such a hurry to be off, though there were no sounds of thunder. Not a drop of rain, either. But on the following morning it was drumming on the windowpanes, hissing through the leaves of the chestnut tree.

Since then, not a night without thunderstorms and cloudbursts.

From time to time the power is cut, something one is used to in this valley; hardly has there been time to find a candle, and then at last some matches, when the power is restored, lights in the house, though the thunder continues.

It is not so much the bad weather—

The twelve-volume encyclopedia Der Grosse Brockhaus explains what causes lightning and distinguishes streak lightning, ball lightning, bead lightning, etc., but there is little to be learned about thunder; yet in the course of a single night, unable to sleep, one can distinguish at least nine types of thunder:

The simple thunder crack.

Stuttering or tottering thunder: this usually comes after a lengthy silence, spreads across the whole valley, and can go on for minutes on end.

Echo thunder: shrill as a hammer striking on loose metal and setting up a whirring, fluttering echo which is louder than the peal itself.

Roll or bump thunder: relatively unfrightening, for it is reminiscent of rolling barrels bumping against one another.

Drum thunder.

Hissing or gravel thunder: this begins with a hiss, like a truck tipping a load of wet gravel, and ends with a thud.

Bowling-pin thunder: like a bowling pin that, struck by the rolling ball, cannons into the other pins and knocks them all down; this causes a confused echo throughout the valley.

Hesitant or tittering thunder (no flash of lightning through the windows): this indicates that the storm is retreating over the mountains.

Blast thunder (immediately following a flash of lightning through the windows): this is not like two hard masses colliding; on the contrary, it is like a single huge mass being blasted apart and falling to either side, breaking into countless pieces; in its wake, rain comes pouring down.

At intervals the power goes off again.

What would be bad would be losing one’s memory—

An example of something Geiser has not forgotten: the Pythagorean theorem. For that he does not need to drag out the encyclopedia. On the other hand, he cannot remember how to draw the golden section (A is to B as A + B to A; that he does still know) with compasses and set square. He knew once, of course—

No knowledge without memory.

Today is Tuesday.

Still no horns sounding in the valley.

Field glasses are no use at all in times like these, one screws them this way and that without being able to find any sharp outline to bring into focus; all they do is make the mist thicker. What can be seen with the naked eye: the gutter on the roof, the nearest pine tree in the grounds, two wires disappearing into the mist, raindrops gliding slowly down the wires. If one takes an umbrella and trudges through the grounds on a tour of inspection despite wet and mist, one can no longer see one’s own house after only a hundred paces, just brambles in mist, rivulets, bracken in mist. A little wall in the lower garden (drystone) has collapsed: debris among the lettuces, lumps of clay under the tomatoes. Perhaps that happened days ago.

Still, one can get tomatoes in cans.

Lavender flowering in the mist: scentless, as in a color film. One wonders what bees do in a summer like this.

There are provisions enough in the house:

three eggs
bouillon cubes
vinegar and olive oil
a jar of pickled gherkins
Parmesan cheese
sardines, one can
spices of all kinds
crispbread, five packages
raspberry syrup for the grandchildren
bay leaves
salted almonds
spaghetti, one package
one lemon
meat in the icebox

Later in the day there is more thunder; and shortly afterward, hail. The white stones, some of them the size of hazelnuts, dance on the granite table; in a few minutes the lawn is a white sheet, all Geiser can do is stand at the window and watch the vine being torn to shreds, the roses—

There is nothing to do but read.

(Novels are no use at all on days like these, they deal with people and their relationships, with themselves and others, fathers and mothers and daughters or sons, lovers, etc., with individual souls, usually unhappy ones, with society, etc., as if the place for these things were assured, the earth for all time earth, the sea level fixed for all time.)

No horns sounding in the valley.

What would be bad is losing one’s memory—

There is nothing to do but read.

Today is Wednesday, (Or Thursday?)

Weakness of memory is the deterioration of the faculty of recalling earlier experiences. In psychopathology a distinction is made between this and deterioration of the faculty of adding new experiences to the store of memories, though the distinction is only one of degree. In the brain diseases of old age (senility, hardening of the arteries in the brain) and other brain diseases, it is the latter faculty that deteriorates first.

At the moment he does not need his passport, but he could do with an aspirin for his headache, which is not raging, just irritating, and it would also be a good time to clean out his medicine chest, to throw away all the things of which he no longer knows the use: whether for itching or for acid in the urine, for heart troubles or for constipation, for gnat bites or for sunburn, etc.

The headache is gradually fading.

He cannot resist looking at his watch again; it reads seven minutes past six.

This evening will also pass.

He has plenty of time.

Ten years ago and in sunshine, it had been just a pleasant walk, an outing of two and a half hours there and back.

Nobody will ever hear of his outing.

–man emerged in the Holocene.

Geiser wants no visitors.

Geiser knows the year of his birth and the first names of his parents, also his mother’s maiden name, and the name of the street in which he was born, the number of the house—

That was seventy years ago.

Nature needs no names. Geiser knows that. The rocks do not need his memory.

Apoplexy, known popularly as a stroke, is a sudden loss of brain function, combined usually with paralysis and loss of consciousness, and often accompanied by loss of speech. The usual cause is the bursting of a cerebral blood vessel due to arteriosclerosis or hypertension, and the extent of the hemorrhage may be slight, or located in parts of the brain where its presence gives rise to little disturbance. Unless the vital areas of the base of the brain have been affected, in which case, death is likely to occur within a short period, a fair measure of recovery is possible. Another cause of the loss of brain function is the blocking of a cerebral blood vessel, preventing blood from reaching the brain. The paralysis usually affects only one side of the body. The paralyzed limbs are at first slack and immobile, but eventually they pass into a spastic stage.

In August and September, at night, there are shooting stars to be seen, or one hears the call of a little owl.




p.s. Hey. ** Shane Christmass, Hi, Shane. I guess I’m kind of the opposite. As a teen druggie heavily into prog, I liked Yes, but now they seem so, I don’t know, tricky and decorative or something? I could totally see a strong case being made for ‘Fragile’, ‘Close to the Edge’ and that period, but the 80s and/or Trevor Horn stuff? Hard to imagine? Do you even like that Yes era? Sweet about your AS book being out. I’m all bated breath for it. And imagery by the great Stephen Purtill to boot. AS has an awesome summer/fall roll out going on. And I’ll head over to your mixtape pronto. Thanks! ** Dominik, Hi!!! Yes, I think that coaster name has viral success stamped all over it. Hm, what it would actually be …that might take some thought. Certainly with a lot of ‘you’re about to die’ moments interspersed with a few easy ‘phew’ stretches. Hm … Ha ha, I do the same thing with Emos, and, yes, it can be disconcerting. When I come across Emo escorts looking for sugar daddies, there’s usually one commenter cautioning potential daddies that, like, remember he’s going to have to take showers and stuff. Ha ha, you almost made me want to apply to Harvard. Love wants to show you a trick, G. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi, Ben. One pill a day! Victoire! So hoping it’s a tide turner. ** Steve Erickson, Have you heard about the test results yet? Hope it’s not the C, obviously. I know a couple of people who’ve gotten it recently, and it’s been pretty mild and quick for them at least. The Alexis Marshall album sounds up my alley-ish. Thank you for the lead. I’ll follow it post-haste. ** Bill, My pleasure. Maybe he wasn’t thinking? Boners will do that. ** Misanthrope, Georgey. I’ve got plenty more vibes where those came from, as far as I can tell. You’re being all flirty with that ‘an…interesting friendship’ stuff. Pony up, you tease. What’s your cake? ** Okay. Today I’m spotlighting one of my all-time favorite novels, so, obviously, I hope you’ll investigate it if it isn’t already in the bookshelves of your mind. Yikes. See you tomorrow.

Le Petit Mac-Mahon de David Ehrenstein presents Cleopatra


Wiki SEZ — “Cleopatra VII Philopator (Koinē Greek: Κλεοπάτρα Φιλοπάτωρ; 69 BC – 10 August 30 BC) was the last active ruler of the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt. A member of the Ptolemaic dynasty, she was a descendant of its founder Ptolemy I Soter, a Macedonian Greek general and companion of Alexander the Great.[note 6] After the death of Cleopatra, Egypt became a province of the Roman Empire, marking the end of the second to last Hellenistic state and the age that had lasted since the reign of Alexander (336–323 BC). Her native language was Koine Greek, and she was the only Ptolemaic ruler to learn the Egyptian language.

In 58 BC, Cleopatra presumably accompanied her father, Ptolemy XII Auletes, during his exile to Rome after a revolt in Egypt (a Roman client state) allowing his daughter Berenice IV to claim the throne. Berenice was killed in 55 BC when Ptolemy returned to Egypt with Roman military assistance. When he died in 51 BC, the joint reign of Cleopatra and her brother Ptolemy XIII began, but a falling-out between them led to open civil war. After losing the 48 BC Battle of Pharsalus in Greece against his rival Julius Caesar (a Roman dictator and consul) in Caesar’s Civil War, the Roman statesman Pompey fled to Egypt. Pompey had been a political ally of Ptolemy XII, but Ptolemy XIII, at the urging of his court eunuchs, had Pompey ambushed and killed before Caesar arrived and occupied Alexandria. Caesar then attempted to reconcile the rival Ptolemaic siblings, but Ptolemy’s chief adviser, Potheinos, viewed Caesar’s terms as favoring Cleopatra, so his forces besieged her and Caesar at the palace. Shortly after the siege was lifted by reinforcements, Ptolemy XIII died in the 47 BC Battle of the Nile; Cleopatra’s half-sister Arsinoe IV was eventually exiled to Ephesus for her role in carrying out the siege. Caesar declared Cleopatra and her brother Ptolemy XIV joint rulers but maintained a private affair with Cleopatra that produced a son, Caesarion. Cleopatra traveled to Rome as a client queen in 46 and 44 BC, where she stayed at Caesar’s villa. After the assassinations of Caesar and (on her orders) Ptolemy XIV in 44 BC, she named Caesarion co-ruler.

In the Liberators’ civil war of 43–42 BC, Cleopatra sided with the Roman Second Triumvirate formed by Caesar’s grandnephew and heir Octavian, Mark Antony, and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus. After their meeting at Tarsos in 41 BC, the queen had an affair with Antony. He carried out the execution of Arsinoe at her request, and became increasingly reliant on Cleopatra for both funding and military aid during his invasions of the Parthian Empire and the Kingdom of Armenia. The Donations of Alexandria declared their children Alexander Helios, Cleopatra Selene II, and Ptolemy Philadelphus rulers over various erstwhile territories under Antony’s triumviral authority. This event, their marriage, and Antony’s divorce of Octavian’s sister Octavia Minor led to the Final War of the Roman Republic. Octavian engaged in a war of propaganda, forced Antony’s allies in the Roman Senate to flee Rome in 32 BC, and declared war on Cleopatra. After defeating Antony and Cleopatra’s naval fleet at the 31 BC Battle of Actium, Octavian’s forces invaded Egypt in 30 BC and defeated Antony, leading to Antony’s suicide. When Cleopatra learned that Octavian planned to bring her to his Roman triumphal procession, she killed herself by poisoning, contrary to the popular belief that she was bitten by an asp.

Cleopatra’s legacy survives in ancient and modern works of art. Roman historiography and Latin poetry produced a generally critical view of the queen that pervaded later Medieval and Renaissance literature. In the visual arts, her ancient depictions include Roman busts, paintings, and sculptures, cameo carvings and glass, Ptolemaic and Roman coinage, and reliefs. In Renaissance and Baroque art, she was the subject of many works including operas, paintings, poetry, sculptures, and theatrical dramas. She has become a pop culture icon of Egyptomania since the Victorian era, and in modern times, Cleopatra has appeared in the applied and fine arts, burlesque satire, Hollywood films, and brand images for commercial products.”


Cleopatra is first and foremost a cinematic figure.

(June Allyson “Cleopatterer”)

(Theda Bara)

There have been many Cleopatras.

Viva in Michel Auder’s “Cleopatra”

But the one that counts the most was made in 1963.


(Cleopatra — Entrance into Rome)

Interesting this production began as a project the studio thought could be made cheaply on the backlot.

(Joan Collins)

But then Talot became available.

The whole thing is covered in great detail in  The Cleopatra Papers.
Brodsky and Weiss were hired by Fox when the company feared the film wasn’t getting enough publicity (!!!)

The Cleopatra closest to my heart is Corrine Marchand.

(“Sans To”i Cleo de 5 a 7 S)

As for the next Cleopatra, the choice is obvious.

.(Lil Nas X at BET Awards performs “Montiero”)




p.s. Hey. Today the venerable writer, critic, bon vivant and friend to DC’s all and sundry aka David Ehrenstein gifts us with a multi-media meditation on that sassy slice of history known as Cleopatra. Please give his post your local all, and do speak respectively to David, thank you. And thanks a bunch, Mr. E. ** Misanthrope, Hey. I think there are probably those who’d counter that using sex as a weapon is my work’s and blog’s middle name, but what do they know? Are you feeling even better? The beach is really nice at night. That’s kind of the only time I like it. Or in the winter. Or when there’s a tsunami a short ways offshore. Otherwise, I’m sure you’ll find something about it to like. Or at least about certain guys walking or lying upon it. ** Dominick, D!!!! Thanks about the post. Me too, about his always thinking. I just wish he had a pen and paper or keyboard or something there more often when he did. I’ve always thought a really good name for a coaster would be ‘I’m going to kill you’. The low temperature passion of Emos is one of life’s most unfairly overlooked tourist destinations. Or something. Your love was evil! I haven’t heard ‘Pass the Dutchie’ in decades, but now that you mention it … oh no! Don’t worry, I’ll scrub it out of my brain somehow. (I had the horrible song ‘Owner of a Lonely Heart’ stuck in my head for about four days recently, but forget I ever mentioned it.) Love like a magic washing machine that turns clean clothes into filthy, stinky ones, G. ** Tosh Berman, A fellow Devoto fan, I’m not at all surprised. Fist bump. I agree with you, hands down. Hm, interesting about the Human Hands comparison. I’ll pull out their stuff and reconsider. Most of all, I’m happy to have helped to banish your gloom, sir. ** Bill, Hi. I love your new piece. It’s great. So rich and tight but so expansive. I’m going to study it for linguistic equivalents. Thank you! Yep, about Devoto, I’m so there. Ha ha, and Purdy wondered and kvetched about why wasn’t as successful as his more demure peers. God love him. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi. Yes, thank you KillSwitch, whoever and wherever you are. Really great news about you being accepted for that new treatment! When do you start? Does it involve just taking a pill? ** Steve Erickson, Oh, ha ha, those are your guesses? Yawn about that discussion you mentioned. But yeah. Hope you feel a lot better upon awakening today. I listened to a couple of tracks on the new Eilish and was not very into it, but I intend to try again and maybe harder. ** Brian, Hi, Brian. I’m not huge on Jodorowsky. I mostly enjoy how labor intensive and wacked his films’ set pieces are. But his films are pretty hippie-dippy. Which can be charming in moderate doses. ‘El Topo’ is the darkest, strangest one. Made before he decided he was a seer and transmitter of profound cosmic wisdom and all of that. Good news, and continued well wishes, about your stoned, improving pooch. I don’t think ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ is a masterpiece, although I think it might’ve been if he’d been alive to edit it, but I don’t see how one could hate it. Sedate: good characterisation of what I think is causing my thus far meh feeling about the new Eilish. Time will tell, and we’ll see, right? Reality is starting to seem so present it feels kind of minty. Conquer today, my friend. ** Right. You know what you’ve got in store today already, so please have at it if you haven’t already. Thank you, folks. See you tomorrow.

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