TO T R I E S T E DAV ID P E R RY
Turned in flap of jacket Unprinted black card cover
to t r i e s t e
The Institute of Janczyk & Karnicki Studies rangoon Â· danzig trieste
Commas moved in dedication. OK?
This book is dedicated to Robert McNab, a generous and inspiring friend. Not, he would insist, ‘the onlie begetter of ’ J & K and Co. but one leading light.
Endings —9— Language Laboratories — 10 — My Brother’s Keeper — 12 — The Miramare Castle — 13 — Three Reasons to Enrol — 15 — Simplicity and Economy Palpable, Secrecy Absolute — 18 —
First published 2016 in a limited edition of one hundred and fifty signed and numbered copies. This is copy number — — — Copyright © David Perry and Robert McNab 2016 All rights reserved. This book may not be reproduced in whole or in part, including illustrations, in any form beyond that copying permitted by Sections 107 and 108 of the us Copyright Law and except by reviewers for the public press, without written permission from the publisher. Designed by Dalrymple Set in Fred Smeijers’s Custodia typeface Printed in Scotland by J. Thomson Photography by Tino Tedaldi – ci vede bene, ancora? Illustrations are by Robert McNab and Bill Sanderson Otherwise from anonymous post-war Soviet sources Photographs of Trieste are by Walter Sanders and an anonymous Italian photographer
Confessions of Svevo — 20 — You Say Schmitz, I Say Hildesheimer, Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off — 21 — Reel to Reel — 23 — Dark Tower — 27 — A Gallimaufry of Reconditioned Languages — 30 — Trains and Boats and Brains — 32 — Here Comes Atlantis — 34 — Multum in Parvo — 35 — La Luta Continua — 36 — My Last Cigarette — 37 —
editor’s note A Corsican farmer found this manuscript in a tin box hidden beneath the eves of his farmhouse. Intrigued by the contents, he contacted the Institute of Janczyk and Karnicki Studies and gave it over for safe keeping. Technical analysis has revealed that this narrative, hereinafter referred to as the to trieste text was typed on a Blickensderfer typewriter, whereas the author of the escape starts here, hereinafter referred to as the to rangoon text, used an Underwood. Moreover a detailed stylistic comparison undertaken by Professor Beryl de Zoete of St. Catherine’s College Cambridge has shown conclusively that the to rangoon text and this to trieste text were written by different authors. Professor de Zoete adds, provocatively: ‘However, whether we should take the self-identification of the to trieste author at face value is another matter entirely. The author of the to rangoon document has stated that the events he described occurred in 1938. This dating, if accurate throws into doubt the reliability of the narrator of the to trieste text.’ Suffice it to say that Professor de Zoete was probably unaware of the complexities of the time space continuum while dealing with matters Janczykite and Karnickiesque …
Endings When it comes to steamship travel, I can categorically say that I dislike reaching my destination. Something about the gentle ululation of the engines, the uninspired, wholesome cuisine and the stern daily timetable makes me want to steam on forever … But walking down the gangway at Trieste, this reverie is broken, I am among it all – that sense of mischief and immanence that all ports seem to exude – that sense of not understanding and not belonging … The man in the leather jacket with the suitcase by the lorry – what’s his game?
At this enlargement image is only 155dpi compared to the gold standard for reproduction of 300dpi. Is a higher resolution version available?
Language Laboratories Call me Stanislaus. Ich bin ein Berlitzer. I stand before an ornate fin de siècle building a few blocks back from the harbour with an Oriel window projecting from its first floor. The twilight is fading and I see a lamp shining strongly inside. A small group of men are talking and I hear the faint sounds of laughter. I feel deliciously alone … The street door has a medieval, forbidding aspect, thick timber like the gate of a Cambridge college. It seems somehow too substantial for the rest of the building. It bears a brass plaque: berlitz school trieste: linguistic reconditioning. The plaque is stained with verdigris. I have found what I was looking for. The head of Berlitz Trieste was John Selwyn Gilbert, a survivor, as he habitually put it, of the collapse of the League of Nations. I introduced myself and showed him the telegram I had received, advising me that work would be forthcoming if I could fund my travel to the Istrian peninsula. ‘It will be a pleasure to have another teacher from the Irish Free State’, he said. ‘Your brother has been a real asset to the school, though sometimes his teaching methods are … what shall I say? … unconventional.’ He was a big faced, balding man with tufts of hair in his ears. He spoke with a cultivated northern English accent deploying the shortened ‘a’ sound as if to convey a gritty integrity. He went on to praise my brother Jim’s fictional work in progress here comes every body, a work of staggering linguistic ambition – a road map for World Peace, he called it. His belief in the power of linguistic skills to save the world and help nation understand nation was both utilitarian and sentimental, focussed and passionate. ‘Forget engineers, doctors, accountants, it’s translators we need most, and interpreters … that’s what our linguistic reconditioning project is all about … a sort of alchemy, transforming the base material of human nature into gold.’
He attributed the collapse of the League of Nations not to human aggression, tribalism, nudism, or greed but to linguistic misunderstandings. The same with the conflicts here in the Istrian peninsula, between Slovenian intellectuals and Italian merchants. His eyes moistened with tears as he spoke of the Sykes Picot agreement and the dire consequence of the failure of a British official to grasp the significance of the use of the French definite article in one of the key clauses of the treaty. ‘Words … words … words … they’re all we have.’ He handed me my timetable.
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My Brother’s Keeper
The Miramare Castle
I made my way to the Via Caterina, close by the Berlitz School, where my brother was lodging. He had said I could stay there. ‘It will help with our rent’, he had written, ominously. It was an elegant if somewhat dilapidated terraced house, not unlike those in Eccles Street. I was welcomed, if welcomed it was, by Nora, who seemed frantic and distracted. I was barely through the door when Jim bushwhacked me and, fuelled by the Lacrima Christi wine he had drunk with dinner, started explaining the principles of here comes everybody. John Selwyn Gilbert thought it a road map for World Peace, I was inclined to think it was designed uniquely for insomniac linguists with prodigious brains: like my brother. I knew what hopes he was heaping on this book and I expressed my fears about the difficulty of its coming forth. ‘I’ve staked half my life on this damn novel, I’m not going to give up on it now … ’ Nora rescued me and showed me to my top floor room. I was unpacking when Jim knocked on the door and shouted half humorously, half threateningly: ‘Stani!!! The ineluctable modality of the visible.’
I was preparing some teaching materials in my attic room of fulfilment’s desolation when Nora slipped an envelope addressed to me under the door. It contained the following undated message, typed crisply on thick, water marked orange paper.
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Dear Mr. Joyce, Please come to our office in the International Centre for Theoretical Physics in the Miramare Park without delay. Take a tram from the city seafront square northwards along the corniche to the Miramare Castle and you will be met at the entrance of the Physics Building which will be easily recognisable to yourself. Yours Pawel Janczyk. The tram was elegantly furnished with latticed woodwork and curtains. As the silhouette of the nineteenth century castle moved in and out of my vision I thought of Marinetti’s Futurist cinematic experiments with perspective and editing, much praised by my smart alec older brother at the chaotic film festival he had put on in Dublin. This journey and that strange summons to a meeting were not disagreeable. I felt happy enough. The Castle, designed by the Archduke Maximilian stood in its own grounds. There were mature trees, shrubs, flowers and two ponds, one crowded with black swans, the other full of lotus flowers. In the middle of this pastoral and nostalgically conceived elegance, stood a strange modernist building, shaped like a boomerang. It was only two storeys high, white and entirely devoid windows: the Centre mentioned by Pawel Janczyk in his note. I was met by a short, pasty faced man with chaotic hair. He was physically impatient and seemed to know straight away who I was, which I found slightly annoying: after all there were other people walking from the tram into the park. He introduced himself as Monsieur Chevreul, the chief technical officer
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Three Reasons to Enroll for reconditioning at Janczyk & Karnicki. He seemed rather sweaty and spoke quickly, with a Pantaloon French accent. ‘Mr. Janczyk is waiting for you … How do you like the Centre? It’s an institute of World repute. Walter Gropius designed it after having his ideas for a modernist third court at Christ’s College Cambridge turned down by the Fellows. It was officially opened by Paul Dirac in 1926, before he got his Nobel Prize. The no windows idea, what do you think?’ Apparently Gropius had said it symbolised the highly theoretical and cerebral world of modern physics. ‘But there is natural light in the building, the roof is punctuated with skylights. You’ll see … ’
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The furniture was Bauhaus, the light oblique. ‘You like our modern style? We are modern, we are also something … old fashioned’. Pawel Janczyk’s ample bottom was overflowing the seat of the modernist chair he sat on. ‘Thank you for coming. We have three reasons to, how you say, to Berlitz. First we must improving our English, the language of commerce … ’ John Selwyn Gilbert whom I had brought along was thrilled that a company with a Burmese connection was signing on in Trieste. He pointed out, like the linguistic zealot he was, that Burmese was a SinoTibetan language with its own unique and beautiful script. Edouard Karnicki responded sheepishly that none of them spoke a word of Burmese. ‘However’, he added, ‘Burmese cigars – that’s another story.’ Pawel Janczyk cleared his throat and shifted on his seat. ‘Edouard please address the second reason we must study in Berlitz.’ Karnicki was something of an adventurer, an intellectual buccaneer, unlike his colleague. He spoke enthusiastically of the submarine site he was exploring beneath the island of Santorini, which he believed was the seat of the ancient civilisation of Atlantis. He explained with great eloquence that he had found what he took to be inscribed tablets on the ocean floor. He showed us some drawings of them. To the untrained eye, the marks looked random, scratched by crabs perhaps, looking for prey or scoured out by stones, moving in the ocean currents. But Karnicki was insistent and persuasive. ‘I’m sure that with the linguistic resources of Berlitz we can decode these tablets: a huge contribution to the understanding of history.’ John Selwyn Gilbert had to be restrained from taking off with the drawings there and then to start work on them. ‘There’s one other thing, a third thing. And it’s somewhat clandestine.’
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‘our’ changed to ‘a’ in last line to avoid bad break with ‘clandestine’
A Packet of Dates Pawel Janczyk asked Monsieur Chevreul to explain. ‘We wish to meet Mr. Svevo the Italian writer.’ ‘Svevo, the Italian writer? You mean Schmitz, the Austrian playboy? Svevo, Schmitz, Schmitz, Svevo … ’ I was teasing the annoying Frenchman but he persisted. ‘I believe he has connections with a paint franchise, no? I want to get access to the formulae, so that I can mix the paint with the ink of the Giant Squid to create something to render our ship invisible when necessary – invisible to the Mexicans, that is. No more Giant Squid attacks. I shall tell you about those. Irrawaddi Green will metastasise into Mediterranean Black … I believe the Mexicans have connections in this city too, non? I need to understand those also.’ The Mexicans Chevreul referred to were Lobo Lopez and Mauricio Morales, colleagues of Janczyk and Karnicki in the pre-Lapsarian era of Reconditioning when the French worked with the Argentines, Poles with Mexicans. But the Mexicans got greedy and were fired. Ever since then, mayhem. A grave Manichaean schism followed with the Mexicans playing the role of fallen Lucifers, or vipers in the nest or … Mexicans. Choose your cliché. As my smart alec older brother says, only very bad writers eschew clichés entirely. I agreed to Janczyk and Karnicki’s requests. Deploying those pedagogical skills so despised by my smart alec older brother, I started to devise a basic plodders’ course for Pawel, while the mercurial Edouard could spend time with the more brilliant, some would say flaky teachers – like my wisenheimer older brother – who would be likely to indulge his Atlantis fantasies. I would introduce Monsieur Chevreul to Italo Svevo, whom I had just taken on as a student, to ease what my brother referred to as his burden. Much as Jim liked Svevo and his writing, or more precisely the idea of his writing, he found teaching him English trying. ‘Good … Let us have dinner,’ said the genial Captain Pawel.
After our dinner of wild boar and pierogis, washed down with a bottle of Nuits Americaines wine, Pawel Janczyk sat back and praised the cuisine of Trieste, with its robust meaty dishes, very different from the Italianate delicacies of Tuscany. The gamy wild boar was a particular favourite of his. These creatures ran wild in the forested hills behind the city and occasionally strayed into the town, reaping havoc in the gardens and parks. ‘Many things that are pleasing me about Trieste,’ said Janczyk, ‘professional ship brokers, elegant squares, the sense of melancholy emptiness it unaccountably conveys, its strangely occluded unmediterranean climate’, and here he warmed to his theme, ‘and its Austro-Hungarian cooking. Almost as good like Polish … ’ Modeste Servitorius appeared carrying a tray on which glasses of Durian liqueur and a small packet of dates were placed. ‘Would Monsieur care for a digestif? The dates are from Port Said.’ They were nestled in an Orientalist box (if a box can be Orientalist) of wood so delicately thin that it looked like cardboard. Its lid was adorned with the stylised image of a desert oasis, a sudden miraculous fruitfulness of palm and flowering cactus exploding out of the desert. A benign looking Bedouin sat on a camel in the background. My mind went back to the line drawings I had been shown in a Bible for Children, back in Dublin. They depicted Palestine at the time of Jesus – a sort of paradisal Holy Land of the imagination with villages of open plan, white washed houses and flat roofs on which families like Jesus’ slept in the hot summer months.
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Simplicity and Economy Palpable, Secrecy Absolute ‘It is closing time in the Cafes of Trieste! I jest! I jest!’ A personable young man carrying a saggy briefcase had burst in on the remains of our dinner. He introduced himself as Lavo Cermelj, a Slovenian mathematician of some distinction (he was not shy to say so), one of the dwindling community of Slovenian intellectuals in Trieste. ‘I thought you may be interested, you J and K volk, in something I have been researching in my office in the Rocco building. I have just come from there.’ He had come upon a remarkable book, The A.B.C. Telegraphic Code, compiled and written by an Englishman W. Clauson-Thue frgs, designed for use by financiers, merchants, shipowners, brokers, underwriters, ‘and reconditioners – people like yourselves.’ He took the heavy tome out of his briefcase. Cermelj explained the principles of the coding. ‘The secrecy of the message between two persons can be made absolute, even though any other person may have every command of the telegram and of the five figures to be found in 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0, which can be represented by a word, a sentence, or a group of ten different letters of the alphabet. All that is necessary is that the two persons shall agree on any ten different letters that may suggest themselves. A familiar word will most easily adapt itself like Mayflowers, Valkyriens or Codfishery. The number of possible variations is virtually unlimited. A change might be made for every message or every hour by agreed arrangement and thus the absolute secrecy of the Code maintained.’ Cermelj took breath. Again, at this enlargement image is only 157dpi. Is a higher resolution version available? [ 18 ]
‘The author declares his book to be ‘a practical business work for business people by a businessman’ and announces in solemn Gothic script ‘an ounce of practice is worth more than a ton of theory.’ Speaking for myself however, I find the pure mathematics of the book beguiling and beautiful. His table of Cipher Codes is relentless, absolute, each letter like a stone in a mosaic of unimaginable dimensions. His Code seems to extend to infinity and to trump the very reality it purports to connote, like Kafka’s map which only reaches perfection when it is expanded to the dimensions of the land it is mapping. The messages themselves unfold, page after page, like the eyes in a Peacock’s tail. This is linguistic reconditioning on an epic scale. It makes Berlitz, excuse me for saying so, sir’, he turned to John Selwyn Gilbert, ‘seem amateurs by comparison.’ John Selwyn Gilbert shifted uneasily in his chair. Pawel Janczyk shifted uneasily in his chair. ‘We thank you Mr. Cermelj’, said the Captain. ‘We had heard of this book and have been wanting to get hands on fifth edition. But Mr. W. Clauson-Thue’s obsession with secrecy seems to be including access to his own book, which I am thinking would be for him good to publicise. In fact we have someone stationed in the other part of Rocco Haus for some time now to monitor your activities, but without success’.
‘Perhaps we can doing a deal. Now? ’ ‘Captain!’ [ 19 ]
Confessions of Svevo
You Say Schmitz, I Say Hildesheimer, Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off
Italo Svevo was indeed a Schmitz. He was heir to the fortune that the Marine Paint patent had made for his family and explains why he enjoyed such an agreeable life style – relaxing in cafes, pretending to fret about affairs he actually enjoyed, and writing, albeit in rather inelegant Italian, it has to be said. When I raised the subject of sharing the Marine Paint formula with Janczyk and Karnicki, he was relaxed. Something of a contrarian, he was happy to rebel against the family business and undermine it, so long as his personal income remained reasonably secure. This was the Svevo side of his personality, in opposition to its Schmitz side. He was a charming if slightly louche figure. After our first lesson, he lit a cigarette. ‘Let me tell you about the paint story of Trieste’, he said. ‘I think this will be my last cigarette’.
It seems there were two competing paint franchises in the city. The Schmitz family had developed Marine Paint, the Hildesheimers, International Composition for Ships’ Bottoms. The two families had come upon different but similar formulae at about the same time that could withstand the corrosive effects of seawater,. It was rather like Newton and Leibniz discovering Calculus almost simultaneously but independently of each other. And like Newton and Leibniz, the Hildesheimers and the Schmitzs became mortal enemies. Viennese patent lawyers had been battling to gain some sort of patent advantage for each of the highly lucrative formulae for decades. The Hildesheimers had employed an old Viennese law firm that had been responsible, a hundred
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Reel to Reel years earlier, for a notoriously aggressive action taken under instruction from the Strauss family to copyright the concept of the Waltz. Their case only failed by a whisker at the final hurdle. The Hildesheimers worked with the Triestine ship broker Bene detto Randegger whose boyish features and chaotic office belied a fierce, adamantine ruthlessness. Randegger had brokered a deal between the Hildesheimers and the Mexicans, so that Lobo Lopez and Morales could camouflage their attack launches with paint so subtle that it adapted itself to changing surroundings, like a Chameleon. Svevo was conducting a clandestine affair with a Hildesheimer heiress, and he agreed to try and find out about the deal. This would also help him mend fences with his family, who were becoming increasingly impatient with his lack of engagement with the firm. ‘I didn’t give you a trust fund so that you could fritter it away buying schnapps for impoverished Irish geniuses,’ his father was wont to say.
As part of his plodder’s course, I instructed Pawel Janczyk to translate into English his diary of the trip from Port Said to Trieste, and to read it aloud into my reel to reel recording machine so I could then play it back to him and correct his grammar and pronunciation. I found the contents fascinating and transcribed them for my own interest. The process was painstaking: playing, stopping, rewinding, playing, stopping, rewinding, it was slow but rewarding work. I set down my corrected version of Pawel Janczyk’s account with apologies for some interventions of my own …
steaming to trieste We left Port Said in the middle of another outbreak of cholera. Rip Yergenes took a very triumphalist tone about the importance of Pest Control. He was right of course. ‘There will be a change of course, of course. Set a course for Trieste. We have some linguistic reconditioning to attend to.’ As Captain, I was feeling masterful. Once past the lights of Port Said breakwater we were back in the Mediterranean … We were the first that ever burst Into that silent sea Not true of course, just my intervention. As my smart alec older brother put it in one of his unpublished juvenile notebooks (don’t tell Ellmann) ‘ … the Mediterranean, that amniotic fluid which has nourished nascent civilisations for millennia … ’ Not exactly uncharted waters then …
steaming past gozo Gaston de Noche’s ancestors were Knights of Malta, a secretive internationalist association that had been disbanded by Napoleon. It’s a long story but that’s how Gaston ended up in France. Suddenly overwhelmed by Proustian
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giant squid attack recall of an estate owned by a branch of his family that had stayed on, Gaston came up to the Bridge and asked if it was possible to steam close to Gozo so he might catch a glimpse of it. ‘Set a course to the west of the island. As close to the shore as safely possible.’ I was in genial mood … The stokers took down the power of the engines and for a moment everyone on board felt the apprehension that inevitably follows a loss of speed, even when it is deliberately induced. Gaston’s hopes were not high as the S.S Rangoon approached the famously vertiginous ancestral estate. But gloom turned into something like panic when he surveyed the scene in an increasingly desperate search for familiar landmarks from his childhood. The dry stone walls that had held the terracing in its benevolent grip for centuries had fallen to ruin. The tiny variegated plots were diving into the ocean below in grotesque slow motion. His heart started racing and his mouth went dry. The orchards of lemon and orange trees were overrun with rank weeds. The ancient olives had been uprooted by some storm and lay like wounded beasts on their sides. New growth sprouted where the branches touched the earth as if to mock the trees’ lost grandeur. The exquisite miniature corduroys of thyme and lavender had been reduced to a chaotic mess of uncultivated brambles. The abandoned beehives were powdering up in the strong sun: soon they would be all gone to nothing. But it was the vineyard that shocked Gaston the most. Situated on the lowest and steepest slopes of the estate, the vines could only be tended and harvested from the sea below. Men used to throw ladders up from their boats to prune the plants and pick the grapes. It was a technique that dated back to Roman times and demanded astonishing skill and strength. Now the last few vines were clinging desperately to the rock: the rest had gone. Gaston bowed his head. He could almost taste the dry, fruity wine with its subtle hint of frizzante served at the family table. A hot gust of wind blew up across the sea from North Africa. A dog began to howl. ‘It was all too good to lose’, Gaston said.
We were steaming past the island of Santorini when the sea erupted. A sulphurous bio luminescence suffused the sky. Tentacles emerged from the boiling water, each one equipped with suckers, small teeth and swivelling sharp hooks. Then the head with its immense bulging eyes and a massive mantle, glowing purple. A Giant Squid on the warpath … The creature pulsed towards us with surprising agility, by pulling water into its mantle cavity and then expelling it by contracting its muscles. It used its tail tentacle to steer. As it got closer I saw the S.S. Rangoon reflected, tiny, in its huge eyeball, like the sort of Biedermeier image of a ship you see captured in a glass paperweight. Or like a painted ship upon a painted ocean. Then the toxic squid ink started to cover everything in black. The creature expelled this noxious liquid from its anus, which it waved about to accelerate the inundation. ‘Here we dive’, I said, once more. To say that the Mexicans, Lobo and Morales had upped their game would be putting it mildly …
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atlantis redividus As we wound down into the depths of the Aegean blue I saw crystal cliffs, rearing banks of adamantine stone, fronds of seaweed shimmering in the refracted sun, shoals of flame coloured fish and reefs of coral that seemed to glow with an interior luminescence. ‘Beautiful, no?’ Edouard had joined me on the Bridge. He explained that what I took to be natural submarine beauty was in fact the archaeological remains of the lost land of Atlantis. My associate had completed a joint honours degree in marine archaeology and geology at the Institute in Krakow, the only course of its kind in the World and one to which only a small number of select pupils are admitted. He said that the volcanic eruption which formed the current vertiginous contours of Santorini in the 16th century bc was a pimple, a mere afterthought to the Mega volcanic event that had destroyed Atlantis here millennia earlier. The island of Lampedusa, below Sicily is what remains of the southern rim of that Mega volcano and the Karst escarpment behind Trieste is its northern rim. ‘These cliffs and banks are the remains of the palaces and libraries built by the wise giants who lived in Atlantis. The shoals of fish are their lost souls.’ Edouard was getting carried away.
Dark Tower ‘Where else do think our myths of a lost paradise come from? Genesis? Plato? … it’s all Atlantis … ’ He pointed out a rocky outcrop on the ocean bed. ‘That building contained all the books and documents produced by this lost civilisation. They are still there, encrusted by barnacles, striated by coral and written in a script we have not decoded. If we are to understand that great culture we must understand them. That’s where Berlitz comes in.’ Perhaps he was right. I was just pleased to escape the clutches of the Giant Squid.
trieste! trieste! I love the final approach to Trieste and the feeling of calm it brings as the engines power down: the solemn seafront squares arranging themselves into view, the great Victory lighthouse, strangely austere, the nodding cranes and the docks. It is like coming home. Just as Danzig is like coming home and as Rangoon is like coming home. We are fortunate indeed to have three such refuges from the uncertainties and perils of the sea and Reconditioning. I noticed that the J. and K. motif painted on our warehouse wall had taken a battering in the winter storms and the proud Gothic script had been all but bleached out, like a medieval wall painting that has been whitewashed but which miraculously reasserts itself, faint but vigorous hundreds of years later. I, for one, hope the history of Janczyk and Karnicki will have a similar resurgence in some future epoch. Perhaps this diary will help point the way. Who knows? For now, our Trieste warehouse will become a warehouse of words. Instead of things, we will recondition language … words, words, words … The Berlitzers will sort it out for us …
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The Karst plateau rises sharply behind Trieste, as if to trap the city on its littoral. There are forests with wild boar and the disfiguring white of quarries but for the most part this escarpment is covered in thick, thorny bushes and what Corsicans call maquis. One day Rip Yergenes suggested walking up into the hills: he had something to show me, he said. ‘Why not?’ I replied. We started to climb a road which soon petered out and then what meagre paths there were became choked with scrub. The last house we passed was in the French chateau style. The windows were lit. Faint music drifted across the air. Operetta? Lehar? The thorny bushes tore at my shins. The wind was brutal and pure. Ridge after low ridge appeared before us as we gained height. After an hour of exhausting climbing I realised something extraordinary and rather frightening: the higher we climbed, the higher the sea horizon rose, until it seemed to be suspended above the land, as if held back from inundating it by some ineluctable force, like the meniscus on top of a glass full of water. It was oppressive and disorienting. Some call this phenomenon the Trieste Shift and allege that one experience of it is enough to damage the optic nerve. The ineluctable modality of the visible. Doctors have tried to diagnose the condition without success and lawyers have got involved. They would of course like to help their clients take an action, but who could they sue? It is a problem even for Vienna trained jurists, famous for their litigious excesses. And then there are the psychiatrists, some of whom settled in Trieste after Sigmund Freud’s frequent visits had made the sometime Hapsburg port a favourite watering hole for Viennese intellectuals. There was nothing they liked better than to sit in the Cafe San Marco on the waterfront and discuss the cases of Trieste Shift they were treating. Coffee, cake and patient stories, Viennastil. After lunch there was the
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it out. I asked Rip Yergenes if the tower was what he had brought me to see. The Pest Control Officer dismissed this notion impatiently and explained there was a certain species of moth he was keen to eliminate that lived in the maquis. ‘It’s a thankless task’, he said, ‘but I must to try. You can’t be too careful’. He flitted about waving his butterfly net in a desultory fashion, while thousands of small, colourless and as far as I could see blameless moths rose in clouds out of the scrub. Tired after my climb I sat down inside the tower. I began to feel sleepy. When we set off back down it was already twilight. I could see the elegant squares and boulevards of Trieste below me, the parks and castles, the tangled knot of the medieval town, the great Victory lighthouse and the docks. It was impressive but it all seemed surprisingly provisional. To my relief the sea horizon receded as we descended. On the way down Rip seemed disconsolate. He was not great company …
sanctuary of the wood panelled room upstairs where cigars or opium gave sweet relief. Eventually we topped another ridge and there standing on the plateau where the escarpment levelled off was a dark tower. It was built of gloomy red blocks, squat and mean. The tower could have been built in the last decade or it could have been of unimaginable antiquity. I was astonished by its inscrutable banality. My wisenheimer older brother had mentioned this place. It reminded him of the Martello tower he lived in outside Dublin. The ineluctable modality of the visible. We stepped inside the open topped tower and suddenly the sky filled with black swans. The beat of their wings shook me to the core. Perhaps the tower had been built to transmit the profound sounds of this immense migration. But to whom, and why? Maybe I could figure
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A Gallimaufry of Reconditioned Languages The Berlitz School was a magnet for experimental writers, chancers, literary lions down on their luck and anyone who could spin a vaguely plausible story about language and linguistics to the gullible John Selwyn Gilbert. The promise of a few hours work at Berlitz meant that any member of this motley crew could open an account at the Cafe San Marco, and spend time at the tables there, notebooks ostentatiously spread out, pretending to work on the big novel until the cocktail hour and then, books away, and a chance to shoot the breeze into the small hours. Ezra Pound came to Trieste at the invitation of my wisenheimer older brother. The one lesson he gave was about the Provençal language which he claimed was still spoken – this Langue d’Oc – in remote villages between Montpellier and Sauve. He then started reciting Provençal love poetry from the 13th century. John Selwyn Gilbert was overcome with emotion. Love and language or at least sex and language seemed to be yoked together in Trieste. Gabriele d’Annunzio rode in on his white charger. He was near the end of his life but still vigorous. He spoke of the spectral republic he had set up just down the coast in Fiume and the unique Venetian dialect spoken there known as Fiumano, and he described the arms he had sold to the Irish revolutionaries of Easter 1916. Then he went on to praise the beauty of the female pudenda at great and florid length, as if we did not know, we who kept silent about these matters, not out of inhibition but out of a profound awe. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the class of trainee secretaries whom he addressed on the subject and who were expecting some instruction on administrative English and speed writing were not best pleased.
Edouard Karnicki was more than happy to exchange ideas with loose cannons like d’Annunzio and Pound as part of his ‘advanced’ course. I once overheard him telling a table of Berlitzers about the great Polish epic pan tadeusz by Adam Mickiewicz, which begins with the line: Oh! Lithuania! Gales of laughter all round. That’s the Poles for you …
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Trains and Boats and Brains Modeste Servitorius liked calling at Trieste because when the S.S. Rangoon had docked he could deploy his stewarding skills on the express that ran from Trieste to Vienna. Faced with the height and steepness of the Karst escarpment, Austrian engineers had devised a way of bringing the track down to the port without violating the gradient limits of conventional railways. They constructed a series of wide, repeating loops which made for a leisurely and scenic voyage. The rolling stock included an observation car so that passengers could enjoy the view as they dined. This elegant carriage with distinctive cream and brown livery was where Modeste liked to work while on shore leave. The trains were long and on some bends it was possible to look back from the observation car and see the last carriages moving slowly in the opposite direction. In this way, the railway line offered its own version of the Trieste Shift. The ineluctable modality of the visible. The Viennese engineers had taken their inspiration for this project from the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway in India which they had visited during its construction by the British. It snaked down the foothills of the Himalayas from the hill station of Darjeeling to New Jalpaiguri in the plains below. Although it was a traction railway with steep gradients, the principle was the same. And so was the more fugitive principle whereby both railway lines, once built, seemed to acquire an immediate sepia tinted patina of age. It was as if Chevreul had fitted them with a hidden device that accelerated the passing of time. (He once told me that he had built just such a mechanism into the Bridge of the S.S. Rangoon.) There are trains all over the world that seem to evoke such elegiac feelings of nostalgia: the Royal Moroccan Railways line from Marrakesh to Fez; the Sudanese Railways line down the Nile valley from Wadi Halfa to Khartoum with its improbably tall diesel locomotives and its timetables designed to allow stops for prayer; on the Simplon Express Duke Ellington in a silk dressing gown worked
on his music scores in the seclusion of an individual carriage as the train trundled south; in the American south west engineers coaxed their cow-catcher locomotives over bridges spanning vast canyons, held up by a flimsy latticework of wooden shafts deliciously vulnerable to attack or fire: these are the train journeys of the mind, the cerebral pathways and synapses that illuminate a map of an almost involuntary longing for a past: a past of our imagination. ‘This is what I love,’ Modeste used to tell passengers, as the train took another slow turn and he ladled beef consommé with precision. He managed to keep the cuffs of his shirt immaculate throughout the journey.
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Here Comes Atlantis
Multum in Parvo
The remaining waiter was putting chairs on tables and wiping down the bar. As ever, it was Modeste. As well as working on the Vienna train, he liked to practice at the prestigious Cafe San Marco. It was late. His face wore the lugubrious expression of waiters the worldover when customers have outstayed their welcome. The Cafe was empty except for my wisenheimer brother and Edouard Karnicki. Over a bottle of Fantastisch ol’ Feinster they were discussing Edouard’s drawings of the Atlantis tablets. ‘I think this could be the key’, said Jim. ‘The key to everything … I think I’ll call my work in progress Finnegans Wake.’ Eddie! The ineluctable modality of the visible …
The latest recruit to J. and K., Operator Anatol Rigolade, sat in the telegraph room on board the S.S. Rangoon tapping out messages into the ether:
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code no. 11568 – Chimerine – Cargo landed in a worthless condition and not taken up … code no. 20981 – Iyalysum – [Given the Cochin experience] must have ice clause in all future bills of lading … code no. 40081 – Snorebot – At Port Said waiting to pass through Canal … These were trial messages predicated on old scenarios and sent to Danzig Headquarters to test the newly mastered rubric of The A.B.C Telegraphic Code and to assess how it might function in the future. It was enough that the messages were sent and received. They were returned unread.
La Luta Continua
My Last Cigarette
Chevreul hovered over his phials like a Praying Mantis, Marine Paint in one, squid ink in the other. Also taking his cue from the fifth edition of The A.B.C. Telegraphic Code, the Frenchman intoned into the evening air: ‘The missing formula … c12 h22 o11 = c6/6 h12/6 o 6/6. No more Giant Squid attacks. But as Mr. Svevo would put it in his crude Italian, la luta continua.’ It is true that my pupil’s Italian was crude but it was nothing if not prescient …
For one of his assignments Italo Svevo rendered the closing passage from his fictional work in progress into English.
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Spectacled man invents implements outside his body and if there was any health or nobility in the inventor there is none in the user. Implements are bought and sold or stolen, and man goes on getting weaker and more cunning. It is natural that his cunning should increase in proportion to his weakness. The earliest implements only added to the length of his arm, and could not be employed except by the exercise of his own strength. But a machine creates disease because it denies what has been the law of creation throughout the ages. The law of the strongest disappeared, and we have abandoned natural selection. We need something more than psychoanalysis to help us. Under the law of the greatest number of machines, disease will prosper and the diseased will grow ever more numerous. Perhaps some incredible disaster produced by machines will lead us back to health. When all the poison gases are exhausted, a man like all other men of flesh and blood will in the quiet of his room invent an explosive of such potency that all the explosives in existence will seem like harmless toys beside it. And another man, made in his image and in the image of the rest, but a little weaker than them, will steal that explosive and crawl to the centre of the earth with it, and place it just where he calculates it would have the maximum effect. There will be a tremendous explosion, but no one will hear it and the earth will return to its nebulous state and go wandering through the sky, free at last from parasites and disease.
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editor’s note Not bad for an heir to an Austrian shipping fortune who wrote in Italian. I could see why my smart alec older brother liked Svevo. But I think he liked the idea of his fortune as much as his writing. I was attending to some stylistic inelegances in the English, when Mr. Selwyn Gilbert’s secretary burst into my office, ashen faced. ‘Mr. Svevo has been killed in a motor car accident in the hills above Trieste. We just heard.’
This is where the to trieste text breaks off. Italo Svevo died in 1928 exactly ten years before the events described in the to rangoon text if the dating of that narrative published as the escape starts here is accurate – something for which we have no confirmatory intrinsic or extrinsic evidence. It is always possible that the two writers conspired about these dates so as to benefit from the fashionable sobriquet ‘unreliable narrator’.
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Last page of 40pp text Turned in flap of jacket
Series Editor Robert McNab
janczyk & karnicki present
Too Much Far Out Rock n’Roll Robert McNab · Rory Fellowes · George Trapp A Macfelslie Comic, 1970
Unprinted black card cover
Turned in flap of jacket
David Perry is a fully paid up member of what he calls highbrow backlash, believing it is for the many, not the few.
[ out of print ]
A Day in the Life of Modeste Servitorius Robert McNab and Tino Tedaldi Society for Rangoon Studies, 2009 [ awaiting re-publication ]
In Search of Janczyk & Karnicki at the Opening of the Rip Yer Genes Museum Robert McNab and Tino Tedaldi Society for Rangoon Studies, 2009 [ out of print ]
Robert le Vigan’s Story Robert McNab An Illustrated Biography, 2009 [ awaiting re-publication ]
the escape starts here The Movie Stills Robert McNab and Tino Tedaldi Society for Rangoon Studies, 2009 [ out of print ]
the escape starts here
Edited by Robert McNab Institute of Janczyk & Karnicki Studies, 2014 [ in stock ]
the lopezista uprising and kazimir torun Robert McNab and Tino Tedaldi Institute of Janczyk & Karnicki Studies, 2015 [ in stock ]
instructions: the escape starts here A Game with a Life of its Own Robert McNab and George Trapp Institute of Janczyk & Karnicki Studies, 2015 [ in stock ]
Achevé d’imprimer 15 mai 1956 Imprimerie Rip Yer Genes · Dijon (France) prix: 25 Kopecs · 23 Piastres · 19 Dinars · 12 Lire
to trieste When it comes to steamship travel, I can categorically say that I dislike reaching my destination. Something about the gentle ululation of the engines, the uninspired, wholesome cuisine and the stern daily timetable makes me want to steam on forever … david perry
The Institute of Janczyk & Karnicki Studies rangoon · danzig · trieste
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