All growth is a leap in the dark, a spontaneous unpremeditated act without benefit of experience.
– DH Lawrence
Too soon but also too late. This retroactive travel dispatch does, automatically, without effort, what any such report does, indict the criminality of time, the genocidal nature of space-time, which keeps passing without heed for life or limb. The first paragraph always happens to come out meta in one way or another. It is as if a need existed to take a step back from the action itself and consider how, possibly, one might commit it to writing. Partly molding experience, partly butchering it and certainly, even if only implicitly, lamenting the passage of time. Which is off-handedly referred to as the direction of increasing entropy but which is really, let’s be more humanist/realist, the direction of the increasing irreversibility of our foolish actions. And, of course, the approach of old age trailing death.
Destination: Freiburg im Breisgau. Breisgau, consider the peculiarity of this word, one letter short of „porridge disaster“.
Distance: So awfully close to Lucerne that it might be forgiven to think it difficult not to be somehow still lying, if not within Switzerland per se, then the auroral glow of Helvetia. Which is by far too difficult and fuzzy a concept for the writer to get any sort of conceptual hold of. Geopolitical radiance, by comparison, is easy to understand.
Theme: The Allemanic Leap – here too forgiveness is necessary. The penman is under the heavy, surreal sway of Dublinesque and anyone who has read that novel/dream is aware of how hard it is to extricate oneself from its tentacular influence. Without being too melodramatic, its force field must reach into non-conscious cognition. Especially the sense that whether in new york, dublin or elsewhere, wherever, tucked away with that piece of fiction one should consider oneself to be at the centre of the world.
Protagonists: Tiziana Lydia Milena Bonnetti, who would preferred to be called Dall’O or, alternatively, Caravelli, plus her alternative half Themba Benedict Mabona, who has lately come to like to style himself as Xii Wang, even Xii Wang Biko and is unable to realize or admit how confused and ill-matching and even borderline pathetic such a nom de plume would be. Leaving aside the fact that nowadays it would have to be a nom de clavier. He is studying one of the Asiatic languages, as hopeless an undertaking as exists for a person born to the Germanic tongue and having crossed the rubicon of 40, a foreseeable adventure in life-long futility.
Interval: three and a half days almost to the minute, meaning 84 hours, from Thursday morning to Sunday noon in mid February. Weather: much more clement than could be expected if it weren’t for global climate change against which, presently, is once again very vividly protested. A young girl from Sweden is taking the lead in this; she has turned the life of her parents inside out as well as that of a couple of hundred thousand middle school students across Europe. She is one of those people who for mysterious reason were born not only in the wrong epoch but onto the wrong planet; one can listen to her speak, look into her eyes and understand, easily, that inside she must be around the same age or older than one of our two protagonists [tm]. What is more shockingly simple to see: the young woman, Greta from Sweden, is a Saint.
Point of departure: Luzern, always Luzern, never any end to it.
The trip out was spent reading Vila-Matas [tm] and a book on the history and cultural iconography of the paintings of Mary [Dall’O], as well as studying HanYu on a new application [tm/xwb again]. Tm is usually unable to take his eyes off ofthe Lucerne Midlands but this time got sucked into vocabulary acquisition: the colorful background and animated icons did it.
About the Allemanic Leap: it can be called this in various respects. The most simple is language-based. Something at a short distance in German is called at a cat’s leap away. Tb/D’o and tm/xwb were those respective cats; they are slender enough to make the analogy work, though Dall’O’s clumsiness and Tm’s utter lack of physical flexibility would raise not a few readerly eyebrows. The train ride takes 90 minutes, the duration of a monotonous H-wood blockbuster, something very much worth leaping over and landing on the other side of. On the ICE leg of the approach to Freiburg im Breisgau they had to themselves a kind of cabin, four dark blue seats walled off by a glass door. This signaled: you have already landed in Germany, your paws are already touching the ground of Southern Allemania even if, in fact, you are moving at a good 150km/h through Baden-Würtemberg along the Rheinthal, with the Rhein itself invisible in the distance. Tm/xwb senses a mild tremor when he realizes at one point during his first day in Freiburg i. B. that they have not touched down in Bayern but in Baden-Württemberg. The deep history of geographical ignorance it betrays is not at issue, the sensation is much more visceral: trying to leap onto the window-sill and landing instead on the balcony or the cistern above the bowl or, worse, some section of the apartment the cat had only been hazily aware of and which might involve unknown complications.
The leap or jump though can also stand for how paradoxically distant and close Switzerland and Germany are – there is the commonality of language that almost immediately breaks down once one speaks to someone of a different dialect. It is not usually a lack of mutual comprehension but an uncanny sense that the other party is having a cryptic joke at one’s own expense – why else would they speak with such strange inflections, damn near ululations, otherwise? Why would they suddenly lapse into completely meaningless words? But then no, nobody is joking, this is just one’s language but the comedic element, the moment of suspicion has been introduced and is hard to extricate. For example: Tb made a point of saying „Grüezi“, „E schöne Tag noh!“ and other highly Helvetian phrases to poor Baden-Württembergers while scrutinizing their faces for any untoward expressions. Mind you, this included Thursday and Friday, regular working days, not an ideal time to assault people with exotic phrases, much less sociolinguistic experiments in maintaining face. The results were inconclusive but certain miens seemed to suggest, especially those at the bakeries, that his interlocutors were unsure if he had just said something meaningful or meaningless, their faces implied that they were waiting for him to complete his leap onto Germanic soil, to land, as it were, tongue first.