Should artists be political?

PAULINA. Does it bother you that we are so close to the Russian border here? Are you worried there might be war?

NILS. I went to the beach this evening. And I walked to the Russian border. Just to see how close it really is. Half an hour.


NILS. I have to admit I was surprised when you told me on our way to Nida that you were worried.

CORINNE. I think being born in Lithuania gives an accurate vision – and fear, as well – of the situation.

PAULINA. Were you tempted to put at least one foot on a Russian soil? If you had, would it have been a political or an artistic act?

NILS. The easy answer would be: I’m no politician. So maybe it could have been only an artistic act. At most. Or a childish act?

PAULINA. “Love for one’s country knows no foreign boundaries.” (Stanisław Jerzy Lec; 6 March 1909 – 7 May 1966) (born Baron Stanisław Jerzy de Tusch-Letz) was a Polish poet and aphorist. Often mentioned among the greatest writers of post-WW2 Poland, he was one of the most influential aphorists on the 20th century, known for lyrical poetry and sceptical philosophical-moral aphorisms, often with a political subtext.)

CORINNE. Should artist be political, you asked…  well, what do you mean by artist?  When I saw “the artist, Corinne Roche”, written on my contract, I felt like bursting out laughing. Not that writers can’t be artists, but only a few af them are. I can’t say I’m an artist, really (but if you think I am, it’s ok!) because being an honest writer is already quite a big job for me.

By the way, I feel much easier to write in this blog now, thanks to both of you.

PAULINA. One of you is no politician, another- no artist… Does that make the question pointless?

CORINNE. Not at all. I just had to know more precisely. By “artist”, did you mean a  person who uses his talent or fame to have a political activity or influence?

PAULINA. No, by ‘artists’ I meant writers, visual artists, composers, filmmakers, theatre directors etc., who as such are visible to the public or have access to a wider audience through their work.

NILS.  So let’s see, if we can find a way to better answers. I got this Link from you the other day. The article by Sofi Oksanen was quiete touching. She writes: “A new age has already begun. The inter-Cold War period – 1989-2014 – is over.” Do you agree?

CORINNE. Too early to say, in my opinion. this is where Europe has its role to play, I hope. Maybe I’m too naive.

PAULINA. Yes, I think Oksanen put it quite well and I agree with her. But what  interests me here is whether an artist in this broader sense, described above, as such have an obligation and should speak out directly and publicly through mass media about important political issues and ‘take sides’, or should he/she reflect these issues in their creative work, or both, or neither?

CORINNE. So, our definitions of the word artist are quite different. But in any case, the artist has a responsability because what he says or intends to say will have an influence. Sartre, for instance, spoke a lot, and many times his wrong judgements  led peole to believe in wrong facts. I do’nt know if an artist “should” be political, but I’m sure he or she should think thoroughly before he does.  And remain modest. The best thing an artist could do is to help other people to think by themselves. Sartre was so dogmatic that he didn’t allow that . Quite hard to write what I exactly think, because of the language, and time, as well.  I have to work now.  this is quite an old debate, but I didnt finish with it.    Well, see you later !

NILS. Art is not a effigy of reality. It creates reality. So reflection of political issues in creative work most of the time won’t work very well. But what about the other point? What do you think about speaking out directly – when and how should this be done?

PAULINA. I am using the word ‘political’ in a broad sense here. There is a third way for an artist to be political – that is not to participate in something, not to accept awards, etc. Is that efficient, meaningful? Yes, it is an old debate, but it comes up as a rather practical question when something politically important happens in a country, in a reagion, in a continent, or in the world.

NILS. But it’s really hard to find out these days what really is going on, isn’t it? You could read in The Guardian yesterday: “Ukraine crisis escalates as pro-Russia activists declare independence in Donetsk.” Who are these activists? And what does ‘independece” mean exactly in this context? So behind our question lies another, maybe more fundamental question, which is: Should artists be interested in politics anyway?

PAULINA. It is not so hard if you choose reliable sources and if you know the context and a bit of history and if you trust your intelligent judgement. In this case the “activists” travel from Russia to Ukraine (often for money) to destabilise the situation and to create a pretext for Russia to invade the neighbouring sovereign country. It has nothing to do with “independence” whatsoever.

“Politics” is a rather narrow concept and possibly is the realm of politicians, but if artists/writers are not interested in current political or social situation, is their work urgent or even contemporary? Or does it not have to be?

CORINNE. I also wondered : why should artists, more than anyone else, be political? or let’s say, more than personalities? or specialiste, or journalits? as artists, do they have a more accurate opinion than others on a given situation? concretely, I heard quite a lot of artists, most of them I really respected, but on some subjects I knew a bit better than they did, for many reasons, I had the feeling their opinion was both sincere and rough.

NILS. I found something on Facebook today. A quote by Thomas Mann: “A man lives not only his personal life, as an individual, but also, consciously or unconsciously, the life of his epoch and his contemporaries.” Sounds good. But does it answer our question?

PAULINA. Corinne, I still don’t know what your definition of an artist is, as you seem to disassociate yourself with ‘them’. The question of this theme uses my definition of an artist given above. As a writer you fall into that group because as such you have a language (literature) and an audience (your readers) that other groups you mentioned do not have. I did not want to restrict the question to ‘writers’, because the question is not just or so much about us, but more general: for example, there is talk about the position of conductors Dudamel and Gergiev regarding their rulers – others think the former is innocent, only the latter is guilty.

PAULINA. It was Sartre who maintained that the itellectual should be politically engaged. However, he “expressed himself elusively about the writer’s [in particular] political role (returning to the vague idea of mirroring one’s times)”. Apparently “Sartre was not changing in these years; he was merely presenting two increasingly separate sides of himself. The activist intellectual on the one hand and, on the other, the writer, creator of the singular universal.”

CORINNE. Thanks, Paulina, I’ll try to answer you. For me, being an artist implicates not only work, talent, or desire to be one, but also the result. (Not speaking even about people who write nice but superficial novels, for instance. I’m not judging anyone, as I myself can read one of their novels with great pleasure, while traveling, in a train, or lying on the beach.) There are also novelists who try their best to write good novels ; I’ll put myself in this category. I’m a sincere person, I wrote 6 novels, and people read and generally liked them. I’m a novelist, not an artist. Why? because, if I had to read some of my books, as written by somobdy else, I should problably choose something better. as a reader, I would like a higher level. Precisely the level I want to reach when I write, without complete success.

what I mean is: its not enough to write books and to have an audience to be an artist.  but in fact, as I now see what meaning you give to this word, the discussion can go on. No matter if our definitions are different, we just have to know it, and agree about some common meaning…

NILS. The activist intellectual here, the writer there. Separate sides. I think this is very true. I also think it is no handicap if a writer is no activist intellectual. There is no duty for her or him in searching reliable sources day by day to stay informed. The other way round – if you’re a writer and you see or know something which is politically interesting  and you have the chance to tell the public about it, I think, you should try to do so. Because everything else would probably mean, you’re not very interested in your job as a writer. (A bold statement, as we say in Germany.)


What is Corinne doing here?

Well,  very good question… an easy one, in fact. I’m here to see if I’m still a writer. I don’t speak of beeing an author, this is quite different. I left France with 70 pages of a novel I began 3 years ago, and abandoned. I thought that maybe, Sartre and Mann, (not to speak about you, my dear fellows), would gently take my hand and help me finish the sentence of page 70 , and begin a new one.

what else do I do here? eating from the pan. wearing nice lithuanian slippers. Tasting water from the lagoon…

wednesday, 6 pm.

Yesterday I read some articles about Sartre,  saw a small film about his work and engagement. What I’m doing here (writing a short story about him and Mann) should make , if I succeed, people feel like opening a book from one of them (or both). “Les mots”, and “Kean”, a wonderful play I just discovered. And “about the jewish question”, published in 48 and still very accurate. this, I think, is really political. Because after reading the book, someone asks himself new questions he didn’t think about before.

By the way, I brought “felix krull” with me (Mann’s last novel) and was not very enthousiastic about reading this thick book printed in tiny block letters. But I was determined to be  brave. Fortunately, I didn’t need to. really a funny and quite surprising novel…


No, it’s not Felix krull’s bedroom. Just a fantastic chocolate room, in a chocolate shop, in Pilies street, in Vilnius. Chairs, table, sofa… Everything is made from chocolate.

Sunday the 13th. Hi everybody, I try to write UNDER this ,!*z$$??<! picture, and not above… and will I manage in putting another picture, (and not upside down, if possible? ) that’s what both of you and I are going to see in a few minutes. Or hours.  if I don’t succeed, just know that the picture was about the very interesting musical performance we had on thursday evening. CIMG3029oooooh, what a miracle! There’s a God somewhere.


CIMG3043For some obscure reason, this picture appears also at the beginning of our blog. I think th computer probably thought that could a nice symbol of what’s happening here; listening to nature forces, trying to combine technology and simple materials. what else could it be?


Monday the 14th

one of my best moments in Nida – so far. The day after my arrival was a photo worshop with Ernest and some young students from Erasmus. Linas had told me it would take place,  I didn’t think of joining them . but when I came down and sat silently behind the assistance,  it seemed quite fascinating: they had to make their own camera, then take a picture – “I don’t think I can join you?” I asked to Ernest, who asked me in return: “why couldn’t you join us? You just have to find a box.” I found one. “now, you have to paint it in black”, said one of the student, Gabriella. and we both put our fingers in the same bottle of black paint. painting a box in black with your fingers gives more pleasure than trying to penetrate Thomas Mann’s state of mind, I tell you.

then we had to put our boxes outside, turning their dark face toward sun, with all other boxes. Last tanning session.

See result below.




tuesday the 15th

what is Corinne doing here? actually, watching Nils playing volley-ball with Daina, Oscar, Gabriel, Julia and a few others (guest team) against 5 other players all dressed in the same way (local team). quite a reward after a hard day of writing. Bravo la Kolonija! you – are – the – champions…



Thursday, the 17th.

nice visit to Klaipeda yesterday, nice and peaceful monster on the lawn (I always thought that monsters are unhappy and miserable creatures. In french : a monster is the one that has to be shown (to show is: montrer.) and he’s really being shown to everybody there…)CIMG3080

Yesterday was also the last day of the tournament. While walking through the forest to the stadium, together with Gabriel and Julia, we could exchange not only brilliant ideas : -) but also languages!!! I took a german lesson. Und jetzt kann ich sagen, heute lief das Schreiben ganz gut … Bis später.

NILS. Sehr schön!




saturday the 26th.

As I was looking for some information about the fifties in Nida,  I went to the local museum, very small, close to Thomas Mann’s house. Interesting pictures, some of them unfortunately not dated. that was actually a chance to talk and ask the librairian about this period. And when she heard about my project, she gave me this book of hers. Not to sale, as I thought at the beginning.  It’s written in lithuanian, of course, by a local journalist, living now in Klaipeda. So if I need any translation, I’ll ask some help from Linas or Paulina :-) !!!

Really a very useful gift. I will give back the book to the librarian at the end of my stay here, with a bunch of flowers.  this idea gives me the moral strength to go on writing…


Saturday the 9th

The blog was kaput for a while… and now, healthy again. It deserves a small speech, doesn’t it?

“Dear Bloggie, don’t think I forgot you all these days. Tried to join you without success, asked news from you to Daina, spoke with Nils about you… Even a friend of mine worried not to be able to reach you.  So, welcome home, Bloggie! Salud, cheers, prost, lekhaïm, gesundheit, tchin tchin, I sveikata! ”

Last week, Lysianne Caron from the french Institute of LIthuania came to visit us. I had a great week-end, walking with her and talking about literature and classic music (she plays violin) .  we had a lot in common, I think. And she made me discover 2 wonderful dishes: “GRIKAI”, a kind of cereals, very easy to prepare, store in fridge, reheat, and so on for several days. quite perfect food for me. another dish is cepelinai we ate in kursis, nice restaurant in Nida. I ate the first meatball and began  the second one, which, I think, is quite honorable for a woman without any training. then I came back to NAC for afternoon writing, and actually had a little snap  before… ) I recommend  cepelinai to insomniac people.

Fourth draft finished yesterday. I  have a day off today. I just cheked some information about Thomas Mann and “discovered” I was right – I means that  what I wrote in my short story about his feelings, thoughts, was quite true. 


monday, the 12th


A walk in the forest. And maybe a representation of what writing is. Wildness, mysterious order (not visible at once). Many hidden creatures. Fears, dangers. A space in which you can slowly find your way through, with time and patience.


To go on with the metaphore : a result of what the forest can produce.

left: Jean-Paul Sartre, right: Thomas Mann (bigger) .


What is Nils doing here?

Apr 2. Going to Nida.

DSCN0665_NM final


Apr 3. Photographed a not countable times before. And painted of course, too. They call it the “Italien view”.  Nice to see for Tourists who visit the Memorial museum of Thomas Mann. I stood there, took my picture an asked myself, what am I doing here? Why another picture? The I-was-here-thing. I had this quite often in the first two days. What I didn’t have so far – the feeling, that Thomas Mann or Jean-Paul Sartre could cross my way.



Apr 4. Another introspection. Writing was not easy the first days. The room: four beds, naked walls. So I went to the beach, startted collecting stuff. Stones, these typical flat stones. Sand. Flotsam.



Apr 5. Fascinating as a walk on the beach – going to the one and only supermarket. Found an interesting souvenir on the upper floor. A vase with a picture of “Tomo Mano namas Nidoje” (“Thomas Manns Sommerhaus in Nidden”).



Apr 6. Today the three of us were discussing the blog once again. Got a hint, very, very politely, that I may post too many photos here. Tried to explain that for me writing in English means doing scissor work with a hammer. Went out after that. Took some more photos.


PAULINA. This looks like the yacht “Dailė” (“Art”), that in 1989, during Lithuania’s strugle for independence, together with two other Lithuanian yachts, crossed the Atlantic Ocean repeating the daring act of “Lituanica” pilots of free pre-war Lithuania and commemorating the journey of all the displaced persons who had to flee the Russian occupation of 1944.

NILS. Is this story well known in Lithuania?

PAULINA. Yes, but might be forgotten. I was glad to see “Dailė” here.


Apr 7.



Apr 8. Went to the dunes again yesterday. Eerie – no sight, no sound. Before I came to Nida I read in Thomas Manns diaries that he had kind of a panic attack in the dunes one day. Easy to imagine. I for one stepped in a rain attack today. Including thunder and lightning. Found shelter at a closed bar. Enough for an online-diary called blog?



Apr 9. Who are these two? Looks like they don’t have to tell each other anything. Is this the image for the fictitious meetinf of TM and JSP?



Apr 10. Construction work is going on. Inside and ouside the Colony. I like the old lady. Wondering if she is running this familiy business as the foreman. As a character in a story she of course would be. Apropos – read today a little about Sartre’s visit to Nida. With him was not only Somine de Beauvoir, but also Lena Zolina. Sartre’s Russian interpreter, none-too-secret lover and  KGB agent. Also she was probably the main reason why he came here in 1965.



Apr 11. Paulina’s birthday. Happy barbecue.



Apr 12. Thomas Mann loved to ride the bycicle. But I guess when he was in Nida he didn’t do that. He walked. Or he took “das Wägelchen” (a small carriage) – maybe not unusual back then. Pretty unusual however: He and his family were the only one’s who had a beach chair in Nida. So you have to imagine all these summer visitors with their sand castles and blankets and Thomas Mann sitting there in his covered “sofa”, looking at the sea.



Apr 13. No one’s birthday. Happy Pizza anyway.



Apr 14. What I really like: early evenings at the Curonian Lagoon. The light is always different – and today suddenly the horizon disappeared. Actually I’m not the only one who comes out for Death valley. It’s something like the meeting point for the young ones over here.



Apr 15.



Apr 16.



Apr 17. Been to one of the artist’s studios. Looking at plants in bell jars, which will swim in the Baltic Sea soon. Listening to someone talking about oceanic feelings. Fancy diner later.



Apr 18. The tourist arrive on the island for Easter. Which means: you suddenly see people here and there on the streets and all checkouts in the supermarket are open. I don’t know exactly why – but I went to the harbour in order to take photos of a lonesome place.



Apr 19.


PAULINA. Our studios in Nida Art Colony… I have to admit, when I wake up at night that gaze freaks me out, but during the day it’s ok…

NILS. Me and a fly and – for a short while – another visitor were looking around in the Thomas Mann Sommerhaus. The fly was buzzing. The other visitor had his family waiting outside in the sun, eating sandwiches. I thought I couldn’t work here with tourists eating in front of my house and a fly in the room. But a lovely view of the lagoon – a flock of swans on the blue water.

CORINNE. I had some interogations when leaving the house –  I was too lazy to come back and ask the woman. Where was the kitchen? What about the bathroom? And apparently, Mrs Mann had a bedroom of her own…

I wondered how she felt with all the children around her, having to remind them probably: “keep quiet, your father is working!”

NILS. I think they had staff. To do the laundry, to cook and so on. And Mrs Mann took the children to the beach in the morning. Mr Mann joined his family later on to continue his writing in the beach chair.


Apr 20. Existentialism is a beach, as we all know. But after 10 pages of the story Intimacy by JPS I was not so sure, if his prose aged very well. Maybe the translation. Maybe the fact that the weather was simply too good.



Apr 21.



Apr 22.



Apr 23. Halftime. Didn’t left the Colony. Cut the story from 50 pages down to 38. The goal: 25. As one of the artists said during the Volleyball: “It’s possible.”



Apr 24. State of the art. Colonystas spending the morning on the camping site near by. To collect fir needles and birch greenery. In return we now can use the tennis court whenever we want. That’s how they play it here. Nice.


CORINNE. Seems we were not working too hard… I was looking thoughtfully at my feet on the previous picture…


NILS. So, Corinne: Think twice, do it once. Old rule. Good rule.

CORINNE. I do agree – being the kind of person who thinks three times and do nothing. Thank you Nils!


Apr 25. Got a rhythm. Start writing in bed around 7.00. Having breakfast around 9.00 and lunchtime around 13.00. Inbetwenn working at the table. Leaving the Colony for an excursion around 17.00. After that E-Mails. Blog. And late dinner. Not complaining.



Apr 26.



Apr 27. Left Nida. Went to Palanga. Martin Parr comes to mind. Kind of like looking at an accident – unable to turn away the head. The saddest moment was, when I saw this boy. Maybe 14 years old. Probably a little mentally challenged. He was wearing a football shirt and playing the flute. Well, he whistled random notes. Saw him twice within an hour. He whistled and whistled and whistled. (The music of Palanga.)



Apr 28. Spend the morning in Riga. Centraltirgus Market. Swedish Gate. Bastejkalns – from where I took the picture. Art Nouveau District. The whole time I had this limerick going around in mind, which I learned in school: “There was a young lady of Riga,/ Who smiled when she rode on a tiger./ They came back from the ride/ With the lady inside,/ And the smile on the face of the tiger.” On a postcard I would write: No tigers, but a real beauty. For sure much more than a famous limerick.



May 1. Returning after two days of lectures in Belgium to the Curonian Spit. It was almost summer when I left. Now I want my wooly hat back.



May 2. The blog is down.



May 3.



May 4.


CORINNE. Is the elk male or female? It has a beard –  this bunch of hair under the chin (male) but no horns. I really have a special love for these animals, and even bought the most touristic woolen blanket with elks in Nida. I just couldn’t resist. I’ll show you a picture of it in my next post. (though you can find it in every shop, actually!!)

NILS. I was told this elk is a she. Linas calls her Sofi. And of course you can tell me everything about elks – I will believe it. In fact it was a very touching moment, when I met this strange animal on my way to the beach. Can’t really explain why. These animals looks so bizarre and it was surreal seeing it standing next to the road, looking at me peacefully, almost bored and not running away. Maybe this was just it: a close encounter of a rare kind.


May 5. Another day out. Having a lecture at Klaipėdos Hermano Zudermano vidurinė mokykla – Hermann-Sudermann-Gymnasium Klaipėda. It’s located in a part of the town which reminds a little bit of my hood in Hamburg-Jenfeld.



May 6.



May 7.



May 8. Only one week left. Thinking this gives you a little stitch. And of course there is still some work to do. The story needs some final polish. And the blog is online again. Which means: I have to select photos of the last week. By doing this I find out that it was a fantastic week. I finished two chapters of my new novel, I met an elk, there was a staged reading of Paulinas play at the Colony and I had excursions around Nida every day, nice dinners with the others and always sand in my shoes.



May 9.


CORINNE. Hi Nils, is it a swallow?

NILS. A very wet one. Yes, I think so. It was raining the whole day, as you know. I like the sound of the birds infront of our windows very much.

CORINNE. Nice to read you and to see the pictures after some days. I had the feeling you kind of “came back home” from vacations…

NILS. In a way I was of duty, when the blog was down – and a little confused. Because it’s nice to have these pictures as personal reminders and the job of posting to structure the time of the stay.


May 10.



May 11. Playing Football with Oscar, Björn, Justin, Miguel and Linas. And some boys from Nida (not in the picture). See them all smile: Nice to be at the Nida Sport Colony.



May 12.



May 13. Tried to complete the story today. And got an e-mail from the office: “Hey everybody! We just received pasta machine in the Colony, so let’s try it tonight!!!!!” Both true: there was pasta, close to midnight. There was a complete story a little earlier. So now it’s possible to finish it soon.



May 14. Last day. A cloudy one. Was driving around with the bike. Found a beautiful spot outside of Nida: Vecekrugo Kopa. Lonely of course. Fantastic view. Thought: Maybe I should buy a summer cottage on the Curonian Spit.



May 15. Leaving Nida.



May 16. Saying: Ačiū!



What is Paulina doing here?

1 April. Nida is a perfect place to imagine a meeting of now dead prominent writers or thinkers, especially the one that never took place. It can be seen as nobody’s land, a parallel universe, a liminal space. It can play a role of Mann’s Byblical desert, a Lido beach in Venice, a remote sanatorium, or Sartre’s afterworld hotel. However, my  imagined meeting will take place between three writers, not two, as I believe Simone de Beauvoir can not be taken out of this equation.

2 April. My starting point is a play by Sartre called Huis clos / No Exit. Three people meet in the afterworld.

4 April. Most of my text is going to be made of quotations.

6 April. I wrote the beginning and the end of my play. Now I have to write the middle.

7 April. After yesterday’s conversation about meanings of names, I came to the following conclusion: Beauvoir = beaver = castor = castor oil = ricinos aliejus = Rizinusöl = huile de ricin = Ricin. I think my Simone in Nida may be asked to act as Ricine.

8 April. The question for today: do fish blink?

9 April. Chance – for me – is the best way of research for writing. But I’m looking for it in the realm of Culture, rather than Nature – even in Nida. Various unconnected elements of it fall into place and connect so remarkably that it’s hard to believe it.

10 April. Appropriation is the best invention in the 20th century art.

11 April. This is how my text is build up.image


12 April. In a local bookshop. The Empire.image


13 April. YODA: If no mistake you have made, losing you are. A different game you should play.


14 April. Correction. Photo by Sutkus as well.



15 April. “And without a doubt it is more comfortable to endure blind bondage than to work for one’s liberation; the dead, too, are better suited to the earth than the living.”

― Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex


16 April. On the Internet I saw a “poster” with the face of Steve Jobs, his name and “his quote” in Russian, supporting Russia’s annexation of Crimea. It poses a question abuot celebrity and quotes. In the long run, will it matter, what your views have been? After you’re dead, or maybe even before, anyone can quote, misquote, misuse and invent anything you have (n)ever said.

18 April. I’m throwing Alec Guinness in – one of my favourite actors.

19 April. The universal question is: “Didn’t I say so?”

20 April. Another universal question is: “Did I really say that?”

21 April. Knut Hamsun, a favourite writer of Thomas Mann wrote an euology for Hitler.

23 April. Sartre: “Manipulators manipulated by their own manipulations”.

24 April. Slavoj Žižek: “This is also why, in order to get the truth to speak, it is not enough to suspend the subject’s active intervention and let language itself speak — as Elfriede Jelinek put it with extraordinary clarity: “Language should be tortured to tell the truth.” It should be twisted, 
denaturalized, extended, condensed, cut, and reunited, made to work against itself. Language as the “big Other” is not an agent of wisdom to whose message we should attune ourselves, but a place of cruel indifference and stupidity. The most elementary form of 
torturing one’s language is called poetry.”

26 April. Bringing a new character in: Joseph Beuys. From an hour long performance of “Ja ja ja ja ja. Nee nee nee nee nee.”

Wikipedia: “Beuys had adopted shamanism not only as his presentation mode of his art but also in his own life. Although the artist as a shaman has been a trend in modern art (Picasso, Gauguin), Beuys is unusual in that respect as he integrated “his art and his life into the shaman role.” Beuys believed that humanity, with its turn on rationality, was trying to eliminate “emotions” and thus eliminate a major source of energy and creativity in every individual. In his first lecture tour in America he was telling the audience that humanity was in an evolving state and that as “spiritual” beings we ought to draw on both our emotions and our thinking as they represent the total energy and creativity for every individual. Beuys described how we must seek out and energize our spirituality and link it to our thinking powers so that “our vision of the world must be extended to encompass all the invisible energies with which we have lost contact.”

28 April. Is it possible for ideas not to become stale with time?

29 April. Russian minister of culture calls Putin “the last European”.

30 April. The randomness of quotation.

1 May. Authenticity in the age of Internet.

2 May. What does this mean? “The whole town was like a woman in heat.” Sartre. The Flies.

4 May. Lingamas???

5 May. Wikipedia: Ryūnosuke Akutagawa (芥川 龍之介 Akutagawa Ryūnosuke, 1 March 1892 – 24 July 1927) was a Japanese writer active in the Taishō period in Japan. He is regarded as the “Father of the Japanese short story” and Japan’s premier literary award, the Akutagawa Prize, is named after him. He committed suicide at the age of 35 through an overdose of barbital.

Akutagawa had a highly publicized dispute with Jun’ichirō Tanizaki over the importance of structure versus lyricism in story. Akutagawa argued that structure, how the story was told, was more important than the content or plot of the story, whereas Tanizaki argued the opposite.

I am on Akutagawa’s side.

6 May. The famous Akira Kurosawa’s film Rashomon is in fact based on two stories by Akutagawa. The main plot is from In The Grove, and the title and framing from Rashomon. I used to think – hm, it all depends on perception. But in fact only one of the characters is telling the truth, the others are lying.

7 May. Digression.

9 May. Simone de Beauvoir: “If you live long enough you will see that every victory turns into defeat.”

10 May. Farce.

11 May. The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon, an essay by Karl Marx “is the source of one of Marx’s most quoted statements, that history repeats itself, “the first as tragedy, then as farce”, referring respectively to Napoleon I and to his nephew Louis Napoleon (Napoleon III):

Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce. Caussidière for DantonLouis Blanc for Robespierre,the Montagne of 1848 to 1851 for the Montagne of 1793 to 1795, the nephew for the uncle. And the same caricature occurs in the circumstances of the second edition of the Eighteenth Brumaire.”

12 May. The quote about history repeating first appeared in Marx’s unpublished comical novel Scorpion and Felix, which he wrote in 1837 when he was 19.

“The surviving fragments of the book’s manuscript have not been well regarded. Francis Wheen in his biography of Marx characterizes the work as a “nonsensical torrent of whimsy and persiflage” which was “dashed off in a fit of intoxicated whimsy”.

It is believed Scorpion and Felix was influenced by The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (1759-1767)  by Laurence Sterne.

“His text is filled with allusions and references to the leading thinkers and writers of the 17th and 18th centuries.”

“Sterne incorporated into Tristram Shandy many passages taken almost word for word from Robert Burton‘s The Anatomy of MelancholyFrancis Bacon‘s Of DeathRabelais and many more, and rearranged them to serve the new meaning intended in Tristram ShandyTristram Shandy was highly praised for its originality, and nobody noticed until years after Sterne’s death.”

13 May. “Sterne was no friend of gravitas, a quality which excited his disgust; Tristram Shandy gave a ludicrous turn to solemn passages from respected authors that it incorporated, as well as to the Consolatio literary genre.”

“One of the subjects of such ridicule were some of the opinions contained in Robert Burton‘s The Anatomy of Melancholy, a book that mentioned sermons as the most respectable type of writing, and that was favoured by the learned; Burton’s attitude was to try to prove indisputable facts by weighty quotations; his book consisted mostly of a collection of the opinions of a multitude of writers, to which Burton often modestly refrained to add his own, divided into quaint and old-fashioned categories; it discussed and determined everything from the doctrines of religion to military discipline, from inland navigation to the morality of dancing schools.”

14 May. It’s all in the name. Tristram was apparently the worst and most unfortunate name for a man. It was given by accident, due to inability to pronounce a proper and auspicious name.

“According to his father’s theory, his name, being a portmanteau-like conflation of “Trismegistus” (after the esoteric mystic Hermes Trismegistus) and “Tristan” (whose connotation bore the influence through folk etymology of Latin tristis, “sorrowful”), both doomed him to a life of woe and cursed him with the inability to comprehend the causes of his misfortune.”

Tristan is also a story by Thomas Mann. Here, it seems, the circle is completed. But then there is a reference to Wagner, and another spiral could start here. And so it goes on and on and on. Everything is connected in the strangest, unbelievable, wonderful way. Everything is a game.

Is this about a meeting of two writers or three?

PAULINA. I mean “was that a meeting of two writers or three”? Even if it never happened.

NILS. Thomans Mann. Jean-Paul Sartre. And a shadow.

CORINNE. Hi everybody! Simone speaking (the so-called shadow). For a person of my age – over 100 – I think I manage quite well with this strange object called blog.


NILS. Picture that: It’s not only the shadow. There is of course a photographer as well. A Lithuanian. Not a writer, but a storyteller. He cropped Simone out of the picture. And what about Thomas Mann? He never travelled alone. Hypothesis: When two persons meet far from home, it’s a beginning of … yes, maybe a story. And maybe a story of someone else.

PAULINA. Mann might not have travelled to Nida alone, but was his companion an important writer/thinker? de Beauvoir was cropped out then, but why are we cropping her out today?

NILS. Do we?

PAULINA. The title of this blog does not include her.

NILS. I know what you mean. May I qoute Antanas Sutkus, the photographer, who took the picture of Sartre in Nida and did the “cropwork”? He says: “The purpose of taking a photograph is not to reflect the objective reality. My heart and mind have always been closely related with a man standing in front of my camera. People are the way they are but if I take their pictures, they are my people, the people I see. I use my camera to fathom the world that surrounds me.” So you could say: The purpose of picking a title ist not to reflect the objective reality. Or you could as well say: People are the way they are but if I write their story, they are my people, the people I imagine. So it’s very easy to put Simone de Beauvoir in. Or Antanas Sutkus. Or someone of the Mann-Clan.

PAULINA. I think the purpose of a title is to reflect the general position and intentions. And so it does. It’s nothing to do with reality or fiction. This is not about ‘people as they are’, it’s about decisons. It’s easy to put anyone in, but that’s not the point!

NILS. Right. I got you before. On the other hand, what is behind the title? Fiction. And your decision is to put reality back in. Which I like.

PAULINA. Or change the title. “A posssibility of free decision”? (JPS)

PAULINA. I, personally, am puting Yoda in. But my main characters are still 3, not 2.

NILS. Why not 4 or 5? When JPS was in Nida, there were some Lithuanian writers with him, too. Mieželaitis Edward and Michael Sluckis. A funny sidenote: Sartre talked with the photographer Antanas Sutkus about Virginia Woolf and Tom Wolfe for example. The two writers from Lithuania had never heard about them before.

PAULINA. Sartre thought that Sutkus was a writer too. But my point is about marginalising women – then and, at least it seems so, now. Soviet nomenklatura writers Edward and Michael were not visiting, they were deemed trustwothry to accompany the visitors from the West.

NILS. Just to provoke you: You think the mindgame itself – TM meets JPS – has already something to do with marginalising women? If so, let’s make a quick check. Another mindgame – Simone de Beauvoir meets Zadie Smith in New York. Would you say this has something to do with marginalizing men? Would you ask – and what about Jean-Paul Sartre?

PAULINA. The mindgame you give is not a good example, because the situation is not nearly equivalent to ours, and mainly because our mindgame is taking place in a small place in the middle of nowhere, which is a direct opposite to New York. Nida has (officialy) been visited only by three intellectuals of such international importance and lasting legacy (you can’t really say that about New York). So why exclude one of them? Or, why was the mindgame not called Mann and Beauvoir? Is that even conceivable? Or are you saying Beauvoir is less important than the other two?

NILS. How do you measure importance? Sold copies? Number of Nobel Prizes? But we get a better picture now. So it’s about writers in Nida. Why not include all the writers – and all the artists? And is it Nida anyway – or Nidden? What would TM say to that – and what SdB oder JSP?

THOMAS MANN. I do not know why in this brief period of time the East has become so dear to me. Perhaps it’s an extention of my nature? Or maybe because in these hearts and minds lives a great alien myth… I find here a bridge to the realm of Slavic culture… (Kønigsberger Allgemeine Zeitung, 29 August, 1929)

NILS. Haha! Love it.