Saturday, May 21, 2016

Remembering Luxembourg's most well-known homeless man: Adalbert Boros

The following article was published in the Luxemburger Wort on 20/05/2016:

" The obituary of Adalbert Boros may be long forgotten by some: it was published in the "Luxemburger Wort" on Tuesday, April 26, 2013. Located on page 58 at the bottom left of the newspaper, the text was written by the Servior care facility "Am Schleesschen" of Echternach, where Adalbert spent his final days.

But for those who remember him, Adalbert would have celebrated his 85th birthday this past May 18.

Adalbert wasn't originally from Luxembourg. He wasn't a great politician, a famous artist or even an officer of a large company--but his death saddened many, as was evident by the outpouring of sympathy on Facebook.

A day after the obituary was printed, no less than 620 people shared the photo of the funeral announcement on the social media network--and that's not even including all the comments users left.

An engineer before ending up in the streets

Adalbert was homeless, or a "Strummert", as they say in Luxembourgish. And he was probably the most well-known of all the "Strummerten" in Luxembourg.

He was a real personality, a man who was intelligent and cultivated, but one day he decided to become an outsider in society.

Adalbert, also called Albert, was born in Hungary on May 18, 1931. In 1955, at the age of 24, he arrived in Luxembourg, his engineering degree under his belt.

He helped build the  Grand Duchess Charlotte Bridge--better known as the Red Bridge--a project which was the result of an international competition launched by the Luxembourg government in 1957 and commissioned in October 1966. Adalbert also worked as an engineer at the dam on the Esch-sur-Sûre lake, which was inaugurated in 1957.

No one can say exactly when Albert found himself living on the streets. His new home was the Luxembourg City train station, where he slept and spent most of his time. It was only towards the end of his life that he took refuge at the Ulysses centre, where he could find warmth at night.

A great teacher for students

It was students that helped contribute to his fame. Given his knowledge of mathematics, Adalbert soon became a sort of relief for students, as Gilles Klein explained: "Many of us asked him for help. As for me, I paid him 50 Luxembourg francs, and he helped me with my homework in mathematics or geometry.

"Others gave him cigarettes. We would get settled inside the station or on a bench in front of the station. He never wanted to go to a cafe, but he took the necessary time to explain everything."

Albert was not, however, very talkative when it came to his own life. Klein recounts: "When I asked him the question to know why he lived in the streets, he dodged the issue and told me it was better that I concentrate on my homework. It was at the end of the late 1970s. Once I asked him how long he had been living this way. He told me around 10 years. He already had a long beard and was getting old."

Some say it was because he would not have supported the fact that people committed suicide from the bridge that he had moved on and dropped everything. What is certain is that he did not like to be reminded of his past.

An anecdote comes from Marcel Noe, in charge of the Am Schleeschen care facility where Adalbert had lived in the last years leading up to his death, who describes an event that took place on August 1, 2006: "I wanted to please him by hanging a picture of the Grand Duchess Charlotte Bridge in his room. It took me by great surprise when he vehemently struggled against this initiative...we understood that he preferred not to be reminded too much of his past."

His last years in Echternach

Marcel Noe continued: "At first, we thought it was difficult to bring in someone from the street, but it was nothing. Albert liked to be alone. He regularly went to mass. He had his rituals, he was precise and didn't like us to change anything, even the seating plan. He was very suspicious of others, and you had to already know him to get into contact with him. That said, he had a big heart and cared for others when he felt they needed it."

Many people probably thought he was dead prior to seeing the announcement in the "Luxemburger Wort".

"We had a lot of telephone calls when the announcement appeared in the paper. I knew he was someone famous, but it always surprised me even more because he didn't have any family. This is also why we insisted that a funeral mass take place in his honour," Noe said.

Noe accompanied Adalbert the last days before his death, during which time Albert said he hadn't been feeling well. "Yet he didn't want to be hospitalised," Noe said. "He just said he was going to die. He fell asleep peacefully.""

An excerpt from Ian McEwan's article on "Faith in Fiction"

"... I have a memory of myself as a child, caressing a detail in a novel. Recalling the moment is another way of restoring faith in fiction. The experience was hypnotic, with lifelong consequences, for it showed me how the worlds of fact and fiction can interpenetrate. I was 13 years old, alone in the school library, spellbound by LP Hartley's The Go-Between. Its hero, Leo, from a poor background, spends the summer of 1900 holidaying with a school friend whose family owns a grand country house. The focus, of course, is Leo's role as a messenger in an illicit love affair. But what drew me was the July heatwave, and the little boy's fascination with the greenhouse thermometer and whether it would reach a hundred degrees. That week's copy of the satirical magazine, Punch arrives at the house and, inside, a drawing shows "Mr Punch under an umbrella, mopping his brow, while Dog Toby, with his tongue hanging out, wilted behind him."

My memory is of putting the book aside and, in an inspired move, crossing the library to where the ancient bound copies of Punch were shelved, lifting down the volume for 1900 and turning to July. And there they were, the overheated dog, the umbrella and Mr Punch pressing a handkerchief to his forehead! It was true. I was captivated, elated by the power of something both imagined and real. And briefly, I felt an unfamiliar sadness, nostalgia for a world I was excluded from. For a moment, I had been Leo, seeing what he saw, then it was 1962 again and I was at boarding school, with no lovers to run between, no heatwave and only this small remnant in a yellowing magazine..."

Excerpt from an Ian McEwan article in the Guardian on 16/02/2013. The article can be found here:
Ian McEwan/Guardian

Listen to:
The Go-Betweens - Surfing Magazines

Friday, April 29, 2016

"Vida Matrimonial" - A short story by Alejandro Bentivoglio

"Married Life"

"On the train I met a blonde girl who told me I was the man of her dreams. At first I believed her, but then I saw the ticket inspector approaching and I realized she didn't have a train ticket. As any other gentleman would have done, I paid for it without a second thought. During the rest of the journey we didn’t exchange one word. As soon as we got off the train, at the end of the line, I asked her for a divorce."

Taken from Alejandro Bentivoglio's book "Dakota/Memorias de una Muñeca Inflable" Translated by Douglas 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

"Zaepert" - Luxembourg artists claim another building before demolition

Following from the success of their previous intervention, 'Quartier 3', in Esch Sur Alzette (see post 2015 Ephemeral-art-before-demolition) the Luxembourg artist collective created by Daisy Wagner, Jeff Keiser, Sergio Sardelli and Théid Johanns, hosts a new intervention/exhibition with no less than 40 artists participating.

This time it's the former slaughterhouse in the 'Zaepert' district, rue Joseph Kieffer in Esch/Alzette. Before the building is demolished, the artists have occupied, shared and transformed  the 'Zaepert' space of 640 m2 into a free art gallery. The exhibition will end on the 08/05/2016 when the former slaughterhouse will be demolished. Here is what you can expect, but only for a little time:

Saturday, April 23, 2016

"A Man Is An Island" - Από τον John Donne, στο Γιώργο Θεοτοκά, στον Paul Simon

Τα περίφημα λόγια του John Donne δεν γράφτηκαν ποτέ σαν ποίημα. Ήταν απόσπασμα ενός κειμένου γραμμένου το 1624 με τίτλο Meditation 17, από το έργο του Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions. Με τα αγγλικά και την ανάλογη ορθογραφία της εποχής, το κείμενο έλεγε:

'No man is an iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee....'
John Donne
Meditation 17
Devotions upon Emergent Occasions

Στο βιβλίο του "Ώρες Αργίας" του 1931, ο Γιώργος Θεοτοκάς επικεντρώνεται στο αιγαιοπελαγίτικο νησί, του δίνει φωνή και πρόσωπο και αυτό μιλάει και λέει:

"Είμαι όλο φως, νιότη, χαρά και ελευθερία [...] Πιο μακριά, ολόγυρα μου, σεισμοί και καταποντισμοί, κόσμοι γεννιούνται, κόσμοι πεθαίνουν. Εγώ δεν σκοτίζομαι για τίποτα. Καμαρώνω τα λευκά πανιά που καθρεφτίζονται στα νερά μου, τα αγόρια και τα κορίτσια που φιλιούνται μεσ' στα αμπέλια μου, και γελώ με τα βαριά και μάταια κονταροχτυπήματα των ανθρώπων και των θεών. Είμαι ο αιθέριος πύργος απάνω από τις φουρτούνες. Είμαι πάντα Εγώ..."
Γιώργος Θεοτοκάς
"Ώρες Αργίας" του 1931

Και ο Paul Simon στο τραγούδι "I am a rock" σαν να μελοποιεί την παραπάνω υποθετική συζήτηση παίρνοντας όμως περισσότερο το μέρος του Θεοτοκά με τους στίχους:

"...I have my books
And my poetry to protect me;
I am shielded in my armour,
Hiding in my room, safe within my womb.
I touch no one and no one touches me.
I am a rock,
I am an island.

And a rock feels no pain;
And an island never cries."
Paul Simon 
"I am a rock"
from the album "The Paul Simon Songbook" (1965)
Listen to:
Simon and Garfunkel - I am a rock

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Ένα κείμενο του Κώστα Ε. Τσιρόπουλου

Η νύχτα έχει τις δικές της λέξεις, 
τη δική της γλώσσα.
Βγάζεις τη νύχτα από το σώμα σου όταν, πολύ πρωί καλοκαιριού, προσέλθεις στη θάλασσα και παραδοθείς στα μυστικοτραφή της νερά.
Αυτά σε ξεντύνουν από τη νύχτα,
σου αφαιρούν τα αρώματα, τις περίεργες μυρωδιές της,
βγάζουν τα λέπια των ονείρων της και συνταιριάζουν το σώμα σου 
στο ρυθμό μιας άδολης ψυχής 
κι ενός ξεκούραστου νου.
Σου χαρίζει η θάλασσα τις λέξεις της ημέρας, την στέρεη γλώσσα,την ευκρίνεια και τη γιορτή του κόσμου.

Ώσπου να ξανάρθει η άλλη νύχτα 
με χίλια βαθιά μουρμουρητά
και να σηκώσει από τα έγκατα της
έναν ουρανό υποβλητικό, άστρα μοναχικά,
σελήνη ρεμβαστική, υψώνοντας τον κόσμο
σε μια φαντασμαγορία παράδοξη, 
όπου το σώμα βυθίζεται με σπαραχτική απαντοχή
και βρίσκει άλλη γλώσσα.

Κώστας Ε. Τσιρόπουλος

Sunday, October 18, 2015

From "The Ministry Of Fear" by Graham Greene

"... In childhood we live under the brightness of immortality - heaven is as near and actual as the seaside. Behind the complicated details of the world stand the simplicities: God is good, the grown-up man or woman knows the answer to every question, there is such a thing as truth, and justice is as measured and faultless as a clock. Our heroes are simple: they are brave, they tell the truth, they are good swordsmen, and they are never in the long run really defeated. That is why no later books satisfy us like those which were read to us in childhood - for those promised a world of great simplicity of which we knew the rules, but the later books are complicated and contradictory with experience; they are formed out of our disappointing memories - of the V.C. in the police court dock, of the faked income-tax return, the sins in corners, and the hollow voice of the man we despise talking to us of courage and purity. The little duke is dead and betrayed and forgotten, we cannot recognise the villain and we suspect the hero and the world is a small cramped place. The two great statements of faith are "What a small place the world is" and "I'm a stranger here myself..." 

From "The Ministry Of Fear" (1943) by Graham Greene

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

"History" and "Dispeller" - Two poems by Justin Runge

Justin Runge is a poet from Lawrence, Kansas.

- Tell us about “History,” the poem that was selected for Best New Poets 2013.

- For this poem, I set goals: to write a love poem objectively, a story molecularly, and an autobiography in which I barely featured. I also wanted to buck some obtuse tendencies, so I made sure that each detail felt naked, unworked. There's only one figurative moment in the poem, which feels like a small victory to me..." From an interview given to Jazzy Danziger. 

History by Justin Runge

Here is what I’ve collected: He set fire to the front lawn. She learned and then forgot the guitar. Like all daughters, she was a vegetarian. He was sent to school on the mountain. She would run through the mountain. Their siblings stood in the way. The mountain was beautiful but merciless. Its trees stood like chaperones. He took to botany. She slept in the haunted room. After the growth spurt, he was a natural athlete. She worked at a fast food restaurant. Both left without diplomas. He sat in a bunker, catching moths. She would walk to a payphone in the center of town. They would solve crossword puzzles days late. He escaped on a motorcycle, as in his favorite songs. They married on her birthday. Her hair was never longer. She left a home imploding. He had a television and a frying pan. They made mistakes—pepper oil, poison ivy. They had one child, then me.

Dispeller by Justin Runge

In my hometown, I am absence of home. I am shortfall of awe. I am defog. Wiper blade raking a glaze of rain. I am the kitchen light Mother kept on. Unlocked garage. Evening intersection’s non-traffic. I am what bends air so that it, tuning, forks. I am bed made. I am unchange. Ghost uneasily roomed. Yearbook yearly removed. So I am removal of book dust. Carpeting, cleaned. I am no apple tree. I am quietest stair climb. I am far-off mowing. Hypnic jerk. Reason for moving.

Saturday, September 26, 2015