The Suitcase

As long as I can remember, I rarely felt the cozy sensation of home. If I was happy where I was, it was because I believed temporarily in the borders of my presence, but not because I recognized a belonging, as if I looked at the world and saw in it a reflection of who I was, as if the world was a mirror of my heart. No, I always rather felt an undistinguished notion that I had to leave again where I was now, and perhaps it was this prevention of settling that made me restless, rather than the presumption that I was restless to leave again. But be it as you may, I never decorated any room I occupied for the reason that I was to abandon it again afterall.

You might think that I must have enjoyed travelling therefore, but nothing is less true. I found no comfort in being away from my temporary home, because I knew that I would not find a home anywhere, more than I lacked already. I am a drifter, the wind of life, takes me to the corners of the world, only to be picked up by a new stream flowing in the opposition direction. To go on vacation to a foreign country gave some temporary relieve perhaps, mainly because of the absence of mondaneness, the inertion of understanding a foreign language and this distance caused by a language barrier created a ephemeral intimicay with men that otherwise was not shared and as the weeks passed wore off rather quickly, so that going home again on its turn was a renewed ephemeral pleasure.

Home was always an escape, a dream in a sense, and the sense in the dream was: to write and to read. I never distinguished between reading and writing literature or filosophy, as I never distinguished between listening to musicians’ work and playing my own music, between admiring art and aspiring to make my own art, between perception and creation. Being forcible alone or forced lonely, the richness that are scattered in a single world of thought, always relieved me greatly from the fakeness of the outerworld, its hostility, its lack of recognition, but most of all the pertinence of the material world that was light and empty versus the fulfilling mass and delight of the thinking mind that undisturbed is free to wander endlessly without ever straying.

The only places I felt were ever sacrosanct in the town I grew up in, the surrounding city, Amsterdam or New York, or the places I visited, were the narrow pathways, filled with the tangy lemon odor of weathering paper, the dusty air of disintegrating paper covers, and row after row of books, stapled in impossible arrangements, horizontal, oblique upon vertically aligned backs. Those doorposts in the Spuistraat that consisted of shelves of cheap wood, holding the fifty cents treasures, holding a man’s life work, discarded and forgotten, if not for the randomly gripping hand of the antiquarian and the welcoming fingers of the thrifty student, rolling over the deprecated paper as the my eyes brush of the dirt of years from the titles. It has always struck me that people give it endless consideration to buy luxury goods and are willing to spend not only time but their equally scarce money to acquire a car, but are careless for the treasures of the human mind that you can buy with a mere fifty cents, or a few dollars.

And when this world is no longer our home, what can we leave behind for those who find time in their complacent, self-occupied lives to nose around in the futile thoughts of those before them? Certainly no more than an old suitcase with a few curios, the artefacts that constitute, summarize the whole immensity of our ephemeral vanity and wasteful enjoyments. And for those that open the rusty locks with a barely audible clack, whose dullness dies out quickly in the universe, how much astonishment or embarrassment perhaps will they find in the emptiness, the nothing, the hollowness of the bleached eyes that stare at them? A life, fifty cents, anyone?

Inspired by
Orhan Pamuk, My Father’s Suitcase (2006), in: The New Yorker, Issue of 2006-12-25 and 2007-01-01, Posted 2006-12-18

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