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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Reading Doña Quixote

Courtesy of Päivi Tiittanen,
"Catacombs in Suomenlinna"
Yesterday and this morning I read Leena Krohn's Doña Quixote and Other Citizens. Portrait: Tales of the citizens of an usual city, and this is what I have been for some hours: a room through which the narrator and Doña Quixote (the woman who is like a tree that murmurs and sometimes drops shriveled leaves proclaiming death, the woman who is a poet) come and go, talking of many things, and sometimes of what the shriveled leaves proclaim. And in those hours, the city is mine and in me with its green-shining towers of telephone booths and its moving rooms, and I am also a room that holds many objects whose meaning sometimes is profound and secret and sometimes falls away and is lost. In and out of the room of me come figures who are rooms also and who connect with me and whose connection then falls away unaccountably, perhaps to recur, perhaps to drift through the gate built in water and be lost or bob away across the sea and perhaps return to me, for there are many deaths in a life, many passings-away and sometimes returns.

Into the room of me comes Doña Quixote with the poetry of herself and the strange wisdom that makes me know, and her melancholy that is also a fabric in the room of me, that matches something in me. Like a trick chalice, I fill up, and then at once everything I have drains away. All things go. All rooms are pendulums, moving toward a time when they will be no more. In all the city of interlocking and moving rooms (some a lit bus with the moving figures inside), I am found, I am lost, as Doña Quixote is found and lost also.

And now and then I am arrested by the knowing of this: the most important thing about a thing is that it is beautiful, whether it is a mysterious narrow gate in the sea, a gorgeous, filmy-tailed goldfish, a dancer like a flower's corolla, or a silken peacock that trembles, unfurling its mighty fan of eyes while the snowflakes sift down before and behind and onto its glistening green and blue.

But even that knowing cannot be grasped and held until it always lights the room of me or the room that is Doña Quixote but drains away. The loss and passing of that knowledge of beauty is like a death, like passing through a gate built in water. "One doesn't get used to living."

And now I have shut the book, though the sense of myself as a room--a room filled with strange objects that do not give up their secrets--remains. And the sense of beauty also, for the book is still open beside me. And that I have written (carelessly? wisely?) that the book is both shut and open seems entirely right.  10 January 2017

"Peacock feather"
Courtesy of Sean Okihiro,
You may read this short novel (or is it an interrelated collection?), Doña Quixote and Other Citizens. Portrait: Tales of the citizens of an usual city, in that gigantic volume, Leena Krohn's Collected Fictions: A Career-Spanning Selection from Finland's Most Iconic Writer. (What long titles! And I wonder what Leena Krohn thinks about being iconic. I'm not even sure what they mean with that choice. Revered? Painted on a wooden surface? Semiotic-iconic? Flowering from tradition? All of these?)  I do, however, feel quite sure it is a publication from Ann and Jeff VanderMeer's Cheeky Frawg Books (Tallahassee, FL, 2015.) Doña Quixote is translated by Hildi Hawkins.


  1. It took me a while to understand who is the 'me' of this but I see it is you. I didn't recognize your voice! I think I might want to read the short novel, but I'm not sure. Reading your experience of it is almost enough. (There's a no doubt autocorrect-generated typo, 'their,'at the end of the first paragraph.) After feeling disconnected and underwatery from days of the flu, I gravitate towards brighter, more chiseled words and ideas than those you write about, but maybe next week I'll be ready.

    1. I need to be more careful about auto-correct, which clearly has only a partial but a willful mind of its own. Re-reading is in order....

      Yes, it is me in the spirit of the thing. The first Krohn I read was "Tainaron: Mail From Another City." It's a short epistolary novel from a city of insects, pleasantly lyrical and strange. (Prime Books publish it, but now it's in the Collected Fictions from Cheeky Frawg.)

      I'm glad you are better. And that you've had some good news today!

  2. My keyboard has a sticking-key, damn it. I type away confidently, missing every e, while the autocorrect works away diligently to paper over the omissions, rendering my writing completely incomprehensible.

    I enjoyed this piece enormously. Your words tumbled me into a dream. I've been having a lot of rather strange and troubling dreams recently. I prefer this Marly dream as it holds no nasty surprises. Mine nearly always do.

    1. Oh, I am sorry about the troubling dreams--though I did laugh at the mother duck and ducklings under your bed! Perhaps she will carry you back to safety like the Hansel and Gretel duck. And to a land that is peaceful, with no ill nightmare figures like the witch and no bad candies and ovens.


Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.