A series of online photographs
Fourth Avenue, New York (man reading at outdoor book stall), June 4, 1959
It is the most singular of sounds, yet among the most ubiquitous. It is the sound of isolation that has sold itself to millions. Lovers give each other Kind of Blue, even though its mood offers no consolation, let alone ecstasy. But those who give it want to share its richness of spirit, its awareness of the infinite, and its extraordinary quality of constantly revealing more to those who know it best.
For many people, it is the only jazz album they own. They may have bought it after hearing it at a friend's house, or in a record shop, or floating in the background at a restaurant: something that imprinted itself during a casual encounter. But Kind of Blue is not the equivalent of a temporary and aberrant fad for the sound of Irish pipes or Bulgarian female choirs. It is not, in that sense, a phenomenon. Its increasing success over 50 years has been the result of a wholly organic process, the consequence of its intrinsic virtues and of its special appeal to a particular layer of the human spirit.
It began life with a series of warm reviews and the admiration of other musicians. They were swift to understand its implications and to replicate its methods and mannerisms, but its essence could never be recaptured. Not even, as it turned out, by the man who made it. Davis spent the remaining 30 years of his life as the leading figure in jazz, initiating trends great and small, often putting himself at the centre of the music's frequent crises of identity. But he never tried to do again the thing that he and six other musicians had done during the course of a mere nine hours spread over two days in the spring of 1959.
If it could not be counterfeited, what happened to it was something much more interesting, an effect that could only be seen in hindsight. Kind of Blue's atmosphere - slow, rapt, dark, meditative, luminous - became all-pervasive. It was as if Davis had tapped into something more profound than a taste for a particular set of musical sounds: he had uncovered a desire to change the scenery of life.
Before Kind of Blue there had been slow jazz, mournful jazz, romantic jazz, astringent jazz. But there had never been anything that so carefully and single-mindedly cultivated an atmosphere of reflection and introspection, to such a degree that the mood itself became an art object. Kind of Blue seemed to have taken place in a sealed environment, with all its individual sensibilities pointing inwards. In its ability to distill its complexity of content into a deceptive simplicity, in its concern for a sense of space within the music, for a unity of atmosphere, and for the desire to create a mood of calm contemplation in which the troubled western soul can take its rest, it has become one of the most influential recordings of our time. [Read more]
David Cronenberg's next film looks set to be an adaptation of the Don DeLillo novel Cosmopolis, about a multibillionaire fund manager who spends a long day trying to get across Manhattan in a swanky stretch limo and ends up losing everything.Further information:
Variety reports that Cronenberg will write and direct the film, which looks set to follow a Josh Hartnett-starring adaptation of DeLillo's early sports novel End Zone into the multiplexes. DeLillo, regularly positioned alongside John Updike, Philip Roth and Thomas Pynchon in the roll call of the finest contemporary US writers, has previously also seen his books Libra and Underworld optioned by Hollywood, but neither has made it past the development stage.
Cosmopolis is ironically one of DeLillo's worst-received novels, attracting highly mixed reviews upon its publication in 2003. It follows 28-year-old Eric Packer as he winds his way across the Big Apple for a haircut, his journey obstructed by various traffic jams caused by a presidential visit to the city, a funeral procession for a Sufi rap star and a full-fledged riot.
To try and compress 437 dense pages of Being and Time into eight brief blogs was obviously a difficult exercise from the start. But, I must admit, this was also part of the attraction. Despite the limits of this virtual medium, I hope that something of the book has been conveyed in a way that might encourage people to read more and further. Being and Time is extraordinarily rich, difficult and systematic work of philosophy that repays careful reading and rereading.
That Heidegger continues to arouse controversy and heated misunderstanding is evidenced by some of the responses to these blogs. All I would ask is that Heidegger's detractors (you know, the "this is bullshit" brigade) take the trouble to read his work with a little care and to pause before reacting.
Although there is no much more we could say about division two of Being and Time, there is one final topic that I'd briefly like to explore and which some readers think is the climax of the book: temporality. Let me begin by describing what Heidegger is trying to avoid in his discussion of time. [Read more]
Time for another forgotten classic from the vast Again With the Comics archives. Here we present Dostoyevsky Comics, originally printed in Drawn and Quarterly #3 (2000), and currently out-of-print, as far as I know. Crime and Punishment, originally written by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, was brilliantly adapted here by R. Sikoryak, as seen through a Dick Sprang Batman filter.
In 2001, Henri Cartier-Bresson reflected on the long moment in the early 1940s when he had briefly considered turning from photography to film-making. "If it had not been for the challenge of the work of Walker Evans," he wrote, "I don't think I would have remained a photographer."Further information:
It's this quote that provides the epigraph for Photographing America 1929-1947, a fascinating book that focuses on these two masters of 20th-century photography. Intriguingly, Evans's photographs span the years of the book's title, while Cartier-Bresson's were all taken between the spring of 1946 and the summer of 1947. It is tempting, if not altogether true, to say that Evans is essentially an American photographer (the American photographer?) while Cartier-Bresson is essentially a European one (the European one?) who, for a brief but illuminating period, trained his outsider's eye on America.
Cartier-Bresson arrived in America from the newly liberated France in May 1946 to prepare for his first big American exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. That show did not actually open until the following February because the curators, believing that Cartier-Bresson had been killed by the Nazis while attempting to escape from a prison camp, were actually planning a posthumous retrospective when he showed up on their doorstep.
In the interim, Cartier-Bresson took two working road trips to the American Deep South. On the first, undertaken just after he arrived in America, he was accompanied by Truman Capote for Fortune magazine, who would later memorably describe the French photographer "dancing along the pavement like an agitated dragonfly, three Leicas winging from straps around his neck, a fourth one hugged to his eye … clicking away with a joyous intensity, a religious absorption". Unconsciously or otherwise, Cartier-Bresson was following in the footsteps of Walker Evans, who had roamed the American south back in the summer of 1936, when he was on assignment for Fortune with the journalist James Agee. Their story of the plight of three tenant farming families in Alabama during the Great Depression was rejected by Fortune – they thought it too bleak – but, in 1941, in extended form, it became the acclaimed book, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. Evans's photographs have since become iconic images of the time. [Read more]
Christian Bale saw an important part of his own life slip away with the recent death in London of novelist J.G. Ballard.
Ballard was best-known for his science fiction, but there were times when he abandoned this world for a more gritty reality. His best-selling Empire of the Sun, was based on his own childhood experiences in a Japanese internment camp during the Second World War. When Steven Spielberg decided to direct a film version, he cast a young Christian Bale as the boy.
Bale says he was shocked to hear of Ballard's death from cancer in the spring because he and a director friend wanted to film one of Ballard's other books. Bale had been looking forward to renewing acquaintance with this seminal figure from the past - but this was not to be.
"He was such a great mind, such a great writer,'' says Bale, who stars in the current Public Enemies. "It was surprisingly emotional for me. It was somebody I consider to have been at the beginning of my deciding to become an actor. He was an astonishing writer, so unique.''
Bale still hopes to bring another Ballard book to the screen, but he will miss the chance to see him again. "I'll definitely miss being able to catch up with him - no longer as a 13-year-old boy.''
In the final section of his great memoir, Gathering Evidence, Thomas Bernhard recalls his first encounter with Dostoevsky's Demons. He calls it "elemental". Some of us have approached that book and found it decidedly not elemental, for us. But Bernhard was 19 years old, I believe, when he read Demons. For him, at that age, no doubt it indeed was elemental. And what mattered for him later in life, in his own writing, was not what Dostoevksy might have had to say for him or to him in his 30s or 40s or 50s, but what it meant to read Demons when he was 19. Perhaps, if he had not read Demons, or any other Dostoevsky, until his mid-30s--perhaps it would have meant little to him. But that experience, that encounter, that elemental reading at the age of 19--he owed a certain kind of loyalty to that. Indeed, though at the age of 39 I've so far tried and failed to make my way into Demons, I nevertheless remember fondly my experience, at 24, reading The Brothers Karamazov. Yes, I was proud of myself for plowing through such a dense book, but also I was invigorated by the experience, wanted to talk about it, was on fire, in a sense, with the ideas. [Read more]
My library is not a single beast but a composite of many others, a fantastic animal made up of the several libraries built and then abandoned, over and over again, throughout my life. I can’t remember a time in which I didn’t have a library of some sort. The present one is a sort of multilayered autobiography, each book holding the moment in which I opened it for the first time. The scribbles on the margins, the occasional date on the flyleaf, the faded bus ticket marking a page for a reason today mysterious, all try to remind me of who I was then. For the most part, they fail. My memory is less interested in me than in my books, and I find it easier to remember the story read once than the young man who then read it.
What do you see as the role of a writer in our society?
Your role is to write as well as you can. You're not advancing social causes as far as I'm concerned; you're not addressing social problems. [...] What you're advancing is [...] the cause of literature, which is one of the great lost human causes. So you do your bit; you do your bit for fiction, for the novel.
Why do you think it's become one of the 'great lost causes' of our time?
Oh my goodness. [...] I don't think in twenty or twenty-five years people will read these things at all.
Not at all?
Not at all. [...] I think it's inevitable. I think there are other things for people to do, other ways for them to be occupied, other ways for them to be imaginatively engaged that are, I think, probably far more compelling than the novel. So, I think the novel's day has come and gone, really.
I would imagine you would think this is a great loss for society?
Yes, I do. There's a lot of brilliance locked up in all those books in the library. There's a lot of human understanding. And there's a lot of language. [...] There's a lot of imaginative genius. So, yes, it's a great shame.
And what happens for you?
I'll keep doing it. Stubbornly.
Okay Philip Roth, thank you for letting us come to talk to you.
Lacan’s description not only reminds one of the nightmare creatures in horror movies; more specifically, it can be read, point by point, as describing a movie shot more than a decade after he wrote those words, Ridley Scott’s Alien. The monstrous “alien” in the film so closely resembles Lacan’s lamella that it cannot but evoke the impression that Lacan somehow saw the film before it was even made. Everything Lacan talks about is there: the monster appears indestructible; if one cuts it into pieces, it merely multiplies; it is something extra-flat that all of a sudden flies off and envelops your face; with infinite plasticity, it can morph itself into a multitude of shapes; in it, pure evil animality overlaps with machinic blind insistence. The “alien” is effectively libido as pure life, indestructible and immortal.
Half a century ago, when Waiting for Godot was the succès d'estime of 1950s Paris and London, Beckett was certainly avant garde, as was his disciple, Harold Pinter. In the UK, next to these innovators, there was the translated work of Alain Robbe-Grillet, and Fernando Arrabal, author of The Burial of the Sardine. And from the US there was William Burroughs, and the heirs to the Beat generation. You never had to go far in a bookshop to bump into the avant garde, and some publishers – Calder & Boyars, for instance – even made a living out of it (though the less said about their methods the better). From roughly 1950 to 1980, the avant garde was alive and well.
But now what? Nothing to speak of, really. The most surreal news from the world of books is the trade press report that The Lost Symbol, Dan Brown's follow-up to The Da Vinci Code, is going to be launched in September from Random House with the biggest ever global first print run (some 6.5m copies) in the publisher's history.
Conscience is a call. It is something that calls one away from one's inauthentic immersion in the homely familiarity of everyday life. It is, Heidegger writes, that uncanny experience of something like an external voice in one's head that pulls one out of the hubbub and chatter of life in the world and arrests our ceaseless busyness.
This sounds very close to the Christian experience of conscience that one finds in Augustine or Luther. In Book 8 of the Confessions, Augustine describes the entire drama of conversion in terms of hearing an external voice, "as of a child", that leads him to take up the Bible and eventually turn away from paganism and towards Christ. Luther describes conscience as the work of God in the mind of man.
For Heidegger, by contrast, conscience is not God talking to me, but me talking to myself. The uncanny call of conscience – the pang and pain of its sudden appearance – feels like an alien voice, but is, Heidegger insists, Dasein calling to itself. I am called back from inauthentic life in the world, complete with what Sartre would call its "counterfeit immortality", towards myself. Furthermore, that self is, as we saw in blog 6, defined in terms of being-towards-death. So, conscience is the experience of the human being calling itself back to its mortality, a little like Hamlet in the grave with Yorick's skull.
What gets said in the call of conscience? Heidegger is crystal clear: like Cordelia in King Lear, nothing is said. The call of conscience is silent. It contains no instructions or advice. In order to understand this, it is important to grasp that, for Heidegger, inauthentic life is characterised by chatter – for example, the ever-ambiguous hubbub of the blogosphere. Conscience calls Dasein back from this chatter silently. It has the character of what Heidegger calls "reticence" (Verschwiegenheit), which is the privileged mode of language in Heidegger. So, the call of conscience is a silent call that silences the chatter of the world and brings me back to myself.
You were 21 when the moon landings took place. What do you recall?
I remember it very, very well. I watched it in the house of my painting tutor at art school, and I remember the very eerie sensation of watching on his little black and white television and then looking up at the moon and being absolutely shocked at the idea of what was happening there at that moment in time. It was one of those strange moments when time closes up on you and something that seems fictional and fantastic suddenly becomes real.
You are credited with inventing ambient music. How do the Apollo moon missions fit in with its development?
Around the time of Apollo I was listening to a lot of film soundtracks. What I liked was that they represented a form of incomplete music, where the missing element was the visual element. I liked making music that somehow allowed the listener to imagine a visual element themselves.
Forty-four years ago, in between A Clockwork Orange and the Beatles' sixth LP, Anthony Burgess published Here Comes Everybody, a critical study of James Joyce intended for readers who had been "scared off by the professors". Joyce, difficult? Not at all, Burgess said: "If ever there was a writer for the people, Joyce was that writer." Burgess polished off his book in eight months; Declan Kiberd has spent three decades working towards his. But his title is similarly inclusive and he, too, wants to demolish "the legend of forbidding difficulty" that has "scared readers off". On the cover is an Eve Arnold photo showing how it should be: a young Marilyn Monroe devouring the final pages of Ulysses
Kiberd tells the story of his father, a Dubliner who loved Ulysses and knew it by heart, but who, having been enticed to attend a Joyce symposium at Trinity College, bolted for the door almost as soon as he'd arrived. Though himself an academic, Kiberd is dismayed that a book which set out to celebrate the common man and woman isn't read by them - or, indeed, by "most students, lecturers and intellectuals", only by paid-up Joyceans. Hemingway professed to admire Joyce, yet all but a few pages of his copy of Ulysses remained uncut. More recently Roddy Doyle set the cat among the pigeons when he complained that the novel had been overpraised and "could have done with a good editor".
Kiberd concedes Doyle's point: the notion of Ulysses's "monumental perfection" is silly, he says. But he rebuts the charge that the novel is inaccessible. Joyce wasn't especially erudite, he argues. Unlike his snooty modernist peers, he was a socialist and democrat who believed in mass literacy - and was happier discussing Dickens with post office workers than he was sitting in bohemian cafes. Reading Ulysses may be a challenge, but so are most jobs. We shouldn't need a sacred priesthood to interpret it for us. [Read more]
... for a time I reviewed the various occupations of men in this life, trying to choose out the best; and without wishing to say anything of the employment of others, I thought that I could not do better than continue in the one in which I found myself engaged, that is to say, in occupying my whole life in cultivating my Reason, and in advancing as much as possible the knowledge of the truth in accordance with the method which I had prescribed myself. I had tasted so much satisfaction since beginning to use this method, that I did not believe that anything sweeter or more innocent could be found in this life; every day I discovered by its means something new which seemed to me sufficiently important, and not at all familiar to other men. The joy which I had so filled my soul that all else seemed of no account.Using Descartes to open his work is an interesting move, implying a commitment to the discovery of truth through a critical process of questioning and deconstruction. Stylistically, too, Nietzsche appears to owe something to Descartes in the way that rigorous philosophical examination is presented through a conversational, literary narrative. In Human, All Too Human, Nietzsche structures his work in a somewhat idiosyncratic way, rejecting the narrative progression of Descartes’ essay form in favour of the aphorism. In a sense, Nietzsche becomes determined to eschew the extravagance of dense prose and get straight to the point:
René Descartes, Discourse on Method
'Most thinkers write badly because they tell us not only their thoughts, but also the thinking of the thoughts,' writes Nietzsche in Aphorism 188. Nietzsche himself is determined to be different. Even when he does expand on a theme, the density and intensity of his thoughts is remarkable. After some initial unevenness, his style is clear and direct: he settled on a high altitude of abstraction and remains there, varying his text with examples, but rarely, if ever, with excessive information, observations, or digressions.Nietzsche's decision to use the aphorism is inspired at least in part by French thinkers such as Montaigne and La Rochefoucauld, who popularly used the brevity and constriction of the form to examine popular ideas and psychological motivations. Nietzsche’s aphorisms are constructed to destabilize common cultural preconceptions, doubting the validity or universality of dominant ideological assumptions. Nietzsche believed that accepted truth acted in society as malevolent systems of power, and resisted the complacent security of religious values or self-evident truths.
Marion Faber, Introduction to Human, All Too Human
It is a sign of a higher culture to esteem more highly the little, humble truths, those discovered by a strict method, rather than the gladdening and dazzling errors that originate in metaphysical and artistic ages and men. At first, one has scorn on his lips for the humble truths, as if they could offer no match for the others: they stand so modest, simple, sober, even apparently discouraging, while other truths are so beautiful, splendid, enchanting, or even enrapturing. But truths that are hard-won, certain, enduring, and therefore still of consequence for all further knowledge are the higher [...]Nietzsche has a determined approach, and his method has had a profound influence on the course of twentieth-century; but what is most striking to the casual reader is the clarity and persuasiveness of his prose. His writing appears both transparent and, in a sense, self-evident to the reader. Although there are some serious missteps and ill-informed judgments, such as his poorly-conceived generalizations of women. His remarks on certain matters are to be discarded, but never forgotten, as they allow us an opportunity to examine Nietzsche with a critical eye, reminding us not to follow blindly after every word. But, having said that, much of Nietzsche's writing is fresh, original and often inspired in its liberal approach. His work often offers the impression of a thorough and vigorous method, which ultimately aspires to a scientific engagement with questions of truth.
Friedrich Nietzsche, Aphorism 3, Human, All Too HumanTranslated by Marion Faber and Stephen Lehmann
So we went on in the direction of the light,Talking of things of which it is well to say nothing,Although it was well to talk of them at the time.
We came then to the foot of a great castle,Encircled seven times by lofty walls,And around which there flowed a pleasant stream;
We went over the stream as on dry land;And I entered seven gates with those wise men:We came into a meadow where the grass was cool.
And there were people whose eyes were slow and serious,Of great authority in their appearance:They were not talkative and their voices were gentle.
We moved away a little to one side,To an open place, well-lit, upon high ground,So that I could see the whole group easily.
There, straight in front of me, on a green background,There were presented to me those great spirits,Merely to have seen whom is an exhaltation.
And, when I raised my eyes a little higher,I saw the master of knowledge, Aristotle,Sitting there with a company of philosophers.
All looked to him, and they all did him honour:I saw there Socrates, as well as Plato,The two who stood out and were nearest to him;
Democritus, who thought the world came by chance,Diogenes, Anaxagoras and Thales:Empedocles, Heraclitus and Zeno;
I cannot give account of all of them,For my main theme hurries me on,So that I often have to tell less than I saw.
The company of six was cut to two:My skilful guide led me another way,Out of the quiet, to where the air trembled:
And I came to a part where nothing is luminous.
Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy: Inferno, Canto IVTranslated by C. H. Sisson.
As I said some 6 weeks ago, in my first blog on Heidegger, the basic idea in Being and Time is very simple: being is time and time is finite. For human beings, time comes to an end with our death. Therefore, if we want to understand what it means to be an authentic human being, then it is essential that we constantly project our lives onto the horizon of our death. This is what Heidegger famously calls "being-towards-death". If our being is finite, then an authentic human life can only be found by confronting finitude and trying to make a meaning out of the fact of our death. Heidegger subscribes to the ancient maxim that "to philosophise is to learn how to die". Mortality is that in relation to which we shape and fashion our selfhood.
For me, the essence of humour consists in laughing at oneself: in finding oneself ridiculous. My hero in this regard is Samuel Beckett; Beckett has this idea of what he calls 'the pure laugh', the risus purus, which he says is the essence of laughter, which is the laugh that laughs at the laugh. The laugh that laughs at the laugh. And what goes on in genuine humour is that we laugh at ourselves, find ourselves ridiculous. What is interesting about humour in particular, is that humour is a powerful example of people philosophizing in their everyday lives.
I defy anyone to come up with a more intense theatrical experience than Samuel Beckett's Not I. In otherwise complete darkness, a disembodied female mouth, known as Mouth, about eight feet above the stage, delivers a hyper-rapid stream of consciousness, a mixture of reminiscence and evasion, an existentially terrifying babble, hinting at deep trauma and extinction of self.
The key word here is "disembodied", for Beckett said the piece is to be delivered as quickly as possible, "at the speed of thought". It is as close as the theatre will ever get to representing a mental interior. But it is a ruined interior, inspired by the woman covering her ears in Caravaggio's Decollation of St John the Baptist, and the numberless muttering old crones whom one sees in the streets ("Ireland is full of them," Beckett said).
We learned a lot about the theatrics of Not I during yesterday's performance by the Irish actor Lisa Dwan, for the South Bank's 2009 London Literature festival. Not just in the performance, which was more than remarkable, but in the short film in which Billie Whitelaw – sadly, too unwell to appear in person – talked about the role, and her memories of Beckett and his direction; and in the final question-and-answer session, chaired by the theatre critic Michael Coveney. [...]
The voluble author would amount to little more than a footnote in the épopée Sartrienne were it not for one masterpiece: Shoah. After seeing the film, Jean Daniel, the elegant editor of the Nouvel Observateur, told its maker: “Cela justifie une vie”. Less directed than compiled, the film lasts nine hours and, for all the flair, persistence and courage involved in its composition, remains sui generis: to call it a work of art, as flatterers have, claims too much for its formal qualities and too little for its unblinking uniqueness. No other documentaries on the Holocaust (Alain Resnais’s Nuit et Brouillard of 1956 was the first and, in its tact, the most artful) can match Shoah’s implacable pursuit of the witnesses of what Raul Hilberg (an inspiring source) called, in his pioneering 1960 history of mechanized mass murder, “The Destruction of the European Jews”. Avoiding rhetoric and discounting the agony of the victims, Hilberg adopted Primo Levi’s tone, that of a “factory report”, and concentrated on the German organizational apparatus.
Lanzmann cleaves to a similar line, but holds tight to real people rather than to statistics. The (sometimes hidden) camera lingers, sometimes unsteadily, often artlessly, on faces and places, while the microphone picks up speech that, by its raw flow or sudden caesuras, reveals what was for so long unseen and unsaid. The horror grows and grows, unalleviated by sententious phrases or clever montage. Lanzmann’s thorny genius expressed itself, over a decade of assembly impeded by lack of funds, by threats and actual incidents of violence, and by the difficulty of locating survivors and killers, bystanders and escapees, in a work which at once bears a single signature and carries no evidence of having been rigged by a selfconscious auteur. Want of tact (even with regard to the bladders of the spectators) and unevenness of texture make Shoah a film that is never a movie. Not all memory’s children are muses.
[...] The first thing to grasp is that anxiety does not mean ceaselessly fretting or fitfully worrying about something or other. On the contrary, Heidegger says that anxiety is a rare and subtle mood and in one place he even compares it a feeling of calm or peace. It is in anxiety that the free, authentic self first comes into existence. It was, of course, the mood that launched a thousand existentialist novels, most famously Sartre's Nausea and Camus's The Outsider (although Heidegger was very critical of existentialism).
In order to understand what Heidegger means by anxiety, we have to distinguish it from another mood he examines: fear. Heidegger gives a phenomenology of fear earlier in Being and Time. His claim is that fear is always fear of something threatening, some particular thing in the world. Let's say that I am fearful of spiders. Fear has an object and when that object is removed, I am no longer fearful. I see a spider in the bath and I am suddenly frightened. My non-spider fearing friend removes the offending arachnid, I am no longer fearful.
Matters are very different with anxiety. If fear is fearful of something particular and determinate, then anxiety is anxious about nothing in particular and is indeterminate. If fear is directed towards some distinct thing in the world, spiders or whatever, then anxiety is anxious about being-in-the-world as such. Anxiety is experienced in the face of something completely indefinite. It is, Heidegger insists, "nothing and nowhere".
As you were poring over your memories, were there things you had forgotten, or that you now found particularly fascinating or traumatizing to experience all over again?
Many things I had forgotten, yes. Traumatizing, no, I wouldn't say that. I have enough stability inside of me to not be traumatized. If I were a solider I would not be the one to come back with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder because I think I have fortified myself with enough philosophy.
Reading your stories, I was reminded of the problems Francis Ford Coppola faced with Apocalypse Now. You say at one point in the book that you were flat broke and that you traded two bottles of shampoo for four kilos of rice. Is that the low point?
The distinction between Apocalypse Now and my film is that Coppola always resolved films with ready cash. There was always a lot of money flowing around. In my case, because I had to produce the film myself, I was down to the utmost limit. So I lived in a chicken coop and had nothing to eat any more. But I remembered from Miami I had two bottles of shampoo — well one was shampoo and the other was conditioner — and I traded it at the local market for four kilos of rice and I ate rice for three or four weeks. That's how I survived. No one can imagine how far down I was sometimes.
Was that the low point?
There were lower points because there were more dramatic events, like if you're building a camp for 1,100 people in the middle of the jungle and a border war breaks out and local people attack your camp and burn it to the ground. That's a serious sort of thing. Besides that, there were accusations that I was committing human rights abuses — which were all fabricated — and a tribunal was set up against me. These things are hard to handle and of course I still feel the pain.
It's also what makes the book quite dramatic. I'm wondering if you're too close to the book to really appreciate how shocking these revelations are.
That's probably the reason I couldn't touch it for over 20 years, and my own wife who knows me well only managed to read up to page 80 and cannot continue. It's so hard for her to take what I have gone through...it's something which deeply touched my existence.