Mar 27, 2009

Michel Djerzinski

On March 27th, 2009, in the early afternoon, he went to the main post office in Galway. He sent one copy of his manuscript to the French Academy of the Sciences in Paris, and another one to the British journal Nature. What happened thereafter remains a mystery. The fact that his car was found close to Aughrus Point naturally lead to speculations about suicide - something that came to no surprise to Walcott and the technicians at the center. [...] Many witnesses attest to his fascination with this distant edge of the Western world, constantly bathed in a soft, shining light, where he had come so often, where, as he wrote in one of his last notes 'the sky, the sea, the light converge.' We believe that Michel Djerzinski went into the sea.

Michel Houellebecq's Atomised is one of the books most dear to me. I recognize myself in the novel's main character, Michel Djerzinski, who shares many biographical aspects and character traits with me, like, to give a few examples, our close relationships to our grandmothers, our research work in biophysics, our grim view of the human condition, and our relentless attempts to engineer a posthuman species of sentient beings.

As you can read above, today is the day where Djerzinski, having completed his breakthrough theory of SENS, disappears "into the sea". (The book was published in 1998.) I originally had plans of traveling to Galway on the occasion, maybe stay for a few days at the coastguard station outside of Clifden, where Djerzinski took residence during the last years of his life, and take in the atmosphere. Nevertheless, I decided otherwise.

For a certain kind of books, and a certain kind of young men, there exists a considerable risk that the books seriously mess with the young men's self-perception. My guess is that Atomised is one of those books. I love Atomised, and I see an almost creepy similarity between myself and the protagonist, but I clearly understand today that I am not Michel Djerzinski, and should feel no need to resemble him even more than I already do. What helped me understand this (besides from aging ten years), was coming across several other fictional works in which I could also profoundly recognize facets of myself; Thomas Bernhard's Ungenach, and, more recently, Makoto Shinkai's 5 Centimeters Per Second, are just two examples.

So rest in peace, Michel, and thanks for leading me along the way for a while.

Mar 26, 2009

Hibernation Redux

The local newspaper ran a story a few days ago on the accumulated hours of sunshine that we had in Wels, Austria (where I'm located) from Dec. 21st and March, 21st.

What made the fact newsworthy was that the number, due to constant fog and cloud cover, came down to seventy. The nearby city of Linz got 140 hours.

Just to put this into proper context: According to the statistics available from the BBC, the long-term average of total hours of sunshine for January, February, and March, is 180 for St. Petersburg, 210 for Rekyavik, 270 for Stockholm, 420 for Fairbanks, and 600 for San Francisco.

No surprise I've been in deep hibernation mode once again ...

Mar 12, 2009

Quote Of The Day

"The Japanese government outlawed the practice of self-mummification in the late 19th century."

(Found on Pink Tentacle.)