Home again... Home again... The wonder of walking in the door. Later followed by the wonder of feeling one has never been away.

"Is all our Life, then, but a dream..."

(Sylvie and Bruno)

The street corners of Borges' nightmares.

29th of July, 14:38 hrs. Balcarce and Chile.

29th of July, 15:59 hrs. Arenales and Laprida.


After seven weeks of being only sporadically online I must say it is both excellent (and addictive) to be, once again, constantly online.

Updated the Arabian Nights list with this excellent essay on frame tales.

Updated the Oneironautics list.


Started a notebook dedicated to the theme of locked rooms, moved some notes over from mysteries and added the following description of a piece by Chris Burden:

La Chiaraficazione
Galleria Alessandra Castelli, Milan, Italy
May 5, 1975.

The Castelli Gallery consists of a series of rooms, all of different sizes and configurations. One room was unusual in that it had only one small entrance and no windows. In this room, I placed twenty-five chairs in four rows in the traditional manner of theater seating. I waited until eleven people had entered the room then sealed off the entrance from the inside with particle board. An assistant placed a second panel on the other side which he painted white to match the gallery walls. The majority of the audience, about one hundred and fifty people, was locked out of the room and could only imagine what was happening within. Inside the room, I spoke to the eleven people in Italian and convinced them to stay in the room until someone broke in from the outside. I told them that they were the sculpture and that the responsibility for the success of the piece rested with them. I had provided twelve bottles of mineral water, candles, and a makeshift toilet. After we had been in the room for about an hour and a half, the audience in the main gallery removed the outer panel and smashed the inner panel to gain access to the room. The room was left untouched for the remainder of the show.

(Catalogue: Chris Burden 74-77)


An extensive analysis of Mulholland Drive.


In addition to the stack of books that I took with me to Argentina I brought back the following:

Barth, John

The Floating Opera and The End of the Road.1956. 1958.

Bioy Casares, Adolfo

The Russian Doll and Other Stories. 1991.

Borges, Jorge Luis

The Total Library: Non-Fiction, 1922-1986.

This incredible collection, edited by Eliot Weinberger was republished as Selected Non-Fictions.

Borges, Jorge Luis

Seven Nights.

Seven lectures given in Buenos Aires in 1977. Translated by Eliot Weinberger.

Braun, Mario & Frasso, Gustavo

Recoleta: Arte y Símbolos.

Carroll, Lewis

The Complete Illustrated Works.

Greenaway, Peter

A Zed & Two Noughts. 1986.

Mato, Omar López

City of Angels: The History of Recoleta Cemetery.

An english abridgement of Ciudad de Angeles: Historia del Cemeterio de la Recoleta.

Panofsky, Erwin

Tomb Sculpture: Four Lectures on Its Changing Aspects from Ancient Egypt to Bernini.

"In 1956 art historian Panofsky gave four incisive lectures at the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University... His subject is death, and his discourse draws on many adjacent disciplines (classical and oriental archaeology, Egyptology, the history of religion and superstition, philology, and several others)."

Saramago, José

The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis. 1984.

Snyder, Gary

Turtle Island. 1974.

Wilkins, Robert

Death: A History of Man's Obsessions and Fears. 1990.


Been a bit ill (perhaps due to the sudden season change?). Hiding out. Reading a lot.

Read Dr. Polidori's The Vampyre last night. I like his style -- colder than a story, more a report, and as a report strangely mirroring Lord Ruthven's coolness.



Buchhandlung Walther König. (So many artists books, so little time.)


Today, while searching for a good German course in the Slegte in the Hague, I found a copy of Arthur Machen's translation of the Heptameron and a copy of Charles Nodier's Smarra and Trilby.

This evening I read the prelude and the first 8 stories or 'novels' of the Heptameron. The prevailing course of the book recalls the master narrative of the 1001 nights: a battle of the sexes, tales of cuckoldry and 'cozenage' (pronounced 'cousin-age': to cheat, defraud, beguile...). Longarine's first story (story number 8), subtitled: 'Of one who on his own head engrafted horns', is in itself a perfect cuckold farce and inspired James Shirley's play of 1633, 'The Gamester'.

Machen (who, by the way, was the author of a frame tale of his own: The Three Imposters) suggests that the Heptameron distinguishes itself from other, similar collections, such as Boccaccio's Decameron, because its characters are endowed with individuality, "something more than mere pegs to hang so many novels upon." I find it interesting that the 7-8 day period of the entertainment, (in the Heptameron the period of respite waiting for a bridge to be built over the river) is a sort of life-boat or locked-room for the 10 characters, affording them the opportunity to reveal their own stories and histories.


Day. Night. Day. Night. Day. Night... I like the idea -- as a design notion, as a structuring principle -- so much. Especially if each period possesses its own logic, its own reality, its own set of rules. Two for the price of one: the world of experience splits into two realms, alternately inhabited, equally valid. Many dream novels work on just such a principle of alternation...

"At one moment I believed myself a priest who dreamed nightly that he was a gentleman, at another that I was a gentleman who believed he was a priest."

(Théophile Gautier, The Beautiful Dead)

"And then, while he was yet a student, there came to him a dream-adventure which he had no anxiety to repeat; he began, that is to say, to dream in sequence and thus to lead a double life -- one of the day, one of the night -- one that he had every reason to believe was the true one, another that he had no means of proving to be false..."

(Robert Louis Stevenson, A Chapter on Dreams)


Tom Matrullo writes:


I've been a regular reader of Alamut for a while. Regarding your interest in locked-room themes, you might find the work of Leo Perutz engaging. I wrote a bit about one of his works here, triggered in part by reading your thoughts over time on the subject.

Besides the work mentioned there (Marquis of Bolibar), I would also point you to another of his works -- Master of the Day of Judgment -- which contains both a locked room murder and a remarkable exploration of seemingly undecideable narrative perspectives.


Tom Matrullo


"Hillel's late wife also saw the Golem face to face and had the same sensation that I did of being paralysed as long as the mysterious being was in the vicinity. She used to say that she was firmly convinced that it could have only been her own soul which had left her body for a moment and confronted her for a brief second with the features of an alien creature. In spite of the terrible dread with which she was seized, she said that she was never in slightest doubt that the other could only be part of her inmost self."

(Gustav Meyrink, The Golem)

Cf. Nina Auerbach's Our Vampires, Ourselves.


Just ordered the following books from Amazon:

Ryan, Alan (editor)

The Penguin Book of Vampire Stories.

Mahfouz, Naguib

Arabian Nights and Days.

Pessoa, Fernando

The Selected Prose of Fernando Pessoa.

For Pessoa's poem/play: 'O Marinheiro'.


N. and I went to the beach, and walked, and laid on the sand, and swam in the ocean, and looked at each other's and other's bodies. Afterwards we ate Indonesian food.


Gordon Osso writes:

I don't know whether it was your comments about time or just the general mood of your blog but I was reading Moth by James Sallis at the time and thought you might like this series. They're overtly a kind of detective novel, but really more like a stretched blues prose poetry, with thoughts on griots and Queneau dropped in like smooth samples.

There are 6 titles in the series, starting with The Long-Legged Fly, and should be read in order.

It's reading for old souls.

I like your blog and its thoughtful pace and mood.



Finished Meyrink's The Golem.


"He bargained with evil for the secrets of the universe."

Read Vathek: An Arabian Tale. According to the blurb on the back of my luridedly colored, 'Four Square Gothic Mystery' edition, Beckford reputedly wrote this book in "a single sitting of 3 days and 2 nights" -- a fact which I have yet to find corroborated though I would fain believe it as I read the book in a single sitting of about six hours.

Still to read: Beckford's never completed followup, The Episodes of Vathek and Clark Ashton Smith's completion of Beckford's last Vathek fragment: The Third Episode of Vathek: The Story of the Princess Zulkaïs and the Prince Kalilah. (The complete Beckford-Ashton Smith story can be found online here. Ashton Smith's completed fragment is archived on Alamut here.)

Need to start a new notebook on Faust.

George Landow's critique of Edward Said's Orientalism.



Added Palm SuperMemo to my growing arsenal of tools to help me learn German.

Wie ist das Wetter?
Sehr heiß.


Yesterday, while biking home from the gym, I stopped off for a minute at the library to pick up a copy of Paul Wegener's film Der Golem. Dark clouds had been gathering for the last half hour and as I was leaving the building it started to rain. Since rain showers in Holland are relatively short lived -- compared to where I grew up where it can rain for days -- and since I was only wearing a t-shirt and shorts I decided it might be better to wait a bit inside. Waiting, I realised I should check out the children's section to see if they had any children's books in German. They had some. Not many, but some. By this time the rain had stopped. But who knew for how long? I quickly grabbed the nearest book and departed.

This is how I got hold of book by Janosch. I'd never heard of him before.

Later, on the phone, N. said "Oh no. Not Janosch." And jokingly made me promise not to bring it with me to Cologne.

Last night I opened the book, Das Goße Panama-Album, and started to read. And LOVED it. Who wouldn't love the story of the adventures of a little tiger and a little bear on their way to Panama, the 'land of their dreams'? Of course this might have something to do with my child-like reading speed (very slow) or even more, with my ABSOLUTE delight to discover that I can actually READ simple German! (The reason for this: German is very similar to Dutch.)


This morning I woke up feeling like a kid who has learned to ride a bicycle.


The Great Janosch Page.

(BTW: Your suggestions for other German children's books are most welcome.)




Visited the Matthew Barney exhibition in Museum Ludwig (The Cremaster Cycle: Sculpture and Film 1994-2002) and watched 2 of the 5 Cremaster films (Cremaster 1 and Cremaster 5). The sculpture and installations leave me quite cold, they seem more of a way of to market and finance the films than succeeding as stand-alone works of art. I do however find the two films quite interesting.

One of Matthew Barney's Jacobin pigeons




Last night N. and I opened the street door to find a small bat flitting about in the stairwell of her apartment house.

This afternoon we took a long walk in the Königsforst. There were small black beetles everywhere. (I wonder if this is the same forest as the one depicted on the cover of Gas's third CD?) We are currently listening to the lovely Geogaddi. The fact that Amazon is offering Königsforst together with Geogaddi under its 'Best Buy' rubriek is simply a coincidence.



Ach. Before heading home today I intended to re-visit the Barney exhibition so that I could watch the Cremaster 2 and 3 films but I never got past the Neumarkt with its two big bookstores (Mayersche and Gonski). Here I spent hours choosing a dictionary and some more books to add to my German learning arsenal.


One thing leads to another. Interest in Ludwig Bechstein's version of the Bluebeard story (another locked room!) leads to the SurLaLune Fairy Tale Site and its set of Bluebeard pages: the annotated version of Perault's 1697 tale, a history of the story, a page of similar tales across different cultures and a page of modern interpretations of the theme; the latter including of course Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber. One noticeable ommission is Fritz Lang's Secret Beyond the Door a 1948 thriller which Rogerio recently pointed out to me.

The author of the SurLaLune site notes that Bluebeard and his ilk belong to a class of fairy tales classified by Aarne-Thompson as type 312 (Mädchenmörder). Once upon a time (see June 1st 1999) I came across this classification system but had completely forgotten about it. What an amazingly cool thing...

D. L. Ashliman's site 'Folklore and Mythology Electronic Texts' has a page containing type 312 and 312A stories.


As an artist I am interested in identity questions (such as those posed by the double and narrative psychology), locked rooms, escapology, and the arabian nights.

A copy of the much sought after, extremely out of print 'The Fury of Dracula' (a board game) arrived today.


A quiet day talking together. At one point in our conversation I jumped up to look for a passage by Hakim Bey, 'Against the Reproduction of Death'... (hmm... where's my copy of the T.A.Z.?)... pull-quoted during my first Alamut month.


Vikram and the Vampire

Question: What do you get when you cross the fabua of the Arabian Nights with the horror of vampirism?

Answer: The ancient Indian foktale collection 'The Baital Pachchisi' or 'Twenty-five Tales of a Vampire' (more often than not mis-spelled as the Baital Pachisi).


"There was once a soldier-king in India named Vikram. One day Vikaram was tricked by an evil sorcerer into getting a Vampire out of a certain tree and bringing it to the sorcerer. Vikram found the tree and the Vampire, hanging head down in the tree. Vikram cut the creature down and it scrambled right back up.This happened seven times until finally the Vampire sighed "even the gods cannot resist an obstinate man" and allowed itself to be taken.

"The Vampire struck a strange bargain with Vikram -- he would tell some stories and ask Vikram some questions about them. If Vikram could keep silent and not answer the creature would reward him. The Vampire told 10 stories and ten times Vikram could not keep quiet. Every time Vikram answered the creature returned to the tree and Vikram would recapture him. Finally on the 11th story Vikram kept quiet. The Vampire's reward was to tell Vikram about a plot against his life. Being forwarned Vikram escaped unscathed."

Sir Richard Burton's translation of 11 of the 25 tales: Vikram and the Vampire: Classic Hindu Tales of Adventure, Magic, and Romance (1870). Also available online here.

According to story-teller Robert Rodriguez (Questions, Answers and Dilemmas: Tales with a Twist) the Baital stories are perfect examples of dilemma tales (Cf. the Alamut notebook on Dilemmas).


Spent the day reading Nobel prize winner Naguib Mafouz's Arabian Nights and Days. Brilliant stories set in the time of King Shahriyar. Also very nasty -- what with the bored genies messing around with human lives in order to push them into untenable positions (often resulting in their victim's heads rolling across the 'leather executioner's mat'). Highly recommended. Saddest story: 'Aladdin with the Moles on his Cheeks'.


Learning a New Language

Ach! How else can one recall the mystery and discovery of childhood reading other than reading extremely slowly?

"Denn eines Tages erlebte der Müller etwas, was jeder Mensch eines Tages erlebt, ob er nun ein Müller oder ein Köning ist: Er legte sich hin und starb."

From Erich Kästner's 'Der gestiefelte Kater' (Puss in Boots).

Updated my vampires notebook.

July 2002

ALAMUT.COM is artist owned and operated.
Mail: current address.