Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Lazarus Project (123-164)

The first chapter of this section of the novel starts out once more with Brik and Rora continuing their journey through Lazarus's past via eastern Europe. The cab driver, Andriy, had dropped them off at a rundown, nasty hotel in a city called Chernivtsi. After a detailed description of the disgusting place, including the whores who stay there to tempt the travelers, he again goes into a series of stories relating to things he and Rora did while staying at the hotel. He talks about his dreams and the trouble he has sleeping sometimes. He imagines what Lazarus was doing while in the city of Chernivtsi. He wakes up from a nap and he and Rora go for a stroll and find another Viennese Cafe. He talks about Rora's grandfather, or dedo, who was a Viennese Cafe regular and why he is a regular, and his love for the empire. Brik reminisces about a trip to Vienna for his second anniversary with his wife, Mary. Soon, a man pulls up in a Mercedes SUV and makes a big show of coming into the cafe and ordering. Apparently he is a gangster of sorts, which inspires another story about a gangster in Sarajevo named Pseto. They return to the room, and Rora naps while Brik becomes aroused by watching TV. Soon, a prostitute comes to the door and tries to entice Brik to have sex with her by exposing herself to him. He considers it for a moment, but then refuses her and closes the door in her face. This begins what seems to be a sort of confession by Brik. He explains that a part of him wants to be the person who has no commitments, no cares, and just does whatever they want on a whim. But another part of him could not allow himself to do that. He says, "I was still too weak to pursue my pleasures at the expense of others...And I was not unselfish enough not to be tempted by pursuing pleasure with abandon. Forever stuck in moral mediocrity, I could afford myself neither self-righteousness nor orgasmic existence." from page 133. I think this sort of behavior is alive in all of us, or at least it is for me. Who wouldn't be tempted by a beautiful girl who is willing to give herself to you right then and there? Though personally, I wouldn't even consider letting a prostitute near me with those sort of intentions. I doubt I'd even think twice before slamming the door in her face. But what person doesn't have at least a small part of them that only wants to live for their self and do things for them and only them? Its selfish, yes, but in my opinion it is simple human nature. Everybody wants to get theirs. What makes you morally superior, rather than morally mediocre as Hemon chooses to call it on page 133, is how you choose to deal with those temptations. So I disagree with him there. But anyway, he begins to talk about how he is not a good husband to Mary. He loves her, her cares about her, and he apparently can refuse temptation for the sake of being with her, but he remains tempted by that other side of himself which prevents him from being fully committed. Unfortunately, I can identify with that. But I've learned that the self gratification way is probably not the best way to go.

The next chapter begins with Olga approaching the police station. She is trying to speak with Assistant Chief Schuettler. The journalist, Miller, is happy to show her to Schuettler's office in case he can get a good story out of it. When Olga comes face to face with Schuettler, she demands Lazarus' body back so she can have him buried properly. He refuses, and they clash leaving Olga to become very angry and leave. As she leaves the station she meets a man named Hermann Taube who is a lawyer, who tells her he wants to help her. He leads her to his office so they can talk without having to worry about the police detective who is following them. As they arrive in his office, the racism of the time is clearly shown on page 143. There is a photo of Lazarus on the front page of the newspaper. Then it highlights several parts of his facial features with a heading that says "The anarchist type". Clearly they are labeling anyone that is of Lazarus' lineage to be an anarchist. This is racial discrimination at its finest, and if something like this had been printed in this day and age it would be a big deal. Then Taube reads the article to go along with it, which describes an approaching "housecleaning" of all the anarchists. It says "undesirable foreigners will be deported". Isn't this the type of behavior we fought against in World War 2? I guess a big difference is that we probably wouldn't deport them to concentration camps and kill six million people because of their race, but its still pretty hypocritical. But at the time this takes place, none of that had happened yet. I guess that's irony. Anyway, Taube asks about Isador's location, and Olga lies to him and says she doesn't know anything about Isador because she doesn't trust Taube. In the end he explains to her that he represents several people who want to help her, but she is unwilling to go through with any of it for the time being. She leaves and is afraid that her life is slipping away from her.

In the final chapter for this section, we return to Brik and Rora who are starting a new day. They eat breakfast at the hotel restaurant(judging by the state of the rest of the hotel I wouldn't eat there if you paid me), and then spent a while in a brothel called Duran Duran, why not? Brik talks about how Rora couldn't do anything with the whores in the brothel. I guess the whole thing disgusted him. Brik never said what he did while at the brothel. Maybe he wasn't there at all and Rora just told him about it later on. They head for the Jewish Center in Chernivtsi, though apparently they really only want to go hang out in the cafe some more and drink coffee. They drink way too much coffee. They meet a man named Chaim Gruzenberg at the Jewish Center. Brik talks to him for a bit, while Rora takes pictures of the center and the old man writing at the desk in the corner. The discussion ends up leading to nowhere for Brik because Chaim says nobody is around who remembers the events he is looking for, and the only Jews who hadn't left the area were too old, sick, and/or crazy to answer any of his questions. On page 158 Brik talks about Lazarus' arrival on Ellis Island. Did all the immigrants that came through there get treated like he says Lazarus did? It didn't seem like it would be a good experience. Is Lazarus' name on the wall at Ellis Island? My great grandmother was German and she came through Ellis Island only a few years after Lazarus would have. Her name is on the wall. I hope she wasn't treated like that. Anyway, after the Jewish Center, they took a walk down the road to the Museum of Regional History and toured it for a while. It's interesting to think about history on the other side of a war. You walk into an American museum and see an American perspective. But for every war we fight in, our enemies have museums dedicated to that same war. They had heroes too. And stories of their own. And it was our soldiers whom they killed to have their names remembered amongst the history of their countries. It all seems somehow more real when you think about it like that, and more barbaric. After the museum they go to an internet cafe called Chicago to write to people. Brik writes to Mary, and asks about her father, which he calls her "dead". He describes her father as a mean old man totally down on life who hates the fact that his daughter chose to marry a foreigner. He is probably going to be in trouble with his wife after his message to her. This section ends with another one of Rora's tasteless jokes. Most of Rora's jokes, while tasteless, succeed in getting a laugh out of me.

I realize now that I could probably tie anarchism from this time period in to my capitalism research and use this book instead of Cowboy Chicken to talk about some of the historical events that happened around this time. But I hadn't read enough about it until now, and I am way too far in to start over. Oh well. I'm looking forward to the second half.

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