What should I know about Girish Karnad
A Whiff o ‘the Liffey
So he had to accept her courtesy all the more unconditionally by taking him to the sea or by tirelessly answering Mary's questions about the renaissance of Gaelic roots. So he hadn't understood the child's name either: it was Gaelic. They immersed themselves in English conversations about linguistic peculiarities and the struggle of the Irish for a presence of their language in life, through which correction of false conditions the new Ireland tried to define itself. Their insistence on the difference to English, the lingual attack on the ruling self-evident, was the attempt to dethrone the self-evident rulers. It was not this battle that was new, only the battle of today, while the relevance of the idiom had already shaped the literatures that, in turn, had created his holey Dublin image. What was new was the open everydayness with which the cover of the occupation had been lifted a little after the weakening of the British crown, after the longer-than-Trojan struggles for independence and after the peace talks.
A bad conscience had crept in. The host, to whom his presence was evidently a burden, was in the midst of the struggle for life; here he is, poor in action, thoughtful, an elite tourist who doesn't even look at anything. He tried to soon take Jimmy back into the role he had given him so unsolicited and walked the streets alone. Dublin is small, he could stroll through the city center on foot, getting lost was impossible.
He sat in cafes reading, writing and drinking coffee. The voices urging him to make better use of the precious time - at least once in Dublin - were quickly silenced: How do you use a precious thing better than by savoring it? All around, a concert of cell phones accompanied Dublin's spurt into the late 90s, while he could unabashedly observe total strangers at close range for free, until they became almost familiar to him by mere watching and listening, that much can be learned from gestures and behavior. The man in the light suit does not yet know his counterpart very well and is hesitant. Why does that woman feel uncomfortable, bob her knees? What are the three people who have been sitting at the corner table for 45 minutes, bent over papers and already drinking their third coffee, working on?
At tables in cafés, all attention was paid to the mundane things. What is happening only gradually sinks into his consciousness, the desire to understand thoroughly stands in the way of better understanding. Then back on the streets the tourist was on the move to the point of exhaustion, running his way through all the quarters, up and down stairs, over and over across the river and was only breath and legs. In this movement on the streets, meaning was formed from what was seen and heard. The distance from home as well as from what had just been noticed, yes, the constant distance from one's own foot when walking prevented real participation, it withdrew the viewer from thorough penetration in favor of a better overview.
As in Berlin, the change of times in Dublin was a matter of civil engineering and the ever-improving transmission technology. The roots of the past are no longer built over, but rather torn up and replaced, archeology becomes irrelevant. Troy or Rome would be impossible today, each age ring is first removed, then the following is put in place of the old one instead of on it or above it. Traces are removed, knowledge is destroyed. With ever more precise documentation of the present, it is actually erased all the more thoroughly. Acceleration is the murder of history, ultimately of people. The departure is a demolition, while the demolition is sold as a prelude. He circumnavigated the south aisle of St. Patrick's Cathedral and it seemed to him that he was more at home in a foreign country than at home.
On the third day he crept on and on on the Trinity College campus until he found himself in the midst of the dorms, the student residences that were classically located on the college grounds, wandering carefree almost into the student bedroom. Only then did he lose his bearings. It was precisely on the limited campus of the university, this place of reflection, study and knowledge, that he lost knowledge of his position. In this academic fortress against the lower course of the world, under whose indifferent wheels knowledge is worn down, knowledge is preserved in legendary libraries, mindful of the ancients. A true museum with historical Irish mementos preserves history, so that the memory of the answer to the question: Where do we come from? Which to the other: Who are we? leads directly there. But the day was nice, he didn't want to go to a museum. In Rome, the humid heat will just drive him into the museo vaticano; Ireland values the rare rays more highly. He passed Stephen's Green and an image connected to this corner of the park: Beckett tells his landlady that he prefers this tea (he gives it to her) than that (was it Sencha instead of Lipton?). He had bought a recently published biography and was reading it and somehow thought that the scene should have taken place on the next side street. A stroke of the brain; worse, the mistake that he would somehow acquire genius if he only drank enough of that same tea. Of course, it was not possible to find out with certainty which one it really was. Of course it didn't matter either, but goblins find the stray thoughts of the aimless wanderer and entangle him in strange worlds of images. The best antidote was found in the unadorned inn. Here he did not find the typical local in abundance. Pathetic breakfast, bad drinks, people from all over the place. Such prose chased the local lack of direction. But here you had to ask yourself questions, had to explain something about yourself. He felt uncomfortable about it and soon realized the point of the whole trip: Dublin was supposed to lull him and take him prisoner. He should lose his orientation, should - circling in narrow terrain - get a feeling like the little intoxication that afflicts you with blind man's buff when the others turn you around blindly while they are hiding. The seeker is turned so that he loses his orientation and cannot use what he still knows of his position, while the others around him make confusing noises and quickly jump elsewhere as soon as he follows the noise. The role of the stalker is the most profitable: for moments it brings a different perception: one without prior knowledge. In the absence of relevant prior knowledge, Dublin brought a little xenophoria, the intoxication of the foreign, against which background the real emerges clearly, but the known fades mercilessly if it is not confirmed again by the circumstances. The more open eyes in the face of the new to be seen were the result of this little trip. To trip in the language of the Anglo-Saxon occupants means stumbling, and the unsuitability of the conventional trot in the face of the new nature of the path (metaphorically speaking) gave him the renewed reconsideration of the already too habitual stepping forward. Dublin was a welcome stone on the uncomfortably familiar path.
Little Cloë had always fled to her mother during the days and hid behind her skirt as soon as it was in the door - if her mother was wearing a skirt. When he said goodbye on the fourth day, he was delighted by Cloë's wave in the car that drove away. In addition, he thanked Bertolt Brecht for the poem Behavior in Foreign Countries and was certain that he had not been to Dublin for the last time. The breeze from the river was a tail wind to him.
Berlin, April 2003
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