Monday, 12 May 2008

Pablo Neruda Absence and Presence

I sat in the garden, spattered
by the great drops of winter,
and it seemed to me impossible
that beneath all that sadness,
that crumbled solitude,
the roots were still at work
with no one to encourage them.


I was sooking recently to a friend about my inability to seduce Pony Girl from the Mallee Desert, even though I am quite sure we should get married tomorrow. The friend looked at me and asked, “Have you ever been truly in love?” and it was a loaded question. I knew what she was getting at. Pony Girl is a myth. Yeah, she seems perfect and all that, but in the absence of actually being her boyfriend / partner all I can do is be in love with the mythology of her, and so in the meantime, my friend was asking, of all my lovers and/or exes, have I ever truly been in love. I hate questions like that. I much prefer talking about footy (Go Tiges). Anyway, I was forced to concede that yes, indeed, I had been, and it was with a woman I often refer to as ‘that psychopathic ex of mine’, ‘whatzerface’, or ‘Andromeda 3.0’.

I was with Andromeda 3.0 for many years. We lived together, we owned property, we had two dogs and three cats, we were engaged, we were planning on having children and were approaching the wedding planning stage when I left her. I loved her to bits and would take a bullet for her. She loved me with equal ferocity. We were perfectly suited on a million different measurements and not only loved one another but revered one another.

I left her because she was a violent alcoholic.

She was riddled with mental illnesses (not her fault) which lead to many physical illnesses (not her fault) which rendered her anti-social, reclusive and unemployable (not her fault) and she became violent (her fault) and dependent upon alcohol (her fault).

I’m bringing this up because a) it’s my blog and I can say whatever the hell I want and b) this is relevant to the book review.

It has been two years since I left her, and she occasionally sends me text messages. They come in batches; whole series of them coming within the space of a couple of hours or so and she is clearly drunk when she sends them. They make no sense and are desperate and crazy. She’s sent me about 60 messages and I’ve sent three back. One said ‘stop contacting me’, another said, ‘stop fucking contacting me’ and the third was the wisest thing I’ve ever said – it was a response to a plea from her for us to meet again to which I replied, “the damage is done.”

The specifics of the ‘damage’ is neither here nor there, nor is the specifics of her illnesses and my decisions. What is relevant is that she loved me, and this was proven by the one message she sent me that came alone, that came when she was sober, and had nothing to do with our divorce. It said this: “You must read Pablo Neruda Absence and Presence”. That was it. That was all the message said.

So I bought it.

Then I read it.

It is exceptional.

It is a book made by a friend of Neruda’s, and it features excerpts from his poems, some essays about Neruda, and lots of photos of Neruda, Neruda’s house and his friends.

Neruda fans will love it, and even if you’ve never heard of Neruda and couldn’t give a flying fuck if he was in your pea-soup, you’d probably still love it.

But ay, there’s the rub.

You can’t read it.

This book, which I give an A+ to, is for me, not you. It is from Andromeda 3.0 to me. I want the whole world to burn every copy of this book that exists, except my copy. Because this book is mine.

Y’see, Pablo Neruda Absence and Presence was Andromeda 3.0’s very best way of apologising for the aforementioned ‘damage’, and after reading it, I then found the courage to admit to my friend that I once loved her. Of course, I told her I loved her when I was with her, often, and told other people all the time, but from the moment I left her, I never once said to anyone that I loved her - I refused to say the words - I was too busy calling her 'that psychopath' and refused, flatly refused to ever say I loved her because it was irrelevant.

This book means I can, now (though not to her, because that's not the point).

So, blog reader of mine, don’t read it.

It’s not for you.

This book exists solely for me.

Go read something else.



Melba said...

sorry perseus. she hurt you alot. but really, would you rather i lie and said ok, i won't read it, it's all yours? and then go and get it and read it behind your back. or just say, well, maybe it'll help others with their broken, stomped-upon hearts. maybe others can believe it's an apology from people they have loved and been broken by.

loving your honesty and your words. thank you.

ps re pony girl - if someone recommended a book to me as fantastic and i hated it because of the genre and the bad writing, i don't know whether i could be romantic with them. same if they had ever voted liberal.

squib said...

Oh I love Pablo to bits like even my dog is called Pablo and I cried during Il Postino and I had his verse on our wedding invites from um I forget which poem but it was beautiful

Of course if I read it them I'm going to end up reviewing it on my blog like The Road and that would just be silly, reviewing every book you just reviewed, so I'm going to try finding a book that was mentioned in the review a couple of weeks ago about a bio of an Irish woman something to do with Jonathan Swift and she has an awful life. I've tried explaining this to somone in my local bookshop but he was completely blank and it's long gone out in the recycling

Perseus said...

"i don't know whether i could be romantic with them. same if they had ever voted liberal."

I'm with you on the Liberal voting, but, you know, Andromeda 3.0 had identical literature tastes to me, and the relationship failed. Pony Girl has very different book taste, but, you know, at least she reads, and more importantly, her temperament is sound. I'd go the sound temperament / bad books combination over the violence / good books combination any day.

even my dog is called Pablo

Heh. One of our three cats was called Pablo.

Also, it's a hard book to review because it's more a photo album with some words. There's not much to review.

Artful Kisser said...

There's a strong likelihood I would check out this book based on your review. It speaks to me more than other reviewers who'd no be doubt be waxing lyrical about the language, poetic trends in Latin America, sentence structure etc etc. Very sad you encountered such difficulties with someone you so obviously loved deeply, but I guess a relief for you both to have some sort of...and I hate tossers who say this know the one I mean...the c word.

Perseus said...

Oh, that C-word. Doesn't it make you go nuts? Well done on not saying it.

I know as much about poetic trends in Latin America as I do about public transport reforms in Eastern Uzbekhistan.

And thank you.

Perseus said...
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Melba said...

i guess you're right, perseus about the bad book/stable personality combo. and good on you for making the decision to end it. i wasn't suggesting that was wrong in any way. admirable. and difficult.

Mad Cat Lady said...

Well I promise not to read it :) (but since I only read trash, this is an empty gesture on part and requires no effort)
Moving review.
Makes me feel all soppy.

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