Monday, July 14, 2008

Dear Aleister...

NYT Books leads with a surreal story about Portuguese nationalism and the letters betweenFernando Pessoa and Aleister Crowley. Apparently the Portuguese poet (or more properly, poets, as he wrote under multiple pseudonyms in several languages) noticed a miscalculation in the Great British Satan's astrological charts.

The letters are currently in the possession of his family, and the government want to keep them in the country, possibly installing them in the Pessoa house-museum, where poems pop up on flyleafs. I spent the afternoon working in a filmmaker's private archive, and there is a sheer delight in finding a note, a line, a page, a doodle that seems to hold a small, inexplicable key to their working process.

On the other hand, I hate the nationalist discourse that swirls around certain authors' papers having to be preserved 'for the nation.' It's especially rich coming from Britain, which led the world in ripping off cultural and sacred art and stuffing it in mausoleums in London.

But how great would it be to read the letters between Pessoa, one of the twentieth century's strangest writers, and Crowley, the suburban nutcase? Not least because I once had a penpal who was convinced he was the reincarnation of dear Aleister.

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