Sunday, 14 April 2013

The Face of the Monster

by Manos Hatzidakis

Anyone who is not afraid of the face of the monster means that he looks like it. And the possible extension of this axiom is that we get accustomed to horror, we get scared of beauty.

Frankenstein became a poster decorating the room of a beautiful boy. The boy is called Pinochet or Videla, and he is dancing all alone to a tango passionately elliptical. There is no music or a singer up close, only one endless rhythm and numbers. One thousand, five hundred, five thousand, ten, one hundred thousand, not entirely unambiguous numbers of the disappeared, tortured, and dead. And the tango continues, and the football highlights are cutting the breath of millions of viewers on Earth. Millions more than those dedicated to react against the monster, those who get disappeared amid ditches, ravines or in the rural wilds.

From the moment Frankenstein decorates the rooms of the youths, the world marches with mathematical precision towards its annihilation. Not because the world stopped to be afraid, but because it has become accustomed to fear. And in my turn, I’m not afraid of anything save the brain of the chicken. So I am forced to talk to a chicken or to a dog, or anyway, to a strong animal that roams. What to say and how to say it? And is it not disgraceful if I try to translate or to convey my thoughts down to simplistic phrases and stupid gestures to reassure the possible suspicions of a hen, which is placed from above to check us and guide us? The submission or the addiction to such a coexistence or conciliation does not result in the risk of assimilation or of forgetfulness, of how we have, of how we ought to think, act, and speak? Undoubtedly we’ve begun to be tolerant. And tolerance multiplies the animals in public life, strengthens them and helps them accurately synthesize the form of the monster that controls and governs us.

The monster is formed from animals and from enemies. And the enemy is born, not made. Watching us from school, as we were kids, and he seeks our annihilation.

So I will remind you of a conversation, in a classroom of the new school I went to. I was approached by a tall classmate, with a nasty eczema on the skin of his face, crooked nose and faded, messy, hair. It was the first day of the school year.
- What is your name? he asked, while by his side two of his friends stood silently.
- Bill, I said. - And where do you live? he continued.
- Over that hill, I told him looking him in the eyes. He smiled, and he let his damaged teeth to show. He said: - I live on the opposite shore. So you're an enemy.  And he hit my head with his hand, a memory that hurts me even now as I remember it. I looked as if I was ready to cry. But I got a grip on myself. He burst out laughing and went away...For the time being. For I see him: as a conductor, an instructor in the army, as a telegrapher, an usher in the ministry, in the police, as a musician in the orchestra, the parish priest, as a roommate in the apartment building, a doctor at the state hospital and finally as the grave-digger who succeeds to bury me.

The form of the monster is colorful. Thousands illuminated signs with lousy names of artists, associations, and companies that sell cars, stacked in the optical region of passersby who seek to break the colorful lights to get inside, to be protected from the prostitutes, the ambulances and the forever elusive supersonic motorcycles. The other day, just for fun, I turned over a paved highway, and I saw it over me, unfolding dangerously towards the absolute solitude of the sea. I asked to return back to my upright posture on the boulevard, but the sun has risen in between and the implementation of our Road Code does not allow me to restore the highway to its original position. Thus, the true avenue remained hovering, and I returned to my home on foot.

The monster had begun its promenades. The street cleaners opened the show with Shakespeare, Schiller and Aeschylus for they rightfully belong to the Ministry of Culture. Transvestites sing the chorus of Theodorakis and are withdrawn in small streets, dancing Sirtaki. French, British and Swiss tourists watch and shiver in front of our traditional greatness. And they run to the banks to exchange money. The monster is ridiculous and walks undisturbed from Conservatory to Conservatory. The Classical Music is our cookhouse. And the whole world demands benefits especially from the Public Treasury. The question passes through the electrical newspapers to the central square. How will we react and how will we not settle for the monster?

You remember what happened to the "Erofili" last time. Her world had as core values the ethics, the truth, and the beauty. And so, when the form of a monster appeared it upset the public feeling, profoundly, and caused unexpected, immediate and decisive responses. At the moment the king took off his cloak of his grandeur and so was removed the fa├žade of the good father, of the leader, and the form of the monster appeared on his face with the subsequent dismembering of Panaretos, the chorus led by women, rushed over him, trampled, killed, and waned him.

This means the dance of these women, not only was fearless, but it could never have looked like the face of the monster.

Manos Hadzidakis, July 30, 1978
From the ‘Scholia tou Tritou’, Eksantas, 1980
Translation: Ray Dunkle, April 2013

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