Cosmic Communist Construction


Today I learned that Cosmic Communist Construction is a thing, or, at the very least, the very excellent title of a Taschen coffee table book.

Below is one of the hundreds of sculptural images found in the book, which features mostly Soviet government construction—as well as the occasional sanatorium.

Such galactic crush can in part be explained by the US/Soviet space race of the late 50s and 60s, which eventually culminated in the moon landing and, of course, The Jetsons. A world crushed by two world wars was eager to move forward, way forward, be it via the progress professed by Capitalism or the egalitarianism feigned by Communism.

Since Communism only works via Dictatorship, its construction is more aggressive, more repetitive, more dramatic. Local, mundane space is transformed into outer space by a power eager to present itself as an ideal worth building, by any means necessary.

In Russian, USSR translates to CCCP, an acronym put to good service by the author of this book. Had Cosmic Communism been the literal name of the regime perhaps it would have had a better hand at constructing real earth.

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Suburbanization in Reverse

Last week’s Economist cover featured the death of the internal combustion engine via the electric car. The magazine contemplates a bright future where the air is clean, oil grabs become irrelevant, and people nap during their private commutes. Then, reverse suburbanisation as cities contract, converting now useless parking into homes, parks, offices. Efficient destinations everywhere.

The magazine does not mention the inventors of this great future, but that is whom the article left me thinking about: the few individuals who propelled electric cars forward. These incredible beings basically prevented planetary devastation by ending human dependence on dirty fuel.

Sadly, on the other side of the equation, you have the Zumas, Trumps, and Maduros of the world. Individuals who set entire nations back one year each time they open their traps. See the excerpt from the article below on Jacob Zuma’s reelection, which immediately followed the article on electric cars.

Thus, the equation keeps equal. Or as Fitzgerald might say, “we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

Dora, the Dictadora


About to hop on a flight with this read on the women who loved the world’s worst men, written by Spanish uber journalist Rosa Montero, whom I saw speak at the Cartagena Hay Festival a few years back. 

In “Dictadoras,” Montero digs deep to pile new dirt on the wives and girlfriends who warmed the beds of Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini and Franco. 

If the book sounds gossip-y, it is because it is, as are most well-researched history books. 

In fact, I truly think that the reason why historical fiction has become such a popular genre is that it is a veiled form of juicy gossip.  

Maybe reading about Cleopatra’s lovers can teach us about strategy, perserverance, fragility, the timeless nature of tragic love. But, it also just teaches us about Cleopatra’s lovelife, which was scan-da-lous. Because Cleopatra is a historical headline, though, reading about her hot sex becomes a legitimate intellectual persuit.  
And, so, legitimately, I plan on enriching my intellect with the real-life, true story of Stalin’s numerous, illegitimate early mornings. 

Crisis at Thirty

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There is an undocumented age crisis that occurs in the early thirties. Indeed, the onset of this decade might mark the actual “coming of age.” Eighteen is still shrouded by the incredulous, protective shield of childhood, as is any age before twenty nine. But thirty-three is different. It is lucid and stunned and dismayed at the same time.

I held this notion as an inkling until reading the poem below by German poet Hans Magnus Enzensberger, which confirmed it as poetic fact. Mr. Enzensberger, born in 1929, witnessed the Third Reich’s reign and legacy on his nation. So, he knows of dismay. He also knows of changing political views that are held in a personal, perhaps lighter way.

The character in his poem “At Thirty Three” seems extracted from Nobel Laureate Doris Lessing’s The Golden NotebookThe professor lover, the Hesse, the men who take no liberties, the batik dresses, the hidden preoccupation with beauty. And, of course the loosely held Trotsky.

Enzensberger’s other work maintains his cynic, impassive view. Jacket2 Magazinepublished a few that can be read here.  The Poetry Foundation also has a few available here.

 

At Thirty Three

It was all so different from what she’d expected
Always those rusting Volkswagens.
At one time she’d almost married a baker.
First he read Hesse, then Handke.
Now often she does crosswords in bed.
With her, men take no liberties.
For years she was a Trotskyist, but in her own way.
She’s never handled a ration card.
When she thinks of Kampuchea she feels quite sick.
Her last lover, the professor, always wanted her to beat him.
Greenish batik dresses, always too wide for her.
Greenflies on her Sparmannia.
Really she wanted to paint, or emigrate.
Her thesis, Class Struggles in Ulm 1500
to 1512 and References to them in Folksong:
Grants, beginnings and a suitcase full of notes.
Sometimes her grandmother sends her money.
Tentative dances in her bathroom, little grimaces,
cucumber juice for hours in front of the mirror.
She says, whatever happens I shan’t starve.
When she weeps she looks like nineteen.

 

 

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Her Sparmannia…

This post originally appeared in Zeteo Journal.