CHAPTER FIVE: INTELLECTUAL INTIMACIES
We arrived at Philomena's address some ten minutes later and, once she had securely parked the car, entered the block and ascended the lift to her flat on the second floor. She had four rooms in all, and I was introduced to the largest. It was tastefully decorated in pale matt tones, with modern lightweight furniture, a warm full-sized carpet, a couple of small abstract paintings, and an admirably copious collection of books and discs all stacked in chronological order on shelves lining one of the walls. No sooner had I found my bearings, as it were, than I was offered a chair and a glass of sherry, which I accepted with alacrity.
She lit herself a cigarette and sat down opposite me in the other armchair, drawing up her legs so that her heels dug into the soft cushion material in front. I hadn't noticed much about her clothing until then, but now saw that she was wearing dark stockings under a beige skirt, which was buttoned around a white blouse that, on account of its nylon fabrication, was fairly transparent. She had removed her high heels and now assumed an appearance of restful abandon, as she savoured the aroma of her cigarette and eyed me with sympathetic curiosity. I thought her even more beautiful like this than she had looked in the café, and couldn't resist conveying my impression to her.
"You're not supposed to say such things to a married woman," she teasingly responded, allowing herself the luxury of a modest blush. "Isn't Susan beautiful, then?"
"Not as beautiful as you," I declared, taking pleasure in Philomena's scarcely-concealed delight at the fact.
"I guess I ought to return the compliment in suitably modified terms by saying how clever you are, Jason, to be the author of such an interesting novel as 'Crossed-Purpose', not to mention the various parts of 'Betwixt Truth and Illusion'."
"I'm afraid you do me a disservice by evaluating my cleverness on the basis of those works," I bluntly informed her, "since I've long since ceased to write like that, or, indeed, to write anything at all, having developed into a painter and photographer in the meantime."
"Gosh, I am surprised to hear that!" cried Philomena, whose response was only to be expected. "How did that come about, then?"
I endeavoured to explain, filling her in about my subsequent post-humanistic writings and the inevitability of my having gravitated to art whilst I waited for both a full recovery from the depression which north London had so callously inflicted upon me and a chance to expand my professional interests in the direction of politics. My best writings, I went on, were unlikely to be published in England, since they were too ideologically advanced to be acceptable within the framework of a liberal civilization rooted in royalism. Only a pro-transcendental civilization could do proper justice to them, and it was my destiny, I felt, to help bring about such a civilization when the time was ripe. As yet, there was no possibility of one being created, so I had no real option but to bide my time and persevere with my painting activities, whilst I recovered from depression.
"Perhaps it wasn't so much London as England which is the chief cause of your depression," Philomena suggested, as she stubbed-out the butt of her cigarette and poured herself - I having declined - another glass of sherry.
"Not entirely," I confessed, slightly amused, "though there's undoubtedly some truth in what you say, since England is a pretty depressing place for someone like me, who happened to be born in Ireland of Irish parents.... By the way, you're not English, are you?"
Philomena shook her head. "I was born in Ireland but raised in England, which is why I have an English accent."
"Like me," I remarked, showing visible signs of relief. "I always thought you were Irish, though I had no way of knowing for sure, not having discovered your surname."
"Gill," she informed me, blushing at this reminder of her maiden name which, as I well knew, no longer applied. "But my husband, being a Hawkins, is an Englishman, and a fairly typical one at that."
"What, a conservative dickhead?" I conjectured, a shade maliciously.
"If that's someone who's rather old-fashioned, capitalist, cynical, materialistic, stolid, monarchic, puritanical, muddleheaded, sports mad, pedantic, obsessed with keeping up appearances, and virtually incapable of taking criticism," Philomena responded, showing signs of impatience, "then yes, I suppose he is! Such Englishmen, you inevitably learn, are never at fault about anything, never in the wrong. One is supposed, in the event of failing to congratulate them for their moral shortcomings, to take their stupidities for granted!"
"A legacy, in part, of an imperialistic tradition and, in part, of an entrenched ethnicity," I opined, knowing exactly what she meant. "And that's why, amongst other things, one is supposed to believe that parliamentary democracy is the best possible kind of democracy, beyond which one cannot progress. For as soon as one begins to speak in favour of Social Democracy, of participatory rather than representative democracy, one is talking, according to such born capitalists, of socialism, about which nothing good should be said, since it implies the public ownership of the means of production, and in a country where the overwhelming ownership of business is in private hands, and is likely to remain so even under a Labour government, socialism can only be a dirty word. A curious fact, really, but the people who boast, above all others, of being the freest in the world are, in reality, one of the most enslaved peoples, subjects of a constitutional monarchy, whose political and other traditions impede the progress of freedom like virtually nowhere else on earth. They may talk about freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom to write, and presumably publish or, rather, have published, what one likes, etc., but, in reality, a man whose thoughts were truly free, and thus geared to spiritual redemption, would never be encouraged to air them in monarchical England! They'd reject his thoughts out-of-hand."
"As, presumably, they've done where yours are concerned?" Philomena ruefully conjectured.
"Yes, certainly with regard to my transcendental thoughts, which approximate the closest of all to ultimate truth. Only my early work, which was conventionally humanistic, is acceptable to them, and then only because it doesn't expose the limitations of capitalist civilization to any appreciable extent.... But to hear some Englishmen talk, you'd think that civilization had reached an apotheosis, beyond which no further evolution was possible! More's the pity that one can't get the truth across to them and thus save them from their seeming ignorance of the fact that the individualistic competitiveness to which they so eagerly subscribe is fundamentally barbarous. Unfortunately they don't want to be saved from it, least of all by an Irishman, whose constant opposition to what they stand for is taken for granted and simply regarded as an ethnically-conditioned thorn-in-the-side which, deriving in some measure from the cloudier if not wetter climatic factors traditionally typifying Ireland, it is better to ignore than to heed, since neither animal can change its spots, nor, for that matter, its weather."
"'Where ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise'," Philomena quoted from a memory evidently well-stocked with poets like Gray.
"Don't believe it!" I retorted. "Ignorance enslaves and binds one to the illusory. Only truth can liberate and lead one towards bliss. There's nothing blissful about ignorance. All one can say is that the English live in a kind of fool's paradise which will be rudely interrupted in the not-too-distant future."
"I take it you're alluding to the ever-growing influence of Europe and the inexorable advance towards greater European unity," said Philomena, putting down her sherry.
"Partly to that, and partly to one or two other things besides," I admitted, preferring not to enlarge. Instead, I got up from my armchair in order to take a closer look at her library, which was ranged against the opposite wall in six tiers of brightly-varnished wooden shelves. There must have been at least 3000 books there, mostly novels and poetry, of which I had probably read several hundred in the heyday of my literary interests. Nowadays, however, literature usually disgusted me, especially when English. To read a bourgeois novel was beneath me, and even bourgeois/proletarian ones, as I liked to think of those which had a fairly proletarian subject-matter but had been published in traditional book formats, had long ceased to intrigue me.
"How do you differentiate between them?" Philomena inquired of me, after I had told her as much.
"Bourgeois novels are like this," I replied, pointing to a copy of Aldous Huxley's Point Counter Point. "They are aligned with liberal humanism and appertain to the bourgeoisie. Bourgeois/proletarian novels, on the other hand, are like that ..." here I drew her attention to her copy of Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer "... in which a generally more proletarian technique and subject-matter prevail. The former tend to be mainly fictitious and narrative, whereas the latter are mainly factual and autobiographical. As a rule, the former prevail in England and the latter in America."
Philomena drew attention to my novel 'Crossed-Purpose' and said it must be bourgeois then, since embracing bourgeois characters and settings as well as avoiding the use of proletarian words, especially the principal four-letter ones.
"Yes," I rather shamefacedly conceded. "It is effectively a bourgeois or, at any rate, petty-bourgeois novel, which explains why, together with my other early works, it was published in England. They'd be unlikely to publish my later, proletarian writings here though."
"How d'you distinguish between your proletarian works and bourgeois/proletarian literature?" she not unreasonably wanted to know.
"Precisely by the fact that whereas the latter is published separately or, rather, individually, as a novel, a volume of poems, a volume of essays, and so on, the former should be published collectively, as a collection of writings in which a novel or, at any rate, prose work, a collection of poems, short stories, etc., will share the same tape and/or compact disc and overall title. I say 'should be published' advisably, since such an omega-oriented literary format would be out-of-place in the alpha-stemming humanistic civilization one finds in England and to some extent the West generally. Even the Americans, with their transitional civilization, would be unable or unwilling to publish full-blown proletarian literature, as represented by collectivization on the formal level and by transcendentalism on the conceptual one. That's why their literature is, at best, bourgeois/proletarian, whereas, at its best, mine is distinctly proletarian."
"And therefore only likely to be published in a future revolutionary country?" Philomena conjectured doubtfully.
"Yes, for a full-blown transcendental civilization will be exclusively omega-orientated and therefore not prepared to countenance independent publications of the individual, traditional literary genres which stem from the influence of the manifold roots of life, and consequently permeate the lower levels of human evolution. Here, in England, I go under false pretences, since people take me for a bourgeois novelist on the strength of my published work. Not knowing anything about my unpublished ones, nor about proletarian literature in general, they have no real option. Fortunately, however, I know better, and although I'm obliged to placate the bastards to some extent - and so pretend to being something I'm not - I remain adamantly opposed to their standards and am simply waiting for the opportunity to reveal my true, higher self when the time is ripe."
Philomena drew herself up closer to me, as though she needed my physical support. It was an old habit of hers, I remembered, to stand as
close to me as possible. "And does your collectivistic literature use many four-letter words?" she asked.
"Not too many," I confessed, knowing full-well what she was especially alluding to, "partly because I have intellectual blood in my veins and am not therefore as partial to words like 'fuck' and 'cunt' as I might otherwise be, if I were less of a head and more of a body, so to speak. There are undoubtedly more such words in Henry Miller's bourgeois/proletarian literature than ever there would be in my work. But I don't claim to be the last word, as it were, in collectivized writings. In reality, I'm only the first, a beginning which has yet to officially materialize on the world stage. Even the so-called proletarian authors of the Soviet Union wrote in the bourgeois framework of a specific genre, and that was because Marxism-Leninism provided no real moral or spiritual dimension in which to develop a genuinely proletarian mode of writing. Being tied to materialist values, they wrote in a context which reflected the infernal nature of materialism and, most especially, of dictatorial realism. But having developed a spiritual reference-point, I'm able to transcend the separate genres in collectivized formats which, stored on computer disc, are the first truly and completely omega-oriented manifestations of proletarian literature. That such a literature will develop further in the future, I have no doubt. For, as I said, I don't include as many foreign words and phrases as would be compatible with a more evolved proletarian literature."
"You mean, the use of foreign languages would correspond, on the verbal level, to a collectivization compatible with omega-orientated criteria?" Philomena suggested, having in the meantime caught hold of my hand.
"Yes," I smilingly assured her, grateful for her ability to follow my reasoning, which wasn't to be found in many women - including, I might add, my wife. "For just as the inclusion of various genres in a single volume reflects, on the formal level, a convergence to a literary omega point, so does the use of various languages reflect, on the verbal level, a similar tendency, in opposition to the individual language distinctions which stem, in a manner of speaking, from the alpha roots of life in the stars, and have constituted a source of racial conflict and misery for centuries past. To only write in one's own tongue, with no foreign words and phrases, is equivalent to only writing as a novelist or a poet or a short-story writer or whatever, instead of as a collectivist. One is then merely one of many separate nationalities writing in the interests of his own national language rather than aspiring towards a true, multilingual internationalism. Now the finest bourgeois/proletarian authors invariably use foreign languages, and refer to them frequently. Henry Miller, for example, uses French and German in his novels which, while not being particularly impressive, considering he doesn't use them all that often, is at least preferable to someone like Evelyn Waugh who, being a bourgeois novelist, eschews foreign words and phrases altogether, virtually on principle. Admittedly, bourgeois authors often use Latin and Greek, which we also find, albeit to a lesser extent, in bourgeois/proletarian writings as well. But no such classical tongues should be used in proletarian writings, since their transcendental bias would automatically exclude pagan associations and ingredients. I, for instance, don't use Latin or Greek in my own higher writings, and wouldn't encourage their use in the future. But I'd have nothing against the use of French, German, Spanish, Italian, modern Greek, and Russian, to name but a handful of foreign languages, in predominantly English writings, which could only profit from a more international approach, as pioneered by James Joyce in his own transitional novels."
I was delighted to see copies of both Ulysses and Finnegans Wake on Philomena's bookshelves, and confessed to her that my previous admiration for Joyce's late work was largely founded on the extent of his anti-conservatism and anti-traditionalism, which I considered essential ingredients in the march of evolutionary progress. I also commented favourably on the large volume of Pound's Cantos which graced her library, remarking that, as a bourgeois/proletarian poet, Pound had gone further than any of his contemporaries in developing a multilingual literature. He had even used Asiatic and Middle Eastern languages in his mature poems, which, not surprisingly, few of his contemporaries could have been expected to appreciate or evaluate in their true light. For it wasn't mere egocentricity or literary hype on his part, to switch from one language to another, but fidelity to spiritual progress in a lingual convergence to the literary omega point of a truly international poetry. What Pound had done for poetry, someone else would do for the more evolved medium of collectivized literature, though with more radical and frequent cross-references between one language and another.
"And what d'you think of Koestler?" Philomena asked, pointing out From Bricks to Babel, a selective anthology of his oeuvre.
"Quite a lot actually," I ventured to reply, overlooking the irony in her choice of book. "Especially as regards that publication, which, although anthological, is probably the nearest we have yet come to full-blown collectivization on the bourgeois/proletarian level; though it usually happens that the bourgeois writer gets collectivized posthumously, in accordance, one might be forgiven for thinking, with the religious beliefs of Western civilization in regard to a posthumous afterlife. Of course, I don't see eye-to-eye with him everywhere. Yet, in spite of that, he strikes me as being a kind of forerunner of myself, a shift away from Marxist-Leninist materialism towards a transcendentalism with socialist overtones. Yes, he was certainly an important influence on my own philosophical development - one of only a few such influences. His best work would not be banned in a society dedicated to transcendental progress with a social dimension. It might prove necessary to edit parts of his work in such a society, but there are certainly aspects of his mature writings which would appeal to a people for whom a purely materialistic interpretation of life proved unconvincing."
"And what about Malcolm Muggeridge - doesn't he fit into a similar anti-materialist framework?" Philomena rejoined on a knowingly inquisitive note.
"Yes, but on a Christian rather than a transcendental level, which, frankly, is of little relevance to the future," I averred. "Muggeridge is simply the tail-end of humanistic civilization, whereas Koestler, being more transitional, points in the direction of a transcendental civilization. Muggeridge is basically reactionary through and through, like his literary hero, Evelyn Waugh. Yet that isn't really surprising, since, as already remarked, English civilization is essentially liberal and its writers likewise. One gets the odd exception, of course. But, then, they generally wrote abroad, having already forged an international reputation. Aldous Huxley is an example of what I mean, a bourgeois who started out on humanistic lines and slowly gravitated, partly under American influence, towards a transitional or bourgeois/proletarian framework in which transcendental criteria came to predominate. In this respect, his late works are ideologically superior to his early ones."
"A truism surely, since a genuine artist should always develop spiritually from a lower to a higher level as his career advances," Philomena declared.
"True, he should," I confirmed. "But not all of them do, maybe because they aren't as genuine as at first appeared. Take D.H. Lawrence, for example. Can one say that his work improved as he went along? Hardly! Although, if one takes his own rather sensual standards for measure, one could argue that he extended them and became more radically neo-pagan as he went along. But much as, from a bourgeois/proletarian angle, his technical approach to writing was admirably spontaneous, his philosophical bias left something to be desired, driving him in an increasingly reactionary direction. One isn't going to set oneself on the road to salvation by following D.H. Lawrence's example, believe me!"
Philomena smiled deferentially, though persisted in standing as close to me as possible. She had no intention of letting go of my hand, either. "Tell me something about your own approach to writing," she requested, following a short pause. "I mean, did you write quickly or slowly, for instance?"
"In general, I wrote quickly, and so conformed to post-humanistic spontaneity. I didn't want my work to become bogged-down in preciosities or grammatical determinism, but preferred to keep things moving along as much as possible."
"And did you sometimes split infinitives or end sentences with prepositions?" Philomena wanted to know, becoming more like a grammatical neurotic of the Virginia Woolf category by the minute.
"More than that, I did all sorts of things upon which pedants and critics could only frown," I admitted boldly. "But that was my literary prerogative as a creative writer, since the writer's business is to extend creative free-will at the expense of grammatical determinism, and the more he succeeds in doing so, within the context of his own age or stage of civilization, the greater his achievement and the nearer he stands to the apotheosis of creative freedom in the maximum literary abstraction. As I told you, I was only a beginning where post-humanistic literature is concerned, so I didn't, alas, bring literature to its final liberation from grammatical fetters! That day will eventually come, a day when transcendental civilization gets properly under way and a freer, higher type of literature is developed. In the bourgeois and transitional civilizations, however, the degree of progressive freedom permissible and obtainable is inevitably limited by the integrity of those civilizations in a framework which is still tied to appearances, since stemming from the diabolic roots of life in fidelity to open-society criteria. Even my early work displayed certain technical freedoms which the critics found objectionable and didn't hesitate to condemn. They imagined that I was incapable of writing correctly, or that I had tried to and failed. But the truth of the matter was that I had simply followed my bent as a creative artist, by extending creative freedom at the expense of grammatical determinism. Not very far admittedly, since I was a lesser writer in those early days than I subsequently became, with my collectivized work. At first, it was a struggle for me to bring myself to split infinitives. But, eventually, I could do so without blushing or turning a hair - my literary conscience complacent.
"However, not being artists themselves, the critics can only assess one's work according to conventional criteria," I continued, after a short pause. "For they must have a predetermined scale-of-values with which to apply an assessment in the first place. That scale of values, stemming all-too-often from school textbooks, is precisely what the artist should be in rebellion against. So the critic is bound to misunderstand him and do his work a grave disservice in consequence. As Baudelaire remarked somewhere: 'The world only goes around by misunderstanding'. What could be truer than that?"
"What indeed?" responded Philomena, who blushed more violently than was her custom, presumably because I had touched a tender spot in her psyche which had special reference to the relationship of the sexes and the female attitude to men. Curiously, however, her blush had a seductive effect on me, for I automatically applied a warm kiss to her nearest cheek and then another, slightly more lingering one to her brow. She looked at me with what seemed like horrified surprise for an instant, before relaxing into a sort of encouraging smile. Her very close proximity to me had, it appeared, paid off, since she was now squeezing my hand more tightly, whilst allowing me to gently stroke her cheek. Frankly, I had no desire to resist her any longer, having grown tired, in any case, of discussing my literature, which in any case no longer really applied to my life, and could only respond to her physical allurements in appropriately appreciative terms.
"Jason, you quite surprise me!" she declared in an ironically reproachful manner.
"I do?" I smiled, knowing full-well what the score was. For she had obviously expected me to fall into her trap all along, even from the day she first wrote to me. And I, grown weary of Susan, was just waiting for the opportunity to do so, mindful of her considerable beauty. Only, it had been necessary to keep up pretences of indifference to sex for form's sake, because that way neither of us would unduly compromise the other. Now, however, we both sought to dispose of such pretences as quickly as possible, like a butterfly escaping from its cocoon, in order to enter into a sexual freedom which would fully reveal us to each other physically. She knew something about my mind and now I, in turn, wanted to discover exactly what kind of a body she had. And so, purposefully, I undid the button on the waist of her skirt and helped myself to the buried treasures underneath.