Issue 80, Summer 1981
Still gripped by the illusion of an horizon;
overcome with the finality of a broken tooth;
suspecting that habits are the only salvation,
—the Nineteenth Century’s
guilt, World War One,
by Nijinsky on January 19, 1919.
• • •
...I am now reading Ecce Homo. Nietzsche
is angry with me—;
he hates “the Crucified One.”
But he did not live through War—;
when the whole world painted its face
Someone must expiate the blood.
• • •
No. Let what is past
be forgotten. Let even the blood
be forgotten—; there can be no “expiation.”
Expiation is not necessary.
Suffering has made me what I am,—
I must not regret; or judge; or
struggle to escape it
in the indifference of (the ruthless
CHANGE; “my endless RENEWAL”; BECOMING.
—That is Nietzsche.
He wants to say “Yes” to life.
I am not Nietzsche. I am the bride of Christ.
• • •
He was planning a new and original ballet. It was to be a picture of sex life, with the scene laid in a maison tolérée. The chief character was to be the owner—once a beautiful cocotte, now aged and paralyzed as a result of her debauchery; but, though her body is a wreck, her spirit is indomitable in the traffic of love. She deals with all the wares of love, selling girls to boys, youth to age, woman to woman, man to man.
When he danced it, he succeeded in transmitting the whole scale of sex life.
• • •
—Many times Diaghilev wanted me
to make love to him
as if he were
I did. I refuse to
At first, I felt humiliated for him,—
he saw this. He got angry
and said, “I enjoy it!”
Then, more calmly, he said,
“Vatza, we must not regret what we feel. ”
what I FELT . . . Not
making love, but that since the beginning
I wanted to leave him . . .
That I stayed
out of “GRATITUDE,”—
and FEAR OF LIFE, —
AMBITION. . .
That in my soul,
I did not love him.
Now my wife wants to have
a second child. I am frightened;
the things a human being must learn,—
the things a child
must learn he FEELS,—
frighten me! I know people’s faults
because in my soul,
I HAVE COMMITTED THEM.
The man who chops wood for us
was speaking, this morning, in the kitchen,
to my wife. As I passed in the hallway
whispering—; and LISTENED . . .
He said that as a child
in his village at Sils Maria
he worked for the writer, Nietzsche—;
he felt he must tell her
that just before the “famous man”
was taken away, INSANE,
he acted and looked
AS I DO NOW.
I can choose ”life” for myself;—
but must I, again, again,
for any other creature?
• • •
The Durcals arrived in St. Moritz, and were invited to tea. Asked what he had been doing lately, Vaslav put on a worldly air, leaned back on the sofa and said,
“Well, I composed two ballets, I prepared a new program for the next Paris season, and lately—I have played a part. You see, I am an artist; I have no troupe now, so I miss the stage. I thought it would be rather an interesting experiment to see how well I could act, and so for six weeks I played the part of a lunatic; and the whole village, my family, and even the physicians apparently believed it. I have a male nurse to watch me, in the disguise of a masseur.”
Romola was overcome, torn between anger and relief. She was confirmed in her supposition that her fears had been groundless when the male nurse came, after ten days, to assure her from his long experience that her husband was completely sane.
• • •
—Let me explain to you
what ’’guilt” is . . .
When I joke with my wife, and say,
“I think I will go back to Russia
and live as a peasant—”
she jokes back, and says,
“Do as you like! I will
divorce you, and marry
a manufacturer . . . ”
She looks at me, and I look at her.
What is terrible
is that I am serious—; and she is serious . . .
She is right, of course,—
I do not have the right
to make her live differently, without servants,
rich friends, elegant clothes—
without her good and sane habits;
do not have the right even to try
to re-make her . . .
But does she then have the right
to make me live like this, JUDGED, surrounded by
those who cannot understand or feel me,—
She is angry, as I am angry.
We both are right—; and both angry . . .
Soon, she feels guilty, feels that she
has failed me—;
and I too
feel guilty . . .
The GUILT comes from NOWHERE.
Neither of us has done wrong!
But I am a good actor—and reassure her
that I love her; am indeed happy; and that
nothing will change . . .
I want to be a good husband.
Still, I am guilty.
. . .Why am I guilty?
My life is FALSE.
• • •
I know the psychology of lunatics;
if you don’t contradict them, they like you.
But I am not insane.
My brother was insane. He died
in a lunatic asylum.
The reason I know I am NOT insane
is because, unlike my brother,
I feel guilt.
The insane do not feel guilt.
My brother was a dancer. He was older than I,
but still in the corps when I became
a soloist. He was ashamed, and jealous;
he went insane.
When the doctors questioned him, he showed
he thought that everyone
in the company was paid
by the secret police, to gather
eyidence against our family . . .
He displayed cunning, and stoic
fortitude, under the questions.
Even when he thought he faced death,
to protect my mother.
When he was taken away,
she cried, and cried . . .
but that didn’t make him feel GUILTY . . .
My wife thought because
I wore a large cross on my neck in the village,—
and told her certain dishes
served at our table were poisoned,—
I was insane.
But I knew that my actions
frightened her—; and I suffered.
Nietzsche was insane. He knew
we killed God.
. . .This is the end of the story:
though He was dead, God was clever
and strong. God struck back,—
AND KILLED US.
If I act insane, people will call me
“mad clown,” and forgive
even the truth—;
the insane feel anxiety and horror,
but are RELEASED
from GUILT . . .
I only want to know
things I’ve learned like this,—
these things I cannot NOT know.
• • •
His other ballet remained unfinished. It was his own life put into a choreographic poem: a youth seeking truth through life, first as a pupil, open to all artistic suggestions, to all the beauty that life and love can offer; then his love for the woman, his mate, who successfully carries him off.
He set it in the period of the High Renaissance. The youth is a painter; his Master one of the greatest artists of the period, part Genius and part Politician, just as Diaghilev seemed to him to be. This Master advances him, and defends his daring work from the attacks of colleagues, as long as he is a student; then he falls in love, and the Master bitterly rejects not only him but his work.
• • •
—Last night, once again, I nearly
abandoned my autobiographical ballet . . .
The plot has a good beginning
is the end . . .
The nights I spend—
reading and improving
Nietzsche, analysing and then abandoning
my life, working on the Great Questions
like WAR and GUILT and GOD
I rise from my books, my endless, fascinating
researches, notations, projects,
—Is this happiness? . . .
I have invented a far more
accurate and specific notation for dance;
it has taken me two months
to write down the movement in my ten-minute
ballet, L’Après-midi d’un Faune . . .
There is a MORAL here
about how LONG you must live with
the consequences of a SHORT action,—
but I don’t now feel
Soon I shall begin
Le Sacre du Printemps—; which
is longer . . .
I can understand the pleasures of War.
where killing is a virtue: camouflage
a virtue: revenge a virtue:
pity a weakness—
the world rediscovers
a guiltless PRE-HISTORY
“civilization” condemns . . .
In 1914, I was assured
the War would end in six weeks;
the Germans, in the summer, thought
they would enter Paris by the fall.
But the War
was NOT an accident.
CUSTOM, and his Children,—
Glory. Honor. Privilege. Poverty.
Optimism. “The Balance of Power,”—
for four years
dug a large, long hole
in the earth of Europe;
when they approached the hole
to pin medals
on the puppets
they had thrown there,
they slipped in BLOOD,—
. . . AND FELL IN.
Poverty and Privilege
of all the customs of the past . . .
—Should the World
regret the War? Should I
REGRET MY LIFE?
. . .Let our epitaph be:
In Suffering, and Nightmare,
I woke at last
to my own nature.
• • •
One Sunday we decided to sleigh over to Maloja.
Kyra was glad and Vaslav was very joyful that morning.
It took us about three hours to get there; Kyra and I got very hungry during the long drive.
The road was extremely narrow during the winter, because it needed cleaning from the heavy snows, and in cenain parts there was always a space to await the sleighs coming from the opposite direction.
Vaslav was as a rule a careful and excellent driver, but on this particular Sunday he did not wait, but simply drove on into the oncoming sleighs.
We were in danger of turning over; the horses got frightened.
The coachmen of the other sleighs cursed, but this did not make any difference.
Kyra screamed, and I begged Vaslav to be more careful, but the further we went the more fiercely he drove against the other sleighs.
I had to clutch on to Kyra and the sleigh to keep ourselves on.
I was furious, and said so to Vaslav.
He fixed me suddenly with a hard and metallic look which I had never seen before.
As we arrived at the Maloja Inn I ordered a meal.
We had to wait.
Vaslav asked for some bread and butter and macaroni.
“Ah, Tolstoy again,” I thought, but did not say a word, and bit my lips.
Kyra was anxiously awaiting her steak, and as it was laid before her and she began to eat, Vaslav, with a quick gesture, snatched the plate away.
She began to cry from disappointment.
I exclaimed, “Now, Vaslav, please don’t begin that Tolstoy nonsense again; you remember how weak you got by starving yourself on that vegetarian food. I can’t stop you doing it, but I won’t allow you to interfere with Kyra. The child must eat properly.”
I went with Kyra to the other room to have our solitary lunch.
We drove home very quietly without a word.
• • •
—The second part of my ballet
Le Sacre du Printemps
is called “THE SACRIFICE.”
A young girl, a virgin, is chosen
so that the Spring will return,—
so that her Tribe (free
from “pity,” “introspection,” “remorse”)
out of her blood
can renew itself.
The fact that the earth’s renewal
requires human blood
is unquestioned; a mystery.
She is chosen, from the whirling, stamping
circle ofher peers, purely by chance—;
then, driven from the circle, surrounded
by the elders, by her peers, by animal
skulls impaled on pikes,
at first, in paroxysms
of Grief, and Fear:—
again and again, she leaps (—NOT
as a ballerina leaps, as if she
loved the air, as if
the air were her element—)
BECAUSE SHE HATES THE GROUND.
But then, slowly, as others
join in, she finds that there is a self
that is NOT HERSELF
impelling her to accept,—and at last
that is her own sacrifice . . .
—In the end, exhausted, she falls
to the ground . . .
She dies; and her last breath
is the reawakened Earth’s
a little upward run on the flutes
(—or perhaps MOCKING—)
the god’s spilling
seed . . .
The Chosen Virgin
accepts her fate: without considering it,
she knows that her Tribe,—
the Earth itself,—
that the price of continuance
is her BLOOD:—
she accepts their guilt,—
. . . THEIR GUILT
THAT THEY DO NOT KNOW EXISTS.
She has become, to use
The dancer I chose for this role
She would have preferred to do
a fandango, with a rose in her teeth . . .
The training she and I shared,—
training in the traditional
emphasizes the illusion
Ease, Smoothness, Equilibrium . . .
When I look into my life,
these are not the qualities
I find there.
Diaghilev, almost alone
in the Diaghilev Ballet, UNDERSTOOD;
though he is not now, after my marriage
INTERESTED in my choreographic ambitions . . .
Nevertheless, to fill a theatre,
he can be persuaded
to hire me as a dancer . . .
Last night I dreamt
I was slowly climbing
a long flight of steps.
Then I saw Diaghilev
and my wife
arm in arm
climbing the steps behind me . . .
I began to hurry, so that
they would not see me.
Though I climbed
as fast as I could, the space
NARROWED . . .
Soon, they were a few feet behind me,—
I could hear them laughing,
gossiping, discussing CONTRACTS
and LAWSUITS . . .
They understood each other perfectly.
DIDN’T STOP . . .
They climbed right past me,—
NOT SEEING ME AT ALL. . .
—I should have been happy;
yet . . .
I watched their backs,
as they happily
up, out of my sight . . .