Excerpt

blue has no south thumbnail Blue Has No South

by Alex Epstein

Jung’s Nightmare of Watches
Except for one sentence pierced by the explicit word “reality,” almost nothing of what will be told here happened in the distant summer of 1926, when Karl Jung, the psychoanalyst, gave his mistress a gift: a wristwatch without a minute hand. He asked her to wear it even in her sleep, because this watch, so he said, measures the time of love.

A few days later, Jung’s mistress bumped into Jung’s wife, who stood examining the window display of a paint-supply shop on a Zurich boulevard. The two women, who had already met once at a party, shook hands politely. Jung’s mistress couldn’t help noticing that on her wrist, Mrs. Jung wore a watch that had no hour hand. This encounter certainly had consequences in reality, though reality, as is well known, is paler than its own shadow. In any case, in one of Jung’s dreams the two women also asked each other for the time.

 

East German China
Love, like music, is always a true story—in the spring of 1980, half a year before we emigrated to Israel, my grandfather decided to smuggle his collection of rare stamps out of the Soviet Union. (This collection included, by the way, a series of 175 stamps with portraits of cosmonauts, rockets and dogs, issued from ’57 on, in honor of the Soviet space program.) To that end, he began to send our relatives in Israel letters he wrote to my grandmother while he was fighting in Stalingrad and Kursk in 1944. He glued stamps from his collection onto the envelopes.

Every week he sent at least four letters this way. After two months he cursed in his heart Karl Dönitz—the admiral who signed the Nazi agreement of surrender—and sat down to write to my grandmother (who in those days was tearing her hair out about how to pack their good china made in the Democratic Republic of Germany) new love letters, from one of which I copied the opening sentence of this story. In those days there was a paper shortage in Russia, so my grandfather wrote the letters on the other side of pages of notes in Shostakovich’s handwriting, which he found, so he claimed, in ’63 on the outskirts of Kalingrad, glued to the trunks of birches in some mythical grove (but that is already a different story).

After he successfully sent the whole stamp collection to Israel, my grandfather had several leftover pages on which the Leningrad Symphony was handwritten, and my grandmother was able to make use of them to wrap up her East German teacups. The plates she had already wrapped in pages from Pravda, using up three issues from the spring of 1980, which I have saved to this day, as additional evidence of this little tale of immigration.

 

The Angel that Brod and Kafka Dreamed of
Max Brod once dreamed of an angel who had only a right wing. The angel knocked on Brod’s door and asked where Kafka lived. Brod gave the angel directions, and thought in his dream that he had never in his life seen anything as terrifying as this one-winged angel. The next day Brod met Kafka. Kafka told him that on the previous night he had dreamed of an angel with no wings, who asked for Max Brod’s address.

 

May Equations
In May she turned eighty-seven. Her oldest grandson helped her cut her fingernails. At night, for the first time in many years, she dreamed in Yiddish.

 

On the Time Difference Between Poetry and Prose
The wall clock read one minute after midnight. A poet and a writer met. “My muse,” said the writer, “has deserted me.” The poet responded,” So write about it.” The writer wept softly. “And she is with someone else right now.” The poet said, “So write about it.” The writer said, “But I suspect that he has blue eyes.” “So write about it,” the poet advised, “or just beat him up.” “Maybe she didn’t love me,” said the writer. “Yes, maybe she never loved me.” The poet said,” So write about it. Or beat him up. Is he strong?” “I didn’t say that he was strong,” objected the writer, “I said that he had blue eyes.” “So write about it.” “Tell me, what is it that you want from me?” shouted the writer, “you write about it.” The poet said with surprise, ”Why suggest that I write?” “Because you suggested it to me,” answered the writer, “You advised me to write.” “I didn’t advise you to do anything,” said the poet, shrugging. “What do you mean—you just suggested it. Five times.” “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” “About my muse leaving me…” “So write about it…” “You see, again you…” The writer jumped up, tore the clock from the wall and struck the poet with all his might. The time was three minutes after midnight.