At least somewhat ‘strange’ or: occupying the occupied

At least somewhat ‘strange’ – or at least remarkable: the fact of being occupied by social spaces and occupying social spaces, namely cities.

It is several years ago that I visited Vienna the first time, and I returned a couple of times. The first time was somewhat unpleasant – unpleasant in terms of disliking the place as exhibiting imperial power. Indeed, having known Budapest already, I joined in the popular saying: Budapest is the ‘nicer Vienna’. The nicer Vienna because it was seen as the city where people, real people, would live. One could surely move towards issues like the ‘Hungarian soul’: a bit of permanent resistance and suffering going hand in hand – Leiden, dass dann führt zu Leidenschaft und Leidenschaft, die Leiden schafft.

Vienna … a space that presented itself to me as occupying, remaining unapproachable, remote … . Anyway, what did it matter? It had been another business trip amongst many. Not so on one later occasion. Actually it may be that I went there for business but in the meantime a friend of mine, Viennese whom I knew for many years from Brussels, lived in Vienna again and I remember that I stayed in his apartment. Another district, in short: Working class Vienna. Much could be said … In a nutshell it was the experience that allowed me to occupy space. Sure, local knowledge helped – the ‘local guide’ who showed me also those places next to the ‘imperial exhibits’: the people’s park, one or the other coffeehouse: and as much as Vienna is shaped by the gallant Cafe Centrale, Vienna is characterised by those Kaffeehäuser that are a bit dingy, humming along with the croaking sound of the violin, the waiters apparently competing in ignoring the guests, the Volksbuhne and those spaces that are occupied the peculiar charm of bohemian, intellectual, critical debates …

Anyway, I returned later on different occasions, stayed in different quarters, though mostly in district VII and VIII. The city gained space, I gave it space in my life even if only for the short times of my stays, always remaining visitor even barely coming as tourist – it had been about short business trips to the government, to conferences, or as the last time for teaching … and of course unforgettable: one year the visit with my students and my friend Joe.

The city gained space, I gave it space in my life …. – even visiting the imperial places as the museum of history of arts – a specifically lost ground which, by the way, hosts also a beautiful collection of Pieter Bruegel’s the older works –, the Albertina and its private collection, the state opera, the Burgtheater and yes, the Cafe Centrale, I visited as well the people’s park, the People’s opera, and the several small galleries and theaters, local stages, the Kaffeehäuser and restaurants … Mixing, merging … becoming a place where the different circles of debates, culture, ordinariness are emerging as a new normal, merging as living space, lived space for some time – not necessarily to be agreed with, but to a large part challenging, demanding to be … occupied again and again.


And Budapest? – Yes, it is still, with its own eccentricities, the beloved place, also the place to meet a good friend …, and yes, there is the shadow of de-occupation: the city loosing its very specific charm which I learned to love, I tried to capture a little bit in the Diary from a Journey into another World: Diaries against nationalism, inspired by trying to overcome personal resentments.

Impressions …

Just got the confirmation yesterday, while boarding for Budapest where I am now. It is part the confirmation of the appointment in the framework of the Program of High-end Foreign Experts of the State Administration of Foreign Experts. Gosh one can make so much out of so little. Though I am pleased to be one of the 18 selected people; and the only social scientist (I am realist and guess for no one else an application had been lodged;-).
Not sure about the details but that will soon be sorted.

May be I am getting old … – When I arrived Tuesday evening in Rome, looking at the trees, the terrible noise transforming into some music of a vivid city, the still somewhat strange, though familiar language …, when I left latish the morning, the pleasant warm sun shining … – As I could not say good by personally  I wrote to a friend, already back at the airport

Vero … Roma è una città bellissima. Sono arrivato ieri sera: imbrunire, un bel “paesaggio urbano”, con alberi mediterranei e oggi il sole, avvolgendo la vivacità nel calore. Una breve visita per me; Non so perché, ma ho sperimentato la bellezza soprattutto in questo periodo.
I actually did not feel like leaving. Sure, when I later walked through Budapest, the city of light (walking along the Danube is beautiful at night-time, the chain-bridge, the castle, parliament …; the loving couples taking photographs), sitting down for a glass of wine, I thought that I am possibly right with what I frequently said: at the end it does not matter where you are …, it does not matter if there is any sense and meaning in all this, it is just being and possibly the being together …
On the latter, it is not just the love stories of the world to which we all add one chapter or more; it is also the working together, not rolling the rock upwards, and not grasping that is always rolling back, the art of life being to be fast enough, jumping out of its way.
So it had been this bizarre, strange, bewildering feeling now in Budapest: I am currently here for some work with the academy (another “big thing” though …. – well, I have a friend here, she is actually member of the academy and people like her makes “academy of science” something really great and outstanding). But I have had some time and walked to “my” university: Corvinus. Just to have a look – it had been on the way to the Liszt academy, another great place where I will go Sunday to visit a concert. Indeed, they removed the statue of Karl Marx, just an empty space now – just an empty space in the main hall, disgraceful in its emptiness … I went to the little kiosk for a coffee, as I did so often over the last years … – and walked upstairs: second floor …, being part of something: I walked to the office door through which I walked for so many times, I looked at the sign: Peter Herrmann. So I am still part of it? A name-tag, an empty desk due to cut backs by the government, limiting a special international program, limiting the influence of a political direction of understanding economics … . As said, a  bizarre, strange, bewildering feeling … – you may say being located in a position which is taken out of history, empty, pre-emptied, preempt …
… and the knowledge that despite of all this one is not alone even if one is …
… the knowledge that despite of all this one is alone even if one is not …
Historically speaking there seems to be a paradox. Quoting Camus then – as you say: surely not serene –

Mourir volontairement suppose qu’on a reconnu, même instinctivement, le caractère dérisoire de cette habitude, l’absence de toute raison profonde de vivre, le caractère insensé de cette agitation quotidienne et l’inutilité de la souffrance. (14)

And the paradox: accepting hopelessness, and still moving on, may actually have the effect that gives it the final meaning … the

Ti aspetto
coming from someone, from somewhere, for something …, does it matter as long as it makes some sense, has some meaning with which we can connect? And the expectation that this will not change the world, as every move of the rock by Sisyphus did not change anything, but importantly for him brought him closer to the point from where he could enjoy a most beautiful view, overarching the entirety, the completeness … – something for which he would return another time ….