Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Literary Section XII - Little Arithmetics

Life, as they say, is stranger than fiction - how much weirder then when, the absolute weirdness of life becomes itself fiction. "My sincerest contrafibularities", as Lewis Carroll would say. I have often found very queer the fact that most (if not all) things seem connected and that no one you meet is really a stranger: "a silver thread, connecting all people", as those of a romantic predisposition would say.

At any rate, there has been a series of mostly unrelated events (my father getting an e-mail from the British Council, a presentation involving an overlarge green marble, a group of people doing weird and funny stuff with science, a team, some friendships, a violent break, some new decisions, a return and a new team) that led me to read "Little Arithmetics", a book by a young woman named Anna Varsamou.

As the flap of her book says, "within these pages are contained many wedding gowns, but no wedding, a house filled with powdery sugar (or something that resembles it), valuable manuscripts left to dry, Morissey giving advice, a strange, bloodless murder, the collapse of a mathematical axiom and a few other uncanny things we have all lived through. For even the strangest stories are different facets of a reality which is irrevocable and intolerably normal." I must admit, among the many things stated above, those that initially caught my eye were "bloodless murder", "mathematical axiom" and finally, "Morissey" (duly corrected), in that order, all contained and somehow interconnected, inside the small book I was holding in my hands.

The Cover of "Little Arithmetics".
[If interested, you can find it at

I do not know Anna all that well: in all fairness, I do not know her very much at all. We first met as members of the science communication team, SciCo, on the 24th of January, 2009. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss upcoming projects, one of which was "The Science of Love". Ever since, we have mainly rehearsed as part of the team, we have exchanged a (very) few stories and have shared in the stress accompanying any form of theatrical performance, moreso one executed by people who are not actors (well, we had to share her own stress, since I am an insenitive bastard). No, I cannot really say I know Anna and am, therefore, unable to confirm whether "appearances are deceiving", when it comes to her as a person; not so for her book. Having read it, I can now say, with absolute certainty, that "Little Arithmetics" did not turn out to be what I expected at all. Yet, it delivers all it promises, not having said a single lie to its prospective reader.

"Little Arithmetics" is not about numbers - not really - nor is any fabled scientific axiom deconstructed. In this book, no one dies and yet, there is death aplenty and mourning and a little happiness, in these small, surreal doses: like LSD drops that make you soar under their influence, leaving you broken and wondering what it was that you fleetingly dreamed of, in the harsh light of reality. It is a book about people, about their dramas and neuroses and false hopes, insignificant on a cosmic scale and yet vaster than any universe. They say "no man is an island", no man (or woman, for that matter) is completely alone and yet this book states a simple truth, that most like to deny: we are not just islands - we, in and of ourselves, are whole worlds and worlds apart from each other.

We spin around our center, ignoring all that may orbit, or even approach us and in the off chance that our respective gravities bring us close, we crash into each other, hurting and cracking and hoping that we may end up as twin stars; and this we call love. This is a book about all these things, without fanfare, raw and honest. It is, above and beyond, a book about hedgehogs, past present and future, whether they walk on two legs or not.

When I found out Anna had published this book, I tried to track it down, due to one of my most integral flaws: curiosity. However, I could find it nowhere (it came out in 2000), so I asked her if she had a copy. When she gave it to me, she told me: "don't pay too much heed to it - it's just the ramblings of a girl at a messed-up age". I had no answer to that then, but now that I have read it, I concur: indeed they are and that is what makes the book important. A good book does not need to have complex, multi-layered mysteries or elaborate on the underlying fabric of reality. Putting into paper, in an understandable way, the everyday madness, delusion, pain and happiness of being human, is achievement enough.

One might plausibly ask, why did I like this book so much? You must have gathered by now, even by my choice of language, that I am not a great fan of Greek literature (at least, not modern): there are exceptions of course, but a good deal of it bores me to death, because many writers try to "dress up" their subject, to make it seem something different, more sophisticated than it actually is (and then there are those for which I simply have no frame of reference). This is a book that strikes me as having been written from the heart and it is a book I understand implicitly, as it touches at some sensitive chords of the past. I do not know if we are really all connected, but this book connects.

In closing off, here's a video of dEUS's (one of the author's most favorite bands) "Little Arithmetics", which inspired the title of the book.

Incidentally, I did not know dEUS before Anna and the following is a song of theirs ,which I really like.

Cheerio, dear readers



Ινδιάννα said...

well, lets face it: I can talk about dEUS for hours (days, months, years). But I can' t talk about myself!
So... thank you for doing that for me!

So you like it indeed! The strangest thing is that I believe you (I mean, most of the times, I think that someone is just trying to be nice, but you make it seem true). And it is a great feeling to know that someone had a good time with something that you wrote!

PS1. Listen to the "Roses" from dEUS too, if you have time.

PS2. Paul Morissey??? My guy is THE ONE & ONLY Morrissey (Stephen Patric- I think!), the singer of the "Smiths" and here you can listen to
everyday is like sunday

and as you like tokyo dear, watch this, while hearing the song! ;)


regards from Ammazonios!

Speedgrapher said...

Oooo-K, my "little gray cells" have indeed been fried: I could have sworn it was the same person (I was also referring to the Smiths' singer but it turns out that Paul has something to do with Andy Warhol...!).

Oh yes, I know the Tokyo Times!!! Great blog!

Ινδιάννα said...