for Monsieur Camus
[The ‘G’ in Gena’s name is a hard ‘g’ as in ‘gate.’]
One of the great products of Soviet Civilization–and it was a civilization, be sure of that–and I mean that in all the ways a civilization has good intentions and bad results, as well as good results–yes, one of the great products of Soviet Civilization was Crocodile Gena. And why do I say this? I say this because I believe Crocodile Gena is a great existential hero, a hero for our time, for our predicament. He stands for us, each of us, everyone in his or her isolation, her or his detachment irrespective of will, his or her own absurd life lived absurdly in an absurd universe. Gena is neither tragic nor comic; this is clear; this is paramount.
I am also proud to say that he is a friend of mine, perhaps only in the way that Paul Revere was a friend of mine when I was in third grade. But a friend–this I understand as more than, or other than, imaginary, at least in the way the imaginary has been corrupted or degraded by our hunt–or is it pursuit–of facts, facts and more facts; yes, it is better than this, my notion of the imaginary.
I watch Gena leave the Zoo Park and go home alone . . . I watch him arriving home, being home alone playing chess against a pipe-smoking teapot. There is no animation of the tea pot in this animation, a doubling of the isolation, a doubling of the pathos.
I love the xebras at the xoo; I hate the idea of the xebras in a xoo; I hate the idea of a xoo more than I do the idea of a museum, or how museums have been used, manipulated, controlled, presented; museums have too much in common with mausoleums, too much in common with graveyards; and all the erroneous inferences that stem from them from these.
Moreover, that is how we would say what you know you are supposed to say when seeing what you should know are zebras in a zoo; I mean, you should be able to pronounce in the same way, zoo and xoo; zebras and xebras . . . what then must I say about Gena? More, what more? How much more is there for me to say to you as convinced as you are that people live tragically or comically, lives you are certain are other than absurd? Gena for sure understands the fate of Sisyphus quite differently than you or I do.
That’s all for today, my friends. I must push my rock up the mountainside I do.
I am not one to imagine that the limits of Hamlet’s to be or not to be are suicide alone; I do understand how others have fixed on this because I too cannot eliminate the play’s context even if I am sometimes fixed on its subtext. Does Sisyphus have his to be or not to be moment. He is evidently engaged with his rock; is there a possibility for him to become anything else other than a condemned man, condemned as he is has been will continue to be; but then does that eliminate any possibility for becoming? Surely, Sisyphus does not have the luxury of Hamlet, to consider his fate as one he has absolute control over—unless we assume that the judgement of eternal damnation is enough to side-step any serious consideration of killing one’s self? Certainly Sisyphus does not have the option to kill himself, so then, Hamlet’s to be or not to be in the way we mean the consideration of suicide is not available to Sisyphus. However, this question is available to him as an existential dilemma—is it a dilemma? To be or to become; to be what he is, a condemned man, or become something else, a free man, engaged in his situation. Sisyphus can still choose to be free, which would be to become other than condemned by the Gods (sometimes a masquerade the State performs well) and enslaved by his rock, chained to it in every way like Prometheus except for the literal binding itself. Not to be; yes; thus, to become other than what one is, has been, would continue to be unless, if, what then? You must understand freedom as the existentialist Sisyphus does.