On Writing Unspeakable Things
While living and teaching in Paris for the last twenty-five years, I had many encounters with unusual people, tortured by their memories of former lives and by their twisted experiences as refugees. Their living histories were told to me in smoky cafes, in bleak Parisian afternoons, on autumn streets, and in bed. As I immersed myself in their pasts, long-hidden memories of my own childhood in a family of refugees surfaced. Secret stories, people I had known, moments of suffering and awareness began to come back to me. I lived once more in the sado-erotic milieu of World War II intellectual refugees in New York.
I remembered, as a child, sharing my bed with Malka, a White Russian Countess who lived with us. Every night as I went to sleep, she would seed my dreams with tales of her sexual awakenings and the perverted ordeals she endured at the hands of a famous monk, during the time of the Czar. I remembered my grandfather, a prominent Freemason from Austria, holding court among the refugees who pleaded for favors in the darkened corners of the New York Public Library.
I remembered the German dwarf pediatrician and his desires for children and for their mothers who sold themselves to him. I remembered the unspeakable things that were never said, the whispers in the night, codes that were never broken, letters that were not received. And I remembered the overwhelming beauty of music that transcended our suffering and transported us to a New World we could not find.
I wrote a novel. I wrote it through lovers, I wrote it through my students, I wrote it in my solitude during the strikes that ripped across France. What emerged is a collage of history, magical-realism, sexual surrender, and the struggles and beauty of the people I loved.
Some may say that this book is too erotic, too strange, too surrealistic, or simply too outrageous. However, I do believe that the stories speak for themselves and should be told.
Thank you for reading Unspeakable Things.