Translated by Jan Herman and Supervert
Carl Weissner passed away in Germany in 2012. His renown came from his German translations of William Burroughs, Charles Bukowski, Bob Dylan, J.G. Ballard, and many others, but Carl was the epitome of a dying breed — the vanguardist. He experimented with language, published little mags, collaborated with other writers, and kept an entire network of correspondents hooked on his remarkable letters. In an interview, Bukowski once described how "a letter from Carl always was and still is an infusion of life and hope and easy wisdom." Later the same was true of Carl's emails.
Supervert had the pleasure of knowing Weissner for the last decade of his life. Along with Jan Herman, Supervert helped Carl to edit his brilliant novel, Death in Paris. After Carl's death, Herman discovered this small masterpiece, "Rimbaud - Dead in Marseille," among the papers he left behind. The two of us undertook to translate it from the German. It was published as a limited edition folio by Gerard Bellaart's Cold Turkey Press.
Patient: Rimbaud, J.A. Age: 37. Room 23. 2nd Floor, Central Building. Concepcion Hospital, Marseille, Dep. Bouches du Rhône. Deceased following amputation. Osteosarcoma.
It's not true what it says. I'm 73. I wasn't in Africa for ten years, it was fifty. Fifty years dragging tusks to the coast until my knees... No, my knees were already wrecked because I'd been walking, crisscrossing Europe for years... I walked to Stockholm. Crossed the Alps several times from Vienna to Milan... once to Naples, and from there repatriated because of something... Colic? Malaria?... Oh, really? Thirty-seven? You can believe that? And you're not wrong, Isabelle? No, my sister is never wrong. Not when it comes to bean counting.
No, I don't own Djami. Even if everyone thinks so. My house boy? Bollocks.
Physical closeness, already with Paul, already as a kid — compulsive, debilitating, not a millimeter above animal.
Even if he'd been white: No.
Have I been to Penang? Georgetown? Mae Sot?
Away, only away. And there — the same as here.
"Arthur, où t'as mis le corps!" We brought the Chinese cook a severed thigh and he threw it on the grill. When we brought him another one, he shouted: "Eeeeeh! Is tattooed! Flucking cannibals! Out!"
Leg off, then tumor. No, tumor first. You can't help a one-legged gimp but he still takes up a room.
Make no mistake, messieurs: I'm here to die. You're just raking it in on a botch job.
Confusing gibberish? Are you kidding? I'm clearer than ever.
In the end I’m just water, pus and metastases, and my bones have decomposed into a black-brown jelly, so they'll have to be shoveled straight into a zinc coffin.
Les Canailles de la Concepcion Immaculée! Beuarkh! Yes, I'm feeling sorry for myself. So what? Have a leg sawed off and take the worthless crap the brain-dead nuns bring for pain relief, then we'll talk to you again!
The ruined self-image. That'd kill anyone.
I am not me and hell is other people. Fifty years I've been dragging myself back and forth to the coast... Sisyphus wouldn't even understand.
The East African. Homo afarensis. L'homme aux semelles de vent. What an idea.
The pathologist thinks his morbid stories have an invigorating effect on me. He left a new book on the floor by the chair: "History of Socialism in Marseille." What??
My stump and lower abdomen feel like they're being sucked dry by a poison green iridescent leech... The thing can't get enough of sucking. It's a parasite from outer space for which there's no remedy.
Yes, give me that good pure Schiaparelli morphine and make me a seer, you dogs! Let me see the future of this cursed continent!
In May 1872 I lived on Rue Monsieur-le-Prince. From my righthand window you could see one of the gardens of the Lycée Saint-Louis. At three in the morning the candlelight faded. I only wrote at night...
"C'est merde à Perrin." Letter to Ernest Delahaye, June 1872.
Fled from Paris, with Paul, on July 7th. Le pauv' Lélian, he didn't amount to much, not even in England... "My past is an evil river." Right. You wish.
My friend Brittany, the occultist. Troppmann, the mass murderer. Rudolf Wagner, retired pastor, Stuccardo. M'sieu Koch, "le découvreur du vibrion cholérique," visited Marseille during the 1885 cholera epidemic that almost wiped out half the city... An epidemic worse than all the plagues of the past... Oppressive stink of a corpse lying like a fat whore on the city… In a few hours the water of the Vieux Port had curdled to a thick paste, black and golden brown like tar.
J'vais te ruiner si tu vieng! Espèce de mongolien abruti! T'y a compris?! Amène-toi le con de ta mère…! Et mets pas la maing darrière parce-que je te chope le six-trente-cinq et t'y mangeras des coups quand-même…
And eighteen months in prison is enough for M'sieu Verlaine to throw himself at God. He had such fun with Lizzy or was it Lola we picked up in the East End... "I'm such a pig when it comes to suckin' dick, mate..." The Chinaman at the harbor with his expensive opium, crusted over with camel dung... At the British Museum they didn't let me read de Sade's works because I wasn't twenty-one yet…
"Buy the ticket, take the ride" — the life philosophy of a Soho pimp: Why do I remember that now? Wrong question. It's not me remembering him, it's him thinking of me. Somebody or other's always thinking of me so why not the tattooed Shitbird from Gerrard Street?
I send home dull letters like this on purpose. Mother and Isabelle hardly understand. Charlestown. Mother. Yes, only English: To ward off your pestilence! Your black magic! Your poison!
"La mother m'a mis là dans un triste trou." Letter to Ernest Delahaye, May 1873.
The Dutch paymaster in Batavia took an outrageous cut from my wages and said: "Bit of Kanaka killed the last couple weeks, eh?" He doesn't care about the quota. It's just an excuse to sneer at me. Robbed a coachman in Vienna and drove to Rotterdam with the money and entered the Dutch colonial army to get to Java for free — what an idea! For a while I was stationed in Salatiga, thirty miles south of Semarang, and from there I deserted.
And why Larnaca, Cyprus? Overseer in a quarry! I think I got a fever and embarked for Marseille, and it turns out: typhoid. It’s all so absurd. Therefore: I am leaving Europe. May the cities go up in flames in the evening. My goal is Aden. Yemen. I will come back with brass limbs, blackened skin, angry eyes... You will think I belonged to a strong race. I will have gold. I will be lazy and brutal. I will die like an animal.
Your mind is a nightmare that has been eating you. — Kathy Acker.
And Hassan O'Leary, who smoked the best hashish, dropped a loaded pistol in Aden, shot himself in the eggs, squirted morphine into his veins, and went to bed to die. A role model as I've rarely met.
Alphonse Godillot! Gambier! Wolff-Pleyel! Menier, Leperdriel, Kinck, Jacob, Boubonnel! Veuillot! Troppman! Augier! Gill, Mendès, Manuel, Gonin — L'Hérissé! Cirages onctueux! Pains vieux! Aveugles!... Un noir angelot... De sang sale un léger cloaque — how shall I put it: A shallow cesspool of dirty blood.
Leon Dierx! Jacques Austerlitz! Louis Ratisbonne! Armand Silvestre!... At some point, they will all occupy the same three-dimensional coordinates and merge into a lump of ectoplasm that the coughing, addicted porter sweeps out into the gutter in the early morning.
One of them will come and write a book that deals with nothing else — disgust, paralysis, hatred of one's own skin.
MYSTERIOUS MUSIC ECHOES FROM CASTLES BUILT FROM BONES...
Drum 'n bass, Dubstep, Casio-Core, Jungle, NewRave AcidGarage, Kitsune Disco-Punk, Gypsie-Ska, Anarcho ElektroPunk, Psy-Trance, Hiphop-Bullerengue, Mutilation Cumbia, G-Spot-Champeta, Delay-heavy Livedub-in-Surround, Choc Quib Currulao, ShitHouse HyperDub, Ferkakte Psychosis Funk, Moebius Clusterfuck KrautReggae, Deadzone Breakbeat Lindy Hop, Balkan Emo TinPan Jerkoff, AcidBleep AlarmTango, Deathmetal Hardcore Hillbilly, Mestizo Muffdiver Mambo, Messianic ElectroTrash, Fuckblaster Mondo Cane, DeepHouse Datscha Hangar, DeathGrind Ambient Hula, Triphop Trash Tzigan, Rembetico Klezmer KillerKrach.
The demented chansonnier in the room below me practices a new song with an out of tune guitar: "J'suis l'pornographe du phonographe..." A blessing after the hours and hours he carries on like a madman. He's probably from Sête or Perpignan...
But nothing's as deadly as the assistant doctors here, all of them mad for Wagner. Three and four come down the hall whistling the "Ride of the Valkyries!"
You can learn something from Michelet, Maurice: the value of voluntary exile, the sense in destroying what exists, the greedy interest in science and technology. And that the dull race of the Gauls is finished. They had everything: cathedral builders, the guillotine, a saint as a military leader; Middle Ages, absolutism, revolution. After they've worn themselves out, there is only boredom, aging, and good food.
Mystery and violence. The elegance, the science, and the madness.
Didn't I draft a communist constitution for the Paris Commune in the spring of '71? Who didn't want to know about it.
On May 22nd, with everything already lost, I came to the barricade that a battalion of women had built in front of the Place Blanche. A dark-clad figure emerged from a dark gate entrance with a Phrygian cap, the chassepot in his hand, pouch of ammunition on his side: "Stop, citizen! Flâneurs not allowed! Get out!"
You can't make a revolution with women. That has yet to be understood.
"Nous étudions la possibilité de faire sauter Marseille." Johannes Weinrich to Carlos, 1983.
Can you still have a complicated inner life if the story goes off the rails?
Absinthe! That stupor. That black hole...
Revolt! The chimney sweep takes up the sword! Chouf les femmes oh tay3jbhroum! On the Boulevard Raspail! Under the hanging gardens of Clamart! In the cemetery of Thiais… A stagecoach drives to Rond Point every Thursday from Vienna. It takes six weeks. Nobody knows why!
Caught a fever on the country road from Brussels to Charlestown. It's all so hopeless.
“I spent the best part of my losing streak in an Army Jeep (for what I can't recall)..." Sheryl Crow, Leaving Las Vegas.
Fall '73. Boulevard Edgar Quinet. Rue Campagne-Première. Impasse Enfer.
Learned German. In Aube the German word "Wasserfall" is used. So please.
And smoked hashish. Already in autumn '71. But didn't see black and white moons — failed at exactly that artificial paradise.
Quacks, the whole lot of them here! Dogs! Sanctimonious cunts! Hypocritical churchmen! You were there, Maurice, when they did the amputation: Wasn't it more primitive than in the Thirty Years' War? I recognize the worst hustlers in Suez and Alexandria are more valuable to people. That goes for you too, Isabelle! Look at you — haggard, uptight, blubbery. Left behind and bigoted — makes me vomit...
How high is the Ras Dashan in the Ethiopian highlands? Tell me! How come you don't know it? 4533 meters! And where are the rock churches?... Hm, I don't remember anymore either... Lalibela?...
The camels refused to drink that bitter water. We held their noses to it. Didn't help. Two men had to open their mouths and a third poured the water down their throats. Everywhere camels coughing and choking, throwing themselves on their side with their bound legs sticking out...
The Danakil Desert, you should know, lies between the highlands and the Red Sea, north of the Addis Ababa-Djibouti line. A cruel country with one cruel reputation. The reputation of a Danakil depends on how many enemies he's killed or maimed. He doesn't have to kill every last one to rack up the body count. But the enemy's tail has to dangle from his belt.
The European has good reason to worry when a Danakil stares at him judging his worth as a trophy.
SAISON EN ENFER
PRIX: UN FRANC
ALLIANCE TYPOGRAPHIQUE (M.-J. POOT
37, rue aux Choux, 37
I know they'll write a lot of nonsense about me ("Rimbaud devant Dieu!" Etc.) but the only thing of significance: "La Carrière africaine d'Arthur Rimbaud." At least as a feature in the Zeitschrift zur Geschichte der französischen Kolonien. At least! I insist!
Why did I get involved with this faggot Paul V. Drugs don't explain it. If I wanted to forgive myself for everything I got wrong, there wouldn't be anything left.
"That fucking croaker in Panama bungled my ass." William Burroughs.
I hear that in films a teardrop on the screen can be as big as this room here. The standard human tear weighs just 15 milligrams. They'll queue up and pay admission to deliver themselves up to illusionists and learn to hate their everyday lives in their minds.
Behind Mézières, where the Prussian artillery once ruined an afternoon, if you come out of the forest on a leaden windless day in August the landscape is a bad oil painting. The grain is gray, the harvest wagons are too big, the lake on the other side of the valley looks as if it had been tilted 15 degrees upwards. I loathe a defective landscape, and France is full of them.
You can't write or speak about Marseille without it becoming a treatise about the dirt. The filth, which burnishes everything with a gray coating of finality, dominates everyone's thoughts and actions. Mr. Virchow, when he came to town a few years ago, was enraptured by the conditions of neglect that favored the spread of a plague like cholera. Marseille was one of his favorite objects of study in all of Europe.
The city is filthy, the hospital is filthy, and no one can understand why I'm longing for Africa! There an Amah sweeps the stone floor of my house twice a day, the tablecloth is washed every day, the bedclothes twice a week. I would only get that in France from enlightened aristocrats, and not often there either.
Harar Arthur Rimbaud House Tour (YouTube)
“Rimbaud, in his modest house in Harar, has a Keeper of the Lightbulbs."
("The negro is turned on by electricity." Marshall McLuhan, 1967)
Lord Byron. He died at 37, didn't he? "His Lordship died at Missolonghi on the fifth of April…"
Even as a child, I only had one goal in life: my own toilet.
I had to travel thousands of miles around the world before I could finally have one built in East Africa. With a massive padlock, to which I carry the key on a leather cord around my neck — here, have a look.
A Catholic nun in full habit has to clean the shit from my crack. It's unpleasant but for ten francs a day it's a good deal.
The madman who shot a pair of nuns two years ago with a filthy old pistol — he's less able to load the device than to dismantle it and wipe the individual parts with a soft cloth and some gun oil... A monument should be built for that guy. He must embody the local mentality in the purest way.
Dead from Bone Cancer
Chiara Luce Badano, Paul Birch (American Football), Ron Burton, John Allan Cameron, Lucien Carr (friend of Kerouac), John Cazale (The Deer Hunter), Alistair Cooke, Rama P. Coomaraswamy, Simon Dee, Pietro di Donato, Cameron Duncan, Brian Gibson, Mel Gussow, Armand Hammer (billionaire), Eddie Harris, Percy Heath (Modern Jazz Quartet), Richard Helms (CIA)…
Detlev von Liliencron recited his endless ballads in Strasbourg. One is about a stationmaster rushing over the platform with waybills under his arm. Couldn't he at least zigzag it, but no... what's wrong with our good colleague? What's wrong with the rank and file who pay the door fee to sit still for this dreck?
When the first shipment of Hassan O'Leary arrived in Harar, we tried it as an appetizer: two teaspoons of hashish, powdered and mixed with confectioners sugar. No effect after quarter of an hour. We are having dinner. Camel meat with baked beets. Salad of onions, beans, tomatoes, garlic, radish. Bread, butter, cheese.
7:10 am: I'm freezing. Pulse 70. Even though there is a pan with glowing coals in front of me. I let Djami bring me some dates.
7:20 am: pulse 120 or above. The floor rocks. It seems to me that I speak more slowly and keep forgetting how the sentence started.
7:45 am: pounding heartbeat. Pulse too high to count. Djami lights a narghile for me. I smoke and fly, although I feel with my hands that I am lying down. I have the impression that it's taking me hours to write these lines.
8 o'clock: My blood rushes in waves. Parts fall off my body.
8:20 am: I see as if I’m dreaming that the streets of the city have lengthened and are foreign to me. The houses are incredibly high. I am completely without will. The wall of the house opposite is colorfully papered. I hear strange music from far away. I want to lie down, but I'm already lying down. Have I gone crazy? I lie there paralyzed.
I want to lie like this forever; my thighs so warm the skin tingles. The light has been on for hours and I can't blow it out...
"The Pan-African Ruler owned a porno bookstore and keestered his neighbour's goat."
James Ellroy, BLOOD'S A ROVER.
I got to know them in all shades: The shit-friendly shit, the animal-dumb shit, the organized brutal shit and the supposedly mentally superior shit. One as deadly as the other. And the Princess of the Palatinate said to Voltaire, who had an apartment for the summer months in her bathhouse in Schwetzingen: "And he washes under his armpits twice a day, otherwise he won't sit next to me at the table, the philosopher. Vu? D'ac?"
"Got a nice room in rue Victor Cousin, on the corner looking out on the Place de la Sorbonne, but it's three square meters. I drink water all night and suffocate. Voilà." Letter to Delahaye, June 1872.
That cells degenerate, for no reason, as punishment for nothing, and out of nowhere. ("When you spend too much time thinking about things, you get nowhere.") No one will ever know about this nothing. You can't even hate it in its futility.
Jeff Wahl, "Search of Premises," 2009, 192 x 263 cm.
Singing, we sailed out under the high iron footbridge through the harbor entrance to the open sea, and his cock pumped in my ass. A week later, my shit smelled of fish oil. Now don't look so annoyed, Isabelle, I can't help that you're an old spinster.
And nevertheless. In the course of time I kept five or six dark-skinned youths in Aden and found with satisfaction that with an a tergo by Paul Verlaine, not all possibilities were exhausted. So nothing against the port whores of Aden, their casual manner, their refinement and their fatalism.
And in Harar I had an Abyssinian beauty of sixteen in the house for a year, which the Ras Tafari, son of the governor, gave me for my birthday. They instinctively assume a European is addicted to the temperament and charms of the Abyssinians. Don't get me wrong. I'm living proof. But for how long.
"You began and ended in air." Marilyn Monroe, "After One Year of Analysis"
When does the body become a betrayer of willpower. We could have studied it on the Northern prisoner. If we had wanted to.
At the end of the interrogation, the defector was completely disfigured. He had no ears, no eyes, no nose.
His mouth was a red, bubbling, crushed mollusk.
The knuckles were splintered, the fingernails torn out.
The chair he was tied to stood in a pool of blood.
"Insect on Chair," David Lynch, 2007.
Of course, I'd have been dead long ago if I'd stayed in Harar or Addis. But I'd have seen the armies set out to fight during the great uprising, how they cross the plain for days with fluttering flags, the chiefs with their lion mane headdresses, each with a huge glittering scimitar at his side.
I'd have heard the wail of lamentation when Ras' troops were destroyed trying to stop the Negus' advance from the north.
And then the victory celebrations, as more tribes threw themselves against the Negus and wiped out his tired army...
"The mass of victorious warriors raged for days, blown away by the stench of blood and sweat, beneath the thunder of the drums and the shrill blasts of the war horns around the Palace of Ras," said the poetic dispatch the French envoy sent home.
And I would have seen the Negus from the north, the only one left alive as he is led in chains through the rows of the dancing crowd, a stone on his shoulder as a sign of submission — an old man in a simple black burnous, a piece of white cloth around his head...
"I did go to Addis to investigate the luggage cancer. The cancer had caused several airplane crashes by affecting the luggage in the hold." J.Ploog, FLESH FILM, 2010.
I haven’t suffered enough yet. I'm not finished yet.
When you get hit in "Modern Warfare 2," you first hear zing, then fluff.
The field of vision shakes and blood splatters appear at the edges. You can hear yourself panting. The sounds are muffled, the controller vibrates, and you know that you only have a moment to live.
When your head hits the ground, the screen disappears.
You have a rustling in your ears, followed by a whistle like a teakettle.
Finally, far away, you can hear McTavish's voice:
"Roach, look for the northeast end of the runway."
When this bloodstained moment of death is reached, you will be rewarded with a quote. There are sentences by Einstein, Zora Neale Hurston, Voltaire, Bukowski or Dick Cheney. Or Grace Slick: "Life is a bitch, and then you die."
These eternal disturbances. They rob me of my last strength. No priests allowed! Out!! Bordel de merde! And make sure, M'sieu Belmont, that my stinking bandage is finally changed! Don't you have a sense of smell here?! No, I want the window to stay closed! And away with this monk! No high-handedness! And come on with this new pain reliever, what are they saying, I'm going crazy! For ten francs a day I am surrounded by failures and charlatans who should be put in the basement of Les Baumettes because they’re a scourge of humanity! Every blunt-nosed curandero in the Amazon knows more about the art of healing!...
"We have in the Home for Private Patients a case of end-stage bone cancer. He's acting like a madman. Can't you increase his morphine dose?" Dr. Antoine Trastoul, médecin en chef.
No, I don't eat anything anymore. I have constipation from the morphine, I told you this a few days ago, Isabelle, should I fight this with laxative tea? Give me the bottle of Médoc there — no, away with the glass, it just falls out of my hand, I'll drink it out of the bottle, for Christ's sake... If I didn't have to tell you everything three times, I wouldn't be so hoarse...
A meeting, in Japan, between psychologist Robert Epstein (drrobertepstein) and Repliee Q1, a beautiful android. And the first comment is from crispybacon100 (6 hours ago): I'D SCREW HER!
I can no longer move my right arm. The left is already half paralyzed. Racing heart. Insomnia. Disgust.
My youngest sister, I haven't mentioned her for a long time, is so close to me again. Appalled by the limitless boredom of the café just before the Belgian border, one day she counted the trees on the streets. "One hundred and eleven chestnut trees on the avenue, sixty-three around the station square," was in her little diary. Her life in the penal colony was almost over. All she could do was give up.
"The day before yesterday in Vouziers and watched the Prussians. Ça m'a ragaillardi... Should they occupy the Ardennes and repress everyone without scruple." Letter to Delahaye, May 1873.
My eyes are going. It’s hard for me to speak. My heart skips, then my vision goes black, and the next moment my own stench closes my throat. I have to get out of here. Tell me when the ship leaves for Suez. I'm completely paralyzed, so my black porters have to get me on board in time...
"Molloy, old, confused and with one leg paralyzed, lies in a hospital room with no idea how he got there..." (Beckett, Synopsis of Molloy.)
Even the clouds of dust in the slanting rays of the sun smell good when the herds are rounded up in the evening. And I see them again in front of me, my Danakil, slender, sinewy figures, propped up on their spears, in short loincloths, long black hair rubbed with butter... I hear the mocking songs they sing around the campfire, the howling of jackals and hyenas at night, the roar of the camels being loaded in the cold morning. I taste the salt on my sweaty forearm, and I taste the camel piss when I get a drink at the watering hole, which is our salvation after nine days in the empty desert.
The Ras Makonen in Harar sends me a message through the Messageries Maritimes: he wishes me a speedy recovery and assures me that I am one of his most pleasant and reliable business partners. He doesn't know I'm going to die tomorrow.
November 10, 1891, shortly before 10 a.m.
The dried blood
Smokes on my face.