There’s No Knowing Whom We are Even Talking About

‘There was formerly a king who had three daughters – that is, he would have had three, if he had one more, but some how or other the eldest never was born. She was extremely handsome, had a great deal of wit, and spoke French in perfection, as all the authors of that age  affirm, and yet none of them pretend that she ever existed.’

Horace Walpole, ‘The King and his Three Daughters’, Hieroglyphic Tales.

There was a red-haired man who had no eyes or ears. Neither did he have any hair, so he was called red-haired theoretically. He couldn’t speak, since he didn’t have a mouth. Neither did he have a nose. He didn’t even have any arms or legs. He had no stomach and he had no back and he had no spine and he had no innards whatsoever. He had nothing at all! Therefore there’s no knowing whom we are even talking about. In fact it’s better that we don’t say any more about him.

Daniil Kharms, ‘The Red-Haired Man’.

When I lived in Naples there was always a beggar woman at the gate of my palace, to whom I would toss some coins before climbing into my carriage. One day, surprised at never being thanked, I looked at the beggar woman. Now, as I looked at her, I saw that what I had taken for  a beggar woman was a wooden case painted green which contained some red earth and a few half-rotten bananas…

Max Jacob, ‘The Beggar Woman of Naples’, translated by John Ashberry.

Forget or Forgive?

‘A noble spirit finds a cure for injustice in forgetting it.’

Publilius Syrus.

”He insulted me, he hurt me, he defeated me, he robbed me.’ Those who think such thoughts will never be free from hate. For hate is not conquered by hate: hate is conquered by love: this is a law eternal.’

The Dhammapada.

‘To be unable to take his enemies, his misfortunes and even his misdeeds seriously for long – that is the sign of strong, rounded natures with a superabundance of a power which is flexible, formative, healing and can make one forget (a good example from the modern world is Mirabeau, who had no recall for the insults and slights directed at him and who could not forgive, simply because he – forgot.)’

Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals.

Who Are You?

‘In the beginning, he [Kony] was possessed sometimes two or three times a day. Over time frequency of possession declined… Kony would always be alerted by “Who are You” that a spirit would come at a certain time to speak for a certain time (for example, at 14:00 hours to speak for three or four minutes)… Multiple spirits would pass through Kony in a single session… Some spirits spoke faster than others. Who are You was rude – quarreling – and he complained a lot.’

The account of a former member of the Lord’s Resistance Army, quoted in The Lord’s Resistance Army, by Lawrence E. Cline.

‘And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your father’s hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.’

Exodus 3:13-14.

‘Visions Abyssal’ – the mysterious writings of Kamil Schweighardt and friends

A few weeks ago my friend Rachel emailed me what she promised would be a real curiosity, and it turned out to be a very peculiar text indeed. She had transcribed it from a manuscript that had been tucked inside a copy of Plato’s Republic that she bought second-hand while in Dublin. The text consisted of a series of very short, enigmatic prose pieces, most no longer than a three-line sentence.

Included in the text was an email address. After sending a message to this email, Rachel was invited to a private mailing list shared between six people, each of whom was sending variations on the text among themselves and trying to establish a definitive version. I thank the members of this mailing list for allowing me to publish their collated text on this blog, and I respect their wishes not to have their contact information disclosed.

The author’s name is given as Kamil Schweighardt, of which nothing shows up on google, and the translators are Jan Cerny and Thomas Novak. There is a fourth member, whose name varies, who provided assistance in polishing the English.

Schweighardt is always listed as the author, and Jan Cerny is always the main translator, but Novak is sometimes absent, and the name of the fourth party, who revised the English, is inconsistent. If we assume that they are using their real names, we can conclude that Schweighardt, Cerny and Novak are probably Czech.

One text gives Schweighardt’s dates of birth and death as being 1907 and 1978 respectively. All but one of the five texts  are prefaced to say that they are translations from Czech, but one says that it is a translation from German.

There are several reasons why I am sceptical about the Czech dimension to the story. Why are there two translators – what does Novak do? Why, in the English speaking world, is this phenomenon confined to Dublin? Why is there nothing on the internet about Kamil Schweighardt? The Bohemian elements, it seems to me, have the air of being no more than Rosicrucian atmospherics, affectations of Rudolf II’s court and the Voynich manuscript. Theophilius Schweighardt, as may be significant, was the name of a seventeenth-century alchemist. I would like to know if there is any sign that Kamil Schweighardt was real. Is anyone who can read Czech or German, and/or who lives in the Czech Republic, able to tell me if there is any phenomenon similar to this over there? I know this website has some regular Irish readers – has anyone else in Dublin, other than the members of the anonymous mailing list, encountered something like this?

Each version of the Visions Abyssal contains a core ‘canonical text’ supposedly written by Schweighardt himself, and ‘apocrypha’, not quite of the same quality or tone. The apocrypha are not obsequiously solemn, as would be expected from the imitations of their master by initiates, but are in fact light in tone, and somewhat silly. Perhaps they were considered not to be of quality fitting to Schweighardt’s reputation amongst his followers and were downgraded to the role of apocrypha as a result.

The mystery is interesting, if smelling of deliberate mystification and affectation, but the text itself is even more interesting. Schweighardt’s very short rhythmic sentences remind me, if anything, of Max Jacob’s poetry, and Félix Féneon and Yasunari Kawabata’s short prose, but in truth there is really little else like them. ‘Schweighardt’ is an intriguing and perplexing stylist in his own right, and perhaps he deserves to be known on that account if at all.

Here are the abyssal visions of Kamil Schweighardt:



Between a thing and the beyond of thing, between that beyond and nothing: the precipice of the abyss.


A compass of the abyss: a blink between sense and something vaster, an eclipse of form by the eyelid of the abyss, and, within that darkness, a dim vision of a compass broken by the abyss.


One map of the abyss: this, the corrosion in language of the abyss.

Smithy Abyssal

In the smithy abyssal occurs the smelting of abyssal sentences. The aural sense’s function in the composition of rhythmic sentences is steered, by a dysfunction of the inner ear, through the abyssal smithy. Behold the slag of the smithwork. 

Apology of the Abyss

Apology of the abyss: the fall again into the abyssal architecture of self-excuse, the contactuous circumlocution of the abyss within and by this sentence; the coil and uncoil of meaning and form as mediated through this discussion of the abyssal subject.


The ‘Apology of the Abyss’, inscribed in the walls of a seashell, could be heard by its intricate echoes in the sound of that seashell, its obtuse verbosity grating like a steel-woollen storm of recollected fingernails on the eardrum.

The Eardrum Resounds

The grating phrases, like fingernails scratching on the eardrum, inflicted, like rain deposited and regathered as cloud, some inclination to their perpetuation, some need to scratch a fingernail novel on the walls of the abyss.

The Fingernail’s Scripture

Fingernails, wedged into the fissures and precipices of the abyss, became the hinges of the abyss. Fingernail novels, originally anguished attacks on the abyss, became the scripture of the abyss.

Fingernail Novels

The fingernail novels, of which this is one, tapped with their words against the walls of the abyss; rotated through the logical planes of the abyss, the word-sound of sentences such as this was exactly that of fingernails hitting a wall.

Fingernails Descending on Hard Surfaces

The rhythmic, rain-like sound of fingernails descending on hard surfaces was actually not very like the sound of rain, but was absorbed like rain into the cloud of aural memory, and fell into these words in aspiration to pluvial prosody’s marriage with pluvial metaphor, yes, fell somewhat rhythmically, somewhat like rain, into these words to do with fingernails that do not quite sound like rain.


The abyss, an infinite confusion of which the periphery was everywhere and the centre somewhere in the distance…


A noted tendency of Abyssinia is to make minds marginal in their imagination of its landscapes; to make the mind an incongruous caravan in its visualizations of Abyssinia.

Abyssal Plains

A noted tendency of the Abyssal Plains is to make the mind a periphery of their vista; to fresco closed eyelids as landscapes in which the mind is a painter in the distance.


A noted fact of the abscess is its sound-symbolic association, arbitrary but for the echo of the mise-en-abyme, bestowing by convention some mention of it having a noted feature.

Treatise on the Abyss

The abyss was that which was incarnated in contradictory representations, that which issued falsely proportioned shell-effigies as concessions to the world that could accommodate its form only as deformation, that which accommodated itself to words only for description to be disfigured in spiralling dance with abyssal deformation.


Stair-like spiralling rhythms of consonantal tension with vocalic torsion: some indication, by rotation through the plane of language, of the shape of the abyss. Discussion of the abyss: echo of the dimensions of the abyss.


The hammer wielded in the ambiguity of the abyssal action beat formlessness between the forms of a disordered inner ear and a metal seashell. The abyssal hammer fell and left a resounding echo: the steel vibrations between the shattering eardrum and the seashell.

What of the Abyss?

What of the abyss? – could it be that our every blink and shoelace is the echoing coil of the eclipse and loop of the abyss? Could it be that its depths of dimension are those alluded to at the point of hesitation, at the summit-wobble, at the blink-like difference between revelation and confusion?

Some Ecstasies

Ecstasy at distance from the abyss: ecstasy surveying the territory of the abyss. Ecstasy of the abyss: ecstasy a map of the abyss.

Other Ecstasies

Ecstasies on the precipice of the abyss: states of the fascination enjoined by their extent and dimensions, joys enjoyed for elasticity of form and mutability of texture; raptures felt beyond rapture as spirit detached from body; yes, ecstasies of ecstasy felt as something in the distance.


Corridors out of form, bones out of joint, sentences with sense ajar; these are of the kingdom of the abyss. The prison on whose walls are the tapped the breaking fingernails, the confusion of first wakefulness, the circumlocutuous campaign of the abyss through its vagueness…

Intimations of the Abyss.

Intimations of the abyss: a music-box; a mollusc’s shell; a blink; a moth’s flight; a disorder of the inner ear; a helical, staircase-like pattern of consonants and vowels: metaphors ajar and aflutter of the abyss.

Here are the apocryphal pieces, which I have been told are not the work of Schweighardt, but are perhaps the work, in some measure, of Cerny, Novak and/or Sheehy:



She awoke like a mouse in the jaws of night, from a dream ending in the mouth of an owl to the awakening ambush of her night-cowled cat.

The Alchemist

The alchemist wasted years in trying to transmute his suffering into its luminous and justifying expression: the work that would vindicate its failure in un-wasting waste’s failed aestheticisation.


The plum-jar labelled ‘Gnosis!’ perplexed him: an epitaph to knowing as fully as now was unknown, the renunciation of insight’s promise to survive beyond its accompanying exultation, an annunciation recalled darkly. But he could buy more plums.

The Apartment

The room encased his mind like a second skull. Every thought ricocheted in the indented echoes of every predecessor; every mood mixed breath with the mildew. Moving to another town, he shed this shell and bequeathed it to the moulding of another soul.


Autumn’s colourings proceeded as along a boxed row of pastels, mellowing the leaves until they fell like the simile off the box.


The scent of earth stirred ancient echoes: echoes of Aghartha.


A being of language that loved herself for that, she thought sentences that self-luxuriated like a stretching body, her words reaching such decadent self-reference that they ceased to allude to a world outside of them, but to note and loop this fact into the ribbon of this memoir.

Another World

A man looked at a radio. ‘Can a man be a radio?’ he thought in ceaseless volleys. In another world, a man was a radio.


Inspired by its part in her thoughts of this occurring, a region of neurons seceded from her brain.


The thoughts encircled him, trapped his thoughts in circular patterns and rhythms, commandeering his body to illustrate their control and its adherence to Euclidean principles.

Titles, Skins and Dimensions

Skin and Liminal Things was pondered as a title for a meditation on the affinities of names and exteriors, producing by digression a short tale called Liminal Satellites, renamed Skins, Things Liminal and Cortical, renamed Rind, Curd, Awn and Cortex, and finally Titles, Skins and Dimensions.


Two men existed briefly in each other’s minds, dangling from and within each other’s dreams like spools or cocoons, dissipating as they untangled from each other’s thoughts.

Title Piece

Tapestries Depicting their Peeling in Language from their Ecstatic Inspiration was the title of a series of fictions in which this fact featured.


Barbarossa smelled in the stained white beard he sometimes mistakes for smoke the youth in which he would sometimes mistake it for fire.

France and Spain, and What they May Bring Our Traveller

‘A LITTLE work, published after that famous intermarriage which overcame the enmity of the two Courts of France and Spain, though it could not that of the two nations; presents us with a humorous contrast of their manners; dispositions, habits, &c.

“A Frenchman,” says our author; “entering his friend’s house, will immediately ask for some refreshment: a Spaniard would rather perish with hunger or thirst. A Frenchman salutes a lady by kissing her: a Spaniard, on presenting a lady his hand, will cover it with his cloak, and retreat back several paces to bow to her at a hundred steps distant.”

“I have often been tempted,” says the author, who was a Spaniard, “to ask the midwives if it was possible that a French child could be brought into the world in the same manner as a Spanish infant—so dissimilar they prove from their birth!

“The French have a lively apprehension, hating idleness, and reducing their knowledge into practical use ; but they do not penetrate deeply into any matter. The Spaniard, on the contrary, is fond of abstract and abstruse speculation, and dwells continually on an object. The French are afraid of believing too much; the other of believing too little. The former will dispatch the weightiest business in the midst of noise and tumult, amidst the levity of assemblies, or gaieties of the table; whilst the grave Spaniard cannot bear the buzzing of a fly to disturb his fixed attention. In love, the one are light and talkative; the other, constant and secret. The Spaniard will disguise his poverty under a thousand pretences, and invent as many fictions to persuade you his appearance is owing to the necessity of concealing his person; whilst the Frenchman will press his wants upon you with the most persevering importunity. In every minutia, this difference is traced; both at the toilette and table: in mixing wine, the Spaniard puts the water first in the glass; whilst the Frenchman puts the wine first. A troop of Frenchmen will walk abreast in the street with abundance of tattle; whilst the Spaniards will walk with measured gravity, in a defile, like a procession. A Frenchman, discovering a person at a distance, beckons with an uplifted hand, drawn towards his face: the Spaniard bends his hand downwards, and moves it towards his feet.”

This contrast of humours and manners he seems inclined to attribute to the difference of climate: in the one country, settled and constant; in the other, ever varying, as the genius of its inhabitants.’

Isaac d’Israeli, ‘French and Spaniards’, Curiosities of Literature.

‘What is there in France to be learned more than in England, but falsehood in fellowship, perfect slovenrie, to love no man but for my pleasure, to swear  ah par le mort Dieu, when a man’s but hammes are scabd. For the idle traveller, (I mean not for the soldier), I have known some that have continued here by the space of a half a dozen years, and when they come home, they have hid a little wee-Irish lean face under  a broad French hat, kept a terrible coil with the dust in the street in their long cloakes of grey paper, and spoke English strangely. Nought else have they profited by their travel, save learned to distinguish of the true Bordeaux grape, and know a cup of neat Gascoigne wine from wine of Orleance: yeah, and peradventure this also, to esteem of the pox as a pimple, to wear a velvet patch on their face, and walk melancholy with their arms folded.

From Spain what bringeth our traveller? a skull-crowned hat of the fashion of an old deep porringer, a diminutive Alderman’s ruffe with short strings like the droppings of a man’s nose, a close-bellied doublet coming down with a peak behind as far as the crupper, and cut off before by the breast-bone like a partlet or neckercher, a wide pair of gascoynes which ungathered would make a couple of women’s riding kyrtles, huge hangers that have half a cow hide in them, a rapier that is lineally descended from half a dozen Dukes at the least. Let his cloak be as long or as short as you will: if long, it is faced with Turkey grogeran ravelled; if short, it hath a cape like a calf’s tongue, and it is not so deep in his whole length, nor hath so much cloath in it, I will justify, as only the standing cape of a Dutchman’s cloak. I have not yet touched all, for he hath in either shoe as much taffatie for his tyings as would serve for an ancient; which serveth him (if you will have the mystery of it) of the own accord for a shoe-rag. A soldier and braggart he is (that concluded); he jetteth strouting, dancing on his toes with his hands under his sides. It you talk with him, he makes a dishcloth of his own country in comparison of Spain, but if you urge him more particularly wherin it exceeds, he can give no instance but in Spain they have better bread than any we have; when (poor hungry slaves) they may crumble into water well enough, and make mizers with it, for they have not a good morsel of meat except it be salt piltchers to eat with it all the year long: and, which is more, they are poor beggars, and lie in fowl straw every night.’

Thomas Nashe, The Unfortunate Traveller, (1594).

The Walls

‘Modern man is a prisoner who thinks he is free because he refrains from touching the walls of his dungeon.’

Nicolás Gómez Dávila, Notes.

‘A man whose mind feels that it is captive would prefer to blind himself to the fact. But if he hates falsehood, he will not do so; and in that case he will have to suffer a lot. He will beat his head against the wall until he faints. He will come to again and look with terror at the wall, until one day he begins afresh to beat his head against it; and once again he will faint. And so on endlessly and without hope. One day he will wake up on the other side of the wall.

Perhaps he is still in prison, although a larger one. No matter. He has found the key; he knows the secret which breaks down every wall. He has passed beyond what men call intelligence, into the beginning of wisdom.’

Simone Weil, Human Personality, translated by Sian Miles.

He is Revealed Only in Tears

‘Compared to philosophers, saints know nothing. Yet they know everything. Compared to Aristotle, any saint is an illiterate. What makes us then believe we might learn more from the latter? Because all the philosophers put together are not worth a single saint. Philosophy has no answers. Compared to philosophy, saintliness is an exact science. It gives us precise answers to questions that philosophers do not dare even consider. Its method is suffering and its goal is God.

God nestles in spiritual voids. He covets inner deserts, for God, like an illness, incubates at the point of least resistance…Saints, criminals and paupers have launched him, making him available to all unhappy people.

The church was wrong to canonize so few women saints. Its misogyny and stinginess makes me want to be more generous. Any woman who sheds tears for love in loneliness is a saint. The church has never understood that saintly women are made of God’s tears.

In the world of feeling, tears are the only criterion of truth.’

Emil Cioran, Tears and Saints, translated by Ilinca Zarifopol Johnston.

‘When he is sorrowful, a man becomes a Christian.  When happy, he is a pagan.  All this goes back through the ages, to the very beginning of time…How can we weep before the ancient gods?…It is impossible to say to Jupiter:  “Grant me solace.”  But when great sorrow fell over mankind:  “Grant me solace” – Christ appeared…“Grant us solace!  Protect us!  Save us!”  In the suffering of mankind there is something more significant, darker, deeper, more terrible, more portentous, but without doubt it is deeper than any joy…“I want a miracle, O God, give me a miracle!”  This cry is Christ.

He wept.

He is revealed only in tears.  The one who never weeps never sees Christ.  But the one who weeps will not fail to see Him.

Christ – He is the tears of mankind, that once opened upon an amazing story, an amazing event.

Who solved the mystery of tears?  Some people do not weep over any misfortune.  Others weep over relatively small things.  The soul of a woman rests on tears.  A woman’s soul differs from a man’s.  This world of tears –what is it then?  It is female (to some extent), and it is suffering (also to some extent).  It belongs to the eternal categories.  And Christianity is eternal.

Christianity is gentler, more refined, and more profound than paganism.  All the fertile “Abrahams” are not worth one weeping woman.’

Vasily Rozanov, extracts from Solitaria and Fallen Leaves.

Taken from here:

A Second and Fairer Edition

‘The whole business of our redemption is, in short, only to rub over the defaced copy of the creation, to reprint God’s image upon the soul, and, as it were, to set forth nature in a second and fairer edition; the recovery of which lost image, as it is God’s pleasure to command, and our duty to endeavour, so it is in His power only to effect; to whom he rendered and ascribed, as is most due, all praise, might, majesty and dominion, both now and forever more. Amen.’

Robert South, Sermons Preached upon Several Occasions, 1679.

‘Writing is the creature’s revenge, and his answer to a botched creation.’

Emil Cioran, Anathemas and Admirations.

Strange Cozenage!

‘Tis true, our life is but a long disease,

Made up of real pain and seeming ease;

You stars, who these entangled fortunes give,

O tell me why

It is so hard to die,

Yet such a task to live?

If with some pleasure we our griefs betray,

It costs us dearer than it can repay:

For time or fortune all things so devours;

Our hopes are cross’d,

Or else the object lost,

Ere we can call it ours.

Katherine Philips, To my Lord Biron’s Tune of ‘Adieu Phillis’, 1667.

When I consider life, ’tis all a cheat;

Yet, fooled with hope, men favour the deceit;

Trust on, and think tomorrow will repay;

Tomorrow’s falser than the former day;

Lies worse, and while it says we shall be blessed

With some new joys, cuts off what we possessed.

Strange cozenage! None would live past years again,

Yet all hope pleasure in what yet remain;

And from the dregs of life think to receive

What the first sprightly running could not give.

I’m tired of waiting for this chemic gold,

Which fools us young and beggars us when old.

John Dryden, from Aureng-Zebe.