Waiting in Newark Airport for Anne Mei to clear immigration and customs, I was reading Mihail Sebastian‘s Journal. April 1941, Bucharest, Romania. As a Jew he had been dismissed from his posts, been told to vacate his apartment within the week for new Aryan occupants, and dodged the January pogrom during which Romanian fascists killed hundreds of Jews. Yet he still could have moments of inspiration as a writer.
Thursday, 17 April. How can I explain the fact that today—in the midst of war, with so much bad news and so many worries, plus the obsession of moving my house (about which I dreamed a real nightmare yesterday)—I was able to have a whole day of literary exultation, of feverish impatience and nervous curiosity.
Despite the turmoil of my son Joe’s injuries and hospitalization this past week, I’ve still found escape in the excitement of discovering and reading about the Japanese school of Critical Buddhism. These scholars criticize Zen and other forms of East Asian Buddhism over issues I’ve been working on in a book concerning South Asian and Tibetan Buddhism. Reading scholarly articles has been my refuge this week.
Anne Mei returned today from a semester in Cape Town, South Africa. Toto’s little tail was wagging away when Anne Mei came through the door. I’ve been trying not to make too many facile comparisons between current events and Sebastian’s experiences under fascism. Be that as it may, Anne Mei said that she and all the other non-white passengers were pulled aside for an extra document check by U.S. officials before they boarded the plane in Frankfurt, Germany.
It looks like Joe will be leaving the hospital tonight or tomorrow. He has a long recovery ahead.
I do like the way Sebastian faces adversity. On the last night in his apartment, he writes:
… I sometimes have bursts of vitality. I count on them, even if they are intermittent. I’ll do what I can to stop myself from going under. Since I must leave here, may something good come of it.
Resilient, but no phony cheer. Two weeks after moving back to his mother’s house, he writes:
Since I have been in Strada Antim, my only pleasure and joy has been to turn the pages of the calendar in the morning: that’s another day gone.