Dear Anna,

I want to see history from the perspective of rivers. The sea and the deep are beyond my reckoning, but I would like to walk beside the Dnieper and the Danube and the Elbe and make their silent thinking a part of me. Or the humble Great Miami, which runs through the birthplace of my father and grandfather, who would raft the river on homemade boats before it was blocked by a dam.

Perhaps the underground surrealists are not under the ground but under the water. Perhaps they are not men at all anymore but have become the rivers of Europe, the living λόγος of Heraclitus, the movement that never forgets.

History from the perspective of rivers is Biblical history; the longue durée stretched back to Eden. Rivers find a historical path contrary to the left, so it is not surprising that national socialist regimes in China or Russia or FDR’s America fixated more than anything on building dams. Dams are less an ecological problem than a problem of history because in redirecting and stopping the water, they redirect time (in the USSR they even tried to reverse the flow of the Northern Dvina). I learned from Julio Cortázar’s From the Observatory that when eels migrate up the rivers, they’ll cross stretches of land to get around barriers. Nature’s insistent genius! These dams and locks will not last very long.

God let Adam name the animals, but He named the rivers:

    Pison, circling Havilah, whence gold
the good gold of that land
and amber and precious stone
Gihon, circling Kush
Hidekel, running east of Assyria
and Euphrates, the fourth

Archimboldi’s novel The Rivers of Europe might be a way out of the impasse of socialist history. Speaking of, I was surprised to learn that the old Nazi song ‘Horst Wessel Lied’ mourns the death of “comrades” shot by both “reactionaries” and communists. Not enough has been made of the socialist aspect of the Nazi party. Otto Rühle noted it early on (also pointing out the national aspect of the Bolsheviks), but nobody listened to him back then and nobody listens to him now. They can’t listen to him because once you accept that Nazism is a socialist movement, the whole fabric of leftist history falls apart. (Incidentally, Rühle moved to Mexico in the 30s and became a painter…)

I can’t play the Stalinist game of good national socialists (Bolsheviks, etc) and bad national socialists (fascists, etc). Rivers don’t abide such distinctions; neither should we.

Now, to listen and to swim.

vale bene,

ps. Don’t mention Achilles and Scamander!