Shimmelstoy’s Way

Henry put me in touch with Darren Crews
Prof in the French Department
At Bloomington

After I’d been home awhile
One weekend I drove to see him
He visits the West Bank most every summer
He doesn’t go there for research or anything “academic”
He hangs out with friends in Ramallah
And usually ends up in some direct actions
Telling me all this
He asked
“Do you remember that saying from the Sixties:
‘Put your body in the struggle’?”

I asked him if re-entry gets easier for him over time
He said, “Each time I return home
I feel like vomiting at this crap culture of ours
And while this reflects my own idiosyncrasies
(Some would say my own idiocies)

What I do to get my bearings is
I reread a couple of volumes of A la Recherche du temps perdu
Some people rely on yoga
Others make do with a Thoreauvian retreat in what’s left of nature
The kids throw themselves into as many protests as they can find
But for a couple of weeks I take refuge in Proust–
Laughing, crying, and, most of all, getting clear
Then I’m good to go”

He looked at me curiously
“Are you OK?”

I realized I had that faraway look and said
“Yeah, I did the exact same thing with Proust
After my wife died…
Took me seven months, though, to finish him
In English, alas…
I’m a slow reader”

I could see Darren didn’t know what to say
So I sighed and said the obvious:
“I loved Marcel’s grannie, didn’t you?”


Shimmelstoy's Way

–chapter from Mark Chmiel, Dear Layla Welcome to Palestine


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