You know when you wake up and for a moment there you get a bit confused of your whereabouts?
This morning I woke up and for a moment I was back in Tehran in my apartment. When I wake up there, the first thing I see are books. If you know me, you know this is always a comforting sight.
But as much as I was looking, there was nothing but the curtain to my daughters room. I was brought back to Vienna. I hear the the birds singing outside, it is surely morning I thought.
I’m not sleeping much these days. Sometimes I go to bed and then wake up a few hours later. The apartment is quiet, I can hear my daughter’s breathing, sleeping peacefully. I get up and look at the building in front. Always the same lights on, some windows with flickering lights from tv’s as usual. I wonder if anybody is sleeping at normal hours anymore.
I go to my laptop and sit down. I’m surrounded by my photos. I open the last story I am working on for my current project. I read the last few lines and start to write. I like to work when all is quiet. I always think nothing will come out but words start flowing. It comforts me to know I can do it, even in these circumstances.
I write for an hour or so and then I feel it is time to go back to bed.
This morning, after my initial confusion, I remember Marcel Proust’s “A la recherche du temps perdu” or in English, “In search of lost time”. His best known work, that some say is the greatest novel of the 20th century, 7 volumes in total! The story begins in a bedroom where the main character – like me – seems to be confused on his whereabouts or of what time of the day it is. He then begins to remember other houses and other times and we get to know him through these memories. The descriptions of the society at that time are wonderful. It makes it even more special, as Proust hardly left his apartment due to his poor health.
I remembered that I had the 7 volumes in my kindle (cost me next to nothing at the time!). I had read two volumes but now decided to start afresh and finish all of them in my own self isolation.
I hear small footsteps, my daughter is awake. She comes to my bed and tells me about her dreams. She dreamt she was at a different school in France with her best friend Eva. The school was great and had a swimming pool!
We have breakfast which must always include lots of vitamin C.
We made an agreement, she washes the dishes of the smallest meal and I wash the rest. I admire how children can adapt so well to even the most limiting circumstances. As long as we keep them busy!
But if somehow you have never heard of the famous Turkish photographer Ara Güler let me tell you that you haven’t seen Istanbul properly if you haven’t seen it through his eyes. Fate had it that I already went to two of his exhibitions, one last year at the Vienna Leica gallery and another in Tehran in February. But getting back to his books, I will start with Ara Güller’s Istanbul: 40 years of photographs. A wonderful book introduced by the Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk, where he shows his love for the city he was born in.
The book I just received “Creating the 20th Century” is also highly recommended. 100 pictures of artists, writers and thinkers, each photo accompanied by a small story of how Ara Güler met them and took their picture. Not forgetting also the introduction by the writer Alberto Manguel. If you haven’t read any of Manguel’s books on literature then I suggest starting with The Library at night or A History of Reading.
My last recommendation this week is for the Magnum website. Besides lots of interesting articles, Magnum started a series of Quarantine conversations between two randomly chosen Magnum photographers. The first conversation went online already. It was funnily enough, between the Iranian photographer Newsha Tavakolian and the Hungarian photographer Rafael Milach. They talked about how they are coping with quarantine and about their future projects. You can find the link here.
Every day I continue practicing Nordic Walking around the park. If you can walk outside, you should do that at least once a day and then keep safe at home. It always helps me to clear my mind. Stay healthy, stay inspired!