In great abbreviation: although no one has ever raped anyone in my presence; nor urinated upon me; yet my life has not been without a certain degree of heroic drama. I was once a political refugee: there were in it illegal border crossings and time served in refugee camps; emigration across the ocean; struggle to conquer a foreign language once; again; and then once more; responsibility for a family of four at the tender age of sixteen; a colonial venture in early manhood: trying to establish myself in Asia, to build from scratch friendships and alliances, to found and grow a business, to beat off a bankruptcy; a love story which probably deserves to be called epic. Then, throw in the usual smattering of adventure travel: a night frozen out on a rock at 4500 meters, in the Alps; surviving an armed bus robbery in Assam; and so forth; and you could say that my life has not lacked excitement altogether comparable to that
experienced by the author of the reviewed book. (If never as humiliating, thanks be to Mighty Athena).
Yet, nothing in my life has felt as exciting, as meaningful, as enriching and as lasting as my cultural experiences: the discovery of Balinese dance-drama, Kathakali, Thai matmee and benjarong, of fencai porcelain, makie lacquer-ware, serialism, Josquin's L'Homme Arme masses, some poems by Milosz, the Pillow Book, Mann's Faustus' third chapter. I am therefore puzzled and disappointed that so many presumably intelligent cultured men writing books of technically attained literature -- through their very narrative complexity clearly not destined to please the common man -- never seem to refer to cultural experiences as their hero's most important -- or even significant. That, for example, a book about the friendship of a monk and an artist (read "spiritual types") -- Goldmund and Narcissus -- should in the end turn out to be a book about one's longing for one's unmet mother seems -- well, pretty disappointing to me. It is as if cultured men were really no different from everyone else. As if their cultural adventures did not really matter, were no more than a decorative margin illustration on a page of prose diary which reads: "Woke up at seven, walked the dog, in the afternoon it rained, I missed my Mom and worried about my personal popularity".