Notes of Malta by Laurides Brigg
The hero of the narrative, a twenty-eight-year-old Maltese Dane of Malta, Laurides Brigg, the last representative of the noble family, finds herself in Paris all alone and on the verge of poverty. His observations now focus on how the outcasts live in Paris: doss-houses, the chloroform stench in a hospital for the poor, the rumbling of trams, beggars selling something or trying to foist some nonsense for a passer-by for a pittance – in people who are humiliating for all, they lose individuality, do not live their own lives and die not “by their own death.” The whole experience of the spiritual culture of mankind, accumulated by centuries of wisdom, solves Malta, is not able to help a person resist the standardization that is imposed on him by the surrounding reality, because cognition was forever directed mainly at what surrounds a person, but not on himself. The hero believes that for many centuries mankind has been operating only superficial and insubstantial knowledge, still remaining a mystery to himself. Anyone who has found the strength to look in the face of this bitter truth, in his opinion, must immediately begin to do something to make up for lost time. That’s why he sits down to write his notes. His work is an act of spiritual asceticism. Malta himself is aware of how overwhelming the task is. The heavy path of his cognition must lead to the attainment of an integral worldview, the only
Knowing the person, Malta gazes intently at the people with whom his destiny is facing, he wants to see in each person that unique, special, that distinguishes him from others. The inner world of any beggar or cripple is invaluable to Malta and is full of intimate, understandable meanings and meanings. The desire to comprehend a person, based solely on his individuality, from the individual and the particular, inevitably leads Malta to a risky closure on himself. Childhood memories, pages that cut into the memory of the pages of books, lively impressions from Paris – all this is strung on a single subjective pivot, everything acquires a special personal color.
Wishing to keep his own individuality, Malta condemns herself to loneliness. The system of objective connections, into which each person inevitably turns out to be included, he perceives as a “mask”, dictating his own gestures and words, and therefore, subordinating to himself the living “I”. Even love, Malta believes, limits the true freedom of man. For, as a rule, she is not free from the passion of possession, the desire to subjugate the life of another. And then love, as it were, concludes the existence of the one whom they love, within certain limits, from the expectations and hopes of those who love, the conditions of the game are formed, a certain pattern of behavior of the loved ones. Therefore, for Malta, the parable of the Prodigal Son who left home was so important because he did not want to be loved, did not want to agree to only one variant of fate, which would be formed from the expectations and hopes of relatives, depriving him of the right to vote his own “I”. In wandering around the world, the Prodigal Son hopes to gain such a love that does not limit the freedom of another, would not be reduced to a desire to own and dictate. At one time it seems to him that he finds her in love with God. But this solution is illusory.
In the general context of the novel of this parable are confronted with stories about the “great lovers” – Gaspare Stamp, Marianne Alcoforado, a relative and beloved Malta Abelone. Here, love is not speculative, but alive, capable of self-denial, not binding the being of man, but only radiating its object with meek rays that open to the beloved self. However, Malta himself does not find inner strength for such a feeling.
Trying, on the one hand, to isolate himself from people, Malta at the same time is full of passionate, greedy for them interest and, what is more important to him, compassion. It can not shut up in itself, people around seem to be calling for his participation, they are chained to his “learned to see the sight.” Therefore, Malte recalls Floner’s Julian the Traveler as an ideal to which he should strive. For him, such self-denial is natural, it is only a love raised to the highest degree by one’s neighbor. But Malta does not find the strength for such love. He is full of people who surround him and who are rejected, but he is a stranger among them, he thinks in the old noble estate in Denmark, where childhood passed, his mind invades unintentionally, and this only gives rise to one thing – fear. Fear of Malta is in many ways existential, this is not a fear of something concrete, but the fear of being in general, resulting from the inability to understand the world and to master, to transform individual moments into a coherent picture. Notes, begun solely for such a good purpose, eventually fall apart, the plan does not translate into a “big book”, observations remain fragmentary, diary, fragmentary-in short, only notes and notes.
It is no accident that the theme of imposture arises in the novel. He who takes up the pen for the sake of a higher goal, Malta is not able to fulfill what he has planned, he is powerless to connect his life with the whole human race, with his own family, and, finally, simply with History; he closes more and more in a world of dreams and memories, and now the former completely subjugates his consciousness, the memory of the past drives him with a hurried nervous pen, And there are no more laws, there are no higher values, the world is just a string of unimaginative images and images, among themselves not connected, disjointed, contradictory. To unite these fragments in a single canvas, to learn not only to see the details, but to develop one’s own special view of things, to give it integrity, to realize its place in an endless series of generations – this is a task whose importance is perfectly understood by Malta Laurides Brigg, but which turns out to be beyond his power. And this is the cause of the painful internal disorder. However, the general tone of the notes is not exhausted by the pathos of the tragic narrative of spiritual decline, the artist’s insolvency, the primordial horror of the death. The task here is different, rather than just trying to convey the bitterness of a separate human destiny. What Malta failed to reveal to the reader-namely, to make a complete artistic work out of the notes-was brilliantly achieved in certain concrete sketches, in individual episodes that tell of the people that his wandering life encounters. Here Malta finds a tremendous gift of speech, the true talent of the narrator. Like Ivan Kuzmich from the novel, Malta turns out to be the owner of untold wealth – priceless seconds and minutes of life,