Steve, mortality

steve de vos

When you get to be into your early middle ages the people you looked up to, your mentors begin dying on you. Sometimes it starts earlier but you are not as aware of the possibility of your own death when you are younger and as a result you are just not as conscious of the meaning of their dying. Then you notice that Duras, Leiras, Foucault have all died. What moves you in the deaths of the former does not do so when Burroughs dies, who had cheated death so long that I had begun to think of him as an immortal.

Then, anyway, everyone has their mentors, those icons that stand for there life and dreams. And the day arrives when the first of them dies and then you are sitting at a table reading the broadsheet and read of their death and you realise as they die on the table before you that part of you goes with them, dropping dead on the floor beside you.

The rest follow them sometimes it's in the same newspaper, or a phone call from a friend – "Hey did you hear that so and so hase died…." or from the radio, the internet, an email or during a chat with Phil at Compendium. But the end result is always the same for turning around you see parts of your life and encroaching death draped around the place like bits of entropic furniture.

Perhaps the first moment of consciousness in relation to my own mortality was hinted at with the surreal death of Roland Barthes under the wheels of a Parisian milk float, but the absurdity of his death effectively denied it the mythic shock that arrived with the equally unexpected deaths of Calvino and Cortazar (who I'd thought was probably a vampire). Foucault dying his more contemporary dealt was somehow more acceptable given the contemporary meaning associated with AIDS/HIV. By the time Duras died the shock of mortality had passed and instead I was just saddened to lose that person I remember looking uncertain back in the 70s when asked by a svelte looking creep 'What is structuralism ?' and the uncomfortable laughter of the rest of the audience. A few years later I could have answered the mans question for her but at the time I was as bemused as everyone else.

It's strange that it wasn't the death of my father who caused the arrival of mortality but then perhaps the lack of any connections but emotional ones create the rupture between self and the unchosen past. Whereas as I sat in the hospital in Amsterdam coughing away and hearing about the death of Jimmy Lyons, selected by the pleasure of the saxophone solos in Cecil Taylors Unit, the shock and pain of the distance as cancer ate his body and hearing about his death in an old friends voice. Then leaving the hospital cured and temporarily healthy once more knowing that a part of me has died, laid to rest in the white walled morgue, closer to the end and slightly less alive than last time..


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Steve de Vos - London 10/28/97