Friday, November 13, 2015

Kean, the Magician

Tonight, as I watched the actors peel the tape off their faces again (hello, wireless mics taped at the jawline!), as I watched them ignore the pain (just as a fun weekend experiment, try taping a mic to your face when you’re sporting a beard), and remove the white face paint that turns them into the friendly inhabitants of a theatre purgatory, I thought of the strange days I live every time I do a play, and how I take everything for granted. 

It’s only when I think about it that I realize the beauty of this strangeness, the fact that most people do not spend their evenings staging spectacular fights at the foot of improvised windmills; do not carry shopping lists that say “batteries, eyeliner, milk, combat boots, hair spray, sword, chalk, pink camo rag;” do not wake up in the middle of the night with the perfect solution to a scene that, only a few hours before, seemed impossible.

It’s still a mystery to me how every play finds its rhythm eventually, a rhythm imposed by the image with which I begin every production, but also by the way the members of each cast move together, complete each other’s gestures, and come to depend on each other’s impulses. I never know how to communicate this rhythm because, in the beginning, I don’t know what it is. Take this trilogy: conceived initially as a radio play, Noir had a sparsity of movement I’d never tried before. Like all my plays, it was an experiment. I wanted to see if I could create an enormously powerful character who would never move, and who would control the other characters’ actions through the sheer force of her will. And so Angelica, the Angel of Death, was born. She walked on stage as in a trance, sat down, wreaked havoc, claimed a life, and then left, dancing slowly in the rhythm of an intoxicating melody. She never got up once during a 75 minute performance. At the end, and many months after the show, people told me how vulnerable they felt before her, how much her presence intimidated them, how powerless they felt. 

Of course, I have Beckett to thank for this need for immobility as an expression of containment and will: I like actors to do nothing but be. It takes a while to persuade actors used to constant movement to be completely still. Stillness is an art and it is beautiful. It’s like feeling comfort in the presence of the other’s silence. It’s a way of existing, peacefully, within yourself. I also like the opposite: a certain nervousness that makes the actor’s body tense and supple, as if attuned to a secret rhythm only he can internalize. In Q I asked Kean to do something he does naturally, something I’ve seen him do many times when he concentrates or waits for a development: a quiet, subtle drumming of the fingers on the table top, like a signal his body sends into the immediate immensity of his surroundings.

Of course, now that I’ve asked him to do it, he does it less, as if prompted by an existential stubbornness he can’t control. But when he does allow himself to forget he’s on stage and his fingers find that rhythm again, his entire posture changes, as he gets ready for a confrontation that may never unfold.

In reality Kean is a walking contradiction: both a soft-spoken tenor (oh, how I fight his gentle, Southern inflections) and a baritone when he controls his voice; both lithe and powerful; both elegant, graceful, subtle, and somewhat intrigued by trash. A philosopher who stays on the surface of things because he can turn surface into content. It’s a gift (and a curse). I like working with him. I like seeing the way he gets a little better every day; I like the way he controls each line once it makes sense to him, each movement. There’s a moment at the end of the play when the Director (who’s also, very clearly, the Angel of Death from Noir – I’m stealing Bergman’s “man plays chess with Death” image from The Seventh Seal to communicate this), whispers something in Kean’s ear, touches his shoulder (a movement that mirrors a similar occurrence at the beginning of the play) and, gently, helps him leave a world that showed him little kindness. I don’t know what Kean does in that scene, I don’t know how he does it, but his entire body relaxes and falls in such a beautiful way, that I always find myself holding my breath until Death places him gently on the ground. This is the rhythm I can’t communicate immediately at the beginning of the rehearsal process, the one the actors find, slowly, as their silhouettes come together and separate, as if in a dance. There was much dancing in Noir, and a little bit of dancing in Glissando. In Q, this turns into the moments when Death and Alice guide Kean through the strange and hostile territories of the purgatory, the way Virgil once guided Dante through the nine circles of hell. Both women walk purposefully, slowly, rhythmically, holding Kean’s hand, and never once looking back for fear they might lose him. Poor Kean…

I love this play and its actors. Ok, I love every play, but none has been as out of joint, as mad, and happy, and desperate, and meta, and philosophical, and superficial, and self-indulgent as this one. There’s a trace of Marat/Sade there too, the image of the asylum and its residents staging a play about a revolution.

Kean says, “I feel a war coming,” and that’s how I’ve felt for years now, waiting for a confrontation that may never happen between me and the immensity that surrounds me, perhaps to put an end to my internal exile and bring me home, once and for all.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Art of Telling Lies

Someone stopped by my office tonight, before class, and asked if I was ok. I can't explain how I knew this wasn't a casual, polite inquiry. I just did, or maybe I needed it to be a real question because I wanted to talk about the play.

I talk all the time. I talk to people about their problems, I talk about the department's problems, about worries and possibilities, about strategic plans, and money. I talk on the surface of things to the surface of people, not because there's no substance to our conversations, but because the part of me that really matters has no place there.

The only place where I am completely honest is the stage. Honesty is crucial. Oh, I've lied before, mostly to spare people's feelings - little or giant white lies. And a long time ago, I lied to stay alive, I lied about my writing and its purpose, I lied about my thoughts. Whenever I talk about fear and art (the consequence fear has on the artist), I think about those times, decades ago, when I learned to lie as I learned to write. With the decision to leave behind a country that proved so hostile to my being, came the decision to never lie again about anything important, to practice a brutality, a bluntness of expression that I find comforting. There's much more to be said here, but this is not the place to say it, to explain the extraordinary freedom I find in simply telling the truth, telling the emperor he's naked, confessing to my phobias and snobberies, cultivating my (very few) vices, spending time strictly with people who give me joy, forgiving little and forgetting nothing, discarding (human) baggage. This is what I say, what I do, in every play. Once a year, I gather my obsessions, place them inside a coherent frame, and call them a play. It's what's keeping me alive. It's the space I create when reality becomes brutal, inconvenient, or simply disappointing. I can't lie about theatre, about performances, direction, or script, but I also can't stop talking about the people I admire -- usually, the people I work with on a production -- whose unusual qualities astonish me.

And while I say, in rehearsal, "I don't believe anything you say. Say it again. Convince me." Or: "Too many gestures. Sit on your hands and say the line again." Or: "Stop being self-conscious. Slow down. Control your body. You look like you don't know what to do with your arms." Or: "I don't like the way you walk. Move in the rhythm of the music. Now stop. Whisper Now sing. Do it again, do it better..." what I think is this: I wish  I had time, in every rehearsal, to tell you how much it means to me that you're here, willing to sing, and crawl, and shout, and walk in slow motion until you're too exhausted to feel. Without you, I couldn't live in this world of my own making, my refuge, my obsession. Without you, who meet me, without complaint, at the end of your day just to "do it again, do it better," my work would be silenced, a mute pantomime without history, tragedy, or depth. I think: how beautiful your hands are; how gracefully you move, how gloriously sad you look in this light. I think: I love your face, I love looking at it, I love the defeat in your eyes, the frantic movement of your hands, the inflection of your voice on the last line of your monologue.

So why don't I say these things? Because there's never enough time, because before the play is ready for its public, a million little things need to be changed, perfected; because I can't lie about perfection either, and rhythm -- the rhythm of each play, its heart beat -- is in the details.

I have been told by the veterans of the Milena Group that they only lasted all these years because they learned not to take offense. I understand. I appreciate the effort, the work, the perseverance and, above all, the malleability that allows me to turn them into my characters.

(It is true: I fall for all my characters, however eccentric or flawed they may be. They belong to me and I depend on them, and there's some endless, inexplicable connection which, at the end of the performance, when the lights go up and we all know we've made something beautiful, is worth every hardship)

Every time I look at rehearsal photos, and see the extraordinary faces of the players, I need to talk about the play, about its place in my life, about its consequences. Remember what it felt like when you published your first book, your first story? When you read your poetry, before an audience, for the first time? Remember that feeling? A test of endurance of sorts. Fear, and anticipation, and the possibility of doom, and an uncontrollable sense of joy. That's what it feels like every time I do a play, and have to witness the reactions of a few hundred spectators to those million little details that matter so much.

That's what I wanted to say tonight when a kind soul asked me how I was. I wanted to say: I need to talk about the play, about the people in it. I wanted to say: I am afraid, I am terrified, but I can't stop, and I can't lie.

I wanted to say: they'll understand, eventually.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Meta-Ghost

Whenever I have to stand before a group of people and, within 20 minutes, tell them what I do (see the format of the academic conference), one of two things happens: I either go slightly over the allotted time and show production photos and videos, read from the blog, explain the genesis of the project, and treat the session as I would a recruitment event (please join the Milena Theatre Group; we won't lower your IQ), or do the exact opposite, and finish quickly, going briefly over the main points and then waiting for the whole thing to be over so I can leave. I'm not exactly sure what makes me choose one scenario or the other. For the most part it has to do with the speakers before me, with the audience, with my degree of exhaustion and, maybe, other small things.

The conference I just returned from prompted a combination of the two scenarios: I felt enthusiastic enough, but finished early because I could not get over the previous speaker's deadening commentary on an otherwise superb, completely silent, slow performance piece. Later, when she also said that "performance does not create its own space" my suspicions were confirmed. It also didn't help that the conference took place in the loudest part of New Orleans and, to be articulate, I need to hear myself think; and that, half way through the presentation, it occurred to me that maybe a third of those present knew what I was talking about when I mentioned Quijote, Kean, Camino Real, or Six Characters in Search of An Author. That's when I realized the rather strange place I (and, by extension, the Milena Group members) occupy. We do neither pure research (a clinical discourse disconnected from the object of its analysis by the writer's usually acknowledged unfamiliarity with the stage), nor do we do entertainment. We occupy the space in between, and treat each production as an endless revision of an intimate critique.

For me this means revision upon revision of the script - the subject of much affectionate mockery during rehearsals - with an understanding that revision means re-vision, a re-imagining, re-shaping of the original idea until the play finds its rhythm, and I know exactly what I want to say and how I want to say it.

So let's look back at the trilogy. Noir: A private eye (or private I) falls in love with someone he believes to be the Angel of Death because he can't tell the difference between reality and fantasy. Glissando: a playwright/director can no longer distinguish between his cast and his characters. Q: an actor haunted by his previous roles is not sure whether the people he interacts with exist in reality or only in his mind. You see the pattern: all these plays are structured around the Quijote syndrome: the inability to distinguish between reality and make-believe. So what do I want to say with the Quijote project? Things get a little complicated here. I want to tell the story of Kean, the actor. The way I see it, his backstory is this: at the top of his game, Kean loses it, has a nervous breakdown on stage. Afterwards, every time he steps before an audience he lives in fear of a repeat performance. The stage (his refuge) has betrayed him, so he takes it out on theatre, rages against it, blames it for everything. But what about the ghosts he sees? What about his tense interactions with his director? What about Alice? The only way the script can maintain an internal logic while all the characters surrounding Kean play many, many parts (The Director is also the Red Queen, and also part of the Quixotic Chorus; Alice is both sweet, the Knight's lost little girl, and treacherous and manipulative as the host of Wonderland's radio show, and so on), is for Kean to be dead at the beginning of the play. Remember Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead? Yes, that scenario. So Kean is dead, and doesn't know it, and all the characters around him try to open his eyes to the truth - like when the White Rabbit, stumbling over Kean's resting body, says, "Halt! A corpse!" - but Kean doesn't listen because he's more interested in blaming others for his failure, and unable to face the fear at the heart of his defeat. Fear and art, fear and its impact on art and the artist - my longtime obsession.

I remembered, the other day, another favorite quote from Eco's Name of the Rose. It's an exchange between someone I don't remember and the main character, a proto-Sherlock Holmes. "What terrifies you most in purity?" asks the forgettable fellow. And the Sherlock character replies, "Haste." I've loved this exchange for decades, for about as long as I've loved Quijote. And remembering this I understood why slow motion (the opposite of haste), and endless revisions, and months not weeks of rehearsal are necessary to what I do; because I hate haste - immediate, impulsive decisions - with a passion.

Another realization I had on the way home (so this was a productive conference after all), was that the reason I want to say a million different things in this play -- everything about theatre, and love, and fellow-feeling, and rhythm, and communication, and buffoonery, and adventure, and death -- is because the Quijote contains all the germs of all the genres and all the stories that were ever told. Death, Love, Adventure. The same thing, really. Or maybe - theatre.

A mad, mad play, this is shaping up to be, and I love it as much, or maybe a little more, than all the other plays because it is disjointed, and allows theatre to question life and vice versa, and lets me put together, inside a now coherent frame, all the stories I've ever cared about.

At the end of the play, with the help of the Chorus, the Director/Angel of Death reveals to Kean that all the characters surrounding him are both real and imaginary, and that because he died on stage, he is forever tied to it, a ghost haunted by ghosts.

Kean, the meta-ghost. Haha -- We've really done it now.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Q: A Tragedy

“I have a strong propensity in me to begin this chapter very nonsensically, and I will not balk my fancy.--Accordingly I set off thus:”(Lawrence Sterne, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman)

I like beginnings. I like starting new projects, new productions, layering texts, finding my way out of the fictional woods. The Quijote project – assembled, subverted, reassembled, and forever hopeful – has finally found its shape. I've found the perfect beginning, which means the production’s slightly manic rhythm makes sense now, as the adventure gallops towards its inevitable (but also perfect) end.  
An observation: I love looking at close-ups of the actors’ faces. The rehearsal photos often capture their expressions, or a gesture, the position of a hand, the arch of an arm, the head thrown back in a moment of delight. I love that. These are movements that happen naturally, that no amount of dogged work will trigger, because they happen spontaneously, in that obscure, and impossible to define space where theatre begins, in absolute freedom from narrow-mindedness and fear (have you noticed how often the two go together...?)

This Friday, with Dulcinea and Sancho (or Millie Mae and the Mad Hatter – as you wish), I’m going to New Orleans to talk about the evolution of the Quijote project at the Society for Comparative Literature and the Arts. It’s a joyous occasion to connect with past Milena Group members who now teach at other universities, and introduce the Group and its work to a new public. We’ll read a few scenes, I’ll talk about the crisis/opportunity scenario, and then show this film that captures the mood of the whole piece. While speaking, I’ll imagine the final version of our exemplary tale, with masks, and costumes, and  lights, and a completed score composed specifically for the production – the end of the Death- Love-Adventure trilogy. And as I have a strong propensity to begin very nonsensically, I will not balk my fancy, and accordingly,  I’ll  set off thus:

Saturday, September 5, 2015

The Crisis/Opportunity Scenario

The Trilogy of Unforeseen Adventures (yes, I just made this up, although the idea that Noir, Glissando, and Quijote belong together has not been a secret for some time), has always been about change – shifts in cast, mood, and interactions; in production titles, and focus. So things were bound to change in the Quijote project as well.

It has always been (and it has become increasingly) difficult for me to bring new people in the otherwise self-renewing membership of The Milena Group. On the rare occasions when I do it, there is always a risk: that I will have to change my methods to accommodate well-established but often tired ways of giving life to a play; and that the short amount of time we have to work together is not enough to build the absolute trust one needs to produce something memorable, not a threepenny production (my apologies, Herr Brecht, I don’t mean you). 

At times, the risk pays off splendidly. Not always, though. By the time a bunch of exhausted grad students and I meet for the first rehearsal on a weeknight, they’ve taken so many seminars and workshops with me, or in some cases (hello, Susan!) we’ve finished each other’s sentences for so many years, that we can be honest with one another. They can tell me they’re at the end of their wits (it won’t change anything, but it helps to complain), and I can ask them to do strange things, read new monologues, enact fragments of unfinished scenes, come together in groups or plop on chairs at random without explaining the necessity for any of this. I know when they're tired. I know when they're hungry. I know how far I can push and when I should stop. I always have a reason for what I do, but because the text is being written (mostly in my head) as rehearsals unfold, everything is uncertain and tentative. They know this. I teach this. I talk about the courage of uncertainty all the time which is why every new show of The Milena Group is a meditation on the nature of risk and failure, but also an adventure. A real adventure, not a ready-to-wear one, like something one has done a hundred times before. There are things that will always obsess me: the contrast between agitation and perfect stillness; between Western and Eastern theatre practices; between silence and dialogue, between laughter and tragedy, between the comfort and the complete unsettling of an audience. These are things present in everything I’ve done. But every play finds a new way of approaching these dilemmas, and when someone walks in from the outside, unaware of this ongoing discourse, there is a chance that I won’t be able to explain what interests me. 

On rare occasions (two in the past 15 years to be more exact), a potential new member of The Milena Group quits after the first rehearsal. (This is one of the reasons I never audition people for plays; the first rehearsal serves as an audition). When this happens, I am briefly saddened, but never surprised. What we do takes courage and there is always a real chance of failure. I always appreciate the honesty of such immediate withdrawals because I’d rather work with what an actor once called “fearless fools” than cautious professionals. I’ve talked, many, many times here of the increasingly shaky lines that separate our definitions of professionalism, so I won’t repeat myself, but I am a little tired of explaining that these productions are my research, and that the process resembles that of writing an essay on the nature of theatre: that there are works I quote, and theatre practitioners whose methodologies I implement; and theatre theorists whose vision I respect and sometimes subvert to see if it still holds true; and that I am, perhaps, too old, and definitely too rebellious to be told that there is only one way of working on a play, the “right” way that insures success. On the other hand, I hate making people unhappy, so a departure is always preferable to stoicism.

Looking back over the past 15 years I think I can say quite truthfully that I conceive of every play as if it were my last. For a while, I used to say it: this is the last play, because I couldn’t imagine a world beyond the production I was working on. But now I know it: I direct every play as if I’m going to die tomorrow and I can’t leave behind a crowd-pleasing mediocrity. I’m also a little tired of repeating this: there’s nothing wrong with crowd-pleasing mediocrities. Peter Brook says it: “every audience has the theatre it deserves,” and I’m all for happy-endings, and stock gestures, and facile laughter, and people kicking each other in the bottom on the stage, and well-lit scenes, and perfect diction, and all the agitation that reassures audiences already convinced of this fact, that theatre hasn’t evolved at all since the time of the vaudeville. I’m all for it, without the slightest irony. I just don’t have to do it because I have no interest in it. 

So let’s backtrack and talk of the Quijote project and the role of the Old Hidalgo. What was he rejecting in his madness? Reality. What was his madness? A critique of reality. Why? Because he loved reality and belonged to it, but couldn’t see it crumbling without protest…so he took refuge in fiction until reality decided to stop all that nonsense and mend itself. That’s how I feel about academia. That’s how I feel about theatre. The only people who should criticize what Artaud called “the petrified” nature of theatre are the people intimately connected to the field, not because they despise it, but because they’re invested in it to the point of delirium (see Barthes’ “I’ve earned the right to speak deliriously”).

So as we speak, the Quijote project is changing, as I rewrite the play to express the same ideas, but in the absence of the main character as I’d conceived of him initially. And as I do so, the movement of the text becomes clearer, and the image of a young Quijote rises from the rubble. Another one of my unshakable beliefs:  particularly in theatre, every crisis is an opportunity.

When I was in grad school, I lost 50 pages of my Master’s thesis, a revenge tragedy on the subject of Dracula, inspired by my daily interactions with new people: “You’re from Transylvania? How strange. I didn’t think Transylvania really existed.” I remember staring at the black screen of my clearly defunct computer thinking, I’ve lost an entire act. I can’t do this again. I don’t have the strength. I can’t remember the best lines, the way the characters interacted. And then it happened: in the face of fake tragedy (is a rewrite really a tragedy? Only a few years before, I was trying to not get shot during the Romanian revolution), I discovered I liked change. I sat down and wrote a new act, a better act – much clearer in vision, much more persuasive -- a slicker version of the initial one, fueled not by anger or panic, but confidence. If I can restructure my argument from a completely different point of view, that means I have a better grasp of the play.

The crisis/opportunity scenario has repeated itself, in various forms, throughout my career. Every single time, I end up with a better turn of events – a real adventure. Perhaps this has something to do with my life as a writer and the process of endless revision to which I subject every text. Perhaps it’s not that, but the thought that the “fearless fools” and I are ready to unsettle every boundary. I don’t know, and it doesn’t matter, because during a six move checkmate, a young and foolish Hidalgo will still meet Alice for a last adventure. The Mad Hatter said so, and I, for one, believe him utterly.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

"Dreaming as the summers die..."

                   "In a Wonderland they lie,
                    Dreaming as the days go by,
                    Dreaming as the summers die:

                    Ever drifting down the stream--
                    Lingering in the golden gleam--
                    Life, what is it but a dream?"


Monday, August 17, 2015


The first Quijote rehearsal is in a week and I’m experiencing a sort of paralysis triggered by the magnitude of the project. 

Don Alonso Quijano (my lifelong obsession), meets Alice, (the character I’ve always identified with), in a deadly game of chess. Why? Because Quijote; Or, The Death of Conversation is the last play in a trilogy that began with Noir: A Love Story, a play at the end of which Death played chess with S. Night, the main character, and won. The chess game was my feeble attempt to pay homage to Ingmar Bergman, but also acknowledge that chess puts some order in our collective madness in a way the Marquis de Sade would have appreciated (“Let us put some order in our pleasures” is one of my favorite de Sade quotes...)

So: Quijote plays a game of chess with Alice, and Alice wins (because Alice always does), and then becomes Queen, the way she does at the end of the Looking Glass adventure when, famished, she is introduced to a pudding she’s not allowed to eat (“How would you like to be eaten by someone you’ve just been introduced to?”) 

Honestly, I have no idea if my memories of all things Alice are based on facts (and by facts I mean the fictional text), or if I’ve just made them up. I don’t exactly care. There’s a side to affective memory that I enjoy immensely, ever since I found out that Umberto Eco’s dissertation was the result of a trompe l’oeil. Is this confusing? My apologies. Let me explain. Umberto Eco, the wittiest semiotician in the world, began his career, like all of us, as a grad student tormented by his dissertation. He was writing something about Thomas Aquinas and he was stuck (the way I’m stuck now), and he was strolling through Paris (the way one does when one cannot write one’s dissertation) when he happened upon a second-hand bookstore where he found a book about Aquinas’ aesthetics. He opened the book at random and read a sentence that clarified the scope of his dissertation, so he bought the book, and ran home, and finished the manuscript, and became Magister Ludi Umberto Eco, the greatest semiotician in the world. Years later (post fame) he looked for the sentence that had saved his graduate life. He looked, and looked, but the sentence wasn’t there. He had imagined it out of some desperate philosophical need and, obedient, the sentence had materialized, the way sentences do for Humpty Dumpty, when he needs them most. You see? Full circle. So that’s why I don’t care if the things I remember about Alice are actually in the book. And perhaps that’s why I’m stuck, because I have so much to say: about Quijote, the last dreamer in the postmodern age; about theatre as a mode of singular survival; about disillusionment and fantasy; about Alice who has the courage to follow the white rabbit through the portal that opens inside her dreams; about actors, and directors, and fear, and betrayal, and the extraordinary ability of an empty space to become a space of endless possibility...a stage. Good god, how am I going to put all of this in a play, and make sense?

I write scenes in no particular order. I reread Sartre’s Kean, Pirandello’s Enrico IV, The Quijote, Alice – Through the Looking Glass. I’ve been thinking about this play for years, and yet it’s not coming together. The story is simple: during a rehearsal of The Man of La Mancha, an aging actor loses contact with reality and starts believing he is Don Quijote and, at times, Lear - his two most successful roles. My model for this is Kean, the Regency actor, who lost it during a performance of Othello - his last appearance on the stage - and told his son who was playing Iago, “Oh, god, I’m dying. Charles, talk to them.”  So Henry Kean loses his marbles on the stage and believes that his dresser is Sancho, and the friendly neighborhood barmaid is Dulcinea, and a radio show host named Alice is Alice in Wonderland. The world changes with his perception, and his friends, like those of mad Enrico IV, are afraid to shatter his illusions. Do you remember the plot of Enrico? There’s a fancy dress ball during which Enrico loses his mind. He is dressed as Henry IV and, in his madness, he believes he is the king. His family and friends indulge his madness for years; they dress as members of the court, maintain the charade, only to find out that Enrico had regained lucidity a little after the incident, but had prolonged the farce, for years, because it amused him to see his family in costume, treating him as a king.

You see the difficulty: everything connects. But the most difficult thing for me is the transition between Kean’s reality and his imagination - the world of Quijote, Alice, Lear. I know how the play begins. I know how it ends, with Quijote/Kean on his death bed, having lost the game with Alice (“Oh, god, I’m dying. Talk to them”). But what is in the middle? What treachery, what madness, what unrequited passions, what defeat?

I don’t know yet. I’m searching for the perfect line, for the slow gesture, for the confidence I need to put, in a single play, all my obsessions, all my latest fears, knowing that, miraculously, inexplicably, one day everything will make sense.

Just before his death, Quijote writes the longest love letter in existence. His last line is a sad realization: “With regret, with humility, with horror, I understood that I was not the one you loved.”

The exit line, I believe.