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The artist Krasskey had once been fervently ambitious. He had believed that the great painting or even series of paintings was in him. It would arrive out in its own time. The city would bring it forth. Back then he felt that he had time on his side. Time to make it. The years slipped slowly by. He descended into sloth. He began to mourn the loss of time. He began to fear, no, to dread the future. The artist K. had lived in Barcelona for almost twenty years without gaining notoriety and now with the sensation of time having slipped him by, he forced himself to believe that he could be content this way, teaching at the University and producing small works of art of no great wonder. He lived in a small room in the Sants district with no one woman. They came and went, sometimes at painfully long intervals. Abstinence wasn’t it for Krasskey. He was no trappist monk. He liked salty butifarra and always had a bottle of Torres 10 Imperial Brandy, Gran Reserva on the go. He smoked Cuban cigars. Montecristo. He became superstitious. He attended a tarot card reader in Plaza Catalunya because he felt that fate had a bad hand to deal him. In dread of the inevitability of loneliness he hooked up with a Belgian woman who carved up what remained of his soul. He followed her around. She had a slight limp which made her movement even more attractive. She laughed at sentimental poetry. She said his paintings were too derivative. One day Kandinsky, one day Kirchner and his lot, another day Diego Rivera. In personality he most resembled Diego Rivera but she was no Frieda Kahlo. He could have as many women as wanted him. He could hump them all black and blue for all she cared. She would go back to Belgium as soon as her husband died. Wouldn’t be long now. Any day now by all accounts. She said that she had a sister in Brussels that he could hump when he came to visit. When she left Krasskey had this image of himself burning like a black candle for three days. Then he strolled along to the wine shop on the corner and bought two more bottles of Torres 10, Imperial Brandy, Gran Reserva and a box of cigars. The wine seller Juan joked with him and Krasskey said that he was not too old yet, there was life in the old dog, watch out. He was forty nine years old. Osip Mandelstam died when he was forty seven. In Voronezh he broke a silence of 18 months after a concert by the young violinist, Galina Barinova. Her music, the book says, released him into the most fertile phase of his writing, his last two years in exile, when he wrote the ninety poems of the three Voronezh notebooks. It was just a coincidental story of a poet being inspired. The great Russian artist Kandinsky had Wagner’s Lohengrin as his “experiencia conmovedora.” And what do I get to inspire me, Krasskey laughed, a lame Belgian woman with a rapacious mentality? A barracuda. And he walked and walked. It was walking through the streets of Barcelona that mainly terrified him, there he was roused like Mandelstam in Voronezh, like Brahms in Hungarian fields and meadows, rushing around aimlessly like a madman. The children laughed at him and called him names. The clever men in the taverns smirked into their drinks. On Barcelona streets the artist K. rarely recognised the ghosts that haunted every stone wall but always he had the sense that by walking the narrow stony streets say of the Raval, he was releasing old energy into the air, summoning spirits that had been trapped there too long. He visualised a great canvas peopled by these spirits, names like Ferrer I Guardia and Lluis Companys flew up to haunt him, keeping him awake all night, shouting in high voices, faceless demons, hurling him into deep, pensive moods and damned, damned sentimental traumas till he fell out upon the floor in the morning and cursed them wherever they’re thrown down. Then he sat up on the floor and lighting up a Montecristo stared long and hard at the blank white canvas leaning against the wall.




mid-life crisis


edward mcwhinney