Some of you will instantly recognise a paraphrase of the title of Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter by Mario Vargas Llosa in the post’s title. I remember reading it in about 1998 in Moscow. I was a second year student, and my reading would often occur on the tube. At first I couldn’t get my head round the different stories that weaved together into a narrative; some of them were unfinished, and it didn’t quite make sense. Then suddenly I realised that those unfinished pieces were the extracts from scripts. Once I realised this, I became fascinated with the novel. It was there, as well, that I picked up on the expression “legion is their name“. Evidently, I didn’t read my Bible very well.
The post is about the picture; or actually about a typewriter you can see at the bottom right corner of the image (it is a collage, lovingly created by my mother – thank you!) The typewriter is quite old, should be well over 30 years, if not more. I didn’t get to use a computer until 1997; it took me until 2000 to get connected to the Internet. But I learnt the “qwerty” long before I got to use the PC’s keyboard, and in that the typewriter was indispensable. In fact, as I write this, I can smell the typewriter ribbon. The typewriter ribbon always had this strange smell: it was warm and homely but had a lead undertone to it, unequivocally reminding that it was used to type, i.e. imprint on paper.
These days I don’t look at the keyboard when I type; and I type fast, too. But with this typewriter it would sometimes be a nightmare. The keys would occasionally jam. This meant that I had to take the top off and unjam them. This meant in turn that my fingers and nails would be covered in ink. My fingers were also too small and delicate, so they would either get in between the keys, or their tips would hurt after some 15 minutes of exercise.
For some time I was impressed by the scene you are going to see in the video below. This is the first part (the second you can watch on YouTube) of a very famous and well-loved Russian cartoon – Film, Film, Film (1968). When I watch it today, I am almost sure I can see references to Sergei Eisenstein in the Director; and the scriptwriter, when he hides in the tube, brings to mind Marcello Mastroianni in La Città Delle Donne (1980). Of course, if there is any parallel to be found in this, it should mean that both Fyodor Khitruk and Federico Fellini were drawing from the same source for that tube metaphor.
But – back to typewriters – for a while I was fascinated with the opening scene of the cartoon, in which the scriptwriter tears the paper into pieces each time the Muse suddenly deserts him. I wasn’t typing all the time, mind you, but I would take the piece of paper out of the typewriter whenever I made an error. I calmed down when I realised I could keep typing and correct it later. Yet undoubtedly I fancied myself in the same kind of creative throes which were compounded by the awkward typewriter’s keys.