In Invisible Cities, Italo Calvino imagines a meeting between emperor Kublai Khan at the end of his life and the explorer Marco Polo. Marco Polo, who has travelled and seen everything recounts it to Kublai Khan, who has never travelled and has seen nothing. The traveller’s depictions of imaginary cities sketches for the emperor the complexity of humanity he rules over, but has no conception of. It makes no difference to Kublai Khan whether Marco Polo’s tales are true or not, let alone if they are true, in which way they are true
But it matters to us, we who live with our complexity. The significance of how Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities has been taken up in our culture, is that in one pristine moment, the vision was in sharp focus before our eyes, the sound crisp in our ears. This is our breadth. This is our depth. This is how we apprehend, how we know, how we understand, think, feel, do and play. This is our civilisation. This is what we are. Most instructive is that Invisible Cities resonated strongly in the Arab world, as several YouTube videos attest. Perhaps this achievement of the Italian writer speaks especially poignantly to those who have escaped the barren wasteland that is Islam for the fertile uplands of Western culture and civilisation. This hour-long video of the Invisible Cities performance in Union Station is well worth watching. I recommend a big screen.
In November-December 2013, Yuval Sharon directed his opera company, The Industry, together with the dance company, L.A. Dance Project, to perform multi-award-winning New York composer Christopher Cerrone’s interpretation of Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities inside Union Station, Los Angeles. In collaboration with sound equipment manufacturer Sennheiser, the performance provided its audience with headphones “to hear the opera amid the normal ‘hustle and bustle’ of the train station’s everyday life.”
This is how LinkTV describes the opera:
Welcome to Los Angeles' fabled Union Station – the largest railroad passenger terminal in the Western United States – where one feels that time, instead of marching irretrievably forward, with travelers scurrying (or not), to parts known and unknown, has come to a kind of glorious stop. It's here that Yuval Sharon, artistic director and founder of the three-year old, avant-garde opera company, The Industry, is staging Invisible Cities.
There are eight singers, an 11-piece chamber orchestra (harp, strings, percussion, horns and winds), led by music director Mark(sic) Lowenstein, and eight dancers from L.A. Dance Project, a co-producer of the work. The terpsichorean octet is moving to the savvy choreography of Danielle Agami, a former Batsheva dancer who helms the recently transplanted troupe Ate9.
The symbolism is stunning.
Danielle Agami (born 1984) is an Israeli-born dancer and choreographer. She is a teacher of the Gaga style of dance, invented by the director of the Batsheva Dance Company, Ohad Naharin. In Israel, Agami danced with the Batsheva Dance Company from 2002 to 2010. From 2008 to 2010, she was the company's rehearsal director.
This already concentrated symbolic relevance linking the events in New York to those in Los Angeles, deepens still further upon adding the life of director Yuval Sharon, 2017 winner of the MacArthur Genius Grant. I shall simply quote Wikipedia (it still remains good for some things):
“[Yuval] Sharon was born in 1979 in Chicago to …Israeli parents. He earned a B.A. in 2001 from the University of California, Berkeley studying English and dramatic arts, before spending a year in Berlin. Seeing Wozzeck as a college student and his time in Berlin both led him towards opera.
Sharon then lived in New York, where he founded a theater company called Theater Faction and worked at the New York City Opera, directing its VOX program from 2006 to 2009, before moving to Los Angeles. He found Los Angeles to be the ideal home for experimental work in opera and founded The Industry to put on innovative productions.”
The title, T’shuvah, means “returning” in Hebrew. The word has mystical connotations relating to a source to which one can strive to return. The word also means “repentance,” implying that repentance is linked with both tangible and spiritual action; that in fact there may be little distinction between the two. Funnily enough I’m not sure what any of this has to do with the specific notes of this piece other than that since music can seem to take up where words leave off I should leave it at that.
In New York’s Grand Central Station, on 21 January 2023, members of the Palestinian terrorist front groups Samidoun and Within Our Lifetime, creations of the Palestinian terrorist organisation Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, PFLP, held a so-called “day of rage”, that great display of Palestinian democracy other than public euphoria at the mass murder of Jews. There was sound technology, just as at Union Station, and the terror supporters also “mingled with the crowds” after a fashion. But this not art, quite the opposite. It was not elevating, but debasing, and in the crudest possible way. It was political intimidation to make Muhammad, not to mention the Sturmabteilung, proud. The mayhem against Israel and Jews was obscene, right down to openly inciting “Globalise the Intifada.”
The worst is not what they did. The worst is that they got away with it, as they feel themselves entitled to. Their "struggle" trumps all other struggles, and the world should be grateful for the privilege of having their cities honoured with "days of rage". In war, armies carry out test skirmishes to see how the enemy reacts. No reaction, or only a feeble one, indicates conditions may be ripe for a successful major assault. Warfare is obligatory on Muslims against non-Muslims, and the jihad against Israel is the chrystalisation of that doctrine.
In his 26 February 1942 letter to Foreign Office diplomat Martin Luther, Head of the Nazi regime's Security Service, Reinhard Heydrich, a man who made his boss, Adolf Hitler, look like a jolly uncle, requested that preparations be made for carrying out the global extermination of the Jews:
…der praktischen Durchführung der Endlösung der Judenfrage festgelegt ist, …darf ich Sie bitten, …zwecks fertigstellung der …Voraussetzungen zur praktischen Inangriffnahme der Lösungsarbeiten… (…the practical implementation of the Final Solution of the Jewish Question is confirmed, …may I request, …for the purpose of completion of the preconditions for practical commencement of the Solution activities…)
or, in more terse language, “Globalise the Intifada!”
Heydrich’s letter speaks of “die organisatorischen, technischen und materiellen Voraussetzungen” (the organisational, technical and material preconditions), e.g., make sure we have enough gas canisters and that they are all filled, get the showers ready, get the ovens ready, make sure the staff are all set, etc. In the Palestinian case, one organisational precondition would be to ensure the whole world hates Israel and unquestioningly and publicly pledge allegiance to "Palestine".
To globalise the Intifada, though, means Jew-killing moving up several gears, from seven Jews here and thirty-five Jews there, to hundreds of thousands of Jews, time after time after time across the world, in other words, industrial-scale Jew-killing such as the Nazis could only dream of (and dream of they did), something for which you need the industrial capacity of a great economic power, just in case that nuclear bomb project doesn’t work out. In Grand Central, the barbarians riled against the “settler colonial state” in the very act of settling and colonising the United States.
They want the same thing we want. They want peace. They want to raise their children. They want decent lives and right now that’s impossible.
So lamented a distraught old man at a Jewish Voice for Peace demonstration in New York. Of course, there is a truth to this poor man’s lament, but it is highly qualified.
They want peace under Islamic domination, with all religion for Allah alone, and Israel destroyed. They want to raise their children to die killing Jews. They want decent lives as lords over their dhimmis and slaves. And right now that’s still impossible, because not all Jews are deluded and Israel still has some fight left in her. They want the same thing we want only if we want to voluntarily make our way to our own extermination.
Distress and delusion abound in equal measure in Tel-Aviv and New York, as it does amongst the conflicted "Israeli Arabs" who feel guilty for enjoying a better life than their brothers under the PA and Hamas, and compensate by vehemently rejecting their own country, but never quite as vehemently as they reject joining their beloved brothers under the PA or Hamas. The only question is whether feeling guilty for not being "Palestinian" is worse than feeling uncomfortable about your Palestinian brethren celebrating the cold-blooded murder of your Israeli compatriots.
Islam reduces all emotions to hating what Allah hates and loving what Allah loves. In the Palestinians, we see these perverted emotions in pure form. Thus does a Palestinian "day of rage" in New York and Palestinians celebrating the mass murder of Jews in Jerusalem have the same impact on Americans, and step by small step, the healthy are made sick. This great destruction is the solemn promise of Islam. It is a promise it intends to keep, even if a thousand years should elapse before it is able to deliver. The best of people shall smash the musical instruments, and slaughter the sons of apes and pigs. The Arab Israelis are yet to see that between them and their own humanity as Israeli citizens stand Islam and a pathological nationalism, the ultimate separation wall.
Unfortunately, and crucially, Jews have yet to see that, no matter how nice or how fair they are towards the Palestinians, whether in Judea and Samaria, in Gaza or in Israel proper, their very existence is the affront, not how they behave. No amount of niceness or fairness or equality will ever overcome the doctrine that drip-feeds this poison. Arabs in Israel do not enjoy a higher standard of living than they otherwise might at the expense of themselves, or of their Palestinian brothers. This they know. Yet, if Israel is guilty of "occupation" and "apartheid", as Jewish Voice for Peace and the Grand Central terror supporters would have it, then so are the Arabs in Israel. Any fairness, any equality, will be exploited to advance jihad, and in the case of "Israeli Arabs", to assuage their guilt, as they demonstrated in dramatic fashion in 1972, when so many pledged allegiance to the PLO as the "sole authentic representative of the Palestinian people," namely, themselves, and again in 2021, when they unleashed a pogrom in the so-called "mixed cities", fine models of "Jewish-Arab coexistence". In some places such actions are called treason and insurrection.
The only chance for peace in Israel is if peace were militarily imposed on the Palestinians, and soon. When the greatest city in the free world allows its iconic centre to be abused as a platform to call for another Holocaust, then the luxury of time is gone. This is not even about responding in kind to those who rejoice in the murder of innocents, it is about being realistic about jihad. It would be the best favour that Israel could do not only to the Palestinians, but to deluded Jews the world over. Conditions will have been created for Palestinians to inch their way towards both the Abraham Accords and their own humanity. This is something that many Palestinians actually want, but they have the obstacles of Islam and the social pressure of insularity to contend with. This points towards another Jewish delusion. They see one Palestinian who does not want to kill Jews, and they are convinced that peace is just around the corner. The longer this wishful thinking persists, the more imperilled are the Jews.
In 2016-18, the art gallery at New York University in Shanghai contrived to block me from curating an exhibition of Karina Puente’s brilliant series of illustrations of Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. I eventually managed to negotiate an invitation for her to give a talk on her work at the university. My plan, however, was to go much further than to have Karina Puente come all the way from Peru merely to give a simple talk. I had in mind something more befitting the grandeur of her work and especially that of Calvino’s Invisible Cities.
Students readily responded to a call for auditions to perform in a reading of excerpts from Invisible Cities to accompany Puente’s talk. I directed and produced the reading accompaniment, choreographed to move through and around the audience. As far as New York University in China is concerned, none of it ever took place. It was a harbinger I did not take note of. Whatever good the performance of Invisible Cities in Union Station Los Angeles had done for American culture in 2013, by 2023 had been undone, as marked by the full-blown barbarian culture in Grand Central Station in the heart of New York City. Invisible Cities never happened.
- Reinhard Heydrich was assassinated in Prague by two incredibly brave men, the Czech, Jan Kubiš, and the Slovak, Jozef Gabčík. The world owes these men a debt of gratitude for dispatching this most monstrous of monsters. Their action is the equivalent of two Iraqis taking out Qassim Soleimani on a Baghdad street.