Tag Archives: AIDS

Review: To the Wedding


To the Wedding
To the Wedding by John Berger
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A sublime, moving and tender novel about love, life, hope, consolation and the foreseen soon death of the bride due to AIDS.

The main storyline of this small novel tells the story of the two parents of the bride – estranged for many years – travelling “To the Wedding” and finishes at the wedding celebration.

One small example of the many jewels in this novel:
The mother of the bride meets a co-passenger in a bus. The co-passenger says that the bridegroom has never learned to count. The mother interrupts: “If he sells clothes at a streetmarket, I’d have thought he could count!” “Prices, yes, consequences, no”, says the co-passenger.

In my opinion the bridegroom is fully aware of all the consequences.

A second storyline includes a blind man selling “tama’s” – small tin objects for hope, blessing or consolation – at a streetmarket. The novel ends on the last page with the observation that for this wedding another “tama” was needed, made this time not in tin but with voices. Here it is. Place it by the candle when you pray…

So true.

This small novel deserves to be reread every year as a reminder what life is, and as one of the answers to the question: “Why don’t people learn to live”.

Recommended, especially the edition with the introduction by Nadeem Aslam.

View all my reviews

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Narrator – on the way 2


After the death of Raven I spent every year’s winter in South Spain. In the spring I migrated with the birds to the North wandering the summer season in Northern Europe. The wind, the weather and the people I met on my way, gave direction to the temporary shelter in the northern cities.

Vogeltrek[1]

Regularly I visited Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Stockholm and Oslo. The volatile friends from the past were swept away from everyday life by the mysterious disease that had the name AIDS. Several old friends started another life without place for a wandering Bhikṣu. Usually I lived by the street with magic, storytelling and I had started singing.

My performance of Jacques Brel’s “Ne me quitte pas” [2], moved the audience. Parts of the text about shadows – during the night shadows of murdered villagers and in daytime shadows of lost beloved ones – was applicable on my life.

Let me be

Shadow of your shadow

Shadow of your hand

Shadow of your own. [3]

schaduwen[4]

After 18 years wintering in the South and in summertime wandering in the north, I was an adult in my third incarnation; each moment, hour, day, year was different and the same. Although I carried always the shadows from my previous life with me, this simple life rhythm gave some inner peace.

In the autumn I sang lines from “Ne me quitte pas” for an audience on the Leidseplein in Amsterdam:

I, I will give you

Pearls of rain

from lands

Where it never rains.[5]

After singing the words “from lands where it never rains” I knew that my mother had died. Her commandment to move to Amsterdam and its realisation had ended. I bowed to the audience and in honour of her memory I immediately set off “εἰς τὴν Πόλιν” – to the city – to Istanbul [6]. From Istanbul I wished to move to Konia the following spring. It was time to swirl in the footsteps of Rumi [7].

Come, Come, whoever you are,

Wanderer, idolatrous narrator and worshipper of the golden glow,

Come even though you have broken your vows a thousand times,

Come, and come yet again.

Ours is not a caravan of despair. [8]

Derwish[9]

On the road to Istanbul I was accompanied by my mother, like Rumi wrote in a poem:

“My thoughts are in the heart of my mother,

the heart of her will be sick

without the thoughts of me”. [10]

The fourth incarnation in my life had begun. I deviated from my usual autumn migration to South Spain. That year, the winter started early in Middle Europe. Mid November there was already snow. On the way to Istanbul I became adrift by the cold. Early December it froze solid. I had nothing to eat. The next clear night at new moon my breath watched over me. The ghosts and shadows from my life temporary found peace. The frost took me in; earth and firmament were one.

Stone and stilled

Inside and outside

One in the cosmos

Sterrenhemel[11]


[1] Source image: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vogelzug

[2] To be listened via: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=za_6A0XnMyw

[3] Source: Own translation of the last lines from Jacques Brel’s “Ne me quitte pas”.

[4] Source image: http://bat-smg.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abruozdielis:Southwark_Park_Evening_Shadows.JPG

[5] Source: translation of the first lines from the second verse of “Ne me quitte pas” by Jacques Brel.

[6] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Istanbul

[7] Jalāl ad-Dīn – in the West known as Rumi – was born near Balkh in Afghanistan in the 13th century CE. His parents fled for the Huns. Jalāl ad-Dīn received the name Rumi in the Arab world because he lived in Konia South of Ankara in the current Turkey while writing his great works. This part of the Arabic world was identified with Rome from the Roman Empire. Hence Jalāl ad-Dīn is named after the name of his main domicile in the Arab/Persian world. Source: Lewis, Franklin D., Rumi, Past and Present, East and West. Oxford: Oneworld, 2003 p. 9

[8] Free rendering of verses by Rumi. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rumi en Rumi and His Sufi Path of Love (2007) by M Fatih Citlak and Huseyin Bingul, p. 81

[9] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dervish

[10] Free rendering of a poem by Rumi. Source: Nicholson, Reynold A., The Mathnawi of Jalálu’ddin Rúmí, Book II. Cambridge: Biddles Ltd, 2001 p. 281

[11] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Starry_Night

Narrator – A Nordic Cycle, A year from a biography


If you want to avoid misery, rely on your own lot.

Narrator-Nordic1

As free E-Book available via the website of the publisher:

www.omnia-amsterdam.com/document/narrator-nordic-cycle-year-biography-e-book

Carla Drift, Narrator Nārāyana and Man Leben are the three main characters on this part of the Odyssey “Who are you – A survey into our existence”.

“A Nordic Cycle” is one year from the biography on the life of Narrator so far. In this year Narrator fled his existence as idol in Amsterdam by living with his beloved in. Together they made a trip to the North Cape in midsummer; they returned via the Norwegian fjords, the Hardangervidda, and Oslo. There they heared that acquaintances and friends in Amsterdam suffered from a mysterious disease; the beloved of Narrator receives a letter with the news that his mother was seriously ill. The following spring Narrator’s beloved returned to America and Narrator decided to live in Copenhagen. At the end of the spring he visited Amsterdam to attend the funeral of a former lover who is deceased by AIDS.

The Odyssey to “Who are you – survey into our existence” is an quest with many stages. The search for “Who are you” is about you and me and all that is in connection with us. Nothing is on beforehand excluded. Are you and I connected or are we separated? What makes you to the person who you are? Who are you before your birth and who will you be after your death? The answer to these questions is currently unknown, but nevertheless we raise these questions.

The progress of this quest to “Who are you” can be read on the weblog of Jan van Origo: www.janvanorigo.com

The following two part of “Who are you” will include the chapters 5, 7 and 0 of this quest.

This work is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Photos, images, renderings and quotations in the text may be copyrighted by third parties.

Printing of this Ebook is allowed for your own use or for educational purposes. Readers and users of publications by Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher may show their gratefulness by donations to charities of their choice.

Narrator – a new year


Around Easter the winter of that year was gone. The sun emerged and nature flourished again. Next to my city bike I had bought a touring bike by which I made several bike tours on the islands Amager and Sjælland whereupon the city of Copenhagen is located. In a few months I learned not only to cycle well, but I started to love this form of gliding over the roads in weather and wind.

Reiserad-beladen[1]

Near the end of spring I received again disturbing letters from former lovers in Amsterdam; they were also seriously ill with AIDS. I decided to travel to Amsterdam with my touring within a week. After a preparation of a small week, I departed to Amsterdam for a few months with a packed bike. My attic room I had temporary sublet to a friend.

Eventually I did two weeks about the trip, because I had almost always headwind. On the long straights, the turning of the pedals changed in turning of the prayer wheels in my experience, sometimes difficult, sometimes without effort.

Gebedsmolens[2]

On my way to Amsterdam I had the Buddhist question of the “iron ox” [3] in my mind. Some of my ancestors travelled on horseback. In Africa I had noticed people travelling on an ox. Now I was a rider on an iron steed instead of on horseback.

Man op os[4]

I missed the conversations on this question with my beloved who already lived in America at that time. My clue was the verse on the question:

“The works of an iron ox –

When the seal (of enlightenment [5] and of an idol) remains, the impression is ruined”. [6]

Cycling through northern Germany and the Netherlands my bike slowly took the shape of the “iron ox” in the Buddhist question. Sometimes nicely gliding, sometimes toiling during headwind, my iron ox did its work; we glided steadily with the road and the environment through the universe.

On the road I could usually stay with people during the night in exchange for stories or for some help on the farm. At resting place I tried to earn some money with magic, because during my bicycle trip I had no income from playing percussion with jazz ensembles. After some practice I could earn a national currency at each stop with two magic rope shows – which I had learned from a friend in Copenhagen; in Germany a D-mark and in a Netherlands guilder. During the first presentation a rope slid through my neck. A demonstration of this performance can be seen on the following video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&feature=endscreen&v=aSMZJ0w3DyM

During the second presentation, the rope glided unexpectedly through a ring. An example of this representation is shown on the following video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2xx7UjeZYn4

When I performed both performances every day at five resting places, I earned enough money for daily meals for myself and another traveller with whom I shared the meal.

That summer and autumn in Amsterdam, I lived with and cared for old friends and former lovers with AIDS. In addition, I enjoyed the Dutch beaches and the beautiful clouds in Netherlands.

At the end of the autumn I cycled to Copenhagen with the wind in my back. The winter I spent in my attic room with the long nights in which the moon, the stars and the ghosts kept me company. I stuck to this rhythm of “heading to the south during summers” and “winters staying in Copenhagen” for several years; in later life I spent the winter in the south and passed the summer in the north.

Was this wintering on my attic room a penance for crimes committed as child soldier in a militia? Maybe, a year later I met a man who did penance for his deeds constantly.


[1] Source image: http://da.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cykeltyper . This photo is made in 2005 showing a cycle of a later date.

[2] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prayer_wheel

[3] See: Cleary, Thomas, Book of Serenity – One Hundred Zen Dialogues. Bosten: Shambhala, 1998 p. 125 – 130.

[4] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Os_(rund). The oxen in Africa were not so well fed.

[5] According to Mahāyāna Buddhism, human enlightenment spreads a smell of vanity. Enlightenment only exists when all en everyone is enlightened.

[6] The first two lines of vers in the koan Fengxue’s “Iron Ox”. See: Cleary, Thomas, Book of Serenity – One Hundred Zen Dialogues. Bosten: Shambhala, 1998 p. 125 – 130.

Narrator – A cold winter


At the beginning of the winter, I came back to my attic room in Copenhagen. I mourned for the loss and the death of two former lovers from Amsterdam who had died from AIDS. A few days after my return I was ill with a cold. I had fever, I sweated at night in bed, I had a headache, my breathing was difficult and I felt exhausted. In the library I had read the beginning symptoms of AIDS – I was afraid that I was also infected by the virus. After a few weeks the cold was gone, but my concern for infection with the disease remained.

My attic room was not properly heated. That winter I was only in my room at night; I slept under a thick duvet at the open window when the weather allowed. In bad weather with the window closed, I felt trapped in my room; my nightly fearful visions could find no way out. During daytime I was rarely home; usually I was at friends, I read in the library or I played in a jazz band.

Zolderkamer[1]

In this attic room I slowly detached myself from the three embarrassments [2] , which I read in the book with Buddhist questions that I had received as farewell gift by my previous beloved.

The first embarrassments wherefrom I had detached myself at the end of my youth, was an own home. As a child I had moved around with my mother and her herd; our home was the place where we had stayed temporarily. In my time as child soldier, the militia was my temporal home. After my flight from the militia, I continued to wander with temporary resting places. During my stay in Copenhagen my house became more and more transparent coinciding with the human world during daytime and with the universe during night-time when the window of my attic room was open. Once I hoped to arrive home, maybe at the end of the Odyssey to “Who are you”.

800px-Glass_House_2006[3]

The second embarrassments that I gave up gradually, was an own body, because due to aging my appearance as exotic idol eroded and because due to the threat of infection with HIV I saw the individuality of my body in a different light. In Copenhagen my body became more and more connected with the city, the world and, of course, the universe.

Anterior_view_of_human_female_and_male,_with_labels[4]

The third embarrassment that disappeared gradually, was an own life. After reading and studying in libraries in the neighbourhood of my attic room, I became increasingly connected with all the knowledge in the world. Also I read in a book the questions: “Where is a Buffalo when it is eaten by a lion” and “How does a lion change after eating Buffalo?”.

Male_Lion_and_Cub_Chitwa_South_Africa_Luca_Galuzzi_2004[5]

Together with my body, my life became gradually connected to the world and the universe. At that time I read in a novel by Hermann Hesse: “Deine Seele ist die ganze Welt” [6] – or in English: “Your soul is the whole world“. In the dark at the open window in my attic room, my life became interconnected with the whole space.

The legacy that my beloved had left behind for me, depleted. I had no money left to maintain the white Citroën DS; it was time to give this Goddess another destination. With a part of the selling price, I bought a bike. After some practice I could move around with the inhabitants floating on the roads through the city.

800px-Cyclists_at_red_Kopenhagen[7]

The next spring I made several long bike tours through Europe.


[1] Source image://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comble_(architecture)

[2] Source: Cleary, Thomas, Book of Serenity – One Hundred Zen Dialogues. Bosten: Shambhala, 1998 p. 120 – 124. The “three embarrassments” are freely rendered in this post.

[3] “The Glass House or Johnson house, built in 1949 in New Canaan, Connecticut – USA, was designed by Philip Johnson as his own residence”. Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glass_House

[4] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_anatomy

[5] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life

[6] See: Hesse Hermann, Siddhartha. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag: 1989 p. 10.

[7] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cycling_in_Copenhagen. This photo was made around 2010.

Narrator – Copenhagen and Amsterdam – a reunion


With all my belongings in the trunk of the Citroën DS, I left Stockholm on an early morning in spring. During the Nordic cycle that lasted more than one year, my reincarnation wherein I had adopted the appearance of an idol earlier in Amsterdam, evaporated. In the nearness of my beloved I had returned in the world of ordinary mortals again.

Just before the departure to his new stay in a monastery in America, my beloved was engaged in the Buddhist question: “One gain, One loss” [1]. Now he had left more than two months ago, my life felt like a gain and a loss – a void and a new destination. In the notes to this Buddhist question was written: “If you want to avoid misery, rely on your own lot” and “Gain and loss, right and wrong, let go of them all at once” [2]. Both sentences were applicable to my new reincarnation as ordinary mortal. Much later during the quest to “Who are you” I would get more insight in the first sentence. The peace of the second sentence I hoped to find in my final homecoming.

Via a road along the many water of several inland lakes – to which I had become accustomed during my stay in Holland – I drove in my white Citroën DS from Stockholm to Malmö. There I took the ferry to Copenhagen. First I visited my friends where I could stay a few nights. With their help I could quickly rent a room in the attic floor of a characteristic House in the Klosterstræde in the Centre of Copenhagen near the University and various libraries. First I saw this room as a temporary stay for several months; eventually I lived there for several years. I felt immediately at home. From my window I could see the moon and the starry sky at night. During daytime the name of the street reminded me of my beloved who really lived in a monastery now. I had received his book with Buddhist question [3] as a farewell gift. From time to time I read a passage from this book whereupon the question found a place in my life as far as I could realise. In this way my beloved and I remained connected with each other.

KLOSTE~1[4]

My years in Copenhagen I lived from the legacy – that my beloved had left for me – supplemented by a small income from performances in Jazz ensembles. Almost every day I visited the colourful painted houses along the Nyhavn, that reminded me of the fields with flowers and the canals in Holland.

Nyhavn_copenhagen[5]

My first autumn in Copenhagen I received sad news from Amsterdam; one of my precious lovers died from the mysterious disease which at that time around 1983 had received the name HIV and AIDS [6]. After reading the funeral card, I drove to Amsterdam in one day. Upon arrival I heard that many more of my former lovers suffered from this disease, which is caused by transfer of a virus – that affects the human immune system – during the love game [7].

Human_Immunodeficency_Virus_-_stylized_rendering[8]

In this sad environment I was welcomed by my former friends and acquaintances as an long lost friend and they saw me as a refound idol. I had discarded my mask of an idol during my stay in Sweden and the former carefree feast of everlasting love that wafted exotically around me through Amsterdam, was gone forever.

The funeral of my deceased lover was impressive. One of our loved ones was too ill to attend. With several former friends we cared for him until his death; his funeral was also intense. Both times all relatives, friends and acquaintances were present. For a number of lovers it was a sombre forecast for their future.

After this second funeral I fled to Copenhagen. Again it was an escape from my earlier stay in Amsterdam where I did not belong anymore and it was at the same time a flight for this disease wherefrom I was saved by a wondrous lot [9]. Later, during a medical examination it appeared that I belonged to a small group, which is resistant to the infection of HIV.

Back in Copenhagen, I was again an ordinary mortal, that was only noticed by a black/blue colour and rhythmic play on percussion during Jazz music.


[1] The Zen Koan: “Fayan points to the blinds”

[2] See: Cleary, Thomas, Book of Serenity – One Hundred Zen Dialogues. Bosten: Shambhala, 1998 p. 118

[3] Cleary, Thomas, Book of Serenity – One Hundred Zen Dialogues. Bosten: Shambhala, 1998

[4] Source image: http://da.wikipedia.org/wiki/Den_danske_guldalder

[5] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copenhagen

[6] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HIV/AIDS

[7] See also: http://www.rivm.nl/Bibliotheek/Professioneel_Praktisch/Richtlijnen/Infectieziekten/LCI_richtlijnen/LCI_richtlijn_Hivinfectie

[8] Cross-section of the Human Immunodeficientie Virus (HIV). Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aids

[9] Source: http://www.nationaalkompas.nl/gezondheid-en-ziekte/ziekten-en-aandoeningen/infectieziekten-en-parasitaire-ziekten/soa/aids-en-hiv-infectie/welke-factoren-beinvloeden-de-kans-op-hiv-infectie-en-aids/