On Striding through Spheres of Language: The Writings of Francisca Ricinski
Those who write know the situation in the face of nothing. The desk becomes an empty beach. With the first word on the empty sheet of paper you get the feeling of jumping into the ice cold ocean. Writing literature is a tedious process of shedding your skin. For Francisca Ricinski this is still a miracle. She can sit down at her desk and from somewhere there comes something that becomes a book. It is the task of poetry to discover the typical in the exceptional. The truth of the paradox can also be found in the texts of the author Francisca Ricinski who was born in Tupilati, Romania; they must be read the other way round. In Francisca Ricinski’s texts there are no clear dividing lines between poetry and prose: in dreams song and short note are blending; the lyric poet turns into a diary writer; reflection interrupts poésie pure. Francisca Ricinski carries on the literary tradition of the European modern age, that is obliged to E.M. Cioran’s Theory of Decay as well as to the poet Mihai Eminescu.
In the long term authors are better off when they have never been part of the trend – they cannot fall out of fashion. Moreover such artists possibly are healthier mentally. Francisca Ricinski writes poetry, narrative prose, essays, she is an excellent translator and has rendered scarcely noticed authors a great service. She does not seek the publicity of the literary scene, she makes herself scarce where there is a lot of hustling. She is more likely to be present in the more elite circles of the Dichtungsring, the Philotast, the Krautgarten, the Eremitage, and the Matrix. This might be due to her roots. Her father, a Pole with French ancestors, her mother, a Romanian from the North East of the country, near the Bucovina of Paul Celan and Rose Ausländer. Her prose tells of emigration, of love, of the power of accidental meetings and the fragility of identity. On the shores of the Black Sea Ovid wrote his Tristium libri, sad songs of yearning for Rome; Puschkin lived here in relatively pleasant exile; and in 1919 the young Nabokov left his home country from the Crimean. With Francsica Ricinski identity does not develop from the certainty of an unbroken family tree, but from the crucial experience of the 20th century: exile. From the old punishment of the loss of the home country and the loss of roots, that resulted in a shift of a mass of people all over Europe after World War II. In 1980 she left her country and moved to Bonn for personal reasons. The experience of being a foreigner, the clash of people, cultures, languages and times is the basis of her writing. Every truth is fictitious and everything fictitious is truth.
Being a hybrid between the Black Sea and the Rhine she acquired the German language. Similar to her colleagues Herta Muller and Ioona Rauschan she strides through these spheres of language in groping movements.
You must have a good ear for language. Francisca Ricinski has never attempted to pursue literary trends. The most certain path to being outdated is to cultivate the modern, as nobody wants to hear it any more tomorrow. Clues from human reality. Her characters have fallen into the maelstrom of an oversized destructive power. They are survivors with images burnt into their minds. In numerous, rarely noticeable flashbacks of an unobtrusive narrator the tight grip becomes apparent by which these images affect the present. She blends different genres with nonchalance and with a sophisticated feeling for style; she connects analysis with impressions, shifts from today to yesterday and back again. Francisca Ricinski writes with precision and sensitiveness; she knows how to join great history with small ones and to make personal matters join the general. A scarce outline is sufficient to give her protagonist his personal face. She avoids the emotionalism of the individual, and hates overloading poetry with a vast amount of personal matters to make the reader understand what extraordinary person is lost here. Importunate personal mythology is not her concern, her texts remain lean. She has a simplicity of language and natural dialogues that make the distance to literature smaller. And yet her protagonists need not talk like in “real” life. But you feel that the words and sentences that Francisca writes in their stead tally up with them.
The short stories and poetic fractures of her volume On Silicon Soft Paws are fascinating in their being different and they are of a high aesthetic appeal. Volumes of short stories require more concentration of the reader than novels: new names again and again, new conflicts again and again. On first glance these texts look like small tangles. Thoughts and sentences go in different directions, they seem to have neither beginning nor end. A wondrous book. And very different. This narration again and again intertwines through delicate word loops and shifts of meaning – and yet it moves forward. Her prose is refined enough not simply to maintain its form but to show also what she wants to overcome. Thus the author is given the possibility to circle around preferences and obsessions in different manners. Moreover this book has been arranged in a wise way and this gives the composition of stories a double bottom. In a relaxed way Francisca Ricinski unravels her thoughts, from paragraph to paragraph, from text to text. And she varies her sentences in a more and more elaborate way. For a short moment the person speaking has her sentences in a balance only to shift them again and to adjust them in a new way. Her themes – love, eroticism, reconciliation – can be described only “ex negative” as something painfully missing. Those who appreciate her tone, that mixture of reminiscences to fairytales, linguistically creative furor, elaborated snottyness and somewhat stilted seriousness will be served first-rate by her Silicon Soft Paws. In all of these texts she proves mastery of a tone that is subdued but not gloomy. A style that is sad but never sentimental. In the alleged closeness you feel the distance at the same time. The tone of these short stories is: hardness, subdued by sentiment; rudeness with a tinge of kind-heartedness. In Francisca Ricinski’s texts we cannot escape the hall of mirrors. This is the core of her thinking: reconciliation of forces that are mutually exclusive, she shows that the soul can survive with the support of the magic power of the arts and of fantasy.
She is not caught in desperate attempts, but she rather comes up with some lines just like that. Francisca Ricinski focuses her performing glance on the finiteness of life, and yet she shows its vanities as an often carnivalesque but always theatrical proscenium.
What is understood by itself, need not be understood explicitly. That is practical. It is the practice of our daily living together. On the other hand the self-evident is in permanent danger of being misunderstood. In such danger prose is in its element. It pursues the ideas not understood and not self evident in the self-evident so that the self-evident can be understood more easily. The possibility of evoking disconcert cannot be excluded here.
Francisca asks the old basic questions of what poetry wants to achieve: as an ethic of the absolute Must she ignores the involvement of individual subjects in social conditions and she confronts them with ideal requests whose basic fulfillment she takes for granted. As the ethic of a good life she ignores the question of kind of individual the person wants to be, by fobbing him off with the general term of a reasonable form of living. Francisca Ricinski’s handwriting is a mark, a card of identity, a biorhythm. Therefore, freely adapted to Walter Benjamin: you would want to linger on, to wake the dead and to assemble the broken – before others will do it. Certainly, a deep sigh post festum. Nevertheless, it ought to be listened to.
(On Silicon-Soft Paws; sub-title:
Wound Minutes, genre: lyric prose, published by POP-Publishing Houseb at Ludwigsburg, Germany, 2005, First edition, 130 pages, 13,80 Euro.)