Adapted from the introduction of Mirror of the Invisible World, published by the MET for the opening of the new Islamic galleries in 1975.
In this publication from the MET, three stories from the Khamsa— one featuring the Persian literary character Farhad— have been retold in prose for the contemporary reader. Since a direct translation of the Khamsa would result in nearly sixty thousand lines, or some fifteen hundred pages, the stories have been abridged in the retelling. We hope to be forgiven by the specialists for taking these liberties; indeed, we have taken them in an attempt to present Nizami's wonderful tales as living literature and to convey in them the spirit of the poet.
The beauty of the Khamsa of Nizami is unsurpassed in Persian literature. Sensuous, dramatic, gracious, and refined, these epic poems display Nizami's genius for linguistic invention and psychological characterization— a talent imitated by hundreds of poets since his time, but never equaled.
Written during the last thirty years of the twelfth century a.d., the Khamsa consists of five long poems or masnavis. The first is "The Treasury of Mysteries," a didactico / philosophical / mystical treatise. The remaining four— "Khosrow and Shirin," "Layla and Majnun," "The Seven Princesses," and "Alexander the Great"— are romances. Both the form and content of these poems constitute a breakthrough in Persian poetry which, until Nizami, found its most perfect expression in the more limited heroic genre, the sonnet, panegyric ode, or quatrain.
In his second major work for the Khamsa, "Khosrow and Shirin," Nizami focuses on historical romance. Its introduction records his cynicism toward public opinion as well as his desire to be acclaimed:
"Possessing a treasure like my
Why should I bother myself
In today's world, however,
Who hasn't a passion for romances."
"Khosrow and Shirin" proved to be a literary turning point not only for Nizami but for all of Persian poetry. Its dazzling use of language reached new heights; its emphasis on human rather than heroic elements and its intense delineation of the inner life of a broad range of characters were entirely original. Furthermore, it was the first poem in Persian literature to achieve complete structural and artistic unity.
Nizami was conscious of his gifts and used them with joy and deliberation. Poets, he said, are the "princes of words." "Poetry is the mirror of what is visible, and what is invisible... the curtain of mystery, the shadow of the prophetic veil... The temple of poetry was built by me," he declared, "and the art of poetry has been freed from earthly bounds.. All beings, young and old, have been excited by the magic of my words."
Artisans were particularly dear to Nizami. Painters, sculptors, architects, and musicians are carefully portrayed and often play crucial roles. The artistic accomplishments and the loyalty of the painter Shapur and the devotion and engineering feats of Farhad create a far more lasting impression than do the errant adventures of the titular hero, King Khosrow.
Nizami's strong character, his social sensibility, and his poetic genius fused with his rich Persian cultural heritage to create a new standard of literary achievement. Using themes from the oral tradition and written historical records, his poems unite pre-Islamic and Islamic Persia. Written in the masnavi poetic form, each line consists of two rhyming distichs independent of the other lines, similar to the doublet in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. This form had long been used for narrative heroic and didactic poems, but through the imaginative artistry of Nizami it gained a splendor and flexibility never before achieved.
During the last quarter of the twelfth century, Seljuk supremacy was on the decline and political unrest and social ferment were increasing. However, Persian culture characteristically flourished when political power was diffused rather than centralized, and so Persian remained the primary language, Persian civil servants were in great demand, Persian merchants were successful, and princedoms continued to vie for the services of Persian poets. This was especially true in Ganjah, the Caucasian outpost town where Nizami lived. According to literary historians, Ganjah was a major center of cultural activity. During the Seljuk period it boasted at least seven important poets writing odes, panegyrics, and satiric, lyric, and epic poetry.
Of these, Nizami was unique. His work is a synthesis of Persian literary achievements up to his time — the heroicness of Ferdowsi, the fatalism of Khayyam, the humanism of Sana'i, the lyricism of Unsuri and Farrukhi, and the eroticism of Gurgani. Nizami enlarged this rich and varied tradition with contemporary mysticism, with his encyclopedic knowledge, and with his sublime poetic gift. The breadth of his thought and the beauty and invention of his imagery are still without equal. The fourteenth-century master poet Hafiz wrote of his work: "This Ancient Vault contains nothing beneath it comparable for the beauty to the words of Nizami."
Excerpt from "Mirror of the Invisible World"
The Introduction of Shirin
Now Khosrow's dearest friend and second self was the youth Shapur, a painter of great skill and self-confidence. "When I draw a person's head, it moves; the bird whose wing I draw will fly," he was wont to boast. It was said of Shapur that his art was so magical that he could draw pictures on water. At portraiture Shapur excelled; he could capture not only the likeness but the subject's very soul.
A born adventurer, Shapur had traveled far and wide. One day, while recounting to Khosrow the many marvels he had seen, Shapur told of a journey to Armenia. He praised the beauty of the mountains, the splendor of the court, and the Armenian queen Mihin Banu. A woman of great wealth and property, Mihin Banu had no husband, yet passed her life content and was stronger than any man. But above all he praised the queen's niece, Shirin. "Her face is a wild rose, and her lips are as sweet as her name. Her charming words please everyone, and she has been chosen as the heir of Queen Mihin Banu. Never have I seen a maiden as enchanting as Shirin! And never have I seen anything like the queen's black horse Shabdiz!"
"Shirin! Did you say Shirin? How astonishing! How fortunate!" Then Khosrow told his friend about the dream where he had been promised Shirin, and sent Shapur at once to bring the princess to him. "If she be like wax, impress her with our seal. If her heart be iron, return at once and tell me so that I shall not strike cold iron!"
Thus was Shapur instructed; he promised not to fail. "Fear not, my prince! As long as my brushes and paints attend me, failure has no chance!" And so he departed.
Excerpt from "Mirror of the Invisible World"
The Introduction and Demise of Farhad
Now the palace near Kermanshah was in an unhealthy place, and Shirin thirsted for milk. She would have pastured her own cows, but the fields near the palace were overgrown with poisonous weeds. One night, when she was conversing with the good Shapur, she spoke of her desire for milk, and the painter recalled one Farhad, a youth of great skill and cleverness, who had studied with Shapur in China, under the same drawing master. Now Farhad had mastered the works of Euclid on geometry and the treatise of Ptolemy on the stars, but his accomplishments in engineering and sculpture were even greater. So deftly did he carve as to make even the most obdurate stone sing with joy as he chipped it with his chisel. Moreover he was said to be as strong as two elephants and to have the muscles of a bull.
Farhad was summoned to the palace near Kermanshah. When he arrived, he stood patiently outside Shirin's quarters, with his loins girded, his massive arms widespread. At last Shirin appeared and told him of her need for milk. What was needed was a channel from a distant pasture, where flocks grazed, to the palace. In the far-off field shepherds could pour milk into the trough; it would flow to the palace, where Shirin's servants could draw it for her. As she spoke, Shirin's voice was so sweet that Farhad fell completely in love with her. He stood entranced, scarcely able to comprehend her words. Afterward, when all was explained to him, he took his axe and shovel and set out. Within a month the channel was finished, and in the rock by Shirin's door Farhad dug a pool which was already foaming with milk. When Shirin saw what he had done, she praised him greatly. Unclasping two pearls that dangled from her ears, she gave them to him. Farhad, overwhelmed, fled to the desert, where he wandered, weeping and calling Shirin's name. The wild beasts came to comfort him; the lion was his pillow and the wolf sat at his feet. But his longing for Shirin could not be eased.
Soon, word of Farhad's devotion to Shirin reached Khosrow's court, and Khosrow ordered Farhad brought to him. When Farhad appeared the king showered him with gold. But Farhad stood unmoved — so deep was his love for Shirin. Then Khosrow tested Farhad's love with severe questions, and he was astonished at the youth's determination. At last, Khosrow asked Farhad to cut a road through a grim and towering mountain that blocked a route he wished to travel. Farhad agreed, but only on the condition that if he succeeded, he be given Shirin as his reward. To this Khosrow consented, for so difficult was the task that he was sure Farhad would fail. And so Farhad was taken to Mount Bisotun.
As soon as he arrived, Farhad took his axe and carved from the forbidding stone first an image of Shirin and then one of Khosrow riding on Shabdiz. The images finished, his fearful work began. He labored day and night; so steadfastly did he wield his axe that word of his prowess spread from mouth to mouth. Even as he worked, he became a legend throughout Persia. Indeed, he paused only to gaze upon the likeness of Shirin, to kiss its feet and moan and weep, or to climb to the mountain top and call out to Shirin and plead his love.
When Shirin heard of Farhad's' feat, for there was none in all the land who did not speak of it, she marveled greatly and set out for Mount Bisotun. When he saw her, Farhad so lost his senses that with one hand he beat his chest while with the other he continued to carve the rock. Not knowing what help to offer nor what words to say, Shirin drew a flask of milk from her saddlebag and, with trembling hands, gave it to Farhad. He drank it all in one draught, but it only increased his passion. When Shirin made ready to depart, her horse, exhausted by the steep climb up the mountainside, stumbled at its first step. Farhad lifted both horse and rider onto his shoulders and did not set them down again until he reached the gate of Shirin's residence. He returned to Bisotun, and worked with such ferocity that the road was soon nearly completed.
Khosrow, who kept close watch on his beloved, learned of Shirin's visit to Bisotun and of Farhad's progress. Greatly alarmed at the thought of Farhad completing his task, he summoned his advisers. The eldest of them, a cunning man, counseled him thus: "Magnificence, what is the true purpose of that youth's exertions but to win the heart and hand of the beautiful Shirin?—
—And so a messenger was sent to Mount Bisotun, where he found Farhad cleaving the rock. "Why do you toil your life away like this, among these rocks, my friend?" he asked. "A strong young man like you should wield his chisel on a maiden!"
"I work for my king and for my love," Farhad replied with not a smile and not a break in the rhythm of his axe.
"And who might this love be?"
"Queen Shirin it is I love, for whom I have no words but my labors. Nor have I one more word for you!"
"Queen Shirin! Have you not heard? Shirin is dead but yesterday, taken by a fever. All her palace howls with grief!"
Without a word, Farhad flung away his axe so savagely that the blade split and quivered in the rock. He moaned and for the last time declared his love, for then he threw himself from Mount Bisotun to his death. Now the axe of Farhad had a handle of pomegranate wood, and in the very place where it landed, the handle took root and sprouted into a tree. And even to this day, on the branches of that tree, fruit does grow.
When Shirin learned of Farhad's death, her grief was great. As time passed, she mourned more deeply still, for she understood how true Farhad had been. And she caused a dome to be built over his grave as a place of pilgrimage for faithful lovers. For his part, Khosrow was so tortured with remorse that he did not know a moment's peace. At last he sent a letter to Shirin, lamenting Farhad's fate and soothing her sorrow by reminding her that no one is immortal. Shirin joyfully kissed the letter in three places, and pondered every word. But soon she turned from Khosrow, knowing in her heart that he had crafted the destruction of Farhad.
Now it happened, shortly afterward, that the king's consort Maryam became ill and died. Khosrow wore robes of black and withdrew from his court, but he mourned only for display. In secret he rejoiced; no longer was he bound by his promise to the emperor of Byzantium. Shirin mourned for the princess for the time prescribed, for such was the duty of everyone in the land, but after a long while sent a reply to Khosrow's letter. Gently she reminded the king that there is good and bad in life, weddings and deaths, and now that Maryam was dead, there would be other brides for him. Khosrow, she tenderly wrote, should overcome his grief and take another wife, whereupon Khosrow sent a messenger to tell Shirin that he would marry her at last.
KHOSROW & FARHAD
King Khosrow's Monologue from Shirin (2008), directed by Abbas Kiarostami
Your name is endangering our glory, Farhad. You made your geometry an art admired by all, and I didn't say anything. You fell in love with the love of my life, your song was chanted by all and I didn't say anything. You were wandering around singing your love for Shirin, your voice filled the plains and the mountains and I didn't say anything. You got on your knees in front of me, King of Persia, Khosrow Parviz, but praised her, and I didn't say anything.
But what is this new feat? Taking Shirin and her horse on your shoulders, wandering around town and leaving the passers-by astonished? I have to wash away this disgrace. Khosrow will save his honour in the fairest way—
—It's not a battle between a king and his subject, but between lovers. One will live and one will perish. The one who wins is the cruel-hearted one who wears the tough armour of rancour and wields the bitter sword of vengeance.
From the Seattle Art Museum's description of an 18th century Persian miniature painting depicting Farhad carving Shirin's face into stone
An obstacle to the happiness of the star-crossed lovers Khosrow and Shirin was Farhad, a stonemason, who upon seeing the beautiful Shirin from afar fell in love with her. The news of his love reached Khosrow, by now married to Shirin, and he decided to test Farhad's love with an impossible task: he promised Farhad he could have Shirin if he could tunnel a path through Mount Bisotun to bring milk for Shirin's bath.
Farhad undertook the task with great zeal and alarmed Khosrow when he came close to completing it. Khosrow crushed Farhad's hopes of winning the love of the princess by telling him that Shirin was dead. Devastated and heartbroken, Farhad plunged his own axe into his head and died.
Before Farhad undertook the challenge to tunnel through Mount Bisotun, he carved a portrait of his beloved. In one version of the tale he actually carved her likeness into the mountain so that he could see her face every day. In the miniature painting displayed at the Seattle Art Museum, however, he creates a freestanding portrait of Shirin, working intently in a garden setting, with his stone-carving tools scattered on the ground around him. This image probably does not reflect artistic practice in an accurate way. The scene's composition, however, helps to emphasize the physical closeness of the sculptor to the object of his devotion— and the care and attention to detail lavished on the portrait serve as a substitute for Farhad's unattainable love.
The video game studio Ice-Pick Lodge may only be a decade old, but its history reaches back hundreds of years. Its founders could, like generations of Russian geniuses before them, dedicate their efforts to literature or theater— yet instead they chose what they believe will be the great art form of the 21st century.
...They chose video games.
For ten years they have been creating video games unlike anything else. They have a written manifesto that they follow unrelentingly, despite making them jaded and destitute. They summon their strength from the generations of artists in their country who have previously traveled down the same road. They see themselves as artists exploring a new type of media, worthy its position beside film, literature, music, painting and architecture.
Their uncompromising attitude has alienated them completely from the rest of the gaming world. Publishers recoil from hearing their name. Critics are confused by everything they create. Gamers take detours around their dark, melancholic creations.
...but first, I first have to talk about the most astounding game I've ever played.
What makes Ice-Pick Lodge so unique is the fact that they succeeded in manifesting their vision. They triumphed where so many others fell short.
And they did it on the first goddamn try.
No religious significance. The Cathedral was Farkhad and the Kains' attempt to probe the mystical connection between space and time, in the hope of creating a structure inside which time would behave strangely. They succeeded. The most important thing in the Cathedral is the gigantic hourglass. This is what makes it a key building in the game—time being one of its key driving forces.
It was Farkhad who built the Cathedral. Not the Stamatins. Farkhad’s was a "horizontal" architecture to the Stamatins' "vertical" one. He believed that a house that would fulfill Simon Kain’s objective should not be a gravity-defying tower like the Polyhedron— on the contrary, it must provide grounding and roots.
Peter Stamatin: We had him buried under a fictitious name— a tribute to a celebrated architect of old, so there’s some consolation for him, at least… They say he fell down from a great height and broke his neck. That’s how he died. I’ve also heard a rumor that he got lethally intoxicated with bad twyrine…
Peter Stamatin: I wonder how long my tower will hold. I wonder if Farkhad forgave me... if Brother is angry with me... I wonder about many things.
Haruspex: Who is Farkhad?
Peter Stamatin: A talented corpse. A capable architect, though far below my league. He built the Cathedral.
Haruspex: I remember his grave in the Cemetery. The one with the eye.
Peter Stamatin: My brother and I built it. Killed him ourselves, buried him ourselves.
Maria Kaina: Sometimes, stone seems useless. Anything is better than stone. Wax, silk, glass... Stone is for the tone-deaf. But occasionally, it shines— even in this crude configuration...
Victor Kain: Do you know what our Cathedral is for?
Haruspex: No one knows what the Kains' creations are for. The Polyhedron, the Cathedral, those dilapidated stairs... Do you even know yourself?
Victor Kain: It produces time.
Haruspex: Like trees produce wind?
Victor Kain: Great question. You're an astute man, Doctor Burakh... Just like your father. Time is more complicated than we think. We perceive it as homogenous, uniform, and continuous. The key word being "perceive."
Haruspex: Is our perception wrong?
Victor Kain: There was a time when people believed the Sun rotated around an immobile Earth. It was obvious, wasn't it? Only, our eyes deceived us. The same is true for time. It has many uncharted pores.
Haruspex: Heliocentrism was discovered in ancient times.
Victor Kain: I never claimed otherwise. I was just illustrating my belief that human perception is limited. The poverty of our mind skews much in our eyes. Fortunately, we can overcome it.
Haruspex: By building cathedrals?
Victor Kain: Have you noticed how many clocks there are in the Town?
Haruspex: Yeah. All of them similar, too. A mass-produced shipment from the outside world?
Victor Kain: All of these clocks are small Cathedrals. They don't measure time; they weave it. Time coils into loops beside them. Have you noticed? Like a hive. A queen makes larvae. Worker bees cradle, transport, and manage them. The Cathedral produces time. The clocks distribute it.
Haruspex: If that was true, one could bargain with time. But I'm always running short on time, always late...
Victor Kain: These clocks are the best I've ever done for our town.
Voronika Croy: You can't act death. The fact of it has nothing to do with seeing it happen — it's not gasps and blood and falling about — that isn't what makes it death. It's just a man failing to reappear, that's all — now you see him, now you don't, that's the only thing that's real.
Georgiy Kain: Everything is connected. Woven together, it forms a pattern in the great design. A human weaver who makes new connections cannot be ended by death.
The original Russian title of Pathologic 1 is ‘Мор. Утопия’. A direct translation of this is into English ‘Plague/More: Utopia’, which is a pun on the Russian word for plague and the 1516 book Utopia by Thomas More.
Within the title, there is already a sense of what the game is about: Plagues, and utopias. However, it isn’t that they are in perfect opposition of eachother, or that this is the whole story. The title itself is a clever, intertwined pun, and the game carries that complex and conjoined nature throughout its story. There is a richness that is lost when Utopias and human suffering are viewed in isolation. In fact, within the context of this story, it might not be possible for them to exist by themselves. One always begets the other. They are trapped in a perpetual equilibrium.
In the game, there are three major factions that the player can side with: The Termites, the Humbles, and the Utopians. Though the player is free to choose who they side with, which in turn affects their approach to "defeating" the plague that has struck the unusual town they've found themselves themselves in, the three playable characters are initially entrusted with taking care of the Bound (adherents) of one particular faction. The Haruspex is associated with the Termites, the Changeling is associated with the Humbles, and the Bachelor is associated with the Utopians.
The Utopian faction stands out for being named after the very title of the game. However, just like the clever nature of the title, their connection to the concept of a Utopia is not as straightforward as it would seem. Most of them are interested in transcendence, immortality, and boundary-breaking. They study (or even become) stories, ideologies, mechanisms, and memory in order to escape the cyclical confines of the game. If a Utopia is a wonderful but seemingly unobtainable society, then the Utopians are unified by wonderful but seemingly unobtainable goals.
The Kain family passes down the memory and wisdom of their beloved deceased through architectural or bodily vessels– that is, through buildings like the Polyhedron, or the Crucible, or even themselves. The theatre director Mark Immortell stages plays that are as much of an interpretation of the world as they are the world itself. Eva Yan is a young woman who earnestly believes in miracles. Though not always considered a Utopian (a critical fact), Vlad the Younger is optimistic that he can interrupt the cycle of abuse that the indigenous population of the Town have faced at the hands of his family, thus ushering in a new era.
This leaves us with the three remaining Utopians, who are the final subjects of this thesis work: The architects Peter and Andrey Stamatin, as well as one of the playable characters, the Bachelor of Medicine Daniil Dankovsky. Among the Utopians, they exemplify some of the most pure– but also the most selfish and inward-spiralling– aspects of people who search for some kind of transcendence.
The other Utopians are doing relatively well at the start of the game, but these three begin at a more disadvantaged position. The Thanatica, Daniil’s laboratory where he studies death in the hopes of defeating it, has been shut down by The Powers That Be. He has travelled to a town out in the Russian steppe in the hopes of meeting with a man who might be able to save his research, and in turn, his life. After the construction of the Polyhedron, Peter has become deeply depressed, leading him to become a habitual drinker. His brother Andrey has been living a life of debauchery and crime. Neither of the brothers have done substantial architectural work ever since they completed the Polyhedron for the Kains. The "unsolved" murder of an architectural colleague— posthumously named Farkhad— has also strained the brothers' relationship for years.
Spiritual enlightenment is not their primary concern at this point. Self preservation is more like it. Despite this, the three of them– along with Maria Kaina– are framed as the champions and torchbearers of the Utopian cause. Daniil’s actions as the player character can lead the faction to victory. The Stamatins are slated to build the Utopian settlement across the river once the plague is defeated. Maria will fully come into her role as a Mistress, a title given to women from the ruling families that can make miracles happen. In doing so, she will be able to imbue the town on the other side of the river with magic.
This is a heavy burden to bear. All of these characters voice a certain anxiety about being able to fulfill their roles, or even to survive the plague that has struck the town. Notably, Daniil will attempt to flee the town with the Stamatins early on.
Maria is bound to the Town by duty to her family, love for her deceased mother, and her own conviction. The Stamatins and Daniil are not. All three of them are outsiders to the Town, having hailed from another vaguely named place called the Capital. Daniil and Andrey had been acquaintances during their time at school, and have a level of respect for eachother. The Stamatins are used to being on the run, and it looks like Daniil will have to get used to it as well. Peter has become overly attached to his magnum opus, the Polyhedron, but even he admits that he would like to be free of it.
Being champions of the Utopian cause does not mean they swear undying loyalty to the rest of the people in the faction. In fact, Peter says he does not see eye to eye with the Kains, and is solely focused on the preservation of the Polyhedron, or, in other words, his capacity to make art. Andrey is concerned with the safety of his brother above everything else. Daniil is called out for only wanting to preserve the Polyhedron out of respect for its creators, or for the sake of his career. All in all, running seems like the best choice.
The three of them plan to escape on a freight train. It doesn’t pan out. Their ploy gets out, and fate brings them back to the Town.
What would they have done if they escaped, though? Live a quiet, unassuming life, hiding away from The Powers That Be? Settle down, change their names, choose a middling profession, grow old, and die? It’s unlikely. At their core, they’re uncompromisingly ambitious people who like to surround themselves with a similarly passionate crowd. The Utopians of the Town are just that, and they’ll be hard-pressed to find a group of people like this anywhere else.
So, a certain level of suffering and sacrifice always comes with trying to break new ground. In an extraordinary situation, humans must become superhuman in order to overcome the obstacles they face. They meet as much resistance from society as they do from the natural world. But after all is said and done, what happens to them? What happens when the dust settles, and it turns out they’ve succeeded? Do the Utopians actually get to enjoy being the demiurges of a magical Utopia?
In a way, this is irrelevant. This is a story whose vitality is contingent on the drama that happens within it, as many stories are. Its purpose is not to settle the debate of who should inherit the earth and how that will look like. Rather, it’s to show us a problem more fully. We never see the town on the other side of the river. Daniil will never defeat death. Peter’s Polyhedron will never be populated by his own dreams and fantasies. Andrey may never mend his relationship with his brother. This is by design.
They don’t have to take this in stride, either. Peter is perpetually tormented by the legacy of the Polyhedron, and attempts to take his own life by the end of the game. Daniil contemplates suicide as well after finding out that he doesn't exist at all— at least, not as a living, breathing human, as opposed to a doll or playable character. Andrey constantly endangers his life for Peter, all the while struggling to face the role he plays in creating and exacerbating his brother’s problems.
They’re imperfect people, with imperfect goals, and imperfect relationships. They make mistakes. They have regrets. They’re selfish, or egotistical, or cowardly, or just downright unlikeable. Their failure is almost guaranteed, and they don’t take it well. All of this make their moments of bravery and closeness that much more significant.
Just like how Simon Kain was never real– perhaps instead an ancestor from years and years ago being kept alive in the form of the epistemology or ideology of Utopianism– Farkhad was never real either. There was never a third Oneirotect, or a murder. Yes, there was a bid to build a structure that would house Simon’s soul, as well as a city across the Gorkhon river, but this bid was not between the Stamatins and a single person (post-humously) named Farkhad. It was quite literally between the Stamatins and all of architectural tradition.
Andrey and Peter Stamatin represent succeeding, or building upon, the past. However, their crowning accomplishment– the Polyhedron– is a structure that could never be built. A structure born of its own blueprints. A structure that not just symbolizes, but truly is made up of, gateways and dreams. A structure that contains Simon’s immortal soul– a soul that never belonged to a human, but rather an ideology. The Polyhedron is an impossible structure, housing an impossible soul, built-but-not-really-built in the nested space of dialogue within a play within a kids’ morbid game within a real videogame. Many things in Pathologic, even the world itself, point to something larger.
This is especially relevant for everyone who is dead before the game begins. Characters like Simon Kain, Victoria Olgimskaya, Nina Kaina, and Isidor Burakh, are simply explanations for the sandbox. From the start of the game, their very existence is a source of contention.
So, why not extend this logic to the murder of Farkhad? If Farkhad is an epistemology of architecture, then perhaps Andrey likes to let Peter– in delusion– believe that he killed a real human named Farkhad, as to convince Peter that he truly is that talented of an architect. The name they’ve given him is itself a reference to an architect from Persian literature who was tricked into committing suicide before nearly completing an impossible task in the name of love.
So, Peter is watching an architectural shadowplay, and he’s confusing the puppets for the puppeteers. Is he entirely misguided for thinking this, though? In Pathologic, symbolism and reality frequently collapse into themselves to become the same thing. Someone like Nina Kaina can breathe seven generations of history into a doll just by kissing it, just as the player breathes life into the game by immersing themselves in it. So can Peter, who, by ardently believing in the murder of Farkhad, spreads that belief to other characters, and possibly even the player.
Both of the Stamatins have attained their goals and seen a form of the truth through the illusions and beliefs they’re lost in. In Peter’s case, he has overcome architectural, artistic, and even scientific tradition through the initial conception of the Polyhedron, though he frequently conflates it with the murder of Farkhad. In Andrey’s case, he has so fervently rejected earthly constraints that, in the process of piercing the ground with the anchor of the Polyhedron, he’s managed to injure Mother Boddho– the originator and embodiment of Earth in the game– herself. Maybe Peter himself doesn't truly understand all of this, nor does Andrey, but they've both– from opposite ends– managed to kill their creators.
Yuri Avvakumov is an artist, curator, and the mastermind behind the “paper architecture” phenomenon. The term was adopted in the 1980s by a group of young graduates, mainly from the Moscow Institute of Architecture. At a time when Soviet architecture, limited by ideological controls and unfavorable economic conditions, had fallen victim to standardized construction, paper architecture offered freedom of expression. Inspired by the works of Piranesi and the Russian avant-garde, these visionary projects were never intended for realization, and were conceived from the start as drawings.
At the height of perestroika, when many architects – such as Mikhail Belov, Alexander Brodsky, Mikhail Filippov, and Ilya Utkin – focused on their architectural careers, Avvakumov dedicated himself to the paper architecture tradition. He took on the role of participant, architect, and curator in hundreds of exhibitions and twice represented Russia at the Venice Biennale. In 1993, Avvakumov established the “Utopia” foundation, an archive of unrealized projects in Russian architecture.
Julia Аndreychenko: The Russian architecture theorist Alexander Rappaport states that it’s impossible to treat paper architecture as a revivalist or futuristic movement. But in certain projects, specifically Mikhail Filippov’s and yours, there are stylistic references. This raises the question of the time and place in which the work of the 1980s paper architects exists. To what are they referring?
Yuri Avvakumov: You can’t argue with Rappaport. I would suggest that paper architecture existed in a kind of idealistic realm of architecture and culture – in a parallel, utopian world. In this kind of place, the architect is an iconic figure, a worshipper. They can be from the past, like the architect-priest in the case of Brodsky-Utkin, or from the present, like the architect-partisan in Belov’s case. But they are always a secret mason or a liberated bricklayer.
Julia Аndreychenko: Would it make sense to turn paper architecture projects into real constructions?
Yuri Avvakumov: Paper architecture works are “projects of projects.” They are not intended for direct realization but for mediated realization. However, it’s possible to realize any project. When Belov and I were designing a self-erecting burial skyscraper, we had no idea that in 30 years, vertical cemeteries would be built to economize on cityspace.
Julia Аndreychenko: How do you view paper architecture in a historical context? How is it linked to the utopian ideas of 18th-century European architects (Piranesi, Boullée, Ledoux) or the fantasies of Soviet architects in the 1920s (such as those of Leonidov and Chernikhov)?
Yuri Avvakumov: Paper architecture is, in my opinion, more closely connected with “architecture parlante” (speaking architecture) – so let’s add Jean-Jacques Lequeu to your list. All these buildings in the form of ships, housing developments in the form of still lifes, monuments in the form of rivers, bridges in the form of scales, and so on and so forth, are undoubtedly connected to speaking architecture. At the same time, many paper architects had their own individual preferences: Brodsky and Utkin liked Piranesi; Bush, Khomyakov, and Podyapolsky liked Tessenow and Shpeer; I liked Tatlin and Melnikov.
Julia Аndreychenko: You have said that you practise daydreaming as a professional activity– like an architect– but are not a dilettante dreamer. What are you doing at the moment, and how has your experience creating projects on paper influenced your work?
Yuri Avvakumov: My most important project at the moment is the reconstruction of the Golitsyn estate on Volkhonka Street. At the request of the State Museum of Fine Arts, the space will be a gallery for the former museum of new Western art, with the collections of the Moscow merchants Sergei Shchukin and Ivan Morozov.
Yuri Avvakumov: And— about experience and work… No, it’s better to talk about breathing. You resuscitate a drowning person by filling his lungs with air: mouth-to-mouth, lung-to-lung, form-to-form, inhale-exhale. That’s often how project design works, through copying other people’s forms and accepting outside help. And then there are people who just breathe. Their breath doesn’t take on forms; although, if need be, it can blow up a child’s balloon or save a drowning person. Paper architecture is unrestricted breathing.
Peter Stamatin: I see the reflection of my epiphanies in your eyes. Who are you, my long-awaited guest?
Bachelor: What do you mean by that?
Peter Stamatin: This means that the man standing before me is able to see what others cannot. My name is Peter and I have built quite a few things upon this stone already. Are you a geometrician?
Bachelor: I'm a bachelor of medicine, but I love mechanics and I used to love math.
Peter Stamatin: So, you are capable of love too... That's truly beautiful. Many in this town are in love, but none of them are loving... Oh, I'm talking drivel.
Committee Clerk: I think the Plague is all due to the Polyhedron. That gravity-defying tower the children play in.
Bachelor: An impressive attempt to defy the law of gravity.
Committee Clerk: History already knows an example of people trying to erect an impossible tower. It ended in tragedy.
Bachelor: However, your edifice looks complete.
Committee Clerk: Do you believe in God, Bachelor?
Bachelor: What an unexpected twist of the conversation! Do you believe the epidemic to be a punishment from God?
Committee Clerk: There's only one thing I'm certain of. If this was an ordinary, common-as-blackberries town, there'd be no outbreak. Or it'd have been something equally common and ordinary, like cholera or pox.
Peter Stamatin: You saved my life, Daniil. Thank you. I'll put it to good use; you won't regret it.
Bachelor: What are you going to do with your life? Tell me.
Peter Stamatin: Here's what's going to happen. The part of the town on this bank of the river will be deserted. The people who will have found shelter in the specular cocoon will become its new inhabitants.
Bachelor: What are you going to build?
Peter Stamatin: My brother and I will build the whole town. The Cold Hall will look like a mudpie in a sandbox compared to it. I've designed it in my mind already.
Bachelor: Really? Tell me.
Peter Stamatin: I told you already of the idea to construct a building with variable density... or was it someone else?
Peter Stamatin: …but there is also a knot-house, there is a house that erupts from itself– an inside-out-house, so to speak, but without the 'inside' part... an encircled suburb that is at war with the centre, a bridge suburb... And, of course, a growing house that changes every week...
Bachelor: How could you possibly invent all that? Are you really going to build all of those things?
Peter Stamatin: That was an effulgent epiphany, a true eureka moment. My brother and I have planned the space already. We have laid roads, placed suburbs and districts... And when we saw the whole thing and realized how much energy was hiding in it... You know, we exchanged glances. It will rival the cities of the greatest ancient civilizations!
Bachelor: That town of yours will only exist on paper... Like with the Polyhedron, it will turn into a full-sized model of itself– made of its own designs...
Peter Stamatin: You're wrong. But why should I prove anything to you? Time will tell.
Bachelor: All right. I hope you’ll stop sinking in the green whirlpool. The bottle is pulling you to the bottom already. There is neither warmth nor light there.
In the game’s Steppe language, Udurgh means ‘a body that contains a world.’ Early on, the player is entrusted with defining who, or what, the Udurgh is. Two candidates are Simon Kain and the Polyhedron. Simon is at one point described as a self contained universe who had his own laws. I bring him up as this description is wonderfully succinct, and can be extended to the Polyhedron, where it becomes more complex.
The Polyhedron is described as an inward-facing, multidimensional space where dreams and the impossible come true. At least, this is how Peter and the kids who have been in the Polyhedron describe it. The Townsfolk see it as being made out of mirrors, and the player sees it as being made out its own schematics. This could mean that the Polyhedron is reflecting itself, the Town, the dreams of children, and even the fabric of game, all at once. Essentially, the Polyhedron is an allegory for the game itself. It's art as a whole. It’s a body that contains a world.
It can also be described as a one way mirror. You can look into the game through it, but the game cannot look out, lest the imagination and immersion is covalent between the non-metaobserver and the metaobserver. The Townsfolk inside of the game see it as a mirror as they look inside-out, while the player sees schematics as they look outside-in. Children, however, dont see walls at all as they are, in essence, trapped inside of the glass. That is to say, they are between the game and us, since the children playing the sandbox game at the start of Pathologic 1 are our gateway into the game. They are the dreaming mechanism.
Inside the metaworld of art, ideas metastasize and solidify as they do. You, however, can look into that shapeless metaspace. Observing the Polyhedron, it's a magically-flying tower built of its own blueprints– its code, if you will. If you look at a game in a physical form, it is no more than code and numbers. Perhaps a reflective, prism-like CD... It's too perfect to be a coincidence!
The Polyhedron is nothing but blueprints. A game is nothing but assets and code. Put in the right space, with the right person, however, it reflects inside of itself, and becomes a metaspace that is infinitely large.
My claim that there is a deep relationship between the essence of otaku culture and postmodern social structure is not particularly new. The points in this text have already been identified as postmodern characteristics of otaku culture.
One such point is the existence of derivative works. Here I use the phrase “derivative works” as a general term for the largely eroticized rereading and reproduction of original manga, anime, and games sold in the form of fanzines, fan games, fan figures, and the like. They are vigorously bought and sold mainly in the Comic Market (which meets twice a year in Tokyo), but also through countless small-scale exhibits held on the national level, and over the Internet. Founded by a base of amateurs, the market, where numerous copies circulate and a great number of professional authors get their start, formed the nucleus of otaku culture both quantitatively and qualitatively over the past twenty years. If we fail to consider the derivative works of amateurs in favor of only the commercially manufactured projects and products, we will be unable to grasp the trends of otaku culture.
This prominence of derivative works is considered a postmodern characteristic because the high value otaku place on such products is extremely close to the future of the culture industry as envisioned by French sociologist Jean Baudrillard. Baudrillard predicts that in postmodern society the distinction between original products and commodities and their copies weakens, while an interim form called the simulacrum, which is neither original nor copy, becomes dominant. The discernment of value by otaku, who consume the original and the parody with equal vigor, certainly seems to move at the level of simulacra where there are no originals and no copies.
Furthermore, that transformation does not end with consumers. There have been many cases recently of best-selling authors who themselves produce and sell fanzines derivative of their own commercial products. For instance, it is well known that the original creator of Sailor Moon released products in the Comic Market. And, though they are not strictly derivative works, the company that produces Evangelion itself sells much software that parodies the source. Here the distinctions between original and copy have already vanished even for the producer.
Moreover, from the beginning the sense of realism in otaku genres has been weak; in many cases, even original works create worlds through citation and imitation of previous works. Without reference to the real world, the original is produced as a simulacrum of preceding works from the start, and in turn the simulacrum of that simulacrum is propagated by fan activities and consumed voraciously. In other words, irrespective of their having been created by an author (in the modern sense), the products of otaku culture are born into a chain of infinite imitations and piracy.
Mark Immortell: Play-acting is fuller than reality... since it's smaller.
There are the events taking place in the town, which are real. And there is their stage adaptation, which is also real. There are the actors who play the protagonists and reenact the events of their lives (since upon loading, you’re reliving that short—or not so short—stretch of their deathbound journey).
The actor walks out into the town, looking for inspiration, “walking the hero’s paths”.
And there’s a fluid ambiguity in not having a clear way of telling who you are right now: the real Haruspex or Bachelor, living his life, about to die— or an actor playing his part and thus getting a chance to go back to the past?
The earliest dramatic version of the Leopold and Loeb story is also the one farthest removed from the facts of the actual case, and although it was an English play with English characters, it has a significant impact on the representation of the homicidal homosexual in America. The playwright Patrick Hamilton denied that he had heard of the infamous American murder when he wrote his three-act melodramatic thriller Rope, retitled Rope's End for its American production in 1929, just five years after the Leopold and Loeb case. Nevertheless, nearly every drama critic dismissed Hamilton's disclaimer and interpreted the play as "inspired by" Leopold and Loeb. Rope takes place over the course of a single evening and is set entirely in a posh Mayfair flat shared by two Oxford undergraduates, Brandon and Granillo. To prove their Nietzschean superiority and experience the sheer thrill of it, they strangle their classmate Ronald Kently, put his body in a wooden chest, then invite Ronald's friends and family over for a party, serving food and drinks from their chest. One of the guests, however, is Rupert Cadell, the boys' former housemaster, and he grows increasingly suspicious of foul play, piecing together the clues until he confronts the killers and exposes their crime. The play is not a whodunit, since the audience knows the crime and the killers from the start. Rather, the tension of the play concerns whether the killers will get away with it or whether Rupert the amateur detective can find out the truth.
It should come as no surprise that the text of Hamilton's play makes no direct reference to any sexual relationship between the two killers. The Lord Chamberlain maintained the prohibition of the depiction of homosexuality on the British stage, and in 1927 the New York legislature had introduced the Wales Padlock Law, which prohibited "depicting or dealing with the subject of sex degeneracy or sex perversion." The young killers' sexual relationship is an unspoken secret, one constructed only by insinuation, merely hinting at a physical intimacy between the two boys. The first time we see them in full light, Brandon puts his arm around Granillo as he lights his cigarette from the other boy's batch, making this postmurder cigarette seem very much like a postcoital cigarette. As Alan Sinfeld has noted, Hamilton also creates the killers as a masculine/feminine couple. Brandon is blond, athletic, and "paternal", and will become more assertive and threatening as the play progresses. Granillo is dark, slim, and courteous, and, in stereotypically Spanish fashion (i.e., as someone from an "intemperate" country), he will become more hysterical as the play progresses, even emitting falsetto screams when he is caught.
Like Rupert, the audience can search for clues. Isn't Granillo rather effeminate? Doesn't Brandon stand too close to him? Isn't there something they are hiding from us about their relationship? We search for clues to ascertain their guilt, but we cannot know for sure. In a world where homosexuality is criminalized and cannot be directly acknowledged onstage, the violent act of murder stands in for the sexual act, merging to become a "sex crime" made up of a sexual murder and a murderous sexuality. Both consist of two men together performing an intimate and pleasurable physical act that they must keep secret within the privacy of their home. The conspiracy of criminals mirrors the conspiracy of secret lovers. This point was made extravagantly clear in a 1994 London revival of the stage play. The director, Keith Baxter, staged an opening tableau featuring three naked men (the murderers and their victim) sprawled by the chest. Has there been a murder or an orgy? Is there a difference? In either case, Brandon and Granillo are a couple with a secret, hoping no one will find out the criminal act they have committed together.
Interestingly, and perhaps most surprisingly to those familiar only with Alfred Hitchcock's 1948 film adaptation of Rope, the queerest character in the play is the starring role, the amateur detective-hero Rupert Cadell. This poet, who is also a veteran of the Great War, is, according to the playwright's character description, "foppish, affected, [and] verges on effeminacy", sprouting quips in the Wildean manner and professing a complete disdain for traditional moral standards, as well as for the mawkishness of heterosexual wooing. New York critic Robert Littell praised Ernest Milton, who received top billing in the role on both sides of the Atlantic, for masterfully presenting "a warped orchid of an effeminate Oxford decadent." Rupert is very much coded as queer in the mold of Oscar Wilde, the most famous "effeminate decadent" to ever come out of Britain. But what does the cynical, perfumed poet have to do with our homicidal homosexuals? In Hamilton's play, everything. Brandon and Granillo have learned their moral, ethical, and aesthetic philosophies from Rupert, and the playwright both figuratively and literally places the boys' murder at Rupter's feet. Upon discovering the corpse of Ronald, Rupert is confronted with the results of his freethinking philosophies, and, like Dr. Frankenstein, he is forced to reckon with the monstrosity that he has created.
The decadent poet, thrust into the role of criminal detective and enforcer of justice, shreds his world-weary pose to reveal a firm moral conscience. Hamilton creates a telling theatrical metaphor for this transformation when Rupert unsheathes his walking cane, previously a symbol of his effeteness and lameness, to reveal a pointed metal sword, a phallic symbol of strength and justice, with which he uses to hold the boys at bay. In order to claim this new role, Rupert must atone and reform, and he does so by destroying his malformed progeny, renouncing his previous teaching, and reestablishing a clear moral order. Using terms like sin and blasphemy, Rupert condemns his former pupils, extols the sancticity of individual life, and places his faith in society's system of justice. As he delivers the play's final words, he predicts what society will do to the boys, sounding no unlike a judge himself, handing them their sentence: "You are going to hang, you swine! Hang!—both of you!—hang!". In Hitchcock's film version, Rupert is a dry, intellectual, American oddball rather than a flamboyant English decadent, and the role is further normalized by the star persona of Jimmy Stewart. Bringing his "average guy" charm to the role, Stewart re-created Rupert as a normative (and presumably heterosexual) hero who contains and condemns queerness in order to preserve the moral order.
Rope, then, allows for its audience to enjoy the homophobic fantasy of eliminating homosexuality. Rupert renounces his decadent morality, while Brandon and Granillo are condemned to die. Thus Rope offers a cleaner, less complex fantasy version of the Leopold and Loeb case. Since the narrative is constructed through the conventions of detective fiction, the detective-hero's success in exposing the crime and capturing the criminals is the end of the story. The detective's fantasy of justice has no room for the lawyers' arguments or the judge's sentencing; it presumes eye-for-an-eye retribution, from the society of "normal" people. This fantasy avoid the seemingly outrageous possibility that Brandon and Graniilo might somehow escape the death penalty and eventually find a place in society. But justice is not as simple as this melodramatic thriller would have it, especially when it comes to condemning the homicidal homosexual. In the real world, Judge Caverly sentence Leopold and Loeb to life in prison, and Leopold earned parole in 1958. Some historians believe that he achieved his freedom thanks in part to the novelist and playwright Meyer Levin, who argued for a different understanding of the link between homosexuality and criminality.
By the time further retellings of the Leopold and Loeb case appeared on stage, several events had occurred that would influence and radically reshape new versions of the story. During the interim, the Supreme Court struck down stage censorship, the Stonewall Riots gave a major push to the modern gay rights movement, Leopold died, and the American Psychiatric Association decided that homosexuality should no longer be classified as a mental disorder, and a few states began to repeal their sodomy laws. Furthermore, our culture "discovered" the existence of gay plays, gay films, and (most stunningly) gay audiences. All of these events created an atmosphere in which finally there could be a dramatic retelling of the Leopold and Loeb case that (1) used people's real names, (2) did not have to fear censorship, (3) could consider homosexuality as something other than a sinister crime or pathetic mental illness, and (4) did not presume the heterosexuality of the audience. Presented early in the century as ruthless killers whom the audience is encouraged to condemn then in midcentury as juvenile delinquents whom the audience is encouraged to pity, in recent decades Leopold and Loeb have been presented as romantic lovers with whom the audience is encouraged to spot in the narrative. In these later narratives, Leopold and Loeb are the stars of their own story, with no detective, lawyer, or would-be girlfriend to direct the audience's response. Some versions are even deconstructions of the artistic medium and lineage of this story.
Different narrative elements may inspire different reactions, depending on whether the narrative foregrounds "positive" qualities (e.g., romantic longing) or "negative" qualities (e.g., horrific violence). Audiences can also choose to focus more on the positive or the negative, creating their own understanding about the guilt or innocence of the characters. An audience member's verdict may also depend on how they interpret "the crime", which functions not just literally but also emblematically. Leopold and Loeb murdered Bobby Franks, but they are on trial for much more than that. A contemporary audience of Rope, then, might view the murderers as villains to be condemned, victims to be pitied, and lovers who can be spotted or identified with, all at once.
A Pathologic fanwork by Judas Salieri.
Loosely based on Rope,
"Essentially... What if Farkhad
still in the Capital, and the Bachelor
There is a large wooden chest in the center of the stage, the kind used to store books or sheets— reminiscent of a coffin. Two brass candelabra sit on top. At the back, a high table full of liquor bottles and three glasses. Next to it, a grandfather clock stained with blood.
The room is dark. ANDREY lights a match, and with it the two candelabra. He is perfectly calm. The growing candlelight reveals the bloodstains on his arms, clothes and face. PETER stands with his back turned.
Peter Stamatin.— You can't hold your liquor nor your tongue.
Andrey Stamatin.— I can hold a knife well enough.
Peter Stamatin.— Did you see his hands?
Andrey Stamatin.— What of them?
Peter Stamatin.— They contorted in a curious way. I could swear he was gripping a pen, trying to note something down. A last impulse to correct us. I bet he disapproved of the angle you chose to stab him.
Andrey Stamatin.— He was a coward. We've done him a favor; cowards embarrass themselves when times change. Now he'll have a chance to retain what's left of his glory. Death has shrouded him; he cannot show fear.
Peter Stamatin.— No… No. I see him clearer than ever. He's still here, waiting for silence.
Andrey Stamatin.— Drink some more to calm your nerves. You'll be drunk when Daniil arrives. I'll do the talking.
The doorbell rings. THE TWINS share an alarmed glance.
Peter Stamatin.— It's not yet midnight. What is he doing here?
Andrey Stamatin.— Damn him! He's always late, and now! Cover the clock and let him in. I'll get rid of these clothes.
ANDREY rushes across the room and exits the stage on the right. PETER takes off his coat and covers the grandfather clock with it.
Peter Stamatin.— Come in!
THE BACHELOR enters from the left. He shakes snow off his coat with his gloves as PETER pours himself a drink.
The Bachelor.— This weather! I'd planned to visit the graveyard, but I couldn't stand the cold. Has Farkhad arrived?
PETER drops his glass. He stares as it crashes against the floor, spilling liquor on his shoes.
Peter Stamatin.— Not yet.
The Bachelor.— Oh... Let me help you.
THE BACHELOR crouches to pick up the broken glass and accidentally cuts himself.
The Bachelor.— Ah, dammit!
Peter Stamatin.— Careful.
PETER kneels next to him, takes the wounded hand and brings it to his mouth.
The Bachelor.— It's only a scratch. Ah, sorry... I stained your sleeve.
PETER freezes. He stares at his sleeve, stands and returns to the bar to wordlessly pour another drink. THE BACHELOR stands too, a little confused.
The Bachelor.— Only three glasses. Did you forget I was coming?
ANDREY reenters the stage from the right, wearing clean clothes. He stops in his tracks, grins brightly and runs to lift THE BACHELOR into his arms.
Andrey Stamatin.— Ah, my dearest friend! You don't know how glad I am to see you.
The Bachelor.— It shows. Can you put me down?
Andrey Stamatin.— Come, come. Have a drink. Tell me about your latest experiment.
He pours the remaining glass full of liquor and hands it to THE BACHELOR.
The Bachelor.— So you did read my letter! Andrey, you have no idea! The properties of matter as affected by death, melting point included. I have measured everything. I got my current headache last Friday.
Andrey Stamatin.— My, Danya, you're in dire need of heartbreak. Find yourself a cold heiress and fall in love with her.
The Bachelor.— Why would I ever search for a Mistress when none is crueler than flesh? Look at me. I am made of blood and shame in a shape I did not choose.
Andrey Stamatin.— You and your tragedies. Are you not in awe? Is it not a miracle that you can be in so much pain and not bear a single wound? Body, betray me— I will love you anyways.
The Bachelor.— Easy for you to say.
Andrey Stamatin.— How so?
The Bachelor.— Don't tease me. You're an Apollo.
Andrey Stamatin.— A self-made one. A graft chimera. I beheaded the Tree of Knowledge and replaced its fruit with hemlock flowers. And you're my co-author, don't forget. If you envy me, forge yourself as you did me.
The Bachelor.— You mistake my affliction. The only cure is immortality. No, I feel no urge to chase a beauty that shall pass.
Andrey Stamatin.— Nonsense. What good is anything that doesn't corrupt? There are scars on me, yes! Life will change you long before death does, and with more success! It has punched my teeth out, it has broken my ribs and filled my cup with vices. Boy, am I grateful!
The Bachelor.— I cannot share your taste for change. These hands will tremble. These eyes will blur. These limbs will ache and rot. They will all be dust. I would mock whoever desired them. A body… Isn't that what I lay on my dissecting table? Not a person, but a body. I will do everything in my hand not to become a voiceless corpse, stripped of everything but its shape, allowed as much dignity as unfamiliar gazes care to grant me. Forgotten in a wooden box like an old toy… who would understand me then?
Andrey Stamatin.— I've always loved your inability to aim low.
Peter Stamatin.— You digress. We'll find no love in flesh, nor in death.
The Bachelor.— Peter, are you alright? You're trembling.
The clock strikes twelve. The sound reverberates and swallows the room. PETER throws the table to the floor, shattering everything on it. THE BACHELOR jumps in place. ANDREY pulls out his cigarette case and puts one in his mouth.
Andrey Stamatin.— Ah, to Hell with everything.
Peter Stamatin.— A voiceless corpse… You're blind. Is the Colosseum a voiceless corpse? Would you step into the Great Pyramid and feel nothing but walls around you? Do the unseen marvels of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon not take shape in your mind? Do you not weep for the Pharos of Alexandria, crowned with fire and mirrors?
The Bachelor.— (taking a step closer, unsure) Peter…
Andrey Stamatin.— I upset him earlier. Pay it no mind.
Peter Stamatin.— I can speak for myself!
The Bachelor.— Why did you cover the clock?
Peter Stamatin.— Andrey proposed an interesting idea: that murder is a natural instinct present in all living beings.
The Bachelor.— I find it reasonable.
Peter Stamatin.— So did I.
Andrey Stamatin.— Peter.
Peter Stamatin.— Farkhad differed.
A haunting silence takes place. PETER turns towards the light. He crosses the room, steps between the two other men and places a hand on the wooden chest.
Peter Stamatin.— He was of the opinion that only some beings possess a killing instinct and thus the right to succumb to it, while others lack both the will and the ability. He used us as an example, as he tends to do.
The Bachelor.— When did this happen?
Peter Stamatin.— He thought we illustrated his point beautifully. That my hands could never wound because for that they would have to touch the world, while Andrey warms his own with the blood of his enemies. The reckless fool… I don't have two hands. I have four.
The Bachelor.— What are you saying?!
Andrey Stamatin.— Don't make a mistake, Danya.
The Bachelor.— This is ridiculous. I'm leaving.
ANDREY blocks his path. THE BACHELOR aims his gun at him.
Andrey Stamatin.— Are you going to shoot? Do you have what it takes?
The Bachelor.— Let me through. I don't want to be involved. I have seen nothing.
Peter Stamatin.— You misunderstand. Put away that gun. Do you believe you have reasons to fear us?
The Bachelor.— I am aiming at your heart. Step aside.
Andrey Stamatin.— Now you know; you share our sin. I only regret you weren't here when we ended him.
He steps closer, until the barrel of the gun touches his chest, and lifts his hand to THE BACHELOR's face.
Andrey Stamatin.— Is that not the true reason of your anger? That we didn't wait for you?
The Bachelor.— You devil…
PETER approaches them, standing at THE BACHELOR's back.
Peter Stamatin.— Listen. Listen carefully.
ANDREY holds THE BACHELOR's face in his hands. THE BACHELOR clenches his eyes shut.
Peter Stamatin.— Do you not feel my touch?
The Bachelor.— I do.
Peter Stamatin.— Are these not my hands? Look at me. Are these not my eyes?
THE BACHELOR opens his eyes and stares into ANDREY's.
Peter Stamatin.— There you are.
The Bachelor.— Your games will be the end of me.
Peter Stamatin.— You can only lose. Does that comfort you?
THE BACHELOR escapes their grip and turns his back on the audience. He's agitated.
The Bachelor.— So you killed him to prove him wrong?
Peter Stamatin.— I killed him because he refused to understand me. It was a matter of time. We were unable to respect each other, yet destined to share the world. Heavenly bodies dance and collide; one swallows the other. In making the old world die by my hands, I have bonded us forever. Wherever I go, he will follow.
The Bachelor.— You fought on the side of my enemy tonight. Should I forgive you?
Peter Stamatin.— Forgive me if you must. I would rather repay you.
The Bachelor.— How?
Peter Stamatin.— A body this fresh and this cheap is a rare find, is it not? Measure his heart. Clean his bones and sew them together. Display them in your Thanatica, where the living can learn from them. Find a use for the body, let the soul live in our conscience.
The Bachelor.— I'll take it off your hands.
THE BACHELOR turns towards the audience. He approaches the chest. He lifts the candelabra, one in each hand. THE TWINS stand at his sides and take one each. THE BACHELOR begins to open the chest —but his resolve fails him and he leans on it, shaking.
The Twins.— What's wrong?
The Bachelor.— He loved you.
The Twins.— You love us more.
The Bachelor.— I do.
Andrey Stamatin.— Take him. Cut him open.
Peter Stamatin.— Unseam the bastard.
The Bachelor.— Let me catch my breath! How do I keep being tempted into your criminal perversions?
Andrey Stamatin.— You must admit it never requires much tempting.
The Bachelor.— I speak boldly in theory and you punish me by putting it in practice. Watch. Here in this box lay humanity's worst fears. Will I unleash them for you?
Peter Stamatin.— Do as you wish. The blood is spilt.
Andrey Stamatin.— Good friends should die in each other's company.
The Bachelor.— If I am to play this wretched part, it's only to remain on your side.
Peter Stamatin.— We'll carry him together. Time flies for the wicked.
Andrey Stamatin.— When the clock strikes again, we lift the chest.
The Bachelor.— So be it... So be it. Fate be kind to us all.
THE TWINS blow out the candles. The clock strikes one.
In summary: Khosrow only falls for Shirin because of the painter’s description, and Shirin only falls for Khosrow because of the painter’s paintings. In an attempt to simplify the story, many subsequent authors focus only on the Farhad subplot, and the events are moved around to more closely correspond to what we would today recognise as a romance: star-cross’d lovers from different socioeconomic backgrounds, difficult tasks to be performed to win the hand of the beloved followed by a tragic death due to evil rumours and subsequent miscommunication / overreaction. You know the drill.
As I narrate the story, omitting some of the more nonsensical elements and adding new details, the tale of Shirin and Farhad and Khosrow mutates anew— as it always did and as it will keep on doing.
This project looks at the character Farhad from Persian literature.
Specifically, it looks at how his death and narrative significance has evolved as the story that he is a part of has been adapted to different cultures, time periods, and mediums.
You can view the process book for this project here.