A SHAMAN’S CURSE or OF IDEAS, Leila Samarrai


Dedicated to Plato

In medias res

And so, the two of us went to the shamanistic ritual.I was hoping that the ridiculous ritual would succeed. The thought alone was what kept him calm. What a poor wretch my colleague Ignatius is. He told me this very morning: “Lucius, I so very much love writing, but I don’t know how to. If I do not write a masterpiece soon, I will die, my dear friend!” He was lost, exhausted…With bags under his eyes large enough for a transatlantic trip, he would spend days in ceaseless modification of the messy exterior of the text. Within the text, so much emptiness, so much darkness. Yet, the same faults could not be found with his passion. The worse he was at writing, the stronger his passion became.

Ignatius held the importance of travel in high regard, thus during his peregrination through Siberia he visited the International festival “The Call of 13 Shamans”. This is how he met Turban, a shaman from the Bantu tribe. Truth be told, he wasn’t at the festival. He was dancing near the Siberian mountain in Apache garb, round the fire which he had invoked while holding in his hand the ancient weapon from the battle at Insandlwana. I neither know how nor why nor how come he invited us to his own villa in Bedford park with Georgian terraces.

“Here, in terrace…me make grand fire”, he spoke in bad English.

That’s when we told him of the qualms that came over us.

“Only this?” the shaman was astonished. “You no want ghost of GonvilleBromhead, he was big lieutenant that fight against Bantu, but I beat him, so he leave me this house. ”

We stared at each other. “I see you’ve found a shaman well out of his mind”, my gaze spoke. The gaze of Ignatius had a disturbing comeback – a glimmer in his eyes…

“Well maybe I could…”, the shaman noticed this new ambition of Ignatius and let out an uncontrolled shriek.

“No, no and no! Came for one, said another. NOT!”

“It’s about his life or death”, somewhat in jest , somewhat in earnest, I took the floor. I was emboldened by the fiery adventures. In the Bantu saint and his dreadful powers I had exactly zero belief.

“Ila ilamaunamauna!” the shaman’s eyes popped out.

“Ignatius is my best reviewer, I’ve decided to confront him with the maniacal excesses of the shaman. He calls me at 5 AM and cries: Lucius, I have no ideas, they just won’t come! And how sadly he speaks, those are the most unusual tones, and some even indecent.”

The shaman pinned me down with his ancient, decisive look.

“It’s all a mistake on our part, doctor…erm, shaman Bromhed. Here we are talking rubbish… And we have here a shaman to end all shamans! Why you know everything! Go on ahead, colonel, fan that flame, so that my friend can become imaginative, enough that the reader won’t surpass him in writing skills, and…an idea or two, at least one per month.”

“You make grand sacrifice for friend”, the shaman bowed, “So which of you two make better Bedford park?”

I stared at the shaman’s necklace made of jackal teeth.

“You!” he pointed some type of stick at me. It was a short, heavy wooden club with a rubbery growth at one end. “I should synthesize you. One idea for one hit on hand.”

As he said this, he whacked me on my right hand, and then crossed the left as well.

I thought it proper to squeal, but I held it in.

“Your head”, he had a moment’s thought and a short look at his tomahawk…

I held my breath and endured a hit from the dull end of the Indian weapon of war.

The shaman chanted “Let the letters twist in ash! Ooo. Let the letters twist in ash!”

Ignatius chuckled. The shaman caressed his head, and then, in anger, he thwacked our noggins against each other so that he could spit at both our foreheads at once.

“Mauna mauna.Done.Fan fire for nothing.”

I was afraid that the shaman was going to throw us off the terrace where the whole event was taking place. However, he levitated away in front of our eyes, leaving us battered and in bruises.

It is true that I felt a disturbance. The piercing eyes, the spitting, the choking and the whack on the head, this is the same way I was treated by my publishers, when I was somewhat younger. But, truth be told, not one of them had flown before…Can it be…? The traditionally well-known Zulu pendant could possibly carry power within itself.

“Ah, well” I was looking sideways, as was Ignatius, using a handkerchief to wipe his spat-at forehead. “You were spat at with ideas. Now you will write like crazy, but I don’t know why my hands hurt”. Doubt had creeped into my long-gone disbelief.

“There, Ignatius, now go home and write” I mumbled curmudgeonly. When we exited the villa, I could not stop shivering. I was angry as well. Ignatius hopped next to me, smiling and brimming with bliss.

That night, I dreamt of the shaman setting my face on fire and shaping it into a chimney. I was smoking head to toe. A thick black smoke turned into a thick cloud which enshrouded me completely. My body turned into a wood stove. In front of me, the stove and the chimney-shaped face a pendant made of jackal teeth was swinging.

Still, awake from the fiery-dark dream after a scream, I realized that my hands no longer hurt. But, something odd was happening, even stranger. I had always been inspired, afflatus-laden, a bibliophile, playful with words. Mellifluous in writing, and possessing ideas full of merriment. My writing, as many men of authority had said, including the publisher that smacked me with a baseball bat upon a heated argument of which I had already forgotten, had virtually no weak points. I was, in short, a reliable narrator. I spoke not only of things that I knew, but also of those I knew absolutely nothing about.

However, not once had a word or a story shown itself to me in such a caring, clear and brusque manner. Gentle at the same time too… I was hugged and assaulted by ideas, filling every nook and cranny, nay! every nook and cranny of every nook and cranny of my inner being. I was mounted by creativity. Or it was I riding on it as if it were Bucephalus and many peoples appeared before my eyes, alongside their vocations, largely forgotten, and their customs. And before me appeared a spitting image of the entire written piece, and my fortune peaked, for I was in ecstasy over the successfully performed ritual. The good shaman must have enhanced my gift, so to speak, and have made Ignatius at least capable of average writing. I grinned. This is me! In a darting flight to the vastness of heavens, in the sunray of the a la deus desire to create the perfect world, maunamauna! – I shouted, and was hopping all over my room out of overwhelming happiness.

And it hadn’t been just a novel or two. I saw prototypes of prototype-heroes, but also that which preceded it. I saw human souls and sentences which shaped them convincingly. With clear and simple language I cited a passage by heart, and then continued writing the rest of the novel in my mind. Entire movies took place in my head, I travelled through fictional lives of erstwhile men, when a thought akin to the shade hiding beneath winding staircases of gothic novels sneaked up on me: I should write it all down, and then send it, so that I can receive the Nobel prize.

“Let me finish cooking the coffee… my sweet pencil, where are you…ah, here it is…” – I pulled a sheet of paper from my drawer, and my cats, not having ever in their life seen me so happy, climbed onto the desk. I realized that I was going through their own past as well, but I do not want to reveal any secrets now… I said this out loud, bent over the paper and the hot cup of freshly-cooked coffee (having bolted the windows in the meantime), once more said Mauna Mauna for good luck, kissed the lead of the pencil, started writing when…

I realized I could not write a single letter.

My mow did a little lip jig in a rhythm yet unseen. I pulled out a grin. I was still rash in thought, various scenes unfolded in my head, the structure and content was there, but I realized that something was wrong with my ability to write what I had had in my mind. How can I explain this? It wasn’t even spelling errors. A social comedy was in my head and the lady at the watchtower had just spoken the words whose wisdom was brighter than the shiniest of hues, and all I could write down was one thing: Mauna Mauna Shoo ShooShoo.

A couple of days and nights hence, I was still bent over a spent sheet of paper where HHDHDJL or in the best case scenario SHSHSHOOOO GOHOH GAAga goo googoo was written. Emaciated, tearful, exhausted, I was creating my written pieces, from a thought-based standpoint, indeed, and then the next novel would have me in its grasp, then entire volumes of novels and with all of my senses I’ve lived through the beauty of what I had written, or more precisely of what I had thought up, when a powerful idea came to my mind, as I cursed the shaman at the same time. I will speak into a recorder!

Still amazed, yet broken and completely miserable, I did not let myself be carried away by thoughts of the shaman nor did I wonder what had happened to Ignatius. “Tomorrow I will see a doctor. Maybe the shaman hit me too hard, and struck a nerve”, I giggled like a madman, knowing it not to be true. During those days I did go out, but only to buy handkerchiefs because the shaman’s saliva ran down my face in bucketloads.I’ve emptied three washbowls into the toilet bowl.

“Yes, for three days now I’ve neither eaten nor slept!” I frowned. “Maybe that’s it? Shock induced by chronic fatigue? Or if I stopped thinking about it, to end it, and push my ideas away…I have already written 900 novels and have enthroned literature two centuries in advance”. My mind was torn by even more creative, more unusual stories, futuristic novels, I had seen worlds which I had not known of, I had met and had wonderful conversations with the tiny aliens of Zerynthia in the Remidian system, the true progenitors of Scandinavian mythology…Ah no, I do not want to tell you what they told me and that Scandinavia was actually, no, no…I mustn’t say.

“Hahahaha”, my maniacal laughter echoed, having realized that my mind would be torn by the interweavement of life with the inhuman beings which existed, but only in my head, only my own… And the knot would not untangle.

There was only one way. The shaman’s sorcery must be nullified!

As soon as I had this thought, I called Ignatius and explained to him what had happened. Ignatius was unusually calm.

“Well that, my friend, is simply a creative catharsis!” he told me with, how it seemed to me, a certain dose of ridicule.

“I’ve had that before, but nothing like this!”, I roared into the headpiece. “Were you also assaulted by inspiration? You too were slapped by the shaman during the ritual! You must have been overtaken by a… a quality of some quality…at least…a creative unrest!”, I wailed, until I felt, more intuitively than in any other way, that Ignatius was smiling on the other side of the wire.

“Nothing like it, my friend.Nothing like it. But I cannot complain. No less than five minutes ago I entered an adjective, “magnificent”, yeah that’s the one. And have thought of a word “sinkage”. It’s kind of rolling on.I am an optimist!”

Odd – I thought when I was hanging up the phone. Ignatius had not moved from the starting point. Shaman’s salivary did not work on him.

In order to calm myself down, I decided to take a walk and gather my thoughts. The ideas remained relentless, and my ignoring them even more so. The living light made me feel calm, and I regained my strength of consciousness and had become rational again. I decided to continue down to the doctor’s, a friend of mine, with no appointment and jumping in queue, I spoke for a while of the emotional void which I carry inside of me, complaining of the pain in my arm and not mentioning the magical properties of dramatic works writing themselves in my head. The doctor, a shifty smile on his face, had upon examining me with electrodes diagnosed “global aphasia”, but possibly ephemeral  innature. Possibly? I went a few days later, opened the door to the doctor’s office, stepped inside and went through the diagram recordings. “Yes, yes…my intuition did not fool me. The brain wrinkles went to hell, but I am all but certain they will come back.” I felt almost safe after the diagnosis of the consequence of hitting the head with a heavy blunt object. The power of writing will come back to me and my ideas will…

This thought was cut off by the next one: “It’s interesting that I can speak and write…of everything except IDEAS! How come I am aphasic?”

I was taken anew by desperation. In this state, while I was partly desperate, partly tormented by hope that my state is ephemeral, that it is but a mild shock, perhaps even autosuggestion or not being accustomed to sweat profusely, I was passing a bookstore, adamant, and equally as vulnerable due to my unusual state, to ask for the price of my books, after which I will introduce myself to the salesman, I thought vainly. I nearly ran to the frail light which glimmered from the pole that towered over the city bookstore, damn near rammed myself into the glass, in order to hug it, lovingly looking at the rows of books signed in my name of one famous Lucius Halverson, only to stop, just before the glass, as if struck by thunder.

My unwritten novels, bound in thick blood-colored covers, were lined in the window. The first novel had a daring title:

“Two mad loves” – a not-so-talented scriptwriter meets the most talented actress in the world. Seduced to the point of pain, he is inflicted by a strange nerve disease which can be attributed to a sensory affective disorder. The consequence: an ingenious inspiration, coupled with love obsession, beyond a shadow of doubt and any measure. After the little trollop seduced him and cheated on him with a clapper, he decided to poison it with his newfound ingeniousness. He made up more demanding stories, her roles were becoming more difficult, the dangerous blonde could no longer follow the extravagant mental processes which this goatsucker a sort of martyr of sensory love had devised for her; as is logical and consistent to one’s acting prowess she lives through dramatically, scenically, convincingly and essentially the process of artistic decay, her acting deteriorates to the point “of hitting absolute rock bottom”, and this process of artistic decadence is followed by the loss of stature, her face becomes wrinkly, she suddenly ages, realizes that she had failed both as an artist and as a woman. Having nowhere to go, at the end of the novel she commits suicide.

And I said to myself, me, Lucius Halverson: within my mind both of them (him and her) were as stuck as inside of a grave, and now they are out in the daylight – written in a wondrous style, MY STYLE! And signed with a name of an invisible robber and a ghost in the darkness. It was the name of my erstwhile reviewer, an outstanding mediocrity, a falsifier of historical records, a plagiarist, a manipulator, a thief of imagination, as written in large, bold letters beneath the title of the two-volume novel “Zerynthiad”, sir Ignatius Halverson. I thought (was I crying blood tears?) that the covers were sprinkled in blood.

“Why this? How come this? Where did blood come from?”, I raised my shaking hands upward. Yes! They were drenched in blood. And a knife in the hand… Speed up, Halverson, first see the bastard, left right, three streets…no, out there behind the corner, that’s where he lives, up close. There’s Bedford park!

Before I kill the first, then the second…Maybe I’ll go to Halverson’s first? To write a will? Leave a farewell note? Proof of the falsification committed, but concise, clear, not interwoven with fragmented thoughts which could lead the witnesses on to something paranoid and ill.

I have to emphasize: he had a different surname before the unpleasant event with the shaman. His surname was Halverson, by Ignatius!

I made the first step, clumsily, asking myself (quite unusual is the capability of reason to have a lark with madness at the same time): does the madness in my mind simply…assume? Do shades lord over the tired spirit?

But I had decided to cut Turban Halverson’s throat as well and this, I know, would not be conceivable to an average, unimaginative mind. Why murder? Because of vanity? – an unimaginative mind would say. Your shoes are salted with it and you walk around bloodied like that. You! The author, under the veil of suspicion! There is something  fascinating, I speak while I shake and hit a pole, then another, dazed, probably under influence of the spell from that diabolical fiend and his Halverson – I laughed wildly, then growled – something obscenely fascinating in falsifying the work of another. Within the success of an average mind, without cleverness, that which is adorned by incompleteness, that which loans all it has from the Complete one. He is a voyeur, this plagiarist and falsifier. He peeps through the keyhole of your overflowing imagination. He uses voodoo magic! He walks behind you with a smile while your statement, your bleeding, your desperation flows…Or is this a simulacrum, an exaggeration, an illusion, tension caused by a simple fact that Lucius and Ignatius have similar, if not the same surnames. Fact that in the Zerynthia novel one of us was a literary character, and that the other one wrote it. (This secret, dear reader, I’ve kept from you until the very end)And that the literary character dies in a puddle of blood, just like this, with a knife. So who was I? What soul? The one of Zerynthia? And who here is an Earthling, and who an extraterrestrial? TURBAN! – that was my final mad IDEA after which I passed out…

While he’s dreaming…

“Two mad loves”, hahaha, Ignatius. Oriental poetry is not the current trend with us Scandinavian folk.

“Not true. The influx of Arabs in Sweden is growing on a global scale. They have houses, are covered socially…”

“But you’re saying that Zerynthia is east of the Moon.”

“I say that her hair is, which is how he sees it, like the treetop of the Canadian rhododendron. The Moon has nothing to do with it. East – that’s just a direction. From hell, from heaven, was it not already written… But, then the oriental directions have enlightened the people, now hell and heaven and east and west, even the rhododendron and the Moon just confuse them.”

“Who is he, Ignatius, who is he, and who am I”, the publisher with a turban on his head asked.

“Lucius. He gets into different situations where his behavior turns abnormal. If he is even capable of love, that love is damaging, mister publisher man. Still, his work is finally gaining traction. Words are becoming more picky amongst themselves, they defy each other, they even defy publishers and the public, as blind as Homer the topic of reading a good book, the provincial taste over which Lucius reigns inviolably. Margarita agrees with him and once, at a Georgian terrace where they were at in the Bedford Park villa, she confesses to him that not only will he become the new Aki the Pig, but an enlightening reformer in the age when Zerynthia alongside China will be the sovereign ruler of the world – she confesses to him and speaks…ah, speaks and this is one of the most powerful parts where her role shifts from a supporting to a main one, at least in his head, where she speaks to him on a personal, intimate level. The novel becomes novelist-ish, so to speak…”

When he heard this, he, the publisher, a man of quite noticeable facial features covered in yellow feathers and with a flat head in the shape of a hammer, jumped on me and rode me, starting to grind me…down to dust. His body was that of King Kong. In his hand he had a baseball bat and he whack whack whacked into powder, whack into one nothing nothing. YOU ARE AWFUL, IGNATIUS HALVERSON! AND NOW YOU ARE OFFICIALLY NOTHING!

I woke up. Whole, full-bodied, in one piece. My hands were white, peaky-pale, if you want dappled in pinkish capillaries, if you want even more detail – under my skin they were knitting a tunic of metarterioles and multiple other vessels all the way up to the capillaries, and if you seek even more, many other things cracked under my skin…

“Your heart cracked as well”, a familiar voice was heard . It was Ignatius Halverson. He was coming out of the bookstore, turning the CLOSED sign the other way and it read THE BOOKSTORE IS OPEN. NEW MASTERPIECES OF IGNATIUS HALVERSON “Zerynthia”, “Two Mad Loves”, “Rotten Folk”, “The Ill, the Shifty and Other Bovine Folk From the Vision of Ignatius Halverson” with the subheading Only For the Mentally Fit, “Aki Was no Pig”, “The First Druid Was no Pope”, “We All Go Crazy Sometimes”, you falsified this from Alfred, hahaha… – I would meticulously write down everything that I would, eventually, have thought.

“And all of that because of a baseball bat, Ignatius!”, he glanced at me with a worried look.

There was a hard pounding in my ears. “What will I do, how will I do it?” was ringing in my head, the inside of which seemed more vast and darker than Altamira. I remembered the Bedouin shepherd Muhammed  edh-Dhib and his stone which made him famous all over the world. * Muhammed edh-Dhib, the Bedouin shepherd who fell into the cave near the Dead Sea and thus discovered the Dead Sea Scrolls.

“The East, always the East! Why the hell are you so insistent of the East? Who’s going to read that? For God’s sake, who even gives a damn? No wonder you failed… Your tactless and unrestrained storytelling aside! Digressions and the absence of a chronological order aside! Self-report, via dialogue! Tell me, why the East? Densely, concisely, succinctly!”

“YOU telling ME about storytelling? You, to whom exposition encompasses the entire novel – you describing a house takes longer than building it! You’ve reworked all of your stories at least ten times! Cats don’t even have as many lives as that!”

“It’s called being thorough”

“And yet you go on again about the East! What would you have me write of, then?”

“Something modern, something more closely related to the people. The New World Order for instance. The East you’re writing about and all of this antiquity stuff. It does not exist! Nobody wants to read that!”

“The Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation doesn’t exist either. The magazines for converts to Catholicism don’t exist either!”

“But, you did not write about that. Why would Godville in “Two Mad Loves” in the middle of Pere Lachaise cemetery, where he went to leave flowers at her grave, recite the poems of Suleiman the 2nd. My dear fellow, you are up to your neck deep in the East. Is some Allahu Akbar a cuz of yours?

“The France is filled with Arabs!”, I defended myself from the undisputedly consistent arguments of this scribe monarch of modernity.

“Your problem is that you’re using the Oriental element as a super-national system!”

I facepalmed.

“The problem is that you’re a Nazi-fascist, Ignatius”, said Ignatius.

“Toss in a few interesting anecdotes from your own life.Something Romanesque, which the public loves. Sneak a ‘sonuvabitch’ somewhere so that the people can identify, Ignatius. Did you write the “Fairiad?” No. Why?”

And he added: “Inactivity. Inactivity, vanity and lack of support. If she had at least floated away on the Seine river, but no! You, in a sheik’s outfit…”

“Oh captain, my captain…”, I covered my ears with my hands. Blood was trickling from them.

Yes, it was blood… That’s where I realized that the books had also spoken, that they bristled like enormous mutated spiders threatening to turn me into a screaming meal.

“No no and no! I am good, and you are not good”, emotionally tense and with a revolutionary excitement, I jumped up and stabbed him in the stomach three times, realizing that in the minutes, or more probably in the seconds to come…all is unknown, whether he or I will fall.

Who was the portrait of whom? Who trudged through the darkness? Who wrote better?

That’s when I saw that his mien is a dark one. Suddenly a turban appeared on his head. He smiled to me insidiously. I thought his reaction a natural one:

“I no longer keep the hours back, let them flow.” the shaman said and…still did not part with his soul.

He was dying slowly, but until the end his eyes were the mirror to brusqueness and clarity.

“All that I sang of and burned, I carried within my soul”, the shaman was still professing.

“Turban, what happened with the ritual? Did something go awry?”

Considerate that I am, I tried using all words known to me to comfort him that some African god will soon be waiting for him in Heaven, to which he cursed Allah at me, after which his dying eyes were fixed at the sky where the Moon in its first quarter shone.

“I am dying in the middle of Mesopotamia, on the shores of the Jordan river” – then with a surprising strength for a dying man, he pulled out a tomahawk and chanted something into the air. The books in question were gone.

Everything that was said, along with the supernatural miracle, culminated at the moment of his pre-death, but also intertwined with my own. “What of aphasia, tell me what of aphasia!”, I dragged him and pulled his Zulu equipment which he was disguised for, to me, reasons forever unknown.

Don’t ask why he chose me of all people. My ancestors traced their origins to the third son of the nephew of the immediate aunt of the Swedish Sibylla of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Maybe he wanted to enter Sweden illegally, while he was wandering the dangerous Syrian deserts, maybe that’s why he escaped to Siberia, who knows…

Thus I twisted the neck of the shaman entirely by accident, but had received no answers. No, the ideas did not leave me, not even at the most crucial moment…

“The shaman spoke, and I did not understand a word of it. Let this story be like that as well. Understandable only to the majority.”, I smiled, me the minority in everything, when at that moment I felt something blowing me away, tearing me apart. I was becoming lighter. Three knife stabs in the stomach were so strong that I felt, from the intense pain, that Weltschmerz was stored inside of them, but that the whole Welt got a single “schmerz” out of me while I, with a dignity of a sheik, of a king, a Suleiman, a Rumi, and even of poetess  Layla al-Akhyaliyya, was dying in someone’s masterpiece over and over again.





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