Martin Edmond



I am looking in a notebook I used to keep, right at the point where the jottings for Luca Antara end and those for the next book begin (but I don't know what this next book is/was) when suddenly it occurs to me that I've left something out. The whole episode of Hitler in Adelaide. I make a few notes and then remember there is already a book on the subject. I'll have to get hold of a copy. The relevant papers are in a low cold flat under a hill. More tunnel than flat. I don't live there any more but think I can probably find a way in. I know my things will still be there. It's a dream place, I've visited more than a few times over the years. First, though, I drop in on a couple of friends who live nearby. They’re real people who used to like to pretend to be re-incarnations of Robert Graves and Laura Riding. Or else they are reincarnations who like to pretend to be real people … I mention the book and Larry shrugs in that louche way he has and says: Of course. He means there is a copy on their shelves. There at the back of the room. So I don't have to go to my old flat after all, that’s a relief. I was never happy there. However I do have to search the shelves ... it takes a while but I find it. 600 pages long. A kind of straw-yellow hard back, large format, crudely made. Co-authored by two sisters, their name, along with Adolf's, is on the spine: Droescher maybe? Anyway the focus of my inquiry is on where exactly in Adelaide Hitler lived and what he did there. There is a fold out map in the front of the book that turns out to be 3D and interactive. I see the city of Adelaide morph into being, it is a view both top down and from the street. Beautiful. It is certainly Adelaide, I remember how the city is disposed from my only visit there, many years ago now. But this is the business district, Hitler didn't live there but somewhere in the suburbs. Ah, says the voiceless voice that comes to us in dreams, he had a hat shop. Or else he sold caged birds. Something like that. And worked as a jockey. Then I see Hitler himself, dressed in silks, getting ready to ride in a race. Except his body will not do, it is one of those limbless bloody screaming trunks out of a Francis Bacon painting. We will have to substitute him if we want our horse to win. I remember dressing the other jockey, a young, slender girl, I remember translating Hitler into another realm or dimension so our girl can ride in his place—but I don’t remember the result. His post-war refuge in Adelaide did not of course last long. He and the Droescher sisters were soon found out and had to flee further afield. Their book ... who was the publisher? What a rarity it must have been. Unreadable as Mein Kampf no doubt but there are people who have read Mein Kampf. To think I have held it in my hand. As I wake from the dream there is one further image that I carry over into consciousness: in hard, chunky, geometric capitals the legend: HITLER IN ADELAIDE.


I am rambling through Auckland with a poet whose work I have read and admire but whom I have never actually met before. We are companionable and a bit excited as we leave behind the great white neo-classic monstrance of the Museum on the hill and go down through the Domain towards the city. I remember the way we used to walk when I was a student here in the 1970s and so we leave the path and head down that wide green slope between the trees towards Grafton Road. It’s much more overgrown now than it was then and there’s a woman or perhaps two women going the same way as us—I call out a greeting to her and she replies, reminding us of how in those days you’d see through the trees flashes of the long beautiful coloured dresses hippie girls wore. My new friend the poet is taking me out to dinner, or perhaps just taking me out … we arrive at a house that is somehow set over the campus but I can’t understand how this can be. We sit on built-in window seats before a built-in table, as if on a ship, and then I feel a wave of recognition go over me. I know this place. I get up from the table and walk to the western end of the room to look out the windows towards the city. Yes! I’m elated. I go back to rejoin the poet and say: I have sat in this seat a thousand times before! It’s either a house I used to go to on Constitution Hill or else it’s 56 Grafton Road where I lived twice in 1972, once upstairs, once downstairs, with a gap in between. Or a combination of both houses. The poet has ordered food and I know it will be delicious. While we are waiting we meet two white cats in residence here, their names are Opus One and Opus Two. Then I see a book on the floor at my feet, with a plain cover upon which is written: Einstein & Nietzsche. What a brilliant idea for a book I think. I pick it up. It is tall and narrow but, as I open it, shrinks in my hands to the dimensions of a packet of yellow Zig Zag cigarette papers, the ones with a picture of a Zouave on the front. I’m completely unphased: that is brilliant marketing as well, to imagine a book designed in this way. And after all, I think, listening to the dry susurrus of onion skin paper rustling as I leaf through the pages, Einstein and Nietzsche were contemporaries weren’t they? If only briefly. I wake up wishing I had that book on my bedside table. That the poet and I really had gone out to eat. And that I had a white cat called O Puss One.


It is some kind of convention but I cannot now recall what for. All I remember is the venue, Rotorua, and a group of us sitting around empty wooden tables in a wide open room like a warehouse or a barn. In the shadows, the dark-skinned boys with lustrous eyes, waiting hopefully and expectantly to join our deliberations, are certainly Aboriginal. I want to buy a pot of honey and ask therefore where the nearest newsagent is. Lake Road, my friend Adam says, so off I go into town to look for it. Sometimes when we become lost in dreams we never find our way again but on this occasion I do at last come to the right street and walk down it past brand new condominiums and office buildings made of steel and glass. The news agency in the basement of the tower there, naturally, does not sell honey but, as I go on across a glittering plaza, a secretive young man walks past me with his eyes fixed reverentially upon the small jar he is holding in both hands before him. A fair way along the road I come upon a cafe. Black and white chequered floor, bare tables, metal chairs, no-one in attendance. On one of the tables, two bank notes, one a ripped half, the other intact, ornate, of large denomination, in a currency I do not recognise; on another, a pile of small books with soft red covers. It is an honesty system. I pay my money and take away my copy. A strange script, cursive, stained like old blood on brownish paper. There are line drawings too, in black ink, hectic and elaborate. The stories are by Edgar Allan Poe and two of them—a short one near the front, a long one towards the back—are on Maori subjects. I read them with growing excitement as I walk back up Lake Road. Yes, I hear a woman's voice say, we smuggled them out of America, we don't have copyright clearance, but it seemed important that these stories should be known in the country that inspired them. I am standing in the small porch of a public hall reading when out the door my father comes. He looks handsome, relaxed, at ease, glowing with health and vitality. I hug him. You look wonderful, I say. I feel good, he replies, grinning at me. About the age I am now or maybe a little younger. He and his friend go out into the yard, take off their sports jackets and begin setting the bonfire that we will later light. I feel a sudden doubt: Poe? Or Borges? The Dutch owner of the cafe where I bought the book comes up. A huge man with a perfectly bald head. Laughing at my brief temptation to steal the one and a half notes of currency left upon his table. The Dream of Coleridge, he booms. You know it? Who is to determine the ownership of dreams? Perhaps, and I know you have already had this thought, we have things precisely the wrong way round. You are not the dreamer but the dream.

Martin Edmond's The Supply Party will be published in March by East Street Publications. It narrates a journey in the footsteps of Ludwig Becker, artist and naturalist on the doomed Burke and Wills Expedition of 1860-61."

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Blogger Geof Huth said...

A well captured dream, which these must be, is a unnerving delight. How did the dreamer whisper enough into the waker's ear? Martin Edmond found a way.




12:28 PM  

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