Anabases 4: Notes on Cracking the Cy Code

Today I am busy writing my review – the one I mentioned yesterday – and so I didn’t have time to write a polished post. But here are my working notes, which will have to suffice for you to speculate on the kind of post it would have been, if I had written it.

Watching The Makes while reading Homey King’s “Anti-Odyssey”. Don’t really have time to finish doing either.

Does King’s essay look back to Zaoui’s? (Still need to write about that philosophical essay on the Anabasis theme)

How is The Makes an anabasis?

King called The Makes a ‘forged documentary’ (152). Real-life film critic Philippe Azoury. Michelangelo Antonioni’s non-existent Japanese period. But based on ideas for scripts/films in That Bowling Alley on the Tiber (love that title!)

The Makes as ‘a quest to find Antonioni’ (154) but also ‘aims to miss the director’. Not looking in the right places (Japan not Italy, or even China)

(Note that Homay King wrote a book that discusses Antonioni’s film about China Chung Kuo: Cina)

Opening of The Makes a ‘remake’ of Four Sailors text by Antonioni. Four photographs of ‘sailorish actors’ (160). Sends me to read the original Antonioni text, actual title “Four Men at Sea” (as in The Makes – subtle difference – as discover, none of these men are sailors! Has King read it? Did Eric Baudelaire use it as a code for our reading of Anabases. Amazing text about finding oneself, asserting and then rejecting leadership, gaining wisdom through negotiating relations with self and others.

Notes on and quotes from “Four Men at Sea”

Newspaper article of events of April 1969 (the year that Eric Baudelaire, in Chronologies, imagines Antonioni wanting to make a film in Japan). Yacht Irene found Australian coast, 3 men, including 70yr old, mysterious disappearance of owner James Towers.

List of all that Antonioni doesn’t believe about story (c.f. King on fakes and forgeries)

A perplexed and curious, so remakes story himself, from Tower’s perspective, out of passion for Conrad

This story has gone on working inside me for years

A’s research – received a photograph of the 3 survivors (a direct to the use of photographs in The Makes)

Character of Towers: life going swimmingly, but becomes sterile, so creates an obstacle for self

It’s this obstacle that provides him with a fresh stimulus

Makes me think about Cyrus – who is he in Xenophon’s text? Leads me on tangent

Cf. Flower p. 13 “Who was this Cyrus that he could inspire such hopes and such loyalty?”

Links to namesake – Cyrus the Great (the Elder) – created Persian Empire in mid-6th C BCE (subject of Xenophon’s Cyropaideia – ‘Education of Cyrus’) – what are the connection’s between X’s two works? Big man Cyrus & Cy of Anabasis?

In the obit of Cy at Anabasis (1.9) So died Cyrus; a man the kingliest and most worthy to rule of all the Persians who have lived since the elder Cyrus: according to the concurrent testimony of all who are reputed to have known him intimately. To begin from the beginning, when still a boy, and whilst being brought up with his brother and the other lads, his unrivalled excellence was recognised. (note the paideia in the obit – odd? or typical?)

End of obit = So that, for myself, and from all that I can hear, I should be disposed to say that no one, Greek or barbarian, was ever so beloved. Is X being straight here? Or do we need Leo Strauss’ ‘ironic’ reading for these words? X saying opposite of what he thinks – Cy not so hot? Or somewhere in between?

Work it out by reading X whole – Cyropaideia + Anabsis (Cyrus + Cy) = ? Flower in The Cambridge Companion to X p. 7 on Cy lacking some of Cyrus’ virtues (e.g. humanity and piety) so Cy inferior (support for ironic reading)

‘Xenophon in Byzantium’, Anthony Kaldellis ch. (a first AK ref in Minus Plato?) – manuscript of the Cyropaideia and Anabasis, with a poem written in between two works to emperor Leo VI (‘the Wise’ – 886-912 CE) :

Nothing is pleasant quite like an ancient text

crammed full of Attic eloquence,

that speaks the truth clearly and

depicts how things are in life;

it teaches the wise and makes them even wiser

about the things that must be done in life


Speak up, Xenophon, and support my claim!

The confusing lines about Cy (i) ‘instantly see what a disaster the lust for power is’ vs (ii) ‘Cyrus’ wise plan’?????

AK makes sense of this as a ‘coded poem’ reframing contemporary debates not a mistake of ‘stupid Byzantines’

we must not forget that the irony, along with the entire message of the poem, is written in code, and is therefore discreet…

Calling Cy ‘wise’ after pointing out his disastrous lust for power focalizes Leon the Wise and calling on him (via X) to live up to his nickname – here AK ventriloquizes:

“For all your vaunted wisdom, you still made that terrible mistake” (referring to his being complicit in a conspiracy against his father in 880s, the then emperor)

What if no mistake? What if Leon/Cy like Towers in Antonioni’s reading? Unexplained action = mistake? Or something else? Another way

My reading of King as a way of going back to Zaoui (connection of Plato’s Republic)

‘the obvious anabasis’ (160) of Antonioni from Italy to Japan and back – but ‘additional anabases to unearth’ – then to Plato’s idea of anabasis as ascent (is this in Zaoui? Check now: 48 – mystical anabasis in Xtianity; YES – p. 66 ref to Book 7 of the Republic – anabasis as the difficult, violent, but successful path to freedom and elevation – GO BACK TO TOWERS

(Remember to come back to Zaoui’s extension of anabasis to Contemporary Art – that ‘comes into being as much in its place of circulation and consumption as it does in its place of production’ (58) – tomorrow? or Friday?)

Towers confronted by three men, not sailors, greedy, disruptive + the storm = absurdity of his adventure

Locks men in the hold – they break out – he hides on deck then slips down into the hold – now a stowaway on his own boat

It’s a role he doesn’t know how to play

Gives him a new sensation – a feeling of doubt. A diffidence toward his own future as it were.

When the yacht arrives at shore – not due to any sailing by the non-sailors – Towers smiles at the brief moment of glory for the 3 ‘sailors’ the sole moment of glory in their lives

Instead of heading home, forgetting the whole escapade, Towers goes to the same inn as the 3 men – to hide from them for one more night on land. Antonioni leaves us with him pausing, debating whether to enter the inn.

Back to Cy

Did he die? Is he there all along, watching, hidden, as the Greeks wander, toil, meander home? Like a code waiting to be broken (like the brilliant work that Eric Baudelaire spreads across Zaoui’s text and the 2008 financial crisis Chanson d’automne)

And that reminds me of another Cy – a code-breaker and Xenophon-reader. Can the two be connected? Cf. Mary Jacobus Reading Cy Twombly – two passages from Ch. 4 – “Achilles’ Horses, Twombly’s War”

His ten-month period of military service ended in the summer of 1954, after he had been transferred to decoding work at the Pentagon. Declining reassignment to London or Paris, and threatened with exile to a Midwest airbase, Twombly was swiftly discharged on the grounds of “anxiety”. So much for Twombly’s war – which can be credited with teaching him to draw automatically, to write with a bad hand, and with giving him personal experience with cold war cryptography.

Like the miniature chariots of his sculptures, Twombly’s chariots of fire can be read as a reference to expeditionary conquest in the Near and Middle East, for which Xenophon provided the historical prototype, as well as more recent conflicts between East and West.

Which reminds me, I need to get back to the review.

But when will I find time to finish watching The Makes?

Or finish reading King’s essay?



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *