The six-hour essay exam is about to end: I am in the small, coolly organised office at the top of the building, looking down across the garden to the lake.
I have eaten my lunch at the table to my left, gone through my bottle of tea and had a bit of coffee, dozed at points – and then awakened and powered through the final two hours, bringing five pages into focus, with an admittedly bizarre coda relating my interpretation to gay culture....
I am in Zürich, it is February, there is snow; later there will be rain.
I am taking my last two exams at the Jung-Institut; I talk to students I haven't seen in months, and newer ones I hardly know.
I wear the long black Italian cashmere coat that makes everything so... well, so central-European.
The small, wealthy city rises around me, organised, elegantly sensible, calm.
Everything travels through screens of memory, interpretation, and diffuse and changeable chains of meaning....
On the train back into the city, I sit next to R., the director of programs – who, though she is always kind to the students, has a strong sense of right and wrong: as she is a doctor (and a psychiatrist, therefore several categories above me in prestige), she looks at situations with a professionally ruthless eye. They had a meeting with the 'other' Institute, much of which went well; but at the end a woman who had been central to the split years before said, weepily, she just couldn't sign any agreement between the institutes, her memories were too tragically painful.
R. told her: don't be ridiculous, aren't you an adult?
I agree, mentioning my own background with a university department split into three by the childish rage of a couple of old men....
Given the broad existential problem of aging people who cling to old neuroses, because they aren't sure of anything else: I agree with R.'s cool anger, something which also comes with age – the accurate judgment of those who still, with however few years may be left to their lives, make themselves crazy: because that becomes their remaining kind of self-indulgent fun....
My picture exam is in the morning: just forty minutes which, after that six-hour stretch, fly by.
M. fans out a series of pictures; they were created electronically by a patient who made them on an iPad during long train trips.
Spread across the table, in date order, I've looked up the more idiomatic German words for those that have titles. We spend the forty minutes going through them with questions, answers, discussion – from the first strange picture of a playground incident, through jungle beasts, men in a pool, a boss with her face grayed out – to the last one, an absolutely relaxed painting of a man standing in a city park – the kind of thing that, among artists, represents pure seeing: just presence, no anxiety.
M. thanks me and sends me out; when they call me back in, M. is happy, though the second examiner wanted me to articulate the individual symbols in more detail; but I have passed, it is done.
In the library, B. and I talk about jobs and life plans: he may have to leave Europe if his visa status isn't changed, and would his daughters stay here with their mother for two years, or go back with him – what if the family were split for two years? I am sympathetic at first – it is not a good time to be foreign, not anywhere – but then impatient from another angle, and we have a brief, chaotic argument: I find myself being severe (but when am I not) and he objects with Brasilian passion.
I wonder, afterwards, if we will continue our plans to write our theses together, or if that relationship is now damaged....
An official email late at night: I have passed all my exams. Which fits my mood, which has a quality of – what? Of emptiness: after being overly focused for weeks or month, then the pressure falls away. Nothing seems terribly necessary or interesting at the moment: I see this mood in my students when they finish a major project.
It is after midnight, but the internet is always open. I buy several ebooks by Ralf König, the wonderful gay German comic artist, and read through the night about Konrad and Paul, who are changing: Paul, who has always been impatiently horny, is getting older, and doesn't like it.
Time, change, age. And funny: and sad.
At the Coop, I buy some food – Swiss herbal tea, a loaf of good bread of course. And, why not, another chocolate bar.
H. is teaching two seminars, a couple of days before he speaks at the public seminar on Saturday. He is famous, I am curious to meet him – he is distinctly older than I had realised, and he shakes slightly, but seems constantly and brilliantly in gear: it's no wonder his writing is so intelligent, he obviously never stops thinking.
And, when I have a broad question, he shifts from one register of meaning/psychology/science/belief to another; he can easily juggle a number of frames while maintaining a ruthless clarity of vision.
We talk for a while, and something clicks, a sense that we make sense to each other, that my questions connect to his answers – and an unspoken sense that we both hold ourselves slightly away from other people, from the ones who still think that they will live forever: we will gravitate towards each other across rooms for the next few days.
I visit the library of the 'other' institute: ISAP, in central Zürich, has a small but modern library. I realise while going through their catalogue that this library does not have old materials – no surprise, as this institute has existed only since the foolish split into two institutes.
The new, young American librarian is friendly and cheerful, she helps me track down a few unexpected sources; and a British woman doing research in an alcove turns out to be a cousin of B., who teaches at my university, and who in fact joins our HIV patient group to talk to medical students every two weeks. I promise to say hello to him; all is friendly, and I tell them, as well as a tall Russian student with blonde hair and a flowing ochre dress, that they should visit 'our' library, that they would be welcome.
That evening I email 'our' librarian to make sure I haven't created a mess... but I haven't of course: so many years after the split, all the younger people are happy to work together.
Indeed, we merely roll our eyes when the old, dramatic stories come up....
Does it make sense to get my hair cut here, in this large modern salon a couple of blocks from the Institut, in this posh suburb on the expensive side of the lake?... ah, what the hell, it's only money.
I am received graciously, given espresso and chocolate. The young man who takes charge of me has a hippie-ish look; he is friendly, and we share an oblique sense that we are both lonely and feel like talking on this winter afternoon, isolated in the middle of the busy salon. He lives in the city, in the area where the hookers and drugs are – when I recognise it I give a single bark of laughter and ask what that life is like. But he doesn't laugh, and says it is noisy and hard to sleep; I ask, as I tend to do these days, what he wants – what would make him happy – but he doesn't know, though he wrinkles his eyebrows in concentration.
It is a good haircut, I look dashing in my black coat. I thank him warmly as he walks me out into the winter air.
The train back to the city, this time with W., the director of studies – he is German, a cheerfully muscly middle-aged dad with an argumentative school-boyish charm.
He has a PhD in philosophy, and always wants me to tell him what analysis is like, without quite being willing to engage with it himself: I end up giving hints and abstractions, but we always get along well, and we're both sorry when I come to my stop and step briskly into the rush-hour crowd.
As I found two references to AIDS in Jungian writings at the ISAP library, I'm chasing them down at the Institut library, helped by the beautiful J. (no really, she is beautiful, a charming Hungarian mother of two who looks like a popular and respected actress accepting her second Academy nomination). An hour of fussing, copying, and looking for someone in the building who can access an antique CD-ROM ends in the realisation that both references are to articles that I already have.
Well, that's why you take down complete bibliographic information on everything at the point when you find it, isn't it?...
I talk to V., who graduated last year – she is visiting, her life is changing; and she may come to England for a bit, and even come see me. There's a sense of connection: if some of the Jung-Institut students have given up some of their former relationships, we seem to now be a meta-family... which seems worth having.
I get back to the Stadelhofen station as evening darkens; the stand with the macaronic sign for "HEISSE MARONI" is there – I've actually never bought roasted chestnuts in winter, I think it is time. The bag is warm, I eat a few of them – they are good, toasty, a bit messy; I roll up the last few and stuff them back into my bag.
H. is there of course – this is why he came all the way from Chicago – and P., who used to teach here, who is an old friend. A panel of people who vary somewhat in wisdom – by the end of the two days I have clear favorites and non-favorites, of which the lowest ranked is the woman who said she didn't want to criticize Shamdasani – repeatedly.
I'll admit, it must be maddening to be a rival of Shamdasani's: he's incredibly prolific, detailed, precise, has dug up more about Jung than anyone since, well, ever – no wonder her wide smile has such a savage edge to it as she repeats that she doesn't want to criticize, in between harping repeatedly over a subtitle in the Red Book that she thinks is poorly translated....
No, she's not an analyst; and who knows if she's ever been in analysis.
But I'll admit, I find it hard to understand how someone can do years of research on psychoanalysis, and yet remain so vindictively, unwisely, publicly entangled in such spectacular, slow-burning rage....
Monday. I spend the day in the hotel room, sleeping, recovering; later I chase some of the reference materials I found on the web.
That evening, I want to go to a good restaurant: Gamper is closed, so that's out – what else then?
Five-star, nearby... there is a place I've passed a number of times, assuming it was a small pub: a remarkably sophisticated, mildly experimental, tiny restaurant on a quiet old street a couple of blocks from the lake. I am the only customer – it is the first day of schools vacation, a Monday, winter, snowy – so the streets are incredibly quiet.
Wystube Isebähnli is its name. They claim that's German, you know.
The waitress tells me all about everything: the menu is fixed, she picks a wine for me.... this is heaven.
A bit later, it's gotten crowded – sort of: there are now also two talkative Swiss men enjoying themselves. But it's still pleasant; and the chef who owns the restaurant has gradually shifted from saying one friendly thing as he goes out the door to smoke a cigar – he's Turkish, an artist with opinions about everything – to sitting down and talking to me about food, about Zürich, about time, and about when he started smoking at age 17.
At which point he remembers what he's doing and goes out to smoke....
While he's outside, the waitress checks if I mind waiting for a while between courses; but I already read on their website that dinner reservations normally last two to three hours. So I'm fine.
It is the last couple of days. B. has spoken to me again, and everything is fine – we are permitted to fight without losing our relationship; which I suppose speaks well for our training.
M. and B. and at least two others (do I remember everyone?) want to Skype weekly to discuss our theses – I've gradually been influenced by their determination to finish in time to graduate in July, and may actually push myself.
Finishing in 2018!... I like the idea... with a certain cautious skepticism: because I am skeptical, above all, about myself....
The last Saturday, W. has a seminar of practical work where we role-play meeting with analysts. We are all fairly critical, and whoever is in the hot seat is generally fairly nervous – except R., who has just finished her degree, and who has some years of counseling training to boot.
I'm neither intimidated nor envious, why do you ask?...
When it is my turn, I am clumsy and self-conscious and repetitive and aggressive and incoherent; but I suppose it could be worse. I chalk it up to a learning experience: one I could afford to repeat.
A bit tired, a bit sad: staying in this small business flat on the last night, packing, resting; wondering what time I should go to bed.
I am unenthusiastic about travel these days, even the relatively easy lug-the-suitcase-to-the-airport, two-short-flights-separated-by-Dutch-cheese-shopping, grab-a-taxi-home process that will take place tomorrow morning.
I realize, as I've been thinking all week: I may not come back to Zürich much more, not for long anyway; not after the degree is done....
Sleep. Fragments of dreams rise, fall. And again sleep.