BIOGRAPHY AND MYTH

richard roud on mary meerson, partner and co-conspirator of henri langlois:

if mary meerson could be persuaded to write the story of her life, it would make fascinating reading--but she won't. nor will she let anyone else; nor will she even tell the whole story. occasionally bits will come out; after seeing the soviet film the last night, mary said to me that it was the one film that really gave an accurate picture of life during the revolution. "you would go out to a party," she said, "and then you couldn't come home, because the battle lines between reds and whites had shifted within the city." but when i asked her, "where was that, mary, and when?" she immediately changed the subject.

in her own words,"mary meerson does not exist. i am scheherazade."




i have been thinking a lot about mary meerson, and others, too: joseph beuys comes to mind, and andy warhol. all three are people who were notorious for deliberately shrouding their own pasts in mystery; all three refused to answer questions with verifiable facts. i am wondering about this impulse and where it came from; were mary, joseph and andy always so evasive, or was this a tactic they developed when they became famous--when people started to ask, and ask too much?



if i could have it my way, i would dedicate my history to an entire book, a book that explained not only the story of my life, but my story with backlog, perspective, justification: my story of my life. there isn't enough breath in my lungs nor sense in my brain to recount it verbally, and i haven't the talent nor the access to set it to paper. what i'm wishing for would be the handywork of some invisible notetaker, having started from the moment i was born--an impossible, supernatural thing. i am not a religious girl, but still: imagine that book. in his story the library of babel, borges talks about the books of vindication, "books of apology and prophecy which vindicated for all time the acts of every man in the universe and retained prodigious arcana for his future." i suppose what i'm describing is my book of vindication; and if i had it, i would be generous.

and every person i met whom i trusted, whom i knew would be good with it--they could take it and know everything there was to know about me. i am the kind of person who longs for that sort of access and transparency, which is all the more reason that people like mary meerson fascinate me. people like mary leave unanswered questions in their wake; they persist in the world, in part, as myth.