Landsberg

university
mathematics professor —
old man — who were you?
— when my world turned pure evil
your mind held its vision clear

landsberg_1639924f

Well, the internet has its uses. I just discovered more about Peter Landsberg in the last five minutes browsing than I knew during the the last fifty years of having known him (in my own mind) as the father of my best friend at school. His Telegraph obituary is here. In my dream last night, I was having an uneasy but fundamentally good natured reunion with his son Max, whom I knew 45 years ago as Edwin. The story of how, around the age of thirteen or fourteen, my best friend began to turn imperceptibly into my worst enemy, doesn’t belong here. Nor, really, the story of my years of homelessness — and psychosis — in the early nineties when I believed I had seen Peter Landsberg shuffling at an old man’s snail pace past the shop doorway where I was holed up with cardboard boxes and a blanket. This poem is an attempt to capture that moment. I was not even sure that it was him. Yet I felt I had had a glimpse of the true essence of Peter Landsberg — the strength of his mind an unexpected ally somehow, in my own struggles with madness. He appeared almost like a vision, something straight out of Sophocles. In my dream last night, I was offering him the dedication of a piece of music I’d composed. I wish I could understand why he looms so archetypally in my imagination. It has something to do with comparing him with my own father, which I did as a matter of course back in the sixties when I knew Edwin. Since then I’ve realised what an unequal contest it was. Landsberg was a formidable intellect. His part in my life would seem to have been almost completely negligible. But at the level of fantasy he represents something unique and intriguing.

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