CALL ME CHAMELEON
‘The selective memory of a kaleidoscopic-eyed globetrotter, from age 3 to this day’
by Albert Russo
To Sam, Soheila and Darya, Franck and Philippe,
with blessings, affection and wishes for lifelong harmony.
It is recounted in different styles and even in different genres, at the first or at the third person; like life itself, it is never linear, a memoir, being an accumulation of facts, some true, some dreamt, others, emerging from the subconscience, so these could never be objective, for they are seen through the mirror of one’s mind, which can be lucid at times, but are often distorted, and yet, I cannot call them lies.
Take any of Van Gogh’s self-portraits, Picasso’s, Chagall’s or Albrecht Dürer’s, and decide for yourself where the truth lies or doesn’t lie.
Some excerpts from my AFRICAN QUATUOR and I-SRAELI SYNDROME novels are included here, but also from my two large volumes of stories and poetry, entitled THE CROWDED WORLD OF SOLITUDE I and II, since they are part of my own experience. I have not discarded the more sexually explicit events from this memoir. And last but not least, my cheeky 12 year-old heroin ZAPINETTE – there are now 9 novels in this series – recounts anecdotes in my life and travels in her very skewed tone. She is very politically incorrect, blurting out truths I mostly adhere to but which I don’t always dare express openly.
by Adam Donaldson Powell, Poet, wrtier, essayist, artist, linguist
I was honoured but also “scared shitless” (pardon my French, err rather “NewYork-ese”) when Albert asked me to write a preface for this book.
I have known Albert for almost a decade now, having first been a critic of his books, then giving him editorial help and finally co-authoring “Gaytude” with him in 2009. Somewhere along the way we — of course — became personal friends, as well as colleagues. For years, I have encouraged him (and nagged him) to write his autobiography. He had always refused, citing his preference for fictionalizing his colourful life. Albert can be “all in your face”, and also quite secretive — and both at the same time. Yeah … he is a chameleon. Not a liar, not a coward … but a chameleon warrior, who calculates the proper advancement at the “proper time”.
He sprang the news of this new book upon me, quite incidentally. As I read the first few hundred pages, I realized that this book was the final curtain call for the chameleon. That is why most authors resist writing their memoirs until absolutely necessary. We are all chameleons, and often have several identities which express themselves in our writing. However, fiction is another “beast” than non-fiction. And autobiographies are harder to write than creative biographies.
To write an autobiography is a feat that is difficult, painful, and often feels foreign due to the fact that most of the stories have already been told in various forms through fiction, essays and poetry. In addition, I knew that this was Albert’s chance to let it all hang out, so-to-speak. The nice chameleon has its nasty sides — as we all do — and some of the anger would be sure to leak out in such a book. (A coming to terms, one might say.) And finally, this project has scared me shitless because here he — the chameleon — finally reveals himself (often times through his all-too-frank alter ego Zapinette), and recounts the well-known stories from his travels to and residences in Africa, Israel, Europe and America within a human context. Within a human context … And why is that scary? Well, fiction is often more believable than truth (read: more acceptable / comfortable than truth / real life). I saw for myself the “bad boy” chameleon, that I learned to know and love personally and in his literature, threatening to rear his beautiful head. Who was I scared for … the chameleon, or the readers?
Honestly? Both … we are all the chameleon. Albert Russo outs us all in this book.