Maria Fusco

Legend of the Necessary Dreamer

Legend of the Necessary Dreamer is a book that is difficult to classify. I’m not really sure what you’d call it. Quoted on the back there are many names; a novella, a prose essay, a modest epic, a work of spatial imagination. I guess if you read it you can make your own mind up.

It follows a time in June 2013 when Maria Fusco visited the Palácio Pombal in Lisbon every day for a number of weeks, as her role as writer-in-residence at the Lisbon Architecture Triennale. This is the record of her time there, though it is so much more than just a record of the place itself. The narrator and the building become intertwined in this space of time, they live as one.

It’s hard to know what’s real and not real, fiction or nonfiction, regardless it doesn’t really matter. It is a visceral experience, as if the building is alive within the narrator. From the conversations that exist within the walls, to that which it sees and has seen, the decaying stucco is a gentle reminder of not only the past but also the future.

It’s difficult to separate personal life from the structure during this time because it is always there, in the background, in the foreground. The narrator discusses their internal thoughts, weaving internal dialogue and reflections on the building, as it flows through meditations on compassion, relationships and grief. You feel each line almost as if you’re part of it.

Part way through this time period one of Fusco’s friends passes away. It is felt so heavily within the words on the pages. You sink in a way, as you reflect on your own experiences and friendships. Below is an extract from this part of the book:

Gravity cannot buoy without her breath.

When someone we love is removed from the earth, what we are left with in their absence is very little. We are wrung out.

Love for our friends is much more difficult to rationalise, or to attempt to describe, than love for our family and our partners. The love we feel for friends, for our best, our closest friends, the joy in and of the love of our friend, in the embodied moment of being with our friend, can it survive their death? This question cannot even begin to be contemplated without them, which is impossible of course, because they are no longer with us.

Relationships with friends live in the moment. They are matters of choice, not of necessity. A friend is someone we may have met through chance, or employment, met through another friend who subsequently we are no longer familiar with; for our range of friends have different roles, naturally, just as we have different roles in their lives. Some friends function to introduce us to other, newer friends; perhaps in this way, friends are the most useful, and the most satisfying relationships we may have. This is not quantification, it is simple inertia.

Love saturates our dealings with our dearest friends, thereby informing our future interactions with others, guiding us. That's why, when a friend dies, we lose much more than just their physical force - head, eyes, hands, shoulders, tongue - in losing their friendship, what we really lose is the ability to learn from them.

And what is death to those who continue to live?

Though the book details the record of a time in Palácio Pombal, it is essential reading on what it means to be human. We are not so far from our creations. Repetition brings something out of us, something that is only for ourselves to discover. There are many things a building can be, what is held within an interior that is hidden to an outside world.

I’ll be in Lisbon this summer which is kind of just a coincidence, so I can’t not visit. It’s always an odd experience reading about places or experiences and subsequently going to the place or experiencing the thing. I think it distorts your perception of it, which is neither a good nor a bad thing. I guess regardless of the experience it shows you how large the range of perception is towards something. Reality is so different to any medium of art. Every piece of art you experience is through a lens, whether that’s your own internal perspective or that of the artist, or both.

I think everyone who reads this book will have their own experience of it. It feels very personal, a memoir of a time and a life. Reflections on what once was and what will continue to be.

‘Is it possible to desire that which you have not seen?’