Tuesday, February 5, 2013


My bitter friend, Currado Malaspina sizzles with contempt at the mere mention of the word propriétaire. "Dante should have reserved a special place in his infernal fantasy for the landlords, bankers and the owners of Quick," he told me on more than one occasion. Currado has been renting his Place Paul Painlevé studio from the swindling slumlord Edvard Schchitonya for over twenty years and holds this elegent Russian émigré in delicious contempt.

Portrait of Edvard Schchitonya, watercolor and pastel on paper, Currado Malaspina, 2011

Currado once confided in me that to soothe himself into sleep he imagines poor Edvard in his ubiquitous soft yarn Norwegian turtleneck ski sweater writhing in a puddle of his own vomit screaming "au secours nom de dieu au secours!"

What riles Currado the most is that Schchitonya's avarice exceeds even the wretched, contemptible but somehow acceptable norm. His voracious cupidity surpasses even the tolerated levels of craven profiteering that we have grown so accustomed to in this Olympian age of greed. He seeks not only gain and surfeit but sincerely finds a perverse sense of accomplishment in the suffering of others. 

Case in point, Sandrine Pijnenburg, Currado's next-door neighbor.

Sandrine Pijnenburg, Paris 20013
  Known by everyone in the neighborhood as Sabtoosh (Sandrine's oddly appropriate diminutive of uncertain provenance), Pijnenburg has lived in the building since 1969 when it was still owned by the French-Algerian playwright Aggassi Hanasi. When Hanasi died the building was sold by his son Yehuda to a shill real estate development company called Rvota owned by the Russian oligarch Sergei Turgenev. Somehow, through machinations far too byzantine for Currado's math deficient mind to comprehend, in 1993 his landlord became Schchitonya.

Now, through the obscure Napoleonic "Droit de l'asile" a law that is invoked in France about as frequently as the law prohibiting women from wearing pants, Schchitonya is evicting his tenents in order to make the flats available as tax shelters for his Moscovite business partners.

Needless to say, Sabtoosh is none too pleased. According to Currado, Schchitonya has offered to buy out the 90 year grandmother for 20,000 euro, barely enough to afford a squalorous one-bedroom, rat infested tenement in some affronted suburb like Saint-Denis. She flatly refuses and is now embroiled in a bitter lawsuit that is eroding her life savings like an arctic glacier.

And why isn't Currado vulnerable to the rapacious Russian's appetite for profit? Why does he remain undisturbed in his bohemian atelier?

It's all in the family.

 Edvard Schchitonya is married to Malaspina's little sister Emelie. 

Emelie and Edvard Schichitonya on their honeymoon in St. Petersburg, 1998

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