photo of Jacques Chwat

Jacques Chwat died of Kaposi's sarcoma on the 8th floor of a building on 88th Street, on 8-8-88. The calendrical alignment would have seemed somehow significant to him, a perfect confluence. For he was in many ways a cabalist who found in circumstances and events the glow of all that which is evanescent and translucent.

Throughout his life he walked among the living, guided by the dead. He dwelled instantaneously in the present, for the future with the past. He would trot out faded photographs of relatives long dead, and you would know them and make them live. He returned to his source in an earlier St. Petersburg, to his birthplace in Vilna, to his Eden in Paris. He chronicled his life in countless agendas, recording its skywriting, surrounding himself with the vapor of its trail.

Understanding was more important for him than knowledge. I think that he was fundamentally agnostic of ever knowing the truth as other than a philosophical conceit. For him the theater was capable only of illuminating its fringes, never of demarcating the continuum of its structures and terrain. He was adept in this world, playing its games and laughing at its jokes, but he also had an affinity for those who read the forbidden books. His was a dark soul. Only later in his life could one begin to take the measure of its shadows.

For him the locus of the theatrical act was a way station, the checkpoint in which the passports of our lives are stamped and visas inspected. I think he knew that, to pass the frontier, we would ultimately have to leave them behind.

— Joel Honig