Reading Garcia Lorca in Almeria

Africa was just across the sea, perhaps a few miles due south. We were in a small village, Alfaix, in Almeria. Sadly, there wasn’t any glimpse of Africa. There were no lights shimmering on the ocean surface, speaking to my inner Africa. Nonetheless, North Africans lived here, in Andalusia, for 700 years, before retreating to Fez and Marrakesh.

Houses and Their Noises

All houses or should I say, each house has a particular noise, a kind of signature that is like a finger print identifying and memorialising it. I remember our first night at the Moskva, a modern hotel, in the Soviet style in Moscow, in 1984. Remarkably, it groaned and spluttered at night more or less…

The Unmentionable Odour of Death

In his poem ‘September 1, 1939’ WH Auden (1907-1973) referred to the ‘unmentionable odour of death’. That was at the outbreak of the 2nd World War. But now we are into the second month of Putin’s war against Ukraine and the revelations from Bucha recalls Auden’s line, but sadly, even if the odour of death is unmentionable, we can well imagine it, all that way, away from the actual grim and unspeakable horror that is Bucha.

Borges’ Undr

Emil Cioran (1911-1995) poet and prophet of pessimism, an existentialist, but one who abhorred meaning-making, whose philosophy focused on the tragic and meaningless, the despair in existence. He wrote ‘I have seen one man pursue his goal, another that one; I have seen men fascinated by disparate objects, under the spell of dreams and plans…

Marguerite Yourcenar’s Aphrodissia: The Widow

In Marguerite Yourcenar’s (1903-1987) Oriental Tales, there is a story “Aphrodissia, The Widow” which deals with the problem of secret grief, that is secret because the source, the relationship with the lost object is a secret but also forbidden.

Reading Thomas Hardy in Dorset

I am preoccupied with the nature of oaths and vows. How is it that we come to find promises binding? What is about words, about language, that utterances take on the status of fiat. There is the associated magic of the written word, the manner in which suddenly the affixed sign turns a dull document from insignificance, from an inert object to a living document that has power and authority.