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…
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.
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.
This is the context then of When We Dead Awaken, a play that describes an encounter between a retired sculptor Arnold Rubek and Irena, a model who had sat for him. It is a reckoning of sorts, an accounting of the value of a life. And sadly, it concludes that the artistic life eschews living and is dead!
The Epic of Gilgamesh was written over 5,000 years ago. It is regarded as the first great work of literature. My interest today is not in the usual emphasis, that is placed, on the examination of the nature of friendship, the treatment of the duties of kings foreshadowing ‘mirrors for princes’ in the Epic. Today, I am preoccupied with the motif of journeys in literature. This theme is most explicit in Homer’s Odyssey and in Aeneas’ Aeneid.
There are vestiges of Victorian Lagos in Sefi Atta’s novels. Vestiges in the sense that these aspects of Victorian Lagos are quiescent and invisible, somewhat like the appendix, that is until inflamed. In The Bead Collector we have Regina Hernandes and Eugenia Hernandes both Aguda, Lagos Brazilian Catholics. Our heroine, Remi Lawal’s visit to Eugenia’s house is…
An imaginary being, an ancient text by al-Jahiz and translated by Miguel Asin Palacios and related to us by Borges and sent onwards on its journey by me. An accumulation of preposterous imaginings over space and time, an accretion some might say but no less alive for that and infused with vitality in the retelling.
‘…In that Empire, the craft of Cartography attained such Perfection that the Map of a Single province covered the space of an entire City, and the Map of the Empire itself an entire Province’
Always to be attentive to the mundane and ordinary and to question what silence and style are denoting. It is the attentiveness, that initially is exhausting, that eventually comes to be automatic and constantly switched on.
Reading Alejandra Pizarnick (1936-1972) is like standing by the drystone wall leading towards Hardcastle Craggs from Hebden Bridge in the darkening evening, just before Crimsworth Terrace. And looking up the valley, a valley draped in mist, a subdued greyness like a gauze hanging there with the surreal shadows of the hills, just about visible. And then, looking at oneself, a dense pith of darkness, there and not there, again just barely visible. That is what her poetry is like, all mist and shadows, slippery yet sharp as a knife edge, grazing against the sky, sometimes brushing the sky and at other times kissing it.