The cellar of memory

Isaiah Berlin (1909-1997) described Anna Akhmatova (1889-1966) in 1945 as   immensely dignified, with unhurried gestures, a noble head, beautiful, somewhat severe features and an expression of immense sadness.   I never met her except in her poetry. When I first read her poems, I found that they were charged as like with intensely powerful…

Icelandic Sagas- ways of living and dying

I don’t know whether you know about Nkisi nkodi. It is a Kongo nailed figure, a container or statue of forces directed at an end. It is one of the most potent figures of African art. The nails are hammered into the wood whilst ritual curses are spoken. Each object may have dozens of these…

Prayer and melancholia

That human life must be some kind of mistake is sufficiently proved by the simple observation that man is a compound of needs which are hard to satisfy; that their satisfaction achieves nothing but a painless condition in which he is only given over to boredom; and that boredom is a direct proof that existence…

Poems of disquiet

    Sabi is the color of the poem. It does not necessarily refer to the poem that describes a lonely scene. If a man goes to war wearing stout armor or to a party dressed up in gay clothes, and if this man happens to be an old man, there is something lonely about…

Absence of mirrors

  Imagine an absence of mirrors. Without any reflective surface, how would anyone know what his face looked like? Whether or not he is comely? And, what of the link between his facial appearance and his self-identity, his distinctiveness? Everything is then in the eye, in the eye of the Other. In the absence of…