Monday, 18 September 2017

Karl Ove Knausgaard: Autumn

The world is material. We are always in a certain place. Now I am here.

What makes life worth living? No child asks itself that question. To children life is self-evident. Life goes without saying: whether it is good or bad makes no difference. This is because children don’t see the world, don’t observe the world, don’t contemplate the world, but are so deeply immersed in the world that they don’t distinguish between it and their own selves. Not until that happens, until a distance appears between what they are and what the world is, does the question arise: what makes life worth living?

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Georges Simenon: The Carter of 'La Providence'

There are all kinds of bolt-holes. Some have the smell of whisky, eau de Cologne, a woman and the sounds of gramophone records…

But it fell back again weakly, gnarled, calloused, spotted with small blue dots which must have been the vestiges of old tattoos.

He cycled over 50 kilometres without once stopping for a beer.

Monday, 28 August 2017

Federico Campagna: The Last Night: Anti-Work, Atheism, Adventure

Imagine growing up as a young atheist in a stiflingly Catholic
country. Imagine migrating to London, the Babylon of 'really existing
atheism'. Imagine the expectations.

When I first set foot on the cold, secular ground of the metropolis,
I felt that I couldn't have asked for more. A few empty churches,
scattered here and there. No Vatican City, no Pope. Charles
Darwin's face on banknotes. I could finally breathe freely.
Yet I realised quickly that something wasn't right. Somehow, the
smell of religion still lingered in the air, as sickening as always. I
found it on the trains coming back home from the office, filled
with exhausted workers. I smelt it on the benches on a Monday
afternoon, covered with the beer cans of the unemployed. Most of
all, I felt it surrounding me when I walked into the office every
morning, finding my colleagues already there, frantically typing
on their keyboards as if fiddling with digital rosaries. I had
walked in perfectly on time, why was everybody there already?
Why did they look so satisfied when they greeted me from their
desks? They were working hard, harder than they were expected
to. And in the evening, when the darkness of Northern Europe
enveloped the office blocks and young professionals' houses,
they were still at their desks, typing as fast as greyhounds race.
Looking at me packing up, as if I had been a weak opponent
abandoning the match before time. Why did they keep working
late, when no pay or praise was ever to be awarded to them by
anybody? What did they find in their silent, tragic sacrifice?
Once again I was surrounded by that smell. The same smell that
filled the churches of my childhood on a Sunday morning. It had
spread everywhere. Not just in churches, but all around the
office blocks. Not just confined to one day a week, but every day
- eight, nine ten hours a day. No longer accompanied by the
chanting of monks, but by the clicking march of a million ants on
the keyboard of one, immense metropolitan organ.
Religion had never left. I had never managed to escape it. Its
name had changed, but its believers remained the same. They
were just a little more honest, a little more self-sacrificing than
the old Catholics back at home. Possibly, a little more fanatical.

Qian Zhongshu: Fortress Besieged

Marriage is like a fortress besieged: those who are outside want to get in, and those who are inside want to get out.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Catherine Lacey: The Answers

The installation was intended to hasten Kurt's editing of The Walk by stimulating gamma waves, but it had taken several months of trial and error to sync the correct tracks with patterns in cloud coverage and atmospheric pressure, a process that had creatively derailed Kurt to the point that his meditation counselor, Yuri, suggested Kurt spend some time doing something repetitive and therapeutic to allow the psychological impact of the installation to set in so Kurt spent months constantly knitting, creating yards-long scarves and hats that grew wider and wider until they had no recogniseable use.

How sad our respective nothings had seemed at first, the cool absence in a bed, the dinners with a book. Then, even sadder, those nothings became preferable. The simplicity of being alone won out over the complexity of being together.

She did miss the comfort of his life drifting beside hers. She missed his nothing. It had felt like something.

Of course, it was just her job to care, to listen, and she was merely participating in the worldwide tradition f dreading one's work, but she felt a new difficulty in getting herself to cooperate, to go along with it all.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Herman Melville : Moby Dick

Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off - then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.

Better to sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunk Christian.

"Consider the subtleness of the sea; how its most dreaded creatures glide under water, unapparent for the most part, and treacherously hidden beneath the loveliest tints of azure. Consider also the devilish brilliance and beauty of many of its most remorseless tribes, as the dainty embellished shape of many species of sharks. Consider, once more, the universal cannibalism of the sea; all whose creatures prey upon each other, carrying on eternal war since the world began.

"Consider all this; and then turn to the green, gentle, and most docile earth; consider them both, the sea and the land; and do you not find a strange analogy to something in yourself? For as this appalling ocean surrounds the verdant land, so in the soul of man there lies one insular Tahiti, full of peace and joy, but encompassed by all the horrors of the half-known life. God keep thee! Push not off from that isle, thou canst never return!"