Monthly Archives: July 2010

I have never understood how it is possible for almost anyone who writes to objectify his sufferings in the very midst of suffering them; thus I, for example, in the midst of my unhappiness – my head, say, still on fire with unhappiness – sit down and write to someone: I am unhappy. Yes, I can even go beyond that and with the various flourishes I might have talent for, all of which seem to have nothing to do with my unhappiness, ring simple, or contrapuntal or a whole orchestration of changes on my theme. And it is not a lie, and it does not still my pain, it is simply a merciful surplus of strength at a moment when suffering has raked me to the bottom of my being and plainly exhausted all my strength. But then what kind of strength is it?

— Kafka, Diary (via Spurious)


A strange country

Then as K. still lay absorbed in thought, she started up and began to tug at him like a child: ‘Come on, it’s too close down here’, and they embraced each other, her little body burned in K.’s hands, in a state of unconsciousness which K. tried again and again but in vain to master as they rolled a little way, landing with a thud on Klamm’s door, where they lay among the small puddles of beer and other refuse gathered on the floor. There, hours went past, hours in which they breathed as one, in which their hearts beat as one, hours in which K. was haunted by the feeling that he was losing himself or wandering into a strange country, father than ever man had wandered before, a country so strange that not even the air had anything in common with his native air, where one might die of strangeness, and yet whose enchantment was such that one could only go on and lose oneself further. 

— Kafka, The Castle (tr. W. and E. Muir)

I wouldn’t call myself a religious man. I don’t believe in any version of God that I can come up with. Sometimes a deep appetite for prayer arises, and I pray. Where my prayer is addressed, I would not dare to say. I would not dare to try to describe where my prayer is aimed. Any opinion about this matter that I’ve ever come up with I have very little respect for. I have little respect for most of my opinions, but this one I have no respect for.

Leonard Cohen

As the world becomes more and more baffling and bewildering, one is thrown back on one’s own shabby little story. [The Book of Longing] is just my little story.

Leonard Cohen

True art can issue only from a purely anonymous centre.

— Rilke, letter

New town

‘I seemed to avoid the hole. For a time. It helped to have moved to a pleasanter place. Being near the sea helped. My so-called inner life seemed less oppressive and boring when I looked out at my new town, when I knew I could walk down the street anytime and see nice white buildings and beautiful women and look out over the sea. But I knew it would get worse and I’d get ill again if I weren’t careful. No doubt there were lots of new things to do and people worth meeting, but they seemed distant, opaque. Easier to avoid the effort and sink into routine. I got up and waited for drinking time. If I had work I worked. Sometimes I tried to stretch out the pre-drinking time by walking or running along the seafront. Sometimes I had to do errands or meet someone. The extra pills I took made me tired, and I’d sleep deeply in the afternoon, which also passed the time. I was calm, numb, comfortable, bored. The sun moved from one end of the sky to the other, the wind picked up and died down. Trees grew and died, mountains eroded, seas flowed and ebbed, planets moved in their orbits. Vast inhuman cycles of activity: nothing to do with me. Inactivity or activity, what did it matter in the end? But it did matter, wasn’t that what I ought to have learned by now? I had to get a foothold in the everyday. I often thought about ways to recover a sense of possibility. And of the constant renewal it seemed to demand, a demand that itself seemed almost inhuman. But there was always a discovery to be made: of what was already there, with or without me, before and after me. Life’s splendour, lying in wait, waiting for no one. Sometimes all it took was a single ordinary act or encounter for it to reveal itself.’

With and without me

‘I couldn’t earn or predict it. Sometimes I got lucky and things came together, sometimes the current beneath acts and events carried me with it. I lived on despite myself. You lived on with and without me, anonymously.’

Is there nothing in your head?

‘My nerves are bad to-night. Yes, bad. Stay with me.
‘Speak to me. Why do you never speak? Speak.
‘What are you thinking of? What thinking? What?
‘I never know what you are thinking. Think.’

I think we are in rats’ alley
Where the dead men lost their bones.

‘What is that noise?’
The wind under the door.
‘What is that noise now? What is the wind doing?’
Nothing again nothing.
‘You know nothing? Do you see nothing? Do you remember
I remember
Those are pearls that were his eyes.
‘Are you alive, or not? Is there nothing in your head?’

— T.S. Eliot, ‘The Waste Land’

The void

When I looked at the streets
And when they looked at me
The void the void
The void could only stop being
When I … 123, 321, 123, 321
Mill, mill
When I looked at the streets
And when you were talking
When I tried to think
When I tried to think


Anxiety is narcissism and narcissism is anxiety. Far from being dispersed, the anxious, ontologically insecure self not only persists but is amplified in the world. This is the strange logic of anxiety: it simultaneously fragments the unity of the self while also placing that fragmentation at the centre of things. Indeed, anxiety’s ‘threat’ to self is at the same time a vindication of the self as a centre, a fundamental commitment to the narcissism of selfhood. Because of this fragmented centre, the world of the anxious subject takes as its point of departure an exaggerated, hyper-real view of things, in which perception and attention are drawn back to the anxious subject.

— Dylan Trigg, Side Effects