Monthly Archives: September 2011


What we couldn’t have achieved if we hadn’t been hindered by each other, if we’d slid into each other without noticing, if we’d grown into one! We’d have slid right into the world, with all its worldly pains and joys. What did you ever want but to feel those pains and joys? Didn’t they seem like child’s play compared to having me around?

A potential life

It’s as if a thread of our potential life were always running under our life. A life that I would have overseen if things hadn’t gone so wrong. A proper life, in which you hadn’t dragged me down, in which we could have cooperated and merged into someone real, someone with continuity, solidity, influence. But we have a real life, we can document it, we’ve got bank statements and tax records.

To be free

I came to you hoping to be healed.
You are my doctor, my saviour, my omnipotent judge, my priest, my
god, the surgeon of my soul.
And I am your proselyte to sanity.

* * *

to achieve goals and ambitions
to overcome obstacles and attain a high standard
to increase self-regard by the successful exercise of talent
to overcome opposition
to have control and influence over others
to defend myself
to defend my psychological space
to vindicate the ego
to receive attention
to be seen and heard
to excite, amaze, fascinate, shock, intrigue, amuse, entertain,
or entice others
to be free from social restrictions
to resist coercion and constriction
to be independent and act according to desire
to defy convention
to avoid pain
to avoid shame
to obliterate past humiliation by resumed action
to maintain self-respect
to repress fear
to overcome weakness
to belong
to be accepted
to draw close and enjoyably reciprocate with another
to converse in a friendly manner, to tell stories, exchange
sentiments, ideas, secrets
to communicate, to converse
to laugh and make jokes
to win affection of desired Other
to adhere and remain loyal to Other
to enjoy sensuous experiences with cathected Other
to feed, help, protect, comfort, console, support, nurse or
to be fed, helped, protected, comforted, consoled,
supported, nursed or healed
to form mutually enjoyable, enduring, cooperating and
reciprocating relationship with Other, with an equal
to be forgiven
to be loved
to be free

— Sarah Kane, 4.48 Psychosis

The ghost in the fog

She walked through the fog into Tottenham Court Road. The houses and the people passing were withdrawn, nebulous. There was only a grey fog shot with yellow lights, and its cold breath on her face, and the ghost of herself coming out of the fog to meet her.
The ghost was thin and eager. It wore a long, very tight check short, a short dark-blue coat, and a bunch of violets bought from the old man in Woburn Square. It drifted up to her and passed her in the fog. And she had the feeling that, like the old man, it looked at her coldly, without recognizing her.

— Jean Rhys, After Leaving Mr Mackenzie

He is suffering from his isolation. He has talked about it several times. As always during the winter, he has been unable to work. He has seen nobody. He goes out walking or sits for hours in his armchair, entirely given over to what is taking shape inside him. He talks frequently about the unknown, of what emerges when all desire, all will and self-regard have spontaneously vanished and the being becomes purely passive. It is to the extent that he has the audacity and courage to welcome the unknown that the painter can engender something new and produce paintings which are each an effective encounter with life. ‘Painting’, he says, ‘is attempting to reach a point where it is impossible to remain’.

Juliet on Bram van Velde, Conversations with Samuel Beckett and Bram van Velde

I say to myself sometimes, You must learn to suffer better than that if you want them to weary of punishing you one day. I say to myself sometimes, You must be there better than that if you want them to let you go one day. But I feel too old, and too far, to form new habits. Good, it’ll never end, I’ll never go.

— Beckett/Jack Macgowran, Beginning to End

Je vois peu

Journaliste: Est-ce que vous avez été un, un homme de nature à aimer rester dans la nature à la regarder?

Bram Van Velde: Oh je crois que je vois pas grand chose, je vois… Je vois vraiment peu…

Journaliste: C’est curieux pour un peintre de dire: je vois peu.

Bram Van Velde: Non, c’est pas, c’est que… le réel m’intéresse très peu.. Ça n’a presque pas d’importance, seulement je me trouve bien ou pas bien. D’être assis, je me sens bien, parce que il y a quelque chose qui vous calme, surtout y a pas la bruit. Le bruit me fait terriblement souffrir… Et puis évidemment je… J’ai fait un tel effort dans la peinture… Au fond, c’est un effort vers le invisible, qui me quitte jamais, et seulement le tableau me fait voir… C’est le moment où on vit, vous voyez. A tel point le tableau qui voit a vraiment sorti de vide, on n’a pas besoin de refaire un autre tableau, ça peut guérir le mort avant qu’on a de nouveau besoin. C’est comme ça que j’arrive parfois à faire une seul tableau… Qui me fait vivre, je n’ai qu’à y penser et je suis, rempli vie… On joue un peu sa vie avec la peinture.

Bram van Velde

Hopeless prayer

When I pray I think, I try to think. And this thinking prayer is not simply negative. It’s a way of asking questions […] When I pray I am thinking about negative theology, the unnameable, the possibility [that I am] totally deceived about my belief and so on. It’s a very sceptical – I don’t like this word – but it can be interpreted as a very sceptical prayer. And this scepticism is part of the prayer. […] Instead of scepticism I would call it a suspension of certainty, and this is part of the prayer. And then I consider that this suspension of certainty, this suspension of knowledge, the inability to answer your question, ‘Who do you expect to answer these prayers?’ is part of what a prayer has to be in order to be authentic. If I knew, if I were simply expecting an answer, that would be the end of the prayer. That would be an order, the way I order a pizza. No, I am not expecting anything. And my assumption is that I must give up any expectation, any certainty as to the one, or more than one, to whom I address this prayer, if this is still a prayer. […] It’s a hopeless prayer on the one hand, and I think this hopelessness is part of what a prayer should be. On the other hand I know that there is hope, there is calculation, there is economy. But what sort of economy? […] I know that praying in that way, even if there is no one God, mother or father receiving my prayer, I know that by this act of praying in the desert – out of love, because I wouldn’t pray otherwise – something might already be good in myself. […] By doing this I try to affirm and to accept something in myself which won’t to any harm to anyone, especially to me. […] If I give up any calculation, because of this calculation around the incalculable I can become better for myself, narcissistically, but to become better narcissistically is a way of loving in a better way, of being more loveable for our loved ones. So that’s a calculation. It’s a calculation which tries to integrate the incalculable. When I pray it’s a mixture of all these things in the same instant, in the same words, in the same gestures. [Then I have] a strange experience in which the Judaism of my childhood, my experience as a philosopher, as a quasi-theologian, all the texts I’ve read, from Plato to St Augustine to Heidegger, are there, they are my world, the world in which my prayer prays. That’s the way I pray, sometimes in a given and fixed moment during the day, sometimes anywhere, at any moment, for instance now.