Category Archives: Lars Iyer

I bet you can see right through us

Walking Simone to the bus stop.

What do you see when you see the moon, Donny?, Simone asks.

The Earth’s dead daughter, I say. The moon’s made of bits of Earth. The same stuff as Earth. Did you know that?

No, Simone says.

There was a collision three point five billion years ago, I say. Some runaway planet smashed into the Earth … And all the debris came together to make dear old Luna …

I didn’t know that, Simone says.

The coldest place in the universe is in the craters of the moon, I say. Completely untouched by sunlight.

I didn’t know that either, Simone says.

The moon shines to mock us, I say. To remind us of the indifference of it all. Of the fact that there’s no one bending over our cradle. No one singing us lullabies. The fact that no one knows or cares about our lives …

I don’t think that’s true, Donny, Simone says.

I’m glad, I say. I’m glad you don’t think it’s true. I wish it wasn’t true … You must think we’re idiots.

I don’t think that, Simone says.

The way we talk … Maybe Gita’s right …, I say. There’s something about you. I’ll bet you can see right through us … Can you see through me? I feel that you can. Do you know all my secrets? Do you know what I’ve seen?

I don’t know what you’ve seen, Donny.

Terrible things, I say.

I believe you, Simone says.

Horrors and terrors, I say.

Silence.

Simone, stopping to talk to a homeless man. Giving him money.

The homeless man, thanking her. God bless you. The homeless man, lifting up his tiny dog for Simone to pet.

Walking on. 

The bus stop.

Waiting for the bus.

You’ve heard us talk, Simone, I say. Maybe we talk too much. Maybe we drink too much, but you’ve heard us. We’ve seen through the world. We know that this isn’t how it has to be … We’re not attached to the world. We’re not invested in it.

We’re posthumous, right? We’re post … graduates, I say. Which means we’re already dead. That we died some time ago. We died in the world. The world killed us, each of us. And now we’ve been kind of resurrected with our scholarships. Our studies are a kind of afterlife …

Sometimes I think we’re the end of something, I say. Of some dreadful process. Of some process of degradation. We’ve seen everything. We’ve seen it all. We know the law of the world. The unlivability of the world.

There’s nothing to tie us to life, I say. There’s nothing we want from our future. Because what could change in our future? It’s always the same, always more of the same, always the same old universe of death, over and over …

Sometimes, I think the point is that we have to go to the end – right to the end: to set the controls for the heart of the nihil, I say. To fly right into the nihilist storm. We have to live out our horror to the end. To drive our disgust as far as it can go. Until there’s no more nihilism left. 

And sometimes … I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m talking too much …, I say.  But there’s so much evil … So much injustice … Is Manchester a good place gone bad, or a bad place with bits of the good?

Simone, silent, looking into my face..

You hate the world, too, Simone – I know it, I say. You’re no different to us. You found the world unbearable and you became a PhD student, just as we did. Is that true?

Simone, silent, looking.

Listen: God draws ever closer, she says. I know it. God will mend us – that’s what believe, Simone says. God will heal us. God will use us to engage with evil and disaster and brokenness and hopelessness. Listen, Donny: We will be found. We will be healed. We will be forgiven. We will be joyful.

How? What do we have to do?, I ask.

Pray …, Simone says.

I don’t know how to pray …, I say

Ask to be remade in the image of God, Simone says. Ask to be sculpted into the image of Christ. Cry out and say, Father, find me, I am your child. And you will be welcomed home. You will be found by the father who made you.

There will be so much love, so much joy, so much reconciliation, so much healing, Simone says.

Is that true?, I ask.

He will set fire to our hearts, Simone says.

Is it true?, I ask.

Pray for a new Pentecost of God, Simone says.

You’re going to help us, I say. And we need help. The whole city needs help …

The 143, pulling up.

Who are you, Simone?, I ask. Why are you like this? Did you just beam in from a hundred years ago?

Pray for me, Simone says, smiling. As I will pray for you.

Simone, getting on the bus.

Do you want me to come with you?, I say. Walk you home? Manchester’s full of crazies.

Good night, Donny, Simone says.

— Lars Iyer

Vistas

The student hall.

Outside.

Through the grounds.

The high spiked fence around the perimeter.

Holding the horror back, I say.

Only just, Gita says. It’s scary out here … There’s a bad moon rising, Donny.

It’s always bad, I say.

There it is, showing its face to us, Gita says.

That’s not a face, I say. That’s the opposite of a face. That’s just death, staring out.

Funny no one goes up there anymore, Gita says.

What – to the moon?, I say. Why would you bother? What’s up there?

I thought they wanted to build some giant telescope on the moon’s dark side, Gita says. To see further into space. And further back in time. All the way back to the Big Bang.

The Big Fucking Mistake, more like, I say.

Silence.

Looking back at the hall.

Imagine it without the student annex, I say. Without the refectory out back. Just the old mansion.

Sure it’s pretty, Gita says. It’s a real idyll.

They use it as a film set in the holidays, I say. They film exteriors here. Old cars crunching up on the gravel, and the like.

It’s a real let’s-pretend place, Gita says.

See the way the old mansion pulls the whole setting together?, I say. The way it gathers the grounds around it. The lawn? The trees? …

It’s like my old school, Gita says.

This whole place is like an island, I say. A little patch of green in the midst of all the horrors and the terrors. And do you see the way they laid this path – all winding? There are corners you can turn and suddenly everything opens up … They had a real sense of drama, back then.

I’ll bet you’re the only one who sees this place as what it is, Gita says.

As what it was, I say.

Maybe you’ll become warden one day, Gita says.

I can’t, I say. That’s for professors at the uni.

So maybe you’ll be a professor, Gita says.

The uni will probably sell it off, I say. It’s always being threatened. These places can’t survive.

You should just be Lord of Manor, Donny, Gita says. You could wander the grounds, hands behind your back.

I’d rather be a groundskeeper, I say. I should have been a landscape gardener instead of … whatever it is I do.

Do you know the names of the trees, Donny? Do you know their names?

That’s a horse chestnut, I think. And that’s an old English oak.

My favourite bench, by the flower beds.

Sitting, smoking.

Looking into the wardens’ conservatory.

Beautiful, Gita says. It’s like some National Trust property.

See, it isn’t horror everywhere, I say. There are exceptions. There’s a real expanse to this place. An ease. It suspends the law of the world. It’s like you’ve pressed a giant pause button on … everything else … There are views that matter – that’s what I think. That lift you out of everything. There are landscapes …

You’re a real nature-boy, Gita says. Someone’s going to love you for this kind of talk. You’re going to fascinate someone. Someone will rally to your cause. Someone’s going to love you, and someone’s going to love me. We’re both very loveable.

I’ll dream of this view in fifty years’ time, I say. It’ll be the last thing I see before I die.

Silence.

I’ve known things – terrible things, I say. In the home. I’ve seen real evil.

Silence.

People talk about the banality of evil, I say. The evil of pen-pushers, just following orders, just being good Nazis or whatever. But this wasn’t banal …

The horrors and the terrors. I’ve seen them. I’ve known them. They’re insatiable, I say. You can’t give them enough. It’s just … greed.  And we were like … trapped animals.

I’m sorry, Gita says.

It’s like Antichrist – did you ever see that?, I say. Chaos just fucking … reigns. One day I’ll go mad from … chaos.

But you have your vistas, Donny. You have your grass and your tennis court and your trees …

I see a darkness, I say. I see a fucking darkness, swallowing up the world. Putting out the stars. Swallowing up the sky. Swallowing up me and swallowing up you.

God, Donny …, Gita says.

I see a darkness – that’s all I see, I say. And sometimes I can forget it, and sometimes I can’t. Sometimes it feels too thick, and that it’s choking me. And sometimes … It lets me breathe.

Silence. Gita’s hand on mine.

I shouldn’t have said those things, I say. It’s too much, I know that.

Say anything you like, Donny, Gita says.

I’m about this far from insanity, I say. This far … Will I have to go mad? Is it inevitable? There are these distances … in my head …

You’re not going to go mad, Donny, Gita says. You’re never going to go mad. Look at the moon. Look at the night. It’s all dead, but you’re alive. And sane. And here. You survived everything … I love you Donny.

Don’t say what you don’t mean, I say. Don’t say it.

I love you, Gita says. Not in that way, but I do.  And one day, someone’s going to take you away from all this. Someone’s going to love you and save you. Someone good, who knows what beauty is. And truth. Who knows what truth is, too.

— Spurious, from a novel in progress

Another, ghostly life

I often dream of finding myself back in the suburbs, back before I received my PhD scholarship to pursue my studies in continental philosophy — before I could return to Manchester and leave the suburbs behind. And I dream of the strange expansiveness of the suburbs too — of their very indefiniteness, the way they seem to sprawl forever.

I used to go cycling under the white skies, and air felt thick and heavy. But I could never leave the menace behind — that “eternullity,” as Blanchot calls it; that “infinite wearing away.”

It is this “eternullity” that is, I think, so difficult to affirm. What would have happened if I’d never found my way into Reading University Library, if I’d never discovered continental philosophy, if I’d never won my scholarship and moved away? 

There is, I think, another, ghostly life of mine that I’d never have the strength to affirm, in which I would have stayed stranded in those afternoons, alone with the “infinite wearing away” that belonged to them.

Lars Iyer

The Moment

Photos of my forthcoming book, published by Splice.

The Moment 1

The Moment 2

The Moment 3

The Moment back cover

Animals

Sometimes, he cannot help but think that animals are close to the divine.

It is we who were expelled from paradise, he says. Not the animals.

The world outside of mind we can know only from the beast’s face, he says. He is quoting.

He cannot help but think that animals show him something. That an animal is nothing but that — showing.

There is a lesson he is being taught. There is a lesson that animals are trying to teach him. But how can he heed it?

What an animal is — is obvious. It is there, simple. As to what a human being is …

What would an animal say if it were able to speak? Of course, but animals remain on the other side of speech. On the far side of speech. Still, all the animals around us can be understood to interrupt our speaking, he says. To cut across it.

He has always thought of himself as awaiting the Word which will release him. It seems to him that it is this Word which resides with animals, on the side of animals.

The animal exists in a state of grace, of that he is sure. The animal is already in paradise.

— Lars Iyer, Wittgenstein Jr.

 

The hills are unaware that we are watching them, he says. The trees. The insects. This is what is marvellous.

No one is watching us, he says. Nothing sees us.

But at other times, it frightens him, this ‘no one is watching us’. It’s as though not-watching itself is watching; as though the sky, which sees nothing, sees everything in that seeing-nothing.

We can have no secrets from the sky, he says. We are read by the sky.

— Lars Iyer, Wittgenstein Jr. 

‘Only the hopeless can truly understand the everyday’

He can imagine me as a boy, W. says, cycling out through the new housing estates, and through what remained of the woodland – muddy tracks along field-edges, fenced-in bridleways and overgrown footpaths. —‘You were looking for something’, he says. ‘You knew something was missing.’

He sees it in his mind’s eye: I’m carrying my bike over the railway bridge. I’m cycling through glades of tree stumps in the forestry plantations. I’m following private roads past posh schools and riding academies. I’m looking for barrows and ley lines, W. says. I’m looking for Celtic gods and gods of any kind.

And what do I find as I wheel my bike across the golf course? What, in the carpark of an out-of-town retail park? What, on the bench outside the supermarket, eating my discounted sandwiches? The everyday, W. says, which is to say, the opposite of the gods.

*

Religion is about this world, about the ordinary, the everyday, W. says, over our pints at The Queen’s Oak. Why does no one understand that? W. says. Why will no one listen?

But when it comes to the everyday itself, I am the expert, not him, W. says. Only I understand what it means to reach the depths, which is to say the surface, of the everyday.

It has to be felt, the everyday, W. is convinced of that. It has to have defeated you. Humiliated you. A man who hasn’t been brought to his knees by the everyday can have no understanding of the everyday, says W., aphoristically.

I’ve certainly been brought to my knees, W. says, that much is clear. I’ve spent whole years on my knees.

*

‘We are ferociously religious’, says W., quoting Bataille. Are we? —‘Oh yes’, W. says, ‘especially you. Especially you!’ That’s why he hangs out with me, w. says, he’s sure of it: my immense religious instinct, of which I am entirely unaware.

It’s all to do with my intimate relationship with the everyday, W. says. It’s to do with my years of unemployment and menial work, he says.

When he thinks of religion, he immediately thinks of me working in my warehouse, he says. He thinks of me in the warehouse with no hope in my life.

Only the hopeless can truly understand the everyday, W. says. Only they can approach the everyday at its level. And only those who can approach the everyday in such a way are really religious, W. says.

— Lars Iyer, Dogma

A drop of the sea in the sea

W. dreams of a thought that would move with what it thinks, follow and respond to it, like a surfer his wave. A thought that would inhabit what was to be thought, like a fish the sea – no, a thought that would be only a drop of the sea in the sea, belonging to its object as water does to water.

— Lars Iyer, Dogma

A merciful surplus of strength

Each time, the act of writing depends upon what Kafka has called ‘a merciful surplus of strength’ that returns the writer to the ‘I can’ that opens the world according to what is possible for a human being. Each time, strength lifts the writer from the quagmire, from those swamplike moods in which the self is not yet gathered together. Moods which, if not uncommon are too quickly forgotten, like the night mists that vanish with morning.

Spurious 

One writes for the disadjusted… that is to say, for one’s friends, and less for the friends one has than for the innumerable unknown people who have the same life as us, who roughly and crudely understand the same things, are able to accept or must refuse the same, and who are in the same state of powerlessness and official silence.

— Dionys Mascolo, via here