Found guilty

Whether walking on the side or in the middle of the street, I always felt myself appraised, judged, found guilty by the Austrian crowd, the Austrian majority, and time and again I accepted their verdict, though with no idea of what I was guilty of. What a relief to be walking down a street, convinced that some member of the eye-trapper gang must be studying me from the side, and then to look up and see nothing but the vacant eyes of a doll in a shop window.

On this Yugoslavian street there was no majority, and accordingly no minority, but only a varied and yet harmonious bustle such as, apart from the small town of Jesenice, I have known only in big cities. And here, for the present, I was the foreigner, to whom, in the streets of Carinthia beyond the mountains, I have always been grateful, because he distracts attention from me, but who here had his place in the crowd, among the people of the street.

— Handke, Repetition (tr. Manheim)

A review of The Moment from Sean of Travel Through Stories:


People in search of a presentist experience need only look around them at certain cityscapes, replicated across the globe, for which the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas has invented the concept “Generic City,” associated with the notion of “Junkspace.” This is where presentism is really at home, eating up space and reducing or banishing time. The Generic City, freed from its enslavement to the center, is without history, even if it goes to great lengths to advertise its pseudo-historical district, where history is a service provided, complete with quaint trains and horse-drawn carriages. And if, despite everything, a center survives, it has to be at once “the most old and the most new,” “the most fixed and the most dynamic.” As the product of “an encounter between escalator and air-conditioning, conceived in an incubator of Sheetrock,” Junkspace never ages: it knows only self-destruction and on-site rebuilding or else almost instantaneous dilapidation. Airports, completed or (constantly) under construction (the ubiquitous “Work in progress. We apologize for the temporary inconvenience caused”) have become emblematic of the Generic City. They are forever transforming and mutating, while imposing ever more complex trajectories on their temporary inhabitants. As bubbles of expanding, transformable space, they epitomize Junkspace, and are its principle producers. Such space leaves no trace in our memories, because “its refusal to freeze ensures instant amnesia.” But can one actually live in a presentist city?

— Hartog, Regimes of Historicity (tr. Brown)

For those young people – including you – who live this modern agonising adolescence and who want the true radical music, I sincerely wish a dialogue accompanied by piercing pain will be born and fill this concert hall.

Les Rallizes Dénudés concert flyers, late 1960s

As when on holiday … (Wie wenn am Feirertage … )

     As on holiday, to see the field
A countryman goes out in the morning, when
Out of the hot night the cooling lightning had fallen
For a long time, and in the distance thunder sounded,
And the stream once again fills its banks,
Fresh green covers the earth,
The reassuring rain falls from the heavens,
The grapevine drips, and the trees
Of the grove stand gleaming in the quiet sun:

     So they stand in good weather,
Mastered by no one, but All-Presence,
So wonderful, holds in its light embrace
The powerful, godly beauty of Nature.
So when she seems to sleep at certain times of the year,
In the sky or under the garden leaves, or among the world’s people,
The poets’ faces are also sad,
They seem to be alone, but they’re always
Having a premonition, as Nature does when she rests.

     Now day breaks! I attended to its coming,
And what I saw my words must convey as holy,
For she herself, who is older than Time
And higher than the gods of East and West,
Nature has now awakened to the clashing of armies
And from the upper air to the abyss below,
According to fixed law, as once produced from holy Chaos,
The All-Inspiring
Begins to stir once more.

     And a fire gleams, as in that man’s eye
When he makes great plans; so
Once more, with signs for kindling, 
The deeds of the world
Stir fire in the souls of poets,
And what went before, barely noticed,
Is only now revealed,
And those who happily farm our land
In the form of workers are now revealed
As the gods’ all-living powers.

     You ask where they are? Their spirit drifts in song
When the sun of day and warm earth 
Grow, and storms in the air, and others
Prepared in the depths of time, 
Full of meaning and murmuring to us,
Wander between heaven and earth and among the people.
They are everyone’s thoughts together
And quietly find their lodging in the souls of poets,

     So that suddenly dazed, long familiar
With the infinite, exalted by memory,
Brought to the kindling point by the holy radiance,
The fruit born of love, the work of God and men,
The song succeeds in testimony to both.
So it happened, as the poets say, when she wanted
To see the god made visible, his lightning fell
On Semele’s house, and the one struck by God
Bore holy Bacchus, the fruit of the storm.

     And so it is the songs of earth, without danger,
Now drink the fire of heaven.
Under God’s thunderstorms, fellow poets,
We must stand bare-headed to grasp
The Father’s radiance with our own hands,
Wrap the heavenly gift as song 
And give it to the people.
For if only, like children, 
We have pure hearts, and our hands are guiltless,

     The Father’s radiance won’t burn us,
And, deeply shaken, taking the Strong One’s sufferings
As our own, our hearts will stand fast
In God’s high down-rushing storm as he approaches.
But woe is me! when of

Woe me!

         And let me confess

I approached to see the gods,
And they themselves threw me down beneath the living,
False priest that I am, into the dark, that I
Sing my warning song to those who can be taught.

— Hölderlin (via here)

W.S. Graham recites ‘The Nightfishing’

a toast to our daughter on her big day, that it may be the first of many,
so the moment was solved and we raised our glasses and clinked them
together with a lingering note that hung over the table, taking a long time to
like the Angelus bell
which still reverbs in my head now, a single note ringing on in the
brightness of the day as if the whole world were suspended from it
mountains, rivers and lakes
past, present and future with
the whole moment so complete now and tidied away that we could
settle easily into each other’s company and turn to safer topics

— Mike McCormack, Solar Bones

How I missed the midnight sun

To Kiruna along the Torne River which separates Sweden from Finland, through the vast pine forests that spread out across this part of the world. The place names turn Finnish and I hear Finnish spoken on the bus. I spot a lone, confused reindeer by the road; probably looking for its flock, which are owned by the Sami here.

I’m surprised by how bright the light is. It probably won’t get dark tonight, I think. I’m too late for the midnight sun and too early for the northern lights, and haven’t booked any of the overpriced tours. I’ll get lost as usual, end up walking through random lots, but it doesn’t matter.

The next day a long hike along the Midnight Sun trail to the top of Luossavaara Mountain. On the way down what looks like a wolf appears on the path. I stop and prepare to meet my maker, but it turns out to be a large husky whose owner was hidden by a bush. You’re not the first one, she tells me. Around the corner I see a sign about wildlife. I translate it for S. in my head as if she were with me. Of course wolves are rare and monitored here, and not stupid enough to get this close to civilisation. The bears, moose and lynxes are elsewhere, but I don’t want to go further out in the wilderness to stay in a cabin with no electricity or running water. Or in a tent in two degrees on Kebnekaise, as a group I met did. They shuffle back to the hostels with tousled hair and stinking armpits.

When I was younger a Finnish friend and I drove from Helsinki up to the Barents Sea in his mother’s car, and back down through Norway and Sweden. We slept in his tent in the forests along the roadsides. We bathed twice, in a lake by a cottage that his grandfather built, and in a public swimming pool. We were young then, we didn’t care. He taught me how Finns drink. I wonder what became of him.

The suburbs and bus stations tend to blur into each other. Where’s the station? No, that was the last town. Now a bus has dropped me in a village in Lapland, just below the Arctic Circle. Mist, rain, a beautiful church and deep silence. I like it here.

Funny way of travelling, this. You get sent a code to a hostel door, find the place on Maps and let yourself in. There are no receptionists. But the Swedes are proper, polite people, when you do talk to them. I like to try to speak Swedish, since they don’t understand Danish. We mostly understand each other.

The next morning the sun is high on a cloudless sky. I spray myself with mosquito repellent and walk around a lake. I can walk for hours now: I feel strong, free and alone. I’m ready to go further north.

Why do we travel? Perhaps because, despite everything, being there still makes a difference, still makes the virtual world seem like a mirage.

Why this pull towards unspoiled nature, especially the North? Because it’s impersonal. And what is the impersonal? It’s what points towards the holy. Weil once said in her hard, uncompromising way: ‘So far from its being his person, what is sacred in a human being is the impersonal in him. Everything which is impersonal in man is sacred, and nothing else.’

The impersonal is a kind of border that becomes more dangerous the closer you get to it. I did a hike in the forest today and it occurred to me how easily things could go wrong before you’re at the forest’s mercy. Say I broke my ankle on one of these rocks, I thought, with no signal, attacked by a million mosquitoes and ants. I think one has to be in that sort of landscape, be frightened by its indifference and one’s own smallness, to even begin to understand it. There were cabins there for campers. Could I ever camp in such a place, let alone live there? Probably not. I only enjoy it for so long until I want to get back to my hostel, a restaurant and a bar.