Entering Silence

Iris Murdoch, Henry and Cato, 1976

All artists dream of a silence which they must enter, as some creatures return to the sea to spawn.

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The Voice of an Absent Person

Sigmund Freud, Civilisation and its Discontents

Writing was in its origin the voice of an absent person; and the dwelling-house was a substitute for the mother’s womb, the first lodging, for which in all liklihood man still longs, and in which he was safe and felt at ease.

Where Place Takes Place

My piece on Ian Nairn’s Nairn’s Paris appears in this week’s New European, out today:

Nairn has a penchant for undistinguished locations, where “there is almost nothing to look at in the usual sense”; where space spaces out and place can take place. In an entry not included in the present edition, he praises Quevauvillers’ features, “all lying around waiting for nothing to happen”. Nothing happened with a vengeance, when he and his wife, high on hiatus, spent a “very wet day” near a suburban station “not going to the Air Museum”: “In London it would have been a misery; in Paris it became The Day the Rain Came, luminous and isolated”. Numinous too. There is a Zen-like quality to these mini epiphanies — these lulls in the topographer’s relentless perambulations — which signals a fleeting sense of arrival: “the moment you give up and relax, the city will accept you. All you have to do is put your arse on a café seat, park bench, or low wall, and look”.