Journal

Post image for Cities as ideas

14 August 2017
Rome Airport
I am beginning to understand that great cities are always infinitely more than themselves. By this I do not mean simply that a city comprises its present existence together with all of its history: I mean, rather, that it comprises all these things plus all attempts, in the past as well as in the present, to imagine it differently – or, alternatively, to reconstruct its long-lost past.

The Presence and the Absence of Rome

Thumbnail image for The Presence and the Absence of Rome

The Presence and the Absence of Rome
My visit to Rome of October 2016, and this current one, seem to have completely reversed the negative impression I developed of the city in 1982, when I first visited it.

Read the full article →

Aguirre, the Wrath of God

Thumbnail image for Aguirre, the Wrath of God

Saw – at last – Werner Herzog’s Aguirre, the Wrath of God yesterday. A marvellous film, all the better for being viewed in German: it allowed me to concentrate entirely upon the images. The experience of watching films in foreign languages inclines me to think that in the best films, dialogue is all but irrelevant.

Read the full article →

Diarists

Thumbnail image for Diarists

Last night in bed, I dipped into the second volume of Virginia Woolf’s Diaries, and the Diaries of Franz Kafka. The desire to imitate a diarist is extraordinarily strong, I find

Read the full article →

Finishing a book

Thumbnail image for Finishing a book

There is nothing quite comparable to the sensation one experiences on finishing a book, whether one is writing it, writing in it, or simply reading it. The reassurance that there are endings is narcotic:

Read the full article →

Maigret

Thumbnail image for Maigret

Maigret is like barium – an iridescent die introduced into the body to reveal its operations and frailties. In many of the novels, he uses a long, slow, steady process of immersion in the setting of the crime in order to understand what might have been the motivation of the criminal – an understanding which is the precondition for his being able to identify and ultimately apprehend him or her.

Read the full article →

Cesare Borgia

Thumbnail image for Cesare Borgia

Dante created with the Inferno a completely new idiom for discussing sin. The idea of damnation was nothing new for Dante and his contemporaries, nor the concept of the punishment fitting the crime. But Dante imbued these notions with a completely new poetic and symbolic resonance.

Read the full article →

Cesare Pavese

Thumbnail image for Cesare Pavese

The thing that makes Cesare Pavese so difficult to read is his simplicity. For Pavese, nothing is complicated. It is all simple. And agonising in its simplicity.

Read the full article →

Buster Keaton

Thumbnail image for Buster Keaton

I think my reading of Buster Keaton in my early twenties was completely wrong.

Read the full article →

Conan Doyle and George Eliot

Thumbnail image for Conan Doyle and George Eliot

Monday 27th March 1984

Last night I read an article on Conan Doyle which set me thinking about caricature and characterisation. Sherlock Holmes is of course a caricature in every respect: his famous ‘character’ is made up of a number of extremely exaggerated and improbable traits which we believe in not because we think we ought to but because we genuinely want to:

Read the full article →