Journal

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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.

Diarists

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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

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Finishing a book

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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:

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Maigret

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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.

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Cesare Borgia

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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.

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Cesare Pavese

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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.

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Buster Keaton

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

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Conan Doyle and George Eliot

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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:

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Charles Dickens

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Sunday, 22 April 1984 (Easter Day)
I can remember sitting at the kitchen table with my mother a couple of years ago: I was reading aloud from Pickwick Papers and we were laughing ourselves silly over “On a log / Expiring frog!” “Now, that’s what I call writing,” said my mother. “What happens? Nothing? And it’s so funny…”

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