Glimpsed in between

Bitter-sweet news. The Gauteng High Court in South Africa on Thursday granted a terminally-ill Cape Town man the right to end his own life with the help of a doctor. In an unprecedented ruling, advocate Robin Stransham-Ford was granted an order that allowed a doctor to help him commit suicide without the threat of prosecution or disciplinary action.

Robin Stransham-Ford died surrounded by relatives and caregivers on Thursday, just hours before the High Court in Pretoria granted his request to die with the help of a doctor.

Ann Kjellberg on Brodsky’s self-translations:

A master of an artistic medium comes to us from another language. He embraces our culture and our verse. He dedicates much of his short life to struggling mightily to rewrite his own work so that it can be read and understood by his compatriots. (This in contrast with Nabokov, an oft-mentioned comparison. Nabokov not only grew up speaking English in his aristocratic Saint Petersburg household; he abandoned composition in Russian to become an English-language writer. Brodsky remained primarily a Russian poet, crossing over into English and crossing back and embracing a bilingual literary career.) Should we reject this effort on the grounds of unfamiliarity alone? Or should we perhaps consider that Brodsky brings us important news that might enrich our tradition, which is currently suffering from an undeniable diminution of means? Should we consider whether the challenges that Brodsky’s English verse offer us may themselves be an indication of how our language and our receptivity have contracted? Might it be worth searching for the inner cadences and harmonies in what at first seems startling to us? Or asking ourselves how an apparent violation of convention might create a more muscular or versatile poetic medium?

Found in passing

Main Street, Umtali

Via whiskey river

“Listen: you are not yourself, you are crowds of others, you are as leaky a vessel as was ever made, you have spent vast amounts of your life as someone else, as people who died long ago, as people who never lived, as strangers you never met. The usual I we are given has all the tidy containment of the kind of character the realist novel specializes in and none of the porousness of our every waking moment, the loose threads, the strange dreams, the forgettings and misrememberings, the portions of a life lived through others’ stories, the incoherence and inconsistency, the pantheon of dei ex machina and the companionability of ghosts. There are other ways of telling.”
– Rebecca Solnit
The Faraway Nearby


Workers’ Day

Workers’ Day


Vertigious excerpt from Sebald in Granta:

Through the barred, deeply recessed windows there was a view down on to the tops of the trees on the steeply sloping ground to the rear of the house. It was like looking upon a heaving sea. The mainland, it seemed to me, had already sunk below the horizon. A foghorn droned. Further and further out the ship plied its passage upon the waters. From the engine room came the steady throb of the turbines. Out in the corridor, stray passengers went past, some of them on the arm of a nurse. It took an eternity, on these slow-motion walks, for them to cross from one side of the doorway to the other. How strange it is, to be standing leaning against the current of time. The parquet floor shifted beneath my feet. A low murmuring, rustling, dragging, praying and moaning filled the room. Clara was sitting beside her grandmother, stroking her hand. The semolina was doled out. The foghorn sounded again. A little way further out in the green and hilly water landscape, another steamer passed. On the bridge, his legs astride and the ribbons on his cap flying, stood a mariner, signalling in semaphore with two colourful flags. Clara held her grandmother close as they parted, and promised to come again soon. But barely three weeks later Anna Goldsteiner, who in the end, to her own amazement, could no longer even remember the names of the three husbands she had survived, died of a slight cold.

From Fernando Pessoa, 35 Sonnets:

Whether we write or speak or do but look
We are ever unapparent. What we are
Cannot be transfused into word or book.
Our soul from us is infinitely far.
However much we give our thoughts the will
To be our soul and gesture it abroad,
Our hearts are incommunicable still.
In what we show ourselves we are ignored.
The abyss from soul to soul cannot be bridged
By any skill of thought or trick of seeming.
Unto our very selves we are abridged
When we would utter to our thought our being.
  We are our dreams of ourselves, souls by gleams,
  And each to each other dreams of others' dreams.

When Orhan Pamuk met Anselm Kiefer

That evening, Ropac hosted a dinner in his home on the banks of the Seine. He sat Kiefer and me next to each other before turning to the assembled guests to announce: “One of them wanted to be a writer and became a painter. The other wanted to be a painter and became a writer.” We all laughed. But in truth, for me there was nothing to laugh about, since I still felt this way.

Man Under a Pyramid, 1996. Emulsion, acrylic, shellac and ash on burlap


From Spurious

[Beckett’s] late plays and fictions move […] from repetition as compulsion to repetition as release, testing out the ground, no longer concerned to separate the one firmly from the other. As we ourselves are lapped in the rhythm of repetition we sense that the work only exists, that we only exist, within the folds of that repetition, within the rhythm of that rocking.

Josipovici, On Trust

The mysterious Elena Ferrante on sincerity

As far as I’m concerned, it’s the torment and, at the same time, the engine of every literary project. The most urgent question for a writer may seem to be, What experiences do I have as my material, what experiences do I feel able to narrate? But that’s not right. The more pressing question is, What is the word, what is the rhythm of the sentence, what tone best suits the things I know? Without the right words, without long practice in putting them together, nothing comes out alive and true. It’s not enough to say, as we increasingly do, These events truly happened, it’s my real life, the names are the real ones, I’m describing the real places where the events occurred. If the writing is inadequate, it can falsify the most honest biographical truths. Literary truth is not the truth of the biographer or the reporter, it’s not a police report or a sentence handed down by a court. It’s not even the plausibility of a well-constructed narrative. Literary truth is entirely a matter of wording and is directly proportional to the energy that one is able to impress on the sentence. And when it works, there is no stereotype or cliché of popular literature that resists it. It reanimates, revives, subjects everything to its needs.

Watched right now: time-lapse video of Cape Town  brightening after load-shedding

Dry autumn days

Standing in the hot street under the wild peach (Kiggelaria) and the municipal manager says that if it doesn’t rain next week, there will be water restrictions imposed, municipal water cut and we’ll all be queuing up for water trucks arriving from Cape Town. Sifuna amanzi. We need water. Trying not to think about the lush green golf course over the hill, the same-old structural inequalities, impambano, madness. It is almost May though and sooner or later the winter rains will come.

Rumours on Zimbabwean Twitter and WhatsApp that missing  activist Itai Dzamara’s body has been found at a farm in Mazowe in an advanced state of decomposition…Dzamara was killed 35days ago, he had fractured skull, fractured spinal and broken ribs. Will there be any official confirmation?


In Pretoria, the first assisted-dying case in South Africa goes ahead. Robin Stransham-Ford‚ 65‚ is dying of terminal prostate cancer and has urgently asked the court to allow him to end his life‚ arguing he will otherwise die an undignified death. The advocate from Cape Town says he has only weeks left to live and is on morphine for pain which causes him to become confused and sedated.

Photographer David Goldblatt in the Mail & Guardian

Goldblatt’s new photographs show pavements ripped up by copper-wire thieves, RDP houses, mosaic cows in Doornfontein, women’s monuments, memorials to children and miners.

“Each piece, if it was seriously made, has its own validity. And I think it’s very important to take cognisance of that validity if you like, or of what lies behind it and to respect it as the effort of somebody, somewhere, sometime to express that. And to grasp its meaning in the broader scheme of things.”


Catch up

A return to Chimoia in Mozambique:

The town, she knows, is no longer named Vila Pery in honour of the Governor João Pery de Lind any longer, now the sign says Chimoia and in truth it was always Chimoia on the monte alto or Manica plateau to everyone except the settlers. Chimoia, named for the elephant hunter and son of Moyo, the burial place of the hunter Chimoia whose name meant ‘little heart’, a child carried up high in his mother’s belly and named for the little heart beating so close to her own. The Arab traders came up this way through the Zemba Mountains centuries ago and planted the tall palms known as Borassus as sentinels to mark their routes. Chimoia within spitting distance of Mount Bêngo once known as the Cabeca da Velho rock, the ‘old man’s head’. When it rains, the rain splashes in white torrents down the rock and from a distance it looks as if the old man is weeping, despairing face upturned to the sky.

Caryl Phillips reworks Wuthering Heights:

Where Brontë deliberately leaves Heathcliff’s racial origins uncertain (picked up from the streets of Liverpool, he is variously described as “a dark-skinned gypsy in aspect”, “a little Lascar [an East Indian sailor], or an American or Spanish castaway”), the legacy of a mixed white and Afro-Caribbean descent is central to Phillips’s reimagining. That said, The Lost Child turns from direct confrontation of big issues like race relations and problems of social exclusion and prejudice. Public events pass almost unmarked: “‘After Notting Hill,’ said Julius, ‘it’s just one problem after another.’ ‘And the police?’ ‘The police and the teddy boys are as bad as each other’”. The date has to be several years after 1958, but how much later? Major themes are treated to the same withdrawal of emphasis that leaves each individual life a struggle for engagement.

Manifesto from the Open Stellenbosch Collective:

  1. No student should be forced to learn or communicate in Afrikaans and all classes must be available in English.
  2. The institutional culture at Stellenbosch University needs to change radically and rapidly to reflect diverse cultures and not only White Afrikaans culture.
  3. The University publically needs to acknowledge and actively remember the central role that Stellenbosch and its faculty played in the conceptualisation, implementation and maintenance of Apartheid.

Lecturers at the English-speaking Victoria College (now University of Stellenbosch), 1907. The language wars of more than a century.

Victoria College 1907

Incident stream x

The Lover was published 30 years ago. Paris Review on the continuing influence of Duras’ most popular work.

Duras herself was surprised by the breathless praise The Lover received; she dismissed the book, even going so far as to rewrite it, in the form of notes to a film, as The North China Lover. And Laura Adler, in her unauthorized biography Marguerite Duras: A Life, writes that the author had harsh words for it, international acclaim or no.

“The Lover is a load of shit,” she told Annaud when the two were collaborating on the film adaptation. “It’s an airport novel. I wrote it when I was drunk.”


Duras L'Amant


Audio Kulture prints magazine and posters in blood to commemorate the mass killing of Armenians in 1915



The Clash of the Everyday

Fragments of text, close-up details of images, the unfinished in pride of place.

From an email

“…how Virginia Woolf in To the Lighthouse, shows Mrs Ramsey (a character representing Woolf’s dead mother) as walking through fields of asphodel with violets in her dark hair, which imagery goes back to ancient Greek descriptions by Homer of the goddess Demeter or Ceres, a way in which Woolf understands her own mother  as having passed into archetypal myth. So I found myself remembering A’s fig tree with its honey-sweet green  and white figs that  was so bountiful  each summer and how  the figs were hidden amongst the  fig leaves, the way A’s life was so hidden and secret(ive), her deep sorrow over the  loss of  their mother D who died in 2003, the  pain of her divorce, the  loneliness we all knew about and could not assuage.

“And  when I was in that hideous funeral parlour, the  stiffness and  ugliness of the place and ‘knowing’ at once that here I would find no portals to the afterlife, the fridges of cadavers, the corpse-like faces of the receptionist and  assistants, the drapery veiling nothing, but I had a momentary flash of what it would be like to leave the rooms at street level and  go down a winding staircase into the underground, down through cellars and  caverns to where the soul lay hidden and buried, entombed but waiting for renewal or metamorphosis.”

From an abandoned tumblr:

“We must surrender the idea that this perfection that we see in the mind or before our eyes is obtainable or attainable. But our happiness lies in our moments of awareness of it.”

Agnes Martin (via der-rattenfanger)

The Republic of Less (1960)


Zanele Muholi is shortlisted for the 2015 Deutsche Börse Photography Prize, for her publication Faces and Phases (Steidl/The Walther Collection). Muholi’s work is currently featured in the Wellcome Collection’s exhibition, The Institute of Sexology, in London (until September 2015), and in Paris the Pompidou Centre’s recent acquisition of her work is on display within their permament collection exhibition (until September 2015).

Muholi Faces

The exigencies of mourning and consideration of the afterlife. Pausanias’ description [translation from Gregor Nagy] of the initiation into the mysteries of the hero-cult of Trophonios.

“But when a man comes to Trophōnios, they bring him a ladder – a narrow and light one. There is, for the one who has descended [kata-bainein], a hole between the bottom level and the constructed dwelling [oikodomēma]. Its breadth appeared to be two spans, and its height one span. [9.39.11] So, the one who descends [kat-ienai] is now lying down in the direction of the bottom level, holding barley-cakes kneaded in honey [māzai memagmenai meliti], and he pushes forward with his feet, forward into the hole; he himself pushes forward, eager for his knees to get into the hole. Then, after the knees, the rest of his body is suddenly drawn in, rushing forward, just as the biggest and most rapid river will catch a man in its torrents and carry him under. After this, for those who are now inside the inner sanctum [aduton], there is no single or same way [tropos] for them to learn the things of the future. One person will see them, another person will hear them.”

Werner Herzog

Nor is the Greek word for truth, alêtheia, simple to grasp. Etymologically speaking, it comes from the verb lanthanein, “to hide,” and the related word lêthos, “the hidden,” “the concealed.” A-lêtheia is, therefore, a form of negation, a negative definition: it is the “not-hidden,” the revealed, the truth. Thinking through language [im sprachlichen Denken], the Greeks meant, therefore, to define truth as an act of disclosure—a gesture related to the cinema, where an object is set into the light and then a latent, not yet visible image is conjured onto celluloid, where it first must be developed, then disclosed.

Turning point

Autumn foliage in the Overberg: beaten copper, sere yellows, maroon, apricot red, magenta, scarlet, burgundy.

A 7.9 magnitude quake near Kathmandu in Nepal, aftershock today. Death toll 2 000 and climbing.

Instgram_NepalQuake My Struggle. Volume 4 from Karl Ove Knausgaard, reviewed in the NYT by Jeffrey Eugenides.

“Knausgaard set out to alter that distance from reality. He did this by viewing his life in extreme close-up and by treating everything that happens to him or passes through his mind with equal importance. The project might be compared, in painting, to photorealism, with its emphasis on hyper-clarity and detail; or, proceeding in the opposite direction, to Impressionism. In both cases it’s the shift in perception that makes the difference, simple enough in execution but groundbreaking in results.”

Saturday shout-outs

From Stephen Clingman’s memoir Birthmark:

“It was nothing major in the history of the world. It did not compare with what others were suffering all around me in my own country because of the markings of their skin. But in this one body, in this one mind, things had begun to shift, at first imperceptibly, later more noticeably. My new lifetime had begun, my second birth with and without my birthmark, a strange dynamic of presence and absence, of being there and not.”

Upcoming solo exhibition from Marlene Dumas

The Image as Burden [Basel]

Fondation Beyeler, Basel, Switzerland
30 May 2015 – 13 September 2015

image as burden Dumas

Jottings from daily unquotidian life

Hermanus Hemingways Favourite local bookshop, Hemingway’s in Hermanus, great on Africana and contemporary fiction. Replaced a mislaid copy of Amitav Ghosh’s The Sea of Poppies.


“How was it that no one had ever told her that it was not love itself, but its treacherous gatekeepers which made the greatest demands on your courage: the panic of acknowledging it; the terror of declaring it; the fear of being rebuffed? Why had no one told her that love’s twin was not hate but cowardice?”


Eileen A Joy,  A Garden of Wandering


So,  power  has  left  the  streets  and  buildings  and  become  nomadic  (and  maybe even  post-­-human),  and  we—the  critics?  the  interpreters?—may  also  need  to  depart, to  disappear  into  the  ether,  while  also  squatting  in  the  abandoned  real  estate  (such as  the  University ),  in  order  to  engage  in  tactical  maneuvers  that  would  not  amount to  critique  as  much  as  to  creative  intervention,  even  creative  scrambling,  of  the  sort discussed  by  Rita  Raley  in  her  book  Tactical  Media.  Here,  criticism  would  become (or  morph  into)  tactical  disruptions  of  ‘dominant  semiotic  regimes’  as  well  as  ‘the temporary  creation  of  a  situation  in  which  signs,  messages,  and  narratives  are  set into  play  and  critical  thinking  becomes  possible’—especially  important  in  a  post-­- industrial  era  where  the  ‘field  of  the  symbolic’  has  become  a  ‘primary  site  of  power’


Artist Roger Ballen (Outland) in Kyoto


Roger Ballen in Kyoto