DAY 2.7 Books

October 7th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink


My migration, or hijra , to my present quarters took place about four years ago. And now I lie at night in a small, but entirely adequate flat (indeed, I can’t get up the stairs) with four fully filled bookshelves above my head. And I often wonder why the particular collection of books which also migrated and are now in that place came to occupy  it; They seem decidedly random, and some I don’t recognise  at all; while others are familiar old favourites, and many familiar old favourites are absent. Where is The Cat in the Hat? or To the Lighthouse? Or indeed, The Brothers Karamazov? How have I managed to spend four years in a house which seemed to have a library with so many gaps? There are, I estimate, a hundredweight of books whose provenance seems uncertain: at any moment they might decide (figuratively) to come crashing on my head in the middle of the night.

(I can’ t help being reminded of al-Jahiz, the notable defender of Africans and their intelligence,  who reputedly died just such a death in 868 (roughly) – but were they books or simply rolls  of parchment that fell on him ?) And my skull might be crushed by a book which I completely fail to recognise as mine – the biography of some dim Quaker member of my family, or an African militant text which (I have to assume) I acquired in the early sixties. Would that be a just recompense for my failure to be serious about the books in my life – and what would it be to be serious? There are any number of texts which teach you, if you apply yourself, to learn Arabic; thirty years have passed, the texts remain above my head  and I still can’t speak Arabic, or read the Qur’an. There are novels by black writers or scholarly studies of such novels – what a much better person I would be if I had taken the trouble to read them.

But I think I’m too old for such regrets, too old to wonder what would make me a much better person. The best I can do is to try and reach out in the middle of the night for some light reading, and find a back issue of Capital and Class. I start reading it and inevitably lose track of the argument halfway into the second page. The said argument is bound to lose me inevitably. What hope do I have, in the tangled web of cross teachings which we are increasingly encountering, of meeting  anything which I might recognise as true, when I can’t even discover how to paste a piece of music into a Facebook post.

DAY 2.6 The lost generation

October 1st, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Yes, reader, I wrote those words, imagining that some inspiration would come along to give them a meaning. Why do we create these  mounds of verbiage to shield us from the oncoming darkness? Here I am, aged 80, scribbling feverishly in what is, to be fair, only semi-darkness. Scanning the world for some hope of a revolution in the making, my eyes recently landed on the Sudan where, young and untried as it is, it hasn’t yet had the time to make any disastrous mistakes e.g. sacking half the Central Committee of the Communist Party or appointing some power-mad lunatic fresh out of a Georgian seminary to a leading position in said committee. More significantly, from what I hear, they have taken to studying the texts of Antonio Gramsci who during his long incarceration had plenty of time to work out how the working class can make the right strategic alliances, gain and keep power as (we now realise) they failed to do in Russia, and did with dubious success 70 years ago in China; and never did at all in Italy which is at least partly why the Italian Communist Party, so good at organising a cake-stall at the festa dell’Unità at your local village, has been crap at ensuring that the local workers and peasants should take control of the historic moment and has let Salvini and his neo-Fascists de nos jours become, you might say, hegemonic. As we look around the borders of Europe, we see that the starving are being forced into squalid camps (here’s one).But why do I go on and on  about  these conditions which I’ve so often reiterated?


They do continue, it’s true, to be the rule across Europe.

Most of us can remember a time, not so long ago, when you’d take a boat across the Channel, you’d go through a few simple formalities and disembark the other side (Calais, that is). The idea that you would in some way be landing in Syria would be completely bizarre. I submit that it isn’t. Indeed, you should maybe even now be asking yourself the question: :”Where am I?” at every point of your journey, and you could do worse than adding the supplementary question “Who am I?” Because you think you can be pretty sure that you aren’t one of the army of wanderers – or can you?

You will need to begin by considering your class position (to return to that.) I think you’d do well by recommending that you study Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks, which are better written than my posts even if they will certainly take longer to read. I haven’t even begun to work out my own; a traditional intellectual, I recognise and certainly not an organic intellectual if that would do me any good. An organic intellectual would begin by taking a tour d’ horizon and seeing where his or her daily life fitted in the process of production and the extraction of capital. But to make it more fun, we might add that contemporary twist where you decide on a text which will situate you in the turmoil of today’s belles lettres; I refer to instagram poetry. (And I know well that the literary scene may have moved on since I wrote those words, but I’m not used to keeping up with the constant turns of fashion, in fact I despise them.) Since a Chinese poem is probably like an instagram, in that its geometry or shape is an essential element in it,

(This is a poem by Mao Zedong). I’d better try to produce something on the same lines.

I half-see you in the night

As the darkness thickens

Like an itch how I miss you

With nothing to scratch.

Sculpture

I’ve still (I suppose) world enough and time to recommend that you should pop over to Grenada to visit their subterranean museum of sculpture. This is a sample of its treasures; and there aren’t any other such museums (to my knowledge)

Sculpture:’Vicissitudes’

Where am I?

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