Friday, July 18, 2008

terra inconcessa

Some summers ago, when I could still cast my shadow on the young trees in my garden, I was woken from dozing by a small insect buzzing around my face. I swatted it away, opened my eyes, and literally in that twinkling, saw a same-size conjunction of the insect, a passing gull, and a 747 heading out into the Atlantic; before all three separated on their separate lives.

This memory came to light on finishing reading W G Sebald's "The Rings of Saturn" again. I'd turned to Sebald's humbling yet voluptuous melancholy as a antidote to the vain and specious prolixity of Clive James' "Cultural Amnesia," a book which had really wound me up with its auteur centricity. I needed something positive to think about...

I think that "The Rings of Saturn" is best read in one sitting if you can, punctuated by nothing other than tea and calls of nature. The dense-pack text complemented by some quite remarkable ephemeral images tells around Sebald's walk through an empty Suffolk in late August 1992, and its historical, personal and meditative fallout that ranges from silk-worms to the Cold War.

As the family home of a former girlfriend, with whom I had successive operatic relationships from Cannes to Buenos Aires, Suffolk is terra inconcessa for me. Thus Sebald offers me appropriate covert ingress into its coastal landscapes and its loss.

Sebald died in a car crash in 2001.

[image of The English Channel, looking out from Kent towards the wrecking Goodwin Sands]

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