Sunday, March 26, 2006

Bernice Rubens on Elias Canetti

"It was during this time [in the 1950s, shortly after her marriage to Rudi Nassauer] that a Mr Elias Canetti came into our lives, and seemed to lodge there permanently. I disliked him from the start. I thought him a scrounger, but Rudi was much taken with him. Mr Canetti had written one novel, Auto Da Fé, which Rudi had read and was deeply impressed by. According to its author, so was the whole of Europe. Over the years I got to know this man and I realised he had but one single talent. That of self-promotion. He created mystery about himself. If you wanted to phone him, for instance, you had to let it ring twice. Then you had to put the phone down and ring again. Certain people could approach him, but only if they'd had a reliable recommendation. I thought it all rather pathetic. My father met him once and declared him evil. And as it turned out, he was right, though evil might have been an overstatement. He did not have the imagination to be evil. He was wicked rather, depraved, vicious and spiteful. His own life was dull and uneventful, and to compensate he would create intrigue in the lives of other people.

"My marital situation fascinated Canetti, and he curried favour with K [Rudi's mistress] in order to stir the pot. He moved around Hampstead couples and loners doling out destructive advice and waiting, with infinite pleasure, for the shit to hit the fan. He himself was married to a rather gentle victim, Vesa. He told me once how he envied me my children and what a sorrow it was for him that Vesa couldn't have any. Later I was to hear from Vesa herself that it was he who did not want any children and insisted on taking steps to prevent it. I hated that man. He was the only person in my life that I have ever hated. And I loved that hatred. It inspired me. It was almost a creative force. One day, I was driving up Haverstock Hill and Mr Canetti, deep in filthy thought, crossed the road in front of me. It was not a pedestrian crossing, and I could, quite legally, have killed him on the spot. "He came out of nowhere, m'Lud. It was impossible to pull up." But I refrained. I needed him around so that I could go on hating him. About 30 years later, he left England and went to live in Zurich. Nobody regretted his departure. As he had so often predicted, and had no doubt promoted, he won the Nobel prize and eventually died of old age. I marvelled that a man of such perverse nature could die of natural causes."

Strong stuff.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

hungry sailors

"Accordingly our day's ration was brought out, and seating ourselves on a detached fragment of rock, we proceeded to discuss it. First we divided it into two equal portions, and, carefully rolling one of them up for our evening's repast, divided the remainder again as equally as possible, and then drew lots for the first choice. I could have placed the morsel that fell to my share upon the tip of my finger; but notwithstanding this I took care that it should be full ten minutes before I had swallowed the last crumb. What a true saying it is that 'appetite furnishes the best sauce.' There was a flavour and a relish to this small particle of food that under other circumstances it would have been impossible for the most delicate viands to have imparted."

Herman Melville, Typee (1846), Chapter VII

Friday, March 24, 2006

there's no two ways about it: some places have funny names

Candid Wajda

Strictly speaking, I didn't ask his permission to slap this up on my 'semi-inaccessible' (thanks to Herr Douglas Ross for this most elegant adjective) webspace; nor indeed to take the photo in the first place. However, I felt in my bones that the great man not only wouldn't mind, but might even approve. (He's the chap with grey hair, looking towards the windows. He turned 80 the other day, you know.)

Monday, March 20, 2006

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Sławomir Mrożek 19.x.1963 Chiavari

Gazety czytuję. Z Echa Krakowa wciąż się dowiaduję, a to, że raz Józef Panek, z Technikum z Krzeszowic, znalazł pieczarkę o nóżce 14cm, średnicy kapelusza 21cm, to znów ktoś bardzo duże dwa pomidory wyhodował, z Przekroj zaś, że w Lipsku pokazano wynalazek polegający na tym, że marynarki się nie będzie już szyło, tylko kleiło. Na razie opracowano tylko technikę sklejenia górnej części marynarki, ale praca trwają. Było nawet zdjęcie tej marynarki, całkiem porządna marynarka, niczego sobie.

Friday, March 10, 2006

that's just, like, your opinion, man

'The Early Christian Father's "inter urinas et faeces nascimur" clings to sexual life and cannot be detached from it in spite of every effort at idealization.'

Pelican Freud vol. 8 Case Histories I 'Dora' and 'Little Hans', pp. 62-3

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

a flamboyant bow

'His respect for Hierarchy, and particularly the Dignitaries of the Church, has been more than once exhibited in the course of his work. Mr Seward saw him presented to the Archbishop of York, and described his Bow to an ARCH-BISHOP, as such a studied elaboration of homage, such an extension of limb, such a flexion of body, as have seldom or ever been equalled.'

Boswell's Life of Johnson, April 1783

sur le volcan ne pousse pas l'herbe

Ivor Cutler RIP

Monday, March 06, 2006


a first-class 'almost'

'Protection against stimuli is an almost more important function for the living organism than reception of stimuli.'

Freud, 'Beyond the Pleasure Principle'

conjecture in the saddle

One of Baudelaire's definitions of beauty: "something slightly vague, giving rein to conjecture".

(The Essence of Laughter, 1956, p 166; scooped up by the beautifully vague Charles Simic)

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Howard Nemerov?

Donald Davidson on 'the underlying paradox of irrationality'

'If we explain it too well, we turn it into a concealed form of rationality; while if we assign incoherence too glibly, we merely compromise our ability to diagnose irrationality by withdrawing the background of rationality needed to justify any diagnosis at all.'

(from 'Paradoxes of Irrationality' in Philosophical Essays on Freud, eds. Wollheim & Hopkins 1982)


As even those merely given to casual pottering around these parts (and no shame in that) cannot help but have noticed, unhemmed has got to the ground its ear, on the pulse a finger, and generally oodles of nous when it comes to things cultural, things countercultural, and things shonkily tertium quiddish. It will come, then, as no surprise to hear that Radio 4's Book of the Week is to thank for sending us in the direction of all this stuff. I particularly like this snap of Warwickshire's finest.