Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Current Favourite Title, Current Favourite Sentences

Abiezer Coppe, A Fiery Flying Roll (1649)

'And under all this terror, and amazement, there was a little spark of transcendent, transplendent, unspeakable glory, which survived, and sustained itself, triumphing, exulting, and exalting it self above all the fiends. And, confounding all the blackness of darkness (you must take it in these terms, for it is infinitely beyond expression.) Upon this the life was taken out of the body (for a season) and it was thus resembled, as if a man with a great brush dipped in whiting, should with one stroke wipe out, or sweep off a picture upon a wall, &c. After a while, breath and life was returned into the form again. Whereupon I saw various streams of light (in the night) which appeared to the outward eye, and immediately I saw three hearts (or three appearances) in the form of hearts, of exceeding brightness; and immediately an innumerable company of hearts, filling each corner of the room where I was. And methoughts there was variety and distinction, as if there had been several hearts, and yet most strangely unexpressably complicated or folded up in unity. I clearly saw distinction, diversity, variety, and as clearly saw all swallowed up into unity. And it hath been my song many times since, within and without, unity, universality, universality, unity, Eternal Majesty, &c. And at this vision, a most strong, glorious voice uttered these words: The spirits of just men made perfect. The spirits, &c. with whom I had as absolute, clear, full communion, and in a twofold more familiar way, than ever I had outwardly with my dearest friends and nearest relations. The visions and revelations of God and the strong hand of eternal invisible almightiness was stretched out upon me, within me, for the space of four days and nights without intermission.'

This is from AFFR: the whole thing's available here

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Moskovskiy Metropoliten

For your inner nerd, this is an interactive map of the Moscow metro. Click on any two points and it will show you the route between them, and how long it should take. For your outer nerd as well, I suppose.

Christopher Caudwell (1907-1937)

The Progress of Poetry

I saw a Gardener with a watering can
Sprinkling dejectedly the heads of men
Buried up to their necks in the wet clay.

I saw a Bishop born in sober black
With a bewildered look on his small face
Being rocked in a cradle by a grey-haired woman.

I saw a man, with an air of painful duty
Binding his privates up with bunches of ribbon.
The woman who helped him was decently veiled in white.

I said to the Gardener: 'When I was a younger poet
At least my reference to death had some sonority.
I sang the danger and the deeps of love.

'Is the world poxy with a fresh disease?
Or is this a maggot I feel here, gnawing my breast
And wrinkiling my five senses like a walnut's kernel?'

The Gardener answered: 'I am more vexed by the lichen
Upon my walls. I scraped it off with a spade.
As I did so I heard a very human scream.

'In evening's sacred cool, among my bushes
A Figure was wont to walk. I deemed it angel.
But look at that footprint. There's hair between the toes!'

From Christopher Caudwell, Poems (1939, repr. London, Lawrence and Wishart 1965)

Yuki Yukite Shingun

I saw this film a couple of days ago. It is every bit as strange as this review makes it sound.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Kohei Yoshiyuki (1946-)

Friday, October 19, 2007


The Eleven Asertions of Daniil Ivanovich Kharms

Assertion I
Objects have disappeared.
Assertion II
It used to be that the numerical series began with 2. 1 is not a number. 1 is the first and sole perfection. The first quantity, the first number, and the first departure from perfection is 2. (Pythagoras's unit)
Assertion III
Let us imagine that 1 is the first number.
Assertion IV
The new 1 is subject to the law of common numbers. The law of numbers is the law of masses. (Kharms's unit)
Assertion V
The law of single 1s is false - there is no such law. There is only the law of masses.
Assertion VI
The object is disarmed. It has been repudiated. Only the heap is armed.
Assertion VII
The law of large and small numbers is the same. The difference is only quantitative.
Assertion VIII
The human being and the word and the number are subject to one and the same law.
Assertion IX
New human thought has moved and flowed. It became fluid. The old human thought says about the new that 'it has become touched'. That is why for some people the Bolsheviks are insane.
Assertion X
One person thinks logically, many people think fluidly.
Assertion XI
I am one, but I think fluidly.

18 March 1930

Adapted from Daniil Kharms and Alexander Vvedensky, The Man with the Black Coat: Russia's Literature of the Absurd (ed. and trans. George Gibian, Evanston, Northwestern University Press 1987)


'Somebody came against a very popular preacher. "He's getting too rich and big. I want something done to keep him down. They tell me he's 'bout to get to be a bishop. I sho' should hate for that to happen. I got forty dollars in my pocket right now for the work."
So that night the altar blazed with the blue light. We wrote the preacher's name on a slip of paper with black ink. We took a small doll and ripped open its back and put in the paper with the name along with some bitter aloes and cayenne pepper and sewed the rip up again with the black thread. The hands of the doll were tied behind it and a black veil tied over the face and knotted behind it so that the man it represented would be blind and always do things to keep himself from progressing. The doll was then placed in a kneeling position in a dark corner where it would not be disturbed. He would be frustrated as long as the doll was not disturbed.'
Zora Neale Hurston Mules and Men (1935)

A braver man would tell you about the Black Cat Bone as well.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Greenlander; The Real Thing

Well, it's a theory...

'As a general rule, I believe that translation should be a work of collaboration. The person responsible for the final version into English, let us say, must not only possess English as his mother-tongue; he must also be a master of it, alive to its subtlest nuances. But very few writers who are masters of their own tongue have equal mastery over another. As his collaborator, therefore, he needs a person who knows some English but whose mother tongue is the original, or, in the case of dead languages like Greek and Latin, a first-rate philological scholar.'

Friday, October 12, 2007

Save the Planet!

On the day that Al Gore and his pals are awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, I have made a job application. This has involved filling in an application form and providing a statement of what my current work was, and of the work I would do if I got the job. I also had to send in a selection from my current work to the tune of about 30,000 words. Fair enough.

However, the application form has to be submitted in duodecimate (12 copies, just in case I've got my adjective wrong). That makes 5 x 12 = 60 pages. The statement of current work also has to be submitted in duodecimate. 4 x 12 = 48 pages. The selection from my current work has to be submitted in duplicate, single-sided. 2 x 81 = 162 pages. Equal Opportunities Monitoring Form. 1 page. Covering letter. 1 page. A total of 60 + 48 + 162 + 1 + 1 = 272 sheets of paper. There are on average eighty applicants to any one job in my field, and there are four jobs on offer in this particular competition. Say 300 applicants and you're being conservative. 300 x 272 = 81,600 pages.

Add to this that it is only the short-listed candidates whose work is actually read. A short list is normally four or five people. Say a short list of twenty for these four posts. 272 x 20 = 5,440 pages which are actually read. Which is about 7%.

I can't help thinking that there must be a better way of doing things. Specifically, an application process which does not require a small novel in hard copy from each applicant and then throws away 93% of them after only reading the first ten pages (which, to stretch the analogy a little too far, are each printed twelve times). In any case, I'd be interested to know what the recycling policy is at this particular concern.

There is always the possibility that I've just overdosed on cute polar bears.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Elephants and Bees

This, if you get past the pun in the article title, and the fact that you'll need some sound to get its full effect, and the fact that you have to sit through a terrible ad with Vinnie Jones in it before the main feature, is some nice footage of elephants being conned by tape recorders.

More Yu Xuanji

Saying Goodbye

Several nights in this gorgeous pavilion
and I began to have expectations

until my darling surprised me -
he had to be off on a journey

so I sleep alone and don't discuss
the whereabouts of clouds

around the lamp, now almost spent,
one lost moth is circling.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Yu Xuanji (844-871)

Poem for the Willows by the River

The calm blue sky and its reflection
frame the barren riverbanks

huge shapes of misty cloud
merge into distant mansions

upside-down, many images
spread on the autumn waters

flowers drop from time to time
onto the head of the fisherman

old roots mark the dens
where many fish are hiding

hanging branches offer mooring
to the boats of travellers

the night tosses and sighs
all filled with wind and rain

and dreaming astonishing dreams
only enlarges my gloom.

(trans. David Young and Jiann I. Lin)

Yu Xuanji: her name means 'dark secret fish'; the translators say that this 'is unusual'. People don't know much about her: it is conjectured that in her time, Yu was consecutively a concubine, a nun and a courtesan. She was executed in 871 for beating a servant to death.