“It feels right to recount the history of Immanuel using ‘we’. But soon in the story, the pronoun starts to break up.”
Immanuel is about two churches: one in Winchester entangled to the other in Lagos. It’s the story of the traces left by those churches in Matthew Mcnaught’s life, and in the lives of his old friends.
While I was reading the book, NASA released the first set of images taken by the James Webb telescope, a set which included this image, entitled Deep Field: SMACS 0723. As they say, it is a long exposure of a patch of sky which is about the size of that covered by a grain of sand when held at arm’s length* from the eye. In it we ‘see the light from’ galaxies which are billions of light years away. That is, we see them in the same way we might see a cloud of dandelion seeds as captured by a smartphone camera, except, because of conceptual changes forced upon us by concrete experience of the world, the act of seeing changes in quality. We are seeing light paths, some of which have been bestowed curves due to the distortions of space around incredibly massive objects, other light paths whose time of origin was consistently 4.6 billion years ago. They bear a constant relation to us of appearing-4.6-billion-years-ago, because they are 4.6 billion light years away from us (though getting further). They remain in the sky, yet we know that many of them have long since dimmed, and maybe died – we are seeing their trace. These are facts of a quality that goes beyond our life. Time and space, tangled together in an Einstein knot, more fiendish than a Gordian knot, because although an emperor could cut the latter, the Einstein knot cannot be cut, even by an empire as powerful as that of the United States.
The death of the author as a movement in cultural production had a performative bite – given that it was concerned with authority, simply to doubt from a position of economic or authorial power undid some of the power of the author. It’s an anarchist position in literary studies.
“I start digging in this medium, trawling and sifting through the past, without knowing really what to look for” – The Undercurrents
Leeds is a minor European city. It has a history, but that history is only vaguely, partially and sometimes present for me in my daily life here. We have a historical society but no popular or literary histories (or should I say, popular literary histories?) except one – the Hounding of David Oluwale. Its past is minor, imperial, and parallel to other cities whose examples might take its place in general histories of the twentieth century.
Berlin is different. It has been a capital, lost that title, and regained it, been near destroyed and separated, by concrete violence, into two smaller cities, and then re-joined. Like a churned riverbed, it shows several traumatic layers flowing together – its surface scarred. This is the surface through which Kirsty Bell moves. She buys an apartment on the canal, and spends her days of abandonment looking out of the window and seeing the past animate and haunt the view. Her book is a haunted book, about a haunted house. A house that is trying to speak to her through water.
A worried king came to me, lord knows why to measure his luck against the Philistines. Strange how an eldritch technique can change from heresy to dogma for reasons of state – anyway, for all my murdered sisters I gave him just enough doubt to put off his aim – he’ll lay down his sword from anxiety, then lie down and slide along it, slowly, to rest. I slaughtered a calf to give precursive thanks and fed him libation to his own pierced flank.
When the gods ascend from out the earth, justice sees tyrants come off the worse.
Goodbye sadness Hello Sadness You are engraved in the lines on the ceiling You are engraved in the eyes that I love You are not quite poverty Because the poorest lips condemn you With a smile Hello Sadness Love of kindly bodies Power of love Whose politeness surges Like a bodiless monster Disappointed head Sadness beautiful face
P. Eluard (The Immediate Life)
In the morning there is a veil of redness draped across my eyes. I lie enjoying the peace which comes after waking in a new room, when I don’t know where or who I am.
The sheets are heavy. I push them off. As I dress, I think back to the night before. I dreamed that I was a whale, and I kept on trying to find someone I knew but they kept on being the wrong kind of whale for my purposes. Then I got lost in the deep and saw a gigantic, ancient hammerhead shark swim slowly over me, and it was so terrifying that I had to get up and stand in the darkness until I calmed down. That’s not like me.
The burial took place in Paris under a beautiful sun, with a curious crowd. So much black. My dad and me held hands with Anne’s old folks. I watched them with curiosity – they would probably come to have tea with us once a year. They looked sadly at my dad – Webb must have told them about the proposal. When I came to the exit, I saw Salil trying to find me. I avoided him. I felt bitterness toward him and it was completely uncalled for… I can’t justify it. The people around us hated how pointless the accident had been. And because I still wasn’t sure whether it was accidental, that made me feel a bit better.
We didn’t meet again until dinner that evening, both being so anxious about that sudden confrontation. I really wasn’t hungry, and he wasn’t either. We needed Anne to come back. I couldn’t stand to think of the face she’d had on before she left, or her grief and how it was my fault. I’d forgotten my patient schemes and careful planning. I felt completely uncentered, dog without a lead and collar, and I saw the same feeling in my dad’s face.