Saturday, September 25, 2021

Nancy Cunard by Wyndham Lewis, Venice 1922

I came rather accidentally across a biography of her - of course I had known of Nancy Cunard, a marginal character in those literary circles of the time that I have been interested in. Or rather known of her as an archetype, a spoiled, beautiful, rich little aristocrat girl dabbling in poetry and radical art and radical politics, an iconic image from the 1920's, a lifelong rebellion against dear Mother and her - also rather bohemian but grand - world. A lifelong failure to mature, a tragi-comedy in several acts, ending in predictable ruins. 

That's not nearly fair, obviously. There was real talent, real tragedy there. She was also a victim of her cruel times, those brutal sexual and gender politics and values - she selfdestructed, like many artists, male or female, but was richly aided in the effort by her poisonous surroundings. And not only to talk about the attitudes and values (that she bravely fought against) but unimaginable historica events. When I read in the first pages that she was born in 1896 in securely wealthy, aristocratic but also artistic and forward looking surroundings, I could immediately picture much of the early story. Returning to London in 1919 she observed: "most people are dead". 

Much promise was lost, like it always is, but in that era and in that class and age cohort, I would think, exceptionally much. She accomplished much, she was often grotesquely shallow and always scared, but had a true brilliance, true talent. A casualty of history, like we all fundamentally are, but with a rare radiance.

 

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

In honour of Tove Jansson

Her star will keep rising. An amazing artist, maddeningly elusive, maddening. Some people are like that, called to eminence, of course mostly or solely by fortunate circumstances, yes, but the circumstances were not nearly that fortunate - yet she persisted, compulsively. And painted an amazing canvas, of her life, of her art. All honour to children's writers but she wasn't one. And all honour to Astrid Lindgren too, a great, entertaining writer indeed.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

The other side of silence

I have earlier talked about how we need to be coarsened to survive this experience of this world. We need to have protection, warmth, shelter - and we so often lack those, whether for external or internal reasons. George Eliot was right: if we would hear that roar on the other side of silence, the full everyday tragedy of humanity, we would die of it. And so many have and will, being too open, too honest, too sensitive for this world, for this brutal experience. And what could we do but coarsen? But no, still not true, there will always be hope, hope and charity: empathy and love are inbuilt into this experience too. There will always be hope.

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

The breach in the wall

It seemed reasonable to liberate the capital constraints in the 80's. It seemed, I guess, reasonable to deregulate the financial markets in the 90's and 2000's - and to disregard the public investment part of the Keynesian economics. So, what we have had since then is bubbles, finance crises, instability and the capital ever gaining on work. And national radicalism, racism and unreason continuously rising in the West. The welfare state is largely the only thing that has kept us from the 1930's and the political and economic elites are pressuring to dismantle ever increasing parts of it. 

Unconstrained economic liberalism is the breach in the wall of the modern Western system of society, liberal and rational: it has opened the gates. This era of obscene opulence and increasing middle and lower middle class distress is inciting the masses towards xenophobia and anti-liberalism. This will obviously not be good for capital, but their perspective is for the next quarter and everything seems ever so clear and promising, and so will the next quarter and the one after that etc. But history happens on the long term and the clouds are darkening on the horizon.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Greek thoughts

Our liberal democratic modern Western civilization does not seem very healthy at the moment. Who knows, of course, this is just a brief moment of history, anything could happen after all. But at the same time our responsibility surely is for the moment, our moment. Even that is a lot to ask, from a culture maybe not able to be serious, to be intense. Like the Greek were, like Athens - like Jerusalem was, each incomplete without the other.

So what we have is immense opulence, irresponsible global capitalism (increasingly unconstrained by social democracy), confronting rather imminently huge, monstrous global challenges. Not being ready at all. We are not holding to liberty and reason like the Greek would have, as flawed as they were, as flawed as their conception of virtue and duty were. But we don't seem to have anything any longer to hold on to, except the shopping mall and the online shop, the entertainment industry, the debased religion, the debased liberty. This will not be enough, not nearly enough to contain the future floods.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Gott strafe Tanten

I came across a very old friend yesterday - The Last Houseparty by Peter Dickinson is a minor master piece: there are some things there that have been done with quite extraordinary skill and force. Quite out of the place in a "mystery story" (as silly as it is in many ways to say this). The Remains of the Day and Atonement do have genealogies. What got me engaged all those three decades ago were naturally the themes of childhood, friendship and sex (being then in the process of messing the two latter ones up, having already done the first one in) that are so effortlessly, economically and beautifully portrayed. But I suppose most of all it was history, personal and universal, in all its complexities, that was the main thing. One of those seminal few books that have gotten me addicted to the endlessly complex process that is interpreting the past, personal and universal.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

On the oddness of history

The long views can confuse a person - if you are rooted to your short moment in time and cannot begin to comprehend utterly different eras with totally bizarre circumstances and beliefs things are surely bound to be so much more simple. There are no competing measurements, no alternative realities, no alternatives. 

This past year has been quite something, we have been suddenly living in a cocoon of a fairly comfortable global pandemic here in Finland (as elsewhere in the industrial world). Things could be so much worse, quite unimaginably so. And are, at this very moment, in oh so too many places even without any new viruses having ever been introduced to the planet. But we are already getting so bloody exhausted, close to the veritable breaking point. Or way too many are, in these absurdly privileged societies that are in so many ways benefitting from the utter misery of so many here. God, humanity is not a pretty sight, is it?

Friday, February 26, 2021

Fatal inversions

I think I have had now my fill of this debased and sadistic - even more sadistic than the original - semi-Victorian fake morality that oozes from almost every pore of this primitive and cruel society. There is no right to moral righteousness for anyone. When we see monsters, we see ourselves. We all would do unspeakable things in the right circumstances. Not in identical circumstances, those would depend on our luck of birth and genetics. Some are damaged from birth, fatally inverted already then. But by far more have their inversions later as mandated by the hateful structures of society and civilization and the tragic individual circumstances rising from that fundamental baseness. 

This is not to say that many people would not be permanently deformed. There are many such irredeemable people and they should have no access ever to the general society. But no "punishments", no moral superiority, just as humane precautions as possible. And no right whatsoever to righteousness.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Things we owe to the latest dead

Today was strange. I accidentally learned of a friend having passed, having suddenly gone away. Not being there where he once so strongly, so vividly was. These things are truly odd - people say, the received wisdom says, that this is normal, this is the way things go. And it is, empirically, that way. But no, it is not really normal, not acceptable, not the way we would do it once out of nature. And so, suddenly, just memories and feelings of inadequacy about a warm, highly intelligent person, not ideally suited for this world, for this rough experience.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

We that shall lovers be

Tides do turn, even if very, very slowly. I am finding in this current bleak midwinter in Helsinki beautiful, intense landscapes, once so familiar, and now again: an endless freezing journey seems to be ending - the cold does hold one's breath but so does the beauty, weary feet leading to the warmth of the blaze. Not very coherent thoughts here, the condition does not make for coherence. Yet coherent I am, and rejoicing. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Every trembling hand - on sex

Lifes are strange. Love is strange. Sex is intimately connected to both but is fundamentally separate. We are only partly beasts, and those parts are not nearly all there is to it, to sex - I struggle to formulate my point as the subject is not conducive to formulating points. But we are both: conscious and sexual, nothing is excused and nothing is excluded. 

Sunday, November 08, 2020

The Wicked Witch is not dead

Yes, a day of great rejoicing and relief. Four desperately long years of bullying, thuggery and shameless demagoguery are over. But the US remains utterly broken: the democratic process is largely a money infested cesspool, the religious fanatics and the corporate elites still embrace each other to produce deregulation, tax cuts, hounding of minorities and, of course, banning the abortion. The other major party is a mild, centrist, technocratic coalition while the other one is under the thumb of radicalized zealots egged on by endless corporate donations. But even so, a day of great relief - maybe the tide will start turning at last, maybe the recovery will start from this very modest, very small beginning.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Dissociations of sensibilities

Also known as life. This experience of being in the world, or half-being as it mostly is as we go through various routines, varyingly numbly - this experience as wild as it is, as dangerous as it is, no safety nets here, apart from the various routines and numbnesses increasing with age, it still comes with one remove. And I don't think there is any bridging of that, there will always be a silence, an area where eyes, where thoughts will never reach. I wonder how useful observation this is, but it appears true.

In my personal story I could speak, and have, more of dislocations of sensibilities, forced crashes from imaginary and thus perfect trajectories. And I probably will have to live always with regrets and will have to keep self-pity and sentimentality perpetually at bay. Still, less of struggle now than recently. I have never shifted from the opinion that the views have been breathtakingly beautiful even if the air is freezing cold.

Half-being is not for me, never has: in some ways I have actually not aged at all, just matured. I still feel and think, no pain killers. I am not numb. Anyway, just a bit of a difficult Saturday with some intimations of the future for someone very loved, very innocent and very vulnerable. No routines, no numbness.

Friday, September 25, 2020

New names for old desires

As the tide has now turned, I have returned to life, and so thinking maybe love too. Of course my waking life is automatically filled with love and care, having children. I am fortunate in life, in that sense. And in any case hesitating, as always. These furious affections are alluring but dangerous too. Maybe thinking is better than doing.... It is not though, not in all matters.

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

About Thomas Thistlewood

He was not nearly the worst, in fact, no doubt, one of the best actually in that place and in those circumstances - in other contexts and circumstances surely one of us. I could undoubtedly have been him, being just slightly better than my era. And the place and the circumstances in question were a holocaust for profit. Something no-one surely wants to contemplate, such a long hell for such mundane reasons, just every day greed and fear, no exotic ideological fanatism, and, so, appropriately, conveniently forgotten. What unspeakable horror.