Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Oxford in Blue

Everything blue. The blue of that bulky pea coat I picked up at Salvation Army for no apparent reason. The blue-grey weather, the sound of Joni Mitchell’s Blue and Kind of Blue by Miles Davis playing in every cafe I went into at the time. Or all those blue balloons held in an alligator line of field-tripping Japanese children I saw strolling through the park one day. Also the glow of this city’s sky at night, merely a shadow of the day. Also my father’s eyes and that hyponotic blue of the deep blue sea.


Just a preview of an article I'm writing about my encounter with the diaries of Etty Hillesum:

Readers tend to be either bewildered or deeply moved by her. I've recommended these diaries to many friends who, despite having adored Anne Frank, have come back to me rather exasperated by all the emotional temperature-taking in Hillesum's writing. Others, meanwhile, have found her surreal sexual relationships a little difficult to fathom: Etty wrestling with her therapist on the floor of his office or Etty bedding down with her aged landlord--all while she pines after a personal God and a prayerful life, all while the persecution of Jews escalates outside her window.

For these readers, she must appear to lead a rather mixed-up if not haphazard existence, somewhere between bohemianism and a sort of low-level mysticism.

There are, however, those of us who find in Etty's writing an original and unabashedly human voice. A voice akin to that of her beloved Rilke in the way she struggles to stand apart from history, all while trying to wrangle hold of life in all its earthly feeling. Hers is a difficult balance between trancendent ideals and devotion to the things of this world.

'The trajectory of her journey,' writes Eva Hoffman, 'echoes classical accounts of spiritual transformation; but Etty's pilgrimage grew out of the intimate experience of an intellectual young woman--it was idiosyncratic, individual, and recognisably modern...Her essential existence, she often reminded herself, took place in the privacy of self-reflection, at a desk covered with pinecones, vases of flowers, and books.' [vii, viii]

Wednesday, 20 October 2010


Cold autmn weather and fiery indoor radiators. One wall of the room soaked in gold, the other cast in icy shadow. Lying there with you on upon the floor, both of us staring at the skylight, watching the vapour trails of passing planes crisscross the blue. Dreaming up whole continents of warmth.

Photo by Anako

Just a tiny, imaginary thought of peace and love, folded up, and tossed kite-like to the wind.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Blank Pages Before Next Chapters

My computer isn't working at the moment, so this is only a quick post, a passing wave. I'm actually typing this at my friends' while they're away on their honeymoon and as I look after their cat and continue to live out of suitcases...

Early autumn is currently knocking me out, even though I'm currently fighting a head cold and keep having to duck away on street corners to blow my nose. Walking through gold shimmering Oxford this evening, I thought what better way to top off this cinematic, potent beauty than with a film? So I stopped off at the video shop I haven't visited in almost a year and took out Kieslowski's Three Colours: White. When I brought it up to the counter, the twerpy clerk said, 'I've heard this is the worst one of the three.' It was only when I got outside that I realised this was rather like someone saying they'd heard about some parts of heaven where you have to dress more warmly than usual. I mean, who cares if you have to put on a scarf--it's still heaven, right?