Wednesday, 16 December 2009

More About Camus, Edinburgh's Poetry Pamphlet Fair and Shades of The Far Side

Nicolas Sarkozy's announcement of his intention to remove Camus' remains to the Panthéon, to panthéonize him as the French say, thankfully looks as though it will not succeed.

Why thankfully? It's agreed that it's not because he does not deserve such an honour, on the contrary, but it is argued that the act would feel like an attempt at appropriation of someone who 'belongs to the whole world' as Gérard Courtois wrote recently in Le Monde, whose 'aim was to help people to live' (Catherine Camus in an interview in Spike magazine) 'who is someone who tried to speak for all those who do not have a voice' (Catherine Camus speaking on France Inter), who was distrustful of authority in general and politicians in particular 'who always mouth the same words and tell the same lies' (Albert Camus – Carnets).

This article appeared on Scottish Review and you can read the rest of it here.

At the poetry pamphlet fair in the National Library Building, Causewayside, Edinburgh.....

The excitement of seeing old friends, talking to new ones, wrapping a book and putting it in the bran tub, buying a ticket, to pull out your prize and mince pies and readings - which turned out to be a race against the clock – after two minutes Graeme the MC, banged a cymbal, joking about cymbalism -
Elizabeth Burns, whose pamphlet The Shortest Days won first prize in the London Poetry Pamphlet Competition, reads her splendid poem with the same title -

How the low sun flamed on those afternoons
with their early dusks, how the crusts of snow
in the pasture cast their blue shadows
and the moon's shape grew sharper,
land and sky just prised apart
by the horizon's slit of paler light.....

A C Clarke dedicated a poem to me which she wrote after I told her of an encounter with a mole, its fur so soft, its little feet exactly like our hands, with tiny lines across their palms. In Who Eats Mole Pie? (published in Markings 29) she wrote:

....They shocked you. Not the size,
the pink, hairless palms creased with fatelines
like yours. Too much like yours.

To my delight, my bran tub prize was Mary Johnston's Ring o' Sangs, her translation from German into Doric of Robert Shumann's Lieder, with words by Josef von Eichendorf

and my soul spread wide its wings, flew over the silent land, as if it was flying home.

Exit via the scenic route.
My soul's wings were possibly hampered by alcohol when I left the building, taking an unexpectedly circuitous route. I went through several wrong doors which locked firmly behind me. Rising panic. Shades of Kafka. I got outside via an emergency exit but the deserted parking lot had tall gates all around it. Fortunately one opened for me. The last hurdle was a stout metal barrier which was low enough to climb over. Triumphantly leaping to freedom I misjudged my landing and fell on the ground in a most undignified way. On the other side of the street the baleful blue glow of a Tesco late-night store. It brought to mind Gary Larsson's Far Side cartoons, with the heading something like – Poet attempts to exit the library.

Interestingly enough, since I told this story to a few people, they have recounted their own tales of gates and doors, one of a similar nature, trying to exit a theatre a 'quick' way, also ending up in an enclosed parking lot, and having to climb over a wall (thank you Anne!). Maureen reminded me of how we got lost in Wyper Wood, wandered into a field with no clear exit, and ended up having to crawl through briars underneath barbed wire, to successfully escape out onto a road. Another story was of leaving an interview and being faced by three doors and of course not remembering which one they came through, and, hazarding a (hopeless) guess, opened a door at random, which led into a broom cupboard. (thank you Paddy). Actually, exactly the same thing happened to my niece, so I can only assume it's a nasty ploy regularly used by interviewers to test your reaction to being in a potentially humiliating situation. Aah I think, how wonderful it is to be free-lance, free of the snares of employers, free to create one's own absurd and delightful downfalls!

The review of Fatos Lubonja's Second Sentence finally appeared in the Times Literary Supplement.

And frost covered the garden for three days, prompting me to stock up on bird seed and peanuts so I can watch the birds flocking to the table and pecking at the peanuts swinging from the branches of the sycamore tree.


My son M, who flies aeroplanes in the USA, tells me that it frequently happens that boarding passengers ask him if he has the manual. What manual? He asks. The one that tells you how to fly this plane, they say. Oh! He says, gee, I dunno .........

Recently someone who worked in a restaurant at Chicago airport asked him [he was dressed in his pilot's uniform, with gold stripes on his sleeves] – are you a pilot? Nope M said I just like to dress up like this and come to the airport, have a sandwich, you know -
Yeah, you don't look like much of a pilot, the guy said.

M, who is after all half European, is adept at irony which most Americans find problematical. Mind you even I don't know sometimes when he's joking, he has straight-facedness down to a fine art, don't know where he got that from.

Frost covered trees and bushes steaming in morning sunshine.


three sea horses said...

oh fabulous blog! i laughed and laughed!! also nice to know a wee bit more about Camus - i still havent got down to reading The Outsider, which i bought years ago when i realised that i think i have always felt like one, and wanted more insight. xx

three sea horses said...

oops, i replied to yours on my own blog!! silly me :-) have a look. Txxxxx

Ros in Key West said...

Thanks for telling us about Camus not entering that mausoleum pour les Grands Hommes, thanks also for Elizabeth Burns' poem, good to be in touch with Shore poets this month, or is it shore porters? Ros