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an amicable divorce

It may be called an amicable divorce,” but the death of my marriage felt like any other death, hollow and dark and eternal. I felt the pain physically in my chest and face for weeks.


ha. weeks you say?

Wanneer heeft u voor het laatst om haar gehuild?

Vanochtend nog, toen ik ontwaakte en me weer realiseerde dat ze niet naast me lag. Dat dit het is, dat ze er niet meer is. Dat besef voelt zo ongelooflijk wreed. Het verdriet ligt voortdurend als een soort ruis over alles wat ik doe en beleef. Ik vind het ook een griezelige gedachte dat ik me misschien wel nooit meer honderd procent oké zal voelen. Soms verlopen de dagen vlot; op andere dagen kan ik s ochtends alleen voetje per voetje de trap af lopen. Rouwen is op de een of andere manier heel fysiek, ik kan soms letterlijk in elkaar krimpen van de pijn. En het overvalt me iedere keer weer.


i don’t recall ever feeling 100% OK as such, at least not whilst stone cold sober, but i am intimately familiar with such thoughts/feelings.

i am intensely interested in how being separated from the person you love by death differs from and is similar to being separated from them in other ways, for example through an amicable divorce. each has its own drawbacks, but which is worse? perhaps each is terrible and awful in its own specific way, but where there is the death of a person, you are not lumbered with the feeling/thought that what you had to offer was no longer interesting enough… that the way you loved them was inadequate — except of course in the case of suicide. that would be the worst of both worlds as well as the worst of another, completely different one. i can hardly think of something which would be more difficult to work through than the feeling that you were not worth staying alive for, even if that was not actually the case.

L’attention est la forme la plus rare et la plus pure de la générosité.
Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.

Simone Weil, in a letter.

via orange crate art

we are the lesser
whitethroats in hedges

we are the lingering swifts
pursuing insects over reservoirs

we are the willow warblers
travelling with foraging tit flocks
singing sweet, trickling songs.

apologies to derwent may

saturday morning breakfast cereal

Simon(e) van Saarloos :

De aanname dat één idee makkelijker te delen is dan een boel losse gedachten, weerhoudt ons ervan meer chaotische ideeën te delen.”

In haar werk probeert ze het flexibele, chaotische te dénken, dwars tegen de traditie in. Vergeten hoe het hoort”, noemt Van Saarloos dat zelf.

Het is niet alsof ík alles in één keer begrijp. Als ik naar de werkelijkheid kijk, begrijp ik heel veel dingen niet en vanuit dat niet-begrijpen probeer ik te denken, in plaats van wat ik al grotendeels begrijp.”


we are pied and spotted flycatchers,
redstarts and whinchats, curlew
sandpipers and honey buzzards, black
terns, rose finches, ortolan buntings.

apologies to derwent may

ah self-care… it’s up to you. why? because no one else gives a shit, unless of course you give them lots of your money, preferably on a regular basis.

oh look at these amazing pills, i take them and your mood improves — also you become more beautiful, more focussed and more energetic.

this article from the new your york times on the wellness industry made me want an 800-pound smoky quartz crystal from madagascar, or at least be in the same room as one whilst someone is telling me what (not) to do.

It would be quite a job cataloguing every deed of callousness perpetrated by the people who almost destroyed the culture of the native Australians but let this one sink in for a moment.

This 700-year-old tree which is sacred to the Djab Wurrung people is being cut down to accommodate an extension to a highway.

I lived in Australia for 36 years but I never felt like I belonged there.

Panini is closing!

Panini on the Vijzelgracht was the kind of restaurant I longed for during the fifteen years I was stuck in a small town in the Australian outback being an artist : Italian food effortlessly made and served by generous, beautiful and intelligent humans who laugh when you joke with them.

When I moved to Holland in 2016, Panini was high on my culinary experiences bucket list. But when I ate there I found that the romanticised picture, which I’d gleaned exclusively from the reports of others (perhaps Arnon Grunberg was one of the culprits, I wondered, after reading his column in the VK today) could not have been more inaccurate.

Voor mij was Panini het decor van het verlangen, het centraal station van de begeerte,” writes Arnon, introducing the interesting tension between the Dutch words for longing’ and desire’ although verlangen is more often also used for desire. Begeerte is more of an old fashioned, literary word.

Still, Lacan leert ons dat het verlangen geen object heeft, waarmee hij bedoelt dat we het verlangen serieus moeten nemen, niet de objecten waarop het zich richt,” Grunberg writes.

To translate (poorly, as is my wont — for which the usual apologies) that last sentence, for those unfortunates with no Dutch : Lacan teaches us that longing/desire has no object, by which he means, that we must take longing/desire seriously, not the objects on which it is aimed.

So. There is a lot more to be said about that but it’s a good thought for today, yes?

For example : could we say that falling in love’ is a form of longing where one has made the mistake (as Lacan would have it) of taking seriously the object of our longing instead of our longing itself?

There are many things that I love in this stunning, devastating excerpt in VN from Kleinzeer, a book (in Dutch, forthcoming) by Nadia de Vries about illness, vulnerability, and mental illness. This is one of them :

Er zijn twee categorieën van bestaan. De mensen uit de eerste categorie zijn hulpeloze doelwitten voor verdriet, onrecht en turbulentie. De wereld van deze mensen is een wrede plek, maar het is een wereld waar ze wel onmiskenbaar deel van uitmaken. Deze mensen hebben altijd een thuishonk waarnaar ze kunnen terugkeren, hoe uitputtend of wreed het leven ook is. De mensen uit de eerste categorie weten waar ze horen en keren daar, in tijden van wanhoop, naar terug. In geval van nood, wees veilig.

De mensen uit de tweede categorie zijn eveneens hulpeloze doelwitten voor verdriet, onrecht en turbulentie. Ook hun wereld is een wrede plek, maar de mensen uit deze categorie weten niet of hun wereld wel echt van hen is. Het ligt niet aan hun loopje of aan een bepaald accent. De mensen uit de tweede categorie hebben geen stabiele positie waarnaar ze kunnen terugkeren, en daardoor voelen ze zich nooit ergens veilig of thuis. Voor deze mensen is overleven een dagtaak. Ze wonen op zee. Chaos is hun blauwdruk.

Iedere dag worden de mensen uit de tweede categorie voor een raadsel gesteld: is deze wereld niet gemaakt voor mensen zoals ik, of ben ik niet gemaakt voor deze wereld?

Photograph by Gregoire AlessandriniPhotograph by Gregoire Alessandrini

Movie Matinée — Jenny Holzer.

A while ago in these pages, I quoted from this fascinating piece in Granta by Julian Baggini without comment.

To say reality or the self is empty is not to say that it does not exist. It simply means that it lacks a discrete essence, something that makes what it is independent of what makes other things what they are. This is most evident when it comes to the self. To be an individual is to be in relation to others. There is no self independent of other selves.

Re-reading it, I wondered if perhaps it’s worth reiterating and extending that : Reality, and I write it with a capital for a reason, does not exist independent of the self, nor of the realities of others.

And so the work is deconstructing that self and that Reality and the effect of the realities that others have, unwittingly or malevolently, imposed on you — and indeed continue to try and impose on you.

in the process of reposting the quote i discovered an error/typo, which is in the original. it makes one of the sentences virtually unintelligible unless you happen to read over it, as i did the first time. it’s a pity because this is a beautifully expressed and important idea without the error and confusing as hell otherwise — so i wrote to granta and suggested it’s worth fixing. not everyone is thrilled when you write to them and point out a typo but i regularly do it anyway, not to be smug but because sometimes it matters.

we are the flowers
of the dog days

we are the harebells
nodding on heaths
we are the meadow crane’s bills

we are the nettle-leaved
bellflowers lurking
under hedges,
glowing in the shadows.

apologies to derwent may

i love you and i don’t know what to do with that love…
— why do you have to do anything with it?
she smiles that to-die-for-smile. it signifies amusement of course but there is something of a challenge in it, a kind of provocation.
well for the first time in my so-called life, i know what not to do with it.
— oh? and that is…? (that smile again…) to apply to it a romantic narrative, a sexual narrative — one where i make you, or try to make you, subject to it.

for many people in this … situation, those are the only narratives available to them. because coming up with a different narrative is really hard! it’s like trying to name an entirely different primary colour or to try and imagine, let alone see, a different dimension.

action : marcel duchamp, pompidou centre 2014action : marcel duchamp, pompidou centre 2014

what art did for me, in the end, long after i finished immersing my-so-called-self in it, was something of immense value : it enabled me to conceive of an entirely different way of thinking and working — and i got a glimpse of a different reality lurking under the one we all know and love and/or hate. and then it became abundantly clear that a radically different reality was urgently required and that is when i embarked on the impossible project.

Words are reality — this point should be noted, if not tattooed into the brain. A word represents but, in representing, it is. So what we say and write and read, in the most uncomplicated way, is real.

I appropriated this text from James McWilliams and changed the subject from art’ to words’. Apologies.


Native Tongue

Láadan, a language invented by Suzette Haden Elgin for her novel Native Tongue (1984), republished by the Feminist Press this month, has a multitude of words to describe different types of love. Azh” is love for one sexually desired now”; áazh” is love for one sexually desired at one time, but not now”; ab” is love for one liked but not respected”; ad” is love for one respected but not liked”; am” is love for one related by blood”; ashon” is love for one not related by blood, but heart-kin”; and aye” is love which is an unwelcome burden.” These definitions show how a phrase like I love you” is so open to interpretation that, in a sense, it’s actually meaningless. If a man says, I love you,” does he mean, I want to have sex with you now and that’s it”? (That’d be azh.”) Or might he mean something more long-lasting and unconditional? (A word for this does not exist in Láadan.)

Láadan gives its words hyper-detailed definitions that make the otherwise implicit emotional tenor of words explicit. In a 1999 essay, Elgin explained why she created Láadan: I saw two major problems—for women—with English and its close linguistic relatives. . . . Those languages lacked vocabulary for many things that are extremely important to women, making it cumbersome and inconvenient to talk about them.” She also felt that languages:

lacked ways to express emotional information conveniently, so that—especially in English—much of that information had to be carried by body language and was almost entirely missing from written language. This characteristic (which makes English so well suited for business) left women vulnerable to hostile language followed by the ancient, But all I said was . . .” excuse; and it restricted women to the largely useless It wasn’t what you said, it was the way you said it!” defense against such hostility. In constructing Láadan, I focused on giving it features intended to repair those two deficiencies.

Taken, more or less verbatim, from Cody Delistraty’s fascinating piece about Native Tongue and Suzette Haden Elgin’s work for Bookforum.

  #love     #language     #feminism     #desire     #days     #the work  

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