fighting fighting

Keep returning to this obsession with (or keep obsessing and returning to) the unnoticeable, the passable, the unseen, the apparently blank mass of nobodies. The bag man, the glue-sniffer, the housewife, the goat-griller, the truck driver, the kandongueiro passenger humming to Maya Cool. The man on the motor, the government official asleep at his desk, the policeman walking up and walking down and walking up the road again. I think this is where there is a space to work, to eek out a way of expressing a particular place. I think this is why I am so blown away and over backwards by J M Coetzee‘s Life and Times of Michael K and why I’ve always got a bit too over-excited about some of Samuel Beckett‘s writing (though to mention him these days seems to be merely an attempt to join a wagon of, um, I want to say wankers but I know that’s unfair and lazy, but I notice that I avoid mentioning Beckett because it seems pretentious or even passĂ© for a lot of you clever bastards out there…). Making fascinating this bottom bit, this overlooked world, is where I’m heading albeit with great pain and extraordinary difficulty. And perhaps this is why the piece blogged about below (the one in GQ) rubbed me up so badly. And perhaps this also is where I could really have fallen down here, in South Africa. For it strikes me I do the same thing here as Kampfner did in Angola: I only really look and observe and slag off the rich, and not just the rich but the whites. The people most like me. Serious limitations here in my vision. So I see how easy it was for Kampfner to fall and fail… because I recognise it. And it makes for damn dull writing. But there’s another bit in all of this, which I first got going with last year when I was back working in Luanda… I had this sort of epiphany, I suppose you might call it, that if I want to really challenge the world I seem to live in, I have to make beautiful and make magical the bits that appear to be dull and normal and unimportant. The great big forgotten bits. That’s when I became stuck on this idea that we give the powerful too much of ourselves by writing about them so much. We should write about something else. And then I saw this proverb today on this site here. It said, He who feels impelled to write against the regime all the time is allowing himself to be prevented by the regime from writing about anything else. Ludvik Vaculik said that. Exactly – I just didn’t manage to say it in a sentence! Ludvik, dear Ludvik, I’m with you all the way. All the way, oh yes.

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9 thoughts on “fighting fighting

  1. I think you’re on to something really good here–often the cacophony of the obvious deadens our senses. What I try to remember is that everywhere I look (for me that includes the internal visions) is a perfect painting.
    Now making that painting is a huge challenge, but as Chip(Delany)has always told me: art is a disproportional act.
    …also, try Kurosawa’s The Lower Depths

  2. Thanks Mia… I will try Lower Depths and get back to you. And I think I’ve read those words of Delany’s before, via you, and they leave me pondering and thinking and probably think yes. But I’m not quite sure what that might mean. Perhaps only what it means, and I shouldn’t try harder. I’d like to read some of Mr Delany’s work.

  3. Have you read Georges Perec’s ‘Species of Spaces and Other Pieces’ ? The whole book is a magnificent exercise in ‘making beautiful and making magical the bits that appear to be dull and normal and unimportant’. I’ve worked in big hospitals for most of my working life, and often have that same feeling – that the cleaners and the orderlies and the kitchen staff and even the patients are generally overlooked in favour of the doctors and the senior nurses and the middle management, especially in fictional representations of hospital life. Perec is brilliant on all the small things that are lumninously beautiful when you actually stop to _see_ them.

  4. I confess I have not, Robert, but know I should. Several people have tried to send me Perec’s way and I feel ashamed I haven’t taken them up. I will, now, attempt to do so. Thank you. Have you a blog of your own somewhere? Are you a writer?

  5. Sorry, Lara, only just got back to this. Been spending far too much time over at MJH’s place…

    No, I don’t yet have a blog, though I’m working on it – a lot of the time when I look at my ideas for one, and then read yours and MJH’s and Tim Etchells’ and and and… well, I get a bit T.S. Eliot about it: it’s all been written so much better by so many others, so what’s the point ? And then I go back and tinker some more.

    And your other question – well, that’s the nicest thing anyone’s asked me for a long time. And being as deeply honest to myself and the world as I can be, the answer is Yes, I am. The fact that no one has yet paid me for the privilege of being one is, I have belatedly realised, completely irrelevant.

  6. Reading that back, post posting it, I sound like lots of bad things – smug, pretentious etc. All I meant was, yes, I write, so I’m a writer; but no, I’m not A Writer; but being asked if I was one (capitalised or not) by someone whose writing has become as essential to me on a daily basis as MJH’s, made my day before it had even got started. So, thank you.

  7. Robert, reading your comments makes me laugh. First of all, the idea that you even put my name in the same sentence as MJH there yonder is… well… flattering to a point of absurdity. I would kill (probably) to write like him. And like you, I spend much time thinking “it’s all been written… blah blah blah”. Someone said to me the other night: Lara, it’s not about you, it’s about the work, you have a duty to write it, stop being so self-indulgent. So I pass that on to you Robert: get on with it!
    To your second comment, that’s OK! You write, so you’re a writer. Exactly. Simple as that. And don’t forget about all those writers who were never published for ages, or whose works were forgotten. Look at Kafka. Even Beckett struggled to get his work published and he had Mr Joyce breathing down his neck! And look at all the shit that does get published: Being Published is hardly a sign of Being Any Good!
    (all this I tell myself every day over and over… I must try not to indulge it too much in public!)
    And to your third post: well I’ve already been there.Very nice indeed. Keep going. Don’t look down. Keep going. Good luck! As the Angolans say, Estamos juntos!

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