Javier Marias: Dark Back of Time

If it weren’t for books, it would be almost as if none of these names had ever existed, and if it weren’t for the booksellers who time and again rescue and put back into circulation and resell the silent, patient voices which in spite of everything refuse to fall silent entirely and forever, voices that are inexhaustible because they make no effort to emit sounds and be heard, written voices, mute, persistent voices like the one now filling these pages day by day over the course of many hours when no one knows anything about me or sees me or spies on me, and so it can seem as if I had never been born. (Marias, 1988, p. 92).

Rebecca Solnit: Men explain Lolita to me.

Photographs and essays and novels and the rest can change your life; they are dangerous. Art shapes the world. I know many people who found a book that determined what they would do with their life or saved their life. Books aren’t life preservers; there are more complex, less urgent reasons to read them, including pleasure, and pleasure matters.

Solnit, 2015.

Men explain Lolita to me

80 books no woman should read

Fretting about words

We fret about words, we writers. Words mean. Words point. They are arrows. Arrows stuck in the rough hide of reality. And the more portentous, more general the word, the more they can also resemble rooms or tunnels. They can expand, or cave in. They can come to be filled with a bad smell. They will often remind us of other rooms, where we’d rather dwell or where we think we are already living. They can be spaces we lose the art or the wisdom of inhabiting. And eventually those volumes of mental intention we no longer know how to inhabit will be abandoned, boarded up, closed down.

Susan Sontag

The reader who arose from the mechanical reproduction of literature is a reader acutely aware of the disjunction between book as object and book as idea. And the solitude of his or her reading takes place within the milieu of the bourgeois domestic, a milieu of interior space miming the creation of both an interior text and an interior object.
(Stewart, 1993, p. xi).

At this point Kublai Khan interrupted him or imagined interrupting him, or Marco Polo imagined himself interrupted with a question such as: “You advance always with your head turned back?” or “Is what you see always behind you?” or rather, “Does your journey take place only in the past?”

All this so that Marco Polo could explain or imagine explaining or be imagined explaining or succeed finally in explaining to himself that what he sought was always something lying ahead, and even if it was a matter of the past it was a past that changed gradually as he advanced on his journey, because the traveler’s past changes according to the route he has followed: not the immediate past, that is, to which each day that goes by adds a day, but the more remote past. Arriving at each new city, the traveler finds again a past of his that he did not know he had: the foreigness of what you no longer are or no longer possess lies in wait for you in foreign, unpossessed places.

(Calvino, 1997, p. 24).

It is a platitude in the teaching of drawing that the heart of the matter lies in the specific process of looking. A line, an area of tone, is not really important because it records what you have seen, but because of what it will lead you on to see.

(Berger, 1960, p. 23).

Accept that I can plan nothing.

Accept that I can plan nothing.

Any consideration that I make about the ‘construction’ of a picture is false and if the execution is successful then it is only because I partially destroy it or because it works anyway, because it is not disturbing and looks as though it is not planned.

Accepting this is often intolerable and also impossible, because as a thinking, planning, human being it humiliates me to find that I am powerless to that extent, making me doubt my competence and any constructive ability.

(Gerhard Richter as cited in Petherbridge, 2010, p. 431).

Visual art

At its best, visual art is philosophy by other means and poetry without words. Visual art asks the grandest questions, about the most essential ingredients of existence: about time, space, perception, value, creation, identity and beauty. It makes mute objects speak, and it renews the elements of the world through the unexpected, or it situates the everyday in a way that asks us to wake up and notice. This kind of art raises fundamental questions about the act of making, about what it means, whom it is for, what happens in that engagement with materials and history and embodied imagination.

(Solnit, 2013, pp. 192 – 193).

Terrible enthusiasm for ideas.

‘What is this terrible enthusiasm you have for ideas?’

‘What?’ My voice came out a croak, a papery rasp.

I should not have answered. But he didn’t speak how those men usually speak. We are all taught in the moots and gatherings that man expresses himself simply and uses humble words. He does not simper. He does not try and leave a trace in the air. But this man says enthusiasm, terrible enthusiasm. Such an ancient phrase!  Words to drink like wine.

I heard the question coming out of my blistered mouth.  I’d already lost; right then, with that first ploy, he had me in his grasp.

‘Ideas,’ he said, ‘are not things. They are what you have instead of things. Instead of the good solid wood of this table. Instead of the water I know you crave.’


(Kunzru, 2013, p. 33)