Tuesday 21 June 2016

Knut Hamsun, Paul Celan

Gusty unsummer weather reached my soul too fast today. Started reading Knut Hamsun again. Hunger. Required reading in the seventies, like many Picador editions, runkled in rucksacks from Brighton to Kathmandu, handed on like spiritual currency, pages softening, spine creased: Knut Hamsun, Herman Hesse, Rimbaud, Blake. The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom. Knut Hamsun's excesses are a perfect fit. Once you are lurching about in his borderline existence, it is your borderline existence too, though you might not be trying to pawn the buttons off your jacket to buy a loaf of bread or a glass of milk, you're starving in some other way and life repeats itself alarmingly, even in Kathmandu.

I've never been to Kathmandu, I read Knut Hamsun in Ireland. His Oslo, or Christiana, was my Cork. I was ready to be lost. I was lost. Being lost was my profession. And now? How does it look now? Am I inside the palace of wisdom? A gusty day knocks me down. I'm not inside anything.

Mysteries, a few days later, is just that: one inexplicable turn of events after another. Yesterday I read in a review of a new Paul Celan translation that it may be best, confronted by the inexplicable, even the unreadable, just to keep reading, fast, to ride the storm of images, of mysteries, to keep going: you will never get to the bottom of this so you might as well exercise your deepest freedom and gallop off into the sunset with Paul Celan, Knut Hamsun, or life itself.

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