Sunday 14 July 2024

Sebald & Bone the Dancer

This is a Sebald summer, I'll reread everything. After The Rings of Saturn, The Emigrants. One of Sebald's emigrants is Paul Bereyter, an ideal teacher, if you could have one, who brought his children on his own quest, outdoors as often as possible.The great thing about rereading books is how the complexities build, your own and the writer's, and some of them turn into music.   

... Paul told me that as a child he had once his summer holidays in Lindau, and had watched from the shore every day as the train trundled across from the mainland to the island and from the island to the mainland. The white clouds of stem in the blue air, the passengers waving from the windows, the reflection in the water — this spectacle, repeated at intervals, so absorbed him that he never once appeared on time at the dinner table all that holiday, a lapse that his aunt responded to with a shake of the head that a grew more resigned every time, and his uncle with the comment that he would end up on the railways.

Paul Bereyter ended up purposefully lying on the railway tracks, a good choice of death for a claustrophobic. Sebald is so good at partly redeemed sadness. 

Circa 1978 I wrote On Foot the Velvet Odyssey, the strange non-tale of Bone the dancer, his town, his being, and how he drew them, their voices, their footfall, all of them and their dead, into Wyse's Meadow for a grand finale. I looked at it again in 2022, and transcribed the first few pages onto the computer from a blurred carbon copy sent to a friend who kindly returned it, without comment, I think. What happened to the top copy I don't know. Then, in 2024,  Jack the dancer from Australia came here looking for earth; he brought some spare of his own, in case, and found he was already in a novel since before he was born, before his nickname was Bones or he knew about loss, or earth. He stayed in our cabin for two weeks and realised he'd been here all along. What happens in your novel, he asked. I've come ten thousand miles to find myself in a novel, I need to know. I have been looking, Jack, to see what happens. It may take some time.

Thursday 4 July 2024


There's an election in your country today, said M. with a certain sharpness.

It isn't my country, I said, and you can't decide for me. 

You're British and you always will be, she went on.

No, I never felt British. My country is the place where I've dug and planted. Where I've nested. 

Scherry Shi was born in China, lives in London, her parents are in New Zealand; she is thinking about these things in a more immediate way than I am. You could see it in the way she moved between the tables at the book fair where we met her.  She made a small book called departure, of softened photographs and some text. Departure /from air /from soil /from water

...  I could not stop thinking of my homes, which I depart from, which I return to, of those within me, of those away from me; of those above the earth, of those on the ground.

Home is where I was, where I am and where I may be in the future.

Reading Sebald in bed, talking to M in the morning, working in the veg plot in the afternoon, looking at Scherry Shi's book in the evening.