Britain's first book blogger (November 2000)

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

One book in the grave

In need of something to brighten a dank early morning before work, I picked up Grave Matters, a collection of photographs of authors' graves. I was expecting the long introduction by the philosopher Mark C. Taylor to be a relatively dry essay on the relation between writing and death. As a Blanchot scholar, he will know the line: The writer, his biography: he died; lived and died. But it isn't dry at all. It's quite unsettling. In it Taylor connects the family secrets he uncovered as a child and the rubbings he has since taken of the gravestones of philosophers; two in particular.
[In] Kierkegaard I detected traces of graves I had visited years earlier and heard the melancholy voice of 'unhappy consciousness' which drove my mother into the silence from which she never emerged even, or perhaps especially, when she spoke. And I came to realize more than ever that in Hegel's worldly philosophy, I sought a way out of the interminable mourning of unhappy consciousness. Kierkegaard and Hegel have never been merely theologians or philosophers for me; rather, they and their writings represent alternative forms of life or modes of being-in-the-world between which life is suspended.
This either settled or reaffirmed my own uncomprehending recognition of the regular flounder between Blanchot and Bernhard, Proust and Kafka, Stevens and Celan from which this blog is suspended.

2 comments:

  1. I briefly touched on some Mark C. Taylor stuff (his book Altarity) when I was at university and I sensed a great depth of understanding - as I remember it, he was using Kierkegaard and Derrida to rethink the void at the centre of modern theology. The moment passed though and I never went back to him.

    Thanks for the post though - I just picked up a copy of Grave Matters for 33p!

    Cheers

    Matt

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  2. Just wanted to point out this not-yet-translated book by Cees Nooteboom with photographs of author's graves by Simone Sassen: Tumbas - Gräber von Dichtern und Denkern. "Cees Nooteboom visits the graves of Keats and Shelley in Rome, Thomas Mann, James Joyce and Elias Canetti in Zurich, Balzac, Proust and Nerval at Père Lachaise in Paris, and Brecht and Hegel in Berlin. His musings, when confronted with the final resting places of his 'beloved dead,' are literary gems of their own kind."

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