Thursday, December 25, 2008

Quasi una fantasia

There is music from the nineteenth century, which is so unbearably solemn that it can only be used to introduce waltzes. If it were left as it is, people listening to it would fall into a despair beside which every other musical emotion would pale. All the feeling of great tragedy would surely overwhelm them and they would have to veil their heads with gestures that have fallen out of use since time immemorial. This music no longer possesses a form with which to clothe its minor key.Chords are struck alternating with plangent tunes, and each stands on its own so that the listener is exposed to them in their naked immediacy. Only the excess of pain helps which springs from the certainty that things cannot go on like this. The double attack of F in the violins, the dominant of B-flat minor - a pathetic remnant of sadness together with a tiny E grace note, which a moment later will drive on the waltz melody in sharp, jolly spasms, always staccato and always in the train of the E.
Nowadays such music thrives for the most part only in the band music played in zoos or in the small orchestras in provincial spas.
Children are its greatest fans.

- Adorno/Zola

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Who has turned us round like that, that we,
do as we may, are in the attitude
of going away?

- rilke

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

There are two truths which men will not generally believe: one is not knowing anything, the other is not being anything. Add a third, that grows largely from the second: of having nothing to hope for after death.

Giacomo Leopardi, from his journals

(Thanks to James Walsh for finding it.)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The only cure for madness
is the innocence of facts.

- Jacques Riviere in a letter to Antonin Artaud

Friday, October 17, 2008

later times

Fate had elected him for a special deed.
But he then made sure that later times lost all memory of him.

- Joseph Roth, The Radetzky March

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

and they held out as long as they could.

Monday, August 4, 2008

irretrievable & irrepeatable

What conclusion can we draw?
To invite the gods ruins our relationship with them
but sets history in motion.
A life in which the gods are not invited isn't worth living.
It will be quieter, but there won't be any stories.
And you could suppose that these dangerous invitations
were in fact contrived by the gods themselves,
because the gods get bored with men who have no stories.

- Roberto Calasso, The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony

Thank you Tonya van Gieson

Saturday, July 19, 2008

When I die, the world is in my room.

In November 1966, a day before his 72. birthday, composer, translator and wanderer Juergen von der Wense died in Goettingen, Germany. His attic apartment was filled with many thousands of pages of writings on science, poetry, philosophy and music.
Few splinters from it ever reached the public.
He lived for his work, always alone, with no academic or artistic consolations, in poverty supported by a few friends and admirers.
Nature, art and religion to him were one – and ALL important.
Despite loss and solitude, his life was a marvelous experiment, guided by its own inner light, overflowing and outreaching (in 6000 letters to friends) – and blessed by the absence of (and concerns for) career, family and endorsements.
A solitary genius like Mahler or Nietzsche and odd like Bruckner, he was a universe to himself. Marvelous and homeless like the storm.

---------------------- Splinters from EPIDOT:

Movements are not created, they only find each other. That something happens is only ... luck, an act of genius. God himself is permanently surprised. True art.

Biographies must become prophetic. Every life is a divination. Genius is a sacrifice, from which God foretells himself. The life of a genius is fragment, secret knowledge.

Flaws must enter the composition like poisons in medicine.

To be free means to be free from opinions. To be sociable with the stars above. To be rich from spending one's life. To embrace it with one's knowledge, to know it with one's heart.

Wisdom is a crisis.

Sudden happiness is a great loss, so we become sick, because it breaks our habits, unsettles our vanities, when we realize, how long we had been content with the platitudes of feeling.
This joy whisks me from my destiny.

Everything we experience is an answer.

What is noble about the sun is not her warmth but her distance.

We embrace the ocean when we drown.

Consolation: nature has no opinion of me.

People without love have no destiny, they only improvise. With the speed of a falling weight my destiny increases because of love.

The meaning and goad of navigation is the secret, to sail after the sun and to go down with her. The meaning of travel is religion. Wanderlust is our nobility: a marvelous striving without destination. Seafarers were the first aristocrats.
With Columbus begins the downfall. His high caravels, filled with mutineers and robbers: the image of rabble. He thought he found paradise, but every paradise was discovered by the devil.

The rainbow is the banner after the battle between the sky and earth.


My translation.
Hoping against hope that someone will pick it up from here to bring Juergen von der Wense or Hans Henny Jahnn or Jean Paul Richter a better appreciation and impetus for us to keep going.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

nothing in return

The fulcrum of America is the Plains, half sea half land, a high sun as metal and obdurate as the iron horizon, and a man's job to square the circle.

Some men ride on such space, others have to fasten themselves like a tent stake to survive.
As I see it Poe dug in and Melville mounted. They are the alternatives.

In Moby-Dick, when Ishmael has said all he can say about Ahab, he admits that the larger, darker, deeper part of man is obscure. He suggests the same holds true for any man and insists it is necessary to go down to a place far beneath a man's upper earth in order to uncover the unknown part.
There, he says, a man will find that his root of grandeur, his whole awful essence sits in bearded state

an antique buried beneath antiquities and throned
on torsos.

Melville became Christ's victim, and it was death, and lack of love, that let him be it.

Death bothered him. That bare-headed life under the grass, his own, worried him, in Dickinson's words, like a wasp. He looked for solace to the Resurrection. He got nothing in return. For the loss of mortality he got nothing in return.

Monday, June 30, 2008


In a certain sense the Good is comfortless.

- Kafka, notebooks

Monday, June 2, 2008

paper animals

But in formulating his wish he made an allowance of which even he was barely aware, so that all would not be lost if the sign did not come again: he gave the Lord advance permission not to give a second sign, and even if he did not, that would not mean anything bad.

Hugo von Hofmannsthal - Military Story

war is always

The more we get used to being killed, the better we like it.
- Private Wilbur Fisk of Vermont

for Jahnn

Nur das zwecklose wird vom ewigen beruehrt.

- Hans Henny Jahnn

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


"Mahler is matter-of-fact even in the supreme metaphysical sense, in that he jettisoned the aesthetic illusion of meaningful totality which no longer existed, if indeed it ever did. Mahler, whose uncompromising spirituality separated him from the hedonism of his age, from Debussy and from Strauss and whose mind selflessly strove to conceive of something that goes beyond mere existence - Mahler discovered the impossibility of such a task simply by refusing to be deflected from his path. A metaphysician like no other composer since Beethoven, he made the impossibility of metaphysics his central belief, even while battering his head against the brick wall this represented. His world, like that of his compatriot Franz Kafka, is a world infinitely full of hope, although not for us."

- Adorno, Quasi una Fantasia


More tears are shed over answered prayers than over unanswered prayers.

- St. Teresa of Avila

Guest entry by Anne Gibbs of THE LOST SOCIETY OF COLLECTORS

Thursday, May 15, 2008


"Friendship cannot be separated from reality any more than the beautiful. It is a miracle, like the beautiful. And the miracle consists simply in the fact that it exists."

"The essence of created things is to be intermediaries. They are intermediaries leading from one to the other, and there is no end to this."

"…It is necessary to be dead in order to see things in their nakedness."

Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace

- Guest entry by Louise Despont

Sunday, May 11, 2008

What seems paradoxical about everything that is justly called beautiful is the fact that it appears.

- Benjamin, Schriften I, 349


Josephine's road, however, must go downhill. The time will soon come when her last notes sound and die into silence. She is a small episode in the eternal history of our people, and the people will get over the loss of her. Not that it will be easy for us; how can our gatherings take place in utter silence? Still, were they not silent even when Josephine was present? Was her actual piping notably louder and more alive than the memory of it will be? Was it not rather because Josephine's singing was already past losing in this way that our people in their wisdom prized it so highly? So perhaps we shall not miss her so much after all, while Josephine, redeemed from earthly sorrows which to her thinking lay in wait for all chosen spirits, will happily lose herself in the numberless throng of the heroes of our people, and soon, since we are no historians, will rise to the heights of redemption and be forgotten like all her brothers.

(Kafka, Josephine the Singer, or the Mouse Folk)

Image: The dancer Wera Ouckama Knoop, whose sudden illness and death at the age of 19 inspired Rilke's Sonnets to Orpheus.

Monday, April 28, 2008


The midnight, the morning, or the middle of day,

Is the same to the miner who labors away.

Where the demons of death often come by surprise,

One fall of the slate and you're buried alive.

Merle Travis - Dark as a dungeon (additional stanza, rarely performed...)

Sunday, April 27, 2008

closing doors

Eilidh, Eilidh, Eilidh, heart of me, dear and sweet
In dreams I am hearing the whisper, the sound of your running feet
that like the sea-hoofs beat a music by day and night, Eilidh,
On the sands of my heart, my sweet.

O sands, of my heart, what wind moans low along thy shadowy shore?
Is that the deep seaheart I hear with the dying sob at its core?
Each dim lost wave that lapses is like a closing door:
'Tis closing doors they hear at last who soon shall hear no more,
who soon, soon shall hear no more, my grief, no more!
Eilidh, Eilidh, Eilidh!

Come home to the heart of me! 'tis pain I am having ever,
Eilidh, the pain that will not be.
Come home, come home, for closing doors are like the waves of the sea;
once closed, they are closed forever,
Eilidh, lost lost, lost for you and me.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

"...and love, though in a sense it may be admitted to be stronger than death, is by no means so universal and so sure. In fact, love is rare - the love of men. of things, of ideas, the love of perfected skill. For love is the enemy of haste; it takes count of passing days, of men who pass away, of fine art matured slowly in the course of years and doomed in a short time to pass away, too, and be no more."

Joseph Conrad, The Mirror of the Sea

Sunday, April 20, 2008


Nothing, for us, can fill the place of undiminished brightness except the unconscious dark, nothing that of what once we might have been, except the dream that we had never been born.

- Adorno, Minima Moralia

Thursday, April 17, 2008

When we are no longer children, we are already dead.


At first sight I really believed that the only reminders in the Piana graveyard of the nature which, we have always hoped, will endure long after our own end, were the artificial purple, mauve, and pink flowers, obviously pressed upon their customers by French undertakers, made of silk or nylon chiffon, of brightly painted porcelain, wire, and metal appearing not so much a sign of enduring affection as the final emergence of a kind of proof that, despite all assurances to the contrary, we offer our dead only the cheapest substitute for the diverse beauty of life.

-Sebald, Campo Santo

The positive element of kitsch lies in the fact that it sets free for a moment the glimmering realization that you have wasted your life.

- Adorno, Quasi una Fantasia

today is my birthday!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


"We have art that we may not perish of the truth."

- Friedrich Nietzsche

Monday, April 14, 2008

The cuckoo

The cuckoo is a merry bird, she sings as she flies,
She brings us good tidings and tells us no lies;
She sucks the sweet flowers to make her sing clear,
And she never sings "cuckoo" till summer is near.

O meeting is a pleasure, but parting a grief,
An inconstant lover is worse than a thief;
For a thief will but rob you and swear to be true,
And the very next moment they'll bring you to the grave.

The grave it will rot you and bring you to dust,
There is not one in twenty young men girls can trust;
They will kiss you, and court you and swear to be true,
And the very next moment they'll bid you adieu.

Come all you young women wherever you be,
Build your nest in the top of a tree;
For the leaves they will wither, the branches decay,
And the beauty of fair maids will soon fade away.

- Folk song from Sussex

Sunday, April 13, 2008


"All children talk to their toys. The toys become actors in the great drama of life, reduced in size by the camera obscura of their little brains. The child twists and turns his toy, scratches it, shakes it, bumps it against the walls, throws it on the ground. From time to time he makes it restart its mechanical motions, sometimes in the opposite direction. Its marvelous life comes to a stop. The child, like the people besieging the Tuileries, makes s supreme effort; at last he opens it up, he is the stronger. But where is the soul? This is the beginning of melancholy and gloom."

- Charles Baudelaire


"Talent is perhaps nothing other than successfully sublimated rage, the capacity to convert energies once intensified beyond measure to destroy recalcitrant objects, into the concentration of patient observation, so keeping as tight a hold on the secret of things, as one had earlier when finding no peace until the quavering voice had been wrenched from the mutilated toy."

- Adorno, Minima Moralia

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Actaeon out hunting chances upon the goddess Diana
and her nymphs bathing;
furious, she changes him into
a stag; his own dogs no longer know him and tear him

Thursday, March 6, 2008


"All could be well, but in fact all is lost."

- Adorno, 'Mahler'

Saturday, March 1, 2008

the good wound

Among the great tragedies of childhood, De Quincey included that of the little boy's lips forever separated from his sister's kisses. Men with no sisters also share in this tragedy. Gloomy, incessant death of the sister in Munch's paintings. (Without a dead sister, abandoned lifeless at the foot of a distant staircase, a man cannot rediscover in the dark his sister's lips, the good wound happy to start bleeding again.) At its most ethereal and imaginative, a sister's wedding reaches the deepest endogamic intensity; it makes us feel as if our ties with Chaos and the contracted universe cannot be undone.

- Guido Ceronetti

image from the very fine

Saturday, February 23, 2008

"We were happy, all of us, but that was all."

Image via Anne of White Mule Picture Frames (


Friday, February 22, 2008

asleep in scotland

The Cotard delusion, also known as nihilistic or negation delusion, is a rare neuropsychiatric disorder in which a person holds a delusional belief that he or she is dead, does not exist, is putrefying or has lost his/her blood or internal organs.
Rarely, it can include delusions of immortality.
It is named after Jules Cotard (1840–1889), a French neurologist who first described the condition, which he called le délire de négation ("negation delirium"), in a lecture in Paris in 1880.
Young and Leafhead (1996, p155) describe a modern-day case of Cotard delusion in a patient who suffered brain injury after a motorcycle accident:
“ [The patient's] symptoms occurred in the context of more general feelings of unreality and being dead. In January, 1990, after his discharge from a hospital in Edinburgh, his mother took him to South Africa. He was convinced that he had been taken to hell (which was confirmed by the heat), and that he had died of septicaemia (which had been a risk early in his recovery), or perhaps from AIDS (he had read a story in The Scotsman about someone with AIDS who died from septicaemia), or from an overdose of a yellow fever injection.
He thought he had "borrowed my mother's spirit to show me round hell", and that he was asleep in Scotland. ”

- from wikipedia

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Why were you born when the snow was falling?
You should have come to the cuckoo's calling

Or when grapes are green in the cluster,

Or, at least, when lithe swallows muster
For their far off flying
From summer dying.
Why did you die when the lambs were cropping?

You should have died at the apples' dropping,

When the grasshopper comes to trouble,

And the wheat-fields are sodden stubble,

And all winds go sighing

For sweet things dying.

- Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830-1894) , "A dirge"

Monday, January 28, 2008

The dead make things never be the same.

- text fragment: flowerville (
'to those our dead whom we mourn secretly and to those who mourn them secretly'

- images:

Saturday, January 26, 2008

closing sequence from
georg wilhelm pabst's the three penny opera, 1931

Guest entry by THE ART OF MEMORY

Thursday, January 24, 2008

We do not think enough of the Dead as exhilirants - they are not dissuaders but Lures-Keepers of the great Romance still to us foreclosed - while coveting (we envy) their wisdom we lament their silence.
Grace is still a secret.

Emily Dickinson (Prose fragment 50)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

At the last

She cometh no more:
Time too is dead.
The last tide is led
To the last shore.

What is Eternity,
But the sea coming,
The sea going

Thursday, January 17, 2008

a deep grave surely

"The stillness was that of a deep grave, save for the raindrops, falling light as thistledown, with a faint, monotonous sound like a whisper that dies and begins again and dies there behind the wet, glistening trunks."

~J. P. Jacobsen, Marie Grubbe, 1876

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

shadows and smells

the army is imaginary...

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Lazarus - he already stinks.

-Kierkegaard - Journals and Papers v.3

Monday, January 7, 2008

Darwin, who was born into a large family that for two generations had been scientists, engineers, industrialists, and well-to-do landowners, and yet who, despite his genius, was a sufferer of neuroses, constant illnesses (he vomited every afternoon at four), a kind of hysteria that took the form of gasping and palpitation, and seizures of depression in which he wept uncontrollably.
- Guy Davenport

(the image is by Etienne Leopold Trouvelot of an "ideal section of the atmosphere of the sun."
From the fine

Sunday, January 6, 2008





"Nourished on the blood of a schizophrenic, a spider weaves crazy webs."

-Guido Ceronetti, The Silence of the Body

During the 1950s, a swiss pharmacologist named Peter Witt conducted a set of experiments in spider doping. He found that the spiders spun uniquely cockeyed webs depending on which substance they had ingested.

-images and Peter Witt information from the great