Basing his composition on this photograph, a song by Kieron Corrigan. I made the photograph at Hanger Hill Park, where Kieron and I spent many happy hours of our misspent youth.
Language shows clearly that memory is not an instrument for exploring the past but its theater. It is the medium of past experience, as the ground is the medium in which dead cities lie interred. He who seeks to approach his own buried past must conduct himself like a man digging. This confers the tone and bearing of genuine reminiscences. He must not be afraid to return again and again to the same matter, to scatter it as one scatters earth, to turn it over as one turns over soil. For the matter itself is only a deposit, a stratum, which yields only to the most meticulous examination what constitutes the real treasure hidden within the earth: the images, severed from earlier associations, that stand—like precious fragments or torsos in a collector’ gallery—in the prosaic rooms of our later understanding.
Longing is the absent chatting with the absent. The distant turning toward the distant. Longing is the spring’s thirst for the jar-carrying women, and vice versa. Longing allows distance to recede, as if looking forward, although it may be called hope, were an adventure and a poetic notion. The present tense is hesitant and perplexed, the past tense hangs from a cypress tree standing on its rooted leg behind a hill, enveloped in its dark green, listening intently to one sound only: the sound of the wind. Longing is the sound of the wind.
Mahmoud Darwish, In the Presence of Absence, trans. Sinan Antoon (via nemophilies)
Cities are smells: Acre is the smell of iodine and spices. Haifa is the smell of pine and wrinkled sheets. Moscow is the smell of vodka on ice. Cairo is the smell of mango and ginger. Beirut is the smell of the sun, sea, smoke, and lemons. Paris is the smell of fresh bread, cheese, and derivations of enchantment. Damascus is the smell of jasmine and dried fruit. Tunis is the smell of night musk and salt. Rabat is the smell of henna, incense, and honey. A city that cannot be known by its smell is unreliable. Exiles have a shared smell: the smell of longing for something else; a smell that remembers another smell. A panting, nostalgic smell that guides you, like a worn tourist map, to the smell of the original place. A smell is a memory and a setting sun. Sunset, here, is beauty rebuking the stranger.
But to love the sunset is not, as they say, one of the attributes of exile.
Memory, your personal museum, takes you into the realms of what is lost. A sesame field, a plot of lettuce, mint, a round sun that falls into the sea. What is lost grows in you and in the sunset, which grants what is distant the attributes of paradise and purges it of any defect. Whatever is lost is worshipped.
A book lent to me by Julia di Trapani as part of the uphill struggle to refresh my moribund Italian for a trip to Naples by train in April, going via Paris and Zurich and returning via Turin. I am in Naples by invitation, attending two meetings of the Advisory Board of the Responding to Crisis: Forced Humanities and Migrations in the 21st Century project (https://respondingtocrisis.wordpress.com), taking place at L’Asilo Cultural Centre (http://www.exasilofilangieri.it). I shall be staying for the Easter processions.
Barilli’s book has reminded me of the Greco-Italian mystery of De Chirico’s work and, via him, of certain shots in Antonioni’s Beyond the Clouds (1995).