Saturday, November 24, 2012

Élisabeth Baysset

  A wonderful lady
  and a generous
  resource, gone.
  She understood
  this page with-
  out even seeing
  it. Her vision
  nourished it,
  so pure.

Antonio Vivaldi
Violin Concerto in E
L'estro armonico, RV 265
Neville Marriner
Academy of St Martin in the Fields
op. cit.

And what he had forgotten was the last thing anyone would remember

 He seems to me equal to  gods that man
 who opposite you
 sits and listens close
 to your sweet speaking

Anne Carson, translation
Men in the Off Hours
op. cit.

Friday, November 23, 2012

There's a new thing out on Kim (i and ii)

Not Kipling's Kim, mind you
(although there probably is,
I should have checked), but
Mr Philby, the soon-to-be
forgotten but until this
generation dies out, the
everyone's-favourite Kim.
Feastfodder to folioists
of foreignism at its fatal-
est. Forager for facts un-
fortunately pilfered un-
fairly, that sort of Kim.
at Teruel while spying for
Stalin Kim, you know, our
Littell and Furst. Such a
Kim there was, in Kim.

Possibly the new
text is not so
much about Kim as
it is about what
we'd rather never
lose about Kim,
his mystery, his
ambiguous naughti-
ness and the pros-
pect of its having
been OK because in-
herently English.
After all were not 
all the brighter 
(did I say, better?)
ones naturally cur-
ious, if anyone ever

Oh, we can be glad, to be seeing that peculiar diagnostic dyslexia of treacheries die out, the tired and ever-tenuous trope of treason in the blood of turncoat boys or twisted minds, that criminal conspiracy of conservative criticism sometimes romantically enabled by Cocteau's own conception of outlaws. All the more reason, to revisit Kim as Robert Littell has lately done, re-imagined in the fragmented shards of perspective of his closest friends. Is this there go those Littells again, this time the father of the romanceur of the evilest guy of the century, Sebastian Aue of Les Bienveillantes? Am I enjoying it? I'm afraid I am.

Graham Greene, bless his immaculately jaundiced liver, gave us the word for it, the word for this interrogation of what it is that lets us like and even join in shaping narratives drawn from life. He called our con-cords, entertainments.  I think, there is a certain willingness for history to afford us a problem play, for so long as the known facts will sustain it. Think, fossil fuels are good for you.

Did anyone reading this, happen to see the posting immediately preceding it? The occasion recalled at Thanksgiving took place in the same year, for some of the same reasons, in the same conditions of madness and fantasy, and in the same unambiguously terminal terms as Kim's flight to Moscow, escaping arrest for the highest, ineradicable treason. Possibly romantic revisionism is to history what fracking is to fossil fuels, a counter-reformation masking maladjustment. I'm reading the book with not a little of the delight I found in his son's masterpiece, of ironic trial by seduction. I am not going to use this day to argue against reading Othello.

iii        Andrew Westermann
iv         Benjamin Eidem
vi-vii   Jon Paul
viii      Jeremy Young

Robert Littell
Young Philby
Thomas Dunne Books
St Martin's Press, 2012©


NB: On Monday, 26 Nov, this following-up posting, not a customary feature of this page, was published at 7:00am, and ran until 6:00pm Eastern (US) Standard Time, when it was transferred here as a part ii of the posting given above. In consequence, a pleasant exchange in the comment section, with Tassos Paschalis, was lost. The title of this entry had been:

Lintz, whiskey, cubical

The editors at St Martin's Press have not a little to answer for, in allowing the publication of Mr Robert Littell's puckish new volume on Kim Philby with jar-ring, if not entirely misbottled orthographic affronts. The small Austrian city notorious for a style of torte and as the birthplace of the regrettable Chancellor of Germany, although redeemed by lending its name to a symphonic annunciation from the young Mozart, is given the eccentric phonetic treatment shown in the heading. In an interrogation dialogue in the Lubyanka, an NKVD bureaucrat is heard to refer to her carrel of an office, not with the noun of space planning but with an adjective drawn from geometry. 

Given Janet Flanner's novel of New York, The Cubical City (1974), pro-letarians in the publishing field might have been more sensible of our linguistic heritage. Ubiquitously, moreover, the English gentleman's beverage is spelled as if it were bourbon. In the aggregate these distractions do not leave one bilious, strictly speaking, but they do make for a bumpy night at best, in a narrative styled to be breakneck by higher means. What's regrettable is that Philby's virtuosity in risk is treated to a sordid negligence. This first edition may turn out to be an almost philatelic sort of treasure, so I'm not giving mine up; but those of any duty to the young are advised to await the second.

Will one regard the wait as worth it? I think, genuinely so. What is missing in this telling of the Philby tale has really not ever been seized, even in his State-sponsored memoir from Moscow: what was going on with you, boy? But how fair this is, everyone will under-stand. What is dauntingly enormous in Philby's treacheries is as large as Odysseus' seduction of Philoc-tetes, and yet we know countless moments in nearer lives in which a glimpse of consequences could have turned one from the abyss of wit's indulgence. Philby was an unseeing artist of the underworld, and those we love are in our charge to show the tempting space as one we know.

v   Currents at Antiparos
     Tassos Paschalis

Robert Littell
Young Philby
op. cit.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Yes, I will change for dinner


iii  La Soule, photo Ivan Terestchenko

Not much news of Louise or HHH, or of Jane for that matter

Dear [Son] ~

  It has not been a desperately amusing month here what with one thing or another. If you commit suicide you cannot get disposed of, as gravediggers and cremation workers are on strike. Well-meaning middle class ladies are queuing up for voluntary work in hospitals: they picture themselves dishing up lunch to dear little children and it comes as a painful surprise when they are asked to help with a ward of hideous adult lunatics who cannot feed themselves and have to have their clothes changed every few hours like a baby.

We went to a large drinks party at the Gaselees: there were a lot of people in a confined space and I could not hear a word anyone said which may not have been an intolerable deprivation. After-wards we had supper with the Surtees at the Swan, Great Shefford, kept by a somewhat enigmatic character called 'Jamie' who greeted me with an effusive bonhommie which I could well have dispensed with. We had two courses and a bottle of plonk: bill £30, which is fairly steep for a country pub.
On Friday the Hislops went to Sandown. On going to their car at 5pm they discovered that Mr H had put the keys into the pocket of a coat which he had unfortunately left in the self-locking boot. They had to hire a car in which to get home and the next day Mrs H had to take a Newbury taxi to 
Sandown with the spare keys.

I saw Fitz Fletcher at the Parkinsons. He had been completely marooned in Somerset with no water. The Surtees have got a new car, a red Volvo of immense length that would make a serviceable hearse. Poor Major S is having trouble with his partners, one of whom is only absolutely sober on fairly rare occasions and suing the firm over some grievance. The cottage has now been sold and paid for; the builders are busy gutting it completely. Farmer Luckes is in poor form and just sits staring into space.

The Hurt's house in Derbyshire is the feature article in the current number of Country Life. Unfortunately there is no picture of the Chicken. The dishwasher has broken down and the young man your mother hired to mend it made things a great deal worse. Mr Randall went up to London and saw the Esther Rantzen show which he greatly enjoyed. Not much news of Louise or HHH, or of Jane for that matter.
I thought I had received a rather nice invitation to dinner today but on closer examination I saw it was meant for Major Hamer who has been dead for seven years. However, my bookmaker has invited me to oysters and champagne in London. He is a good old male chauvinist (a bit King Lear, in fact) and never invites women to his better parties. Your mother bought some fish in Reading yesterday: it tasted a bit odd and we both had a very bad night. The de Mauleys came to lunch last week: Lady de M is putting on weight and Gerald is clearly not a member of the local Temperance Association. 

Do you remember the Philips at Winchfield? He has just left his ever-loving wife after thirty-two years and proposes to marry some woman he met in the local lunatic asylum where he spends a fair amount of his time. He once jumped in front of a taxi.                                                  Your affec. father, [__]       [ps] Yesterday I met an old buffer at Newbury who had been at the Gaselee's party. He tried out a new hearing aid there, switched it on to a maximum volume and has been stone deaf ever since.

Roger Mortimer and
  Charlie Mortimer
Dear Lupin ...
Constable, 2011©

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thorny, practicing Thanksgiving

Thorny has taken a sound studio to
rehearse his faculty for exultation.
And why should this not be, he rea-
soned, as only he can; to whom much
is given .. and so forth. But this
no more than true, after all; even
a yawn, for Thornhill, engages his
delight in its execution. When his
invitation declared, that it would
be a Henry Fielding dinner, Betty 
Commilfaux had her seamstress goog-
le the reference, unwilling to be
hacked as an innocent in another
of Thorny's puns. Being told that
it was all about A Voyage to Lis-
bon, she sent down to the cellar
for a tawny Port of opulence.

The stage has thus been fairly set
for our Thorny's Tom Jones dinner,
viands of pure hilarity shining of
sweet innocence at a table set for
.. Betty. Who knew, that all their
friends would leap at this chance,
to allow their regrets to advance
the cause of felicity in society?
Knotty, Thornhill's popular major-
domo, is crazed with anticipation,
and sweeps the landing clear of
spotty gulls. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The present is one of two things

A confusion of excitement and
speculation is the character
we are given of our own time,
because it is easy to say: we
are alleged to know no better. 
Yet we do, and ponder to per-
mit the present to redeem and
shoulder our debt to the past
in generous disposition toward
its natural succession. 

I have a friend who departs
this week from the pursuit of
another degree, in a Miesian
metropolis, to escort his 
sweet and younger sister
through the excitement of her
coming out, in Mississippi.

Here is everything laid up up-
on the levée of our time, to
bring forth the fairest vis-
ion of our future. If I could
glance into that river on the
clock that one would wish, I
would not ever but with hope.
We are really all descended
from this river in some way.

stepping more deliberately
one day into the flux. These 
things surpass impressions, 
charming, darling. The boys
deserve their sisters when
they cede to them the night. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

What to shave for Monday

     He was more or less repulsive to himself,
     the little satin parts especially.

Adrien Sahores

Anne Carson
Men in the Off Hours
  III. Corps
Random House, 2001©

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Are we never to be allowed Palestinian friends?

Does anyone not experience his
lifetime deprivation of a Pal-
estinian friend eventually as
a truly palpable injustice? I
forgot mercy, when I was pur-
chasing an espresso this mor-
ning, hurriedly in town, and
saw Tyler Hicks' photograph on
the front page of The New York
Times as a double-force remind-
er in one glance: the press's
precious pressing of involun-
tary views of life, is almost
vanishing in the convenience
of the self-absorbed device
that lets the self-empowered
know no more than they know.
And the disempowered somehow
seem more evil every day.

Not just less legitimate, not
just more impertinent, as they
were introduced to us in 1948,
by discovery. I forgot mercy long
ago in this fair protocol of pol-
icy, our Parties have competed to
intensify. Like Genet in The Pris-
oner of Love, I only asked if I 
imagined Palestinians, thinking 
of myself. This is the problem of
a portrait in the paper that one
can't expect to see in an internet

Always not supposed to see asserts 
the power of expectation until sud-
denly its pose is thrown off-balance
and one knows there is a part of one-
self missing. I forgot mercy as the
newspaper showed me the soldiers ly-
ing in the bunker as their missile
sped aloft to find something unseen 
to kill, at least to hurt. Fastidi-
ous enforcement of our sovereignty
only deprives us of its image in the

Willing a consequence has never been
less meticulous in its means. I for-
got mercy and was interrupted by a
newspaper, even as I was pondering
in my espresso, what I would like to
see to give me pleasure undisturbed
by something awful, done to me. May
I let it go as an agreement, going
on four generations, not to worry?

i    Cerruti dressing room
ii   Tyler Hicks photo, 18 Nov 12
iv  Rina Castelnuovo photo, 18 Nov 12
v   Vlad Averyonov