An English Conversation

Brought up in the Far East, educated in four countries, I’ve never quite mastered the art of being English, despite a spell in a very traditional boarding school. This is clear to me particularly during a certain type of conversation. Tony Judt in his immensely moving Thinking the Twentieth Century describes an English conversation so elegantly.

… how to conduct an English conversation that is never too aggressively political; knowing how to modulate moral seriousness, political engagement and ethical rigidity through the application of irony and wit, and a precisely calibrated appearance of insouciance.

9 thoughts on “An English Conversation

  1. really anthony? i always thought of you or your blog as being so english it’s not true. but maybe this is my foreigner idea of what english is supposed to be… i hope you don’t understand this in a negative way as there was so much talk about the negative aspects of odd uk these days…

    • Oh? That is ironic but it also makes me uneasy.

      (Do you know the Johari house (http://goo.gl/cswpR) with its four rooms? I have an intuitive loathing for reductive models, but that second room has often unsettled me more than the third, which most people find troubling.)

      “But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.

      Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”

      How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.

      You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”

      ― Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass

  2. i am ever so sorry for that uneasiness, it’s i don’t know. i think you emanate this distanced equilibrium thing that’s supposed to be english… but not that being balanced is a bad thing in itself…

    i know the johari and i don’t find any of them troubling, it is what it is, no one knows everything about themselves…i guess one can’t escape these things so it’s better to face what one is able to face.

    and sorry the lewis carroll thing strikes me as super english too… the way you choose it for that context and it being or can be read as an excellent application of irony in that tony judt quote….

    • I am hoist by my own petar(d).

      The English don’t accept me as an one of them (unclubbable, too earnest), but foreigners often think I am archetypally English.

      Quoting Lewis Carroll and Shakespeare is not helping I think.

  3. Anthony is definitely not English. He hardly ever mentions the weather and he seems to think that ponder about things in a totally abstract way is something commendable.

  4. might we conclude that from a foreigner’s point of view anthony is better at being english than the english. maybe that’s why they don’t accept him, because he’s outdoing them. they’re just jealous.

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