About Anthony

Time's Flow Stemmed is a notebook of my wild readings.

Sunday Notes (Clarice Lispector)

There is an undeniable force in the way that Clarice Lispector’s words dance on the boundaries of language. Slowly reading the Crônicas, as translated by Giovanni Pontiero in Discovering the World, an encounter that softens, in part, the intensity of that force, without providing any guidance through the labyrinth. This settled my resolve to immerse myself in the works of Clarice throughout the summer, exploring and revisiting the invaluable English translations available.

This week, interspersed with the chronicles, was for Elizabeth Lowe’s and Earl Fitz’s translation, The Stream of Life, originally published as Agua Viva. A third reading with no less wonder at how Clarice depicts subjectivity to establish a unique intimacy. Can any other writer convey such a profound sense of directly accessing the intricacies of another consciousness, with all the inherent opaqueness that would entail? Clarice offers no overt clues, no keys to unlock the mystery of language. Instead she presents doors that go deeper into the ineffable nature of existence.

Some promising additions to my library this week: Jeremy Cooper’s Brian, Don DeLillo’s Cosmopolis, The Geoffrey Hartman Reader, Kobe Abé’s The Ark Sakura and a new Penguin Editions collection of Clarice Lispector’s stories, The Imitation of the Rose.

Sunday Notes (Wittgenstein, Kishik, Szentkuthy)

“Be sure not to be dependent on the external world, then you don’t need to be afraid of what takes place in it . . . It is easier to detach oneself from things than from people. But even that is something one must master.”

In Wittgenstein’s Private Notebooks 1914-1916, translated by Marjorie Perloff, we encounter diverse threads that eventually merge in the Tractatus. These notebooks contain early speculations on how Wittgenstein could express his inner life and reveal ideas rooted in an older philosophical tradition. Though encoded, the notebooks oscillate between his work and introspective self-examination.

Wittgenstein’s scope extends beyond critiquing logic and language. His thoughts offer a blueprint for living rightly, a kind of therapy perhaps, echoing David Kishik’s Self Study, where he develops his illuminating concept of autophilosophy. Both thinkers challenge academic philosophy and employ a rich mode of expression, where “philosophie dürfte man eigentlich nur dichten,” usually translated as “philosophy could only be written as a form of poetry.” As Perloff notes, the German verb “dichten” encompasses all imaginative writing, including fiction, drama, and lyric poetry. Kishik’s book aligns with a larger project, To Imagine a Form of Life, which I intend to trace through the four earlier books.

I also read Miklós Szentkuthy’s Towards the One & Only Metaphor, my first exposure to his work, hoping to gain insight into his style of thinking and writing before exploring more of his oeuvre. I read this text with great enthusiasm as Szentkuthy keenly observes and describes the world, intertwining language and thought, merging pragmatic and symbolic elements to create a way of perceiving that irresistibly drew me into his world.

This week, I added a few books to my library: Don DeLillo’s Cosmopolis, Mário de Andrade’s Macunaíma, a couple of Andrea Zanzotto’s works, and Bataille’s Critical Essays 1944-1948.

Sunday Notes (Blanchot, Quignard, Acquisitions)

“The aim here is simply to test out to what extent it is possible to follow a text and at the same time to lose track of it, to be simultaneously the person it understands and the person who understands it, the person who, within a world, speaks of that world as though he or she were outside it; all in all, to take advantage of the strangeness of a dual work and an author split into two — into absolute lucidity and impenetrable darkness, into a consciousness that knows all and yet knows not where it is going — in order to feign the illusion of a commentary solely preoccupied with accounting for all and yet entirely aware of being able to explain nothing.”

Maurice Blanchot’s L’Expérience de Lautréamont

Something is compelling about the way French writers approach philosophy, as though it is woven into a literary work waiting to shape the questions that will arise in the mind of an attentive reader. Writers like Quignard, Duras, Ernaux, and Char approach philosophy and literature simultaneously. There are many others, not all French, particularly those writing what we would consider modernist literature.

Leslie Hill uses the Blanchot quote above as the epigram to his Blanchot: Extreme Contemporary. I have been fascinated this weekend by the opening essay in Blanchot’s Faux Pas. I suspect my French isn’t remotely sufficient for Blanchot, so I am reading Charlotte Mandell’s translation. Steve has been studying Blanchot’s work attentively for years, but I’ve found the writing slippery and uncertain on previous attempts. The introductory essay, From Anguish to Language, captivated me with a sense that a door was opening to a new world of thought, or perhaps a reminder of a very ancient one.

For several weeks I have been obsessed with Pascal Quignard’s writing, both his novels and his—what should I call them—perhaps treatises that form his Lost Kingdom series. He is a French writer that ignores the constraints of too-familiar forms of an impoverished medium and sees philosophy and literature as inseparably intertwined. His writing is a wild, unharmonious exploration of ideas that drew me back to Blanchot’s poetics of silence against the violence of language. Quignard is the writer that seems most to have accepted Beckett’s 1961 challenge to find a form that accomodates the mess.

A few additions to my library this week: Jen Craig’s Wall and her older work, Since the Accident, Musil’s Literature and Politics (translated by Genese Grill) and Han Kang’s Greek Lessons (translated by Deborah Smith and Emily Yan Won).

Pantheism (presumably)


In the Jewish tradition maqom, place, is one of the names of God. Taking seriously Paul’s assertion that we live and move and have our being in God, a medieval heresy—which we know only through the testimony of the theologians who condemned its followers to the stake—asserted that God is nothing other than the taking place of each and every thing, both the stone and the worm, the angel and the man. What is divine is the being-worm of the worm, the being-stone of the stone, and what is just and good is that the world is thus, that something can appear and assume a face, in its finiteness and in its divine place.

Giorgio Agamben, from Door and Threshold, collected in When The House Burns Down. trans. Kevin Attell. Seagull Books, 2022 (2020)


Guy de Maupassant, Addressing the Reading Publics


‘The public as a whole is composed of various groups, whose cry to us writers is:

“Comfort me.”
“Amuse me.”
“Touch me.”
“Make me dream.”
“Make me laugh.”
“Make me shudder.”
“Make me weep.”
“Make me think.”

And only a few chosen spirits say to the artist: “Give me something fine in any form which may suit you best, according to yout own temperament.”
The artist makes the attempt: succeeds or fails.’

Guy de Maupassant: Le Roman (The Novel) first published as a preface to Pierre et Jean (1887), translated by Clara Bell as Of the Novel and readable online. I came across the quote in Kate Brigg’s The Long Form (which succeeds).