January: A Start

“The constant, fundamental underlying urge is surely to live more, to live a larger life.”

— Ludwig Hohl, The Notes

It is in the spirit of Montaigne that Ludwig Hohl writes in The Notes. You might call him a philosopher, but, if so, it is in that real sense that one uses philosophy to fashion a way of passing the world through your being. The Notes or On Non-premature Reconciliation will sustain me in the same way as Leopardi’s Zibaldone. Each one of us in our own medium, fearing that we may not be sufficient to our brief lives on the earth, that we might fail to embrace this life with enough joy, enough consciousness, with death closer than the nearest corner. This is Hohls’s project: to recognise the possibility of humanity. This edition is translated by Tess Lewis, razor-sharp imagery and language, reads like it isn’t a translation.

Also in this new year, Monsieur Proust’s Library by Anna Muhlstein. Come not for the bibliophilic fantasy of a weekend spent in Marcel’s well-appointed book-room, but to read Proust through the eyes of someone who knows the text deeply and intricately. Worth the time just to draw attention to the presence of Ruskin in Proust: “I don’t claim to know English. I claim to know Ruskin”.

Reading intentions – 2022

Such that they are. Readers that persist with this blog will detect that though my intentions  are good, my attentiveness to anything resembling a plan is not. There will be Ancient Greek and Roman literature in new translations (Homer, Sappho, Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes, Catullus, Lucretius, Virgil, Horace, Ovid and Seneca). I’ll be sampling Katherine Mansfield’s stories, and rereading Dostoevsky. I’d also like to get to Mann’s Joseph and His Brothers. Expect me to keep dipping into my favourite authors. The rest, as always, will be serendipitous wild reading.

Acceleration and Standstill


Man on a Rope (c. 1858), Honoré Daumier

“The general de-temporalization leads to the disappearance of temporal sections and caesurae, the thresholds and transitions which create meaning. The feeling that time passes more quickly now than before is also due to the absence of a pronounced articulation of time. This feeling is intensified by the fact that events follow each other in quick succession without leaving lasting traces, without becoming experiences. Because of the missing gravitation, things are encountered only fleetingly. Nothing carries weight. Nothing is incisive, nothing final. There are no incisions. When it is no longer possible to decide what is of importance, then everything loses importance. Doe to the excessive number of possible connections, i.e. possible directions, things are rarely ever completed, Completion requires a structured, organic time. Within an open and endless process, by contrast, nothing is ever completed. Incompletion becomes a permanent condition.”

— Byung-Chul Han, The Scent of Time, (trans. Daniel Steuer)

Temporal continuity


“Promising, commitment and fidelity, for instance, are genuinely temporal practices. They bind the future by continuing the present into the future and linking the two, thus creating a temporal continuity that has a stabilising effect. This continuity protects the future against the violence of non-time. Where the practice of long-term commitment (which is also a form of conclusion) gives way to increasing short-termism, non-timeliness also increases, and is reflected at the psychological level in the form of anxiety and restlessness. Growing discontinuity, the atomisation of time, destroys the experience of continuity. The world becomes non-timely.”

Byung-Chul Han, Non-Time, from The scent of time (trans. Daniel Steuer)

The vita contemplativa


“Not the least cause for today’s temporal crisis is the absolute value attached to the vita activa. This leads to an imperative to work, which degrades the human being into an animal laborans. The hyperkinesia of everyday life deprives human existence of all contemplative elements and of any capacity for lingering. It leads to a loss of world and time. So-called strategies of deceleration do not overcome this temporal crisis; they even cover up the actual problem. What is necessary is the revitalisation of the vita contemplativa. The temporal crisis will only be overcome once the vita activa, in the midst of its crisis, again incorporates the vita contemplativa.”

—Byung-Chul Han. preface to The scent of time (trans. Daniel Steuer)

Berardi: The Risk of Reactionary Nostalgia

“The consciousness of living in a condition of abstract domination, the consciousness of the increasing control that technical automatisms are exerting on the social and cultural life of populations, has led me to develop a sense of aversion towards the potency of technology, and a sentiment of nostalgia for political freedom and for the authenticity of life. But I don’t like these sentiments, I don’t recognise them as a part of me. They have successfully conquered some part of my mind because I fear my own impotence. But this fear is the impotence: there is no impotence except in the fear of it.

My philosophical formation, my political experience and my personal character do conflict with these sentiments of reactionary nostalgia, and of fear of the process of post-human development.

. . .

These sentiments . . . are also linked with the process of decline of my mind, of my body and my sexuality. I must consciously come to terms with impending senility, in order not to mistake this personal condition as universal.

I ask myself: how deeply have I been influenced by the reactionary philosophy that descends from the humanist critique of technique and from the nostalgia for authenticity? My intention is to disjoin the understanding of the crisis of humanism from the reactionary nostalgia conveyed by this understanding.”

—Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi, Futurability.

Byung-Chul Han’s elegant critique sent me back to this Berardi that I’ve not read properly. I discovered Berardi from Federico Campagna’s The Last Night. I think often of this passage.