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.

Creators and Inventors

“Only solitude, difficult, humiliating, even corrosive as it is, can safeguard art and thought from corruption. The media, the lust to communicate by socially sanctioned and rewarded means, the manipulation of discourse towards approval and success, are an irreparable waste of spirit.”

George Steiner, Grammars of Creation

In Adam Phillips review (2001) of Steiner’s book, he writes, “Steiner suggests in this book that our sense of ourselves as creators – and we can only bear ourselves in his view as creators and inventors, a distinction that is at the heart of the book . . .”

The description brings to mind a writer whose work I am interested to explore: Ludwig Hohl. The English language rights to his magnum opus, The Notes – or Of the Unpremature Reconciliation are owned by Yale University Press, so there is at least a chance the work of this Swiss writer will be more widely available in the future.

In Grammars of Creation, Steiner wrote of Hohl: “He was a voyeur into the nuances and tremors of sensibility. Hohl experienced physical and psychological phenomena as interminably fragmented with disenchanted scruple, he fitted these fragments into a language-mosaic of exceptional lucidity.” In his book, Steiner develops Hohl’s central thesis, that the purpose of life is to fully exercise our creative forces as fully as possible.