Archive for October, 2012

29 October 2012

Joseph Conrad / writing

Writing in a foreign language, when references fail, no echoes reply.

Joseph Conrad:

29 August 1908, letter to Arthur Symons:
“I have been quarrying my English out of a black night, working like a coal miner in his pit. For fourteen years now I have been living as if in a cave without echoes.”

Good Friday 1899, letter to Edward Garnett:
“I am alone … in a chasm with perpendicular sides of black basalt. Never were sides so perpendicular and smooth, and high. Above, your anxious head against a bit of sky peers down – in vain – in vain. There’s no rope long enough for that rescue.”

29 October 2012

page 14

Page 14 of En abîme could read like this:


Veglia (Cima Quattro, 23 dicembre 1915), Vigil (Peak Quattro, December 23, 1915).

by Giuseppe Ungaretti


A whole night

thrown near

the body

of a slain comrade

his mouth


at the full moon

his clawed



into my silence

I wrote

letters full of love


Never did I


cling to life.


A hinge between the Dwarf painting by William Baziotes, and the Alpine soldiers’ song The Captain’s Testament.

18 October 2012

I am a force of the past

For copyright reasons, while editing En abîme I had to omit quoting many poems in full. I’ll be posting some of them here. This is the poem by Pasolini that appears throughout the book, and that is read by Orson Welles in La ricotta:

I am a Force of the Past.
My love lies only in tradition.
I come from the ruins, the churches,
the altarpieces, the villages
abandoned in the Appenines or foothills
of the Alps where my brothers once lived.
I wander like a madman down the Tuscolana,
down the Appia like a dog without master.
Or I see the twilights, the mornings
over Rome, the Ciociaria, the world,
as the first acts of Posthistory
to which I bear witness, for the privilege
of recording them from the outer edge
of some buried age. Monstrous is the man
born of a dead woman’s womb.
And I, a fetus now grown, roam about
more modern than any modern man,
in search of brothers no longer alive.

18 October 2012

mishearing / not symbolic: diabolic

An outtake from En abîme that didn’t find its way into the book:

As a child in Italy in the seventies, I had to sit in church through mass every Sunday. Listening to half-muttered formulas I could not relate to. An obscure jargon of power. Even worse in my father’s village in the South, where mass was still celebrated in Latin, and where old and middle-aged women (the church crowd consisted mostly of women. The men waited in the bar outside, they drank beer and played cards) shrieked their assumed faith in out-of-tune melodies, mocking a routine passed on from generation to generation and emptied of any meaning, showing off, mocking and showing, mocking and showing, their cheeks like big red balloons and their cries, as if they could only reach their god by singing in a pitch higher, and higher, and higher. The higher you sing, the more you believe.
As a child, mishearing was the only way through those interminable, exaggerated, unbearable chants. Benedicimus Deum (let’s bless God) became in those womens’ voices and in my understanding, Benedici Musdè (bless Musdè – sounding to my ears like an exotic pagan divinity). Noi siamo indegni e rei (We are unworthy and guilty) became Noi siamo indegni Ebrei (We are unworthy Jews – what a riddle). Sanctorum omnium (of all the saints) became Santo r’mmonio (in the local dialect: holy devil).
Carmelo Bene was right: liberated from text to speech, words are no longer symbolic: they can be diabolic.

2 October 2012

facts around En Abîme / 1. Mike Cooper, Rome, Melville, Pasolini. another layer

On 4 September 2012, a few weeks before the publication of En Abîme, I receive an email from Mike Cooper from Rome, saying he’d been walking along the river Tiber and had come across some pages from Melville’s diaries and Pasolini’s poems “that are attached to the wall along the Tiber as part of an installation that has been there for some years. The pieces (maybe you know them?) are set in huge glass boxes attached to the stone walls quite close to Castel Sant’Angelo – over the years they have been abused and nature has had a hand in transforming them into something other than what they started out as – now they resemble something the Spanish painter Antoni Tàpies might have made. Good luck with the book – I look forward to reading it.”

Although I lived in Rome for over ten years, I was never aware of those journals and poems under damaged glass boxes. And yet some of those quotes appear in my book. And Mike, in turn – who appears as a faint reflection at the end of the photo sequence below – is not aware of the fact that he is too in my book, in the same pages as the quotes by Melville and Pasolini that he came across and posted to me.

En Abîme, of layers and surfaces, receives pictures of more layers and surfaces, dust, leaves, pages. Overground and buried.

[all pictures by Mike Cooper, September 2012]

Rome: “uncertain shape like of a fire / in the fire of a New Prehistory”.

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