Archive for the ‘novel’ Tag

Coincidence No. 544 – Outsider

I am doing a day-long Zoom session for Documentary Campus Masterclass (was supposed to be in Copenhagen but had to be shifted online). I take a short break of 15 minutes and decide to use the time to start re-reading Albert Camus’ L’Etranger in French (the first book, other than comic books, that I have read in French for ages). The usual translation of the title is The Outsider (rather than The Stranger – it means both in French). I read the first couple of pages.

I rejoin the Zoom session and start a one-to-one meeting with a German filmmaker currently based in Thailand. From Chang Mai his very first statement is: “I did a lot of films about outsiders.”

Existentialist philosophy as propounded by the likes of Camus and Sartre has the universe as without meaning and pattern, and man as always striving to see pattern and sense in things.

the outsider albert camus novel l'etranger penguin

The Plague

Back in the good old days of my youth Corona was fizzy drinks

corona fizzy drinks pop 70s

corona fizzy drinks pop 70s truck lorry

In those days when I was doing A Level French and studying Albert Camus among others – in particular L’Etranger (The Outsider) which happily coincided with The Cure’s early single Killing an Arab, based on that slim book) – I read about Camus’ 1947 novel La Peste (The Plague) without actually reading the work itself, often considered Camus’ masterpiece. What I was left with was the notion that you can’t be individually happy without having collective happiness. I applied this in an old post – looking back no idea where it came from, probably from thinking about The Terminatora notional film collaboration between James Cameron and Albert Camus!

This day last week I walked into the small bedroom where my Penguin Modern Classics reside and spotted The Plague just above my head, reached it down and began reading on the basis that there will never be a better time to read this book.

The parallels between Camus 1940s plague in Oran, Algeria and the current global pandemic of Coronavirus or Corvid90 didn’t disappoint. Camus was evidently combining an actual outbreak of a virus in that city in his native country with the realities of living under the Nazi Occupation of France during the Second World War, during which Camus had worked with the Resistance as the editor of Combat, a banned newspaper. Nonetheless the viral spread parallels were very striking so each morning I have published on social media via Instagram a resonant quote from La Peste as I read through and thought this morning that it would be worth aggregating all those posts here on Simple Pleasures Part 4. There’s nothing like a plague to refocus you on the simple pleasures of life.

Albert Camus The Plague La Peste novel book french 1947

Adam Gee
8 March at 18:25
Seems like the perfect time to read this – so I am #Camus #Corona
Albert Camus The Plague La Peste novel book french 1947

 

“Everybody knows that pestilences have a way of recurring in the world; yet somehow we find it hard to believe in ones that crash down on our heads from a blue sky.”

“No, all those horrors were not near enough as yet even to ruffle the equanimity of that spring afternoon. The klang of an unseen tram came through the window, briskly refuting cruelty and pain. Only the sea, murmurous behind the dingy chequerboard of houses, told of the unrest, the precariousness of all things in this world.”

“This bacillus is such a queer one.”
“There,” Castel said, “I don’t agree with you. These little brutes always have an air of originality. But, at bottom, it’s always the same thing.”
“That’s your theory, anyhow. Actually, of course, we know next to nothing on the subject.”

“One of the cafés had the brilliant idea of putting up a slogan: ‘The best protection against infection is a bottle of good wine’, which confirmed an already prevalent opinion that alcohol is a safeguard against infectious disease.”

“ …though in their heart of hearts they were far from recognising the enormity of what had come on them, they couldn’t help feeling, for obvious reasons, that decidedly something had changed. Nevertheless, many continued hoping that the epidemic would soon die out and they and their families be spared. Thus they felt under no obligation to make any change in their habits, as yet. Plague was for them an unwelcome visitant, bound to take its leave one day as unexpectedly as it had come. Alarmed, but far from desperate, they hadn’t yet reached the phase when plague would seem to them the very tissue of their existence; when they forgot their lives which until now it had been given them to lead. In short, they were waiting for the turn of events.”

Albert Camus The Plague La Peste novel book french 1947 picasso

Coincidences No.s 291, 292 & 293

adam gee lecture at nua norwich on creative thinking

No. 291 Crudo

I get off the tube at Bank on my way to Norwich today (to give a lecture on Creative Thinking at NUA) and hear my name called across the platform. It is an old colleague & friend of mine from Channel 4. We greet each other and he notices I’m holding a book in my hand, my reading material from the tube journey. He asks me what the book is. “Crudo, we’re reading it for my book group.” “She’s one of my best friends, Olivia Laing [the author].”

crudo olivia laing novel book cover

On top of those coincidences (the meeting and the book), I get on the train at Liverpool Street and look up Olivia Laing as I know nothing about her and the book is unusual and intriguing. It turns out she comes from the village of Chalfont St Peter in Buckinghamshire.

A few minutes later I’m still arsing about on my phone. I have been approached to connect by a person on LinkedIn, a director called Jacques Salmon, whose name doesn’t ring a bell. I look at his profile. He went to school at Chalfont Community College in Chalfont St Peter.

No. 292 Stay Human

A bit later in the journey I am looking up one of the people featured in Michael Franti’s new documentary Stay Human, the UK premiere of which I saw last night at Bush Hall. It spotlighted the work of an amazing midwife-activist called Robin Lim.

As I text the link to my Other Half (who came to the film and accompanying gig last night and was particularly taken by Robin and her work) a notification appears on my phone – Michael Franti has just liked a photo I posted on Instagram after the event yesterday.

tweet liked by michael franti

michael franti at bush hall london 15 January 2019

No. 293 Jung

I spend the day in Norwich, Norfolk. The county has been on my mind since listening to my friend Tim Wright’s Curiously Specific podcast, the latest episode being about The Eagle Has Landed which is set in Norfolk (where Tim hails from). [see also No. 289]

I bought a DVD of the movie of The Eagle Has Landed to rewatch it after hearing the podcast on Sunday. It arrived in the post today so I start watching it this evening (I haven’t seen it since it came out in 1976). As I’m watching one of the early scenes Robert Duvall (playing Colonel Radl) talks about Jung (” a great thinker”) and his notion of ‘Synchronicity’, arguably the essence of these posts. An item of intelligence about Churchill visiting a stately home near the Norfolk coast would normally be of little interest but by coinciding with Hitler’s crazy notion of kidnapping Churchill it suddenly becomes full of meaning.

the eagle has landed film movie robert duvall colonel radel

The term ‘Synchronicity’ (Synchronizität) was coined by analytical psychologist Carl Jung to signify, as I understand it, the acausal connection of two or more physical, psychological or psychic phenomena. He introduced the notion in the 1920s but didn’t gave a full statement of it until 1951.

This concept came to him through a particular patient’s case that was at an impasse. One night she dreamt of a golden scarab. The next day, during this same patient’s psychotherapy session, an insect crashed into  the window of Jung’s office. Jung caught it and found to his astonishment  that it was a golden scarab,  very unusual in that climate.

So, the concept is all about coincidence – in this case, between the scarab dreamt by the patient and its appearance in reality in the psychotherapist’s office – a meaningful coincidence of physical and psychological phenomena that are acausally connected. Jung considered that events are “meaningful coincidences” if they occur with no causal connection and yet seem to be significantly related.

He defined Synchronicity variously throughout his career – as an “acausal connecting principle”, “meaningful coincidence” and “acausal parallelism.” In 1952 Jung published a paper “Synchronizität als ein Prinzip akausaler Zusammenhänge” (Synchronicity – An Acausal Connecting Principle). Jung used the concept to argue for the existence of the paranormal.

In collecting coincidences in my life I have come across some that have no possible rational explanation. These are few. More numerous are ones that are not logical but come down to something being in the air. Plenty can be rationalised.

carl jung psychoanalyst

Forever Jung

The Subterraneans

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1958

Here’s a beautiful copy of Jack Kerouac’s ‘The Subterraneans’ I bought in Old Capitol Books in Monterey, California. It dates from 1958 and inside was the original receipt for $1.45 plus tax, a grand total of $1.51, from the UCLA bookshop.

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1958

I began reading it on 7th August 2015 on the BART from San Francisco to Oakland. I read some of it in North Beach the next day, at Columbus & Filmore, in a coffee shop with a jazz band playing on a chilled out Sunday afternoon. I finished it today in Chancery (not Heavenly) Lane, at the heart of the British establishment (a Molotov cocktail’s throw from Gray’s Inn).

Anyhow, because like most of Kerouac’s novels ‘The Subterraneans’ is a roman à clef, I thought it would be worth sharing who is who in the book in terms of the real-life counterparts/inspirations of the characters to save other readers the hassle of figuring it out:

  • Adam Moorad = Allen Ginsberg (poet)
  • Frank Carmody = William Burroughs (writer)
  • Leroy = Neal Cassady (cocksman and Adonis of Denver)
  • Yuri Gligoric = Gregory Corso (poet)
  • Austin Bromberg = Alan Ansen (poet/playwright)
  • Sam Vedder = Lucien Carr (killer)
  • Harold Sand = William Gaddis (novelist)
  • Annie = Luanne Henderson (cool chick)
  • Balliol MacJones = John Clellon Holmes (author of first Beat novel)
  • Larry O’Hara = Jerry Newman (record producer)
  • Arial Lavalina = Gore Vidal (writer)
  • Jane = Joan Vollmer (Beatess & Mrs Burroughs)

The central character/love interest Mardou Fox in real life was Alene Lee. She was mixed race, black and half-Cherokee. Kerouac met her in the summer of 1953 when she was typing up manuscripts for William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg. Burroughs & Ginsberg were sharing an apartment on the Lower East Side of New York at the time. Alene also shows up as Irene May in Kerouac’s ‘Big Sur’. Ginsberg was with her when she died at Lenox Hill Hospital, NYC in 1991. This is what she looked like:

alenelee

Foxy

Here’s a couple of related past posts:

4 Characters from On The Road

4 More Characters from OTR

OTR Triptych

Highway 1 Revisited

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