Friday, October 3, 2008

High Ground


Looking back out to sea, from the plains, brings a shiver ... just yesterday there was tsunami warning. The fishermen out at the river mouth saw it coming, they're adamant, it was there in the water, a huge wave coming towards them. A big dark shape, they said, a line, getting wider and wider, coming in from the horizon. Everyone tried to leave - and the police issued a reassuring broadcast. The authorities decided it couldn't have been a hoax since there were reports from all over. So what was it? Where did it go...?
And still the smoke is rising ... while moving further inland, away from the plains, and upwards, to the mountains, fleeing the sinister scene below ... and here the landscape closes in, claustrophobic. The shingle slides on the mountainsides are unnerving, it seems that the whole place is always on the move, it grinds away like the gravelly beach far off in the distance. The orogeny grumbles like an ogre ... and there is suddenly an intense loneliness, here in the high mountain pass ... like Caspar David Friedrich's Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog, from around 1818 ... but then in the shadow of the high cliff, another figure, suddenly coming forwards, looks like Jacques Derrida, that shock of hair, and I'm remembering the description of him by Hélène Cixous ...

The first time I saw Jacques Derrida (it must have been in 1962) he was walking fast and sure along a mountain's crest, from left to right, I was at Arachon, I was reading (it must have been Force et signification), from where I was i could see him clearly advancing black on the clear sky, feet on a tightrope, the crest was terribly sharp, he was walking along the peak, from far away I saw it, his hike along the line between mountain and sky which were melting into each other, he had to travel a path no wider than a pencil stroke.

He wasn't running, fast, he was making his way all the way along the crests. Going from left to right, according to the (incarnate) pace of writing. Landscape without any border other than, at each instant, displacing him from his pace. Before him, nothing but the great standing air. I had never seen someone from our century write like this, on the world's cutting edge, the air had the air of a transparent door, so entirely open one had to search for the stiles [...]

And further, Mark Tansey's painting appeared, the image, Derrida Queries de Man from 1990, of him seemingly wrestling with Paul de Man on a high mountain pass, or am I seeing things ...


2 comments:

foldedletters said...

wrestling? or dancing?

jacky bowring said...

Reminds me of that line from Stevie Smith, "not waving, but drowning" ...