the m john harrison blog

Month: November, 2010

commute til we die

Radicalisation always represents the attempt to bring about a condition that can actually be described as life.

Radicalism opposes itself to the swaddling, coddling, tunnel-vision of life as defined by the culture you live in. It questions the factuality of social, political and economic “fact”.

To call a McJob a fact–as in “facing the facts of life” –to call the Debt a fact–as in “facing the facts of the economy” –to call a career at Price Waterhouse a fact–as in “it’s a fact that you have to get on in life to get the things you want” –is the most grotesque distortion of the facts. These processes are as artificial as the malls & offices in which they take place.

We live in a fiction, a structure imposed on the actual. The goal of radicalism in any generation should be to expose that structure & its constraints. That’s why it was a good idea to break into Millbank yesterday.

That’s why a new phase of radicalism–which does not regard political and social self-restraint as a fact–can only be a good idea.

Where is the money for education ? Since the late 70s it has been moving steadily into the pockets, tax havens & art investments of the rich. Everyone can see this. Everyone can see that a bank is not a real thing, only a constructed system for enriching a banker. Everyone can see that a law which controls how & when you can strike or protest is a way of making strike & protest pointless.

Everyone can see that the life offered by our society is less a life than permission to plod along the same old tramlines until you die, while states & corporates commodify everything worthwhile & measure it back to you as an earnable privilege. Everyone can see that if you get on your high horse about this you will be passed off as a mindless criminal.

Never Let Me Go: Ishiguro’s point is that we are already clones, educated to stay calm & serviceable while they cut pieces off us. That’s why everyone is so angry: because their anger, as ever, is constantly taken away from them just at the point when anger is all they have.

perdu tortue


Mysteries of the air.


Pont du Loup.


Mysteries of Cipieres.


Wires, lamp, limestone (Barres du Cheiron).


The Loup.


Further mysteries of the air.


A mystery of the earth.

All pictures MJH except The Loup, C Phillips

the vision of the absurd

It occurs to me that Pearlent the object has commonalities with both Rene Daumal’s “peradam” and Medieval dream-poetry, especially “The Pearl”. As a result I’m tempted to use this, from p193 of Adam Thorpe’s excellent Hodd, as one of the epigraphs for the novel–

    “a shrieking was heard under the grass and a pearl the bigness of a hazel-nut lay there, from whence the smell of a honeycomb rose up, that over-powered the stink (though some said that the perfume was of violets), whereupon the pearl vanished that none should quarrel over it, and soon after the wind calmed and the light returned.”

It would muddy the waters nicely. But it’s also the absolute archetype of Medieval visionary imagery, that madness they did so well. Significantly, if you type “The Pearl” into Google, you’re offered “unique true freehold investment opportunities” in Qatar & then a Chinese restaurant in Cumbernauld. I don’t know what the Pearl Poet would make of that, but for me it’s just another confirmation of the vertiginous absurd. Meanwhile (via Footless Crow), Harold Drasdo–determined to summit where the precursor failed, see Harold Bloom–has written the missing two chapters of Mount Analogue. I don’t know what Daumal would make of that.