Ivan’s Singer

Image Source: Franz Riss Skomorokh in a village, wikipedia Noone knows for sure how Ivan the Terrible died. The Tsar of all Russia, Grand Prince of Vladimir and Moscow and all the rest, died in 1584, but how we do not really know. The uncertainty, together with the availability of scientific methods, led to the exhumation... Continue Reading →


On a requiem

Image Source: Requiem Kyrie Master Chart, from Vienna Review This morning I listened to an old CD recording I had of György Ligeti's Requiem, which transported me, with its mesmerising and floating clouds of sound, back to my love of avant-garde music. Ligeti was a Hungarian composer who fled the communist regime, and pursued his development... Continue Reading →

5 reasons games add to culture

As well as being a serious student of literature and history, and the occasional listener to melancholy and sometimes merely strange music, I play computer games, most especially, over the last 10 years, world of warcraft. Or at least I do play them now, and over the last week have returned to playing world of... Continue Reading →

Akhmatova’s Agony

Late last week I rearranged my desk and put in place several mementoes of my single overseas trip, which was the long train journey from Beijing through Mongolia across Siberia and to Moscow, ending in St Petersburg. There I encountered the history about which I had read so much but now could for the first... Continue Reading →

Parables of Shame

Franz Kafka was a poet of shame and guilt. So writes Saul Friedlander in his Franz Kafka: the poet of shame and guilt (2013, public library). Friedlander reveals to me the Kafka of sexual fantasies, spurned homoerotic thoughts, disgust at his sexuality and animality. This Kafka does not interest me, although I am intrigued to learn... Continue Reading →

The appeal of fantasy

When I am not studying serious literature or reflecting on the state of the world I do rather like to play this game of World of Warcraft. It has been maybe two years since I played the game but something made me long for it the other day. It is I think the deep imaginative... Continue Reading →

A list of writers of fragments

A blog is a fragmentary artwork, or at least it can be. So the blog's aesthetic philosophy is at odds with the virtues of the masterpiece - completion, mastery, comprehensiveness, a vision fully and perfectly realised. I guess there are some blogs that present their niche as an encyclopaedia of their author's thought-world. But much... Continue Reading →

The glass half full

For my post tonight, a poem I wrote a couple of years ago, prompted by Wallace Stevens' "Anecdote of a Jar." I hope you like it. The glass half full I took a glass and placed it there Lone and harsh in the optimistic air And they cried out, do not cry, Cassandra, it is... Continue Reading →

The Golden Fleece of Nothingness

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Herbert Draper, The Golden Fleece 1904 Out of curiosity and a certain doggedness, I chose this afternoon to admit to my uncertainty about one of the allusions at the start of Zbigniew Herbert's poem, The Envoy of Mr Cogito. "Go where the others went before to the dark boundary/ for the... Continue Reading →


When I used to play World of Warcraft - happy nights, even if not the best for my writing - I would name all of my characters by an allusion. So, I named a night elf priest, Paracelsus (Paracelsus was taken); another character, Minnerva, and two historical figures wandered through Azeroth, False Dmitri, the pretender... Continue Reading →

The many cradles of civilizations (list)

Civilizations and natures From time to time, I am tempted to be a prophet of a doom, and like Cassandra abandon myself to "the awful pains of prophecy... maddening as they fall" (Agamemnon); but something in my temperament, holds me back to a more tempered and sane view. History is neither progress nor complete decay.... Continue Reading →

Dear Readers

Dear Readers Even though the archive is burning, I have nonetheless done some renovations of my blog to improve its appearance and its use. I have updated my banner image with Turner's painting of the fires that consumed the British Houses of Parliament in 1834. I have updated my gravatar image. I have provided more... Continue Reading →

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