What I am reading… the death of Pope Alexander VI (Rodrígo Borgia)

From Christopher Hibbert, The Borgias and their enemies, 1431-1519, two anecdotes from the death of the great Borgia pope, so superbly played by Jeremy Irons: 1. After the Pope's death, Cesare Borgia sent his military black operations man, Miguel de Corella, into the Pope's apartment with information on where his valuable treasures were stored. "He... Continue Reading →

On the traumatic origins of Machiavelli’s The Prince

I have been watching Medici: Masters of Florence and The Borgias over the last fortnight, and remembering some of my knowledge of Renaissance history, which I have never formally studied. Both series take some liberties with history, but nonetheless present a fresh account of these remarkable times. Of all the figures of Italian Renaissance history... Continue Reading →

The floating life within

In the 1980s or 1990s I wrote down on an index card, this observation from Robert Musil An essay is not the provisional  or incidental expression of a conviction that might on a more favorable occasion be elevated to the status of truth or that might just as easily be recognized as error ... an... Continue Reading →

The slow death of my history

Over the last couple of months I have been reading history.  Simon Sebag Montefiore's The Romanovs: 1613-1918, Orlando Figes A People's Tragedy: the Russian Revolution 1891-1924, and Ian Kershaw's Rollercoaster: Europe 1950-2017. All of this reading has been valuable and fascinating to me. The intricate catastrophes of the Romanov dynasty, the myriad tragedies of the... Continue Reading →

Poem: South Ward

I have made many visits to mental health hospitals over the years, almost all of them in support of my mother who suffered for most of her adult life from severe mental illness. The experience of these institutions humbles the mind. It teaches us how each of us is a "preposterous hodgepodge, uniquely arranged" - in the words of the great Inga Clendinnen who knew the gulf between the experience of the well and the sick - "a more significant division in any society than class or gender or possibly even homelessness."

Poem: The monstrosity of power

Today I am posting a newly written poem, "The Monstrosity of Power".   The monstrosity of power Eyes make an abyss, and we swim in pain. The iron staff, tipped in blood, Discarded on Persian carpets, Extinguishes the last truth of this dynasty. The scrawled notes instructing murder In the margins of decrees, Urging the... Continue Reading →

Poem: Gould’s humming

One of the most mesmerising artworks that I know of is Glenn Gould’s 1981 recording of the Johann Sebastian Bach's Goldberg variations. Close to the end of his life, wracked by pain, madness and addictions, Gould crouches over his keyboard and enacts a magical reworking of this masterpiece. He plays the variations at half the pace... Continue Reading →

Start a Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: