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Caspar David Friedrich Chalk Cliffs on Rügen

(I want to go to Rügen so, so bad. My ideal travel plan this summer is Copenhagen-Rügen-St. Petersburg)

Ok, I take back all the bad stuff I ever said about Romantic poetry. Once I got going (and no I didn’t even mention Kant or the sublime) I enjoyed it tremendously. Wordsworth and I are now like Batman and Robin, like Thelma and Louise, like Simon and Garfunkel. I’m his bodyguard and he’s my long-lost pal. It’s potentially the best essay I’ve ever written (or rather, it has potential of becoming the best, so far my rather grand statements are fairly underdeveloped). I think this every time I write an essay, I must have megalomaniac tendencies. But honestly, isn’t it the nature of literary criticism? It’s so arbitrary and subjective. There are no facts, only opinions. And in my essay, only my opinions count. You hear, clearly not healthy for your gracefully modest sprit. Well, of course, getting criticized for your essay isn’t exactly an ego-boast, but it doesn’t mean I was wrong, it just mean I wasn’t able to persuade you I was right.

So, the LSE Literary Festival kicked of last night with a panel discussion on the somewhat misleading topic ‘How would a Robot read a Novel?’ Discussing almost nothing of what was initially promised, it was still amazingly interesting. The whole thing is very timely indeed. I am more than ever questioning the benefits of an English degree and the purpose of literary studies in general. I see no direct attachment to the real world; I find no specific benefits of Lit-crit in the greater context. I know culture is important; I’m just not sure what I’m doing is. So a weekend of exploring the relationship between the sciences and literature feels absolutely vital for my sanity (and probably good for other reasons too). And the LSE! Seriously, what a stimulating environment. What resources they have. I feel smarter just by being in proximity.

Now, Friday night has finally arrived. Time to put on a dress and drink some wine methinks.

Today I am celebrating (or at least acknowledging) the 5-years anniversary of what has become le grande love affair between me and London. Our story begins on the 28th of August 2004 when I arrived in London for the very first time (the one time I had been here before doesn’t really count as it was part of a confirmation-trip and we spent the whole bloody day in St. Paul’s Cathedral. The most exciting thing I got to do was run across the street to buy a bottle of water). I remember that first weekend so well; the whole city was boiling in a tropical heat wave. I lived on Edgware Road and felt like I had ended up in a Moroccan tourist resort.

I spend an awful lot of time complaining about London. It’s noisy, it’s ugly, it smells. There are no stars, no birdsong, no fresh air; only polluted skies, sirens and fumes. And while people are busy being either rude, drunk or just plain stupid (or all of the above), the Victorian buildings wither away in the neon lights from the kebab shops. It makes me lose faith in humanity and everything feels more dystopian than the most hopeless of Heym-poems. Base and course and dreadful.


Claude Monet, one of the paintings from the London Parliament Series (1904)

But then I have moments when the beauty of this city just overwhelms me. When I walk over one of the Thames bridges I am almost overpowered by the riverbanks’ majestic skylines and it is like the epiphanic moment Wordsworth had on Westminster Bridge*. And underneath our feet floats the river: cold, dark and quiet, reflecting the moon and the street lights like thousands of crystal on its surface. And it fills me with a feeling I never have anywhere else; that I am happy that I am here and nowhere else. Joie de vivre and all that.

Grimshaw Reflections on the Thames, Westminister

John Atkinson Grimshaw Reflection on the Thames, Westminster

Most of the time I am somewhere in between these extremes. I sit on Trafalgar Square with Landseer’s lions, probably arguing enthusiastically with the world over something trivial.  As I  glimpse Big Ben behind Lord Nelson I start to loose myself in the amazing sensation of having 200 years of historical greatness within an arm’s reach or the dreadful feeling of carrying 200 years’ worth of human misery on my shoulders. But then I have to divert my attention to swear at some tourist or pigeon or something else that annoys me. And so the love story continues.

* “Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802” by William Wordsworth

Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This city now doth, like a garment wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres and temples lie
Open unto the fields and to the sky,
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
Never did the sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendor, valley, rock or hill;
Ne’er saw I, never felt a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!

on twitter

  • RT @artinsociety: Albrecht Dürer died #OTD 1528, almost 500 years ago, but his studies of animals and bugs live on ~ here’s his finely-obse… 10 months ago
  • RT @TheSyriaCmpgn: These photos show the devastating conditions Syrian refugees are facing in Lebanon after a brutal storm left their tents… 1 year ago
  • RT @jeremycorbyn: I, Daniel Blake will be shown on TV for the first time, tonight at 9.45pm on BBC 2. It shows the human cost of this Tory… 1 year ago


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mimi harcourt