I'We’re at the Mill on the Exe, right on the river, the sun shining warmly on our faces.The South West! W. exclaims. He feels fortunate to live here. The South West is the graveyard of ambition, a colleague warned him upon his arrival from the east, but W. is not ambitious.He just wants a little time and space to work, to think. To try to think, W. says. He reads in his study for three hours a day, he says, and he’s content with that. And occasionally he writes a thought in his notebook, at the back, in red ink.'II'We know what genius is, says W. aphoristically, but we know we’re not geniuses. It’s a gift, he says, but it’s also a curse. We can recognise genius in others, but we don’t have it ourselves.Max Brod, so unselfish in his promotion of Kafka, yet so given to a vague and general pathos — to amorphous stirrings wholly alien to the precision of the writing of his friend — has always served as both our warning and example.What could he understand of Kafka? Weren’t his interpretative books — which did so much to popularise the work of his friend — at every turn, a betrayal of Kafka? But then again, didn't Kafka depend upon his friendship and his support? Didn't Kafka lean on his friend in times of despair and solitude?We too, W. and I decided long ago, must give our lives in the service of others. We too must write interpretative essays on the work of others more intelligent and gifted than we will ever be. We too must do our best to offer support and solace to others despite the fact that we will always misunderstand their genius, and only bother them with our enthusiasm.'III'Of course, we're never really depressed, W. says. We know nothing about real depression. We're men of the surface, not of the depths. What do we know of those blocks and breaks in the lives of real thinkers? What can we, who are incapable of thought, understand of what the inability to think means for a thinker? And what of real writer's block — what understanding can we have of that terrible incapacity to write a line for those who have thoughts to set down?We're melancholic, that W. grants. Who wouldn't be? Melancholic, vaguely rueful, knowing we should not be where we are, that we've been allocated too much, overindulged... And for what? With what result?True thoughts pass infinitely far above us, as in the sky. They're too far to reach, but they're out there somewhere. Some place where we are not. Some great, wide place where thoughts are born like clouds over mountains.'--three extracts, all too familiar in many ways (least of all location), from Lars Iyer's excellent Spurious, 2011, p.62, 64-5, 126-7.
Posted by Matthew Flanagan at 23:44