There's every chance if I've bought an unusual book that it's Mark Thwaite's fault entirely.
I nip over to Ready Steady Book or The Book Depository and there it is, a tempting little morsel on a writer I think I've heard of subliminally here and there but never properly.
I explore and the buttons are pressed in a flash. I envisage someone dashing off to pack up my book that very minute because they seem to arrive very fast.
In recent weeks the name has been Marguerite Duras,
'one of the leading intellectuals and novelists of post-war France.Throughout her life and to her dying breath, this astonishing woman never ceased to embrace national and international fame.Undoubtedly, she owed her success to her obstinacy to be and remain herself, come what may and be her own person.'
I'll quickly gloss over my ignorance, I'm sure I'd heard of her really.
Wartime Notebooks contains exactly that, the four notebooks that Marguerite Duras has kept in a blue closet in her country home in France, her writing from 1943 to 1949 including first drafts and the true stories behind several of her most famous works.
How exactly I've missed a 'major European writer' hardly matters now that I have this volume and one of her novels The Lover. This won the Prix Goncourt and is a story of an unconventional love affair between a young girl and and the son of a wealthy Chinese family.This slight little book gets mixed reader reviews from 'perverted' to 'exquisite' and when that happens the only course of action is to read and find out for myself.
How I heard about Clarice Lispector I have no idea, but I was checking out authors for my travels and had her lined up for Brazil. The greatest writer of the twentieth century for French feminist writer and literary critic Helene Cixous (how that name takes me back, Helene Sicksue when we all struggled to understand her thinking) so I ordered The Hour of the Star published by Carcanet to make a start.
I didn't mean to go to Brazil just yet but then, in that blogendipitous way these things happen, I heard Clarice Lispector mentioned again this week over at The Complete Review and a link to this article.They've been meaning to read her too and this little book is more than intriguing so a minor diversion in progress.More self-reflexive authorial intrusion but of the highest quality as life is breathed into a character from nothing.
Finally I always listen to Terry Wogan as I drive to work and, one day back in early January, the interlude Pause for Thought was given by Father Brian D'arcy with a warm and heartfelt tribute to the Irish poet John O'Donohue who had died in his sleep at the age of 53. Father Brian also read out one of John's Gaelic blessings from his latest book Benedictus.
John O' Who?
I am always captivated by the idea of a poet who returns to Celtic spirituality, Kenneth Steven is another who has embraced this deeply quiet and gentle form in his anthologies Columba and Iona published by Saint Andrew Press, but I had never heard of John O'Donohue.Yet he had written a best-selling book Anam Cara and if Father Brian rates him then he's good, solid and sound.By all accounts an articulate philosopher with a razor-sharp intellect that he could use to convey his thoughts in a lyrical, accessible and informing way. I needed to discover more.
Somehow Celtic spirituality transcends boundaries and can appeal to even the most secular of thinkers like me. It seems to connect with the very basics of human existence and touching base occasionally is never time wasted according to John O'Donohue,
'...not a world of clear boundaries; persons and things were never placed in bleak isolation from each other. Everything was connected and there was a lovely sense of the fluent flow of presences in and out of each other...the homeland of the inspirational and the unexpected.'
On the other hand I'll switch off if it's too ethereal, mawkishly sentimental, wishy-washy or embarrassingly half-baked so was delighted to find John O'Donohue's book Eternal Echoes - Celtic Reflections for £3 in Totnes last week and again the chance to find out for myself what I may have missed.
I quite like this already,
' Each soul is a different shape.No one feels your life as you do; no one experiences things the way you do. Your life is a totally unique story and only you really know it from within. No one knows what your experience is like. The experience of each of us is opaque and inaccessible to outsiders.'
There's plenty more to qualify and enlarge on that statement but it's all robust and grounded enough to keep me interested and I have Anam Cara and Benedictus on the way. Then I feel a big Celtic phase coming on and with it that need I always have to link reading into crafts. Perhaps it's a good time to start thinking about making that little piece of Celtic applique patchwork with its eternal woven knots, interlocking curves and curlicues, no beginning and no end.
Sunday Salon reading news later.