Thursday, 29 November 2007
The sense of being somewhere
Reading Other Colours, Orhan Pamuk's book of essays, many of them very personal, recently published in an English translation by his wonderful and now regular translator, Maureen Freely, I'm struck over and over by how much this is a man and a body of work in a specific context. Cosmopolitan as he is, with his fluent English and westernised education and deep knowledge of European philosophy and literature; towering, eccentric mind, one of a kind, as his is, it is a mind so formed in large ways and small - and well aware of it - by the city of Istanbul. I wonder, oh I wonder, what that is like. And I long for it so, feel so deeply the lack of identification with a place.
I was talking yesterday with a friend about what's there when there's no one with us, nothing going on; about the need to face up to life in this moment when there's nothing to soften it or distract from it. I can't but think, though, that if you have a relationship with the place where you live, a sense of the place there with you, that must help. I've been feeling better about London recently, less constantly abraded by it, less angry and rejecting and wishing to be elsewhere. But it's a cessation of pain only; I can't imagine it ever being a positive relationship. London is too huge, too diffuse, but at the same time too much of it cloned with other 'global cities', and too relentlessly speedy for me ever to feel that being here is being somewhere. I know, I know that familiarity and identification are not only positives. That sinking sense of 'oh again, again!' that I all too often get when I walk into the office in the morning and do all the same look-around-put-down-switch-on actions in the same inexorable order as every day: since London doesn't feel like a place and I don't feel embedded in it, I'm perhaps spared that same sinking feeling on a wider scale.
But still, there is this nostalgia for a place, a home, that never was.