Friday, August 14, 2009


Yesterday I taught my son how to play snap, using a donkey deck. I'd forgotten donkey, its cod-ostracising.

From Walter Benjamin's notes on Brecht, published in Aesthetics and Politics, a great reader in leftist critics.

"24 July 1934. On a beam which supports the ceiling of Brecht’s study are painted the words: ‘Truth is concrete.’ On a window-sill stands a small wooden donkey which can nod its head. Brecht has hung a little sign round its neck on which he has written: ‘Even I must understand it.’"

It's easy to see why he had to write it on a sign: directness, simplicity, lucidity are among the most difficult virtues to acquire (not least because at an earlier stage in development they are vices); and they have to be relearnt every time.

That's one reason I'm still very much enjoying Turgenev's Sketches from a Hunter's Album – hardly stories, some of them, but little vignettes that show what prose can do (and what it need not do). As, in a different way, does Luke Kennard's The Solex Brothers (Redux) – prose delighting in itself, and delighting the reader, too. On the other hand, I'm dipping my toes into Gormenghast, a whole other kettle of fish. And – though this is neither here nor there – listening to Blood on the Tracks.


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