Steve, nature (2)
These days people are always involved in some way or other in an anoraky or touristic return to nature, in which they view nature through the rose coloured spectacles of William Morris and the rest of the current craft movement or Truffauts quaint noble savage. But Steve agrees with Max Jacob, who in a book he bought in Camden Town, said in reply to an invitation to spend new year in the northern French countryside, with an expression halfway between horror and bewilderment "...The country ? isn't that where chickens run around raw ?" (if only...) but then Steve thinks that the countryside is really just a giant factory laid out like a giant patchwork quilt.... and then maybe Benjamin who in dreamy recalcitrance accompanied a woman through the streets of Berlin.... Benjamin who dreamed for years of setting out the sphere of a life - a bios - graphically on a map. Initially he envisaged an ordinary map but ended up thinking of it in terms of a city centre - Berlin or Paris perhaps.... (For Steve it would have to be London, the narrow corridor that constituted his London from Finchley down to Westminster and the South Bank....) Or Guy Debord who reconstructed the history of the post-enlightenment as a history of his beloved Paris.
A landscape, drifting through the woods, getting soaking wet in a rain sodden meadow, a misty road over the Penines can only raise us into the aesthtic heights we are so often promised if we know that we can return to our warm and dry home or to our hotel, the pre-dinner shower, a dinner with red wine, coffee and dessert, a book perhaps something else after..... the erotic that is the core of everything and always starts it up again.
Steve cannot trust the lovers of nature, who every so often get out of their four wheel drive to look out at the view and stomp around for an hour or so over a few bewildered rocks and looking lost at a few strange sheep. As for the others the cursed eternal ramblers who are used to wandering about with gigantic knapsacks, strange beards and caterpiller boots muttering about their high pressure lifestyles, their respones are usually polysyllabic or full of exclamation marks. Every country meander ends up with a sunset and a hill or some National Trust or English heritige beauty spot. The most repetitive things imaginable apart perhaps from a Hollywood movie.
Urban people are always lying when they fall into a rustic rapture for if they miss their evening vodka on the rocks, the gentle lean against the Bar Rouge in Highgate whilst waiting for a table, they'll curse the minute they left home and came to suffer the mosquitoes, thorns and UV.
As for those who live closest to nature, Steve regards these as being as stupid as it is. A book, a movie, a piece of music by Ahmed Jamal these don't require any return or a hot shower to recover. Most of the time it is only these which he regards as reasonable activities. What the intellectual or Urban person who trundles off into the countryside is searching for is tranquility, fresh fruits and clean air. With nature around us, you read or sing, or listen. If the person does go out for a walk or goes to the window to look at plants or clouds its because they are too tired to work, or just at ease with the world. Trusting the contemplation of an acorn when the mediator is an intellectual ! What is there is an acorn and a mediator, when is it ever really about an acorn ?
You'll never find a natural scene that can take more than a few minutes of contemplation except when the contemplator is a half starved Zen mystic, who is inevitably so hermitic that they can't manage a half decent conversation over a cappucino even when life itself depends upon it, which it usually does. On the other hand you will feel all the passing of time abolished when reading Thomas Bernhard, or Duras especially in the scenes where nature appears...
Steve de Vos - London October 1997
Introduction to the Hypertext Novel
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