Monday, 28 November 2011

Winner of Palimpsest 2-Year Giveaway is...

Here are the results of Palimpsest's Giveaway Draw which was performed by the Grand Master of Draws himself:

 The winner is ThirdeYe! Congratulations! Please contact blogpalimpsest at gmail dot com with your details.

ThirdeYe said...
Congratulations! Here's to two more! :)

Monday, 21 November 2011

Palimpsest is Two Years Old. Thank-you Giveaway.

Happy birthday to Palimpsest which today completes two years of blogging. A warm thank you to dear Readers and commenters and dropping-by-chancers for keeping this blog alive through thick and thin. It has been a difficult year for Palimpsest. Here are the top ten posts of these two years:

1. Rebirth by Sharpening, on the pleasures of sharpening

2. Penwork that cramps my hand, Heaney's translation of the 11th-century poem

3. Caput Mortuum, Momie, Mommia, Mummy Brown - Gruesome Brown, on brown paint made out of dead Egyptians. 

4. Stationery Store Series: Evripidis in Athens, on an Athens suburban stationery shop

5. The Elusive Elias Wolff, on the English pencil manufacturer 

6. To mark the paper was a decisive act, on writing in the Orwellian dystopia; Brown as in Brown Pens, on... brown pens; The world of ink and paper of Alexei Karenin, on writing instruments in Tolstoy's epic

7. First manned orbital flight and Yuri Gagarin's pencil, on pencils in space, and The Pink of Pink Pens, on... pink pens

9. To boldly write, on national handwriting, and Rhodia inroads in Rymans, on stocking of the famous notebooks

10. Death of a Wyvern, on the LSE Gaddaffi scandal 

It is traditional to do a thank-you giveaway and I do not intend to break with this tradition. So leave a comment below for a chance to win a little bundle of desk supplies which includes a paperweight from Inklinks, a No. 12 Rhodia bloc (black/lined), some pencils and two Sergent-Major nibs. Dominic Althoefer will be asked to perform the draw after his successful debut as Draw-Master. The draw will take place on Monday 28, 6pm UK time. 

I will post internationally. Good luck.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Athens Polytechnic uprising 1973: In memoriam

It is November, 17 1974, the first anniversary of the Athens Polytechnic uprising. The Junta which held sway in Greece since 1967 had fallen already in July. It is evening, there is a chill in the air, I am ten years old. In front of the Polytechnic there is a dark throng of people. There are no banners, no chants. There is a raw silence. In the middle of the dark people there is a light source. I hold on to my mother’s hand as she presses through the crowd. I smell the people’s breaths and their clothes as the people part slightly to let us through. I see then what the light source is. The mangled remnants of the gate the tank crashed that eventful night are illuminated by a single floodlight and the bodies of the people are standing solemnly before them. Some kneel down and press red carnations between the gate’s distorted iron rods. My mother kneels too. With a rough voice an elderly man starts singing “You Have Fallen Victims, Our Brothers”, an old World War Two Resistance song – a requiem to war victims to the tune of Shostakovich’s 11th symphony (3rd movement). A few join in – the song is not yet widely known – and mother sings too. People stand upright with their palms folded before them as if in church. I stand there too, proud under the floodlight and I am suddenly grown-up.

37 years later in the evening of my mother’s death I am searching for memories of her. There is nothing. I remember nothing. After forty-four days it comes to me: the time when my mother and I were grown-ups, equal in remembrance, united – so rarely united before and after that – before a mangled gate.

In memoriam

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Letter Writing with a Dark Red Waterman

"This letter-writing of his has its ritual aspects. He takes up his pen, a dark red Waterman on Sunday afternoons, the first Sunday of every even-numbered month - February, April, June, and so on. An observer might note that the line of his bent back and shoulders possesses a fetal curl. His tall-windowed study is quiet. At his elbow is a cup of weak coffee, rapidly cooling. His mind is aerated by acts of private embarrassment and distressing nightmare, but for the  moment he brushes all this aside. He is a man writing a letter, performing an act of obligation. The date goes neatly into the right hand corner of the page, and as a sort of uncle-type joke, his lips tightening, he always put "AD", in parentheses, after it.

Then he takes a breath and writes: My dear Daisy. The "my" troubles him, but it would draw attention to itself should he alter it now. He then proceeds with his dull and detailed paragraphs, this dullness and detail successfully blocking the yearning he feels. He completes one page and begins another, plodding away, and feeling always reassured by his plodding, which he takes to be a sign of restraint. The loneliness latent in such objects as his Waterman or his china saucer must be kept from view. But his face bending over the paper is ripe for heresy. He longs to cover the page with kisses and to sign the letter: your loving Barker. Yours forever. Yours only.

What he actually puts down is a plain: yours sincerely, Barker Flett."

Carol Shields, The Stone Diaries, Fourth Estate: London 2009 (first published 1993).

Ink used: J. Herbin 1670 Anniversary edition
Pen used: Lamy Safari

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Ink in Dystopia

Under the clear blue skies of Yevgeny Zamyatin’s One State there is no place for ink. Ink with its unpredictability and propensity to stain is contrary to uniformity and productive efficiency. In Zamyatin’s We the One State is surrounded by a glass wall which shields it from the feral nature without. The One State’s citizens are uniformed and numbered, marching in step and following precisely their hourly tasks as set by The Table and under the eye of The Benefactor and The Guardians. How ink is even allowed to exist, let alone being used in this benevolent brave new One State?

D-503, State mathematician and chief engineer of The Integral, the spaceship that will carry the One State’s teachings to the rest of the universe, is having second thoughts. Dreams are invading his structured world, disrupting his state-prescribed sleep, clouding his judgement and adoration for the One State. Falling in love with I-330 he is inadvertently embroiled into the Mephi, the One State’s enemies. “An ink droplet had clouded [his] transparent solution.”

The permanently blue skies of the One State are no more. “Then another wound: a blurred smudge on the bottom right-hand corner of the page where a drop had fallen... I can’t stand smudges – whether it was the ink or from...” The Day of the One Vote when all ciphers vote unanimously in favour of The Benefactor – a cause for pride and celebration – is ruined. The unif that symbol of equality, efficiency and uniformity is ruined by a spot of ink. The revolt gathers pace and “it’s like having the rug pulled out from under you – and you, along with everything that is here on the table – the paper, the ink... The ink spills and everything is smudged.”

Was it ink that D-503 used to keep the record of his thoughts and doubts? The inside of his mouth is dry “as though coated with blotting paper.” He relents. He denounces. He has the Great Operation to remove his imagination. He recognises his handwriting but none of the feelings. He is healthy, smudge-free and able to watch I-330, his lover, tortured and put to death. Ink has no place in dystopia.

Yevgeny Zamyatin, We, first published 1924 in English with a translation by Gregory Zilboorg 

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Retreat - No Pen Required

Gestures of retreat: ... acts of separation, of secession ... : whether the gesture obviously fulfils, comforts the subject, or whether the gesture of retreat performed by another makes us feel envious... by projecting us into its scenario.
R. Barthes, The Neutral

There is a profusion of writing these days: analyses, admonitions and calls to arms, peppered with statistics and satire, and written by the wise, the ignoramuses, the desperate and the desperados. Conditions are ripe for the awakening of one’s misanthropic streak – retreat is on the cards. If retreat cannot be performed then projection of oneself into a retreat scenario would have to suffice. I was made envious of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s gesture of retreat and I have got Roland Barthes to blame (or thank) for it.

I would ask nothing better, says Rousseau in his Reveries of the Solitary Walker, than to be let to stay in the isolated place where I could have no communication or correspondence with the outside world. Rousseau arrives in a little island in the Lake of Bienne, he sends for his books and his few belongings and does not unpack a single box or trunk. He lives in the house as if it had been an inn – a guest likely to depart at will – his books safely packed, no pen, no writing desk.

“One of my greatest joys was above all to leave my books safely shut up and to have no escritoire”. To suspend writing – to do nothing – is to cleanse the mind from the clutter of daily words, is to resist or shun the past and sculpt the future from materials unknown.  

“Everything is in constant flux on this earth. Nothing keeps the same unchanging shape, and our affections, being attached to things outside us, necessarily change and pass away as they do. Always out ahead of us or lagging behind, they recall a past which is gone or anticipate a future which many never come into being: there is nothing solid there for the heart to attach itself to. [...] What is the source of happiness in such a state? Nothing external to us, nothing apart from ourselves and our own existence; as long as this state lasts we are self-sufficient like God.”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Reveries of the Solitary Walker, trans. Peter France, Penguin Classics 1979 (first published 1782); Roland Barthes, The Neutral, trans. R. Krauss & D. Hollier, Columbia U. Press 2005.