A defence of ardour

ImagesAdam Zagajewski at Eurozine:

In Krakow, I sensed the luminescence of all that was best in the Polish tradition: distant recollections of the Renaissance recorded in the architecture and museum exhibits, the liberalism of the nineteenth-century intelligentsia, the energy of the interwar period, the influence of the democratic opposition just then coming into being.

The West Berlin of the early eighties struck me as a peculiar synthesis of the old Prussian capital and a frivolous city fascinated by Manhattan and the avant-garde (sometimes I suspected that the local intellectuals and artists treated the wall as yet another invention of Marcel Duchamp). In Paris, I didn't encounter the great minds, the great French arbiters of civilization – I'd come too late for that. But I discovered nonetheless the beauty of one of the few European metropolises to possess the secret of eternal youth (even Baron Haussmann's barbarism hadn't ruined the continuity of the city's life). Finally, at this brief list's conclusion, I came to know Houston, sprawled on a plain, a city without history, a city of evergreen oaks, computers, highways, and crude oil (but also wonderful libraries and a splendid symphony).

After a time I understood that I could draw certain benefits both from the wartime disaster, the loss of my native city, and from my later wanderings – as long as I wasn't too lazy and learned the languages and literatures of my changing addresses.

more here.

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