I am unsettled with my current choice of novel, Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada. I am on page 52 and it is wonderful but as it is set in wartime Berlin, horror lurks behind every page, swastikas and spies are in the air… I don’t want to feel this unsettled just now – I want comfort, reassurance. This book has already begun to seep into my daily life, the way it was with Birdsong recently, and Middlemarch, memorably. But then again, that’s what books are for, to give the reader an inkling of what it is like to live in another place, as another person, to step into stories and histories.
Lately I am uncomfortably aware of my privileged position in this world, and of how safe and protected I am, compared to the majority. With that in mind, feeling unsettled is a small discomfort. It feels like a duty in some ways, to not just see what happened, what is happening, but to feel it too.
Are we what we know? Does our awareness of injustice and our feelings of sympathy, empathy for the people who experience it, does it help in any way? Perhaps by contributing to the collective consciousness/collective conscience? Though, according to Durkheim, ‘morality and culture, the collective phenomena par excellence, exist autonomously in our social surrounding; they are imposed upon us, and individuals do not have any discernable impact on them.’ But if he saw collective consciousness as a sort of haze above our heads, i imagine it more as a pool of sorts, which all of our thoughts and actions contribute to.
I have only started thinking about this, and my brain hurts.
It’s too early for these thoughts – only just past 8am on mother’s day, and I am supposed to be feeling pampered, to be tucked up with lovely poems and tea and toast in bed.
I’m not sure why I am posting this on my website/blog. I am still getting the hang of this, whatever it is going to be, and this post really belongs in my reading room, but it won’t go there.
I think I’m meant to be posting other things here. I haven’t even mentioned poetry yet, but surely that’s the point? So, let’s see, for comfort I could try… not Elizabeth Bishop, not this time. I could go to Anne Carson, though Decreation requires more thinking than I can muster just now. So perhaps to Autobiography of Red, for the passionate and raw experience of Geryon… though it may be too raw, too passionate for comfort? If not that, something, anything by Alberto Manguel – he would be my desert island companion, in lieu of a book. He is a force for good and The Library at Night is in the pile beside me. And Bach cello suites.