Wednesday, March 12, 2008

lamppost, laisser passer, donated

This morning, as I watch the lamppost outside our window swaying in the wind, I remember, or think I remember, a lamppost in the film Gone with the Wind. I may have got it wrong, but it is, I think Vivian Leigh, who, overcome with grief or anger, at one point, runs down the steps of a town house and stops her onward rush by holding on to a lamppost. The lamppost sways and, until today, when I see our own lamppost sway in a similar way, I think, quite mistakenly, that it reveals a weakness of the film set, which the director has not spotted.

There is a pedestrian crossing controlled by traffic-lights on the route which links the traffic free Pantiles with the traffic free Chapel Place. The pavement is very narrow, and this afternoon a crocodile of well behaved, nicely chattering French school children, queues to get across obstructing other pavement users. Coming up behind, a school teacher shepherds the children to one side against a railing, "laisser passer, laisser passer," he shouts at them. I make my way to the edge of the crossing as the lights change. "Vite, vite, vite " says the teacher, and then to me: "Sorry! You're not one of our kids." "Quel dommage," I say.

Jorge Luis Borges is one of may favourite authors and his little (in size) book Ficciones is the one which I might well choose to take with me to a desert island. The short stories, complex explorations of mind, language and culture, are so dense, that they can be read again and again.
My current copy of the book is published by Everyman as part of its Millennium Library. The publishers gave complete sets of its titles on the occasion of the millennium to a number of schools for their libraries. Unfortunately many schools saw no use for these handsome editions, and sold them on. Mine has the stamp of Bradbourne School, Sevenoaks on the fly leaf. It is otherwise in pristine state. There is no sign of any child having opened it. In the preface by John Sturrock, I read; Something to be remembered about Borges, even in the casual context of a preface, is that he used so few words that all of them must be attended to." That no one at Bradbourne School attended to any of his words, may have appealed to the ironical, searching multi-layered mind of the author.

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