Thursday, 25 June 2009

Worlds Conference and the photograph

Eugene Atget, Paris

I have generally got in too late to post about the progress and details of the Writers’ Centre Norwich Worlds conference that began primarily with the theme of Creative Writing as a university subject, moved on, on the second day, to the consideration of markets along with censorship (what gets published, what doesn't and why, in which we discover that the average first novel sale is 300!) and cultural transmission (meaning what foreign books do and don't get published and why, in which we discover that Ken Follett is the most published foreign British writer), and will today consider the subject of translation. There is an official blog, written by Adrian Slatcher, to be found here, and a list of writers and contributors here, but I will add thoughts once I have had some time to collect them. One major feature compared to last year's on the Environment, is that it is less argumentative, less contentious, which doesn't make it duller, in fact slightly more interesting in an intricate kind of way. More later.

In conversation last night we were talking about photography, originally with reference to Geoff Dyer's work, but then moving on to Barthes and Berger, and it struck me that photography, in the sense of Barthes' memento mori, and Dyer's the ongoing moment, may be a post-Enlightenment protestant sceptic's best form of religion, in that it presents us with an image of time outside itself, of light (the ongoing) as a historical phemomenon (the moment). I had never thought of it that way before, and the moment I said it, it seemed to offer a genuine possibility. It is perhaps, I suddenly felt, how we hoped to escape the linear by entering a point further back along the line that nevertheless struck us as a presence if only because it remains in its own present..

This is a fascinating thought I want to explore over the next week or so, if I get the time that is, since on top of the last four weeks of furious activity (Arvon course, travel and marking, more travel, the wedding week, Rotterdam and now this) I have a week full of travel next week with the Dove Cottage reading (night away), London the next day and the day after,(Elaine Feinstein's launch, the T S Eliot Summer School where I have to make a speech) and the Chepstow reading on Saturday, returning Sunday.

In the meantime, simply gird your loins and get back on that road. And of course there was the annual epic Szirtes-Dyer ping pong spectacular. Another story.

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