Tuesday, 9 February 2010


The first parts of the transcripts of my father's autobiography are ready and I have worked four small excerpts from it into the order of service for Thursday. There will be music for entering and leaving; brother Andrew will play the violin; there'll be a reading of Kosztolányi's wonderful Halotti beszéd (Funeral Oration); the four autobiographical excerpts read by four parts of the family,in two different spots, two excerpts in each; my address (draft written); and C reading one of the shorter poems that I wrote for my father from Reel. We go out to music.

The transcripts are polished up from the verbatim, which is always a complex matter, because once this is done, although there is a voice saying 'I', it is not the voice as spoken, not the person's voice, full of hesitations, revisions, and things in the wrong order: it is literature or, as some would have it, litterachewer. It is not voice but the birth of a possible style. In other words, you lose voice but you gain story. I remember feeling awkward about this when I first started transcribing about twenty years ago (on an old Amstrad, the sheets joined together and perforated), telling myself: if it's facts you want then the edited version is better.

Maybe one could alternate between the two and let the voice just stick its head through the door sometimes. The danger is that we could get Beckett without the genius on the one hand, and Dickens as retold by Jeffrey Archer on the other.


Quite exhausted. Late back last night, long time to get to sleep, wake early. To UEA for three meetings, rush home, then start phoning the world -Argentina, Australia, USA, Hungary, as well as various numbers in England. Type up transcript (I no longer have the Amstrad.) Compose address. Ring and talk, ring and talk. Keep modifying order of service.

It keeps you busy, and being busy you don't dwell on anything - except during the writing of the address when dwelling is precisely what is required.

I'll start the obituary / biography once the service is over. In the meantime it looks as though my selected poems in Italian and in German may be back on the menu. But let us not count chickens before etc, or, as one joke's punch line had it, (you can make up the joke that leads to it): The moral is: don't hatchet your counts before they've chickened.


Lucy said...

Try to take care of yourself and rest if you can. Something might be allowed to give...

I remember, though, from the death of my parents, how absorbing and compelling this time immediiately afterwards is, and how I missed the intensity of it when it had passed.

Thanks for your generosity with your writing, it's a privilege to be reading here.

Klara said...

We'll be thinking of you from most unexpected corners of the world. Sincere condolences and best wishes for a fitting farewell!

George S said...

Thank you, both. Snow on the road and ice, but not snowing now. Tomorrow morning the car all the way down. I can already taste the dreamlike quality of it, even before it has started.