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Good evening, welcome to the second lecture of the 2019 Randy L. and Melvin R. Berlin Family Lectures Tonight is my distinct pleasure to introduce Professor of Practice in the Arts, Rachel Cohen – Rachel’s first book, A Chance Meeting, delves into the literary and artistic friendships among 30 writers and artists during the 100 years between the American Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement Among her thoroughly-researched and fascinating pairings are photographers, Edward Steichen and Alfred Stieglitz, writer, photographer, and University of Chicago alumnus, Carl Van Vechten and Gertrude Stein, poet Hart Crane and actor Charlie Chaplin, and Harlem Renaissance writers Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston Her second book, Bernard Berenson, explores how this well-known art connoisseur in concert with the art dealer Joseph Duveen, shaped the aesthetic taste and collections of paintings for both private collectors and prominent museums in the Gilded Age Rachel’s third book, Austen Years, to be published in the winter of 2020, combines literary criticism and memoir Looking at several recent years in her own life when her father died and she had two children, Rachel seemed only to read the novels of Jane Austen Each of Austen’s novels is considered through the lens of what it is to live into and out of books Through the University of Chicago Creative Writing Program, Rachel is one of the leaders of the Migration Stories project, which has published a community anthology displayed in the exhibition of art books and presented many public readings featuring University of Chicago students’ work These activities have been co-curated with several university institutions, including the Smart Museum, the Lab Schools’ Social Justice Week, and the United Nations Festival of Human Rights through the Pozen Center Rachel’s eclectic interests have forged intriguing ways to look at our world and come to well-researched, intellectually thorough and unexpected conclusions Please give a warm welcome to my accomplished colleague, Rachel Cohen (audience applauding) – Thank you, Deborah, for that kind introduction I’m Rachel Cohen, I’m a Professor of Practice in the Arts here in Creative Writing in the Department of English And it’s an honor and a pleasure to be here with all of you this evening I wanna begin with an inadequate improvised sentence about the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral today I think many people are feeling the loss of the artworks that are contained in there, in that structure And I want to make brief acknowledgement of that, especially on this occasion where we’re gathered to be thinking about the arts together And then I wanna turn to today’s project to say a little bit about our distinguished guest I teach the essay in its many forms and I teach writing about the visual arts and I’m one of the people in English and Creative Writing, working on a set of interconnected projects about migration and migration stories So I very often have occasion to think about Teju Cole’s work as a writer, as a photographer, as a writer about art and about geography Rather than tell you again about Cole’s many distinguished achievements, here, I just want to say a few words about some influences he draws on and about the influence he has I see, I think I’ve hit the mic sweet spot In Cole’s work, whether as novelist, writer on reading or photographic writer, there’s always a figure in motion going through the city or the wide world he sometimes thinks of as one continuous city, juxtaposing, glancing, repeating, finding a way into other lives, sometimes startling away The figure in his movement various perspectives, his and ours, as cities demand we do Perhaps it begins with a photographer like Roy DeCarava, his work as Cole says, quote, “Full of wise light which, “with patient-seeing, can open out into glories.” Or he begins with a Lebanese cedar tree or with the work of V.S. Naipaul, with a filmmaker like Tarkovsky with music The field of Cole’s reference is as wide as the field of his travels Or perhaps our figure is thinking about refugees, and has gone to the deadly Borderlands of the Sonoran Desert From any of these beginning points, there is always a restless movement Look sharply, keep moving Of course, Cole is a photographer His essays are photographic, his photographs are essayistic When I am reading Blind Spot, a book he will talk about this evening, a book of texts in rhythm with photographs, its sound in my ear has something of Italo Calvino, something of John Berger The voice leaves space around it as these two writers did

and it also locates itself again and again on maps that are not quite the ones used in anyone else’s mind Next to the essay drawing was John Berger’s, Art of Attention, Photography is Cole’s Each has its own unusual relationship to time and to the kinds of pauses that may sustain or create understanding One of the things that I’m thinking about these days is what kind of knowledge the arts contribute to humanistic understanding In our time, many, many people live in a state of constant movement The number of refugees around the world is now larger than the populations of many individual countries By force, necessity and sometimes by choice, we all are moving, changing our fields of reference, our ways of locating ourselves The arts have their place in this As those of you who were here last week, for the first of these lectures will be able to attest with me, the sight of a copper mask, the sound of drums, and a story of a king may shift my relationship to my own perceptions and turn my gaze on a blind spot of my own I’m really grateful to Randy and Melvin Berlin for conceiving of this lecture series in such a way that there can be spaciousness and return, a mode right for the deepening project Teju Cole has envisioned, our senses realization, our re-situating of ourselves in the world The way Teju Cole works between and among different media drawing on vast geographies of influence is I think part of how Cole’s work is in turn affecting a next generation of readers and of emerging writer artists Between writing and all the other art forms in motion through the landscape, Teju Cole may bring you to your senses Please join me in welcoming Teju Cole (audience applauding) – I want to begin by acknowledging that we are having this event today, the traditional homelands of the Three Fires Confederacy, Ojibwa, Ottawa, and Potawatomi people, on whose unseated territory we gather today So I wanted to thank, again, Randy and Melvin Berlin, both for the generosity of their gift, the visionary nature of it for providing a place where thinking and talking and being together can happen, and for their presence again in the audience today And finally, Professor Deborah Nelson and Professor Rachel Cohen for the lovely invitation, thank you so much for those words, Rachel I’ll try to live up to them And there are two finallies, because I want to thank you for being here It’s not such bad weather that you couldn’t be out there doing something else So you’re here on purpose, and I appreciate it Just before I begin, well, I feel quite sad about the news from Paris I think when I think about Notre Dame, I think not just of that building, which I’m sure many people here have visited, but also the kind of hope it was projecting into the future I don’t think in the history of architecture there has ever been a building so exquisitely, in collaboration with acoustic possibilities, if you know the music of (mumbles) or Liona, this is music that was made for that space and the space was made for that music These are the things that matter and my thoughts are with everyone in Paris and all my friends over there, and everybody who cares about such stuff I’m going to conclude this lecture by reading a passage from my novel, Open City A passage in which I tried to include what I had learned about a certain intensification of the senses, and even some of what I had not yet learned The narrative of the book, which was published in 2011, is a psychiatrist in New York, named Julius This is a section in the second half of the novel after Julius gets the news that his beloved professor has died Julius walks a great distance down from Harlem to Chinatown, in Manhattan A somewhat complicated passage, the final bit of it begins as follows Presently, I, too, went down one of the side streets, an even smaller and more congested one, along which pre-war buildings jostled vertiginously,

each with an elaborate fire escape that it offered like a transparent mask to the world I’ll read it at the end of the lecture The question though is how to get there And I propose to do so by showing you through other writers how I think, but not only writers I think I may as well begin with Seamus Heaney’s poem, The Peninsula The Peninsula When you have nothing more to say, just drive for a day all around the peninsula The sky is tall as over a runway, the land without marks, so you will not arrive but pass through, though always skirting landfall At dusk, horizons drink down sea and hill, the ploughed field swallows the whitewashed gable and you’re in the dark again Now recall the glazed foreshore and silhouetted log That rock where breakers shredded into rags The leggy birds stilted on their own legs Islands riding themselves out into the fog And drive back home, still with nothing to say except that now you will uncode all landscapes By this, things founded clean on their own shapes Water and ground in their extremity A 16-line poem and four line stanza, ABBA, the inner couplets, tending towards slant rhyme, a classic square-shaped poem from early in Heaney’s career from around 1969 It is well made like a good table, and it is a poem about making, in this case, about the poet’s struggle to make a poem out of the silence of when you have nothing more to say The poet begins at a loss for words expressed in a line that reminds us of a later politically charged poem of his, Whatever You Say, Say Nothing A poem both dismayed by an ironic about the hardening of enmities in Northern Ireland in the 1970s But here at the poet’s desk, saying nothing is not a strategy, it’s a headache So the poet goes out for a long drive in the Irish countryside on the peninsula, where water insinuates into land Only near the end of the drive, when evening has come, does the poet enumerate and describe what he’s seen, the glazed foreshore, the silhouetted logs, the leggy birds stilted on their own legs And out of these precise recent memories, these things founded clean on their own shapes, he uncodes the landscape and makes a poem Many years later in 1996, Heaney made a different sort of poem from a similar sort of drive Again, the terrain is where water meets land, but here where there was intention, there’s now pure attention The encounter with the shapes and truths of things is in real time, not later on at dusk driving home Postscript, he titles this later poem and it is a kind of testimonial The believer, though in this case secular, testifying to his first-hand experience of divine arrival into the everyday And as befits such eruption, this is a poem with a more dynamic and troubled surface Listen, for instance, for the consonants of foam and flock, ruffed and ruffling, soft buffetings and off guard Those F’s creating their own fricative atmosphere The poem’s 16 lines, instead of being retrospective and workman-like, are in this case delivered in one single, breathtaking stanza Postscript And some time make the time to drive out west into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore, in September or October, when the wind and the light are working off each other So that the ocean on one side is wild with foam and glitter, and inland among stones the surface of a slate-gray lake is lit by the earthed lightning of a flock of swans their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white, their fully grown headstrong-looking heads tucked or cresting or busy underwater

Useless to think you’ll park and capture it more thoroughly You are neither here nor there A hurry through which known and strange things pass as big soft buffetings come at the car sideways And catch the heart off guard and blow it open Where earlier he captured it filing it away in memory for the drive home Here the poet surrenders and enters a state of flow Useless to think you’ll park and capture it more thoroughly, you’re neither here nor there If in Peninsula he was driving through the landscape, in Postscript, it is he that is being driven through It is he that is surprised, undone, passed through, blown open A masterly poem like Postscript is universal property But Postscript is also an Irish poem because both its author and its setting, are Irish It is furthermore Irish by literary lineage Associating it with the word epiphany might already have reminded you of James Joyce And maybe in particular the final passage of Joyce’s story, The Dead The idea of epiphany summons two thoughts generally, one has to do with the religious idea, the sudden and overwhelming appearance of the Divine into everyday life, as experienced, for instance, by Julian of Norwich, Teresa of Avila, and many holy figures through the ages Epiphanies, perhaps as strongly, or even more strongly now connected to a certain idea expressed in literary modernism and emphasized in its aftermath, but the idea is especially prominent in Joyce’s two early prose works Dubliners, which includes The Dead and Portrait of the Artists as a young man Epiphany, as understood by Joyce and practiced thereafter, has to do with heightened sensation and flashes of insight, often of the kind that helps a character solve a problem This is the definition he gave the term in an early version of Portrait of the Artist As A Young Man, a sudden spiritual manifestation The Dead begins at an annual Christmas gathering for friends and family in Dublin early in the 20th century After the party, we are with a couple, the Conroy’s, heading to their hotel And then we’re with just the troubled thoughts of Gabriel Conroy, who is ruminating on what his wife Gretta has just told him about something in her deep past When she was a girl, she loved a boy and the boy loved her This boy, Michael Furey, waiting outside her window all those years ago like a figure in myth, later caught some illness and died A song she’d heard at the party had brought all this back to her And now she’s asleep in the hotel room, and her husband Gabriel is awake with his blizzard of emotions Here’s how The Dead ends A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window It had begun to snow again He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward Yes, the newspapers were right, snow was general all over Ireland It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead So, having zoomed in on the smallness of Gabriel Conroy’s concerns of his angst at not knowing the long-guarded secrets of his wife’s heart Joyce zooms out again, taking in the entire landscape, the snow falling softly and softly falling, and falling faintly, and faintly falling, on all the living and the dead

It is as classic as a 20th century literary passage gets In my 21st century novel, Open City, a book that is about many things, but certainly about how one man’s life is invaded by literature and literary antecedents, I cited The Dead directly My narrator Julius is in Brussels looking for his grandmother He has spent most of his time wandering around in a haze of depression To him, Belgian history and current Belgian politics, both feel like open wounds, but there are personal pains he’s intent on suppressing too But he’s also had a series of random encounters in the city, which now come back to him His journey is coming to an end In one final paragraph, I substitute rain for snow and Belgium for Ireland, but otherwise make few changes to Joyce’s original The lifting is obvious and unsubtle Mature poets as Eliot had it still though it’s another matter if your intention is never to be found out My literary interests have been shaped by modernism by Joyce and Woolf, by Mann, Musil, Broch, the flow of thoughts through minds, the blending of sensation into lyric passages Far from having any anxiety of influence, I am skeptical of an originality that does not place itself in conversation with other people’s work The ending of The Dead showed up in another book of mine, this time in a book of images and narratives called Blind Spot The passage called, titled Rivaz, is an account of a walk, and it is the penultimate entry in the book Like Heaney’s Postscript, it’s a hymn of gratitude, sun-stunned, not nocturnal, far from rain and snow The Joycean rush of it becoming apparent only at the very end The photograph and the text speak to each other in this book of pairings If you walk along the northern lip of Lac Leman, between Montreux and Lausanne, you will see before you the lake’s flat shine all across to Evian-les-Bains, in France On steep slopes you make your way past the wine-growing villages of Corseaux, Saint-Saphorin, Rivaz, and Chexbres, feeling in your legs the pleasure of a long walk along narrow old roads, some of which have new surfaces We are a small group, we walk in solitude There are people working in the vineyards In one grove, a man harvests by hand, onerous-looking work Farther along, in about half an hour, we will taste the white wines of Lavaux Our mouths will be explored by the nectar of the landscape we have crossed For now, below us are brown-roofed hamlets, and a pair of twin boys, around 10 years old, come laughing up the road Do you live here? We have always lived here Do you like it? We love it! Their answers are in unison I rest at a concrete outcrop with a bunting of vintners’ blue nets, a blue the same color as the lake It is as though something long awaited has come to fruition A gust of wind sweeps in from across the lake The curtain shifts, and suddenly everything can be seen The scales fall from our eyes The landscape opens No longer are we alone, they are with us now, have been all along, all our living and all our dead What we think of as a Joycean epiphany, has strong 19th century antecedents in Emerson and Wordsworth, and it has had a vigorous afterlife in 20th century fiction Perhaps too vigorous if you’re Charles Baxter, author of Against Epiphanies Baxter sees too many pat epiphanies, too many neat flashes of insight and pithy summations in contemporary American fiction, particularly in short stories The lyric moment happens and the conundrum the character has been mulling is suddenly solved It’s all too easy I think Baxter’s right I take advantage of the flexibility of the term epiphany to think not about this particular narrow narrative device, but rather of a stylistic mode which as often as not, puts us in place but neither advances the plot, nor solves any problem This passage from Mrs Dalloway, for instance,

does not really bring some staggering moment of insight What it does is cook a list, nourish the eye and the ear and bring us closer to Clarissa’s consciousness and to ours For heaven only knows why one loves it so, how one sees it so, making it up, building it around one, tumbling it, creating it every moment afresh But the veriest frumps, the most dejected of miseries sitting on doorsteps drink their downfall, do the same, Can’t be dealt with, she felt positive, by Acts of Parliament for that very reason They love life In people’s eyes, in the swing, tramp, and trudge, in the bellow and the uproar, the carriages, motor cars, omnibuses, vans, sandwich men shuffling and swinging, brass bands, barrel organs, in the triumph and the jingle and the strange high singing of some airplane overhead was what she loved Life, London, this moment of June Reading Woolf, we are with her, creating every moment afresh, awakened further with each semicolon A different master of this mode is W. G. Sebald Of all the writers I’m discussing, he might be the one in whom this intense, emotionally charged but intellectually unflagging approach is most pervasive W. G. Sebald wrote entire books that are almost nothing but headiness of an associative dream Almost chosen from random in his oeuvre as this final selection from The Rings of Saturn, that incredible narrative of a fictional walk in Suffolk, the journal of a man who seems to carry around it in his head an antiquarian hypertext library I’m especially taken with a skill with which Sebald, at book length, connects one thought to another If you stare hard, you can see the stitching He’ll say, it occurs to me that, or that so and so may well have had an eye for these things, but you can only see it if you’re searching Otherwise, what you have is a highly controlled payload, a billowing cloud seen in slow motion Maundy Thursday, the 13th of April 1995, was also the day on which Clara’s father, shortly after being taken to hospital in Coburg, departed this life Now, as I write and think once more of our history, which is but a longer count of calamities, it occurs to me that at one time, the only acceptable expression of profound grief for ladies of the upper classes was to wear heavy robes of black silk taffeta or black crepe de chine Thus, at Queen Victoria’s funeral for example, the Duchess of Teck allegedly made her appearance in what contemporary fashion magazines described as a breathtaking gown with billowing veils, all of black Mantua silk, of which the Norwich silk weavers Willet and Nephew, just before the firm closed down for good had created uniquely for this occasion And in order to demonstrate, had created uniquely for this occasion, and in order to demonstrate their unsurpassed skills in the manufacturer of mourning silks, a length of some 60 paces And Sir Thomas Browne, who was the son of a silk merchant, and may well have had an eye for these things, remarks in a passage of the Pseudodoxia Epidemica, that I can no longer find that in the Holland of his time it was customary, in a home where there had been a death to drape black morning ribbons over all the mirrors and canvases depicting landscapes or people or the fruits of the field, so that the soul, as it left the body, would not be distracted on its final journey, either by reflection of itself or by a last glimpse of the land now being lost forever I still remember my shock when I read The Rings of Saturn for the first time, a shock as much of recognition as of illumination The attitude I am describing is characterized by this density, whether it is dealing with a dark and melancholy anteriority, as in Sebald, or with the thrum and possibility of city life as in Woolf or Binyamin or Schultz Cities are made of multiplicity and they invite inventory And to list is somehow to love The following is from Toni Morrison’s Jazz,

a book whose faints, moves and improvised strategies honor the music of its title Breathing hurts in weather that cold, but whatever the problems have been winter bound in the city they put up with them because it is worth anything to be on Lenox Avenue, safe from fays and the things they think up Where the sidewalks, snow-covered or not, are wider than the main roads of the towns where they were born and perfectly ordinary people can stand at the stop, get on the streetcar, give the man the nickel and ride anywhere you please Although you don’t please to go many places because everything you want is right where you are The church, the store, the party, the women, the men, the postbox, but no high schools, the furniture store, street newspaper vendors, the bootleg houses but no banks, the beauty parlors, the barber shops, the juke joints, the ice wagons, the rag collectors, the pool halls, the open food markets, the number runner and every club, organization, group, order, union, society, brotherhood, sisterhood, or association imaginable Everything you want is right where you are, she writes The scene is like that concept of the novel Stendhal wrote of in The Red and the Black, a mirror carried along a high road We find a similar inventorial approach in Orhan Pamuk’s Istanbul The subject of this passage is Huzun, the melancholia specific to Istanbul and Turkish history itself I am speaking of the evenings when the sun sets early, of the fathers under the street lamps and the back streets returning home carrying plastic bags Of the old Bosphorus ferries moored to deserted stations in the middle of winter, where sleepy sailors scrub the decks, pail in hand and one eye on the black-and-white television in the distance Of the old booksellers who lurch from one financial crisis to the next and then wait shivering all day for a customer to appear Of the barbers who complain that men don’t shave as much after an economic crisis Of the children who play ball between the cars on cobblestoned streets Of the covered women who stand at remote bus stops clutching plastic shopping bags and speak to no one as they wait for the bus that never arrives Of the empty boathouses of the old Bosphorus villas Pamuk takes it very far indeed And this passage runs on as a single sentence for several pages coming to more than a hundred lines Here’s how it ends Of everything being broken, worn out past its prime, of the storks flying south from the Balkans and Northern and Western Europe as autumn nears, gazing down over the entire city as they waft over the Bosphorus and the islands of the sea of Marmara Of the crowds of men smoking cigarettes after the national soccer matches, which during my childhood, never failed to end in abject defeat I speak of them all Each prepositional phrase is set off with the device of the such and such, each recalling the opening I am speaking of I am speaking of the evenings, of the fathers, of the old Bosphorus ferries, of the storks flying South The repetition invites a hypnosis over the length of this gargantuan passage that is evocative of the fog of melancholy that the passage itself is describing, a hypnosis like that triggered by falling, the repeated words itself trochaic, falling, in Joyce’s The Dead And one cannot help but imagine in this kind of inventory, an authorial and narrative self, guiding us through the experience of city life through its crowds and personages, and ever-shifting sites At times it’s as though such authors are obeying Isherwood’s dictum, I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking In film, the camera of course is literal Cabiria the lovelorn sex worker, who is the hero of Fellini’s 1957 film Nights of Cabiria played to perfection by Giulietta Masina is certainly not Federico Fellini And yet in certain heightened moments, what we experience is a merging of her vision with his and that vision becomes ours as well In the final scene of Nights of Cabiria,

Cabiria disappointed in love yet again wonders from the edge of a desolate lake into those quiet woods She’s all alone She’s been crying And now wears a stony expression Music begins to play She walks past trees and is now on a road First one woman enters the scene then another lively calling out Then several characters in the distance, prancing, playing music Guitars, party hats, a motorcycle, and accordion, youth The screen fills up with these revelers She continues walking down the road, but the night’s temper has changed The music gets louder The revelers try to draw sad-faced Cabiria into their revelry “Buona sera,” one sweet-voiced girl says and poor Cabiria with a makeup of a circus clown softly smiles The music builds to a crescendo and she’s smiling more broadly now, through tears These are the things I think of 8 1/2, a later film by Fellini, is a film about making a film, as The Peninsula is a poem about making poem The conclusion to 8 1/2 is like a perfected form of the idea Fellini had first attempted six years earlier in Nights in Cabiria It is a longer scene, it is more complicated but the same energy pertains that of an individual swept up in the sights and sounds, and personae of others all around, which rises to a crescendo And I think a sensational crescendo because all the senses are being excited We see things we hear the voices and the music and we imagine all the things the characters must be feeling Guido, the lead, played by Marcello Mastroianni is experiencing all the complexities of his life as a dream sequence in the form of a grand parade His long dead parents, his colleagues, his lovers with himself as the band leader Fellini’s filmmaking and the music of Nino Rota are infectious in their joy Probably not gonna be able to get that melody of your head now But now I think of something more sober It is by James Salter from his memoir Burning The Days It is one to which I say yes, this also is where I want to be We’re brought across the landscape by solitary figure on whom all of it out there is having an effect, who is receiving all of it with census tuned It is morning but light is still low If it had music, it would be an andante, the music of flight and morning Below, the earth has shed its darkness There is the silver of countless lakes and streams The greatest things to be seen, the ancients wrote, are sun, stars, water, and clouds Here among them, of what is one thinking? I cannot remember but probably of nothing, of flying itself, the imperishability of it, the brilliance You do not think about the fish in the great, winding river, thin as string, miles below, or the frogs in the glinting ponds, or they of you They know little of you Though once, just after takeoff, I saw the shadow of my plane skimming the dry grass like the wings of god and passing over, frozen by the noise, a hare 200 feet below That lone hare, I, the morning sun, and all that lay beyond it were for an instant joined, like an eclipse I’m dazzled by passages of this kind and helped by them Conversations between characters are all well and good, and I suppose countesses must sweep into rooms as they do in certain novels But the secret reason I read, the only reason I read is precisely for these moments in which the story being told is about alertness to the world, an alertness that sees things as they are, or dreams things as they could be Those moments that are like a forest dark and deep, a sky wide and mark with portent, a hurry through which known and strange things pass These passages and clips offered either exemplars or confirmation for certain densely work passages in my own writing For years now, I have also been thinking of Walter Benjamin’s Naples, Rilke’s The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, Marquez’ 100 Years of Solitude, Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha,

and Bruno Schulz’ Extraordinary and Surreal, Street of Crocodiles My memory is suddenly drawn back to Schulz’ Cinnamon Shops in Drohobycz between the wars They’re dark and solemn interiors, the rare and strange goods they contained He knew that inside shops we find inventories no less rich than those that make up cities I think of Fellini even though his medium is so different from mine and his mood tends to be radically unlike what I’m trying to evoke But what wonderful technical help I had from the films Nights of Cabiria, La Dolce Vita, 8 1/2, and his late film about Rome called Roma I understood better where the movement was in that final passage of the dead, in a sense where the camera movement was, or how its snow could become a rain by thinking of Roma That film takes place largely on a soundstage at the Cinecitta Studios but the opening of the film and it’s ending are shot Alfresco in the city of Rome Near the opening, Fellini presents us with a long and mystifying sequence on the Grande Raccordo Anulare, the ring road surrounding the city Like the Lagos in which I grew up, like the Sao Paulo which from time to time I visit, and even occasionally, like the Chicago in which I’m giving this talk, Rome is a city of very complicated traffic That traffic, it’s ongoingness, its tedium, it’s incessancy, but also it’s irrepressible variety of incident is a true subject of Fellini’s Dantesque opening sequence in Roma The entire sequence is about nine minutes long but I’ll play just under three minutes of it here to give the flavor The darkness gradually falls before our very eyes The scene stretches out and we’re immersed in a kind of theater of reality, like an image in reverse of Woolf’s perfect day in June And after this there are wilder fires, there are firefighters We see an overturned truck, dead livestock, more rain, protesters Deeper we go into the industrial sublime until it all comes to a standstill with a soundtrack of thunder and blaring car horns The whole scene lit by frequent lightning on a road next to the Coliseum Epiphany is not only revelation or insight, it is also the reassembly of the self through the senses It is an engagement with the things that quicken the heart, through the faculties of the body, the things that catch the heart off guard and blow it open or through an overwhelming pileup of detail that shape the sensible self to its perceptual core The account I’ve tried to give here is indebted both to Stendhal’s mirror and to Isherwood’s camera, the devices of receptivity and in discriminate attention And so finally, I come to that passage from Open City that I promised at the beginning of this talk, trusting that it is now illuminated by everything else I’ve shown and read Julius begins at a loss for words, but instead of going for a drive, he goes for a walk After walking for seven miles, he arrives in Chinatown Presently, I, too, went down one of the side streets, an even smaller and more congested one, along which pre-war buildings jostled vertiginously, each with an elaborate fire escape that it offered like a transparent mask to the world Electric wires, wooden poles, abandoned buntings, and a thicket of signs clotted the facades all the way up to the tops of the four and five-story buildings The shop windows advertised dental products, tea, and herbs Large bins were filled to the brim with gnarled ginger and medicinal roots, and there was such a complete motley of goods and services that, after a while, to see a shop window full of hanging carcasses of roast duck succeeded by another one crammed with tailors’ dummies, yet another full of fluttering printed leaflets in a half dozen sun bleached variants of red, and that in its turn followed by a jumble of bronze and porcelain Buddha figures, came to seem a natural progression Into this last shop, I entered, to escape the dizzying activity of the tiny street The shop, of which I was the sole customer, was a microcosm of Chinatown itself,

with an endless array of curious objects, a profusion of bamboo cages as well as finely worked metal ones, hanging like lamp shades from the ceiling, hand-carved chess sets on the ancient-looking bar between the customer and the shopkeeper’s bay, imitation Ming Dynasty lacquer ware, which ranged in size from tiny decorative pots to round-bellied vases large enough to conceal a man Humorous pamphlets of the Confucius say variety, which had been printed in English in Hong Kong and which gave advice to those gentlemen who wished to find success with women Fine wooden chopsticks set on porcelain chopstick stands, glass bowls of every hue, thickness, and design and, in a seemingly endless glass-fronted gallery high above the regular shelves, a series of brightly painted masks that ran through every facial expression possible in the dramatist’s art In the midst of this cornucopia sat an old woman, who, having looked up briefly when I came in, was now fully reabsorbed in her Chinese newspaper, preserving a hermetic air that, it was easy to believe, hadn’t been disturbed since horses drank water from the troughs outside Standing there in that quiet, mote-filled shop, with the ceiling fans creaking overhead, and the wood paneled walls disclosing nothing of our century, I felt as if I had stumbled into a kink in time and place, that I could easily have been in any one of the many countries to which Chinese merchants had traveled and, for as long as trade had been global, set up their goods for sale And, right away, as though to confirm this illusion, or at least to extend it, the old woman said something to me in Chinese and gestured outside I saw a boy in a ceremonial uniform walk by with a bass drum He was presently followed by a row of men with brass instruments, none of them playing, but all walking solemnly in step, marching down the narrow street, which seemed magically to have cleared itself of shoppers for their passage The old woman and I watched them from the eerie calm of the shop, in which only the ceiling fans were audible, and row after row of these members of a Chinese marching band marched past, with their tubas, trombones, clarinets, trumpets, men of all ages, some with jowled faces, others looking as if they were just reaching puberty, with the first black traces of peach fuzz on their chins, but all with the most profound earnestness, carrying their golden instruments aloft, row after row, until, as if to bookend them, there marched past at the last, a trio of snare drums and a final massive bass drum carried by an enormous man I followed them with my eyes until the procession trickled beyond the last of the bronze Buddhas that sat looking outward from the shop’s window The Buddhas smiled at the scene with familiar serenity, and all the smiles seemed to me to be one smile, that of those who had stepped beyond human worries, the archaic smile that also played on the lips on the funeral steles of Greek kouroi, smiles that portended not pleasure but rather total detachment From beyond the shop, the old lady and I heard the first series of notes from the trumpet, playing for two bars Those twelve notes, spiritual cousins of the off stage clarion in Mahler’s Second Symphony, were taken up by the entire band It was a chromatic, blues-inflected figure that must have had its first life in a mission hymn, a dirge that was like a tempest heard from far away, or the growl of waves when the sea is out of sight The song wasn’t one I was able to identify but, in all respects, it matched the simple sincerity of songs I had last sung in the school yard of the Nigerian Military School, songs from the Anglican songbook Songs of Praise, which were for us a daily ritual, many years before and thousands of miles away from where I stood in that dusty, sun-suffused shop I trembled as the throaty chorus of brass instruments spilled into that space, as the tuba ambled across the lower notes, and as the whole sound came into the shop like shafts of interrupted light And then, with almost imperceptible slowness, the music began to fall in volume as the band marched farther and farther into the noise of the city Whether it expressed some civic pride or solemnized a funeral I could not tell, but so closely did the melody match my memory of those boyhood morning assemblies that I experienced the sudden disorientation and bliss of one who, in a stately old house

at a great distance from its mirrored wall, could clearly see the world doubled in on itself I could no longer tell where the tangible universe ended and the reflected one began This point-for-point imitation, of each porcelain vase, of each dull spot of shine on each stained teak chair, extended as far as where my reversed self had, as I had, halted itself in mid turn And this double of mine had, at that precise moment, begun to tussle with the same problem as its equally confused original To be alive, it seemed to me, as I stood therein all kinds of sorrow, was to be both original and reflection, and to be dead was to be split off, to be reflection alone Writing is a bid for testimony, as well as prophecy An efforts to contain both the peninsula where things are founded clean on their own shapes, and the flaggy shore where the heart is caught off guard and blown open It is a commitment shored up by history, by the parade, by memory, by music, by shops which are like cities and cities which are like shops, by solitude and by the collective, by what we have read, and what we have remembered, by love and despair, by the living and the dead This is the second of two lectures Thank you very much (audience applauding)

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