He is alone in the city, and in life as well…

Margueritte Duras, The North China Lover


– could be that the vacant sadness of which I was not even aware needed filling –

Thomas Hürlimann, Die Tesserin



Under Sauzelles I am, a little hameau, up there in French nowhere land, sitting on the bank of one of the little off shoots of that great, but now miserably low River Creuse. Only in the company of the loved one who is no more have I been here before. This is the very first time I dare it on my own.




On a summer’s holiday, halfway through August, this improbable desolation must be here on purpose. In yonder dusky niche of shady trees and brushwood a lonesome spot lights up.




An ever worsening memory grants me perplexity, each time again when I listen to the shattering and deeply sad beauty of  Shostakovich’ first Violin Concerto.


As if dancing with death, a pas de deux for Violin and the Grim Reaper. This music is black. All of a sudden the most apt of colours, as it negates the spectrum’s other charms.


Mirroring all this is Life’s dance which a solid breeze, in its charming choreography, imposes on some twenty little butterflies and their purple loved ones, swinging at the water side. Mimesis.




August, pregnant with an autumn, surely a premature birth this year. Hither and thither the wind is already driving yellow leaves over dry baked, barren fields, playing with them like a cat with its dead mouse.


Now that the wind has hunted down these golden leaves from shrub and tree, the foliage suddenly looks more summery than a week ago. Oh, heavenly paradox!


Then, all of a sudden, the very moment I have unplugged the little speakers from my ears, the gust of an upcoming storm rages in. For a moment it seems a carry-over from the violin music, then this airy violence whizzing through arboreal heights gathers something of a threat.


In its triple hinge the colossal poplar-with-the-three-crowns is creaking. The sound of matter hounded.





On my way home I look for the x-th time at a faded advertisement, applied on this wall all these decades ago, in times beyond television commercials, an epoch in which ‘products’ were still donning their mask of eternity.




A past beckons. Whereto? To the future it seems, but illegibly so. Whatever it is, it must be lying a mere ‘1 km’ further on. Perhaps, like the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, for ever and ever remaining that same kilometre ahead…


In his story Meeting the Swiss author Thomas Hürlimann contrasts the mountain climber and a man rambling through a city, someone remaining on street level.


The first walker has a fixed course towards a chosen station – the peak. Finally at his destination, he may turn around. Or die.


The one walking the streets may constantly choose new directions, measuring the journey’s time in meters covered; not, as the climber must, in hours available, their amount perhaps even reduced by changes in weather conditions during the ascension.


The city walker may just enter any street he wishes, perhaps one that turns out to be more dangerous than he thought. This happens in Hürlimann’s Meeting. However, ‘loosing your way’ for the climber and the city walker is something poles apart.


Only fools may rush through the world timelessly and aimlessly, the writer adds.


There is, one might suggest, also Life’s walk. Beginning to live resembles the mountain climb. A summit beckons, perhaps even a few peaks. A prescribed path of climbing is indicated. For each course a given stretch of time  is specified.


Only at the end of that life does all this turn out to be illusion. You find yourself to have been a city walker all the time, moving on flat terrain, seemingly ordered according to a street plan, in fact a maze in which all the time you have been rambling, unknowingly entering what now turn out to be merely side streets.


However, what the walker through life shares with the mountain climber is death. Yet again, as opposed to the one taking life’s walk and coming to its end, the mountain climber on his peak can still turn around.


Sierksma 20.8/2016, Sauzelles









Author: rjsiersk

Sierksma was born in Friesland, a 'county' in the northern part of the Netherlands with its own language which he does not speak and with an obstinate population to which he both belongs and does not belong. A retired Professor of Social Philosophy and Aesthetics, as a Harkness fellow he taught at Rutgers and Berkeley Universities in the USA, and at GUAmsterdam and TUDelft in the Netherlands. In 1991 he was awarded his PhD from Leiden University on the subject of 'Surveillance and Task: Labour Discipline between Utilitarianism and Pragmatism'. His books include Minima Memoria (1993), Lost View (2002 with Jan van Geest), and Litter Scent (2013). He has published poems and articles in Te Elfder Ure, Nynade, Oasis and the Architectural Annual. Half the year he lives in Haarlem, the other half he spends in la France Profonde, living ‘in his own words’ as the house out there was bought with the winnings from his essay Eternal Sin, written for the ECI Essay Prize (1993). In this blog, Sierksma's Sequences, written in English, he is peeping round his own and other people’s perspectives. Not easily satisfied with answers nor with questions, he turns his wry wit to a number of philosophical and historical issues. His aim in writing: to make parts of the world light up in his perspective - not my will, thine! Not being a thief, he has no cook, one wife, some children, one lover and three cats.

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