Monday, 27 July 2009

Time enjoys its subjectivity. This summer in Berlin seems wholly temporal as it moves rapidly through the Junes and Julys into an August that I'm hoping will never be finished.

Last summer seemed endless: lazy rides out past the huge sweeps of industrialised river, doleful hours in gentrified no-mans-land oases, awkward café readings of East European novels, Kreuzberg warehouse nights taken into slept-through Friedrichshain mornings, conferences in abandoned DDR radio relay towers, days spent sketching out a novel that would never be. Those times are over.

Now, of course, there are things to do, there are always things to do. The mornings are spent with lists as always, listing what should be done and what needs to be done. Financial administration, accommodation searches, calendar organisation, the sending of speculative emails - all give a sense of measurement, markers against the day, stakes pinning the hours and weeks into place.

These grids of tasks are only there to allow writing and reading to happen, although the tasks do not know this yet. The tasks are happy on their own, happy to be delineated and achieved and crossed off, that beautiful strike of biro inking out another yellowing waypoint on the road to a successful, fulfilling morning. They are only there to allow writing and yet writing has only been happening as its own reverse, that is to say through deletion.

The time of writing is set out with actions: the coffee is spilling onto the stove, the windows are open and the background music is filling the room, perhaps the courtyard below. And yet in this space now no writing occurs, only deletion. This stage, this negation, have I known it before? One year writing a draft of a book, a novel it is hoped. Then, of course, the first edit, undertaken with the ambition to get to the moment of writing THE END.

The edit however is not writing, it is deletion. For on returning to the text, the early passages, which have been shifting like national boundaries moved overnight, not by glacial movement or continental drift but by municipal pedantry, are from another country. I need a passport to visit these early passages of text, it is as though I woke up on the wrong side of the border. Everyone there is speaking a different language and the food tastes different.

So I begin to refine the early paragraphs and chapters, laying the structures out on paper and moving them around on the floorboards. Eventually, I begin to delete. At first, I move the incongruous sections to another file or folder, knowing truthfully that I'll forget where they are. Then, after some time to grow bold, I give up transferring and just strike the chapters out, entire hillsides of text and cities in their entirety are lost in my attempt to repatriate the earlier text with the current concerns of its later relative.

Across the page, great strikes of biro against yellowing ink mark out a process of writing which is destructive. Writing as deletion, as reversal, as erosion, turning a novel into a novella into a short story into nothing.

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