Thursday, 31 January 2013

In the tavern of commemoration

Derrida 'Of Hospitality' and Anthony Rudolf 'Rescue Work:Memory and Text'
Anthony Rudolf
I went into my library this morning, and casually picked up from the floor where (I am ashamed to say) it had lain for several days if not weeks, as if it had thrown itself off the shelf to be noticed, a very slim paper booklet, stapled together not bound. The booklet is the text of a lecture entitled Rescue Work: Memory and Text, an expanded version of the Pierre Rouve memorial lecture given by the poet and translator Anthony Rudolf in Sofia, Bulgaria on 22 Feb 2001, originally published in Stand 5 (3) 2004. I did not mention Holocaust Day in my blog, because I had nothing to say, but now - suddenly I find I do. I came to meet Anthony through my work building cultural bridges with Russia - at that time, the USSR. Tears sprang to my eyes and I found a lump in my throat, because the page where I opened the booklet has an account of life in Gandersheim, a Nazi labour camp, where a group of French prisoners gather to recite poetry to each other, including 'Heureux, qui comme Ulysses' - the verse I have inscribed on a pavement in my garden here in Moffat.
''Gaston opens the proceedings with a speech. He says: 'to keep going, each of us must emerge from his solitude and accept responsibility for all the others. They [ie the Nazis] have been able to dispossess us of everything save what we are'. One of the comrades, Francis, then recites Du Bellay's famous poem
          'Heureux qui comme Ulysse a fait un beau voyage
           et puis est retourne, plein d'usage et raison..'
Francis has trouble saying the poem: 'he was anguished as if he had to express one of the most rare, most secret things ever given him to speak; as if he feared that, brutally, the poem might break in his mouth'.

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