Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Knots of Time

TLS July 26 2013

from Adam Thorpe's review of The Summits of Modern Man: Mountaineering after the Enlightenment by Peter H. Hansen:
Two essential elements of modernity are the foundation myth and the assertion of solitary will: both illustrated by Petrarch's ascent of Mont Ventoux in 1336. Interrupting his admiration of the view by opening St. Augustine's Confessions at random, Petrarch fell on a stern admonition: "And men go to admire the high mountains . . . and pass themselves by". He hurried back down in silence, convinced of the vaster landscape of contemplation. Five hundred years later, Jacob Burckhardt identified this moment in Provence as the arrival of the inward-looking "modern man", the beginning of the modern age. 
This need for firsts, is, of course, in itself modern; and, as Hansen points out, the assignment of Petrarch's ascent as a boundary moment coincided with the rise of modern mountaineering. Peaks are, as he claims early on in The Summits of Modern Man, "a vantage point from which to observe the braiding together of self, state and mountain in historical knots of time". Hansen owes the concept of time knots, or multiple temporalities held within a single moment, to the Bengali historian Dipesh Chakrabarty, whose Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial thought and historical difference (2000) is perhaps not sufficiently acknowledged here. Provincializing, however, is Hansen's main emphasis, as he transposes the romantic generalities of mountaineering's history into the particular, the contingent and the local. The simple act of defying death by climbing Mont Blanc . . .  becomes entangled in local histories, and most particularly in those of regional sovereignty and enfranchisement. Paccard, Balmat and others are part of a dynamic, a continuum in which the beginnings so cherished by modernity enter a far broader flower than individual achievement and lonely heroism.

[After reading this review, I bought Chakrabarty's book.]


from Zinovy Zinik's review of Bowstring: On the dissimilarity of the similar and A Hunt for Optimism, both by Viktor Shklovsky and translated by Shushan Avagyan:
Since the words "form and "uniform" are identical in Russian, any conversation in this book [A Hunt for Optimism] about literary forms also implies a political or even military allegiance. 

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