Tuesday 30 November 2010

Masonic Night

Last Friday we all went to the Canonbury Tower, headquarters of the intriguingly named Masonic Research Centre, for a lecture / reading by Lindsay Clarke in front of a select audience who braved the adverse weather and was later rewarded with a meal at The Canonbury across the street. It was a lovely evening, and we met many interesting people such as Sacha Hamilton, Duchess of Abercorn, and her sister, as well as Sebastian Barker, the ex-editor of the London Magazine, who a lifetime ago sent me a lovely letter encouraging me to submit my poetry to some publishing houses and introducing me to the Long Poem Group.

The Tower itself – an unprepossessing red-brick building from the outside – was a true revelation. It appears to have survived unscathed (if much altered) for centuries in the heart of North London, surrounded by Victorian and Edwardian houses and more recent high-rise buildings. The room in which the reading took place, dating back to 1509, was a marvel of pre-Elizabethan wood carving. The wood panels had the texture of very old human skin, and I almost felt I could smell its antiquity. It certainly helped create an eerie atmosphere during Lindsay's reading – the highlight of which was when, asked if he believed in God, he received the first call on his mobile phone for the past ten years, to his consternation and to everyone's laughter.

After a busy weekend cooking a lavish meal for friends and giving the last touches to my Auden translation and an article for an Italian journal, the beginning of the new week was engulfed in a media-created (mainly by articles in the Sunday Times and The Daily Mail) "dispute" between our author Rosie Alison and Amazon. The mini-storm was finally straightened up by a level-headed article by Benedicte Page in the Guardian today. The Guardian also published a lovely review of Houellebecq's The Art of Struggle, as I found out tonight during the launch of the book at the Calder Bookshop.

I am now totally immersed in the edit of Dante's Purgatorio (I'm concentrating on the Italian at the moment), and I have just reached the half-way point. Every time I reread it I just wonder at the sheer quality of it and Dante's incomparable imagination. It's a shame people get stuck with Inferno – for my money (and Gordon Nichols's, the translator) it is the best cantica of the Divine Comedy.

The rest of the week will be as hectic as the first part of it. But I hope I'll be able to catch up with you later on this week.


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