Friday, 24 April 2009

Writer’s room

Here is a tendril of ivy above my desk, growing in through the tiny gap where the sash window won’t close properly at the top. Nature gets its way. Before long the whole room will be an ivy-gripped ruin. Life’s short, and so in the long run is art.

I volunteered (huh) to be the ‘buddy’ of one of the many Indian writers flown over by the British Council for the London book fair. So many things about India (the book fair too) come wrapped in mind-boggling statistics: twenty-odd official languages, countless others. My buddy runs a languages institute, training teachers and translators and enabling translation between the many languages of India, and has interesting decisions to make. What to do, for example, about the perhaps 5,000 manuscripts in the villages of a remote area whose language is endangered, will before long become extinct? Manuscripts among which it is possible there hides some sublime masterpiece. I suggest that if someone knocks on the door who is keen and who cares and who wants to translate and preserve, you help; but you don’t just throw money at the problem. People die, and so eventually do their works, and even ivy too. Clearly I’m feeling tired and old.


May said...

Nice green garnishment.

Anonymous said...

Ivy is a most appropriate house plant for a serious writer. The ivy leaf, 'hedera', appears as a line filler in Roman inscriptions and it was cut as an ornament by early Italian and French printers. The 2oth cent typeface Minion designed by Robert Slimbach has almost a dozen variants of hedera.

charles said...

This is fitting. Minion is the favourite CBe typeface (and is used for the logo). Though my design guru recently frowned at my indulgent use of a Minion leaf ornament in the running heads of a Robert Henryson / Seamus Heaney book about to be published by Faber.