By Gordon Burn

ISBN-10: 0571222846

ISBN-13: 9780571222841

How does it think to be by no means allowed to die? during this vintage debut novel, Gordon Burn takes Britain's largest promoting vocalist of the Fifties and turns her tale into an equation of big name and homicide.

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Sunt et eo quoque vicini quod eorum quae poeta accipit, causas phylosophus perquirit. (It is also most convenient that the philosopher would be absorbed in the same interests as the poets, because he desires what is beautiful and great, as we have said. And what can be more beautiful and greater than nature itself? )  Composed in the 1470s; 1st edition in Pontano 1505. On this, see Panofsky 1968.  ‘Poeta vero non hoc [= rem nudam id est singularem], sed simplicem ideam pulchrituninibus suis vestitam, quod universale Aristoteles vocat’, Naugerius, in Fracastoro 1555: 158v°, see also 160–162.

It is true that Ronsard repeatedly expresses the desire to leave in the main clause, not in the subordinate if-clauses in his poems; but this does not make such desires statements of intent.  But as in the ‘aucunefois’, so in the if-clauses: it is the modulation of the desire that matters. For these conditional dreams are heuristic fictions, not blueprints for action. And Ronsard himself underlines the point, later in the poem, with a second ‘aucunefois’, through which he first restates the desire for escape from the here and now – ‘Je veux aucunefois abandonner ce monde’ (‘I want sometimes to leave this world’) – and then reprimands, severely, those who have translated this fictional wish into recent, imperial action.

The echo of if-clauses between Ronsard and Montaigne opens up, then, the space of alternative co-ordinates to identity; it gives rise, too, to alternative forms of experiment, or essai, or prayer, taking place and shape under other conditions, in other climes, and times. All of which confirms that if-clauses can tell us more both about Ronsard’s poems, and about the fictional conditions of possibility under ‘Si Faut-il Voir Si Cette Belle Philosophie…’ 39 which that experiment of self-understanding which is the Essais is conducted.

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Alma Cogan by Gordon Burn


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