Earlier this week I remarked to a colleague that it feels like we’ve just finished marking exam scripts. This is not true at all, of course, given that we finished marking sometime in early November. But there was so much of it, and so much utter crap to read, that the memory lingers long. And here I sit, knowing that I’ll have to wade into the worst of it all sometime today.
is a friend indeed? This is one of those phrases that Resistentialists seldom use, except after a few brandies when we start to ponder questions such as: “Why do people use phrases like this one?”, and “What the hell do phrases like this actually mean, anyway?”
In short, it may be true to say that we complicate, and sometimes overcomplicate, the banal through grim terror – in that if we can accomplish the dissecting of every known cliche, it liberates in respect of those (rare) moments where we may accidentally use them in an unselfconscious manner. Because if our interlocutors can’t be sure that we are being sincere – given our prior analysis of the cliche – they are forced to interpret us as being ironic, and that’s just the way we like it. With all that out the way, the phrase seems to originate in the Latin “Amicu certus in re incerta cernitur”, from Ennuis, translated as “A sure friend is known when in difficulty”. But this is the first of two, possibly three, interpretations.
It is the peculiar genius of the French to express their philosophical thought in aphorisms, sayings hard and tight as diamonds, each one the crystal centre of a whole constellation of ideas. Thus, the entire scheme of seventeenth century intellectual rationalism may be said to branch out from that single, pregnant saying of Descartes, ‘Cogito ergo sum’ – ‘I think, therefore I am.’ Resistentialism, the philosophy which has swept present-day France, runs true to this aphoristic form. Go into any of the little cafés or horlogeries on Paris’s Left Bank (make sure the Seine is flowing away from you, otherwise you’ll be on the Right Bank, where no one is ever seen) and sooner or later you will hear someone say, ‘Les choses sont contre nous.’ ‘Things are against us.’
from a trip to the country. On Friday night the “season” began in earnest, but all of us seemed to be preserving our energies, or perhaps recuperating from all the Resistential dinners that led up to this one (which was, in truth, no Resistential dinner – despite most of us being present). Every weekend between now and early January is booked for some event or other, starting with this drive to have dinner in the place of my childhood, named after pumpkins.