“‘Rome completely bowled me over!’ Hitler declared on returning to Germany after his 1938 state visit to Italy. Mussolini had laid on a grand night-time tour that climaxed in a visit to the Colosseum, which – according to Christopher Woodward in his excellent In Ruins – ‘was lit from inside by red lamps so that, as if ablaze, it cast a bloody glow on to the grass and the ruddy brick ruins on the surrounding slopes.’ Descanting to Albert Speer, his pet pseudo-classical architect, Hitler explained that ‘ultimately, all that remained to remind men of the great epochs of history was their monumental architecture … What then remained of the emperors of the Roman Empire? What would give evidence of them today, if not their buildings?’
Will Self discusses a range of issues provoked by his digital essay Kafka’s Wound at thespace.lrb.co.uk with Nicholas Spice and Helen Jeffrey from the London Review of Books, and Dan Franklin, Digital Publisher at Random House.
Is this unique digital essay a proto-form for a new type of deeper engagement with long form content on the web? What can modernism tell us about the digital storm sweeping through our world? How might collaborative digital authorship move forward? What next?
Will Self’s “digital essay” on Kafka has been published in its entirety at the Space website, and includes an hour-long video of his trip to Prague and readings of Kafka’s “A Country Doctor”. For a short explanation of this unique London Review of Books commission, go here or visit thespace.org or @thespacearts for more details.
His essay will examine his personal relationship to Kafka’s work through the lens of the short story “A Country Doctor” (1919), and in particular through the aperture of the wound described in that story.
The essay is being “through composed” with Will’s own thoughts, as he works, being responded to by digital-content providers – many of whom are colleagues of his at Brunel University. The entire digital essay will go live in July.
“In the first few years of the last decade I undertook a series of what I called – with a nod to Iain Sinclair’s circumambulation of London – ‘radial walks’. These were tramps of between three and five days from my home near the city’s centre out into its hinterland, following either a cardinal or an ordinal point of the compass, depending on
which direction most appealed to me at the time. The first of these walks took me northeast up the Lea Valley, through Epping Forest, then followed a long path called the Essex Way that traversed the surprisingly deep country well to the north of the Thames corridor, before I debouched through Dedham Vale and the Stour Estuary to arrive at Harwich.
“While John Kasarda shares the title page of this scientific romance masquerading as a work of urban theory, Aerotropolis was written by Greg Lindsay alone. Kasarda, a professor at the University of North Carolina’s business school, may be a peculiar sort of Johnson, but Lindsay, a business journalist, is nonetheless his committed Boswell. A Boswell who, in search of his subject’s zeitgeist wisdom, once mounted a three-week exploration of ‘Airworld’ – as Kasarda calls it – by jetting from terminal to terminal around the globe but never exiting through the door marked ‘arrivals’. Why? Because it is Lindsay’s belief that Kasarda is the most important urban theorist alive today, a man who has fully anticipated the shape the future city must have and who has moved to make it a reality.”
“Melvyn Bragg’s In Our Time has become something of a badge to be worn with pride by the contemporary British dilettante. I often find myself groping for conversation, when my interlocutor, perhaps sensing my abstraction, will reveal that she listens to – and loves – the Radio 4 discussion programme on the history of ideas. I, too, am happy to concede that I’m an In Our Time fan, preferring to catch up on it via podcasts listened to on my iPod when I’m walking the dog.