Frances Oliver

This is the fourth epidemic which has made abrupt changes in my life (see article in the Jan/Feb edition of the NAE); so perhaps I am less surprised by it, and less affected by lockdowns, than most people.
As a writer in lockdown: during the first lockdown I kept a boring daily diary, just for my records. During the next ones (how many – I lose track) I’ve been re-reading and re-organizing old notes, letters, photos, etc. and also re-reading some discarded manuscripts to see if anything can be revived or reworked. I hate wasting manuscript: as much as I hate wasting food, which in fact I never do. Not wasting writings is harder.
Missing trips abroad and the chance to use my other languages, French and German, I’ve made a point of reading in them. My most ambitious project was reading in the original German the whole of Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain, which I’d wanted to do ever since being deeply impressed by the English version when I was in my teens. Well worth doing – but not quite the great classic I remembered. Inspired by Annie Markovich borrowing my Volume I, I also finally read Volume II of Rebecca West’s fascinating, exhaustive (and exhausting) book on just pre-World War II Yugoslavia, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon. Two of several things I’d probably never have done without lockdown.
I have reflected again and again how lucky I am to live in a beautiful place with beautiful walks from my front door, walks that include uphills so I won’t lose my mountain legs, and how equally lucky to have a large collection of books. Some of the books I did finally force myself to get rid of in the past now inspire regrets.
The New Art Examiner’s statement of purpose reads: ‘THE NEW ART EXAMINER is a not-for-profit whose purpose is to examine the definition and transmission of culture in our society, etc. etc. … and in particular the interaction of these factors within the visual arts milieu.’ I’d like to see more material on ‘the definition and transmission of culture’ in general, not just selfishly because that’s what I myself tend to write, but because I feel it would bring the NAE to a wider group of readers; also because it is important to see that the ephemeral, trivial and clique-dominated character of so much in the visual arts infests our culture as a whole.

Volume 35 no 4 March – April 2021

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