Category Archives: literature

Benjamin’s grim writing on Marseille

Marseilles Walter Benjamin The street . . . the only valid field of experience. – Andre Breton Marseilles-the yellow-studded maw of a seal with salt water running out between the teeth. When this gullet opens to catch the black and brown proletarian … Continue reading

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Confidence By Marsden Hartley (1877-1943) ‘We’ll have the sun now,’ the quaking sea gulls said ‘We’ve run the gamut of the thundering sea, one by one one by one, and though the wave is full of bread a wing is … Continue reading

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At Melville’s Tomb

At Melville’s Tomb By Hart Crane Often beneath the wave, wide from this ledge The dice of drowned men’s bones he saw bequeath An embassy. Their numbers as he watched, Beat on the dusty shore and were obscured. And wrecks … Continue reading

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Ghost ships

In the last two weeks, two ships filled to the brim with hundreds of Syrian refugees have been brought in to Italian ports.  The ships seem to have left Eastern Mediterranean, and sailed parallel to the Turkish coast, picking up … Continue reading

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At sea on an island as a cyclone comes

This book is neither about ports and the labour of dockers nor about shipping and transport.  But I have to write about it because it is one of the most stunning books I have stumbled into during my obsessive reading … Continue reading

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Train whistles and futures

I am reading two books simultaneously through both of which trains rattle and whistle and snake…  But which in some ways are as different as they can be.  Bill Cronon’s Nature’s Metropolis is a panoramic history of the making of Chicago in the … Continue reading

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I grew up with a number of Persian-language classic novels on the bookshelves of our house.  Throughout my childhood (I was a precocious reader) and teenage years, I tended towards Sadeq Hedayat and Simin Daneshvar and Jalal Al-e-Ahmad.  A bit predictable … Continue reading

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Pirates Pirates Pirates

They are EVERYWHERE!  Here is Michael Dirda writing about campy pirates: Many [film pirates] are also distinctly camp. The first pirate most of us encounter is Captain Hook, who, as played by Cyril Ritchard in the Mary Martin version of Peter … Continue reading

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“A foretaste of annihilation”

Joseph Conrad’s The Shadow Line is an odd novella.  A ghost story, a beautifully symmetrical tale, a strange little fable, or a metaphor for the First World War (as Wikipedia seems to say)? A young man is given command of  his first … Continue reading

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“no sailor’s card”

Imagine a trans-textual “proletarian” protagonist, one that has travelled the world, gets stuck into adventures aboard ships and on land, and has a laconic easy sarcasm and a way with words.  A kind of working class Marlowe with a better … Continue reading

Posted in bureacuracy, labour, literature, ports, readings, seafaring, shipping conditions, ships, the sea | Tagged | Leave a comment