DEAD FINGERS TALKING, TALKING
Part 3 8 January 2023
Dear Readers, my dispatches will always be free and open to everyone. I am unable to use my hands and I’m writing, via dictation, with the help of my family. If you could become a paid subscriber and support me, it’d mean so much.
When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I do is make my coffee and go upstairs to my desk which overlooks the street. Around the edge of the desk I have hundreds of fountains pens, pencils, markers, I also have dozen of bottles of ink, in numerous colours, from the ludicrous to the sober.
I pick up a pen and make a mark on a page of good thick paper, then I make another mark, then I write a word, a sentence, then another sentence, until I feel something wake up inside me. The writing zigzags across the page in many colours, as though there’s been an accident in a school room.
As I make these marks, I begin to hear characters speaking, and then they start speaking to each other if I’m lucky; if I’m even luckier, they might start amusing one another. I feel excited and that my life has meaning at last.
Excuse me, I’m being injected in my belly with something called “Heparina”.
I’m sure many painters, writers, architects, sports people and gardeners love their tools, and see their tools as an extension of their body. I hope one day I will be able to go back to using my own precious and beloved instruments.
I find that writing by hand, moving my wrist across the page – the feeling of skin on paper - is more like drawing and painting than typing. I wouldn’t want to write directly into a machine, it’s too informal.
After a while, I will find that one word will push out another word, followed by another word, and more words and sentences may follow. I will sit at my desk in my swirly Paul Smith pyjamas, and after an hour something I could use might have emerged.
I won’t know what it is, but when I read it through, something usually attracts my attention. I guess this method is now known as free writing or free association. You start with nothing and after sometime, you find yourself in a new place.
As I speak to you, my hands feel like alien objects. They’re swollen, I cannot move them, and I could not tell you where they are. They may in fact be in another building altogether, having a drink with friends.
I was very low yesterday in the hospital. I was trying to dictate this blog to Isabella, and I became very impatient with the slowness of the process. Carlo Kureishi, my son, is now helping me with this.
Normally of course I can type this stuff up myself. I can even spell. We started to argue. She was looking tired and thin, as of course she would do in the circumstance of this terrible strain. Then she turned to me and asked, “Would you have ever done this for me?” I couldn’t answer. I don’t know.
Our relationship has taken a new turn, not one we could have anticipated, and we will have to find a way of loving each other in a different way. I have no idea at the moment how to do this.
A few months ago, Apple music, on behalf of The Beatles, asked me to write an introduction to their book Get Back, to coincide with the release of Peter Jackson’s series on Disney. Of course for a long time I was stumped, what more could there be to say about The Beatles?
And then it occurred to me that those four boys, with their numerous collaborators, were able to do things together that they couldn’t do apart. This is both a miracle and a terrible dependency. In my experience, all art and all artists are collaborationists.
If you are not collaborating with a particular individual, you are of course collaborating with the history of that medium, and you’re also collaborating with the time, politics, and culture within which you exist. There are no individuals.
So now, in this somewhat desolate Roman hospital, in a suburb of Rome, I am writing these words to try and reach you, and I am at the same time trying to connect with Isabella, to make a new relationship out of an old one. You’d think I’d have enough on my plate.
I wish what had happened to me had never happened, but there isn’t a family on the planet that will evade catastrophe or disaster. But out of these unexpected breaks, there will be new opportunities for creativity.
If you were with me tonight, we would each pour a large vodka with a juicy mixer and drink and embrace each other with a little hope.
That’s all for tonight folks. More tomorrow, more optimism, more jokes.
I remember you telling us about stream of conscious writing during your workshop at Stella's Spanish villa ( don't mention the cockroaches!). I used it many times as a strategy when teaching reluctant primary school writers- they loved it! I also know something of the feeling of being imprisoned in one's own body. You wont remember but I survived a near fatal car crash in 2004. I clearly remember being told at the time that my body would eventually heal, but that it could take 2 years- which felt like a lifetime. I also remember a male nurse telling me that my battle would be with my mind as I lay unable to to move very much at all for nearly 3 months.He was so young & yet so wise. He also told me that my dignity was hanging on a coat peg outside the door & I would collect it on my way home & I did.! You will too. You have so many people willing you through this Hanif. Love & Best wishes Jane
Dear Hanif and loved ones, could I help by sitting and typing up the dictations? I live in Rome and would be happy to help you all.