Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
John McAuliffeBill Manhire in Conversation with John McAuliffe
(PN Review 259)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Patricia CraigVal Warner: A Reminiscence
(PN Review 259)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Tim Parksin conversation with Natalia Ginzburg
(PN Review 49)
Next Issue Gwyneth Lewis ‘Spiderings’ Ian Thomson ‘Fires were started: Tallinn, 1944’ Adrian May ‘Traditionalism and Tradition’ Judith Herzberg ‘Poems’ translated by Margitt Helbert Horatio Morpurgo ‘What is a Book?’
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
PN Review 276
PN Review Substack

This article is taken from PN Review 115, Volume 23 Number 5, May - June 1997.

The Human Position Iain Bamforth

'- Dedalus, you're an antisocial being, wrapped up in yourself. I'm not. I'm a democrat and I'll work and act for social liberty and equality among all classes and sexes in the United States of the Europe of the future.'

   James Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

In the waiting room of my surgery in Strasbourg there are a number of paintings and etchings. These have been loaned to me by my landlord, who happens to be one of Strasbourg's better known artists (Philippe Stoll-Litschgy). I suppose having his paintings there lends a certain chic appeal to my surgery, but it makes me a tad nervous to think that I'm curator of an art gallery in addition to having to put up with all the humdrum anxieties of running a medical practice. The paintings have another function: they allow me to stand in my waiting room and meditate in broad daylight, surrounded by mythic themes; I extend invitations to all and sundry, I offer my card, saying here I am, dear townspeople of Strasbourg: come and watch how to fly away from uncertainty.

One of the etchings shows Icarus plummeting to earth in a squawk of quill feathers with two improbable retaining bands tied to his ankles. Unlike Brueghel's painting and Auden's commentary on it, Icarus's fall rearranges the landscape; all the objects in the etching form what looks like a spatial choir around it. A nymph shields her eyes. ...

Searching, please wait... animated waiting image