My probably infrequent entries to this blog will, I anticipate, fall into three categories, potentially overlapping. Firstly, the work of Michel Butor, nouveau romancier, far less well known than he deserves, one of the most fascinating writers of the postwar era, and all of whose works are rich in allusion and reflection, ideas and passion, intellect and humanity. Secondly, I’ll occasionally write about what other things I’m reading (currently Proust and Stephen King), listening to or watching. And there may be events, anniversaries, and other sources of inspiration that prompt an entry from time to time.
I’m an administrator at the University of Sheffield, where I’m also a part-time student, studying French Language & Cultures for my second undergraduate degree (the first, in English & Biblical Studies, was also with Sheffield, many decades ago). I grew up in West Africa, an experience which has been hugely influential on me, and which can be evidenced not only in my enthusiastic support for Ghana’s national football team (in contrast to my despairing loyalty to Nottingham Forest), but also in my interest in postcolonial African history and, because I lived in Northern Nigeria during the bloody preamble to the Civil War, in genocide and xenophobia wherever they manifest themselves. Alongside my work, and my studies, and my family life, I am passionate about music, literature and visual art.
My entries to this blog have proved to be more frequent than I had anticipated. And the topics I’m covering have shifted too. I completed the degree referred to above, and am now a part-time PhD student, doing research on Michel Butor and W G Sebald, and that is absorbing all of my writing/thinking energy on those topics. What I’m reading, listening to or watching does inform my blogging, as do events and anniversaries. But if a theme has emerged over the years it has been more political than I anticipated with a strong focus, not just during Refugee Week, on the plight of those who flee war zones and persecution, and how we respond to their need for sanctuary. I retired from my post at the University of Sheffield at the end of 2015 and hope to have more time to think and write, some of the output of which may end up here. You have been warned.
Anyone interested in finding out more about Butor – and it would delight me enormously if anyone was inspired to read him by this blog – should start with the novels, which is fine if you read French, a tad more tricky if not, as the English translations are not easy to track down, or rather expensive if you do. I’ll give details of both editions, where possible:
Passage de Milan (Paris: Minuit, 1954)
L’Emploi du Temps (Paris: Minuit, 1956)/ Passing Time
La Modification (Paris: Minuit, 1957)/ A Change of Heart or Second Thoughts
Degrés (Paris: Gallimard, 1960)/ Degrees
Mobile: étude pour une représentation des États-Unis (Paris: Gallimard, 1962) / Mobile
Portrait de l’artiste en jeune singe: capriccio (Paris: Gallimard, 1967) / Portrait of the Artist as a Young Ape
Anthologie nomade (Paris: Gallimard, 2004)