Sunday, 5 January 2014

The isle of sorrow

After writing that post about ice skating, I came across this idea of the ice-rink as the quintessence of existential pointlessness in Tove Jansson’s just-reissued Sculptor’s Daughter: A Childhood Memoir:

‘I know what it is that’s the worst thing of all. It’s the skating-rink. I have a six-sided skating badge sewn to my jumper. The key I use to tighten my skates is on a shoelace round my neck. When you go down onto the ice, the skating-rink looks like a little bracelet of light far out in the darkness … Hundreds of shadowy figures skate round and round, all in the same direction, resolutely and pointlessly, and two freezing old men sit playing in the middle under a tarpaulin … Everybody just skates faster, strange shadows making scrunching and squeaking noises as they pass … The skating rink was the isle of sorrow.’

And here is some more material for that history of student life I’m never going to write. I found this in Siegfried Sassoon’s The Old Century and Seven More Years, the first part of his autobiography, in which he describes his abortive encounter with the Law Tripos at Cambridge University in the early 1900s:

‘Dutifully I attended droning lectures, desperately scribbling fragments of what I overheard and seldom understanding what my notes were about when I perused them in private. Note-taking seemed to be physical rather than mental exercise … Toiling at my text-books, I discovered again and again that I had turned over two pages at once without noticing anything wrong.’

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