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Friday, 2 April 2010

Henry Green: Empty


File:Nicholas Hall (rectified).jpg

Standing prepared, empty, curtained, shuttered, tall mirrors facing across laid tables crowned by napkins, with space rocketing transparence from one glass silvered surface to the other, supporting walls covered in olive-coloured silk, chandeliers repeated to a thousand thousand profiles to be lost in olive-grey depths as quiet as this room's untenanted attention, but a scene made warm with mass upon mass of daffodils banked up against mirrors, or mounded once on each of the round white tables and laid in a flat frieze about their edges -- here then time stood still for Jane, even in wine bottles over to one side holding the single movement, and that unseen, of bubbles rising just as the air, similarly trapped even if conditioned, watched unseen across itself in a superb but not indifferent pause of mirrors.

Into this waiting shivered one small seen movement that seemed to snap the room apart, a door handle turning.

File:St George'sHallWP.jpg

Henry Green: from Nothing (1950)

Interior of the Winter Palace, Nicholas Hall: Konstantin Andreyevich Ukhtomsky, 1866: image by Jappalang, 2008
Interior of the Winter Palace, St. George's Hall: Konstantin Andreyevich Ukhtomsky, 1862: image by Giano II, 2008


TC said...

In the event you haven't already been there, this is an experience worth having.

Russian Ark: Sokurov.

(The whole film's linked here in ten segments, though in its original state it is all one take, all one flow.)

elanecu said...

Yes an excellent film, Tom: and good, as always, to read some Henry Green.. Tom

TC said...

Thank you Tom, always good to share a rich bit of Nothing on a grey morning. Love to you & V from us.

leigh tuplin said...

An affecting film I found. Left me uneasy, in the sense I hadn't quite seen anything like it before. It's up there amongst my favourites now.

Curtis Roberts said...

All three of these were great and were an incredible treat during our early spring drive between the Delaware Valley and the Hudson Valley today. By the time we reached the lower Catskills, the Pennsylvania balminess and blooms had receded to grim wintery damage. I first read the Samuel Beckett excerpt (which I’m going over and over as I tend to do with Beckett) and considered its accompanying photos while we were riding through Bucks County farmland. As we hit the Orange County, New York border, some geographical and topographical differences aside, the essential look and feeling were those of the County Kerry and Antarctica photos. The Larkin poem hit so close to home it’s quite disturbing, but it’s good to be reached. The passages from Nothing are just mind-blowing. It’s been a few years since I last read it and it’s on my permanent re-reading list. I started Henry Green with Party Going, which was lucky, I think, and first worked backwards and then forward, concluding with Nothing and Doting. The Winter Palace interior illustrations are perfect.

Anonymous said...

Like the elegant steps in the dancing, like the expensive ornaments on the garments, like the heavy decoration on the palace walls, these lines are a perfect reflection of high society customs.

TC said...

As to the opulent baroque decoration observed in the wonderful Ukhtomsky views of the Winter Palace (and also of course viewed in Russian Ark), it's interesting to note that the Winter Palace and the country estate of the Nabokov family, pictured at the bottom of the post below this one, were designed by the same architect.

A vanished world.

(Of course in the Henry Green novel, the scene is taking place in the dining room of a very posh London hotel.)

TC said...


The pleasant scene invoked in this sweet comment -- "our early spring drive between the Delaware Valley and the Hudson Valley today...and considered ... while we were riding through Bucks County farmland..." prompted me to put up this.

Many thanks!