Sunday, 7 April 2013

A Heap of Broken Images

A Klee drawing named “Angelus Novus” shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe that keeps piling ruin upon ruin and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.
Walter Benjamin, Ninth Thesis on the Philosophy of History
I always go back to old wars and talk to old soldiers. I go back to Northern Ireland, to Bosnia, to Serbia, to Algeria and southern Lebanon and Kuwait, to post-invasion Baghdad. I am trying I suppose, to make sense of what I have witnessed, to place it in a context that did not exist for me when I was trying to stay alive, to talk to those with whom - however briefly - I shared these nightmares. I am looking, I think, for the kaleidoscope to stop turning, to see the loose flakes of memory reflected in some final, irremediable pattern. So that is what it was about! Sometimes as I write ... I hear the pieces of glass moving in the kaleidoscope, like the sound of the hard drive in my laptop... searching for applications and programs, ticking towards a conclusion, a clear screen with an undisputed memory.
John Pilger, The Great War for Civilisation