Friday, 12 December 2008


Hello my Friends, this is Padraic, and I'm back at last from my world tour. I note that Michael, whom I left in charge of this blog, got bogged down in other matters and shamefully neglected his duty.

I'll forgive him nonethess, since his time has been well spent, and I find I've got back just in time to report that Polish film director Lech Majewski has finished shooting his latest movie, The Mill & the Cross, with Charlotte Rampling, Michael York, Rutger Hauer and Joanna Litwin. This interests us all the more that the film, scripted by Majewski and our friend Michael Gibson, is based on Michael's book of the same title, devoted to Breugel's incredible painting, The Way to Calvary, populated by about 500 characters.

The director of photography is Adam Sikora, who recently shot Jerzy Skolimowski's Four Days with Anna.

While portraying the passion of Christ, the painting also refers quite clearly to the cruel persecution of "heretics" which Bruegel witnessed in Flanders in the 1560's. It thus becomes a denunciation of persecutions in all ages. The laws of the day required male Protestants caught in Flanders to be beheaded and women to be burried alive. Other forms of cruel execution were also practiced. The photo above shows one of the "thieves" escorted to his place of execution by the hangman.

The film begins by relating a particular day in Bruegel's life, in the course of which the painter and his friend, the banker Nicholas Jonghelinck, go out of town to stand as helpless witnesses to the execution of a Protestant preacher whom they apparently knew and admired. Half-way through the film, thanks to a clever narrative device, the preacher becomes identified with Jesus and the film turns into a narrative of the passion.

Since shooting has been completed, a group of computer wizards has begun the arduous task of incrusting the actors into backgrounds realistically painted by Bruegel. The effect will be stunning.

The Mill & The Cross should be released in the fall of 2009.


Saturday, 14 June 2008

Remote islands...

Going through de papers that Miguel Errazu left with me before his return to Gondwana, I came across a notebook in which he had set down the following. MG


I remember a big round rock that was, in color, size and shape, much like the wide back and domed skull of an elephant. It stood at the top of a slope, in the midst of luxuriant vegetation, and sitting there (for hours, it seemed) when I was a little child, I enjoyed the widest imaginable view onto the blue, vaporous distance of a great, uninhabited bay, crowded with countless mysterious islands, all knit together with labyrinthine waterways and, beyond these, out onto an endless ocean. And I would sit there, dreaming great shapeless dreams, wider than worlds, imagining what I would find if only I could wander freely there, exploring those islands and venturing past them onto the ocean that, beyond my sight, melted into the sky.
This is probably where my calling as a travel writer first arose.
Gondwana seems to have attracted me all the more that it surely remains the remotest and least familiar part of the known world. It is so remote, in fact, that it appears quite tiny in the mind’s eye, and this allows one to make out the broader patterns that constantly sweep through the world we live in, though we can’t make them out because we stand too close to them.
Observing all the things that I had stored in my memory on my return from Gondwana, I realized that I could practically give a tangible appearance to the two, tremendous global currents that move like guiding spirits through the human world, commanding its climate and the conditions of our lives: the warm current of the imagined and the cold current of the real. These two together, move endlessly through our minds like the two faces of a single, inconceivable, cosmic conveyor belt. They endless lift new, utterly unexpected and undreamed things out of the imagined and slowly propel them into the real.
This is something I was eager to evoke when I wrote my Chronicles.

Thursday, 27 March 2008


Sun Storm: A Coronal Mass Ejection
Michael Francis Gibson recently pointed out that I’d been neglecting this blog over the past few weeks and offered to fill in for me for a while. I’ve gratefully accepted. Here’s his first contribution. Padraic.


Of all the marvelous institutions that have arisen lately in Gondwana, the Center for Post-Apocalyptic Studies is my favorite.

The stunning implications of its title really enchant me.
Many of us tend to assume that once the world has been destroyed, there’s no more to be said or done:
Game over!
The very name of the Center suggests otherwise. It implies that once a world has been destroyed, it’s time to build another one.
A splendid prospect, but where do we start?
Some will say: what a great opportunity!
Let’s build a new world under the guidance of reason.
But, as experience has shown, reason on its own is not enough.
Why so? Quite simply, you might say, because reason sometimes turns out to be so drearily lacking in… imagination.
The inhabitants of the Third Hemisphere (see earlier entries below) are perfectly aware of this inadequacy. Reason without imagination is lifeless, they say, just as imagination without reason is mad. Or just plain silly.
But what is the imagination, in their sight?
It’s the unique human power to shape new images in the mind’s eye.
It’s also the faculty that endlessly scans experience for meaningful patterns that feed humanity’s insatiable need for enchantment. In earliest times, too, it helped our ice-age hunter forebears decipher animal tracks in the snow.
We, inhabitants of the more pedestrian hemispheres, are not unaware of this, although we may sometimes underestimate the power and import of what the imagination has to offer.
Who hasn’t grown ecstatic in childhood at the sight of frost on the windowpane or, later in life, of galaxies slowly spooling in their flocks of stars, of leaves, ferns and flowers unfolding, of the patterns of language, butterflies’ wings and music? Even our sober scientists tirelessly scan the heavens for meaningful patterns, searching for signals emitted by some purposeful awareness nesting out there in remotest space.
And we’re not just on the lookout for patterns of this kind.
We also scan the full sweep of human experience in search of some plausible, purposeful pattern that will light our own life with… “meaning.”
It’s with patterns such as these that every society builds the great nest of its homely world.
According to the principal traditions of the Third Hemisphere, all humans inevitably live inside a picture of the world. People often mistake this picture for the world itself until it shatters under the pressure of events.
The physical world, as we increasingly realize, is full of huge invisible events that mark our lives. Sun storms sometimes get violent enough to cause geomagnetic mayhem, send orbiting satellites crashing to earth, disrupt the electric power grids, start fires, black out radio communications and, as in 2003, cause the northern lights to shine as far south as Havana.
But human history is also full of spiritual, technical and economic storms that shake and shatter our picture of the world.
This is what’s happening everywhere today and this is where the Center for Post-Apocalyptic Studies steps in with its cheerful prospects.
As I explain in my Introduction to The Riddle of the Seal (see, the Center is one of the three component institutions of the Greater Dream Project, recently set up by the new government of Gondwana, ostensibly to handle preparatory work for an international Greater Dream Congress that is still in the offing.
The first of these institutions is the Circle of Uncertainties, appointed to collect whatever questions people may currently be asking themselves in every corner of the world. A daunting undertaking. The Circle is even now sifting through and synthesizing the abundant material it has received before passing on its conclusions to two other bodies: the Bureau of Erraticities and the Center for Post-Apocalyptic Studies.
The Bureau is expected to handle matters relating to origins and causes (and hence lying within the competence of reason and of the experimental and theoretical sciences). The Centre deals with all those touching upon purpose and intent (and hence within the purview of the imagination, poetic vision and wisdom).
The distinction is somewhat artificial to be sure and members of the Bureau sometimes complain that their colleagues at the Center have all the fun because they always seem to be playing games. Those of the Center merely suggest that some people may be more gifted for fun than others.
How can I best explain the purpose of their undertaking?
Just last year, I met the analytical philosopher John Searle and asked him how he would define the main thrust of his own reflection. He replied that it touched upon the question:
"How do we reconcile our view of ourselves as human beings and what we know about the world as a collection of atoms, hormones, organisms, etc…?"
I was delighted when I realized that the underlying purpose of the Greater Dream Congress could be expressed in precisely these same terms.
To put it differently: how do we reconcile old wisdom and new knowledge?
Here, in turn, and in the simplest language possible, is what some of the philosophers of Gondwana have to say on the subject:
Reason must be encouraged to admit that the patterns, pictures and stories collected by the imagination are not mere pointless fantasies but actually and practically contributes to shaping human individuals and societies. Animal societies, these philosophers point out (having in mind bees, ants, wolves and geese, for instance), are held together by genes and pheromones. We humans are no longer comprehensively commanded by these forces. We refer instead to the pictures and patterns of the imagination.
The stories that the image-making faculty weaves shouldn’t be expected to be scientifically true because they aren’t actually meant to describe the physical world – although they try to stick to the generally received opinions of the day.
They have always been, however, and to this day remain dedicated to the description of a collective imagined world, and thanks to this they endlessly weave the guiding patterns of purpose into human societies. These allow each individual to form an idea of what men and women actually are, why they are born, why they have children and why they die.
Such patterns, our philosophers add, have always been the constellations of our inner life that guide and comfort us. Without them, our world is starless and distress sets in. We no longer properly exist as individuals and our societies are stripped of their indispensable cohesion. This was quite recently the case in Gondwana, too.
All the societies that have survived to this day have successfully mended their founding patterns as they shifted through the ages, but the present, unprecedented, world-encompassing sun storm has made this task particularly difficult – almost impossible, it would seem.
In Gondwana, however, as the device of the country proclaims: “the possible holds the real on a leash – the opposite would be unacceptable.”
Readers are invited to send in relevant comments or questions for consideration by the Center for Post-Apocalyptic Studies. I shall pass them on and we’ll see what comes of it.
An association, Friends of the Greater Dream, has been set up to relay the Greater Dream Project in the northern and southern hemispheres. Those who are interested may write to:

Wednesday, 23 January 2008


I'm delighted to announce that Michael Francis Gibson,
recently appointed Ambassador of Gondwana in Paris and
author of the Scholarly Introduction to
The Riddle of the Seal
(the first volume of Miguel Errazu's trilogy Chronicles of the Greater Dream)
will be reading passages of Miguel's book at the Paris bookshop,
Shakespeare & Co, 37 rue de la Bucherie Paris 75005
Phone 01 43 25 40 93
on Monday 28 January, 2008 at 7 PM.

Sunday, 6 January 2008


Published with the kind permission of Guy Dotremont

Christian Dotremont moved to Gondwana because the climate there appeared to be good for his health.

He'd been detained in a clinic for some time after having been found unconscious in the streets of Brussels.

When he regained consciousness the following morning, the chief physician was standing at his bedside, respectfully attended by his interns.

"Do we speak French?" the physician inquired.

Christian thew him a penetrating glance through his still-heavy lids:

"Have we studied medicine?" he retorted.

He and a fellow patient later made good their escape, leaving a note for the hospital staff:

"You'll never get us alive."

Before departing for Gondwana, Dotremont sent the love of his life, Gloria, an "anti-suicide note":

"Sweetheart, by the time you read this, I shall be... alive."

In Gondwana, Christian found his calling as a wandering epigrapher. He recorded and published a number of highly significant inscriptions he had found in various parts of the country.

Among these was the inscription found above the Tower of Night in Eburnea:

“To Night, without whom all things would only be what they display.”

And above all the device engraved on the royal seal known as the Diard-en-Dnaid:

"The possible holds the real on a leash. The opposite would be intollerable."

Some commentators argue that the "possible" referred to here is in fact the human imagination. Others hold that it designates the as yet unfulfilled potentional of the world process. There may not be any actual contradiction here.

Christian is also the author of a series of aphoristic poems written on paper or inscribed in the snow:

"Fate is at the door.
There is no door.
There is no fate."

Above all, he is the author of courtly love poems to Gloria:

"Today, I'm writing to Gloria.
That's my job.
I'm a writer-to-Gloria.
I do this to seduce her.
I work eight hours a day
Writing to Gloria:
First, the rough draft,
Then the clean copy.
That's my strategy.
But sometimes I also take time out.
Sometimes even a year
So she misses my letters."