I met Maurice on Friday evening. We were at the Wellcome Collection symposium on “What makes a Good Death?”, and sinking free drinks which were on offer after we had heard a literary talk about Death chaired by Prof Steven Connor. The professorial choice was mostly very polite and Anglo-dignified, but at the end (at last) there was a reading from Mallone Dies (Samuel Beckett):
“I shall soon be quite dead. I have that feeling… and I credit it. I shall be neutral and inert… almost lifeless.”
Back to Maurice. He was sitting by himself at a table so I asked if I could join him and we got talking. He told me his partner was an archivist (they both work within Manchester University). Maurice told me that his partner (the archivist) says we shouldn’t throw anything away, and that somebody will want our collections… when we are almost lifeless.
What Maurice’s partner (the archivist) said about collections gave me heart. For one thing, one day when I am almost lifeless I don’t want to be a trouble to the children, and my collection of notebooks and papers and scribblings could be a burden for them. They need to go somewhere; into the bonfire at the bottom of the garden perhaps, or somewhere. If Maurice’s partner (the archivist) wants them that would save my kids a bit of bother and worry.
Then there’s another thing: the Wordstall Collection – and the Rules of the Journey – and the queer hope that Maurice’s partner (the archivist) might also want to have these one day too. When we are both almost lifeless, and ready to switch off, or be switched off.
As I am writing… I am sitting under another quote from Malone Dies up on the wall of the Bike Shop (Exeter), waiting to get a ticket for Endgame tonight. It is fully booked but who knows I might get lucky – or not. It is Ok to be waiting:
“Decidedly it will never have been given to me to finish anything, except perhaps breathing. One must not be greedy”. Yes, we could use that principle for the Rules for the Journey too.
So did you listen to Will Self last 4th Feb on BBC Radio 3 Modernism Redux? It is a Podcast and you will be able to ‘catch up’ and listen to it for ever. That is the point of collections isn’t it? That they are there for ever. And it was also the idea which Will Self was exploring with the help of a BBC radio engineer: the creation of ‘remitter machine’ for the task of recovering of everything ever broadcast (everything since radio transmission began in the 20th century). You see – we are not alone in realising that not only will never finish anything, but also there will now never be time for us to re-enact everything either. We will never ‘catch up’ and… when we are almost lifeless, we will have been broadcast everywhere.