Paul Kingsnorth thought having access to his own patch of land would settle his very being, give him a sense of belonging, somewhere where he could be rooted for the first time. An opportunity came to acquire a smallholding in Ireland and, after a lot of thought, they grasped it. The family could begin a simpler life, growing their own food, homeschooling and become more in tune with the natural world. A place that they could call home and discover contentment for the first time in a very long time.
Except it didn’t work out that way. He didn’t feel settled, nor that he belonged or had become an integral part of the landscape. Most troubling of all was the fact that the skills he had relied on for decades, the art of conjuring words into sentences, which he would then mould into a cohesive body of work were deserting him and he was at a total loss at what to do. It began to affect his outlook on life and he was starting to move closer to the abyss.
His exploration of why this happened will take him back to the first alphabets and their connections to the things around us, how as our language evolved, the process of abstraction from the natural world came in stages until the letters we write with bear no resemblance to things any more. He considers the ‘European Mind’ and how the desire to quantify everything has also contributed to the breaking of the links between us and the places we inhabit.
I regret every word that I have ever written, and every word I will ever write.
And I stand by all of it.
However, this disconnection to things that have been important to him all his life, has given us this searingly honest account of the meanders through his thoughts and feelings. The chapters vary in length from a few intense words to longer more reflective pieces. It does feel like the passages have had minimal editing too as you read what was swirling around in his mind at that very moment. He wonders where the words that were so freely flowing have gone, and if they will ever return. As well as pondering if the modern world with its relentless all-consuming consumption has robbed us all of the connections that we now need more than ever. Compelling reading indeed.
Paul Cheney 5/4
Savage Gods by Paul Kingsnorth
Little Toller Books 9781908213723 hbk Jun 2019