Cancellation of book relying on Elie Wiesel and Alfred Kazin

Anna Morvern Discussion

On 24 April 2023, I shared news of my upcoming publication (book) relying on Elie Wiesel and Alfred Kazin.

Unfortunately, publication on 28 May 2023 is no longer going ahead as legal issues have arisen preventing the publisher from publishing as is.

Whilst I consider my next steps, I would like to share with you the transcript of a short video that I made speaking about the writing process, which you may find of interest as it connects with Jewish thought.

Thank you for reading.

Anna Morvern  


So thank you for tuning in to this short video which is in lieu of a book launch event because, unfortunately, for the moment, my book isn’t being published on the 28th of May 2023. There are some issues that first need to be resolved.

So I decided instead just to take this opportunity to talk a little bit about my writing and the process of writing the book and to share a little bit of my experiences. So, perhaps you can see if I turn the camera around a little bit, I’m sitting on a ferry, crossing from Ireland to France, I’m on the W.B. Yeats and so you can probably hear the—the wind and the sea in the background—and I want to finish this short recording by reading a diary excerpt that I wrote on the 5th of August 1991, which was in the middle of a time of great difficulty for me and I talk in the book about being a child with child taken. I’m just going to read that short excerpt from my diary at the end of speaking now.

I wrote the book from my childhood diaries. [Displays notebooks to camera] So, for example, this is one of them. This is my diary from, I think, 1987, and this is another one of my diaries from around the same time. They’re full of my notes and my drawings, and they’re just a record, really, of my childhood thoughts and feelings. This is the one from 1991. As you can see it’s got, again, it’s got a few photographs inside. It’s got some pictures and some memorabilia. And it’s also got, y’know, plenty of writing as well. So that’s the process of writing that I’ve been using, to weave together the story from my childhood diaries which I began writing at the age of eight. Now, unfortunately, I can’t share too much of the content with you while the book is on hold, but, as I said, I wanted to just say something about—while I’m again sitting on a ferry, crossing…This time not from England to France but from Ireland to France. And there is a lot about repetition in my book. You know, the repetition, repetition, repetition, of the attempts to take away free will. But there’s also a lot about healing, about spiritual awakening.

And I think when you have had experience of mystical relationship, mystical vision, spiritual awakening, then, it can feel that, afterwards, we are returned to a very broken-hearted world. And I’ve particularly fixed my thoughts on people who have given me courage, and inspired me, in terms of trying to make space for the spiritual realities of ‘man’ within our very material world. And, particularly Stanley Kubrick, who, in his film, Eyes Wide Shut—there are two reasons, really, that I particularly focus on that, his final film. Firstly, because he has portrayed what I refer to as the ‘red king’, the ‘adversary’, the ‘hypnotist’, ‘the puppeteer’. And he also, he also has used such an intensity of symbolism in that film. And I look at how that is connected with a stage of mystical relationship, a kind of progression past trance into a very—ultra-symbolic level which we have to go past, almost, in order to see things from a different perspective, from a, from a more-overall viewpoint, really, where maybe all those distinctions between right and wrong are kind of—not so close; they are a much further distance from us. But then, after such amazing sharing of vision with God, or with mystical intelligence, I do believe that we are returned to act in this world, and that’s where our responsibilities lie, in this world of action and where we are now. And that, therefore, the discernment between right and wrong, and good and evil, is—it is our task.

And I look at what William Blake has said. Not just said, so beautifully in his poems, but also, painted. And he, of course, kind of opposed ‘Jerusalem’, the vision of beautiful Jerusalem with other realities, like the reality of Caesar’s crown, the poisonous Roman Caesar’s crown, and he took me to discover—after I wrote the book, the work of Leo Strauss, who wrote--. Political philosopher, Leo Strauss, who wrote the essay, ‘Jerusalem and Athens’, and ‘Jerusalem and Athens’ opposes the vision that Isaiah has in the Bible of a world of perfect peace, a world of no war, with the sort of Socratic ideal, a philosophical ideal of creating, you know, through human intelligence, the perfect state where there wouldn’t be war, but beyond the boundaries of that political entity, there could still be war, or there could be—there could be attacks from outside. Whereas Isaiah’s vision is much more complete. It’s of a world where we’re really walking in the paths of peace and there is no war. So, that, I think, is such a beautiful image, an inspiring vision, and one that I’m going to always try to keep in mind. And then, William Blake, of course, also had his vision of the tree full of angels, which I connected with the different—very different vision—of Freud’s famous ‘Wolf Man’ patient, who saw evil beasts in the holes. And both of those visions of the tree connect with the kabbalistic, what I’ve called the ‘healing map’, the kabbalistic map of the tree of life with the sefirot, the emanations, pathways within our spiritual reality. And even Jacques Lacan, the psychoanalyst, who’s not known as a religious figure, perhaps, I looked at what he said about spiritual guidance within the psychoanalytic relationship and how, and how keen he was on hearing about mystical experience, and, allying it with, y’know, something serious—an experience that was serious, like the experience of St John of the Cross.

So I’ve—after sending the book to the publishers, after I’d finished the manuscript, and I’d sent it off last year, I actually became paralysed in the left side of my body and I had intense pain. It’s pain that’s quite difficult to describe now in retrospect, but it was like a blackout, as if the switch to my life was going to be switched off, turned off, and I did fear that I would die. And I had, as I said, paralysis, I couldn’t use my left side. And, thankfully, I did definitely receive some divine intervention, after much prayer and much soul-searching and I also had the very great help of a Chinese acupuncturist who worked on my neck and a knot between the—literally between the heart and the mind. So I think that often, you know, when we’re speaking of these different realities and different experiences, they are operating on lots of difficult—lots of difficult, true, but different, too, levels, as well. Can be the physical, can be the symbolic, so thinking there about, you know, different voices emerging, so…

I really love the film, Morvern Callar, and I’ve done quite a lot of my writing about Morvern Callar. Um, and…That’s the novel by Alan Warner, or the brilliant film as well, film adaptation by Lynne Ramsay. And I, I love the use of song in the book and song that kind of keeps Morvern going. And song, to me, is where I want to go, really, because I think that, when we sing, it’s not so much that we’re the singer. We are, and we do become, the song. And if my book needs to be significantly reworked at this present time, it’s probably on that level as much as anything else. I believe it is ready, my story, to tell, but at the same time, whilst there are these issues that need to be resolved, that gives me time to work more towards being the song rather than the singer, which I think is really the mystical trajectory. But that doesn’t mean that we have lost ourselves or the details of our own struggles and of our own life. I strongly believe that that form of spiritual awakening doesn’t erase who we are as individuals, doesn’t take us out of this zone of responsibility and of conflict—which is the world that we live in. But nonetheless within that world we can sing.

Marguerite Duras, who is another beautiful person that I turn to in my writing, because she was able to speak about disregard and objectification, and the trauma of—where we don’t have words for trauma. You know she speaks about ‘hole-words’ (mots-trou), which, there’s no word for it, essentially, it’s not on the list of crimes in the statute book. It’s something—it’s something elusive when we try to speak about it, but it’s objectification of some kind, it’s being taken of some kind. And her work as well, she talks about song, particularly in her—in the film, ‘Le Camion’, where she tells the story of the child, Abraham. My child, any child, the child Abraham. She also talks about the woman singing then being silent then singing again. And then there’s Virginia Woolf, whose character, John, in her short story, Solid Objects, buries his hand down under the sand and finds a beautiful lump of green glass which could be associated with so many things…it could be Eden, it could be the lost part of the self. And he gives up politics, really, the character John, in order to look for broken fragments, to find the pieces.

And there are a lot of images of dismembering in my book, as there are, you know, throughout all kinds of occult writing, unfortunately—. You know, I’m talking about E.T.A. Hoffman’s story, The Sandman, and the horrors of that, and when I, when I keep speaking of the figure of the hypnotist, the red king, the puppeteer, the adversary, looking at The Sandman, the images of dismemberment there. Looking at different images of dismemberment in Morvern Callar where her dismembering of the suicided body of her boyfriend is actually, you know, an act of solidarity. And that really took me to think about the Levite’s concubine, and that story in the Bible. Because when I went through this process of going back for my inner children, and trying to find my buried voice, my hidden voice, I actually had to listen to the voices of many, many others. And, er--. So, yes, that brought me to the multiplicity of people who always appear in William Blake’s paintings. The many speakers, for example at the beginning of the beautiful kabbalistic work, The Zohar, which, to be honest, I can barely turn the pages of it because it is pure gold to me.

I’ve spoken in some of my writing of having to wear a five-petalled collar during the time of trauma and then I found, later on, the image in the Zohar, in the first few pages of the Zohar, of the five-petalled rose and how important that is. And how it connects with all these echoes, Shushan, the Eastern Gate, which, I believe we need to reopen, and that’s what I’m talking about also when I’m speaking about the neck and the link between heart and mind. That was what I was shown, really, that that Eastern Gate that is so symbolic of mercy and of justice, and is currently walled up in Jerusalem. Used to look out on Susan of Esther, Shusan of rose-lily, Susan perhaps even of figures like Mr Chouchani who I haven’t mentioned in my book but I discovered him afterwards. Who have carried the tradition of Abraham’s laws, without necessarily writing or without necessarily a formal, a formalised way of sharing but nonetheless in points of references that find their echoes and their repetitions and will drown out these repetitions, repetitions, repetitions of the attempts to take away free will.

So I’m going to finish just by reading a short piece of, um—of my earlier diary if I can just find the right page in the dark and in the wind. Oops, it is very windy at the moment. So, let’s see. And I hope then, maybe, later on, my work, you know, I hope that perhaps the work will be—will be published. There’ll be a way, I am sure, and the main thing for me is to walk in paths of peace and towards that vision that Isaiah had of a world of perfect peace where there is no longer any war. And I have great faith in that, that vision, and God has allowed me to see—you know,  in opening my eyes, God allowed me to see, not just terrible terror—not just, you know, as I said, in one place in my writing, if ‘God cannot close his eyes, then why should we?’. But not only terror, I also saw the treasuries of snow, and the amazing miracles, the snow falling in my garden, when I was most desperately praying the question ‘why?’ like Job. Snow falling in very greatly oversized stars of David, you know, unnatural shapes, really, for the snow to appear. So.

“We’re on the ferry! After packing, packing and more packing, we’re finally on our way to France. Felt very excited if a tiny bit apprehensive when we left Portsmouth, left England. We went out on the deck then, when the ship first started moving, a whole hour after we’d parked the car on the car deck. The lights from other boats reflected in the dark, interminably black waters, so that if you squinted, it was as if an eager artist had drawn a silhouette of the boats and receding land, and, seeing that this did not convey the excitement and animation, the painter had added daubed bright orange spots of paint. But the colour had run, topaz jewels falling into black-ink-black waters. We passed the Warrior—empty of tourists in the dusky dark—and the sad, metal, hanger-like grave for the rotted carcass of the Mary Rose. As we left the sparkling lights, and colour, of Portsmouth, we passed the old grey walls – illuminated but ghost-like, a surreal shade of grey between the blackness we were ploughing through, and the oranges and brilliant

reds again. Clarence pier and the whirling, dotted lights of the fair seemed strange without the sound of squealing children and the smell of candyfloss. No sound we heard but us ploughing through the ink-black waters, reaching out to the misty horizon and perhaps the sound of light, frothing waters trying to tickle this unticklable, solid boat. The water beneath us was fringed with white bubbles, against our side. The air was fresh, if not salty.”

Ok. So a lot of my writing has been this struggle to say ‘I, I, I’. And perhaps some would say I haven’t achieved it—I haven’t published the book, ultimately. But I think this is, this is a process of centuries and centuries of difficult work in order for a woman to say ‘I, I, I’.  And I spoke about the images of dismembering which are also reflective of dissociation, for me, and, you know, there’s one psychiatrist that I quote, and he talks about the—dissociation not being the shattered mirror but actually being the jigsaw puzzle that was never put together in the first place. And those images, I think, of pieces, of fragments, again, like Virginia Woolf’s story, of the importance of finding the pieces, of finding the lost voices and of listening, so that we can hear this ‘I, I,I’, which, in Virginia Woolf’s beautiful story is the cry of the stone that is chosen. Which, again, is a very kabbalistic vision of being chosen for life, you’re the one that’s here. And I think that’s so beautiful. And it adds so much poignancy to the tragedy of Virginia Woolf’s own suicide, when she used stones, she chose stones for her own death. And I’m sure that that could well be because of the times that she was living in, of war, when human, the value of human life had become—you know—fodder for, fodder for the military.

And, actually, I found that her echoed ‘I, I, I’, three times, is also in—also appears in The Star of Redemption, which was written by Franz Rosenzweig. And it’s again a text that I found after writing, after doing my writing work for the book. And Franz Rosenzweig too is talking about militarism, and he’s talking about the grand philosophical ideas of existence and of being that don’t really connect with our very real experience of being in a material way, here, where we are, but also with that human mind needing a spiritual-sized life which I think is also the truth of Stanley Kubrick’s work, that we need that spiritual size. We need the—we can’t just exist on a material level. So I found it very intriguing that the repeated ‘I, I, I’ in Virginia Woolf’s short story also appears in Rosenzweig’s tract, Star of Redemption, where he goes on, as well, to speak about objectification and loss of, loss of the self, really.

So in trying to find my voice and hearing many other voices I was often taken to song. And I’m going to finish just by singing, or humming, or whatever I feel like I can do in the dark here, on my own, in the dark in a ferry crossing from one country to another, and carrying with me, like the biblical Joseph, my international dreams of peace. So, here it is, okay, and thank you so much for listening to this.


© Anna Morvern