Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Can you hear me at the back

The auditorium was full, every seat sold, for Will Self in discussion on Montaigne on Thursday Jan 20 2011 with the literary ed of the Independent at the Institut Francais in South Kensington, London, England. The auditorium is state of... the art, v v expensively modernised recently. The two great men entered and sat down on red velvet Louis Quinze gilt armchairs on the platform. Breathless hush. Then the microphone thing started. I kid you not. There were two microphones on the little round table in front of them which were either not calibrated or just technically incapable of picking up the sounds coming out of the GM’s mouths. The gentille organisatrix in a pert little brown trouser suit tick-tacked up the steps to the platform and showed the literary ed that he must hold the clonking ice cream cone up right near to his mouth. But he couldn’t remember to do it. So every now and then as he held it too low, too far away, the videocam operator started forward, Will Self intervened – all the time I was thinking: this is the proverbial get together in a brewery, this is the great culture with which we are in agreements for our defence and they can’t even build a modern auditorium with a working sound system. In her introduction, the GO pointed out the French Cultural Attache who happened to be sitting directly behind me, so at the end I turned round and made congratulatory noises about the series (including Edmud de Waal on Proust which I have booked for) but what is he going to do about the sound system? I had a good idea for a provocative question too late:did Montaigne visit Alsace on his travels (the day before president Sarkozy had appeared to believe he was in Germany while visiting Alsace)

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