Tag Archives: The Rings of Saturn

01. Orbis Tertius | 4. Cold wind, tide moves in | a. The ferocity of tides ii.

ii. Hidden in the colophon of my copy of The Rings of Saturn is this quote from Brokhaus Encyclopedia:

The rings of Saturn consist of ice crystals and probably meteorite particles describing circular orbits around the planet’s equator. In all likelihood these are fragments of a former moon that was too close to the planet and was destroyed by its tidal effect (→ Roche limit).

CIRCLE 2: Making this work, I felt a certain reluctance to return again and again to ‘The Rings of Saturn’ for it is well trodden territory by now. But many years ago, when I first encountered the book, it proved remarkably formative and a need — an honesty of sorts — to signpost its location (indeed, multiple locations) on this map superseded any faux embarrassment. There are reasons for the formation of desire lines.

01. Orbis Tertius | 1. I hear a new world | d. Dog days are over iii.

iii. Encountering his friend Janine Dakyns, a scholar of Flaubert, surrounded by books and papers, WGS is reminded of the angel in Dürer’s Melencolia I, “steadfast among the instruments of destruction…”.¹ In the engraving the afflicted angel, gloomy as a mountain, sits amid an array of tools and implements such as might be used by architects (for whom, incidentally, Saint Thomas is patron saint) and cartographers. In a fleeting moment of inspiration she seems to have picked up a pair of compasses — perhaps with the intention of drafting a world — but the inertia has since set in and it is all she can do to stare broodingly out to sea. One might imagine the blank globe at her feet to be a part of the project — maybe it is the same globe Dürer had Fortuna switch for her usual wheel in Nemesis (the Great Fortune).


¹ WG Sebald, The Rings of Saturn, 1995.

01. Orbis Tertius | 1. I hear a new world | d. Dog days are over i.

i. Orbiting a planet of his own imaginings in East Anglia, WGS recalls Browne’s observation that there is no antidote against the opium of time.

And since the heaviest stone that melancholy can throw at a man is to tell him he is at the end of his nature, Browne scrutinizes that which escaped annihilation for any sign of the mysterious capacity for transmigration he has so often observed in caterpillars and moths.¹

¹ WG Sebald, The Rings of Saturn, 1995.

CIRCLE 2: When Jeremy and I first moved to London from California seven years ago, we were always broke and the city seemed to be to blame. We’re still always broke but we don’t begrudge the city’s thirst for our resources quite so much anymore. We’re thirsty a lot ourselves. Jeremy wrote a blog entry called dog days are over.


Back then the phrase was emblazoned on exterior of the Hayward Gallery, a sculpture by Ugo Rondinone. That’s what it looks like — a rainbow on concrete — and at around the same time Florence and the Machine had that song, so it sounds a bit like that. Florence Welch would apparently pass the Hayward daily, so there is a line of influence here. I’d like to imagine that in turn Rondinone was inspired by the opening line of The Rings of Saturn (“In August 1992, when the dog days were drawing to an end, I set off to walk the county of Suffolk, in the hope of dispelling the emptiness that takes hold of me whenever I have completed a long stint of work.”), but there’s nothing to indicate that was the case.

‘Dog days are over’ has stuck with me: ironic, optimistic, melancholic; a sweet, sad comfort.