This is the room where Friedrich Nietzsche wrote many of his best works. It resides in a cabin in the Swiss mountains. In fact, it is the cabin, this was a one room job. Part of why I love this picture so much is that it domesticates and grounds one of the greatest minds and most self-aggrandising writers of modern Europe. I love the idea of this man rolling out of bed and pottering over to the table to put some coffee on, brushing his teeth, pottering back and fiddling with the coffee pot. I don’t imagine he was particularly competent at any of these tasks, he lived a life where he constantly had others doing this kind of thing, and now he was doing it all alone and almost certainly struggling. So he would do these menial tasks, badly, and then sit down and write about how he was the greatest mind in all of europe. The latest in a long line that included Mozart and Napoleon.
I find that funny. It makes me laugh. It also make me think about the strange nature of the writer and their environment. How the writer is formed and influenced by their environment. Here I like to draw a devision: between the chosen and the non-chosen. We all have an environment that we are of that we never chose. We were all born into some place and time in the world and are all formed by that. Some are formed completely and irrevocably by their un-chosen environment. Some obsess over it, some despise it, many escape it. Then there is the environments they escape to, for so many it seems to be peace and the countryside. These are the keys, this is what Nietzsche sort: solitude. Give the writer solitude, and they will give you work.
Above is Dylan Thomas’s boat house. It sits over the sea in a remote Welsh town called Laugharne. He wrote much of his poetry here, here amongst the silence and the sea breeze. When i was a younger man I didn’t seek solitude when it came to writing, I wanted to be part of the world, to be all connected and interacting. I felt I needed this to feel inspired, I was writing about the world so I should be part of it. This is how I felt. Yet now as an older man I do find my self wanting solitude. The past few years I’ve spent at least two months at lodges in the highlands of Scotland and also log cabins in scotland, I hide myself away and get to work. Go for walks when everything stops coming out. Much like Nietzsche used to wander through the alps, I wonder around the highlands. It is a lonely existence, but when you get a little older, you find theres more to reflect on, and you can be alone a little more, with a little less pain.
Above is the remote farmhouse on the Isle of Jura up in the Scottish Sea where George Orwell wrote 1984. He clearly liked the Scottish air as well. Well, you know what they say about great minds…