The Sense of a Beginning

We don’t hear so much about him anymore, but back in the day any postgraduate worth their salt would give a nod to Frank Kermode’s The Sense of an Ending when given a chance. Kermode’s main point was that “fictions of the end”, or apocalypses (such as 2012), are devices employed to give meaning and order to the chaotic nature of our regular experience. Since Google Street View UK was launched I’ve been more concerned with “fictions of the beginning”: where “it” (the writing) was born. Below is a Street View of my old place in Bristol: I had the ground floor flat and spent a LOT of time gazing out of those big windows while sat at my desk. I spent five years there in total: two as a student, and three researching for British & Foreign Bible Society. Of course, I wasn’t the only one thinking a lot in this small pocket of space/time: just to the left of me Alistair Fothergill was dreaming up amazing TV shows such as The Blue Planet and above me Derren Brown was learning how to be the world’s most cunning mentalist. This fiction of the beginning has a rather mythological tone, which means our Kermode-citing postgraduate would also dabble with a little of Roland Barthes’ Mythologies. But then Barthes reminds us that “the function of myth is to empty reality; it is, literally, a ceaseless flowing out, a haemorrhage, or perhaps an evaporation, in short a perceptible absence. … myth is depoliticised speech” … and we wouldn’t want to do that.