Friday, November 16, 2007

Heart of Darkness

There is much talk of a map at the beginning of the opera. On a visit to the Firestone Library of the University, Julie Mellby the Graphic Arts curator guided me through an intriguing show of African cartography. And there, in the equatorial section, was the exact depiction of the Congo that Conrad must have been referring to 'like an immense snake uncoiled'. This was Stanley's map full of what Marlow calls 'places with farcical names where the merry dance of death and trade go on'. It will now become a fixture of the set, seen three times in varying sizes. One of the bonuses of curating an exhibition is that one can never know what particular exhibit will spark off an enthusiasm in someone wandering through, or what almost unasked question it might answer.

The highlight of my month in Princeton had, of course, to be my return match on the ping pong table of the astrophysics department between Herman, a genial giant who works in the mail room, and myself. I yielded my hitherto undefeated record to him on the last day of my stay in 2006. On the last day of this visit I won by three games to one. Eric Maskin, of whom I made a drawing last week, could not have been more delighted when he learned of his Nobel Prize.

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