Human Condition(s) — Forthcoming book

Some of you may remember that I received a wonderful offer back in 2019, in a world before corona. Before the world came to a halt, before culture became meaningless in the eyes of governments, before we were all stuck at home with nothing to do. Back in 2019, I rejoiced over the opportunity to write a book on Slow Cinema. I had always wanted to, but had given up on ever publishing something in book or article form via an official publisher. It’s always been difficult to get something published, which is this blog’s raison d’être. Without it, all my work would have never found an audience. Only in conversation with someone — be it directly, indirectly, virtual, over distance — can one improve one’s thinking process, one’s arguments. The Art(s) of Slow Cinema allowed me to perfect my work, albeit ‘perfect’ is very much to be taken with a pinch of salt here because my work is everything but perfect.

Everything else I have published was for free on websites, which felt like putting it into a void. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciated the opportunities and, besides, it was lovely to see my work in different languages as well. But it always felt impersonal. Also considering the difficulties for women in general to get something published in my field, I lost heart at even trying for a book. The opportunity in 2019 felt like a godsend. Sadly, the pandemic ruined it before I could finish it. I stopped writing when the first lockdown was imposed in France (March 2020). I couldn’t focus, I had no idea if I could ever work on this book again. Why? I was so excited to write it in the first place, so why did I feel that there was no longer a point in finishing it?

I realised that one reason was the difficulty of getting into Slow Cinema during the lockdown. It was, in fact, not only difficult. It was impossible. The films felt out of step somehow. With life being at a halt, watching a film which offered a (slow) pause from the usual life was not only unnecessary, but pointless. Life felt so slow, the last thing I wanted was a slow film.

The second and most dominant thought I had, though, was: “It’s over. Everything is over.” I agree that it sounds defeatist. It wasn’t quite this bad, though. It took me a few months to realise that my thoughts had nothing to do with defeatism. It was more a realisation that something has come to an end. Regardless of how this pandemic will pan out in the next months and (hopefully not!) years, regardless of whether things will change for better or worse, what we lived through in 2020 and what we are still traversing was/is the end of an era. One night I realised that the pandemic had finished my book. The way it had been written up to that point aimed at looking at the human condition(s) as represented in slow films since 1990. It dawned on me that what was needed was exactly what was keeping me from writing during the pandemic. It needed the pandemic, I needed this halt because it became the end point to my writing. The fact that I couldn’t write anymore was precisely because the period I had written about came to an end.

It took me only a couple of days at the end of 2020 to finish the book, which had been lying around for months. After the news that it wouldn’t be published after all because of corona, the book became a skeleton. Thanks to two wonderful people, who supported me with shamanic journeys and hypnosis sessions, I could put the finishing touches to the book and, as a result, I have taken the decision to walk the (in)famous path of publication alone.

As I slowly venture into learning book design, I feel like it’s the right time to give you some information about the book. Human Condition(s) — An aesthetic of cinematic slowness, 1990-2020 will be self-published. In many ways, this is consequential. If one looks at how the films are being made and how they are distributed, it often comes down to the self. Human Condition(s) also comes down to the self. It’ll be available in English and French.

A German version is planned, too. The book is a personal response to the films I have seen over the years. It is a collection of fragments and personal memories that arose from the films in question. It’s everything but an objective, theoretical, analytical and dry look at the surface of slow films. Just as I try to “go deep” on this blog, I aimed at going even deeper in the book. Each of the five content chapters looks at a specific trope of slow films, which deal with certain subjects: wounds, memories, solitude, alienation, loss, hopelessness, and more. Each of the chapters corresponds to memories of certain events in my life.

The personal note of the book was always intended because I want the reader to explore slow films in his/her own way. For me, academic publishing on Slow Cinema has always gotten it wrong. There is no one meaning, there is no one interpretation based on strict Western frameworks. No, Slow Cinema is a very personal form of cinema. For the directors and for the viewers. It is a cinema of feelings, of emotions, of memories, personal touches. It is human, and it’s doing an excellent job.

In paperback format, the book (it’s probably better to call it an essay) will amount to just over 200 pages, which is the ideal length for this kind of work. Not always felt it necessary to explain everything in detail. Sometimes, I merely wanted to nudge the reader.

Once I have the book design ready, I will put a pre-order form on my website. This should hopefully be around May. I need to finish some other pieces first before I can full concentrate on bringing this new baby of mine into the world. The book should be available for somewhere between 20€ and 25€ (based on a sale of at least 50 copies), including worldwide shipping. This excludes the UK right now, I believe, as import taxes have to be paid as a result of Brexit and I need to check how much extra it would cost. It’s a bummer, but it’s sadly not in my power to change anything about it.

I’m truly thrilled with the book/essay. Similar to my PhD about Lav Diaz, Human Condition(s) allowed me to evacuate certain things from my subconscious. This is what writing has turned into for me: therapy. Writing about slow films has become immensely therapeutic and has always helped me to deal with my anxiety and my depression. This book is no different. It’s another step in the right direction.

Financial profit in itself isn’t my main interest. However, the proceeds from this book will have a special meaning to me: every penny will go towards my training as a shaman, which I have planned for 2023 (next year being uncertain due to whatever corona has up its sleeve for the foreseeable future). Becoming a shaman is yet another step, which I take towards healing and my training will influence my reading of the films I’m seeing and writing about, just as my previous shamanic journeys with my shaman have done since around 2017.

I hope that the first glimpse of the book is reasonably interesting 🙂 I’m looking forward to presenting it to you in a few months’ time!

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Dear Publishers Memory Exercises — Paz Encina (2016)

6 Comments

I will purchase a copy as soon as it is available. Your writing on slow cinema has opened doors for me I never would have found on my own.

Wonderful news. Thank you for sharing. Looking forward to getting a copy.

Ace news! & v interesting to read about the effect of the pandemic on both your viewing habits & the book.

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