The Absence of the Author

27 Dec



In the months that have passed since my last post to you, I think we all knew the regularity of my posts could decrease somewhat. But I never expected it to decrease so much.

Ofcourse I have plans to change that. University life caught up with me. My courses are demanding, so I demand to give my private time the equal amount of dedication and energy as I do my courses.

I founded an acrobatics group within the Juggling Society at uni, and after a few months of teaching, we now have a firm group of amazing people who show up every single week, play the games I suggest enthusiastically, push their bodies beyond what they thought was possible for them, and are gaining strength and flexibility. So much that they have begun demanding acrobatics lessons twice a week… and I am only too happy to oblige!

I give my acrobatics lessons all my energy

I give my acrobatics lessons all my energy



taking credit

taking credit

Then I traveled to Martinique for 10 days, because one of my oldest friends from Nigeria, who lives on Martinique, was getting married. Martinique was astounding, beautiful, and steeped in literature. I discovered Aimé Césaire, a Martinique poet whose words can be found on panels all around the island.

2013-11-23 14.18.07

an impression of Martinique

The first poem I ever read by Aimé Césaire was a poem that hung from the ceiling at the airport. I spotted it while I was waiting for my luggage, and it has been haunting me ever since. Ayllu, this is where you either get out Google Translate or ignite your passion for French because I cannot translate beauty. I can only recount it.

2013-11-25 13.22.16

J’habite une blessure sacrée

J’habite des ancêtres imaginaires

J’habite un vouloir obscur

J’habite un long silence

J’habite une soif irrémédiable

J’habite un voyage de mille ans

(extract from Moi, Laminaire)

2013-11-25 16.48.04

During my first days on Martinique, I kept asking myself: What have I done to deserve such beauty around me? Is this beautiful, bountiful planet really just for our taking, for our pleasure? Of course we must assume responsibility for it – that goes without saying. But – really, so much beauty, just like that? 

Then why do we choose to live elsewhere – when paradise is right here, on a little island in the Caribbean? Forget colder climates, forget stronger economies. When you have this . . . 

2013-11-25 17.18.35

. . . Why are we elsewhere? 

Is there a subconscious pact among us that we feel we don’t deserve to live in paradise? Is this a very Christian thought?

As I sat on Banane Beach, I scribbled furiously in my notebook: Will I somehow have to pay for this one day? And why do I even think like this??!

Because it’s just so goddamn beautiful.

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Not even places that have been overloaded with humans could lose their beauty to that.

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Not even a tiny bit.

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Well, okay, maybe just a bit…

But then who would have taken this picture!!! . . .

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. . . Followed by the obligatory selfie that says: hell yea I took this picture.

vanity strikes hard

(I am only human)

It didn’t take long to acknowledge that these questions of “do I deserve this beauty” and “will I somehow have to pay for the pleasure of this beauty” were that, yes, I felt undeserving of so much paradise. I was humbled. Every day was an exhibition of beauty. What a miracle to be living on such a spectacular planet, just there for the taking, for the breathing and living. Just there. 

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And after 10 days, I was equally happy to be back in Scotland because this is my life. And, during my Literature in a World Context classes, was (ironically) encouraged to ask myself what is left of a text when the author is absent. Ironic, because it echoes my absence from my blog. What happened while I was away? What did you get up to? Did you re-visit the blog, re-read old posts? Did you wonder about Qayqa? Did you travel, make love, get annoyed, read books, take naps in odd places, get someone pregnant?

The Literature in a World Context classes fry my brain. Our tutor is very good: ridiculously knowledgable, charismatic… and frighteningly knowledgable. We all leave the tutorials feeling stupid. We don’t understand everything he says. We’re over-enthusiastic when we understand anything. 

how we feel at university

how we feel at university

We are being trained to consider the author’s motivation in writing a certain text; and how, in his absence, he cannot defend himself. The text could be an attempt to redress a wrong – so how efficient is it in redressing when he is away? 

In the tutorials it became obvious: a text is a good piece of writing if it will withstand the absence of the author.

This, of course, begs the question: Can Qayqa withstand my absence? 

from the exquisite Ti Son Son restaurant in Saint-Luce, Martinique

from the exquisite Ti Son Son restaurant in Saint-Luce, Martinique

Before I moved to Scotland, I gave a series of “last readings” in Ulm as part of the Kulturnacht 2013 in the book shop Eichhorn. Manfred Eichhorn, owner of the book shop, friend and writer, was kind enough to read my manuscript of Qayqa. He attended the readings and afterwards sat me down with some tea and we spoke about my book.

His primary concern was the absence of the writer. (His secondary concern was that Damian should be female. This suggestion almost gave Mark a heart attack.)

“How strong is Qayqa without you?” he began. “When you read it, yes, I am there with you. I close my eyes and I feel the world you have created. But when you’re not around, what will motivate your readers to continue turning the pages?” He paused – but he had promised me to direct. “I fear there may occasionally not be enough to keep them turning pages.”

This, people, is fantastic feedback.

I just finished reading The Hunger Games trilogy. (Literally: just. I was too hyper to go to sleep so I settled into bed with my computer) I was slightly disappointed with the end (J.K Rowling has ruined ends for me) but The Hunger Games is a page-turner. I practically inhaled those books: I finished the 2nd and 3rd books in 5 days. I recommend it. I’m going to see the film tomorrow.

The Hunger Games is powerful in the absence of the author.

Is Qayqa?

Can she . . .

power of books

Take you  hostage .  . .


Transport you . . .

become someone else 4

Like she did to me?

There’s one way to find out. (And this is also a way to re-active my blogging duties during university hours)

Dear ayllu, once again I need your help. Are we still a community? I believe we are. You showed it to me over & over again, and I would be terrible to even doubt it. I need your help again. No: I would be honoured to have your advice. 

Originally I planned to publish a bit of Qayqa as a Christmas present of sorts, from me to you. I’m taking it a step further.

In order to find out if Qayqa withstands the absence of the author, I will, over the upcoming weeks, publish extracts of Qayqa for your reading pleasure. I won’t read the extracts out to you, obviously, as it defeats the purpose.

What I ask from you is your honest feedback and your valuable advice: Was it boring? How did you feel while you were reading it? Did it make any sense at all? What questions arose? What bothered you? What delighted you? What made you itch for more? 

And did you wish I was reading it to you instead . . . ?

As always, write me in the comments, email me at, tweet me @rittisoncco

Good idea? Bad idea?


Another sleepless night blogging. I’m in Perú, on my parents’ sofa in Lima. Outside the window is a sunrise-tainted fog. I can hear the ocean; I cannot see it. All I can see is a monotone the vague colour of an approaching sunrise. A wall of vague. Goodnight. It’s brilliant to be writing to you again.


3 Responses to “The Absence of the Author”

  1. Joshua Brown December 28, 2013 at 7:05 pm #

    This is amazing, I love reading your blog riti and look forward to your extracts and hopefully the book! x

    • rittisoncco December 29, 2013 at 8:15 pm #

      Thank you so much Josh! I’m delighted to find you here. You’ll definitely get to hear a reading when I’m back. I think I have to start giving some in Aberdeen! *nervous*

  2. martamicheletti January 4, 2014 at 10:58 pm #

    …Yep, I’m waiting for those extracts too! 🙂

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