A short post just because I want to note something that came to mind today while gatecrashing a wonderful workshop led by Amber Regis on the ‘everyday’ for Storying Sheffield. As Amber talked about how Henri Lefebvre claimed that, despite only leaving a ‘scanty residue’, everyday life should be considered a ‘complex totality’, I was reminded – as I all too often am – of Frank Forster’s diaries. (You can read more about Forster’s diaries in this earlier blog post and by following the link to a longer article from this page.)
It was reading Forster’s diaries, I think, that convinced me that even the most momentous historical events have to be considered as part of what Virginia Woolf called ‘the cotton wool of daily life’. A very short entry from 1939 (Forster was experimenting with brevity; it did not last) is a stark and poetic illustration of this:
Belgrave Avenue Thurs 16.3.39
Another rough day
Still at Sealand
Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia
In his diary, Forster brings together the seemingly mundane and the momentous, and ponders the relationship between them. This was no accident, but something that he was clearly aware of and that motivated his writing. Indeed, in an earlier entry Forster writes about this relationship more clearly than any theorist on everyday life I’ve ever read, so I shall give him the last word (by the ‘study of thinking’ Forster is referring to his recent interest in the Marxist philosophy of dialectical materialism):
(Wednesday October 9, 1935) Although outwardly and indeed to a greater degree there does not seem to be any change in me since I have begun in the study of thinking, I feel, in myself, greatly different from what I did previous to beginning to study … Because of this I feel much more confident, confident in at least knowing of a way of interpreting the greatly varied procession of phenomena which forms the activity of everyday life as well as being part of the activity of greater events.