Crypto-Topographia: Stories of Secret Places by Christopher Middleton / ISBN 9781900564977 / 94-page paperback from Enitharmon Press (UK)
Christopher Middleton’s writing in Crypto-Topographia falls within the genre of ‘short prose’, which Middleton defines as ‘liminal, ludic and disruptive’. Many of the texts concern places, singly or clustered, which offer their own secret store of time: lived time, signs of presence, whispers or howls. Time is stretched back, folded or pretended, and can transform a group of trees into ‘the locus of a drama’ (‘A Close Shave With Sacrilege’). Sometimes place is supplanted by object: sliding carpets and material colour… Dispersed among variously ‘situated’ texts, history scintillates, not as a plan, but as an ensemble of glimpses. The epilogue records a strange episode of travel, ‘The Gaze of the Turkish Mona Lisa’, a masterly description of a Turkish lady, whom Middleton manages to depict, while refraining from looking at her.
Christopher Middleton is Professor of Germanic Languages and Literature at the University of Texas, Austin. He was born in Cornwall in 1926, and won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize for his first major book of poems, Torse 3 (1962), hailed by Alvarez as ‘a work of genuine distinction’. Writing in the tradition of European modernism, Middleton is an experimental poet. His latest collection of poems is The Word Pavilion (Carcanet, 2001), and he has published three previous books of short prose. He is a prolific translator from German, among other languages, and has received the Schlegel-Tieck Translation Prize.