Getting Virginia Woolf’s Goat
This transcript of a talk given by Ali Smith at the National Portrait Gallery in London on 23 October 2014 is published here for the first time. A recording of the talk may be heard at
‘Well it is five minutes to ten: but where am I, writing with pen & ink? Not in my studio.’ No, unusually, in this diary entry from May 1932, Woolf is miles from home and miles from England, a foreigner on holiday in Greece, sitting in a dip of land ‘at Delphi, under an olive tree […] on dry earth covered with white daisies’. Leonard is next to her. His holiday reading is a Greek grammar. She sees a butterfly go past. ‘I think, a swallow tail.’ It’s all part of the desire to catalogue where we are. She describes simply for her diary what’s around her: the bushes and rocks and trees, the ‘huge bald gray & black mountain’, the earth, the flies, the flowers, the sound of goat bells....
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