sunday best #13: The Poetics of Space

The Poetics of Space
Gaston Bachelard
First published in 1958

Sophie Nicholls says:

In my dream, I’m climbing the stairs in Francine’s house. These are polished wooden stairs, made of open struts, and my feet in their white socks are slipping and slithering. I’ve taken my shoes off because this is what you do when you go to other people’s houses.

At one point, my feet skid from under me and I bump backwards a step or two, banging my shins. My heart jumps in my throat. I can see strips of hallway carpet between each gap and I think for a moment that I’m falling right through… 

Again and again, I’ve climbed these stairs in my dreams. Years later, I find myself returning to this dream house where my friend once lived.

When I first read The Poetics of Space, I began to understand more about the ways in which my early experiences of houses – from cellar to attic,  up and down staircases, into corners and hiding places  – have shaped my experience of the world and my innermost thoughts, memories and dreams.

Written by a French philosopher in 1958, this wonderful book looks at the house as a ‘psychic state’ and at our projections of ourselves onto the objects around us – nests, shells, windows, the insides of wardrobes and drawers. 

It makes sense for me of the way that I inhabit space – not just the space immediately around me but also the spaces inside me and the spaces I visit when I’m asleep.

“The house is one of the greatest powers of integration for the thoughts, memories, dreams of mankind… Without it, man would be a dispersed being.” (pp6-8)

It’s a beautifully eccentric book, the kind of book that might not get published today. Perfect for slow savouring on Sunday afternoons.

Sophie Nicholls
“The Poetics of Space” is recommended by Sophie Nicholls (see also her six things).
  • First published: 1958
  • Current availability: Available via Amazon UK

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