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solitude

The Hafgufa

The Hafgufa is a giant fish or whale said in Old Norse writings to roam the seas.

In the Konungs Skuggsjá, a book of tactics and morality written by King Håkon Håkonsson for his young son, the king is loath to describe the creature—for no one, he says, will believe him without seeing it first with his own two eyes. As for him, he fears it, “for it is a massive fish, that looks more like an island than a living thing.”

Illustration by Chad Wys

The Partition

Mainly, she wanted to be left alone. She didn’t want a husband or a wife or a partner or a lover, she didn’t want a companion or a pet or friends, she didn’t want to be closer to her parents or siblings or relatives. She enjoyed her solitude, relished it. She had plenty to occupy herself—her work, her house and garden, her hobbies. She was not at all lonely. She was thoroughly happy, being alone.

This perplexed people.

Degrees of  Loneliness

“No man is an island, entire of itself.” So observed John Donne, memorably, in 1624, a year before bubonic plague beset London, killing some forty thousand people. No man is an island—unless isolated, a cognate word whose currency manifests in the term self-isolation, the act of removing oneself from public life until, in this instance, the current plague, a virulent strain of coronavirus, has lifted.

Lisa Golightly, <em>Flood Line 333</em>, 2015.

Lines of  Sight

The town of Dunwich, once a thriving medieval port on England’s Suffolk Coast, has for centuries been crumbling into the sea. All that now remains of the old structures is a small collection of hilltop ruins, flanked by a nineteenth-century church and a handful of newer homes built far from the water’s edge. Served by a single pub and a few guesthouses, the local economy has long catered principally to visitors, many of whom are part of a long line of artists and poets who have been drawn here since the Victorian age to contemplate the town’s picturesque decay. 

Illustration by Julien Pacaud

Long Way Home

The Circumnavigations of Henk De Velde

When I first wrote the Dutchman, ten years ago, he was sailing around the world alone for the sixth and final time. His plan, he said, was to keep on sailing, continuing this last circumnavigation until the day he died, or until he found some unknown place “behind the horizon.” At the time, Henk De Velde was somewhere in the Atlantic, slightly closer to South America than any other continent, but not very close to anywhere at all.