Cathedrals

Peter-Ackroyd-by-Eamonn-McCabe
Peter Ackroyd, photo by Eamonn McCabe

Buñuel often said that films should be like cathedrals. The authors’ names should be removed from the credits, leaving just a few anonymous reels, pure, free of any trace of their creator. Then we would watch them the way we enter a cathedral, not knowing the names of those who built it, or even the master builder.

(Jean-Claude Carrière. «The Secret Language of Film». Trans. Jeremy Leggatt. London: Faber and Faber, 1995. Page 176)

He (Peter Ackroyd) went on to say that, to him, writing was a craft, like that of a medieval stonemason, ‘whose personal signature is not required on the wall of the cathedral’.

(Andrew Anthony, «The Guardian», The Observer, Sunday 4 September 2005)

In the late 1970s in my Introduction to «The New Australian Poetry» I quoted Ackroyd, in his earlier incarnation as a literary critic:

… Peter Ackroyd has argued that the beginnings of modernism can be seen in England in the late seventeenth century, when a new language, stripped of Renaissance conceits and opacity, was focused through the lens of Reason to transparently reveal a world of simple, plain and continuous relationships. “Language is only the instrument of science,” wrote Johnson in the preface to the «English Dictionary», in 1773, “and words are but the signs of ideas: I wish, however, that the instrument might be less apt to decay, and that signs might be permanent, like the things which they denote.” Ackroyd calls this the “classical” phase of modernism, and claims that the dramatic proclamation of the modern in Europe in the late nineteenth century was a transformation, or revolution, of a larger shift in thought that had been developing for two hundred years. See Peter Ackroyd, «Notes for a New Culture» [London: Vision Press, 1976].