Extract from Nightwalking: A Nocturnal History of London by Matthew Beaumont
In the dead of night, in spite of the electric lights and the remnants of nightlife, London is an alien city, especially if you are strolling through its lanes and thoroughfares alone.
In the more sequestered streets, once the pubs are closed, and at a distance from the twenty-four-hour convenience stores, the sodium gleam of the street lamps, or the flickering strip-light from a soporific minicab stand, offers little consolation. There are alleys and street corners and shop entrances where the darkness appears to collect in a solid, faintly palpitating mass. There are secluded squares where, to appropriate a haunting line from a poem by Shelley, night makes ‘a weird sound of its own stillness’. There are buildings, monuments and statues that, at a distance, and in the absence of people, pulsate mysteriously in the sepulchral light. There are foxes that slope and trot across the road, in a single motion, as you interrupt their half-shameful, half-defiant attempts to pillage scraps from upended bins. And, from time to time, there are the faintly sinister silhouettes of other solitary, perhaps homeless, individuals – as threatened by your presence, no doubt, as you are by theirs. ‘However efficiently artificial light annihilates the difference between night and day’, Al Alvarez has commented, ‘it never wholly eliminates the primitive suspicion that night people are up to no good.’
This interview with Eric Hazan was conducted by Kévin Victoire for Le Comptoir. Translated by David Broder.
Le Comptoir: Opponents of the El Khomri bill [Labour Law] have been occupying Paris’s Place de la République for a week now [this interview was conducted on 7 April]. The movement has spread to a number of towns and cities. Is the insurrection finally coming?
Éric Hazan: I don’t think that this movement can result in anything resembling the insurrection, such as we’re thinking about. The goal seems to be that of forming a type of Podemos à la française — that is, anything but an insurrection. That said, there are a lot of different positions among the people there. But if you think an insurrection is being prepared in Place de la République, I’d have to tell you that’s not the case.
The French government's labour reforms will scrap the 35 hour week and strip workers of protection from arbitrary dismissal. Activists have been opposing the proposed changes since the start of March, in a series of huge protests across the nation. Frédéric Lordon, author of Willing Slaves of Capital: Spinoza and Marx on Desire, addressed yesterday's rally in the Place de la République at the largest protest so far.