I’m suffering from anemoia and I’ve got it bad and it’s getting worse as so many things seem to set it off these days.
Anemoia is defined as: ‘Nostalgia for a time you’ve never known’. It’s a relatively new word, invented by John Koenig of the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, a website where he posts new words to describe emotions for which we would ordinarily use an entire sentence. His site is a wonderful find and it has opened up a whole new world – albeit a slightly melancholy one.
My own anemoia is at its most virulent in Vienna where I do a lot of my thinking, reading and writing in the traditional coffee houses. I yearn for the fin-de-siècle days and to belong to the Kaffeehaus-Literati. I imagine walking into Café Central, greeting Arthur Schnitzler as he pens Paracelsus, chewing the fat with Karl Kraus, eavesdropping on the conversation of the great Austrian writers and hearing Sigmund Freud giving a spot of psychological advice to Stefan Zweig.
Paris is always a trigger for an anemoia flare-up. Oh to have been in the café when Meret Oppenheim, lunching with Dora Maar and Pablo Picasso, allegedly asked the waiter for “a little more fur” – and look what that led to? The joy of living in Montparnasse and being part of the Rive Gauche, sharing a Gauloise with Scott Fitgerald, or a glass of something with Ernest Hemingway … I had another minor Parisian outbreak recently in the National Portrait Gallery on seeing the painting of Zola that his friend (at least for a while) Cezanne painted, and they didn’t even live in Paris.
I’ve made a new friend through Nano, who is also an anemoia sufferer – hers is for an Italy of a bygone era. I was going through a particularly bad attack, when she reminded me about the Inklings, who used to meet at the Eagle and Child in Oxford. Can you imagine the eloquence of the gossip between J R Tolkein and C S Lewis?
So where do the twenty-first century creatives hang out? Is it all virtual? Anna (my NaNo friend) and I meet each week to talk about our writing projects. I’d like to say we’ve found a café or bar full of other writers and artists doing interesting things, but we meet in the café of the local Waitrose, just the two of us. Free parking, comfy sofas and – the only similarity to a Viennese coffee house – you can sit there for hours gassing away without someone telling you they need the table back. And as Anna said last time we met, maybe one day when we’re famous authors, Waitrose will erect a brass plaque in our honour; and maybe the kids of the future will have anemoia as they long for the days to meet in Waitrose