This seems to be the year for essays. The word ‘essay’ goes back to the 15th-century verb which was used in the sense of ‘test the quality of something’. That verb, in turn, was borrowed from Old French ‘essay, essai’, from Latin ‘exagium’ (weighing, testing, ascertaining).
Although I tend to express myself easiest through fiction, it seems as though the past two (strange) years needed a different sort of processing. The in-depth discussion and rumination of personal essays allowed for a more thorough engagement with everything that was brought to light during the most stressful moments of the lockdowns. It allowed me to weigh the consequences of the recent events, perhaps.
In The Art of Moderation, which was supposed to be about food and our preoccupation with it, I couldn’t avoid addressing sourdough baking during the lockdowns, depression, the new sort of writer’s block that I experienced and my appreciation for silence.
Small Steps is less directly linked to the pandemic, except insofar as the lifting of the anti-corona measures allowed us to make the first small steps after a very long time. The essay looks back at a much older trauma I experienced while mountain trekking in my teens and its consequences.
We would need to write and read many more essays to better understand the kind of world we live in at the moment. Yet when I watch the news, I feel/fear there are no words to explain certain things. They are simply incomprehensible. And that worries me.