Exploring historical intimacy with Adrian

I’ve been fortunate to have experienced instances of deeply personal historical intimacy on several occasions.

An instance is the recurring sensation I have when reading Gilles Deluze and Felix Guattari’s Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature. The trigger isn’t the authors or the subject matter. I’ve tried reading it a couple of times and readily admit that I understand very little of it. That the book was once owned by Adrian Miles – the genuine, kind and terrifyingly brilliant person who guided me into, and through, the early stages of this PhD project – is what affects me.

Adrian unexpectedly passed away in early 2018. Several months after that tragedy, each of his PhD students was invited to take a book from his office. I selected the Deluze & Guattari book because of its colour and the makeshift bookmark it contained. The striking peach cover and that torn-off strip of pink woven paper covered in red pokerdots offered an appropriate physical reminder of Adrian’s wit, humour and odd fashion sense. I also later discovered that the pages of the book were filled with delicate annotations, made with pencil and occasionally pen, denoting passages that had caught Adrian’s eye.

Adrian’s interest in my project resulted from his familiarity with the Bunurong Coast. At our initial meeting, before my commencement, he told me that a friend of his once owned a shack at Harmer’s Haven and that he’d spent an entire summer there, helping fix it up. I knew the house from his description and I sometimes walk there with Adrian’s book. I usually find a spot in the adjacent dunes and flick through the pages. I read a passage or two that he noted and examine the bookmark that was left between pages 68 and 69 (which is aptly the middle of a chapter titled ‘The Connectors’).

I think back to Adrian’s advice for the project while examining some tangible marks he left behind – those pencil etchings and the paper he once tore. The colour has started to fade from the paper bookmark just as my project has evolved significantly from where it was when he passed away but his influence – including the emphasis on intimacy, affect and place – still remains strong.