In 2001, I travelled to Brussels, for a long weekend. One night, as I travelled back to my hotel on the Metro, a man took the seat opposite me. He was mixed race, and balding, dressed in jeans and trainers, a T-shirt with an illegible decal underneath his cotton jacket. Our eyes had met as he stepped into the carriage, and he had held my gaze as though he recognised me from another place and time. Once he sat down, he leaned against the glass partition, and removed a thin pamphlet from his inner pocket. I caught the title on the cover: ‘Absence Club.’
Something about the title of that pamphlet stuck in my mind, long after I returned to London. Maybe it was the man, who had seemed to both recognise something in me, and offer a glimpse into a sinister undercurrent, a subculture. Maybe it was the book itself, which looked either self-published, or something with a small print run designed for particular enthusiasts. The kind of rogue publication which the internet has largely done away with, for better or worse. Look for any trace of ‘Absence Club’ now, and you won’t find it. The only reference on Google (down near the dregs) is to a story I wrote on the encounter, which drew on the sinister possibilities offered by the Absence Club.
This blog will be mainly about books and writing. Lost or overlooked books, or personal ways of looking at books which are more widely known. I picked the name to honour that man on the Brussels metro, and the way that story has come to sum up my writing. And I’ve always liked another interpretation of that title. Absence Club. What we’re all doing in mediums like this, whenever we glance at a smartphone, a computer or tablet. All of us together, none of us here.
Text © Daniel Bennett