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March 06, 2009

Patricia de Martelaere

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The incredibly sad news has reached us today that Patricia de Martelaere has died.

Many readers of this blog may recall her presentation at Doors of Perception 7 on flow: "A philosophical tale about our time." Patricia was already a rising star of European philosophy at the time, but our eagerness to hear her speak at Doors was prompted especially by her book What Remains, in which she asks what we can and should sustain in a world of processes of perpetual change and becoming; and by her collection of essays, Wereldvreemdheid (Unworldliness).

Patricia studied philosophy at the University of Louvain where her doctoral thesis was on the scepticism of the Scottish philosopher David Hume. Since then, in addition to becoming a much-loved professor at the universities of Brussels and Louvain, Patricia also published two award-winning novels, and four collections of essays on philosophical, literary and psychological subjects; these works also received major prizes. She also made an impressive d├ębut as a poet, in the Belgian literary magazine De Gids; and in 2002 she published a poetry collection entitled Niets dat zegt (Nothing that says).

Her prodigious and original talent as a writer and philosopher is only one aspect of the loss we all feel today. Kristi and I were fortunate to know Patricia as a friend, and Patricia and her husband Tom were our guests here in Ganges several times. We have fond memories of her learning Chinese on the terrace in the sun, surrounded by books and papers - in between inspiring, but light and joyful, dinner conversations when ideas, and the inner life of dogs, competed for our attention.

She was only 51, and Patricia's own words are especially poignant today: "The universe is perpetual change. Things are ephemeral and ungraspable. We want to get hold of them, but they escape through our fingers like grains of sand or running water. Living reality seems to be utterly beyond our control. Reasons enough to cry".

Posted by John Thackara at March 6, 2009 06:24 PM

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