for Karnak 1923 / from London 1942”: Approaching War in H. D.’s The Walls Do Not Fall

Nadine Attewell, McMaster University
Vol. 34, No. 2 (Fall 2015), 305-331

In 1923, H. D. traveled to Egypt, where she visited Tutankhamun’s tomb and made several tours of the Karnak site. Two decades later, with German bombs falling on London and confrontation looming at El Alamein, H. D. dedicated The Walls Do Not Fall (1944) “for Karnak 1923 / from London 1942,” a connection the poem develops by orchestrating an encounter between British towns and Egyptian tombs, both opened by ruin, and by invoking ancient Egyptian mythologies. This essay explores the poetics and politics of juxtaposition, reading H. D.’s juxtapositions geopolitically, as reflections on (or of) the political, spatial, and epistemological project(s) of war; the imperial networks that make war possible or necessary; and the vexed twentieth-century history of Anglo-Egyptian relations. In the violent aftermath of 9/11, the question of how best to represent the reach and complexity of post/modern war has exercised critics and artists alike. Tracing unexpected connections between words, times, and places, The Walls Do Not Fall shows how the (dis)associative spatial project of parataxis may illuminate and
even interrupt the spatial projects of war, empire, and globalization.

Mary Wollstonecraft Sojourner Truth Margaret Atwood Abigail Adams Amy Tan H.D. Simone de Beauvoir Zora Neale Hurston Frances Burney Virginia Woolf

"The white saxifrage with the indented leafe is moste commended for the breakinge of the Stone."

— Turner, Herbal, III, 68 [1568]