By ROZ DINEEN
There was a full house on Friday night in Tavistock Square for Siri Hustvedt in conversation with Dr Johanna Hartmann. Many in the crowd had spent the day attending events that focused on Hustvedt’s work, including panel discussions about trauma narratives, authorship and gender – all elements of a conference hosted by Birkbeck University as part of the Bloomsbury Festival.
Hustvedt began the evening by reading from a forthcoming collection of essays – in particular from a “200-page essay” called “The Delusions of Certainty”, which probes definitions of the mind. Hustvedt characteristically returns here to “first questions”: “is [the mind] different from the brain?”; “am I my mind?"; does the body think? (First questions are important, she later said; "most scholarly life asks the 347th question, which is propped up by the 346 before".) The essay followed the arguments of Descartes, Hobbes and Margaret Cavendish, among others, but the effect was entirely modern.