The Black Sun from Splendor Solis (1582) “attributed to the legendary figure Salomon Trismosin”.
Topic B predominates this week. The Black Sun of alchemy was the first thing I thought of when the title of David Bowie’s final album was announced late last year. The Black Sun symbolises the nigredo stage of the alchemical process when putrefaction or decomposition takes place; Carl Jung in Psychology and Alchemy equates the nigredo with the dark night of the soul. At the time I didn’t seriously think that the Bowie of 2015 would have had this in mind as a primary reference even though the Bowie of the early 1970s was immersed in Golden Dawn occultism, the Kabbalah, and a reader of Pauwels & Bergier’s The Morning of the Magicians, a book that informs the lyrics of the Hunky Dory album, and which contains a great deal of discussion about alchemy and other esoteric matters. And yet… Of all the outfits that Bowie might have worn in his final video the one that he chose for Lazarus is a match for the one he wore during the Station To Station Kabbalah-drawing photo session. At Sol Ascendans Alex Sumner and his commenters explored this twilight zone.
Back in the sublunary world, Jonathan Barnbrook’s cut-out sleeve design for the Blackstar album gained additional resonance this week: the black star as the hole that’s left when a more familiar star has been removed from its setting. Hindsight also makes poignant the observation that this was the only album without a picture of the artist on the cover. Elsewhere there were speculations about the title being a reference to Black Star by Elvis Presley (who shared a birthday with Bowie) or a term from oncology, two suggestions that fit so well they’re hard to ignore.
He began to develop a science fiction sensibility, drawing on the New Wave SF movement of Michael Moorcock and JG Ballard, other writers who used the genre such as Anthony Burgess and William S Burroughs, and an older fantasy tradition found in HP Lovecraft and Edward Bulwer-Lytton (whose The Coming Race is name-checked in Oh! You Pretty Things, 1971).
Jake Arnott on David Bowie’s literary influences
• In something-else-also-happened-this-week news, 2016 may see the long-awaited release of Andrei Tarkovsky’s films on Region B Blu-ray. Fingers crossed.
• Cracking the codes of Leena Krohn: Peter Bebergal on the Finnish writer of strange stories.
• Anthems for the Moon: Jason Heller examines David Bowie’s connections to science fiction.
• From 2013: Jon Savage on Bowie’s first meeting with William Burroughs in 1974.
• David Bowie Doing Shit: a Tumblr