Lud Heat is a 1975 book by Iain Sinclair, a work I encountered thirty-three years ago and with which I have never quite come to grips.
The format is unusual and episodic but it is essentially a psycho-geographic exploration—and I say “exploration” because explorers don’t always know what they’re going to find—of the spatial relationship between and among the churches of English Baroque architect Nicholas Hawksmoor. For me, as a fanatic of anything “Hawksmoor”, its most notable spawn has been Peter Ackroyd’s historical novel Hawksmoor, which I also highly recommend for some dark and stormy night when you’re unable to sleep—or you don’t want to. It won’t help, but you’ll thank me, I think.
“Lud” is a curious word, with biblical intimations— “And Lud languished in the belly of the sturgeon” —as well as with English slang. One might imagine it having a connection with Luddites—much on my mind these days for obvious reasons—but that rebellious retrograde movement is named for Ned Ludd, though the temptation to connect them is strong. Sinclair’s Land of Lud consists of the eastern or Tower Hamlets, an economically disadvantaged set of inner boroughs (formerly Stepney, Poplar, and Bethnal Green) merged in 1965. Many of you will know it from the BBC series “EastEnders”. The contention is that Hawksmoor’s churches form a psycho-geographic pattern rich with arcane and forgotten meaning. the term itself was coined in 1955 by Guy Debord to focus “on our psychological experiences of the city, and reveals or illuminates forgotten, discarded, or marginalised aspects of the urban environment.” Iain Sinclair accomplishes this in a more or less poetic framework, though “poetry” as you may not recognize it.
If there is anything psycho-geographic going on here, someone else will have to discern it.
And somewhere in the house I have an original copy of Sinclair’s book, which is apparently worth a bloody fortune!