[The Fall, Camut, A]
Thursday, 24 June 2010
Your right: his silence is deafening. It's the silence of the primeval forest, heavy with menace. It surprises me at times, the obstinacy with which our uncommunicative friend insists on giving the cold shoulder to every civilised language. His work involves serving sailors of all nationalities in this bar - which for some reason or other, though we're in Amsterdam, he calls Mexico City. With a job like that, wouldn't you think his ignorance might be a burden to him? Imagine Cro-Magnon Man taking rooms in the Tower of Babel. He'd feel a little out of his element, to say the least. But no, this fellow doesn't feel like an exile, he just carries on regardless.
For a long time we walked on very quickly and in silence. Everything I might have said was checked beforehand by what I felt she was thinking; I dreaded to provoke some sentence which might set both our fates trembling in the balance. And as I thought of what Martins had said as to the possibility of her regaining her sight, a dreadful anxiety gripped me.
[La Symphonie Pastorale, Gide, A.]
The ensuing silence seemed indeterminable, as though the night had stopped dead. I wanted to run but couldn't move. I was trembling, I think, with cold and shock. I told myself I had to act quickly, nut I felt an irresistible weakness flood through my body. I forget what I thought at that moment. "Too late, too far away..." or something like that. I kept on listening, not moving. Then, slowly, I walked away through the rain. I reported the incident to no one.
[The Fall, Camut, A.]
No answer. Obviously not. In the silence worry took over again. Not about what had happened, nor about what might still happen later on tonight, but about tomorrow, after we had slept it off. No precedent to guide me in judging how one picked up the old threads again in the morning. Nothing behind us to refer to. This, to me, had seemed an advantage in the beginning. A clean slate on which to start, everything spanking new. It was up to us, exclusively, to make something out of it. But doubts flocking in now. Victor was a stranger to me, he did not think or feel as I did.
[Shadow Game, Power, M.]
Under a moonlit sky, its whitish walls and regular streets extended in straight lines, never broken by the black shape of a tree, never disturbed by the steps of a passer-by or the howl of a dog. The silent town was henceforth a heap of massive motionless cubes between which the mute statues of forgotten benefactors or former great men, stifled for ever in bronze, were left alone trying with their imitation faces in stone or iron to suggest a degraded image of what man used to be. These mediocre idols reigned beneath a heavy sky on lifeless crossroads, unfeeling brutes who evoked rather well, the state of immobility into which we had drifted - or at least its final state, that of a necropolis in which plague, stone and night would finally have silenced every voice.
[The Plague, Camut, A.]
"After all..." the doctor continued, hesitating again and looking closely at Tarrou. "And this is something that a man like yourself might understand; since the order of the world is governed by death, perhaps it is better for God that we should not believe in Him and struggle with all our strength against death, without raising our eyes to heaven and to His silence.
[The Plague, Camut, A.]
But the staccato sound of metallic heels on the asphalt, approaching steadily along the rectilinear street, ringing out more and more clearly in the dead calm of the frozen night, the sound of heels cannot reach this place, nor can any other noise from outside. The street is too long, the curtains too thick, the house too high. No noise, not even muffled, ever penetrates the walls of the room, no vibration, no breath of air, and in the silence minute particles float slowly down, hardly visible in the light from the lampshade, gently down, vertically, always at the same speed, and the fine grey dust settles in an even layer on the parquet floor, the counterpane, the furniture.
[In The Labyrinth, Robbe-Grillet, A.]
I piss on the fatherland.
The detective and I had the place to ourselves. Nevertheless he had chosen a bay one away from me. Nothing was coming out of him. I was finished myself and I listened to the silence. A minute passed, still nothing. The silence boomed with a sense of strain and i was bitterly amused with it all. I glanced sideways at the detective. There it was, a rigid profile, not quite baboonish, that shivered ever so slightly above that bull neck.
[Shadow Game, Power, M.]
Tonight, for the first time this winter, it is very cold. The dead cold grips the town in utter silence, like the silence of intense midday summer heat. In the cold the town seems actually to contract, to dwindle to a small black dot, scarcely larger than hundreds of other dots, isolated and hard to find, on the enormous European map.
[Goodbye To Berlin, Isherwood, C.]
I dip the pen into the inkwell, then watch the black shapes form as I move my hand slowly from left to right. I come to the edge and then return to the other side, and as the shapes thin out, I stop once more and dip the pen into the inkwell. So it goes as I work my way down the page, and each cluster of marks is a word, and each word is a sound in my head, and each time I write another word, I hear the sound of my own voice, even though my lips are silent.
[Travels in The Scriptorium, Auster, P.]
The old man sits on the edge of the narrow bed, palms spread out on his knees, head down, staring at the floor. He has no idea that a camera is planted in the ceiling directly above him. The shutter clicks silently once every second, producing eighty-six thousand four hundred still photos with each revolution of the earth. Even if he knew he was being watched, it wouldn't make any difference. His mind is elsewhere, stranded among the fragments in his head as he searches for an answer to the question that haunts him.
[Travels In The Scriptorium, Auster, P.]
Suddenly the melancholy of the writing of the No was reflected in one of the glass beads in the chandelier hanging from my study ceiling, and my own melancholy helped me to see reflected there the image of the last writer, with whom sooner or later, because it has to happen, without witnesses, the small mystery of literature will disappear. Naturally, whether they like it or not, this last writer will be a writer of the No. I thought I saw them just a few moments ago. Guided by the star of my own melancholy, I saw them listening to that word, the last of all, falling silent, dying along with them.
[Bartleby & Co., Vila-Matas, E.]
The stairs, for him, were, on each floor, a memory, an emotion, something ancient and impalpable, something palpitating somewhere in the guttering flame of his memory: a gesture, a noise, a flicker, a young woman singing operatic arias to her own piano accompaniment, the clumsy clickety-clack of a typewriter, the clinging smell of cresyl disinfectant, a noise of people, a shout, a hubbub, a rustling of silks and furs, a plaintive miaow behind a closed door, knocks on partition walls, hackneyed tangos on hissing gramophones, or, on the sixth floor right, the persistent droning hum of Gespard Winckler's jigsaw, to which, three floors lower, on the third floor left, there was now by way of a response only a continuing, and intolerable silence.
[Life: A User's Manual, Perec, G.]
It is a strange thing that all the memories have these two qualities. They are always full of quietness, that is the most striking thing about them; and even when things weren't like that in reality, they still seem to have that quality. They are soundless apparitions, which speak to me by looks and gestures, wordless and silent - and their silence is precisely what disturbs me, forces me to hold on to my sleeve or rifle so that I don't abandon myself to this seductive dissolution, in which my body would like to disperse itself and flow away towards the silent powers that lie behind all things.
[All Quiet On The Western Front, Remarque, E. M.]
I should have lifted an arm and taken her shoulder, turned her face and kissed her. It was that kind of day. It was why she'd come. Then everything would have been different. My life, hers. We would have had to speak and say aloud what both of us knew and then, maybe, turned from the window and lain down together on my makeshift bed. Afterwards, we would have gone away, maybe on the next train. My heart was racing. I was breathless. She leaned on me, waiting. And I did nothing and said nothing.
[A Month In The Country, Carr, J.L.]
The night that followed was not one of struggle but of silence. In his room, Rieux, now dressed, cut off from the world and standing over this dead body, felt the surprising calm that many nights ago he had felt on the rooftops above the plague, after the attack on the gates. Already at that time he had been thinking about the silence that rose from the beds where he had left men to die. It was always the same pause, the same solemn interval, the same lull that followed a battle, it was the silence of defeat. But in the case of the silence that enfolded his friend, it was so compact, and harmonized so closely with the silence of the streets and the town liberated from the plague, that Rieux really felt that this time it was the definitive defeat, the one that ends wars an makes of peace itself an irremediable suffering. The doctor did not know whether Tarrou in the end had found peace, but at this moment at least, he thought he knew that there would no longer be any peace possible for himself, any more than there is an armistice for the mother torn from her son or the man who buries his friend.
[The Plague, Camut, A.]
Joel plugged his ears; what Zoo said was ugly, he was sick-sorry she'd ever come back, she ought to be punished. "Stop that, Zoo," he said, "I won't listen, I won't..." but Zoo's lips quivered, her eyes blindly twisted towards the inner vision, and in the roar of silence she was a pantomime: the joy of Jesus demented her face and glittered like sweat, like a preacher her finger shook the air, agonies of joy jerked at her breast, her lips bared for a low-down shout, in sucked her guts, wide swung her arms embracing the eternal: she was a cross, she was crucified. He saw without hearing and it was more terrible for that, and after she'd gone, docilely taking the broth bowl with her, he kept his fingers in his ears till the ringing grew so loud it deafened even the memory of sound.
[Other Voices, Other Rooms, Capote, T.]
Saturday, 19 June 2010
Twenty infant beds and five incubators that recalled electric organs. The incubator babies appeared only as blurred shapes, as though mist enshrouded them. But the babies in the beds were too naked and exposed. The poison of the glaring light had withered all of them; they were like a herd of the world's most docile cattle. Some were moving their arms and legs slightly, but even on these the diapers and white cotton nightshirts looked as heavy as lead diving suits. They gave the impression, all of them, of shackled people. There were a few whose wrists were even secured to the bed (what if it was to prevent them from scratching their own tender skins) or whose ankles were lashed down with strips of gauze (what if it was to protect the wounds made during a blood transfusion) and these infants were the more like wee, feeble prisoners. The babies silence was uniform. Was the plate glass shutting out their voices? No, like doleful turtles with no appetite, they all had their mouths closed.
[A Personal Matter, Oe, K.]
"I'm the father," he said hoarsely, wondering why they were sitting in a darkened room. Then he noticed his mother-in-law, her face half-buried in her kimono sleeve as though she were trying not to vomit. Bird sat down in the chair next to her and felt his clothes stick fast to his back and rear. He shivered, not violently as in the driveway, but with the helplessness of a weakened chick. His eyes were adjusting to the darkness in the room: now he discovered a tribunal of three doctors watching in careful silence as he settled himself in the chair. Like the national flag in a courtroom, the coloured anatomy chart on the wall behind them was a banner symbolic of their private law.
[A Personal Matter, Oe, K.]
Liesl never spoke or called to me. As the hole grew smaller she dropped from her knees and crawled on her belly, and there was nothing for me but to do the same. I was as frightened as I have ever been in my life, but there was nothing for me to do but follow, because I had no idea of how I could retreat. Nor did I speak to her; her silence kept me quiet. I would have loved to hear her speak, and say something in reply, but all I heard was the shuffling as she crawled and wriggled, and now and then one of her boots kicked against my head.
[The Manticore, Davies, R.]
Netty knew about Deptford; she knew about the people down by the crick; she knew about what happened on Abdication Christmas. But it was not for lesser folk to know these things.
Did all these things make Netty dear to us? No, it made her a holy terror. People who prate about loyal old servants rarely know the hard-won coin of the spirit in which their real wages are paid. Netty's terrible silences about things that were foremost in our minds oppressed Caroline and me and were a great part of what seemed to us to be the darkness that was falling over our home.
[The Manticore, Davies, R.]
As soon as Egon and Rita return to their room for another period of rest, Obbie who has developed an insatiable interest in the comings and goings of the household, moves his ladder closer to the guest room. Then, switching from paintbrush to the roller, he gravely applies an additional layer of white paint, perhaps the fifth or sixth coat, to their door, while in rapture gazing at the whiteness of the door as he waits for something to break the silence...But what can he be waiting for? A quick harsh moaning sound..or the sound of a woman's voice rapidly saying yes, yes, yes, with such urgency, such intensity that he for a moment will forget where he is and what he is doing. And then, ultimately, comes the sharper, more high-pitched sound - to his ears an unbearably foreign sound - that he embraces, that he welcomes with all his heart. But in the meantime only silence.
[How German Is It, Abish, W.]
...We are standing by a lamp-post, in dead silence, waiting for a bus, and what happens? My drawers fall off. I look down at them, step out of them neatly, pick them up, roll them into a little parcel and put them into my handbag. What else is there to do? He stares into vacancy, shocked beyond measure...
[Good Morning, Midnight, Rhys, J.]
"Drop upon drop," said Bernard, "silence falls. It forms on the roof of the mind and falls into pools beneath. For ever alone, alone, alone, - hear silence fall and sweep its rings to the farthest edges. Gorged and replete, solid with middle - aged, content, I, whom loneliness destroys, let silence fall, drop by drop.
But now silence falling pits my face, wastes my nose like a snowman stood out in a yard in the rain. As silence falls I am dissolved utterly and become featureless and scarcely to be distinguished from another. It does not matter. What matters?..."
[The Waves, Woolf, V.]
"Behold, then, the blue madonna streaked with tears. This is my funeral service. We have no ceremonies, only private dirges and no conclusions only violent sensations, each separate. Nothing that has been said meets our case. We sit in the Italian room at the National Gallery picking up fragments. I doubt that Titian ever felt this rat gnaw. Painters live lives of methodical absorption, adding stroke to stroke. They are not like poets - scapegoats; they are not chained to the rock. Hence the silence, the sublimity. Yet that crimson must have burnt in Titian's gizzard. No doubt he rose with the great arms holding the cornucopia, and fell, in that descent. But the silence weighs on me - the perpetual solicitation of the eye. The pressure is intermittent and muffled. I distinguish too little and too vaguely. The bell is pressed and I do not ring or give out irrelevant clamours all jangled. I am titillated inordinately by some splendour; the ruffled crimson against the green lining; the march of pillars; the orange light behind the black; pricked ears of the olive trees. Arrows of sensation strike from my spine, but without order."
[The Waves, Woolf, V.]
It was late when I awoke - judging, at least, by the rays of sunshine which penetrated into the room between the slats of the shutters - and for a moment I lay listening to the profound silence of the place, so different from the silence in a town which, even when it is complete, seems always somehow to retain wounds and aches from sounds already past. Then, as I lay motionless on my back, I listened more carefully to this virgin silence, and suddenly it seemed to me that there was something lacking - not just one of those quiet sounds such as that of the electric pump drawing up water into the cistern in the morning or the servant sweeping the floor, which seems to stress the silence and make it more profound, but rather a presence. It was not a silence that was complete yet full of life, but a silence from which something vital had been withdrawn. A silence, I said to myself, finding the right word at last, a silence of abandonment.
[Contempt, Moravia, A.]
And so, between us, there was a silence that was only broken from time to time by some quite unimportant remark: "Will you have some wine? Will you have some bread? Some more meat?" I should like to describe this silence because it was that evening that it was established for the first time between us, never to leave us again. It was, then, a silence that was intolerable because perfectly negative, a silence caused by the suppression of all things I wanted to say and felt incapable of saying. To describe it as a hostile silence would be incorrect. In reality there was no hostility between us, at least not on my side, merely impotence. I was conscious of wanting to speak, of having many things to say, and was at the same time conscious that there could now be no question of words, and that I should now be incapable of finding the right tone to adopt. With this conviction in my mind, I remained silent, not with the relaxed, serene sensation of one who feels no need to speak, but rather with the constraint of one who is bursting with things to say and is conscious of it, and runs up against this consciousness all the time, as against the iron bars of a prison. But there was a further complication: I felt that this silence, intolerable as it was, was nevertheless, for me, the the most favourable condition possible. And that if I broke it, even in the most cautious, the most affectionate manner, I should provoke discussions even more intolerable, if possible, than the silence itself.
[Contempt, Moravia, A.]