Sunday, 27 July 2014

...of a hearing

When I saw them sitting in their shirt sleeves, leaning forward, gripping their crossed knees with their hands, I wasn't surprised. I'm glad it's you, I thought, this will be business without tears. It was as though I had expected to find them there, just as in those dreams in which I encountered my grandfather looking at me from across the dimensionless space of a dream-room. I looked back without surprise or emotion, although I knew even in the dream that surprise was the normal reaction and that the lack of it was to be distrusted, a warning.
I stood just inside the room, watching them as I slipped off my jacket, seeing them grouped around a small table upon which there rested a pitcher of water, a glass and a couple of smoking ash trays. One half of the room was dark and only one light burned, directly above the table. They regarded me silently, Brother Jack with a smile that went no deeper than his lips, his head cocked to one side, studying me with his penetrating eyes, the others blank-faced, looking out of eyes that were meant to reveal nothing and to stir profound uncertainty. The smoke rose in spirals from their cigarettes as they sat perfectly contained, waiting. So you came, after all, I thought, going over and dropping into one of the chairs. I rested my arm on the table, noticing its coolness.

[Invisible Man, Ellison, R.]

...of convenience

I didn't know whether I was awake or dreaming. It was dead quiet, yet I was certain that there had been a noise and that it had come from across the room as she beside me made a soft sighing sound. It was strange. My mind revolved. I was chased out of a chinkapin woods by a bull. I ran up a hill; the whole hill heaved. I heard the sound and looked up to see the man looking straight at me where he stood in the dim light of the hall, looking in with neither interest nor surprise. His face expressionless, his eyes staring. There was the sound of even breathing. Then I heard her stir beside me.
" Oh, hello, dear," she said, her voice sounding far away. "Back so soon?"
"Yes," he said. "Wake me early, I have a lot to do."
"I'll remember, dear," she said sleepily. "Have a good night's rest..."
"Night, and you too," he said with a short dry laugh.
The door closed. I lay there in the dark for a while, breathing rapidly. It was strange. I reached out and touched her. There was no answer. I leaned over her, feeling her breath breezing warm and pure against my face. I wanted to linger there, experiencing the sensation of something precious perilously attained too late and now to be lost forever - a poignancy. But it was as though she'd never been awake and if she should awaken now, she'd scream, shriek. I slid hurriedly from the bed, keeping my eye on that part of the darkness from where the light had come as I tried to find my clothes. I blundered around, finding a chair, an empty chair. Where were my clothes? What a fool! Why had I gotten myself into such a situation? I felt my way naked through the darkness, found the chair with my clothes, dressed hurriedly and slipped out, halting only at the door to look back through the dim light from the hall. She slept without sign or smile, a beautiful dreamer, one ivory arm flung above her jet-black head. My heart pounded as I closed the door and went down the hall, expecting the man, men, crowds - to halt me. Then I was taking the stairs.

[Invisible Man, Ellison, R.]

...of amnesia

A man dressed in black appeared, a long-haired fellow, whose piercing eyes looked down upon me out of an intense and friendly face. The others hovered about him, their eyes anxious as he alternately peered at me and consulted my chart. Then he scribbled something on a large card and thrust it before my eyes:


A tremor shook me; it was as though he had suddenly given a name to, had organised the vagueness that drifted through my head, and I was overcome with swift shame. I realised that I no longer knew my own name. I shut my eyes and shook my head with sorrow. Here was the first warm attempt to communicate with me and I was failing. I tried again, plunging into the blackness of my mind. It was no use; I found nothing but pain. I saw the card again and he pointed slowly to each word:

                                                        WHAT ... IS... YOUR ... NAME?

I tried desperately, diving below the darkness until I was limp with fatigue. It was as though a vein had been opened and my energy syphoned away; I could only stare back mutely. But with an irritating burst of activity he gestured for another card and wrote:

                                                               WHO ... ARE ... YOU?

[Invisible Man, Ellison, R.]

...of theatrics

"Oh, and the sad sound of weeping bugles! I can hear them now, stationed at the four corners of the campus, sounding taps for the fallen general, announcing and reannouncing the sad tidings, telling and retelling the sad revelation one to the other across the still numbness of the air, as though they could not believe it, could neither comprehend nor accept it; bugles weeping like a family of tender women lamenting their loved one. And the people came to sing the old songs and to express their unspeakable sorrow. Black, black, black! Black people in blacker mourning, the funeral crape hung upon their naked hearts; singing unashamedly their black folk's songs of sorrow, moving painfully, overflowing the curving walks, weeping and wailing beneath the drooping trees and their low murmuring voices like the moans of winds in a wilderness. And finally they gathered on the hill slope and as far as the tear-wet eyes could see, they stood with their heads bowed, singing.
"Then silence. The lonesome hole banked with poignant flowers. The dozen white-gloved hands waiting taut upon the silken ropes. That awful silence. The final words are spoken. A single wild rose tossed farewell, bursts slowly, its petals drifting snowlike upon the reluctantly lowered coffin. The down into the earth, back to the ancient dust; back to the cold black clay... mother... of us all."
As Barbee paused the silence was so complete that I could hear the power engines far across the campus throbbing the night like an excited pulse. Somewhere in the audience an old woman's voice began a plaintive wail; the birth of a sad, unformulated song that died stillborn in a sob.

[Invisible Man, Ellison, R.]

...of sound

At first I was afraid; this familiar music had demanded action, the kind of which I was incapable, and yet had I lingered there beneath the surface I might have attempted to act. Nevertheless, I know now that few really listen to this music.
I sat on the chair's edge in a soaking sweat, as though each of my 1, 369 bulbs had every one become a klieg light in an individual setting for a third degree with Ras and Rinehart in charge. It was exhausting - as though I had held my breath continuously for an hour under the terrifying serenity comes from days of intense hunger. And yet, it was a strangely satisfying experience for an invisible man to hear the silence of sound. I had discovered unrecognised compulsions of my being - even though I could not answer "yes" to their promptings. I haven't smoked a reefer since, however, not because they're illegal, but because too see around corners is enough (that is not unusual when you are invisible). But to hear around them is too much; it inhibits action. And despite Brother Jack and all that sad, lost period of the Brotherhood, I believe in nothing if not in action.

[Invisible Man, Ellison, R.]

...of proem

A heavy silence hung over the room. The candles flickered slowly. Shadows lengthened on the the walls. Ruth was thinking of her Mendel, whose last letter from Tomaszov had spoken of illness. Her sister Esther was mending socks. As for Raphael, his eyes were fixed on Hayim. He knew his brother was about to say something serious, he even knew what he was about to say, for Hayim had confided in him the night before.
Hayim walked over to the candles, played with them absently. Raphael encouraged him with his eyes: Go ahead, Hayim, tell them, tell us what's on your mind. It's now or never. In response to his younger brother's insistent gaze, Hayim turned to face his family.

[Twilight, Wiesel, E.]

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

...of censor

I say it was a New World I was describing, but like the New World which Columbus discovered it turned out to be a far older world than any we have known. I saw beneath the superficial physiognomy of skin and bone the indestructible world which man has always carried within him; it was neither old nor new, really, but the eternally true world which changes from moment to moment. Everything I looked at was palimpsest and there was no layer of writing too strange for me to decipher. When my companions left me of an evening I would often sit down and write to my friends the Australian Bushmen or to the Mound Builders of the Mississippi Valley or to the Igorotes in the Philippines. I had to write English, naturally, because it was the only language I spoke, but between my language and the telegraphic code employed by my bosom friends there was a world of difference. Any primitive man would have understood me: only those about me, that is to say, a continent of a hundred million people, failed to understand my language. To write intelligibly for them I would first have been obliged first of all to kill something, secondly, to arrest time. I had just made the realisation that life is indestructible and there is no such thing as time, only present. Did they expect me to deny a truth which it had taken me all my life to catch a glimpse of? They most certainly did. The one thing they did not want to hear about was that life is indestructible. Was not their precious new world reared on the destruction of the innocent, on rape and plunder and torture and devastation? Both continents had been violated; both continents had been stripped and plundered of all that was precious - in things. No greater humiliation, it seems to me, was meted out to any man than to Montezuma; no race was ever more ruthlessly wiped out than the American Indian; no land was ever raped in the foul and bloody way that California was raped by the gold-diggers. I blush to think of our origins - our hands are steeped in blood and crime. And there is no let-up to the slaughter and the pillage, as I discovered at first hand travelling throughout the length and breadth of the land. Down to the closest friend every man is a potential murderer. Often it wasn't necessary to bring out the gun or the lasso or the branding iron - they had found subtler and more devilish ways of torturing and killing their own. For me the most excruciating agony was to have the word annihilated before it had ever left my mouth. I learned, by bitter experience, to hold my tongue; I learned to sit in silence, and even smile, when actually I was foaming at the mouth. I learned to shake hands and say how do you do to all these innocent-looking fiends who were only waiting for me to sit down in order to suck my blood.

[Tropic of Capricorn, Miller, H.]

...of transport

Out there where the black star hung, a Pan-Islamic silence, as in the cavern world where even the wind is stilled. Out there, did I dare to brood on it, the spectral quietude of insanity, the world of men, lulled, exhausted by centuries of incessant slaughter. Out there one gory encompassing membrane within which all activity took place, the hero-world of lunatics and maniacs who had quenched the light of the heavens with blood. How peaceful our little dove-and-vulture life in the dark! Flesh to bury in with teeth or penis, abundant odorous flesh with no mark of knife or scissors, no scar of exploded shrapnel, no mustard burns, no scalded lungs. Save for the hallucinating hole in the ceiling, an almost perfect womb life. But the hole was there - like a fissure in the bladder - and no wadding could plug it permanently, no urination could pass off with a smile. Piss large and freely, aye, but how forget the rent in the belfry, the silence unnatural, the imminence, the terror, the poom of the "other" world? Eat a bellyful, aye, and tomorrow another bellyful, and tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow - but finally, what then? Finally? What was finally? A change of ventriloquist, a change of lap, a shift in the axis, another rift in the vault... what? what? I'll tell you - sitting in her lap, petrified by the still, prolonged beams of the black star, horned, snaffled, hitched and trepanned by the telepathic acuity of your intersecting agitation, I thought of nothing at all, nothing that was outside the cell we inhabited, not even the thought of a crumb on the a white tablecloth. I thought purely within the walls of our amoebic life, the pure thought such as Immanuel Pussyfoot Kant gave us and which only a ventriloquist's dummy could reproduce. I thought out every theory of science, every theory of art, every grain of truth in every cock-eyed system of salvation. I calculated everything out to a pin point with gnostic decimals to boot, like primes which a drunk hands out at the finish of a six-day race. But everything was calculated for another life which somebody else would live some day - perhaps. We were at the very neck of the bottle, her and I, as they say, but the neck had been broken off and the bottle was only a fiction.

[Tropic of Capricorn, Miller, H.]

...of reincarnation

Before I shall have become quite a man again I shall probably exist as a park, a sort of natural park in which people come to rest, to while away time. What they say or do will be of little matter, for they will bring only their fatigue, their boredom, their hopelessness. I shall be a buffer between the white louse and the red corpuscle. I shall be a ventilator for removing the poisons accumulated through the effort to perfect that which is imperfectible. I shall be law and order as it exists in nature as it is projected in dream. I shall be the wild park in the midst of the nightmare of perfection, the still, unshakeable dream in the midst of frenzied activity, the random shot on the white billiard table of logic. I shall know neither how to weep nor protest, but I shall be there in absolute silence to receive and to restore. I shall say nothing until the time comes again to be a man. I shall make no effort to preserve, no effort to destroy. I shall make no judgements, no criticisms. Those who have had enough will come to me for reflection and meditation; those who have not had enough will die as they lived, in disorder, in desperation, in ignorance of the truth of redemption. If one says to me, you must be religious, I shall make no answer. If one says to me, I have no time now, there's a cunt waiting for me, I shall make no answer. Or even if there's a revolution brewing, I shall make no answer. There will always be a cunt or a revolution around the corner, but the mother who bore me turned many a corner and made no answer, and finally she turned herself inside out and I am the answer.
Out of such a wild mania for perfection naturally no one would have expected an evolution to a wild park, not even I myself, but it is infinitely better, while attending death, to live in a state of grace and natural bewilderment. Infinitely better, as life moves towards a deathly perfection, to be just a bit of breathing space, a stretch of green, a little fresh air, a pool of water. Better also to receive men silently and to enfold them, for there is no answer to make them while they are still frantically rushing to turn the corner.

[Tropic of Capricorn, Miller, H.]

...of a wish

It went on that way, day in and day out for almost five solid years. The continent itself perpetually wracked by cyclones, tornadoes, tidal waves, floods, droughts, blizzards, heat waves, pests, strikes, hold-ups, assassinations, suicides... a continuous fever and torment, an eruption, a whirlpool. I was like a man sitting in a lighthouse: below me the wild waves, the rocks, the reefs, the debris of shipwrecked fleets. I could give the danger signal but I was powerless to avert catastrophe. I breathed danger and catastrophe. At times the sensation was so strong it belched like fire from my nostrils. I longed to be free of it all and yet I was irrepressibly attracted. I was violent and phlegmatic at the same time. I was like the lighthouse itself - secure in the midst of the most turbulent sea. Beneath me was solid rock, the same shelf of rock on which the towering skyscrapers were reared. My foundations went deep into the earth and the armature of my body was made of steel riveted with hot bolts. Above all I was an eye, a huge searchlight which scoured far and wide, which revolved ceaselessly, pitilessly. This eye so wide awake seemed to have made all my other faculties dormant; all my powers were used up in the effort to see, to take in the drama of the world.
If I longed for destruction it was merely that this eye might be extinguished. I longed for an earthquake, for some cataclysm of nature which would plunge the lighthouse into the sea. I wanted a metamorphosis, a change to fish, to leviathan, to destroyer. I wanted the earth to open up, to swallow everything in one engulfing yawn. I wanted to see the city buried fathoms deep in the bosom of the sea. I wanted to sit in a cave and read by candlelight. (I wanted that eye extinguished so that I might have a change to know my own body, my own desires. I wanted to be alone for a thousand years in order to reflect on what I'd seen and heard - and in order to forget. I wanted something of the earth which was not of man's doing, something absolutely divorced from the human of which I was surfeited. I wanted something purely terrestrial and absolutely divested of ideas. I wanted to feel the blood running back into my veins, even at the cost of annihilation. I wanted to shake the stone and the light out of my system. I wanted the dark fecundity of nature, the deep well of the womb, silence, or else the lapping of the black waters of death. I wanted to be that night which the remorseless eye illuminated, a night diapered with stars and trailing comets. To be of night, so frighteningly silent, so utterly incomprehensible and eloquent at the same time. Never more to speak or to listen or to think. To be englobed and encompassed and to encompass and to englobe at the same time. No more pity, no more tenderness. To be human only terrestrially, like a plant or a worm or a brook. To be decomposed, divested of light and stone, variable as the molecule, durable as the atom, heartless as the earth itself.

[Tropic of Capricorn, Miller, H.]

...of the microcosmic

Adam moved away without waiting for the end of the sentence. He did not shrug his shoulders, but walked slowly, dragging his feet. He went past the mammals' cages; the last of these, the smallest and lowest, held three gaunt wolves. A kind of wooden kennel had been set up in the middle of the cage, and the wolves were circling round and round this tirelessly, incessantly, their slanting eyes stubbornly fixed on the bars that rushed past at top speed, level with one's knees.
They circled in opposite directions, two one way and one the other; after a certain number of turns, let's say ten or eleven, for some sudden, queer, unaccountable reason, as though at the snap of someone's fingers, they wheeled about and went on again in the other direction. They were mangy beasts, grey with dust, mauve around the jaws; but they never stopped circling their den and the steely glint of their eyes was reflected all over their bodies - they looked as though they were covered with metal plates, violent, full to vomiting with hatred and ferocity. The circular movement they were making inside the cage became, owing to its regularity, the one really mobile point in the surrounding space. All the rest of the park, with its human beings and its other cages, sank into a kind of motionless ecstasy. One was suddenly frozen, fixed in an unbearable rigidity that spread all round as far as that bell-shaped structure of iron and wood, the wolves' cage; one was like a luminous circle seen through a microscope and containing, stained in bright colours, the basic elements of life, such as chromosomes, globules, trypanosomes, hexagonal molecules, microbes and fragments of bacteria. A structural geometry of the microcosmic universe, photographed through dozens of lenses; you know, that white disc, dazzling as a moon, coloured by chemical products, which is true life, without movement, without duration, so far away in the second infinity that nothing is animal any longer, nothing is apparent; nothing remains but silence, fixity, eternity; for all is slow, slow, slow.

[The Interrogation, Le Clezio, J. M. G.]

Sunday, 20 July 2014

...of terror

Then the music stopped and there was silence. It wasn't the simple silence that sometimes comes when you are in the world the silence which is merely the absence of noise. It wasn't even the silence that comes to deaf people. It was something like the silence you hear when you put a seashell to your ear the silence of time itself that is so great it makes a noise. It was a silence like thunder in the distance. It was silence so dense that it ceased to be silence. It changed from a thing to a thought and in the end it was only fear.

[Johnny Got His Gun, Trumbo, D.]

...of doping

All during this he kept up his tapping and now that the doctor was quiet he tapped much harder. It was just possible that the doctor might understand what he was trying to do. He felt the vibration of the doctor's footsteps moving over toward the dresser then coming back again. He felt a cold wet thing against the stump of his left arm. Then he felt a sharp little sting a sharp little pain like a needle and he knew the doctor was injecting something into his arm.
Before he began to feel its effects he knew it was some kind of dope. They were trying to shut him up. They had been trying all along they knew perfectly well what he was doing nobody with any brains could fail to know. And he knew what they were doing too. They were plotting against him out there in the darkness. They had tried every way on earth to make him be still but he had out-fought them he had kept right on tapping. So now they were doping him. They were forcing him to be silent. They don't want to hear him. They weren't interested in anything but getting him off their minds. He shook his head frantically to try to tell them that he didn't want to be doped. Then the needle was withdrawn and he knew it didn't matter whether he wanted it or not.

[Johnny Got His Gun, Trumbo, D.]

...of fallen soldiers

But what do the dead say?
Did anybody ever come back from the dead any single one of the millions who got killed did any one of them ever come back and say by god I'm glad I'm dead because death is always better than dishonour? Did they say I'm glad I died to make the world safe for democracy? Did they say I like death better than losing liberty? Did any of them ever say it's good to think I got my guts blown out for the honour of my country? Did any of them ever say look at me I'm dead but I died for decency and that's better than being alive? Did any of them ever say here I am I've been rotting for two years in a foreign grave but it's wonderful to die for your native land? Did any of them say hurray I died for womanhood and I'm happy see how I sing even though my mouth is choked with worms?

[Johnny Got His Gun, Trumbo, D.]

...of injury

No no.
If he could only think of real things he would destroy this dream of having no legs. Steamships loaves of bread girls Kareen machine guns books chewing gum pieces of wood Kareen but thinking of real things didn't help because it wasn't a dream.
It was the truth.
That was why his head had seemed lower than his legs. Because he had no legs. Naturally they seemed light. Air is light too. Even a toenail is heavy compared to air.
He had no arms and legs.
He threw back his head and started to yell from fright. But he only started because he had no mouth to yell with. He was so surprised at not yelling when he tried that he began to work his jaws like a man who has found something interesting and wants to test it. He was so sure the idea of no mouth was a dream that he could investigate it calmly. He tried to work his jaws and he had no jaws. He tried to run his tongue around the inside of his teeth and over the roof of his mouth as if he were chasing a raspberry seed. But he didn't have any tongue and he hadn't any teeth. There was no roof to his mouth and there was no mouth. He tried to swallow but couldn't because he had no palate and there weren't any muscles left to swallow with.

[Johnny Got His Gun, Trumbo, D.]

...of a breakup

People would ask why I don't see you and Diane together any more? and there would be nothing he could say. People would ask what's the matter with you and Bill Harper that we don't see you around any more? and there would be nothing he could say. His dad would ask how come you go a job on the section gang and stayed only one day? and there would be nothing he could say.
It was all over. It was something he could never explain. Something nobody would understand. He had lost the only friend he might have told it to. Because he knew that he and Bill could never again be what they had been. They might shake hands and say forget it old man and start bumming around together a little but it wouldn't be the same. And both of them would know it. Both of them would know that Diane was there between them. Both of them would also know that Diane probably didn't care but that wouldn't make things any different for them. They'd never be able to explain it even to themselves.

[Johnny Got His Gun, Trumbo, D.]

...of immersion

The event the poet and I staged was a success. He spoke about Granada, for example - this was one of our numbers - conjuring the orgy of water the Arabs had created in the Alhambra to make up for what they lacked in the desert; he spoke of the moon as a burnished scimitar, and before his words had come to an end he turned to me and I began playing "Granada," the serenade by Albeniz. Though both numbers were of interest and referred to the same city, the mystery the medium, and the "silence" from which each emerged was different, as literature and the cinema are different even when they have the same plot and make the same logical connections. But the people who attended this performance enjoyed the idea of this external coordination between poetry and music, and must have thought they were thus amassing a greater quantity of knowledge about Granada. They neither spoke nor applauded during these moments - we performed the two numbers without interruption - and it charmed me to see them given over to their "silence." When, in passing from literature to music, they all turned their heads the other way, they looked like sleepers changing position.

[The New House from Lands of Memory, Hernandez, F.]

...of our inner selves

A few years earlier, I'd awoken in a room in a country inn to discover that our thoughts are produced in a region of our innermost being marked by the quality of silence. Even amid a great city's most strident clamour we think in silence about where we're going or what we have to do, or whatever it is that corresponds to our desires. And the silence in which our feelings take shape is still deeper. We feel love in silence, before the thoughts come, and then the words, and then the acts, always moving farther towards the outside, towards the noise. Some thoughts can hide within silence and never become words, though they may carry out hidden acts. But there are also feelings that hide in silence behind deceptive thoughts. The silence where feelings and thoughts are formed is the place where the style off a human being's life and life work is formed.

[The New House from Lands of Memory, Hernandez, F.]

...of a good listener

I don't quite recall if you'd already closed your little umbrella while my big one was still open, when we spoke about the man I admired and loved so much in my childhood. But I well remember that standing next to you there beneath the intermittent rain and the streetlight and the green of the trees, I felt the unknown I tried so hard to speak of in my letters. I felt the pressure of the unknown most strongly while recollecting that man, who no longer exists; and the dusk, with its indefinite rain and artificial light and trees and all the rest, formed a scene that would make me go back to those memories later. As I experience that twilight now, it seems much closer to the period when he lived than to the present in which we happened to encounter each other a few days ago. But for a moment this era when I'm still living and he is not seemed to have something false about it: there would be a price to pay, something serious that would happen to me, for the privilege of existing when he no longer did. Yet I felt the present, too: when I was falling into your eyes with my eyes, I remembered how black and deep his eyes were, and that was when I felt the unknown with the greatest intensity: the unknown was looking out at me through those eyes. But at the same time there was something else in your eyes and face, something that made me overcome my momentary feeling of how false the present was, and forced the unknown to begin anew. While we were speaking, there was something that had nothing to do with words; the words served to attract us to each other's silence. Now I feel as though I'm maintaining that silence, and writing in it. But during that twilight, even as I was speaking and anxiously developing my thoughts, I could feel the presence of other thoughts, and I felt those thoughts appearing and disappearing, as if I were riding a horse very fast along a forest path, thinking of nothing but arriving, and other horsemen suddenly passed nearby and were lost among the trees and then appeared once more.
At times among all the words in my conversation, one would make you smile; then I would look in wonder at your face, as if it were a lake into which I'd accidentally dropped some object, and I could see the ripples it produced without knowing what the object had been.
Now I'm greatly inclined to remember certain things and little inclined to write. And you, in your silence, are you writing or not?

[Mistaken Hands from Lands of Memory, Hernandez, F.]

...of a critic

That same night, after a short dream, I woke up and opened my eyes in the darkness; I remembered that I was in an unfamiliar bed; I thought of the dispersed fragments of my family; and suddenly I went back to what had happened one afternoon in the dark dining room. I hadn't understood Muneca. If my friend had known her - the one who'd been my teacher at school - perhaps he would have suspected something interesting about that life. Over the years of my friendship with him, my curiosity about other people's dramas had grown. And one of the most secret consequences I was hoping for from my concert was that he would introduce me to people I didn't know and I would go into unfamiliar houses. That was my most dangerous thought as I was preparing for my concert, and I didn't always manage to keep it at bay. I wished there were no drama in my own house, not only because of the suffering it caused us but also because I wanted to immerse myself in the drama of others. I don't know why that gave me such great pleasure. Already, during the concerts intermission, I had been thinking about this, as if in a grip of an uncontrollable vice. When the concert began, I played the first notes; my fingertips punctured the silence. Though the concert hall was seeded with expectant ears, the severest critic was the silence; it opened a dark mouth that yawned far too wide as soon as the humblest sound appeared, making it run to join the other sounds. But later, once a certain empathy had developed within the audience, the sounds waited for the silence to hush them with its cape.

[My First Concert in Montevideo from Lands of Memory, Hernandez, F.]

...of dreaming

Clemente Colling was known to us "The organist at the church of Los Vascos" of "The blind man who plays for the Basques," etc. His reputation was based on that. Some time before our meeting I'd been taken to a piano concert he gave at the Verdi Institute. It was one of the first concerts I ever attended. My enthusiasm and my mania for arriving at performances far too early put us at the door of the concert hall long before it opened. Later, leaning on the balustrade of the upper tier, I began to feel the dreaming of silence that sets in before a concert, when there is still a long time to go before the start and the first whisperings and dry scrapings of chairs deepens the silence, when you are waiting to listen, but there is more to see than to hear, and the spirit, without knowing it, works as it waits, works almost as if in a dream, letting things come, waiting for them and watching them with profound, child-like distraction; when you make a sudden effort to imagine what is to come and scrutinise the program for the hundredth time; when you review your life and your illusions venture forth, and you feel the anguish of having no place anywhere in the world and vow to achieve a place for yourself; when you dream of someday attracting the attention of others and feel a certain sad resentment because you haven't yet done so; when you lose all common sense and dream a future that makes your scalp tingle and numbs your hair, a future you would never confess to anyone because you see yourself all too clearly: and this is the innermost secret of anyone who has any modesty - and it may be the deepest part of the aesthetic sense of life - for when you don't know what you are capable of, then you don't know, either, if your dream is mere vanity or if it is pride.

[Around the Time of Clemente Calling from Lands of Memory, Hernadez, F.]

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

...of incentive

In the Belgian city of Bruges a few hundred years ago, a nine-year-old chorister who had sung a wrong note in a mass that was being performed before the entire royal court in the Bruges cathedral is said to have been beheaded. It seems that the queen had fainted as a result of the wrong note sung by the chorister and had remained unconscious until her death. The king is supposed to have sworn an oath that, if the queen did not come round, he would have not only the guilty chorister but all the choristers in Bruges beheaded, which he did after the queen had not come to and had died. For centuries no sung masses were to be heard in Bruges.

[Wrong Note, from The Voice Imitator, Bernhard, T.]

...of music

A so-called Chamber Music Association famous for playing only ancient music on original instruments and for having only Rossini, Frescobaldi, Vivaldi, and Pergolesi in its repertoire was playing in an old castle on the Attersee and had its greatest success since it was founded. The applause continued until the Chamber Music Association did not have a single encore left on its program to play. It was not until the next day that the musicians were told that they had been playing in an institute for deaf-mutes.

[The Most Successful Concert, from The Voice Imitator, Bernhard, T.]

...of desolation

In the immediate neighbourhood of Aurach, after we had climbed the Hongar and then, beginning the descent, had walked along the ridge towards the Hollengebirge for five hours, we visited Haumer, the logger, of whom we had heard nothing for a long time. Haumer did not open his door to us even after we had knocked repeatedly, although we were sure our assumption that he was at home was correct. When we had already left his house, we suddenly had the impression he had now heard us and wanted to open up for us, and we went back to his house. Haumer - whom we had known from our earliest childhood and who had been closer to us than anyone - did, in fact, open the door and invited us to sit down in the so-called downstairs parlour. It was only after we had been sitting on the benches in the downstairs parlour for a while that we realised that Haumer had still not said a word to us. We stayed more than an hour with him and then we took our leave without his having uttered a single word. It was not until the next day, while talking to my cousin about the meeting, that I learned that Haumer had lost his hearing and his speech more than four years ago before as the result of a gun salute that he himself had fired in his daughter's wedding-day when she married a butcher's apprentice from Nussdorf. At the same time it became clear to me that it was over four years since I had visited Haumer, the very person, I thought, to whom I owe so much.

[Haumer The Logger, from The Voice Imitator, Bernhard, T.]

...of an army man

So we marched around in the sun and learned to dig latrines, cure snake-bite, tend the wounded, tie tourniquets, bayonet the enemy; we learned about hand grenades, infiltration, deployment of troops, manoeuvres, retreats, advances, mental and physical discipline; we got on the firing range, bang bang, and we got our marksmen's medals. We had actual field manoeuvres, we went out into the woods and waged mock war. We crawled on our bellies toward each other with our rifles. We were very serious. Even I was serious. There was something about it that got your blood going. It was stupid and we all knew it was stupid, most of us, but something clicked in our brains and we really wanted to get involved in it. We had an old retired army man, Col Sussex. He was getting senile and drooled, little trickles of saliva running out of the corners of his mouth and down, around and under his chin. He never said anything. He just stood around in his uniform covered with medals and drew his pay from the high school. During our mock manoeuvres he carried around a clipboard and kept score - probably. But he never told us who won. Each side claimed victory. It made for bad feelings.

[Ham On Rye, Bukowski, C.]

...of withstanding

'Pull down your shorts.'
I pulled them down.
Then he laid on the strop. The first blow inflicted more shock than pain. The second hurt more. Each blow which followed increased the pain. At first I was aware of the walls, the toilet, the tub. Finally I couldn't see anything. As he beat me, he berated me, but I couldn't understand the words. I thought about his roses, how he grew roses in the yard. I thought about his automobile in the garage. I tried not to scream. I knew that if I did scream he might stop, but knowing this, and knowing his desire for me to scream, prevented me. The tears ran from my eyes as I remained silent. After a while it all became just a whirlpool, a jumble, and there was only the deadly possibility of being there forever. Finally, like something jerked into action, I began to sob, swallowing and choking on the salt slime that ran down my throat. He stopped.

[Ham On Rye, Bukowski, C.]

...of culture

Connor described his golf game. There had been long silences all morning. Everyone in the foursome was polite and considerate, but spoken comments were rare and reserved. Most of the time, the men walked over the course in complete silence.
'And you had gone there for information?' I said. 'How could you stand it?'
'Oh, I was getting information.' But as he explained it, it was all unspoken. Basically, the Japanese have an understanding based on centuries of shared culture, and they are able to communicate feelings without words. It's the closeness that exists in America between a parent and child - a child often understands everything, just from a parent's glance. But Americans don't rely on unspoken communication as a general rule, and the Japanese do. It is as if all Japanese are members of the same family, and they can communicate without words. To a Japanese, silences have meaning.
'It's nothing mystical or wonderful,' Connor said. 'For the most part it is because the Japanese are so hemmed in by rules and conventions, they end up unable to say anything at all. For politeness, to save face, the other person is obliged to read the situation, the context, and the subtle signs of body posture and unstated feeling. Because the first person feels he can't actually put anything into words. Any speaking at all would be indelicate. So the point must be gotten across in other ways.'

[Rising Sun, Crichton, M.]

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

...of interruption

Gradually an equanimity of mood descended on him. His mission was simple and honourable, his primary object the redemption of his soul. What was wrong with that? Nothing. But the necessary declarations could be made courteously, losing nothing of force for that. Bawling or rude manners impressed nobody, except possibly a member of the brute creation. What if Mary created a scene? It was quite unthinkable. Her attitude of poise, intellectual maturity and sophistication may have been all humbug but one cannot discard a life-long affectation as if it were an old jacket. There would be no scene and as if to register that prediction, he ordered a final glass of what might very remotely be called his pleasure, soon to be spurned forever. The Cistercians? Simple: a glance at a telephone directory on the morrow would locate those saintly men at their best proximity. He murmured to himself a wise Irish proverb: God's help is nearer than the door.
When he opened the door of the Colza Hotel, he sensed that he had stumbled on a special silence, sensing also that he himself had been under discussion. Mary and Hackett were alone together at the far end. It was clear from Hackett's lolling attitude and glossy eyes that he had been filling himself with drink for a long time. Mary was not drunk - he had never seen her go any real distance on that path - but her face looked pale and excited. Mrs Laverty was behind the counter, silent, looking strangely chastened. Mick nodded to all in a pleasant but impassive way, sat at the counter and murmured that he would like a whiskey.

[The Dalkey Archive, O'Brien, F.]

...of bereft of speech

- Have you got somewhere to go? he asked.
- No I haven't. What did you make of that performance?
- I don't know what to say. You heard the conversation, and I presume both of us heard the same thing.
- Do you believe... it all happened?
- I suppose I have to.
- I need a drink.
They fell silent. Thinking about the seance (if that ill-used word will serve) was futile though disturbing and yet it was impossible to shout such thoughts out of the head. Somehow Mick saw little benefit in any discussion with Hackett. Hackett's mind was twisted in a knot identical with his own. They were as two tramps who had met in a trackless desert, each hopelessly asking the other the way.

[The Dalkey Archive, O'Brien, F.]