Thursday, 22 July 2010

...of awe

The oaks of 1910 were then ten years old and taller than either of us. It was an impressive spectacle. I was literally speechless and, as he did not talk, we spent the whole day walking in silence through his forest. In three sections, it measured eleven kilometers in length and three kilometers at its greatest width. When you remembered that all this had sprung from the hands and the soul of this one man, without technical resources, you understood that men could be as effectual as God in other realms than that of destruction.

[The Man Who Planted Trees, Giono, J.]

...of distraction

Ever since we could remember we had taken great pleasure in gardening. An inexperienced gardener had lately replaced the old one, and there was a great deal to be done in the garden, which had been neglected for the last two months. Some of the rose trees had been badly pruned; some, luxuriant growers, were encumbered with dead wood; some of the ramblers had come down for want of the necessary props; others were being exhausted by suckers. Most of them had been grafted by us; we recognised our nurslings; the attention of which they were in need took up a large part of our time, and allowed us during the first three days to talk a great deal without saying anything of weight, and, when we said nothing, it enabled us not to feel our silence burdensome.

[Strait Is The Gate, Gide, A.]

...of unease

The weather was hot for the time of year. The part of the hill up which we had to walk was exposed to the sun and unattractive; the leafless trees gave us no shelter. In our anxiety to rejoin the carriage in which our aunt was to wait for us, we hastened our pace uncomfortably. My head was aching so badly that I could not extract a single idea from it; to keep myself in countenance, or because I thought that the gesture might serve instead of words, I had taken Alissa's hand, which she let me keep. Our emotion, the rapidity of our walk, and the awkwardness of our silence, sent the blood to our faces; I felt my temples throbbing; Alissa's colour was unpleasantly heightened; and soon the discomfort of feeling the contact of our damp hands made us unclasp them and let them drop sadly to our sides.

[Strait Is The Gate, Gide, A.]

...of allusion

What reflections this letter aroused in me! I cursed my aunt's meddling interference (what was the conversation to which Alissa alluded, and which was the cause of her silence?) and the clumsy good-nature which made her send the letter on to me. It was already hard enough for me to bear Alissa's silence, and oh! would it not have been better a thousand times to have left me in ignorance that she was writing to another person what she no longer cared to say to me? Everything in the letter irritated me; to hear her speak to my aunt so easily of our little private affairs, as well as the naturalness of her tone, her composure, her seriousness, her pleasantry.

[Strait Is The Gate, Gide, A.]

...of determination

Then I learnt from my aunt a little later that Juliette insisted on her engagement being made public, in spite of what I instinctively felt was Alissa's hope that it would be broken off at once. Advice, injunctions, entreaties, spent themselves in vain against this determination of Juliette's, which seemed fixed like a bar across her brow and like a bandage over her eyes - which seemed to immure her in silence.

[Strait Is The Gate, Gide, A.]

...of corpses

At dawn, at the hour when the earth gives off its vapours there was always a truce. The dew sparkled on the greatcoats of the dead. Light and green, the early morning wind blew straight ahead. Water creatures were splashing at the bottom of the shell-holes. Red-eyed rats walked quietly along the trench. Rats and worms were the only living things there. There were no more trees, no more large furrows, no more grass. The hillside had been skinned down to its chalk bones. A mist rose gently. You could hear the silence pass by with its slight electric crackling. The faces of the dead were buried in the mud, or they jutted partly out of the holes, peacefully, with their hands resting on the rim and their heads lying on their arms. The rats came to sniff them. They jumped from one corpse to another. They selected the young ones first, those without any hairs on their cheeks. They sniffed the cheek, then they crouched down into a ball and started eating the flesh between the nose and the mouth, next to the edge of the lips, and eventually the green apple of the cheeks. Every now and then the rats cleaned their paws in their whiskers. When they came to the eyes, they scratched them out slowly and licked the eyelids. They bit into the eye as though it was a little egg and chewed it gently, slanting their mouths to suck up the juice.

[To The Slaughterhouse, Giono, J.]

...of noise

The blast had blown his helmet off. It had happened without warning. There was a sudden rumbling in the sky and the earth foundered. Oliver could hear the hum of silence now, but it was the silence inside his ear drums, for the earth was still spurting up around them. Oliver heard his voice coming from far away, it might have been somebody else's.

[To The Slaughterhouse, Giono, J.]

...of wishes

Oliver looked for Madeline. She was on the other side of the room, looking at him. He could see her plump little mouth repeating the refrain. He saw the tears shining in her eyes. He had already said twice: 'Let us all treasure in our thoughts our friendship...', but now he was silent. They looked at each other fully in the eyes and now neither of them said anything. This time he is completely dressed from head to toe in his soldiers uniform. He is marked. He's going to leave. To look at Madeline, his gaze passed over the bare table, over the little heap of dead salt shining in the candlelight. He imagined he heard the rustling of Madeline's skirt when she walked with him across the fields. If I was the lamp, he thought, if I was the lamp, the tree, this table, the sow, I'd stay behind, I'd remain here. If I was the dog....

[To The Slaughterhouse, Giono, J.]

...of foreboding

This time everybody around him kept silent. Even Burle up there at his window understood, and the others understood without being told. Their muffled heartbeats came faster. They remembered the night before that smelled of too much corn. Yes, too much corn. And what disgust they had felt to smell that corn, and to see the children in the women's arms, and to see the young girls still brimming with pleasure.... To be aware of all that and at the same time to watch those handsome young men going away to the moaning of the horses.

[To The Slaughterhouse, Giono, J.]

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

...of emptiness

Empty, empty, empty; silent, silent, silent. The room was a shell, singing of what was before time was; a vase stood in the heart of the house, alabaster, smooth, cold, holding the still, distilled essence of emptiness, silence.

[Between The Acts, Woolf, V.]

...of loneliness/solitude

'Another spring, and they were gone: it was April, the sixth of that rainy lilac April, just two days after our happy trip to Pontchartrain...where the picture was taken, and where, in symbolic dark we'd drifted through the tunnel of love. All right, listen: late afternoon when I woke up rain was at the window and on the roof: a kind of silence, if I may say, was walking through the house, and, like most silence, it was not silent at all: it rapped on the doors, echoed in the clocks, creaked on the stairs, leaned forward to peer into my face and explode. Below a radio talked and sang, yet I knew no one heard it: she was gone, and Pepe with her.'

[Other Voices, Other Rooms, Capote, T.]

...of boredom

Like kites being reeled in, the chicken hawks circled lower till their shadows revolved over the slanting shingled roof. The shaft of smoke lifting from the chimney mounted unbroken in the hot windless air, a sign, at least, that people lived here. Joel had known and explored other houses quiet with emptiness, but none so deserted-looking silent: it was as though the place were captured under a cone of glass; inside, waiting to claim him was an afternoon of endless boredom: each step, and his shoes were as heavy as though soled from stone, carried him closer. A whole afternoon. And how many more for how many months?

[Other Voice, Other Rooms, Capote, T.]

...of flowers

Well. Then we had the irises, rising beautiful and cool on their tall stalks, like brown glass, like pastel water momentarily frozen in a splash, light blue, light mauve, and the darker ones, velvet and purple, black cat's-ears in the sun, indigo shadow, and the bleeding hearts, so female in shape it was a surprise they'd not long since been rooted out. There is something subversive about this garden of Serena's, a sense of buried things bursting upwards, wordlessly, into the light, as if to point, to say: Whatever is silenced will clamour to be heard, though silently. A Tennyson garden, heavy with scent, languid; the return of the word swoon. Light pours down upon it from the sun, true, but also the heat rises, from the flowers themselves, you can feel it: like holding your hand an inch above a an arm, a shoulder. It breathes in the warmth, breathing itself in. To walk through it in these days, of peonies, of pinks and carnation, makes my head swim.

[The Handmaid's Tale, Atwood, M.]

...of a prayer

I pray silently: Nolite te bastardes carborundorum. I don't know what it means, but it sounds right, and it will have to do, because I don't know what else I can say to God. Not right now. Not, as they used to say, at this juncture. The scratched writing on my cupboard wall floats before me, left by an unknown woman, with the face of Moira. I saw her go out, to the ambulance, on a stretcher, carried by two Angels.

[The Handmaid's Tale, Atwood, M.]

...of power

She watches him from within. We're all watching him. It's one thing we can really do, and it's not for nothing: if he were to falter, fail or die, what would become of us? No wonder he's like a boot, hard on the outside, giving shape to a pulp of tenderfoot. That's just a wish. I've been watching him for sometime and he's given no evidence, of softness.
But watch out, Commander, I tell him in my head. I've got my eye on you. One false move and I'm dead. Still, it must be hell to be a man, like that.
It must be fine.
It must be hell.
It must be very silent.

[The Handmaid's Tale, Atwood, M.]

...of duty

Take a good look, because it's too late now. The Angels will qualify for Handmaids, later, especially if their new Wives can't produce. But you girls are stuck. What you see is what you get, zits and all. But you aren't expected to love him. You'll find that out soon enough. Just do your duty in silence. When in doubt, when flat on your back, you can look at the ceiling. Who knows what you may see, up there? Funeral wreaths and angels, constellations of dust, stellar or otherwise, the puzzles left by spiders. There is always something to occupy the inquiring mind.

[The Handmaid's Tale, Atwood, M.]

...of mystery

The evening was not without surprises either. If in the morning the groves had fallen silent, showing quite clearly how suspiciously unpleasant silence is among the trees, if at noon the sparrows had cleared off somewhere from the State Farm yard, then by the evening the pond at Sheremetyevo had fallen silent. This was truly astonishing, as everyone for 40km around knew supremely well the renowned chattering of the Sheremetyevo frogs. But now it was as if they had died out. Not a single voice carried from the pond, and the sedge stood soundlessly. It must be admitted that Alexander Semyonovich was upset as could be.

[The Fatal Eggs, Bulgakov, M.]

...of concentration

Unfortunately for the Republic, it was not a third-rate mediocrity that was sitting at the microscope. No, it was Professor Persikov that sat there! The whole of his life and his thoughts were concentrated in his right eye. For some five minutes, in stony silence, a superior being observed an inferior one, tormenting and straining its eye over the preparation that stood out of focus. All around was silent.

[The Fatal Eggs, Bulgakov, M.]

...of midday heat

Although it is unlikely that the guest should come now, perhaps A... is still expecting to hear the sound of a car coming down the slope from the highway. But through the dining-room windows, of which at least one is half open, no motor hum or any other noise can be heard at this hour of the day, when all work is interrupted and even the animals fall silent in the heat.

[Jealousy, Robbe-Grillet, A.]

...of eating alone

A..., who has finally decided to have the lunch served without waiting for the guest any longer, since he hasn't come, is sitting rigid and silent in her own place, in front of the windows. Though the discomfort of this location, with the light behind her, seems flagrant, it has been chosen by A... once and for all. She eats with an extreme economy of gestures, not turning her head right or left, her eyes squinting slightly, as if she were trying to discover a stain on the bare wall in front of her - where however, the immaculate paint offers not the slightest object to her gaze.

[Jealousy, Robbe-Grillet, A.]

...of no letters

Some of us, meanwhile, insisted on writing, and endlessly dreamed up schemes for corresponding with the outside world, though they always proved illusory. Even if some of the methods that we thought of were successful, we knew nothing about it, for we never received any reply. Week after week we were reduced to starting the same letter over again and copying out the same appeals, so that after a certain time words which had at first been torn bleeding from our hearts became void of sense. We copied them down mechanically, trying by means of these dead words to give some idea of our ordeal. And in the end, the conventional call of a telegram seemed to us preferable to this sterile, obstinate monologue and this arid conversation with a blank wall.

[The Plague, Camut, A.]

...of exile

Thus they endured that profound misery of all prisoners and all exiles, which is to live with a memory that is of no use to them. Even the past, which they thought of endlessly, had only the taste of remorse and longing. They would have liked to be able to add to it everything that they regretted not having done when they could do it, with the person for whom the were waiting - just as they brought the absent one into every situation of their life as prisoners, even the relatively happy ones, making them inevitably dissatisfied with what they now were. Impatient with the present, hostile to the past and deprived of a future, we really did then resemble those whom justice or human hatred has forced to live behind bars. In the last resort, the only way to escape this unbearable holiday was to make the trains run again in our imagination and to fill the hours with the repeated ringing of the doorbell, however silent it obstinately remained.

[The Plague, Camut, A.]