Friday, 26 November 2010

...of intuition

Bel-Gazou doesn't persist either, she just carries on sewing. She sews and superimposes on the work that she neglects images and associations of names and persons, all the results of patient observation. A little later, other curiosities will come along, other questions, but above all other silences. If only Bel-Gazou were an innocent child, filled with amazement, always asking questions straight out, her eyes wide open!... But she's too close to the truth, and too natural not to know from birth that the whole of nature hesitates in the face of that majestic and murky of all instincts, and it is right to tremble, to keep silent and to lie when we come too close to its secret.

[Claudine's House, Colette, S-G.]

...of a spinster

And after that, nothing more happened to young Bouilloux. The Parisians never returned, and nor did any other Parisian visitors. Houette, Honce, the Leriche boy, the commercial travellers with golden watch-chains dangling across their bellies, the soldiers on leave and the bailiff's clerks climbed up our steep street in vain, at the hours when she strode down it, an elegantly coiffured seamstress who passed by with a straight back and a mere nod. They waited for her at dances, where she drank lemonade with an air of distinction and replied to all requests, 'Many thanks, but I'm not dancing, I'm too tired'. Their feelings were hurt, and after a few days, they started to say, with a snigger, 'She's tired all right - she's got the kind of tiredness that lasts thirty-six weeks!' and they kept a sharp eye on her stomach... But nothing happened to young Bouilloux, neither that nor anything else. She was waiting, that was all. She was waiting, imbued by a proud faith, fully aware of what she was owed by the random destiny that had forearmed her so well. She was waiting for... that Parisian in white serge? No. The stranger, the ravisher. Her proud wait made her pure and silent, and she turned down, with a little smile of surprise, Honce, who wished to elevate her to the rank of a legitimate chemist's wife, and the bailiff's senior clerk. Without ever abasing herself again, and retrieving in one go all the things she had thrown away on her doters - laughter, glances, the glowing bloom on her cheek, her small, red, childlike lips, and a bosom with barely a blue shadow of cleavage - she awaited her reign, and her unknown prince.

[Claudine's House, Colette, S-G.]

...of brave children

Tomorrow... Tomorrow, the eldest boy, slipping off the slate roof where he was setting up a water-tank, would break his collarbone and lie there, in polite silence, half-fainting, at the foot of the wall, waiting for someone to come and lift him up. Tomorrow the youngest would be whacked right in the middle of his forehead by a six-metre-long ladder; without a word of complaint, he would return home modestly bearing a purple bump as big as an egg between his eyes...

[Claudine's House, Colette, S-G.]

...of siblings

Nowhere. My mother would throw back her head and gaze up at the clouds, as if she expected a flock of winged children to come swooping down. After a while, she uttered the same cry, then grew weary of questioning the heavens, and with her fingernail broke open a dry poppy-head, scratched a rose-stem dotted with green aphids, dropped the first walnuts into her pocket, shook her head as she brooded over the vanished children, and went back into the house. Meanwhile, in the branches of a walnut tree above, there gleamed down the triangular face of a child lying stretched out like a tomcat along a thick branch, in silence. A less short-sighted mother might have realised that when the twin peaks of the two fir trees exchanged hasty bows, they were being shaken by more than merely the sudden gusts of October wind... And in the square dormer window, above the pulley for hauling up fodder, might she not have spotted, if she screwed up her eyes, those two pale patches standing out against the hay: the face of a young boy, and his book? But she had abandoned her attempt to find out where we were, she had given up any chance of reaching us. No shout or cry accompanied our strange turbulence. I do not think anyone has ever seen children that were livelier and yet more silent. Only now does this surprise me. Nobody had asked us to be so cheerfully mute, or so relatively unsociable. My brother, the one who was nineteen and built hydrotherapy apparatuses from sausage-shaped pieces of cloth, pieces of wire and glass tubes, never stopped his younger brother who was fourteen, from dismantling a watch, or making a faultless piano reduction of a melody or some symphonic piece he had heard in the nearby town - nor from taking an obscure pleasure in dotting the garden with little tombstones he had cut out of cardboard, each of which bore, under its cross, the names, the epitaph and the genealogy of some imaginary dead person... My sister, who wore her hair too long, could read for as long as she liked, without pausing for rest: the two boys would pass by her as if they did not see her, brushing past the young girl who just sat there, her mind enraptured and far away, without ever disturbing her. When I was little I could, if I wished, follow the boys, almost running after them as they strode along, plunging into the woods in pursuit of red admirals, swallowtails and purple emperors, or hunting for grass snakes, or gathering up armfuls of the tall July foxgloves that grew in the clearings deep in the woods, glowing red with pools of heather... But I tagged along in silence, and picked blackberries, wild cherries, or flowers; I explored the coppices and the waterlogged meadows like a dog who is free and doesn't owe anyone any explanation...

[Claudine's House, Colette, S-G.]

...of idols

After the guests had departed, the brothers remained alone in one of the rooms; alone, if one takes no account of pictures, gods and saints. Tunda was unaccustomed to these silent witnesses; and, for my part, I have no use for lackeys who stand behind my chair counting the hairs on my head. There would certainly have been lackeys in the conductor's house, had it not been for Frau Klara's social conscience. It was manifestly repugnant to her to degrade men so.
However, this was not the case with the gods.

[Flight Without End, Roth, J.]

...of the girl

The girl was beautiful and placid. She moved around as if cloaked in silence. Many animals engender such a silence in which they spend their lives, as if they had made a vow to serve some secret and elevated purpose. The girl was silent, her great brown eyes lay in dark blue pools, she walked as erect as if she carried a pitcher on her head, her hands lay always on her lap as if under an apron.

[Flight Without End, Roth, J.]

Sunday, 21 November 2010

...of apathy

I never tried to meet Mertens. I felt a complex reluctance, of which aversion was only one component. Years ago I wrote him a letter; I told him that if Hitler had risen to power, devastated Europe and brought Germany to ruin, it was because many good German citizens behaved the way he did, trying not to see and keeping silent about what they did see. Mertens never answered me, and he died a few years later.

[Moments of Reprieve, Levi, P.]

...of snobbery

She had come to visit her father three years before she died. He could barely recognise her. She was now a slim young woman, with the manners of a young lady, and she dressed like one too. She spoke cleverly, like they do in books, smoked tobacco, and slept until midday. When Andrey Andreyich asked her what she did, she had looked him straight in the eye and boldly decalred: 'I am an actress!' Such frankness seemed to the former servant to be the height of cynicism. Mashutka had started to boast about her successes and her life as an actress, but when she saw her father go crimson and spread his hands, she fell silent. And so they spent the next two weeks in silence, not looking at each other until she was about to leave. Before she departed, she begged her father to go for a walk with her along the river bank. And he had given in to her entreaties, despite being aghast at the idea of walking with his actress daughter in broad daylight in front of all those honest people.

[The Requiem, Chekhov, A.]

...of grieving alone

And Iona turns round so he can tell them how his son died, but just then the hunchback heaves a sigh of relief, and declares that they have finally arrived, thank goodness. After receiving his twenty kopecks, Iona spends a long time watching the revellers disappearing through a dark doorway. He is on his own again, and silence once again surrounds him... The grief which had gone for a short while comes back again and wrenches his heart with even greater force. In his agony, Iona's eyes anxiously scan the crowds pouring down both sides of the street: is there not one person out of those thousands who might listen to him? But the crowds throng past, noticing neither him nor his grief... His grief is immense and boundless. If you were to open up Iona's chest and pour all the grief out of it, you would probably flood the entire planet, yet it is not visible. It has managed to squeeze into such a minute receptacle that you would not be able to see it in brightest daylight.

[Grief, Chekhov, A.]

Friday, 12 November 2010

...of displeasure

My habit of being silent when displeased, or, more exactly, the cold and scaly quality of my displeased silence, used to frighten Valeria out of her wits. She used to whimper and wail, saying "Ce qui me rend folle, c'est que je ne sais a quoi tu penses quand tu es comme ca." I tried being silent with Charlotte - and she just chirped on, or chucked my silence under the chin. An astonishing woman! I would retire to my former room, now a regular "studio," mumbling I had after all a learned opus to write, and cheerfully Charlotte went on beautifying the home, warbling on the telephone and writing letters. From my window, through the lacquered shiver of poplar trees, I could see her crossing the street and contentedly mailing her letter to Miss Phalen's sister.

[Lolita, Nabokov, V.]

...of gossip

The salesman found it strange that they had fallen silent in this way ever since he had come in, sipping their aperitifs and putting their glasses on the bar after each swallow. Perhaps he had disturbed them in the midst of an important conversation? He tried to imagine what it could be about. But suddenly he was afraid to guess, and dreaded the possibility that the subject might be broached again, as if their words, without their knowing it, might have concerned him. It would not be difficult to go a good deal further along this irrational course: the words "without their knowing it", for instance, were superfluous, for if his presence had caused them to fall silent - although they were not embarrassed to speak in front of the landlady - it was obviously because they...because "he"... "In front of the landlady", or rather "with" her. And now they were pretending not to know one another. The woman stopped grinding only to refill the coffee mill. The workmen managed to keep another mouthful at the bottoms of their glasses. To all intents and purposes no one had anything to say; yet five minutes before he had seen through the window all three talking animatedly together.

[The Voyeur, Robbe-Grillet, A.]

...of pre-disembarkation

Mathias let his arm fall to his side. Suddenly the engines stopped. The vibration ceased at once, as well as the continuous rumbling sound that had accompanied the ship since its departure. All the passengers remained silent, motionless, pressed close together at the entrance to the already crowded corridor through which they would eventually leave the ship. Most of them, ready for the disembarkation for some time, held their luggage in their hands, and all were facing left, their eyes fixed on the top of the pier, where about twenty people were standing in a compact group, equally silent and rigid, looking for a familiar face in the crowd on the little steamer. In each group the expressions were identical: strained, almost anxious, strangely petrified and uniform.

[The Voyeur, Robbe-Grillet, A.]

...of a murder scene

Stage directions for last silent scene: door - wide open. Table - thrust away from it. Carpet - bulging up at table foot in a frozen wave. Chair - lying close by dead body of man in purplish brown suit and slippers. Automatic pistol not visible. It is under him. Cabinet where the miniatures had been - empty. On the other (small) table, on which ages ago a porcelain ballet-dancer stood (later transferred to another room) lies a woman's glove, black outside, white inside. By the striped sofa stands a smart suitcase, with a coloured label still adhering to it: 'Rouginard, Hotel Brittania'.

[Laughter in the Dark, Nabokov, V.]

...of audacity

The days passed and the more keenly Albinus strained his hearing, the more daring did Rex and Margot become; they accustomed themselves to the safety curtain of his blindness, and, instead of having his meals under the adoring dumb gaze of old Emilia in the kitchen as he had done at first, Rex now contrived to sit at table with both of them. He ate with a masterly noiselessness, never touching his plate with fork or knife, and munching like a silent film diner, in perfect rhythm with Albinus's moving jaws and to the bright music of Margot's voice who purposefully talked very loudly while the men chewed and swallowed. Once he choked on a crumb: Albinus, for whom Margot was just pouring out a cup of coffee, suddenly heard at the end of the table a strange bursting sound, an ignoble sputter. Margot promptly began to chatter, but he interrupted, his hand raised: 'What was that? What was that?'

[Laughter in the Dark, Nabokov, V.]

...of prey

Now he advanced as quietly as possible so that he might detect every sound. Blind man's buff, blind man's a country-house on a winter's night, long, long ago. He stumbled against something hard and felt it with one hand, never for a moment letting loose the line which he held taut across the room. It was a suitcase. He thrust it away with his knee and moved on, driving the invisible prey before him into an imaginary corner. Her silence irritated him at first; but now he could detect her quite plainly. It was not her breathing, not the beating of her heart, but a sort of general impression: the voice of her life itself, which, in another moment, he would destroy. And then - peace, serenity, light.

[Laughter in the Dark, Nabokov, V.]

...of brooding

Albinus said nothing. At first, to be sure - while they were still in Switzerland - he had begged Paul with petulant persistency to ask Margot to come and see him; he had sworn that this final meeting would not last more than a moment. (And, indeed, would it take long to grope in the wonted darkness and, holding her tightly with one hand, to thrust the barrel of the automatic against her side and to stuff her with bullets?) Paul had obstinately refused to do as he asked, and after that Albinus had said nothing. He travelled to Berlin in silence, he arrived in silence and he was silent for the next three days, so that Elisabeth never heard his voice any more (except perhaps once): he might have been dumb as well as blind.

[Laughter in the Dark, Nabokov, V.]

...of heartache

Sonoko! Sonoko! I repeated the name to myself with each sway of the train. It sounded unutterably mysterious. Sonoko! Sonoko! With each repetition my heart felt heavier, at each throb of her name a cutting, punishing weariness grew deeper within me. The pain I was feeling was crystal clear, but of such a unique and incomprehensible nature that I could not have explained it even if I had tried. It was so far off the beaten path of ordinary human emotions that I even had difficulty in recognising it as pain. If I should try to describe it, I could only say it was a pain like that of a person who waits one bright midday for the roar of the noon-gun and, when the time for the gun's sounding has passed in silence, tries to discover the waiting emptiness somewhere in the blue sky. His is the rending impatience of waiting for a longed-for thing that is overdue, the horrible doubt that it may never come after all. He is the only man in the world who knows that the noon-gun did not sound promptly at noon.

[Confessions of a Mask, Mishima, Y.]

...of introduction

Sonoko introduced me to her aunt. I wanted to make a good impression and was trying as hard as I could. Everyone seemed to be silently asking each other: 'Why did Sonoko ever fall in love with such a fellow? What a pale bookworm! What on earth can she find to like about him?'

[Confessions of a Mask, Mishima, Y.]

...of snow

Following the tracks to the rear of the science building, I passed through the long shadow the building threw over the snow, and then continued on to the high ground overlooking the wide athletic field. Because of the mantle of glittering snow that covered everything, the three-hundred-meter ellipse of the track could not be distinguished from the undulating field it enclosed. In a corner of the field two great zelkova trees stood close together, and their shadows, greatly elongated in the morning sun, fell across the snow, lending meaning to the scene, providing the happy imperfection with which Nature always accents grandeur. The great elm-like trees towered up with a plastic delicacy in the blue winter sky, in the reflection of the snow from below, in the lateral rays of the morning sun; and occasionally some snow slipped down like gold dust from the crotches formed against the tree trunks by the stark, leafless branches. The roof ridges of the boys' dormitories, standing in a row beyond the athletic field, and the copse beyond them seemed to be motionless in sleep. Everything was so silent that even the soundless slipping of the snow seemed to echo loud and wide.

[Confessions of a Mask, Mishima, Y.]