Thursday, 22 September 2011

...of conclusion

Magician huddles miserably over crushed hat, weeping convulsively. First large man and young country boy enter timidly, soberly, from wings. They are pale and frightened. They peer uneasily into hat. They start back in horror. They clutch their mouths, turn away, and vomit.

Weeping, shouting, vomiting, accusations of murder.

Large man and country boy tie up magician, drag him away.

Weeping, retching.

Large man and country boy return, lift crushed hat gingerly, and trembling uncontrollably, carry it at arm's length into wings.

Momentary increase of weeping, retching, moaning, then dying away of sound to silence.

Country boy creeps onto stage, alone, sets up placard against table and facing audience, then creeps abjectly away.


[The Hat Act, Coover, R.]

...of out of earshot

From behind his left shoulder, past his flushed left ear, we can see down into the dazzling unbroken slope in front of him. The tension in his left temple relaxes as a certain absorption in his task - a kind of satisfaction as it were - passes over what we can see of his face: just this left side and not all of it at that. Moreover, the blinding radiance of what is beyond it makes the face seem almost black. He writes in the snow as he relieves himself. We follow the urine searing its lemon track through the faultless white plane, but we cannot discover the words - or, rather, we can make them out plainly, but afterwards we cannot remember them, cannot even remember if he finished the word or words before the stream of urine diminished, weakened from its initial surging onrush to a thin drooping trickle, spurted ungoverned three times, then wilted to an occasional drip. The man's shoulders are shaking and we see that he is laughing, has been laughing throughout his performance, laughing uncontrollably now, but we hear none of it, silence still governs our consciousness, there is only an occasional and unplaced staticky sound, which perhaps we have been hearing all along.

[Scene for "Winter", Coover, R.]

...of a winter scene

No sound, it gets going with utter silence, no sound except perhaps an inappreciable crackle now and then, not unlike static, but our ear readily compensates for it, hears not that sound but the absence of sound, stretches itself, reaches out past any staticky imperfections there might be and finds: only the silence. And that's how it starts. Not even a wind. Merely the powder-fine snow drooping silently, evenly, no more than infinitesimal flecks of light, settling icily on the quiet forest like frozen dust. The snow has folded itself into drifts, or perhaps the earth itself is ribbed beneath, cast into furrows by fallen trees and humps of dying leaves - we cannot know, we can be sure only of the surface we see now, a gently bending surface that warps and cracks the black shadows of the trees into a fretwork of complex patterns, complex yet tranquil, placed, reflective: the interlaced shadows and polygons of brightly day-lit snow suggest the quavering stability of light, the imperceptible violence and motion of shadow. So close to the drifts are we that whole trees cannot be seen, only thick black trunks flecked with white and plunging branches weighted with snow, sweeping perilously near the white heaps of earth: we pass beneath them, sliding by the black trunks, over the virgin planes of ground snow.

[Scene for "Winter", Coover, R.]

...of aphonia

I asked him about himself, received no answers. I recorded his silence in my book. I wrote the word aphonia, then erased it. True, I could have determined the matter, a mere palpation of the neck cords, but the prospect of dipping my fingers into the cavities behind that mouldy beard revolted me, and the question, after all, was not of primary concern. Moreover, a second method then occurred to me: if I could provoke a sound out of him, any sound, it would prove that the vocal mechanism was still intact. Of course, if he uttered no sound, it would not establish that he was mute, but I felt confident that I could provoke a sound and have an end to the problem.
I unstrapped my rifle from my back and poked the barrel under his nose. His gaze floated unimpeded down the barrel through my chest and into indeterminate space. I asked him his name. I asked him the President's name. I asked him my name. I reminded him of the gravity of his violation and of my own unlimited powers. I asked him what day it was. I asked him what place it was. He was adamant. I lowered the barrel and punched it into his chest. The barrel thumped in the thick coats he wore and something cracked, but he said nothing. Not so much as a whisper. He did not even wince. I was becoming angry. Inwardly, I cautioned myself. And still that old man refused - I say refused, although it may not have been a question of volition; in fact, it was not, could not have been - to look at me. I lowered the barrel and punched it into his groin. I might as well have been poking a pillow. He seemed utterly unaware of my intentions.

[The Wayfarer, Coover, R.]

...of reckoning

And Bad Sport? Ah, clearly, it's your mind they're after. Humour, passion, sobriety, and truth. On you, then, it depends, they depend, they all depend. They all hang. It may be so.
Odd silence. You look up to discover the Moderator drumming his ringed fingers on the rostrum and staring blankly at you. Yes, yes, the moment's come! They want to know! Cameras plunge, withdraw. Lamps blaze. You, pinned, sweat. Chilled by America's enveloping blubber, heated by the Lady pink as salmon. Pink as dog rose. As dogberry. All's Well That End's Well? Hardly.
Still, in the silence, or so you tell yourself, so it seems: an aura of hope. Moderator relaxed, smiling kindly. Lifts brows in calm anticipation. Audience suppressed to a patient murmur. Will he do it? Fat man, perishing, balloons and snorts. Lovely Lady watches, admires. Encourages. They need you. You take strength from their need , and clear your throat.

[Panel Game, Coover, R.]

...of a deserted island

I wander the island, inventing it. I make a sun for it, and trees - pines and birch and dogwood and firs - and cause the water to lap the pebbles of its abandoned shores. This, and more: I deposit shadows and dampness, spin webs, and scatter ruins. Yes: ruins. A mansion and guest cabins and boat houses and docks. Terraces, too, and bath houses and even an observation tower. All gutted and window busted and autographed and shat upon. I impose a hot midday silence, a profound and heavy stillness. But anything can happen.

[The Magic Poker, Coover, R.]

...of protest

But as the carriage advanced down the street, these various movements and activities seemed to unite and weld together, becoming integrated into a hostile fund of burning silence and enmity. The children, less intimidated than their elders, stood and stared, and when the carriage stopped, one collier, too old and too sick to care what happened to him, hawked and spat on the cart-road, his face crimson, his lips flaked with blood. Then, after staring directly and accusingly at Pritchard, he squatted bare armed on the flags outside his house.
Unperturbed by this silent protest, Pritchard climbed down from the carriage and said to the others, ‘shan’t be long, but I really must have a word with my manager while I’m here, and see if everything’s all right. Perhaps you’d care to have a look around?’

[Days of Hope, Allen, J.]

- submitted by Pearce, M. A.

...of trying to avoid the draft

There was a silence. Tom knew his words were inept and he desperately wracked his brains for something else to say, but he didn’t know what, while all the time the sergeant, whose retirement had been deferred because of the war, kept on shaking his head, and intimidating him by the way he allowed his authority to loom over him.
Tom looked at the sunburnt face of the young Constable whose eyes stared insolently at him from over the Sergeant’s shoulder, and he thought angrily to himself: ‘Why not him? Why isn’t he in the army?... They’ll be takin’ Ben next’.
Then he screwed up his face and looked at the sergeant. Despite the heat he was trembling violently, and when he spoke his voice was as thin and as shrill as a reed: ‘We haven’t clapped eyes on him, sergeant, an’ that’s God’s honest truth!’
Still the silence hung. Nothing stirred. A pile of wet manure steamed hot in the sun, and somewhere at the back of the house a dog barked.

[Days of Hope, Allen, J.]

- submitted by Pearce, M. A.

...of edification

Actually no one could have given them advice. Pierre and he realised very soon that they were on their own. M. Bernard himself, whom they in any case would not dare to disturb, could tell them nothing about this lycee he did not know. At home ignorance was still more complete. For Jacques's family, Latin, for example, was a word that had absolutely no meaning. That there had been (besides primitive times, which they on the other hand could imagine) times when no one spoke French, that civilisations (and the word itself meant nothing to them) had succeeded each other with such different customs and languages - these truths had not reached them. Neither the images, nor things written, nor word of mouth, nor the veneer of culture acquired in everyday conversation had reached them. In this home where there were no newspapers, nor, until Jacques brought them in, any books, no radio either, where there were only objects of immediate utility, where no one but relatives visited, a home they rarely left and then only to meet other members of the same ignorant family - what Jacques brought home from the lycee could not be assimilated, and the silence grew between him and his family. At the lycee itself, he could not speak of his family; he sensed their peculiarity without being able to articulate it, even if he could have overcome the insuperable reticence that sealed his lips on the subject.

[The First Man, Camus, A.]

...of the first man

No, he would never know his father, who would continue to sleep over there, his face for ever lost in the ashes. There was a mystery about that man, a mystery he had wanted to penetrate. But after all there was only the mystery of poverty that creates beings without names and without a past, that sends them into the vast throng of the nameless dead who made the world while they themselves were destroyed for ever. For it was just that that his father had in common with the men of the Labrador. The Mahon people of the Sahel, the Alsatians on the high plateaus, with this immense island between sand and sea, which the enormous silence was now beginning to envelop: the silence of anonymity; it enveloped blood and courage and work and instinct, it was at once cruel and compassionate. And he who had wanted to escape from the country without name, from the crowd and from a family without a name, but in whom something had gone on craving darkness and anonymity - he too was a member of the tribe, marching blindly into the night near the old doctor who was panting at his right, listening to the gusts of music coming from the square, seeing once more the hard inscrutable faces of the Arabs around the bandstands, Veillard's laughter and his stubborn face - also seeing with a sweetness and a sorrow that wrung his heart the deathly look on his mother's face at the time of the bombing - wandering though the night of the years in the land of oblivion where each one is the first man, where he had to bring himself up, without a father, having never known those moments when a father would call his son, after waiting for him to reach the age of listening, to tell him the family's secret, or a sorrow of long ago, or the experience of his life, those moments when even the ridiculous and hateful Polonius all of a sudden becomes great when he is speaking to Laertes; and he was sixteen, then he was twenty, and no one had spoken to him, and he had to learn by himself, to grow alone, in fortitude, in strength, find his own morality and truth, at last to be born as a man and then to be born in a harder childbirth, which consists of being born in relation to others, to women, like all the men born in this country who, one by one, try to learn without roots and without faith, and today all of them are threatened with eternal anonymity and the loss of the only consecrated traces of their passage on this earth, the illegible slabs in the cemetery that the night has now covered over; they had to learn how to live in relation to others, to the immense host of the conquerors, now dispossessed, who had preceded them on this land and in whom they now had to recognise the brotherhood of race and destiny.

[The First Man, Camus, A.]

...of fury

'Yes, the father and his two sons had their throats cut, the mother and daughter raped over and over, then killed... In short... The prefect was unfortunate enough to tell a meeting of farmers that they would have to reconsider issues, how they treated the Arabs, and that now a new day had come. The he had to listen to the old man tell him no one on earth was going to lay down the law about his property. But from that day on he didn't open his mouth. Sometimes at night he would get up and go out. My mother would watch him through the blinds and she'd see him walking around his land. When the order to evacuate came, he said nothing. His grape harvest was over, his wine was in the vats. He opened the vats, and he went to a spring of brackish water he'd diverted long ago, and he turned it back to run into his fields, and he equipped a tractor with a trench plough. For three days, at the wheel, bareheaded, saying not a word, he uprooted the vines all over his property. Think of it, that skinny old man bouncing around on his tractor, pushing the accelerator lever when the plough wasn't getting a vine that was bigger than the others, not stopping even to eat, my mother bringing him bread, cheese, which he ate calmly, the way he had done everything, throwing away the last chunk of bread and accelerating some more, all this from sunrise to sunset, without even looking at the mountains on the horizon, nor at the Arabs who'd soon found out and were watching him from a distance - they weren't saying anything either. And when a young captain, informed by who knows who, arrived and demanded an explanation, he said to him, "Young man, since what we made here is a crime, it has to be wiped out." When it was all finished, he headed towards the farmhouse, crossed the yard that was soaked with wine pouring out of the vats, and began to pack his bags. The Arab workers were waiting for him in the yard. (There was also a patrol the captain had sent, no one knew just why, with a nice lieutenant who was waiting for orders.)

[The First Man, Camus, A.]

...of horror

That war everyone was still talking about (and Jacques listened silent but with ears wide open when Daniel would tell in his own way about the Battle of Marne, where he fought and he still did not know how he had come out alive when they, the Zouaves, he said, they were put out in front and then at the charge down a ravine they charged and there was no one ahead of them and they were advancing and all of a sudden the machine gunners when they were halfway down they were dropping one on top of the other and the bed of the ravine was all full of blood and the ones crying for maman it was awful) that the survivors could not forget and that cast its shadow over everything in the children's world and shaped all the ideas they had for fascinating stories more extraordinary than the fairy tales read in other classes, and that would have disappointed and bored them if M. Bernard had taken it into his head to change his curriculum. But he went on with it, funny scenes alternating with terrifying descriptions, and little by little the African children made the acquaintance... of x y z, who became part of their world; they talked about them among themselves ass if they were old friends who were right there and so much alive that Jacques at least could not for a moment imagine that though they were living in the war, there was any chance they could be victims of it. And on the day at the end of the year when, as they arrived at the end of the book, M. Bernard read them the death of D. in a subdued voice, when he closed the book in silence, facing his own memories and emotions, then raised his eyes to his silent, overwhelmed class, he saw Jacques in the first row staring at him with his face bathed in tears and shaking with sobs that seemed as if they would never end. 'Come come, child,' M. Bernard said in a barely audible voice, and he stood up to return the book to the case, his back to the class.

[The First Man, Camus, A.]

...of home-sickness

Only school gave Jacques and Pierre these joys. And no doubt what they so passionately loved in school was that they were not at home, where want and ignorance made life harder and more bleak, as if closed in on itself; poverty is a fortress without drawbridges.
But it was not just that, for Jacques considered himself the most unfortunate of children when, to get rid of this tireless brat during vacations, his grandmother would send him to a holiday camp, with fifty or so other children and a handful of counsellors, at Miliana in the Zaccar Mountains; there they lived in a school that had dormitories, ate and slept comfortably, played or wandered around all day long, watched over by some nice nurses, and despite all that, when evening came - when shadows rose so rapidly on the mountain slopes and from the neighbouring barracks the bugle began to throw the melancholy notes of curfew into the enormous silence of this small town lost in the mountains, a hundred kilometres from any really travelled location - the child felt a limitless despair rising in him and in silence he cried for the destitute home of his entire childhood.

[The First Man, Camus, A.]

...of laconicism

'Ah!' his mother said to him, 'I'm glad you're here. But come in the evening, I'll be less bored. It's the evenings especially, in winter it gets dark early. If only I knew how to read. I can't knit either in this light, my eyes hurt. So when Etienne's not here, I lie down and wait till it's time to eat. It's a long time, two hours like that. If I had the little girls with me, I'd talk with them. But they come and they go away. I'm too old. Maybe I smell bad. So it's like that, and all alone...'
She spoke all at once, in short simple sentences that followed each other as if she were emptying herself of thoughts that till then had been silent. And then, her thoughts run dry, she was again silent, her lips tight, her look gentle and dejected, gazing through the closed dining-room shutters at the suffocating light coming up from the street, still at her same place on the same uncomfortable chair and her son going around the table in the middle of the room as he used to do.

[The First Man, Camus, A.]

...of incomprehension

'Henri is dead. He was killed.'
Lucie had stared at the envelope without opening it, neither she nor her mother could read; she turned it over, without a word, without a tear, unable to imagine his death, so far away in the depths of a mysterious night. And then she put the envelope in the pocket of her apron, passed by the baby without looking at him, went into the bedroom she shared with her two children, closed the door and the shutters of the window that looked out on the yard, and stretched out on her bed, where she remained for many hours silent and without tears, squeezing the envelope in her pocket and staring into the dark at the misfortune she did not understand.

[The First Man, Camus, A.]

...of a cemetery

Cormery approached the stone and gazed vacantly at it and that was indeed his name. He looked up. Small white and grey clouds were passing slowly across the sky, which was paler now, and from it fell a light that was alternately bright and overcast. Around him, in the vast field of the dead, silence reigned. Nothing but a muffled murmur from the town came over the high walls. Occasionally a black silhouette would pass among the distant graves. Jacques Cormery, gazing up at the slow navigation of the clouds across the sky, was trying to discern, beyond the odour of damp flowers, the salty smell just then coming from the distant motionless sea when the clink of a bucket against the marble of a tombstone drew him from his reverie. At that moment he read on the tomb the date of his father's birth, which he now discovered he had not known. Then he read the two dates, '1885-1914', and automatically did the arithmetic: twenty-nine years. Suddenly he was struck by an idea that shook his very body. He was forty years old. The man buried under that slab, who had been his father, was younger than he.

[The First Man, Camus, A.]

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

...of a barber

He walked up Preston Street, and found a barber on the left. He went in and was shaved soothingly in warm electric light. The barber did not talk, but beat up a rich sweet-scented lather with the brush on his face, and then scraped with the razor in a sacramental hush. Only once he asked, in a formal voice, 'Is the razor to your liking, sir?' and George Harvey Bone replied, 'Fine, thanks.' Thus these two, the barber with his own past and private life, and George Harvey Bone with his, met, touched, were silent with each other under electric light, and then parted never to meet again.

[Hangover Square, Hamilton, P.]

...of falsehoods

Today he did not feel that the same caution and foresight were necessary, for he had been definitely invited to phone her. Moreover, it would be advisable to phone early as, if she intended to keep her promise and come out with him in the evening, she would want to have it fixed up, so that she could tell, if she desired to do so, the appropriate falsehoods to Peter or Mickey, or anyone else who phoned and tried to engage her for the evening. To this day he did not know whether Peter or Mickey knew about these occasions when he took her out by herself. Nothing was ever said about such things in front of them: on the other hand nothing had ever passed between Netta and himself consciously to cause this silence. It was only very seldom anyway, only when he had money, that he took her out alone.

[Hangover Square, Hamilton, P.]

...of disgrace

Now, as always at this precise historical and geographical moment of the evening, he thought only of manoeuvring for the desired position - a position in which he was either behind or in front, alone with Netta, and so could walk along the pavement talking to her and no one else. He was usually successful enough in his tactics, so successful that he could afford sometimes to do the opposite and force Netta to walk behind or in front with someone else, so as to snub them if they imagined that any manoeuvring went on. But tonight he wanted to speak to her alone (he might not get the chance again when once they started drinking); and when they were out in the street he managed to get behind her while Mickey and Peter went on ahead. Then, as they came to cross the road, he took advantage of an approaching car, to put his hand on her arm and hold her back, while the other two crossed the road and went ahead completely out of earshot.
A freshly risen wind, coming straight at them as they walked along the pavement on the other side, under the dull brightness of the high electric lamps, was piercingly cold, and he put up his overcoat collar. She did not seem to feel it. (She didn't seem to feel anything.) They walked along in silence. They would walk in silence, he knew, until they reached the pub, unless he opened the conversation, for when they were alone she never spoke to him unless he spoke to her. It was, really, beneath her dignity to do so. Having disgraced himself, having put himself beyond the pale, by being distractedly in love with her without inspiring an atom of affection in return, he could no longer expect the normal amenities of intercourse. Only in an excess of amiability or generosity might she now treat him as an equal human being. And he knew that her character was devoid of amiability and generosity.

[Hangover Square, Hamilton, P.]

...of a change of mind

It was, actually, only in the few moments following the sudden transition - the breaking down of the soundtrack, the change from the talkie to the silent film - that he now ever thought about, or indeed was conscious of - this extraordinary change which took place in his mind. Soon enough he was watching the silent film - the silent film without music - as though there had never been any talkie - as though what he saw had always been like this.
A silent film without music - he could have found no better way of describing the weird world in which he now moved. He looked at passing objects and people, but they had no colour, vivacity, meaning - he was mentally deaf to them. They moved like automatons, without motive, without volition of their own. He could hear what they said, he could understand their words, he could answer them, even; but he did this automatically, without having to think of what they had said or or what he was saying in return. Therefore, though they spoke it was as though they had not spoken, as though they had moved their lips but remained silent. They had no valid existence; they were not creatures experiencing pleasure or pain. There was, in fact, no sensation, no pleasure or pain at all in this world: there was only himself - his dreary, numbed, dead self.

[Hangover Square, Hamilton, P.]

...of passive automobilism

"People will chuck stones at us," Julia went on, "And anyway, do you know how to drive such a contraption?"
Paul doesn't deign to answer and takes his place at the wheel. Valentin sits in the back. Julia resigns herself to getting in.
They drive off in a silence of grandeur, and Valentin waves to his mute friends and acquaintances. When the car had disappeared, the people went home in silence.
During the journey Julia didn't open her trap, whilst Paul from time to time tossed a few words into the back such as: "And what about your trip to Germany? Have to tell us all about it! How's the business doing? Where'd you like to go?" but Valentin, completely absorbed in the joys of passive automobilism, only replied with indistinctions.

[The Sunday of Life, Queneau, R.]

...of distaste

"Our very good health!" he exclaimed.
They touched glasses and, once the Sandeman had reinvigorated Julia, they went into the dining room which, though diminutive, was furnished in pure nineteen-o-five style. The moment he set foot in the room, Valentin perceived an agglomeration that dismayed him. It was oysters.
Thanks to a crafty policy of silence, he had thus far managed things so that, even though they had just traversed the winter months, it should never occur to Julia to include these ostreicultivated animals on the menu. But the monster, left to her own devices for once, had made no mistake: she had chosen, by instinct, what he most abominated.
He had scarcely outlined a plan of action before the other three had gulped down half a dozen oysters apiece.

[The Sunday of Life, Queneau, R.]

...of attraction

Little did he guess, Private Bru, that every time he passed her shop its owner noticed him. He walked very naturally, joyfully clad in khaki, his hair, what you could see of it, under his kepi, his hair neatly cut and as you might say glazed, his hands along the seam of his trousers, his hands, one of which, the right one, kept rising at irregular intervals to show respect to someone of superior rank or to answer the greeting of some demilitarised personage. Never suspecting that an admiring eye was piercing him every day on the route that led him from the barracks to the office, Private Bru, who in general thought of nothing but, when he did, had a preference for the Battle of Jena, Private Bru moved with unconscious ease. With his unconsciously grey-blue eyes, his puttees gallantly and unconsciously wound, Private Bru naively carried with him everything necessary to please a maiden lady who was neither altogether young nor altogether a maiden.
Julia pinched her sister Chantal's arm and said:
"There he is."
Lurking behind an amorphous clutter of cotton reels and buttons, they watched him go by, without a word. Their silence was caused by the intensity of their examination. Had they spoken, he would not have heard them.

[The Sunday of Life, Queneau, R.]