Wednesday, 17 April 2013

...of omission

They shut the library down today. By day's end workmen had it totally boarded up. I spent much of the afternoon helping Rachalle box up items to transfer to the supply cabinets of Mother's school. Her second graders wore such heart-tugging looks of confusion when the principal confiscated all of the textbooks. Mother spent much of the school day in halt and stammer lest she speak the proscribed letter and found herself brought up on charges. It makes teaching so difficult, she tells me - having to spell out each word in her head before speaking it, to prevent accidental usage, while attempting to deliver a lesson without benefit of any textbook whatsoever! (Mother is having only a slightly better time of it than Mrs. Moseley who, having fallen victim to chronic aposiopesis in the morning, spent the bulk of the afternoon seated in silent defeat behind her desk, while her restless third graders improvised games of catch with a variety of show-and-tell items.)
Mother said her own pupils wanted desperately to talk about what had just occurred.
Many are forbidden by their parents to discuss the matter at home, so great is the fear of where such discussion may lead. She said that she took the coward's way out and would not permit discussion in her classroom either. It is gone, she tells the children. They must think no more of it. We must all learn to accept its departure.

[ella minnow pea, Dunn, M.]

...of censorship

Today The Tribune published the names of fifty-eight of the sixty men, women, and children charged this week with first offense. (Two names were unpublished due to the presence of a particualr letter within.) All were speakers of banned words - words overheard upon the lanes, in schoolyards and church pews, and on the common greens. Neighbor turning in neighbor, perpetuating old grudges and grievances with this new weapon unleashed upon us by the High Island Council. The paper reported thirteen additional names of those charged with second offense. Unlike your brave Master Cheevy, all have chosen headstock in lieu of the lash. Thankfully, no one has yet to receive the dreaded charge of third and final offense. At least one of the thirteen has taken the precautionary measure of taping his mouth securely shut.
Another among their number, the very publisher and editor of our Island Tribune, Asquith Kleeman, is contemplating a suspension of the publication of his newspaper rather than risk a final charge. For the time being he has asked that all staff members tape down a certain key on their typewriters to avoid its accidental usage. The Kleeman family, as you may know, has resided on this island for multiple generations; they were, in fact, one of the first families to settle here. Banishment for them would be both an unfortunate and landish tragedy. Just as unfortunate, though, would be the loss of our daily rag - our solitary news source (now that radio news broadcasts have been suspended.)

[ella minnow pea, Dunn, M.]

...of purpose

Most wonderful news. Mr Warren, who will be arriving on the 18th, is coming to our rescue! I know its's foolish to put stock in any promises of assistance (and while I hope that your underground meetings prove independently fruitful, I cannot count on them - forgive my blunt honesty here - and must parcel my optimism in such a way as to best contribute to the state of my emotional health) but I am nonetheless encouraged by the following: Warren arrives bearing more than simply suitcase and notebook. He brings, as well, the results of chemical analyses performed on slivers of the errant tiles - analyses which prove beyond doubt and wanton denial that the tiles are falling for the simple reason that they can no longer hold themselves to the bandiford. It is as elementary as that. Nollop is not God. Nollop is silent. We must respect that silence and make our decisions and judgements based upon science and fact and simple old-fashioned common sense - a commodity absent for too long from those in governmental elevatia, where its employ would do us all much good.

[ella minnow pea, Dunn, M.]

...of expurgation

My sweet Mittie, it is strange, so terribly strange how taxing it has become for me to speak, to write without these four illegal letters, but especially without the fourth. I cannot see how, given the loss of one letter more, I will be able to remain among those I love, for surely will I misstep. So I have chosen to stop talking, to stop writing altogether.
Perhaps we will see each other soon. That is, if you are still here. Many, as you well know, are leaving us. Perhaps I may come to your house for a visit. (Cooney loves it near the water. He says there is no better fishing on the isle than from the village pier near your home.) We will not speak, we two, but I eagerly expect to pore with you in warm silence over our musty high school annuals, as well as those fox-worn nature scrap-books we spent several beautiful summers lovingly compiling.

[ella minnow pea, Dunn, M.]

Thursday, 11 April 2013

...of soliloquy

Tired of being separated from you, I have decided to send you my impressions of this new life. I shall write every now and then, whenever I have the time (and the heart), as a way of conversing with you. To know that someone dear is nearby - a person who understands and who offers communion - is so very comforting, especially when one is participating in life's most critical moments. Such a person hears your thoughts, inwardly, even though he may imagine he is not listening to them at all. You must have observed this sometime. A woman is sitting somewhere with her beloved, sitting with this dear person in a cosy little room, only the two of them present, and nothing else except a few good books, one or two paintings on the walls, a lamp awaiting the night with thumping heart, an inkstand (what an important object that is!), and the chairs in a circle, filled with patience. Neither of them speaks. Each is engrossed in his own thoughts or perhaps is not thinking any conscious thoughts at all. That is the golden moment, because their souls, as free now as two swallows, escape, meet the boundless Oversoul of the cosmos, and disappear, fraternally absorbed inside it. Most often, however, each of these souls converses with its own silence. Yet notice how indispensable to this "conversation" is the very special companion who sits close at hand without speaking, or who now and then utters a few words about current events, words which constitute his rationality's paltry attempt to justify the sweet-voiced silence. As he sits there tacitly, he is an unsuspecting auditor of the others unvoiced soliloquy. But as soon as he decides to rise and leave his lady's side, everything is finished, ended. She finds it beyond the limits of possibility to continue her silent, inward communing with the depths of her being. Sometimes the lady is the first to rise after one of these joint silences. Not a word has been exchanged the entire time, yet when she gets up to leave, smiling at her friend, at that same moment both feel their souls fuller and riper, brimming with strength and freedom - because many many truths have grazed them gently with their wings, like rosy butterflies.
Something similar is happening to me, making me wish to address my thoughts to you. Despite your silence, I assume that you are here, somewhere close to me. At such times i devote myself body and soul to my soliloquy, which your absence fills with presence.

[Life in the Tomb, Myrivilis, S.]

...of blinded soldiers

Imagine a rectangular tent, pure white, standing on the verdant banks of an idyllic little river splendidly appropriate for a picture postcard. This tent is an Italian field-hospital. Along the bank are thirty-two (I counted them) thirty-two young men seated in a long row on the soft grass, beneath aspens whose birdsong and rustling foliage provide a refreshing chatter. The men have their legs stretched out toward the current, which flows by them quickly, happily. All are dressed in hospital blues, and all have a black bandage bound tightly around their eyes.
They listen in silence as the water sings beneath their sandals, the trees and birds converse high above their heads. Their hands caress the grass, or grope with short pitiful movements in an attempt to fill a pipe. One of them strikes a match and continues to hold it absent-mindedly while the flame approaches his fingers and burns them; then with sudden fright he tosses the match into the river and licks his fingers urgently, bathing them in saliva. Occasionally one of these men moves his lips, but we are too far away to distinguish any words. Occasionally one of them smiles pleasantly. All are handsome olive-skinned sons of Italy with raven-black hair and childlike mouths. And all have been blinded by tear gas. All those black eyes beneath he pathetic bandages are dead now, and will perhaps remain so indefinitely...
It was then I understood why they sat there in silence, or if they did move their lips, why they spoke in an undertone as if in the sanctuary of a cathedral. They were listening, listening nostalgically with every portion of their bodies, as the secret whisperings of life in all its sweetness told them tales about light and water, about women (who are like fruit, like roses), about the sun and the flowers that they would perhaps never see again. With their sightless eyes they were gazing in horror at a frigid truth hidden to our sight because our eyes are still in intact.

[Life in the Tomb, Myrivilis, S.]

...of a foe

The darkness commences from the ravine and then continues to rise ever-upward like a turbid blue-purple mist, gradually obliterating faces, blurring lines, dulling colours, and rendering immaterial the distant trees along the horizon. At this point the mountain across the way is clearly delineated: it stands before us with black solidity, stretching upwards, a terrifying pyramid of gloom and silence. (What weighs most heavily upon our souls is not its bulk, but its silence.) It is without a single light, a single sound, a single sign of life. But everything we do not see we nevertheless feel all the more intensely. The hills in this range are called the Peristeri ridges - "the ridges of the dove." A gentle name for a mountain with such a ferocious soul - a living, billowing, ever-watchful soul which astutely circulates feverishly inside this black pyramid: a cunningly prescient, ever-active soul of numerous components. This is a ridge with untold thousands of shifting eyes which see without being seen, which direct their penetrating stare in our direction day and night. Upon this ridge are untold thousands of hearts throbbing with blind hatred and measuring out our lives with their beats. Each of its pits, boulders, caves and trees conceals one heart over-flowing with mortal enmity and one pair of eyes searching out human flesh for a target. These eyes do not see; they merely take aim, sighting along the "rear-sight elevation notch" and the "front-sight bar". Every depression in this mountain is the lair of a cannon which slowly sways its muzzle to the right and to the left, looking for warm weak flesh. These innumerable, intolerably attentive glances crisscross in the air like the threads of an invisible net which we perceive somehow and which wraps itself around our poor trench, almost smothering its spirit.

[Life in the Tomb, Myrivilis, S.]

...of a soldier's sacrifice

No sooner were we deprived of the sweet life we had left behind than that life began to regale us with all its precious joys. Pushing its way through the branches of wild pine and terebinth, it slipped into our tents and danced beneath our heavy eyelids, hiding none of its lively charms. All these memories deposited a sediment of sorrow, a haze of sweet melancholy which enveloped us like incense and took the form of muted, affectionate expostulations directed toward all the beloved people and objects we had left behind when. stooped and pensive, we embarked upon the path singled out for us by fate and duty. O God, how much more love these people and objects owe us now! I say this to all you men, women, children and things, be you friend or foe, who are still able to enjoy tranquil homes and clean clothing and a comfortable bed and the myriad small pleasures of life, while we, like new-fledged monks, advance toward our destiny: toward a fate whose countenance is hidden behind an iron mask.
We proudly relinquished everything in order to protect your happiness by means of enormous sacrifice. If you were honest in recognising this fact you would be thinking about us constantly. We do not say this to you openly, but we say it with silent forcefulness because we desire it with all our hearts. We need and want your love all the more because we are so far away.

[Life in the Tomb, Myrivilis, S.]

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

...of dissociation

"I'd never loved a man before. Until I read you."
He smiled at the oddness of the verb in the context of our conversation.
"No? Well... I'm flattered. Let me tell you about something which happened to me. It has never ceased to haunt me. It was fifteen years ago. In August, around the time when you and I first came to the Midi. The beaches on the front were packed so I was looking for somewhere quieter to brood and to swim. I found an empty sheet of hot rock a long way from everybody else. Out there, beyond the coffin breakwater. It was barren, empty, a sequence of sharp rocks and pools. I took notes, slept during the hottest part of the day. I always travelled alone, lived alone. I've never even shared a room with anyone else, not since childhood. It's odd sometimes, hearing your breathing in the night when I don't sleep. You bring back the taste of my childhood, petit. I chose solitude and the deeper dimensions of that choice, which are inevitable and necessary. I condemned myself to isolation and loneliness. It was the only way I could work, it was my way of defending myself. I used to write in complete silence. I used to spend time listening to silence.

[Hallucinating Foucault, Duncker, P.]

...of a dialogue

"You asked me about Foucault, petit. And I never gave you an answer."
He paused. I held my breath, expecting another explosion.
"I should explain. I did know him, perhaps better than many people ever did. We met once. But only once. It was during a student uprising in the university at Vincennes, where he taught philosophy. He never knew who I was. You didn't bother with names and titles then. It was hard to tell who was a student and who was a lecturer, if they were on our side. I had already published La Fuite. And he was the first person to comment on my work whose opinion I valued. It's rare to find another man whose mind works through the same codes, whose work is as anonymous, yet as personal and lucid as your own. Especially a contemporary. It's more usual to find the echo of your own voice in the past. You are always listening, I think, when you write, for the voice which answers. However oblique the reply may be. Foucault never attempted to contact me. He did something more frightening, provocative, profound. He wrote back, in his published work. Many people have observed that our themes are disturbingly similar, our styles of writing utterly different. We read one another with the passion of lovers. Then we began to write to one another, text for text. I went to all his public lectures at the College de France. He saw me there. He gave no sign. He was teaching in California when I was in America for the publication of Midi. I went to his seminars. There were over 170 people there. Once I was slightly late. He was standing silent at the lectern, looking at his notes, when I joined the crowd standing at the back of the hall. He looked up and we stared at one another. Then he began to speak. He never acknowledged me. He always knew when I was there.

[Hallucinating Foucault, Duncker, P.]

...of a psychiatric hospital

I followed her down impeccable, silent, empty corridors, lit only by artificial overhead strip-lights, yellow, muted. There was no sound. The doors were all shut. The floor was expensive soft white lino and smelt strongly of bleach. There was one painting, a banal green landscape hung high up, out of easy reach. She opened a door marked Dr Pascale Vaury and indicated that I should enter before her.
Her office was terrifyingly clean, but had posters, a black leather couch shunted into a corner, a huge barred, vault-shaped window looking out on to a geometrical courtyard with long avenues of neatly pruned limes and impeccable white gravel paths. Through the thick lace curtains I saw passing strangers, some in religious habit, upright, marching briskly, others shuffling and bent, as if they were tortured, badly trimmed trees. The sun did not enter her office, but stopped short on the window sill, so that, outside, there was a glaze of bright light, inside, it was sober, muted, austere. The office was completely soundproofed. I could hear nothing but her movements and mine. She sat down on the other side of the desk and offered to speak English.

[Hallucinating Foucault, Duncker, P.]

...of lovers

Some lovers chat like old friends when they are making love, keep each other informed, as if they were engaged upon a common house purchase. For others making love is their language; their bodies articulate themselves into adjectives and verbs. For us it was the conjunction of the mind and opposition of the stars. She transformed me, wordlessly, into a mass of sensations, resolved me, like a symphony, into a crescendo of major chords. But she never told me how she felt, never counted the ways in which she loved me, nor did she ever ask my opinion or ever enquire after any of my desires. She watched herself, and me, from a terrible, uncompromising distance.

[Hallucinating Foucault, Duncker, P.]

...of a child's passing

I had two younger brothers; both had died. They'd also lived alone in a hotel for a while, like me. One of them died when he was two, the other at three. I can particularly recall the night when the second one died; he was a good-looking boy, big and blond.
My mother was standing up, at the foot of the bed, an old bed made of dark wood. She held a lit candle in her hand and was watching the dying child. I was sitting on the floor beside her, and I could see her exhausted face, lit from below by the candle's flame. The child had one or two little convulsions, looked up with a weary, astonished expression, and died. My mother didn't move; her hand covering the flame was the only thing that was obviously trembling. Finally, she noticed me and wanted to say something (undoubtedly something like 'Logna, death is part of nature') but she just clenched her lips sadly and said nothing. She placed the dead child on his pillow, took my hand and brought me to a neighbour's house. The silence, the darkness, and his pale face, his white night-shirt and long, fine blond hair, all this I remember as it were a bewildering dream. Soon afterwards, she also died.

[The Courilof Affair, Nemirovsky, I.]

...of a flunkey

You say there was another servant
Better if I hadn't mentioned him, not interesting and no more chatty than the others never a word from him either, we should have got on together after all working for the same folk eating together always run off our feet together, but no nothing it was as much as he could do not to tread on my corns and even if he had and knocked me about I think I'd rather have had that than the silence it's true, I wasn't made for a graveyard like that as a young man I was full of life didn't have to ask me twice to tell a good story I knew some I knew some, but now I can hardly remember any so you see the others didn't do me much good, the flunkey I used to call him the flunkey and that put him against me he'd keep his lips pursed in a vicious circle, for two pins I'd have had a word with my gentlemen but knowing them it wasn't worth it they would have sent me packing, besides they preferred the other chap always  fussing round them he's the one you ought to interrogate but where is he now, it's no wonder if he hasn't joined the other one a couple of blighters like that could be up to anything they ought to get on together, they got on well enough anyway nattering in corners and how could the flunkey have stayed on without someone to chat to, you need a make-up like mine to make-do with things as they were
What good would conversation have done you seeing you're deaf

[The Inquisitory, Pinget, R.]

...of reserve

Because for me to feel relaxed and reassured, I absolutely must find, no matter where... I feel this very clearly, but I don't know how to express it... the only words I have at my disposal being poor ones that are completely worn out from having been used by everybody for everything... I should need to possess the perfected vocabulary of those learned Doctors. I know they would think me ridiculous, if they heard me. Fortunately they never hear. So then... what I mean to say is that for me to feel contented and in a safe spot, like them, just anywhere... even in a vast fresco, why not? I have no prejudices... I must sense... I don't know quite well what it is... it's something like what you feel in the presence of the first blade of grass that timidly sends up a shoot... a crocus not yet open... it's that perfume they smell of, but it's not yet a perfume, not even an odour, it has no name, it's the odour of before odours... It seems to me that it's that... It's something that takes me gently and holds me without letting me go... something untouched, innocent... like a child's slender fingers clinging to me, a child's hand nestling in the hollow of my own. A confident ingenuousness spreads out everywhere inside me... every particle of me is imbued with it...
At all cost I want to show myself worthy of it... not betray you... that's what sometimes makes me feel I should like to forget all prudence and utter my appeal when I should not do so, when it would be better for you and for me to let people forget us... And The Golden Fruits? I feel like saying that... Do you remember it?... One only enters by the straight gate... Of what importance are those vessels and constructions with world dimensions if they don't contain still the closed crocus, the child's hand... Is it there or not? That's the entire question. Believe me, that's all that counts... How, I wonder, when the time comes for them too, today so powerful, to cling to people like me to make the long crossing, how will they go about it, by what will they catch hold of them... But I restrain myself. I remain silent. Ridicule would crush us. They use it so well. We are so frail and they so strong. Or perhaps, I feel that too, at times, perhaps, without realising it, I am certain that we, you and I, are the stronger, even now. Perhaps I feel a bit sorry for them... I don't know... Let us say quite simply, like anybody else, that it's out of politeness, delicacy of heart, that I remain silent. Therefore, I say nothing.

[The Golden Fruits, Sarraute, N.]

...of bated breath

Now they're all agog. He's not the only one. There are others who are hiding, sly recalcitrants, nostalgics... They're inspected, searched... that one over there, in that one, for some time now they had been sensing it, from that one who said nothing something emanated, they, those who happened to be near him, were more and more discommoded by it, their movements, as though the air about them had become thicker, had grown embarrassed, slower... that's where it came from, now they are sure: from those invisible emanations that, like a heavy gas, filtered from his silence.

[The Golden Fruits, Sarraute, N.]

...of the aloof

Not the slightest sign of acquiescence. His hand takes the postcard between fingertips and hands it on. Silence. Quite so. Silence. Not a word. He takes the reproduction and passes it around without saying a word. And what about it, I should like to know. What scornful reservations? What suppressed sneers? Careful, eh, you're not going to start up again? A perfectly ordinary man, you understand, a decent man, respectful of certain values, takes from your hand a Courbet reproduction which you hold out to him, gives it a glance... True, it was hardly a glance... Very well. Granted. He's probably familiar with it already. He's a very discerning man, a cultivated man. He says nothing. Silence gives consent. His silence shows respect. Modesty. He doesn't think that his opinion is important. He thinks it's not very interesting. That's all to his credit. He's a sincere man. A simple, frank man who dislikes empty phrases, affectation.
Simple. Modest. Frank. Deeply respectful. Silence gives consent. I quite agree. Well and good, I give in. Those were hallucinations. The dangerous signs of persecution mania. Even when it's plain to be seen, I give in. Even when it is so obvious that you'd like to scream, even when she leans over too far, as though she were bending under the weight of her admiration and starts cheeping, even when he looks at her, by all means, nothing took place between them, no secret sign between them to show their collusion, the immense aloofness they maintain and from where they see me, caught, entirely confined in their field of vision. No. They are right up against me. So close that they can have no general view, that's all they see, this close-up image of myself that I show them, this nice, frank, confident gaze that I lay, there, right on their eyes...

[The Golden Fruits, Sarraute, N.]