Saturday, 29 March 2014

...of extras

"Awright, men, now I want you t'listen t'me!" His voice rang out clear and resonant. They stared back, blankly, irresolutely. They were scared of him, Hank knew that. He stood tall and lean as a pillar, just inside the swinging doors of the old town saloon, his wide-shouldered frame silhouetted against the glare of the outdoors. They were scared of him, but they also didn't like him. They didn't want him in here. Hank wasn't surprised, and in a way he enjoyed it. In the end, he knew he'd have to go it alone anyway. But first he had to give them their chance. They had to know afterwards where they'd failed, feel guilt for it. If they couldn't be heroes, they anyway had to learn to be men. He settled his right hand down easily on the butt of his gun. "I'm meetin' the Mex at 12:10, men. I need your help." He gazed narrow-eyed around the room at their dull flat faces. Some turned away. Or stared past him. "If we go as a group, we can take him. He'll get a trial, fair and square. Gentry's Junction will be free of him." He paused. "Otherwise, it's likely to get pretty rough. Lotta people apt to get hurt. Hurt bad."
He waited. He was aware no one would move or speak if he didn't, and that they'd suffer until he broke it. He was aware, but he didn't care, or if he cared, it was to burn them a little with this pained silence. Hank knew for whom law and order in this town came natural. He'd start with them. One by one, all alone. In a group, they sometimes got confused about things. Like in here, for example. Others if he had to, if finally he really needed more help, he could cajole into a kind of temporary cooperation on some pretence or other. The rest, the goddamn cabbage heads of this town, had to have their arms bent. But it was easy to bend them, soft as they were, only providing the overarching structure looked solid and sure of itself. United. So that was his job now. "I'm comin' back here in fifteen minutes. I want alla you men t'be here waitin'. I want you t'have your shootin' irons strapped on and be ready t'go with me." He gazed hard at their weak faces. They looked down or away. The bartender quietly mopped the bar with a rag and avoided Hank's eyes. No one said a word. The Sheriff turned and pushed out through the old swinging doors.

[Shootout at Gentry's Junction from A Night at the Movies: or, You Must Remember This, Coover, R.]

...of enthral

She scrunches down in her seat, feeling a strange chill and wishing she'd brought along a sweater or something, not to mention some spare bluejeans and an extra pair of shoes. Her teeth start to chatter and her flesh goes all shivery, but it can't be that cold in here, probably its just nerves (she's never sat this close to one of these seats before, so to speak), so she tries to focus on the cartoon to calm herself down. But there's something odd. One of the animals has been twisted into a kind of coiled spring and is boing-boinging around in a way that usually has people hooting and yipping and rolling around in the aisles - but no one's laughing. No one's making any kind of sound whatsoever. She twists around uneasily and peeks over the back of her seat: the auditorium, lit only by the light from the projector, is full of people, all right, but they're all sitting stiffly in their seats with weird flattened-out faces, their dilated eyes locked onto the screen like they're hypnotised or dead or something. Uh oh. She reaches back and taps her friend to ask her what she thinks is going on, and her friend, jostled, slides lifelessly off the guy's lap onto the floor between the seats. There's a soft bump, clearly audible under the tinny whistle and crash up on the screen, the burlesque rattle up there as of things tumbling down a thousand stairs. The guy's not looking too great either, just sprawled out there with his cowboy hat down over his nose, his slobbery mouth hanging open, his belt buckle undone, his hand cupped rigidly around a skinny behind that isn't there anymore. She's about to let out a yell, when she feels this icy claw-like grip on her shoulder, and she can't even speak. The claw twists her around in her seat until she's facing the screen again and holds her there, peering up in the creepy silence at all that hollow tomfoolery and wondering how she's going to get out of this one. If how is the word. It's like some kind of spell, and there's probably a way to break it, but right now she can't think of it, she almost can't think at all: it's like that hoodoo behind her has stuck one of those bony fingers deep in her ear and pushed the "OFF" button. So what can she do, she stares up at the screen and pretends to watch the mayhem (one of the animals, having been pressed into an ice-cube tray, is now being emptied out in cubes: there are exaggerated pops and clunks as various bodily parts tumble from the tray), wishing only that she'd at least picked up that soft drink on the way in, or better yet, a tub of popcorn and a half-dozen chillidogs, it might be a long night. Like her friend would say, if she were still alive: "Sometimes, sweetie, you just have to hunker down, spread your cheeks, and let nature take its curse." Anyway, as far as she can tell, the claw only wants her to watch the movie, and, hey, she's been watching movies all her life, so why stop now, right? Besides, isn't there always a happy ending? Has to be. It comes with the price of the ticket...

[Intermission from A Night at the Movies: or, You Must Remember This, Coover, R.]

Friday, 21 March 2014

...of grace

Yet, as I have already explained, I intoxicated myself with these moments as if they were never to reoccur, so inimitable did they seem. My room, where I waited for Concha's evening visits, had pale carpeting that set off the handsome mahogany Empire furniture with its brass dragons, strange crowned heads, flying muses holding lyres, creatures out of some fairytale. The room's colours were red and green - red for the hangings, the two little chairs at the foot of the bed, the lampshades, and the sofa. Green for the bedspreads and the armchairs. The bookcase added a note of variety, filled with yellows, whites, ochres, browns. There was only two paintings, which I had chosen for their insignificance. But the better of the two, out of which Concha, suddenly and soundlessly appearing, seemed to step into the room (and I was pleased her character harmonised so well with her surroundings; it permitted me to love her twice as much), showed a rather stocky woman whose dark hair, sparkling eyes, and pale skin always surprised me. And I like Concha to wear those rather extravagant tortoiseshell combs that set a cool gleam at the nape of her neck. She herself - "que tal?" - seemed to glide across the floor without a sound (she often startled me) and as I watched her advance toward me from the other end of the room with the freedom, the ease of manner that was the first thing you noticed about her, I remembered Baudelaire's lines:

Tes nobles jambes sous les volants qu'elles chassent
Tourmentent les desirs obscurs et les agacent
Comme deux sorcières qui font
Tourner un philtre noir dans un vase profond

[A Strange Solitude, Sollers, P.]

...of a lapse in memory

"Near the beginning," Concha said, "that thread I had in my hair that you picked out so carefully - well, every time I did any sewing, I put one there on purpose, to see you take it out. It was so funny!"
I was not too surprised to discover how different her memory was from my own (she was still touched by attentions I had long forgotten). One day, I had thrown a bouquet of artificial carnations out of the window. Another, I had tried to force my way into her bathroom, we had concocted a rape scene, and the excitement of the pretence was so great that my pleasure was upon me before I could possess her.
"Total," Concha suddenly concluded, "the way we never are for each other."
I did not answer. Her face, beside mine, remained motionless. With one accord we changed the subject.
Then there were endless walks. Concha never wanted to do anything else, enjoyed this happy, mechanical movement, and if I suggested stopping in a cafe she only agreed reluctantly. Did she do this on purpose, to preserve the marginal character of our relationship? She was subtle enough for that. When we went out, she did up her hair in a bun the way she knew I liked it, and despite the diamond-shaped comb and the long pin, it always came undone too quickly. Then she looked at me as if to say: "I can't stay the way you like me for long." Yes, she was subtle enough for that. And when I walked with her in the neighbourhoods where I had been so sad, so desperate, I told myself, as if to take my revenge on them now: "Remember the name of this street so you can come this way again, after you've lost her." The next day I tested my memory, but it remained mute as to the name, and though Concha was still with me, it was as if I had lost her again forever.

[A Strange Solitude, Sollers, P.]

...of forbearance

No, there is no way of defending oneself against them, no way of resisting them - they are too over-powering. There would of course be one way for me, a heroic, desperate way, the one used by people who know that they have nothing more to lose. That would be, to let myself go completely, to give up everything, release all my brakes, and shout at them that I am no fool, either, that I see through their cowardly little game... cowardly and cruel... I don't earn my living, I don't, and I feel uncomfortable about it, which they well know... incapable of getting rid of them, or of escaping... caught in their toils, cornered, ill, and they take advantage of that fact... I'm ill, I'd shout that at her, I can't live in an unheated studio and you know that perfectly well, I can't sit up all night... That's why I'm stagnating here, listening to your stupid twaddle, taking part in your dubious amusements, people amuse themselves as best they can, don't they? You know where my weak spot is and you hit me there, in order to humiliate and annihilate me - you always do it - that picks you up for a while, gives you confidence, excites you...
But I shall never dare. Nobody ever dares to do such a thing. They know that, and can therefore rest easy. They don't run the slightest risk. If ever some madman, in a moment of fury, should dare, out of a blue sky, to indulge in such an indecent outburst as that, we know very well what would happen to him. He would see them suddenly leave, withdraw, as they know how to do, far away, at immense distances, setting between them and him all their sad amazement, their incomprehension, their innocence, their unawareness; he would be alone, abandoned by everybody, in a desert, with no other partner, no other adversary, than himself; scratching, biting, embracing nobody but himself, turning in circles round himself, a stupid dog that bites its own tail, a ludicrous dervish.

[Martereau, Sarraute, N.]

...of contempt

"'You' have a way of staring at people..." We remain motionless for a moment, huddled up close to one another, all grey, little sparrows lined up on a wire, a trembling bunch of sickly monkeys, and then, in her, something that had lain dormant - the very thing that had frightened me so, the reason why I had so weakly lined up on her side, against him - something inside her begins to stretch, to deploy, to rise up... the envelope in which the charm had enclosed her crackles, splits, now he too is afraid, I know it, a scatterbrained little fox-terrier that has imprudently stuck its nose in a snake's hole - she appears, hard, icy, pitiless, she examines him from an immense distance... the lady with the unicorn, the costly statuette, the far-away princess... "I didn't take so much as that with me, you hear me, when I went away... I left everything, from one day to the next"... she was lying on her bed, her cheek in her hand, reading a novel, he was walking up and down, endlessly talking, shouting, everywhere they went he collected crowds with his continual scenes of jealousy, his reproaches, his shouts, he called her every known name, a whore, she was nothing but that, a dirty little whore... so that was life together, their life? that was what people called life together! it had been hell from the start, he had always known it from the start, all she wanted was his money... why didn't she leave, she could go to the devil, into the gutter... where she belonged... she needn't count on him to go after her... he left, slamming the door, he came back... already, on their wedding trip in Syria, when he had caught the fever... such cold-heartedness, such callousness on the part of a mere girl... not an atom of affection or sympathy, less than for the chauffeur, less than for her dog... but why doesn't she speak, why doesn't she answer, he came towards her clenching his fists, grabbed her book from her hands, why doesn't she say something... she remained unmoved, her face set, her eyes lowered, pretending to read... he was sobbing, his head leaning against the door-frame, he was alone, done for, he wouldn't be able to stand it... just one word, never an affectionate or fond word, not even his first name the way his mother used to call him... but she had never been able to call him by his first name... she should say what she wanted, anything she wanted, they had been together ten years, their child... everything was ready, the taxi was waiting downstairs, she had passed erect in her travelling suit, with veil lowered and gloves fastened, the chauffeur carrying her valise... I felt I wanted to implore her, to protect him, she should forgive him, she shouldn't pay any attention to him, he's so ind, only awkward, nervous, flares up easily... She stares at him for a long time without speaking and he looks away. Her lip curls as she turns on him a "look of disdain": "What's got into you, anyway?"

[Martereau, Sarraute, N.]

...of scorn

Sometimes - but it's so unlike me, so little in my line, so remote from the kind of thing I usually do that I can hardly believe I could have taken such a risk, it seems to me that I must have seen somebody else do it or even have dreamed it, while I walked along beside him, swallowing docilely - sometimes in a moment of sudden intrepidity or oblivion, I stop suddenly, and there, right in the middle of the meadow, beside the brook, dilating my nostrils, I make so bold as to breathe in the odour of new-mown hay, look at the distant hills and the pine woods and say... "Listen to that... those twinkling bells... the brook... Look over there at the line of those woods... that little hut..." The respite afforded me by this act of bravura is a very brief one. He turns his head, half-closes his eyes, casts an impatient, furious glance at the little brook, says nothing: a thick, heavy silence that quickly crushes the tinkle of bells and the ripple of the brook. Calling my entire strength into play, I probe his silence. My hearing - as well-trained as that of a trapper who, laying his ear to the ground, can catch the far-off gallop of horses - detects in it certain disquieting movements. Soon his silence becomes more deafening than the din of the most violent upbraiding and shouting. In my stupid unawareness, in my mad temerity, I have touched upon something very dangerous, something absolutely forbidden; I have committed the greatest offence. I have dared to give him a lesson, I have taunted him. Nature-lover, eh? The little blue flower? Purity?... All those dreamers and failures who go walking through meadows breathing in the perfume of flowers, pressing plants and pasting them in an album, chasing after butterflies... The countless idiots and good-for-nothings in whose stead people like himself do all the thinking, all the struggling, and they have the nerve - such dirty work as that, I should say not - to scorn the firm, hard work in which real men fight their battles for them, for the entire incompetent, lazy, irritable, fastidious, "esthetic" lot of them... he knows them... each one a bundle of self-conceit and vanity... wearing his wretched little feelings tenderly, gingerly, in a sling... and they're the ones who would like to teach him how to live, who want to set him an example of purity and unworldliness, no, really, it's enough to make you die laughing...

[Martereau, Sarraute, N.]

...of a spouse

She, as soon as he comes in, as soon as she hears - she recognises them right away, she has known them for a long time - that voice, that tone that he has in his moments of emotion, that childish, defenceless, naive, caressing tone, and that limp, muggy voice, it seems to her - I know it, I feel it each time just as she does - that right away everything inside her bristles like fur on a cat's back. At first you don't understand very well what it is you feel when you're near him in those moments: a certain embarrassment... a revulsion... that coaxing, damp, limp intonation creeps into you, tries to get at you in your most secret, best guarded spots, it's a lack of decency, a criminal lack of respect, an attempt at rape... One has the feeling of being the tool of his pleasure, his plaything... He doesn't give a hoot what others might feel... in fact, he doesn't see the people about him, he doesn't look at them... you might die of sorrow, pine away beside him, without his seeing it... people are nothing but puppets, dolls, subject to the whims of the spoilt, stupid, frivolous child that he is... he fancies that it suffices for him to shout "I quit," that in the twinkle of an eye he can change roles, play something else, wipe out, as with a sponge, with that muggy voice of his, what he has engraved in her, and in me, the indelible marks left by his scratches, his bites, his bursts of hatred that burn and disfigure, vitriol. With a hardly perceptible movement (but which he perceives right away: it's as though a cold breath, a cold pale irradiation, emanated from her, from the somewhat too neutral tone in which she answers, when he asks where they're going... "I don't know, wherever you want."... from her silence... from the gesture with which she lifts her coat as she gets into the car ahead of him...), she brushes him aside, keeps him at a distance, she sets a gap between them that he tries to bridge, she spreads out an icy desert that he seeks to cross at all costs, he grows restless, over-active, tense, the dance begins. The roles - without either he or she being able to change them - have been cast between them for the evening.

[Martereau, Sarraute, N.]

Sunday, 16 March 2014

...of a wandering mind

Abel Reyes was still queuing patiently; his arms had gone numb from the weight. There was some very pretty girls in the queue, and he was watching them to pass the time. But in the most discreet way. He could truthfully have said that girls were what he liked best in the world, but he always admired them from a certain distance, held back by his pathological, adolescent shyness. He also felt that the inevitable stillness of a supermarket queue put him at a disadvantage. Movement was his natural state, albeit the movement of flight. To him, stillness seemed a temporary exception. He advanced step by step, as a train of full trolleys made its very slow way forward. Many of them were full to capacity, with what looked like provisions for the whole year. The people behind and ahead of him in the queue were talking continually. He was the only one who was silent. He couldn't believe that the neutron bomb really existed. Here, for example, how could it eliminate people and not things, since they were inextricably combined? In a situation like this, a supermarket queue, things were extensions of the human body. Still, since he had nothing better to do, he imagined the bomb. A silent explosion, lots of radiation. Would the harmful radiation get into the packets of food, the boxes and tins? Most likely. An analogy for death by neutron bomb occurred to him: you're at home, listening to the radio, and a song begins to play; then you go out, and you hear the same song coming from the window of a house down the street. A block further on, a car drives past with the song playing on its radio. You catch a bus, the radio is on, and what do you hear but the same song, still going - without meaning to, you've practically heard it all. Everyone hears the radio (at some point during the day) and many people have it tuned in to the same station. For some reason this struck him as an exact analogy, supernaturally intact; only the effects were different. These thoughts helped him to while away the time...

[Ghosts, Aira, C.]

...of accentuation

When Patri lowered her eyes, still dazzled from looking directly at the sun, she thought she saw human-shaped shadows flying through the air and into the sixth floor, just below her feet. Who could they be? Her anxiety gave way naturally to a feeling of curiosity, and she could see no reason to suppress it. So she continued her circuit of the pool, walking along the other side now, more quickly, heading for the stairwell. To get there she had to pass in front of the others, who were chatting away noisily, but no one noticed her. She went down the stairs. Although the sixth floor was empty, it seemed different. In the several minutes or half-hour since she had come up with Ines, the configuration of light had changed. The shadows had thickened toward the front, and an intense yellow light was coming in from the back, through the passageways. The perfection of the silence was accentuated by the far-sounding noise of conversation and laughter coming from the terrace above. Paradoxically, a frightening intimation of the unknown was creeping in from the bright side.

[Ghosts, Aira, C.]

...of an artist

Several times destroyed and rebuilt, a victim of countless vicissitudes, the village church holds little interest today, save to situate the original edifice. It nevertheless reassembles, in a very different order, the sum of its forerunner's parts, and for this reason certain tourists find a secret charm in its walls, as if, imprisoned in the current monument, the earlier architecture might reveal itself to a sufficiently erudite gaze.
On the other hand, the traveler will be amply rewarded by a visit to a house on the town square, inhabited for seven or eight years at the turn of the century by one Albert Crucis. This latter had claimed the title of painter, and indeed - as the traveler might, if he wishes, verify for himself - the oils, watercolours, and drawings produced by his hand show a first-rate command of that craft. Nevertheless, though interested enough in the province to engage in frequent excursions and recurrent tete-a-tetes with the aged locals in the cafe, all evidence suggests that he never found full acceptance in these parts. The silence in which he veiled his past and the illness that compelled him to retire to these relative heights gave rise, in the community, to numerous hypotheses. Perhaps "Albert Crucis" was nothing more than a pseudonym; and so, false names being commonplace among artists, he began, late in life, to cultivate a talent of his youth, by way of justification. In hushed tones, some ascribed him a criminal past, or (owing to his occasional visits from friends, hastily dubbed "envoys") revolutionary aspirations; others defended him. Some claimed the broad, sinuous scarf in whose folds he swaddled his neck, excessively announcing his illness, rendered its reality dubious. One evening, nevertheless, a team of medics spirited the invalid away, with a wealth of precautions. It was later learned that Albert Crucis had bequeathed to the village certain of his works, along with his house, in which the former would be gathered to constitute a museum.

[Place Names: A Brief Guide to Travels in the Book, Ricardou, J.]

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

...of a discussion

He enters the classroom, sits down, doesn't say anything. He looks at us, we look at him. At first, there are a few giggles, but Morrie only shrugs, and eventually a deep silence falls and we begin to notice the smallest sounds, the radiator  humming in the corner of the room, the nasal breathing of one of the fat students.
Some of us are agitated. When is he going to say something? We squirm, check our watches. A few students look out of the window, trying to be above it all. This goes on a good fifteen minutes, before Morrie finally breaks in with a whisper.
"What's happening here?" he asks.
And slowly a discussion begins - as Morrie wanted all along - about the effect of silence on human relations. Why are we embarrassed by silence? What comfort do we find in all the noise?
I am not bothered by silence. For all the noise I make with my friends, I am still not comfortable talking about my feelings in front of others - especially not classmates. I could sit in the quiet for hours if that is what the class demanded.
On my way out, Morrie stops me. "You didn't say much today," he remarks.
I don't know. I just didn't have anything to add.
"I think you have a lot to add. In fact, Mitch, you remind me of someone I knew who also liked to keep things to himself when he was younger."

[Tuesdays With Morrie, Albom, M.]

- submitted by Angela Brignell

...of the war-machine

He received a shock, last week, reaching the fifth floor in the southern wing, which he had somewhat neglected until then, pushing open the elevator door and discovering a very long narrow workshop under the roof, at the threshold of which, at first glance, something unusual stopped him.
Silence. No machines, and nobody talking along the two rows of men seated on either side of an enormous table, fifty or so men checking the uniformity of the manufactured parts, gauge in hand, after inspection decanting them from one box to the other, and nothing but the multiplied tinkling of the metal objects, a diffuse rustling, uninterrupted, filling the premises.
Taken aback, Martin observes the mute workers stationed face to face in the poorly lit workshop, the skylights in the roof allowing only a dim glow to filter in. Then drawing near, notices that they are looking straight ahead, heads erect, don't look at their hands moving very rapidly as if self-driven, mechanically, don't look at anything, the men are blind.
He remains fixed to the spot, in disbelief, and two of the men, those closest, turn their heads toward him, without slowing down the back-and-forth motion of their hands, without saying a word, turn their eyes toward him.
Martin withdrew, noiselessly, went back to the elevator, closed the door and stayed there a moment without thinking to go down, thought that those men in the shadows were checking weapons, shell parts no doubt, validating them with their hands, bomb parts that were soon going to explode, that were going pierce and to mutilate, to burn hands, eyes, to blind, to lacerate, one generation of the blind mutilating the next, blinding them, from one war to the next, from one new process of mutilation to the next, a technique of blinding, of subjection, hands always moving back and forth, mechanically, without recourse, without end.
He spoke to no one in the workshop of the blind. Doesn't know why, dreads perhaps that hearing this, someone would break out laughing.
Or snickering: this is what they're reduced to.
As if the war here mobilised only the blind.

[Disconnection, Ollier, C.]

...of control

Thus, after several months, his place of exile has become a world. His bents of habit have marked the way his body and his bearing hang together, his former bents smoothed out to the point of almost disappearing. He catches himself one evening reacting as if he had always lived here; disconcerted, must call upon his memories to drive off this idea.
What's in play is repetition, a slow immersion, the relegation to very limited trips, the impossibility of stepping back, off putting oneself at a distance, blocked in upon this territory and virtually immobilised, taking inventory of it by night most of the time.
Prohibited to overstep the city limits and its immediate outskirts, without first obtaining a special pass, he found out the regulation is in effect for all this country's citizens as well, he converses with them rather often while moving about from one floor to the other, in brief snatches, with the men especially, with the women it's risky, all relations being forbidden, a high price to pay.
The home front as hardened as the front, finally, on alert, each civilian attached to his work station as if physically bound, machine or office, the police keep watch, people hardly chat, watch their words, or watch themselves between words, never speak without first glancing around.
"Be Silent, the Enemy Is Listening," is read everywhere on the city walls. And also: "Wheels Must Roll Quietly for Victory," as if they hadn't been already requisitioned so very many years ago.

[Disconnection, Ollier, C.]

...of glossophobia

The idea that he's going to be called back, reconvened, obsesses him. Whoever walks toward his machine fills him with apprehension regarding unforeseen, indecipherable consequences, nurtured by hilarious, preposterous accounts in which refutation gets contaminated, bogged down.
At other moments, Martin gives it no thought, simply abstains from speaking, grows anxious all the same about what he could have said these last months, what the impassive man over in that place hasn't gotten to yet. Who's the informer here, he asks himself, scrutinising people's eyes.
Mute workshop, mute booming factory, population laid flat as if still under shock, traumatised, amnesiac perhaps, completely conditioned, day and night, in every place, its unconscious colonised.
Martin not alone in wondering about this no doubt, how it was able to happen, in being amazed, things moved so quickly, ten or so years, accelerated lately, retreats, defeats, being surrounded.
A new event really, seizing power across the board, in memories, in minds, public life, private life, vitiated outcome of so many battles and conquests, twenty centuries of culture to reach this point, a contortion, regression, soon the nation besieged, asphyxiated, superior race itself tracing the map of its ghetto.
History led astray, vocabulary brought to heel, parody of reason, perversion of grammar and conjugations, rigged use of tenses, expurgated dictionary, impoverishment of the word, banishment of inflections, of polysemous meanings, of nuances.
This degradation of language gradually overcomes him, feels this strongly, vaguely guilty about using it so, reading newspaper texts, speaking in circumlocutions and euphemisms, the exact words would make everybody roll their eyes and burrow back underground.

[Disconnection, Ollier, C.]

...of a confidant

Martin, incredulous, unrolls the parchment. Appears under his eyes an old-style engraving depicting the city's Masonic Lodge, it's a reception ceremony, or an enthronement, the newly elected member is apparently taking an oath, the dignitaries of the lodge, standing, solemnly lend their ears.
Gunther's name is there, beautifully inscribed under the engraving, his rank given in the hierarchy of the Order, the date also marked down.
Finger on his lips, Gunther listens carefully at the door, then, assuring himself that his friend has taken in the scene, returns to the table and carefully refolds the document, puts it back in its safe place, screws down the strip, pulls up the carpet.
Fills the glasses again and toasts, without saying a word, knows that Martin understands the importance of the moment, the meaning of the event, small ceremony reviving the former, friendship sealed with the secret being removed, in the long deferred display of the object become a precious asset over time, a testimony and relay of hope, text buried under his feet for so many years, with Gothic letters authenticating an almost sacred bond.
Martin listens to this silence, savours it, he sees himself there in the ceiling lamp's conical beam, and the bottles, the glasses on the tablecloth. Gunther very pale, brilliant eyes behind his glasses, the remainder of the room in shadow, latticework of the skylight and sharp angles of the roof beams jutting in the half-light, a chiaroscuro setting for a mute intimate drama in the great local tradition.

[Disconnection, Ollier, C.]

...of desertion

Surprising that I've never been stricken by panic here, isolated as I am, without weapons, nor any hope for help. I'd shout myself hoarse to no purpose, nobody would come running, they'd step slowly closer, surround me, a real death trap.
A simple matter to climb to the windows if you're not afraid of nettles, the door itself, despite its two bolts... But no, I fall asleep peacefully, naked under the sheet as always, often threw it off lately, until the storm.
Daylight rims the curtains, awakens me, I often spend a long moment scrutinising the space of the room, verifying its qualities, the space of the dream that has just ended endures and disturbs it, and the mournful voices inhabiting it.
I don't like staying in bed, once my eyes are opened; as soon as I'm up, everything falls back into place, marks and points of reference, the planned agenda, the state of things, of my ideas on the question, if I may be so bold.
Big fears in the past, sudden, insurmountable, I barricaded myself in, ran from one window to another, certain that the prowler had already slipped inside the house, threaded his way up the stairs, was lying in ambush behind an upstairs door or crouched in the attic, biding his time.
A harmless noise triggered the alarm, those cracks and bangs that can be heard at all times, the alarm arises from a meeting, between noise and intimate voice, between voice and intimate voice, between traces of places, faraway and with no point in common, drawing toward each other in the darkness of their dwelling and brushing close, then steering clear of one another.
That I experience nothing more of the sort can be ascribed to the cramped space, I believe, to its simplicity, to this regrouping of all functions on one level, or else something has really transformed itself in the distribution and preservation of traces, or the majority of traces are erased, become inoffensive, devitalised in a way.
I may well have lost my emotivity, my sensibility perhaps. Like those people in the village? Overcome like them by apathy, without noticing? Is this a flash of insight, burst of lucidity, reprieve or warning?
What suave, underhand work on the subject, in order to make it compatible - nerves and muscles, gaze, understanding, elocution - with the new order?
Silence. Great silence all around, the silence of men, birds, everywhere weeds, sunken lanes become footpaths, dismantled fences, livestock evacuated a long while ago, slaughtered no doubt, or dead of hunger, carcasses in the meadows, scrap metal of cars abandoned there, frames of skeletons rising in the scrub, farms and barns in ruins, or else incinerated, pillaged.

[Disconnection, Ollier, C.]

...of the affected

The baker woman is out of sorts, asks for aspirin, aspirin or syrup, has a heartrending cough, the next time, yes certainly, she depresses me, very depressing all those who've remained, and those who've left, what state are they in? Where are they, what are they doing, nobody ever wrote, nor called, no postcards, neither beach nor snow, no New Year's greetings.
The butcher's been back, for some while, deafer than ever, constantly smiles, a mysterious air, places a finger on his lips, goes into the back of the shop, returns with a cutlet wrapped in a beautiful piece of blackish-brown paper as in the old days; promises me one every week, it's well worth a pack of shag, it's a promise.
For the shoes I write on a sheet of paper, as usual, two very simple sentences, in which shoes and cognac counterbalance each other to perfection, economically and grammatically, subject, verb, complement.
Big smile presides over the reading, over his embarrassed expression when he tells me that he doesn't grasp, can't manage to read, that's something new, is he poking fun at me?
No, he still deciphers, articulates the syllables, but the words don't make sense anymore, or a matter of pure decorative charm, design, sound spectacle, futile, he apologises, stupidly.
Disconcerted, I make myself understood with gestures, he says he's going to look, doesn't leave me much hope, displays his slippers, down at the heels, worn through the soles.
I run to the post office and push my paper under Madame Paule's nose. "Oh, you too?" she says. "The pastor came to see me yesterday, very disturbed, bothered, missal in hand, can't manage to read it anymore, it's beyond him, he doesn't understand a word."
We started laughing but really there was nothing funny. Doesn't make a big deal about it, she blames it on his age, is surprised I take everything so tragically, that I make a great fuss.
No mail, obviously, I went home the same way, riding half the time, the other on foot, very perturbed, even anxious, missed the turn at the bottom of the slope.
Ran to the living room, picked up the first book I fell upon, Feneleon, opened it and began reading at random.
Read two pages, three, very normally, nothing changed, with great pleasure even, every sentence kept its weight, its tone, its colour.
Every line kept its meaning, every sign, every element. It's not the same meaning as before, however, before the incidents, it's something different.
Every word means something and this meaning appears distant, obsolete, from another age.
Superfluous perhaps, and refined, luxurious!

[Disconnection, Ollier, C.]

...of fugitives

He's the one who shakes Martin much later, the train has stopped, lights on the platform, end of the line, the few travellers hasten toward the exit, eleven o'clock, nobody in the waiting room, no ticket collector, the station seems isolated far from the city, Donauworth down below perhaps, the forest nearby, Mathieu leads him along, they go up a muddy path, no more snow here, very sharp cold.
They leave the path and climb between the trees, halt in a wind-sheltered hollow, Mathieu takes some bread out of his bag, boiled sweet potatoes, they eat a few of them, a bit of bread, Martin thinks that they've finally gotten there, they must have covered approximately sixty miles, better than nothing, how to sleep in a cold such as this, there's no more sleep at present.
Silence in the forest, starry sky, the pale light reassures him, tomorrow they'll go down to the station, ask for tickets to the next stop, everything will go smoothly, no reason not to, a dearth of policemen, with other things to do then conduct trains.
Thinks in vain about the school, the factory, the city, unable to fix them in thought, they drift, between full and empty content, have no more meaning, the eighteen months spent there fall short of language, neutralised sensations, traces confiscated, repressed, stolen on the sky.
Memory on the run, bereaved awakening.

[Disconnection, Ollier, C.]

...of a transient

Beautiful summer evening, so calm in its vegetable torpor and continual absence of wind, unconditional calm, birds flown far off or fallen mute, respecting the proper balance in the off-season, the world in a state of silent suspension.
I go back up toward the house, drops of blood on my shirt, a gash in my left hand, brambles or sickle, cut across the lawn, raise my eye and see him, see him appear before me on the path, has been there surely for a while already but coming into sight only at this present moment, from head to foot, fully blown as if through a bid for power and instantly integrated into the landscape, neutralising the idea of time in the landscape, perhaps even the idea of place.
Red hair, bony, very skinny and tall, jacket and trousers in tatters, planted firmly on his legs looking at me, ten yards away, absolutely motionless, as if there were nothing extraordinary about him being there, putting in an appearance, staring at me, or looking beyond me, staring at the pond, the pool of water glittering in the sunlight or the large house behind the linden, as immobile as the tree, shut up as it is and mute, watchful, on guard.
I must have remained fixed to the spot for a while in turn, pondering, as if recapitulating my trip, the path traced by my steps, and establishing a relationship between these tracks and the abrupt fact of the gazing eyes, seeking a relationship, I wonder why, to find out whether he'd seen me for a long while perhaps, or followed me, preceded me rather, a relationship of gaits, a feature common to the journeys, something is linked to the total number of steps in this matter, the circuit of itineraries, I don't know, once I set off again the relationship doesn't matter anymore, no longer inevitably posing the supposition that it was ever really imposed, and I draw near, he still doesn't move, he's carrying a bundle at the end of a stick over his right shoulder exactly as in old-fashioned engravings.
I'm a few steps from him, he makes a barely perceptible movement of his head, a greeting perhaps, and I see his eyes, quite asymmetrical, more precisely the left one twitches very quickly, intermittently, never really blinking.
He's right in the middle of the path, I must turn off through the tall weeds if I want to get to the door, he looks at the small house, the door, nods his head again.
Bluish cheeks, ears sticking out, lips partly opened, directs his eyes upon me again, studies me as if I weren't in keeping with the place, yes indeed, more surprised than myself, finding somebody in such a place, mustn't have come upon much of anyone on his road, wherever he comes from.
I formulated the question no doubt, or else it's the first question popped into my mind at any rate, in present circumstances at least. He stretches his arm eastward, southeastward, the farm with the dog, and beyond Villeneuve, quite a hike already, but the arm keeps moving about, pointing out, evoking, naming other horizons, even more distant, more far off on the plateaus to the east.

[Disconnection, Ollier, C.]

...of media

Keep the appliances in working order, clean them, check them, power back on without warning, you never know, not one station is broadcasting, no doubt, communications broken down, stillborn, short-circuited frequencies, sound and images. Walkman, walkie-talkie, cable and tube, satellites, emptied of every reflection, every resonance, each man reduced to his own organ, to being within earshot, last cry of the media.
I can shout myself hoarse, nobody will hear me, narrow target audience, zero percentage of listeners, only the animals, they'll crouch down, lift their noses, taken aback, after some time will grow used to it, won't pay any more attention, will continue along their ways as if nothing had happened.

[Disconnection, Ollier, C.]

...of the beginning of the end

The offensive has resumed, the radio says so, and this reconnaissance plane flying low over the village, all alone, veers on one wing, comes back, taking photos perhaps, tricolour roundels in plain sight, the forester follows them with amazement, nose in the air, arms dangling, yes it's the end they seem to be saying, what did you think, the hour has come, no miracles, turn tail, it's high time.
That evening, the first soldiers pass, about thirty, on foot, come up through the valley and stop at the castle, are hungry, thirsty, a captain scrutinises the horizon through his binoculars, indifferent, almost relieved, no battle sounds, no machine guns, no cannons.
The captain and soldiers go off, pass down by the station, as if on a stroll, without hurrying, without turning around, the night is calm, Emmi, Martin keeps their eyes peeled for glimmers in the distance, movements, signs, they see nothing, hear nothing, the silent army is drawing near, as in the theatre, stealthily, in small dashes.
The plane comes back in the morning, lets out a volley of bullets on the valley, a little later young recruits pass through running, haggard, trembling, they're fourteen, fifteen years old, have thrown down their weapons, their SS uniforms make the forester squint, he himself conducts them along a footpath far from the village.
Noon, magnificent weather, splendid spring light, not a cloud in the sky, sharp, brilliant sunshine.
The Fuhrer's portrait has disappeared from the vestibule, the flag from the office, insignia and pennants from the hallways, haven't been replaced yet, it's the moment of rare vacancy and expectation, no more points of reference, the body in retreat, memories, each person holds back his voice, pricks up his ears.

[Disconnection, Ollier, C.]

Saturday, 1 March 2014

...of nightmares

The man was no longer turned toward us; he was now looking at a blind man who walked toward him, feeling the ground with the iron tip of his cane.
He was a tall, blonde, young man, twenty or twenty-five, wearing an elegant windbreaker made of very fine leather, cream coloured, and open over a bright blue pullover. Black goggles hid his eyes. He held in his right hand a white cane with a curved handle. A little boy of about twelve was leading him by the left hand.
For a few seconds, I imagined, against all likelihood, that it was Simon Lecoeur, who was returning disguised as a blind man. Of course, looking at him more carefully, I soon recognised my error: the few points of resemblance that one could find in the general appearance, the dress, or the hairstyle of the two men, were in fact minor.
When the young man with the white cane and his guide got close to the character with the baggy clothes and the physicians bag, they stopped. But none of them gave any sign whatever. There were no salutations, none of those words or gestures of welcome that might have been expected in such circumstances. They remained there without saying a word, face to face, motionless now.
Then, with deliberate precision, in the same even motion, precisely as if the same mechanism are activating three heads, they turned toward us. And they remained that way, petrified once again, motionless now like three statues: the young man with the fair face half-hidden behind his bulky glasses, framed between the little boy on his left and the short man in the shapeless grey suit on his right.
All three kept their eyes fixed on me, the blind man too, I could have sworn it, behind his enormous black lenses. The skinny face of the boy had an extreme, abnormal, ghostly pallor. The ugly features of the short man had frozen into a horrible grimace. The whole group suddenly seemed to me so terrifying that I wanted to scream, as one does to end a nightmare.
But, just as in nightmares, no sound came out of my mouth.Why wasn't Caroline saying anything? And what about Marie, who was standing between the two of us, why wasn't she breaking the spell, bold and casual as children will be? Why was she standing there frozen, rendered speechless too, held in thrall by what enchantment?

[Djinn - Robbe-Grillet, A.]

...of stopped time

The bedstead holds a mattress, but no sheets or blankets. I place the child, with all possible care, onto this crude couch. He is still unconscious, with no sign of life except for a very faint breathing. His pulse is almost imperceptible. But his large eyes, remaining open, shine in the gloomy light.
I glance around for an electric switch or something else that might provide light. But I see nothing of the kind. I notice, at this point, that there isn't a single light - chandelier, shaded lamp or bare bulb - in the entire room.
I step back out on the landing and I call out, in a low voice at first, then louder. No answer whatsoever reaches my ears. The whole house is plunged into total silence, as though abandoned. I don't know what else to do. I am abandoned myself, outside of time.
Then, a sudden thought takes me back to the windows of the room: Where was the kid going on his brief run? He was crossing the road from one side to the other, straightaway. He might, therefore, live on the other side.
But, on the other side of the street there are no houses: only a long brick wall with no apparent opening at all. A little further on the left there is a fence in disrepair. I go back to the stairs and I call out again, still in vain. I listen to the pounding of my own heart. I have a very strong feeling, now, that time has stopped.
A faint creaking sound, in the room, calls me back to my patient. Two steps away from the bed I am jolted, instinctively recoiling. The boy is in exactly the same position as before, but now he has a large crucifix laid on his chest, a dark wooden cross with a silver Christ, that reaches from shoulder to waist.
I glance all around. There is no one but the child lying outstretched. So my first thought is that he himself is responsible for this macabre setting: he pretends to have fainted, but he moves when my back is turned. I examine his face very closely; his features are as frozen as those of a wax figure, and his complexion just as pallid. He looks like an effigy sculpted upon a tomb.
At that moment, looking up, I become aware of the presence of a second child, standing at the threshold of the room; a little girl of about seven or eight, motionless in the doorway. Her eyes are fixed upon me.
Where does she come from? How did she get here? No sound has signalled her approach. In the dim light, I clearly distinguish, nevertheless, her white, old-fashioned dress with fitted bodice and wide gathered skirt, full but rather stiff, falling all the way to her ankles.
"Hello," I say, "is your mama here?"
The girl keeps staring at me silently. The whole scene is so unreal, ghostly, frozen, that the sound of my own voice rings strangely off-key to me, unlikely, as it were, in this spell-bound atmosphere under the weird bluish light...
As there is nothing else to do but venture a few words, I force myself to speak this innocuous sentence:
"Your brother fell."
My syllables fall, too, awakening neither response nor echo, like useless objects deprived of sense. And silence closes in again. Have I really spoken? Cold, numbness, paralysis begin to spread through my limbs.

[Djinn, Robbe-Grillet, A.]