Tuesday, 6 October 2015

...of text

Beautiful hours, profound words which I would like to belong to, but which would, themselves, also like to belong to me, words empty and without connection. I can't question them and they can't answer me. They only remain close to me, as I remain close to them. That is our dialogue. They stand motionless, as though erect in these rooms; at night, they are the concealment of the night; in the day, they have the transparency of the day. Everywhere I go, they are there.
What do they want? We're not familiar to one another, we don't know one another. Words from the empty depth, who has summoned you? Why have you become manifest to me? Why am I occupied with you? I shouldn't occupy myself with you, you shouldn't occupy yourselves with me, I must go farther, I won't unite you to hope or to the life of a breath.
I don't know that they press on me, but I sense it. I see a sign of it in the immobility which, even when they seem to wander, even when I leave them, keeps them crowded around me in a circle whose centre I am in spite of myself. And this circle is sometimes larger, sometimes smaller, but for me the distance doesn't change, and the circle is never interrupted, the expectation is never broken, I could call myself a prisoner of that expectation if it were more real, but since it remains silent and uncertain, I am only a prisoner of the uncertainty of the expectation.
Am I their goal, what they are seeking? I will not believe it. But sometimes they stare at me with a power so restrained, a silence so reserved, that this silence points me out to myself; then I have to remain firm, I have to struggle with my refusal to believe, and the more I struggle, in general successfully, the more I see that I owe the strength that gives me this success only to them, to their proximity, to the firmness of their inattention.

[The One Who Was Standing Apart From Me, Blanchot, M.]

...of obstinacy

From him, I couldn't take anything the wrong way. I didn't know where or how all this was going to end. He had become my traveling companion, but I couldn't assert that we had everything in common, or else that community would have signified that he had everything in common with me and I nothing with him if we had not clearly tended to have nothing, either one of us. I couldn't attribute bad intentions to him, for he was extraordinarily lacking in intentions. I supposed he was helping me, but I should say his help was such that it left me, more than anything else, at a loss, unfit, and indifferent to being helped in any way, and only a sort of obstinacy permitted me to think that this assistance could be called help and even the greatest possible help. True, I did not always recognise this. I had noted with surprise, with a slight feeling of strangeness, but eventually with discomfort and without surprise, that he was probably lacking enough in intentions to deflect my own, to lead them to the point where they would have to identify with this deflection. I could recall, as an intoxicating navigation, the motion that had more than once driven me toward a goal, toward a land that I did not know and was not trying to reach, and I did not complain that in the end there was neither land nor goal, because, in the meantime, by this very motion, I had lost memory of the land, I had lost it, but I had also gained the possibility of going forward at random, even though, in fact, consigned to this randomness, I had to renounce the hope of ever stopping. The consolation could have been to say to myself: You have renounced foreseeing, not the unforeseeable. But the consolation turned around like a barb: the unforeseeable was none other than the renouncement itself, as though each event, in order to reach me, in that region where we were navigating together, had demanded of me the promise that I would slip out of my story. This, unfortunately, applied to everything and to the most simple things, those with which, at certain moments, I was prepared to be content. I may say that I had the day at my disposal, but on condition that it should not be this day and, even more, that this one should be in part forgotten, should be the sum of forgetfulness.
All else failing, the idea of assigning to him directly the means that he himself had put at my disposal or that had obliged me to have him at my disposal, to make a place for him that I could no longer measure: I would have liked him to give his opinion of such a plan. But to my surprise, he seemed to ignore my question completely. I must point out that, though he rarely spoke about himself, he gave as little impression as possible of neglecting the person speaking to him: he listened in silence, but in such a way that his silences were not inert, though no doubt slightly suffocating, as if they consisted in repeating in a more distant world, repeating exactly, syllable for syllable, everything one was trying to make him understand. At least - and in fact it did happen that his refusal to answer was not a refusal, but contributed to pursuing the conversation, to obliging it to prolong itself beyond all measure, to wear itself down to such a degree, through repetition and obstinacy, that it could only continue and continue on - if he did not answer, he also did not go on to another subject, for in some way he had to content himself with the paths I drew for him, I mean he no doubt felt he had done his duty sufficiently by giving me my cue. For the moment, he did not give it to me; on the contrary, he asked, as though to put me on the wrong track, and after a silence that increased the volume of the question: "Tell me, won't it be winter soon?"

[The One Who Was Standing Apart From Me, Blanchot, M.]

Monday, 5 October 2015

...of anxiety

It could be that I lived in the state of anxiety of a man obliged to take upon himself the anxiety and work of the day - a day that had not begun and was not yet shining except in the distant beginning of an image whose calm was distress and whose supremacy was origin and end. At night, when I got up, who got up with me? At that instant, there was no day, no night, no possibility, no expectation, no uneasiness, no repose, but nevertheless a man standing wrapped in the silence of this speech: there is no day and yet it is day, so that this woman sitting down there against the wall, her body half inclined, her head bent toward her knees, was no closer to me than I was near her, and the fact that she was there did not mean that she was there, nor I, but the conflagration of this speech: now it is happening, something is happening, the end is beginning.
When I opened the door, no one would ask me where I was going: there was no one to ask me. When I returned, no one asked me where had I been. Now, someone is asking me "Why, when did you go out?" "Just now."
It is true that I am talking about anxiety, but it is the shiver of joy that I'm talking about - and distress, but the luster of this distress. I may appear to be prey to the limitless torment of an exorbitant constraint that is also incomprehensible, to the point where if I say, if I too say, the day is night for me, I will express something of this torment. And yet, a mild torment, for in front of me is the lightning, behind me the fall, and in me the intimacy of the shock.

[When The Time Comes, Blanchot, M.]

...of the gaze

While I drank the tea - it was insipid, sweet, bitter, a sad mixture - I returned to a sort of silence (earlier, I think I had thrown myself into a conversation that was barely under control and over which still floated a grandiose satisfaction). What was in this silence? A question, probably. I couldn't get through the cup of tea. Since I was dressed, I gave up on the water and contented myself with taking a few steps toward the window: it was still snowing, a dense, serious snow, but now I hardly bothered very much about this amazing event. Yet I remained there as long as I could, my forehead at the same height as the deep masses of snow, but I couldn't get through it any more than I could the tea.
Question her? But about what? It wasn't possible that the element of uneasiness and tragic difficulty in my presence passed unnoticed. And yet, who was alluding to it? Who was helping me become aware of it? Perhaps I didn't look like a man who doesn't know what to do? I was certainly calm, and no more calm than necessary, at the level of the calm that was the natural element of the world. At length, I had this impression: I had returned to my bed (but I wasn't lying down); Judith, who was standing, continued to look out the window. I experienced a slight feeling of cold, not the overwhelming cold of a shiver, but a calm, silent cold (once again everything was plunged in a special silence). Perhaps this was because Claudia (she came in carrying some wood) stopped and looked at me in her instructive way, but I can't say it any other way: during the whole time she watched me, I understood that I was out there, in the slight, calm, and in no way disagreeable cold of the outdoors, and that I was looking at her from out there, through the transparency of the frost, in the same profound and silent way.
I will be more explicit about this right now: it was only an idea, the truth of a sensation. It would certainly have been simpler for me at that instant to be a face that belonged to the outdoors plunging into the room and looking questioningly at the people who were there, and no doubt I actually had this sensation, I really had it, but the thing is that perhaps this face was all I could grasp then and all the others could tolerate of the truth: this was why it had its chance. I ask myself this today (groping, for there is a time for seeing and a time for knowing), I ask myself why that distant and tranquil face - which I didn't see, but through whose approach a certain view approached me - presented itself, persisted as a permissible allusion to an event that didn't tolerate any allusion. In the darkness of time, it seems to me that this had been decided in me: I knew everything, and now I had perhaps forgotten everything except the terrible certainty that I knew everything. I couldn't ask questions, I don't think I had the slightest idea what a question might be, and yet it was necessary to ask questions, it was an infinitely great need. How could I have avoided this "tragic difficulty"? How could I not have done everything possible to express it and give it life? And then what was I if not the reflection of a face that didn't speak and that no one spoke to, capable of nothing more, as it rested on the endless tranquility of the outdoors, then silently questioning the world from the other side of the windowpane?
This is why I must say something else. I had returned to my bed. Judith, who was standing, looking attentively out the window, and while she was there, staring as I had done at the deep masses of snow, I myself made a discovery too, calm, passionless (everything, as I said, was plunged in a special silence): that she was looking out the window (not at me), and the proof of the intensity, the intimacy of her gaze, was the silence that nothing could disturb any more than she herself could be disturbed from her watching. And about me, can I say that I saw her? No, not completely, only from the back, her head three quarters turned away, her hair glossy and unkempt on her shoulders. It seems to me it was at this instant that Claudia, who had come in, looked at me in order to "break the spell," and it was also then that, in the slight cold of the outdoors, I in turn stared at her through the transparency of the frost and questioned her silently.

[When The Time Comes, Blanchot, M.]

Sunday, 4 October 2015

...of Larrygitis

Larry is so a sickness. Oh yeah. Larrygitis. You get it and you stop making any noise. You can't talk, you can't burp, you can't snivel, your knuckles won't crack, your farts don't blat or hiss or burble, you can't snore, your body, when it moves, doesn't make a single sound, like you were overoiled, your teeth, when you eat, are like colliding cottons. Ah nuts, I ain't named for that. You are though, Larry - larrygitis - you are.
Larry complained to his pa, who was more than firm in denial - loud and long - ridiculing his own kid for being such a stupid, which made Larry exceedingly wroth, so that the next time Cy grabbed Luther, suddenly and from behind, but without including the tree, Larry kicked Luther once in the shins, kneed him twice in the groin, and punched him three quick ones to the stomach. Syph, Cy, and Larry were at last observed by a teacher administering this beating, and all four were hauled before the principal and asked for explanations. Cy couldn't bring himself to talk about his ballooning balls to a person of such dignity, and since he was commanded to speak first, his reluctance put a damper on the others, who decided it was going to be manly to to say nothing no matter what. The "what" was that they were all roundly paddled, including Luther, whom the principal (one Horace McDill) felt must have done something to provoke the attack.

[The Master of Secret Revenges, Gass, W. H.]

...of a loss of loss

She sat in the same chair she'd sat in to greet grieving company, sat through an evening in which only the sky cared to snivel, and sat on after they'd left into the deep night's drizzle, hoping to catch her death; but in the morning when the sun finally got through the fog to find her sitting in the same chair, as fixed as the leaves and flowers burned into the slats of its back, it flooded her cold wet lonely frightened immobile face impersonally, as though she were a bit of broken statue, and moved on to the pillars of the porch, knurled a bit to be fancy but picked out of a pattern book to be cheap, and then found a grimy windowpane to stain as if the grayed flush of dawn were drawn there. The sun made her open eyes close.

snow in still air,

The art of losing isn't hard to master. Emma remembered with gratitude that lesson. But she took it a step further. She lost the sense of loss. She learned to ask nothing of the world. She learned to long for nothing. She didn't require her knives to be sharp. Her knives weren't her knives anyway. She gave up property. She didn't demand dawn. When the snow came she didn't sigh at the thought of shoveling. There was no need for shoveling. Let the snow seal her inside. She'd take her totter about the house instead of the narrow path around the woods. She moved as a draft might from room to room. She ascended and descended the stairs as silently as a smell. Not to keep in trim. Not as if bored, caged, desperate. To visit things and bring them her silent regard.

[Emma Enters a Sentence of Elisabeth Bishop's, Gass, W. H.]

...of attack and defence

...I'll be needing lawyers if I'm not careful. Not so heavy with the fall of the fists, Hess, hey? he cautioned himself. Not so quick with the kick. When the jury learns what you've been through, Mr. Hess, don't worry, they will give you sympathy; they'll put her beaten body behind bars; they'll hiss when she is carried through the court. You've heard of the victimless crime, Hess, haven't you? Well, there are crimeless victims, too. You're one of them - one of those. What's a paltry kick compared to the piteous smiles she's inflicted on you, the looks thrown heavenward with such aboriginal skill, and cunning with curves, they stone down later in your living room the whole naked length of a sofa-soft Sunday afternoon, passing through the shield of the Sunday paper, bruising your eyes; or the little whimpering moues which cower in the corner of her mouth, how about those? the glances which scuttle away like bugs to the baseboard to wait the night, all the tiny gnawing things she keeps about her: frightened knees and elbows, two flabs of breast with timorous nips, disjointed nose, latched eyes? There are laws against that, Mr. Hess, unwritten laws, the laws of common decency, laws of the spirit and the soul, what she knew best, Hess, didn't she? sure, her silences, for instance, are against the law, silence is against the law, silences are blows, and you can plead self-defense, you can plead extenuation, you can argue quite agreeably that you were driven to extremes, out of reason as out of town, by all those occasions when she struck you with inwardness - oh - withholding is wicked, refusing to respond, that's malice, Hess, you have every excuse, don't worry your warts, and when the jury hears how you have borne yourself these long weary dreadful, ladensomely heavy years, they'll set you free to cheers and to the sound of bells, though it'll help your case if you don't have young children, Mr. Hess, you haven't have you? that's best. Ha ha, Mr. Hess thought. Ha ha...

[Cartesian Sonata, Gass, W. H.]

... of an ascetic

The letter from Muniyandi's girlfriend in the Rwandan drama troupe, and the papers just given to me by the wandering ascetic, seem to contradict each other. The girlfriend claims that Muniyandi died in Rwanda. But here are handwritten notes showing that he met with this ascetic in the Himalayas. I couldn't get any more information out of the ascetic; he had taken a vow of silence. He informed me, signing with his hands, that he had stopped speaking many years ago. He looked like the physical embodiment of silence. Time had etched deep lines into his skin. His body was thin and dessicated. There was a light in his eyes that pierced my heart. I felt a strong desire to remain in his presence for as long as I could. But he simply handed me the sheaf of papers and disappeared.

[Zero Degree, Nivedita, C.]

...of satisfaction

  • Now take off your skirt.
  • Mmm.
  • Now your panties.
  • Mmm.
  • Now look into the mirror.
  • Mmm.
  • How is it?
  • I didn't know I was this lovely, until today.
  • Now stick your left middle finger into your cunt. If that's uncomfortable, use your right middle finger.
  • Mmm.
  • Now move it faster. Up and down. Explore.
  • Mmm.
  • . . .
  • . . .

[Zero Degree, Nivedita, C.]

...of annihilation

There has been a mistake, Genesis. In my enthusiasm to put the novel together, the chapters have become shuffled. Now that I think about it, I might have had some ulterior motive. Perhaps my hatred for Muniyandi and my love for Misra are responsible; perhaps I've subconsciously moved Misra ahead and shoved Muniyandi to the background. What should have come later came in the beginning, and pushed what should have been the beginning into the future. How do I escape from this confusion of time? Costa Rica's Maria Fernandez de Tinoco says the past is getting erased; written words are rubbed out again and again and reduced to nothingness. Like ink on a blotting paper, the past dissipates from the pages of my memory. I return to the nothingness with no recollections. The past has pushed me aside and gone into hiding.

Still, I think a moment may come when I will be able to capture the past. That moment may arrive at any time, Genny - perhaps even as you are reading this sentence. And at that instant only you and this text will remain; I, who wrote it at time zero, will no longer be there. The silent space of death will have sucked me in. I will have sunk into the bottomless pit of the past. The words will cease to be mine, and will belong only to the text. My own "I" will be erased, and the "I" of the text will be all that remains of my existence. At that moment, the text will seem as if it exists in a present - but it will only seem so. The residue of the past -

[Zero Degree, Nivedita, C.]

... of writer and reader

It has been ages since I have uttered or heard human speech. I will not say that silence is protecting me. I believe that the strain of music at the very bottom of that silence is what keeps me alive.

Or perhaps...

my heart is still beating only because of you.

You created this misty desert.

You are Creation.

I hope that the vacuum of this dialogue I had with creation will come alive in the reading.

It is only your tender touch that can revive my life, a life that is slowly slipping away...

[Zero Degree, Nivedita, C.]

...of a story without end

Who threw glass in your face? That question would reappear in all other questions. It was not posed more directly than that, but was the crossroads to which all paths led. They had pointed out to me that my answer would not reveal anything, because everything had long since been revealed. "All the more reason not to talk." "Look, you're an educated man; you know that silence attracts attention. Your dumbness is betraying you in the most foolish way." I would answer them, "But my silence is real. If I hid it from you, you would find it again a little farther on. If it betrays me, all the better for you, it helps you, and all the better for me, whom you say you are helping." So they had to move heaven and earth to get to the bottom of it.
I had become involved in their search. We were all like masked hunters. Who was being questioned? Who was answering? One became the other. The words spoke by themselves. The silence entered them, an excellent refuge, since I was the only one who noticed it.
I had been asked: Tell us "just exactly" what happened. A story? I began: I am not learned; I am not ignorant. I have known joys. That is saying too little. I told them the whole story and they listened, it seems to me, with interest, at least in the beginning. But the end was a surprise to all of us. "That was the beginning," they said. "Now get down to the facts." How so? The story was over!

[The Madness of the Day, Blanchot, M.]