Sunday, 15 January 2017

...of the swallering

The Lissener and the Other Voyce Owl of the Worl

There wer the Other Voyce Owl of the Worl. He sat in the worl tree larfing in his front voyce only his other voyce wernt larfing his other voyce wer saying the sylents. He had a way of saying them. He said them wide and far where he begun them he said them tyny when they come close. He kep saying the sylents like that in his other voyce and when he done it the sylents wer swallering up the souns of the worl then the owl wer swallering the sylents.
No 1 knowit he wer doing it. He wer trying to swaller all the souns of the worl then there wunt be no more worl becaws every thing wud foller the soun of its self in to the sylents then it wud be gone. What the owl had in mynd wer to get it all swallert then fly a way. He only done it at nite he thot hewd get some of it swallert every nite and til he gone the woal worl a way.
No 1 knowit what the owl wer doing only a kid. He dint have no eyes he lissent all the time. When he heard the owl saying the sylents in his other voyce he heard the sylents swallering up the souns of the worl littl and big from the wind sying in the trees to the ants crying in ther hoals. The kid knowit the owl wer trying to say the woal worl a way and he knowit wer on him to stop the owl so he begun to lissen every thing back. He lissent them far and wide where he begun them he lissent them tyny when they come close. The eye of the goat and the dants in the stoan and the beatl digging a grave for the sparrer. He lissent them in to his ear hoals he keep them all safe there. The foot steps of the mof and the sea foam hissing on the stran he lissent every thing back.
The kid dint keep the souns of the worl in his ear hoals only at nite he kep them safe til morning. When the cock crowt in the middl nite it never foolt him nor when it crowt agen befor 1st lite. He keep them souns safe in his ear hoals til the day stood up and the cock of the morning crowt every thing a wake. Then the kid unheard the souns and they gone back where they livet. The kid wer larfing at the owl but the owl dint know it he thot he done a good nites work. He sat in the worl tree grooling and smarling all day thinking he wud get the woal worl gone only he never done it.

The rivvers run
My storys done

I said, 'That owl tho he keaps trying dont he.'
The Ardship said, 'O yes he keaps trying and hewl do it 1 day too. All it takes is for no 1 to be lissening every thing back. Hewl go the worl a way and his self with it and thatwl be the end of it. But may be not for a wyl yet. Lissener is my calling name you can call me that.'

[Riddley Walker, Hoban, R.]

...of appraisal

He said, 'What ever there is. I aint going to mouf over it you go somers else and do your moufing oansome if you have to keap on doing it.'
He gone qwyet for a wyl then. Peopl with eyes you can see them move back from the front of ther eyes when they dont have no mor to say. This kid tho being he dint have no eyes in his face you cudnt see nothing when he movit back he just dispeart. There come out of him a sylents with a roaring in it like when you put your ear to a sea shel.
The black dog wer sitting qwyet with his yeller eyes on the kid his 2 nexters we on look out. I closd my eyes and wunnert if Iwd know that dog wer black if I cudnt see him. Becaws I sust the kid knowit the dog wer black. Looking at that black leaders eyes they myndit me of gulls eyes. Eyes so fearce they cudnt even be sorry for the naminal they wer in. Like a gull I seen 1 time with a broakin wing and Dad kilt it. Them yeller eyes staret scareless to the las. They jus happent to be in the gull but they dint care nothing for it.

[Riddley Walker, Hoban, R.]

...of ill-will

After the show they snuft the torches then every body got in littl clumps in the divvy roof hummering and mummering and getting pist. Goodparley & Orfing when theyd fittit down they drunk a littl with Straiter Empy and Flora Miltan Empys wife and his nexters and all the seanyer members which now I wer 1 of them. Goodparley dint say nothing to me he dint even look at me it wer like hed los me out of memberment and tirely. Orfing didn't say nothing nyther only at leas he lookit at me like he knowit I wer a live. After a littl I jus wanit my oan sylents not thers I got up and going out of the divvy roof. Goodparley finely lookit my way then like he cud acturely see me. He begun nodding his head and said to me, 'Thats ther game you know. They cant live without you kil the 1 and open up the other. Youve got to do it its the onlyes way to keap them going.'
I noddit my head and all. Dint say nothing. Orfing put his han on my sholder and give me a littl shake frendy. I put up my hood and gone out in to the rain. Out to the fents and up on the hy walk.
Lissening to the nite and the rain. I leant my back agenst the fents and looking to the divvy roof. There hadnt ben no Trubba for a long time but we stil hadnt put no sides on it. Sit there nite after nite getting pist with 1 eye on the dark not to get snuck. Lissening to the rain dumming on my hood and looking at the candls and the nite fires in the roof and crowd all sat there with the rainy dark all roun them. You know some times you get a fealing you dont want to put no words to.

[Riddley Walker, Hoban, R.]

...of conditioning

He had to forget. In Bath no one knew a thing about Onitsha or the river. No one cared a thing about Onitsha or the river. No one cared a thing about those names which were so important there. When he arrived at the school, Fintan spoke pidgin, inadvertently. He said, "He don go nawnaw, he tok say"; he said, "Di book bilong mi." That made them laugh, and the house master thought he was doing it on purpose to create a stir. He ordered Fintan to stand against the wall for two hours with his arms spread. That too, he had to forget, those words jumping and dancing in his mouth.
He had to forget Bony. At school the boys were both childish and very knowledgeable; they were full of cunning and suspicion and they seemed older than their age. Their faces were pale and unattractive. In the dormitory they spoke in hushed tones, saying things about women's sex organs, as if they had never seen one. Fintan remembers how he looked on the boys at first, with a mixture of curiosity and fear. He could not read their expressions, he did not understand what they wanted. He was like a deaf-mute, watchful, always on guard.

[Onitsha, Le Clézio, J. M. G.]

...of the lake of life

What have I come here for? thinks Geoffroy, and can find no answer. Because of the tiredness, the burning of this sun deep within his body, all reason has blurred. All that matters is to go on, to follow Okawho into this labyrinth.
Shortly before dawn Geoffroy and Okawho arrive in Ite Brinyan. They have followed the narrow stream all day, hacking their way through the barrier of trees, crossing over the chaos of rocks along what was often no more than a corridor through the forest; suddenly it opens out, like a cave transformed into an immense subterranean hall. They stand before a lake which reflects the color of the sky.
Okawho has stopped on a rock. On his face there is an expression that Geoffroy has never seen on anyone's face. On a mask, perhaps - something hard and superhuman, the eyes emptied of all expression by thin circles drawn around them, the pupils dilated.
There is no sign of life either in the water or in the forest surrounding the lake. The silence is so great that Geoffroy thinks he can hear the sound of blood in his arteries.

[Onitsha, Le Clézio, J. M. G.]

...of a landscape

They continued walking, one behind the other now. They crossed a chaos of rocks, then entered a thorny undergrowth. Fintan followed Bony and felt no fatigue. Brambles tore his clothes. His legs were bleeding.
Towards noon they reached the hills. There were a few isolated houses where dogs were barking. Bony climbed up a worn, dark grey boulder, which crumbled into shards under his feet. From the top of the rock they could see the entire expanse of the plateau, the distant villages, the fields, and, almost unreal, the bed of a river shining among the trees. But what drew their gaze was a great fault in the plateau where the red earth glowed like the edges of a wound.
Fintan looked at every detail of the landscape. There was a great silence here, only the light rustling of the wind on the shale, the thin echo of the dogs. Fintan dared not speak. He saw that Bony too was contemplating the expanse of the plateau, the red fault. It was a mysterious place, far from the world, a place where one could forget everything. "This is where he ought to come," thought Fintan, thinking of Geoffroy. At the same time he was astonished he no longer felt any rancour. This place obliterated everything, even the burning of the sun and the stinging of poisonous leaves; even thirst and hunger. Even beatings.

[Onitsha, Le Clézio, J. M. G.]

...of expression

Oya came too. At first, shyly, she would sit on a stone at the entrance to Ibusun, looking at the garden. Whenever Maou drew near, she ran away. There was something both wild and innocent about her at the same time which frightened Elijah, and he looked upon her as a witch. He wanted to chase her away by throwing stones at her, and he called her bad names.
One day Maou was able to approach her and take her by the hand; she led her into the garden. Oya did not want to go into the house. She sat outside on the ground, against the stairs leading to the terrace, in the shade of the guava trees. She stayed there with her legs crossed, her hands resting flat against her blue dress. Maou had tried to show her some magazines, as she had done with Marima, but Oya wasn't interested. She had a strange look in her eyes, smooth and hard as obsidian, full of an unfamiliar light. Her eyelids lifted up towards her temples, drawn with a fine edging exactly like the Egyptian masks, thought Maou. Maou had never seen a face of such purity - the arc of her eyebrows, the height of her forehead, her lips with the trace of a smile. And above all these almond-shaped eyes, the eyes of a dragonfly or a cicada. When Oya's gaze came to rest upon her, Maou shuddered, as if through her gaze were filtered thoughts extraordinarily distant and clear, images of a dream.
Maou tried to speak with her through sign language. She vaguely remembered certain gestures. Whenever, as a child in Fiesole, she passed the deaf-mute children from the hospice, she would look at them, fascinated. To say "woman" she pointed to her hair, to say "man," her chin. For "child" she made a gesture with her hand as if patting the head of a very small child. For other gestures she made things up. To say "river" she made the motion of flowing water, to say "forest" she spread her fingers in front of her face. In the beginning Oya looked at her with indifference. Then she too began to speak. It was a game that lasted for hours. On the steps of the staircase, in the afternoon, before the rain, it was a good time. Oya showed Maou all sorts of gestures to express joy, fear, to ask questions. Her face grew lively, her eyes shone. She made funny faces, imitated people, the way they walked, their comical expressions. She made fun of Elijah because he was old and his wife was so young. They both laughed. Oya had a particular way of laughing, soundlessly, her mouth opening over her very white teeth, her eyes narrowed like two slits. Or, if she was sad, her eyes would cloud over and she would curl into a ball, her head bent over, her hands on the back of her neck.

[Onitsha, Le Clézio, J. M. G.]

...of the colonised

But they are there every day, on the quay, from dawn, waiting for who knows what, a pirogue to carry them upstream or bring them a mysterious message. Then they leave, they disappear, walking through the tall grass, to the east, on the road to Awgu and Owerri. Geoffroy tries to speak to them, a few words of Ibo, phrases in Yoroba, in pidgin, but they are always silent, not haughty, merely absent, disappearing rapidly in single file along the river, lost to view in the tall grass yellowed by drought. They are the Umundri, the Ndinze, the "ancestors," the "initiated." The people of Chuku, the Sun, circled by his halo as a father is circled by his children.
It is the itsi sign. That is what Geoffroy saw on the faces when he first arrived in Onitsha. The sign carved into the skin of the men's faces, like writing upon stone. It is the sign which entered him, touched his heart, marked him, too, on his too white face, on his skin where from birth there has never been the mark of the burn. But now he feels this burn, this secret. Men and women of the Umundri people, in the streets of Onitsha; absurd shadows wandering in the alleyways of red dust, among the acacia groves, with their herds of goats and their dogs. Only some of them wear on their faces the sign of their ancestor Ndri, the sign of the sun.

[Onitsha, Le Clézio, J. M. G.]

...of a faux pas

She felt her throat tighten, as if she might cry. She looked at the English officers around the table, so white; she sought Geoffroy's gaze. But no one was paying any attention to her, and the women continued to eat and to laugh. Gerald Simpson's gaze paused a moment upon her. There was a strange glint in his eyes, behind the lenses of his glasses. He wiped his little blond moustache with a napkin. Maou felt such hatred that she had to avert her gaze.
At the end of the garden, near the grille which acted as a fence, the black men were burning beneath the sun, sweat glistening on their backs, on their shoulders. And, always, the sound of their breathing, a hunh! of pain each time they struck the earth.
Suddenly, Maou got up, and in a voice trembling with anger, with her strange French and Italian accent in English, she said: "But you must give them something to eat and drink, look, these poor fellows, they are hungry and thirsty!" She used the word "fellow," the pidgin term.
There was a stunned silence. For a very long minute all the guests' faces turned towards her, staring at her, and she saw that even Geoffroy was stunned as he watched her, his face red, his mouth drooping at the corners, his closed fists pressing on the table.
Gerald Simpson was the first to regain his senses, saying, simply, "Ah yes, quite right, I suppose..."
He called the boy, he gave orders. In an instant the guards had led the convicts out of sight, behind the house. The D.O. then said, looking at Maou ironically, "Well, that's better now, isn't it, they were making a wretched noise, we shall have a bit of a rest ourselves now too."
The guests laughed halfheartedly. The men continued to speak, drink their coffee, and smoke their cigars, sitting in their wicker chairs at the end of the veranda. The women remained around the table, chattering with Mrs. Rally.
Then Geoffroy seized Maou by the arm and took her home in the V8, driving very quickly along the deserted track. He did not say a single word about the convicts. But after that he never again asked Maou to accompany him to the D.O.'s or to the Resident's. And whenever Gerald Simpson met Maou by chance, in the street or on the wharf, he greeted her very coldly, his steel blue gaze expressing nothing - as it should be - beyond a barely perceptible disdain.

[Onitsha, Le Clézio, J. M. G.]

...of black travellers

Then, on the cargo deck darkened by the brilliance of the lanterns, Fintan discovered the blacks who had settled in for the trip. While the whites were partying in first class, they had come on board, silently; men, women, and children, carrying their bundles on their heads, walking one by one up the plank that served as a gangway. Watched over by the quartermaster they had taken up their places on deck, between the rusted containers, against the frames of the bulwark, and they had waited noiselessly for the hour of departure. Perhaps a child had cried, or perhaps the old man with the thin face, his body covered in rags, had intoned his monotonous chant, his prayer. But the music from the lounge had hidden their voices, and they might have heard Mr. Simpson mocking them, imitating their language, and the English people shouting, "Maïwot! Maïwot!" and the story of "Pickaninny stop along him fellow!"
Fintan felt so angry, so ashamed for a moment he wanted to go back to the first-class lounge. It was as if, in the night, all of the black people were looking at him, a sharp look, full of reproach. But the idea of going back into the huge room full of noise and the odor of stale tobacco was unbearable.

[Onitsha, Le Clézio, J. M. G.]

...of a daydream

San Remo, she wrote, the square in the shade of the tall trees in full bloom, the fountain, the clouds above the sea, the scarabs in the warm air.
I feel the breeze on my eyes.
In my hands I hold the prey of silence.
I wait for the quiver of pleasure from your gaze on my body.
I dreamt last night that I saw you at the foot of the lane of charms, in Fiesole. You were like a blind man searching for his home. Outside I could hear voices murmuring insults, or prayers.
I remember, you spoke to me of the death of children, of war. The years they have not lived gouge gaping holes in the walls of our houses.
She wrote: Geoffroy, you are in me, I am in you. The time which has kept us apart no longer exists. Time had effaced me. In traces on the sea, in whitecap signs, I read your memory. I cannot lose what I see, I cannot forget what I am. It is for you that I make this voyage.
She dreamt as the cigarette burned away, as the sheet of paper filled with words. Her letters became entangled, and there were large, white gaps between them. Aurelia used to say she had a slantingm affected handwriting, the tall letters struck with a long curving train, the t's crossed diagonally.
I remember the last time we spoke, in San Remo; you spoke to me of the silence of the desert, as if you were going to go back against the flow of time, as far as Meroë, to find the truth; and now I myself, here in the silence and the wilderness of the sea, feel I am going back in time to find the truth of my life, there, in Onitsha.

[Onitsha, Le Clézio, J. M. G.]