Wednesday, 1 February 2017

...of codes

Just personal effects in the small Renault with the Paris numero di codice that ends with 75 on its bottom and Ⓕ for Feind in la Germania which makes no difference to an Abwesenheit die bedeutet merely an absence of belief in anyone or whether any god of love has blind eyes or twenty breasts and plus like Diana of Ephesus or a beard, androgynous and indifferent to the death of the feminoid son and transcendental father up and down the agro-lunar dramma del agnosticismo with all ingredients social historical touristic in the freedom of the road through and the simple instructions of the code de la route so poor in parole uninteresting to semiologists but nevertheless understood immediately as the arrows eat their own tails point left go up go down inside white discs, red discs, blue discs crossed with white bars black bars no parking no entry no overtaking end of no overtaking Umleitung Parkplatz Bitte sauber verlassen hooting twinkling left or right in orange brake-lighting in red ahead or flooding dipping swerving stopping to wave someone across with a courteous gesture unless to shake the fist in a smooth swift silent language understood by everyone each protected in a glass and metal box so that no-one can get at you.

[Between, Brooke-Rose, C.]

...of a marital quarrel

Marital quarrels can occur above or below the verbal level as well as within it. In a pressurised hum of silence Something picks a tin from our private trolley and hands it to me for punching. In the same pressurised hum I shake my head, replace the tin on the trolley, beckon to the air-hostess and transmit my order with a gesture into the pressurised hum of silence. The air-hostess inclines her head with courtesy and a pleased look as if receiving a compliment. Something shakes her head and wags an index finger negatively. In my collection of silences this one takes the prize for sheer pressure. The atoms of our will-powers ensues. Bombarded atoms whirl around each other, emitting particles of pain, withdraw, get reinforced with fresh electrons, re-enter, begin again. I win. Someone always wins. The air-hostess brings glasses and a long red drink and Something meekly sips at it. My silence says I have proved my point, her silence says don’t mention it, my silence says smile, Something, her’s says you smile first, my victor’s silence does it easily, her vanquished silence ruefully but smiles. I put my meridians around hers and we merge into one almost perfect sphere, despite my excrescent scar, my individual flan-pudding in the middle of my belly.
A feeling of no movement wakes me, no vibration, no hum of silence even. Framed in the circular window, houses and hedges pass. We fly almost at ground level, along a road. The silence bounces with the sounds of people in the houses loving, quarreling, calling their children in from the gardens where they throw their high-pitched voices like bright coins along the sunlight.

[Such, Brooke-Rose, C.]

...of service

In the time before his loss Don Juan actually had taken it for granted that he would be waited on. Every new acquaintance soon came to see himself as part of Don Juan’s worldwide cohort of servants. Without a moment’s hesitation Don Juan would send him to get a book, medicine, some object left behind at a previous way station. No explicit order was required; a mere remark was enough: “I forgot my hat in…” (On the other hand, Don Juan also never asked for anything: his observation simply had to be followed up on.) In the twinkling of an eye he could become the other person’s servant, whether that person was someone he knew or a stranger. And how he could serve, or rather, be of service! Each time it was a wordless and unbidden fetching, hopping to it, and giving a leg up, unobtrusive and without any servile bowing and scraping, and once done, as if in passing, it immediately became anonymous, as he himself took on an anonymous quality as a helper. And his temporary identity as a servant or aide was always noted by the servants without surprise. Or rather, it went almost unnoticed, and likewise elicited no expressions of gratitude, no remuneration. Yet his effect on those he assisted in this way was more than that of a silent servant, incomparably more.

[Don Juan, Handke, P.]

...of response

For years now Don Juan had had no regular human intercourse. At most there were chance encounters during his travels, out of mind as soon as the shared paths diverged. In the nature of things, not a few of these encounters involved women, and not bad-looking women, either (although with the passing years the number of real beauties to be met on the road was becoming ever smaller, at least in public places such as streets, city squares, and on journeys - as if they preferred to stay home, sequestered in the most remote nooks, or if they traveled at all, they did so in the depths of night and by undisclosed paths). Yet these women, attracted to Don Juan if he so much as allowed them to catch site of him, attracted especially by his aura of profound sorrow, which in their eyes was a form of strength, always turned their backs on him after taking the first small step, speaking the first word. Whatever the case, he did not respond, was deaf and blind to them, at least as individual and female beings. Indeed he avoided speaking, even guarded against opening his mouth for anything resembling a conversation, as if departing from wordlessness would result in a loss of strength and betrayal of his peripatetic ways. How differently Don Juan had behaved before being orphaned, during the first half of his life.

[Don Juan, Handke, P.]

...of a pre-suicide

Must look like a question mark. Head wont raise. Hanging like a melon. Krist, what the hell must I look like bent in half with a gun barrel in my mouth? Animals dont sit around with a gun barrel in their mouths. They live as long as they can. Follow their instincts and instincts tell them to live. They dont think. Dont ponder or contemplate. They dont think and just live. I think therefore I die. But Im not dead. Im sitting here with a gun barrel in my mouth… not an oboe, not a recorder, nor a clarinet or even a penny whistle. I have been sitting here so long with this in my mouth its an extension of my tongue. I have been sitting here with this in my mouth so long it has effected a genetic change. What might take endless generations and centuries has been accomplished in the wink of an eye. If I were to sire a child at this very moment its natural tongue would segue into hollow tubing of gun metal. No way of knowing how long it would be. Inches… feet… who knows? All of it might not fit into the mouth. It might hang pendulously, clanging, perhaps, against the childs chest. What if I stay like this indefinitely, would the metallic extension of the tongue be attached to a hand? Would it look as if the hand were reaching into the mouth or reaching from the mouth? What sort of hideous monstrosity would be created? How would it eat? How is it possible to chew with your tongue hanging from your mouth or a gun barrel inserted into your mouth? Could it speak? Can I speak now? I can’t understand what Im saying. I know what I want to say, but am I actually saying it? So it can be understood? If no one hears me am I speaking? Is my head hanging lower? Who can answer this for me? Who am I asking? I talk and talk and talk but say nothing. My head rumbles with words yet I am silent. I am tortured and agonized by words yet I remain mute. If the words were coming from outside I could parry them as with a foil and laugh and thrust, but I am immobilized by the words resounding and reverberating and slashing and stabbing in my head. Is it really the words that weigh me down so that my hand hangs ever further down my chest, the barrel going deeper - no, the barrel can not go deeper as the hand too goes lower, as it must. How deep can the barrel go before it is thrown out by retching? That can not be allowed. The barrel must always be strategically fixed in the mouth so even an accidental triggering will leave the back of my head embedded in the wall…

[Waiting Period, Selby Jr., H.]

...of a post-suicide

…Krist, there they go again. Can’t do anything without them looking over your shoulder. What the hell business is it of theirs what you do with your life? You work your butt off, give them half your money - give? they take it and if you try to do anything about it they throw you in jail for that too. How in the hell can it be illegal to take your own life? What horseshit. What pure, unadulterated horseshit. A felony! Can you believe it, a felony to kill yourself… or at least to attempt it and fail. And if you do fail they lock you up. Can you believe that? They lock you up. Wonder what they do if you succeed? Take your corpse to court before they bury you?
    Is it true that you killed yourself dead?
                ‘ . . . ’
    The accused is ordered to answer the courts question.
                ‘ . . . ’
    If you continue to refuse you will be declared in contempt of this court.
                ‘ . . . ’
    Very well then, you will be remanded to the county jail and held in custody until you indicate to the court that you are ready to answer the court/s questions. Can you believe that? A felony to take your own life. The only thing you have that is truly your own and they tell you what you can and can not do with it. You have to live whether you like it or not…

[Waiting Period, Selby Jr., H.]

...of disinterest

…I sat down beside the telephone and waited for my friends or my former friends to call, or Mr Etah, Mr Raef and PĂ©rez Latouche, to reproach me for being indiscreet, or anonymous callers with axes to grind, or the ecclesiastical authorities ringing to find out just how much truth and how much fabrication there was in the rumors that had spread through Santiago’s literary and artistic circles, if not beyond, but no one called. At first I thought this silence was the result of a concerned decision to ostracize me. Then, to my astonishment, I realized that nobody gave a damn. The country was populated by hieratic figures, heading implacably towards an unfamiliar, grey horizon, where one could barely glimpse a few rays of light, flashes of lightning and clouds of smoke. What lay there? We did not know. No Sordello. That much was clear. No Guido. No leafy trees. No trotting horses. No discussion or research. Perhaps we were heading towards our souls, or the tormented souls of our forefathers, towards the endless plain spread before our sleepy or tearful eyes, by all the good and bad things we had done. So it was hardly surprising that nobody cared about my introductory course on Marxism…

[By Night in Chile, Bolano, R.]

...of classified information

…So could we say that you know something or perhaps more than something about Marxism? asked Mr Etah fixing me with his penetrating gaze. I looked to Mr Raef for help. He made a face I couldn’t interpret: it might have been expressing solidarity with his colleague or complicity with me. I don’t know what to say, I said. Say something, said Mr Raef. You know me, I’m not a Marxist, I said. But are you familiar or not with, shall we say, the fundamentals of Marxism? asked Mr Etah. Well, who isn’t? I said. So what you’re saying is that it’s not very hard to learn, said Mr Etah. No, it’s not very hard, I said, trembling from head to toe and feeling more than ever as if it were all a dream. Mr Raef slapped me on the leg. It was meant to be friendly but I almost jumped out of my skin. If it’s not hard to learn, it wouldn’t be hard to teach either, said Mr Etah. I remained silent until it was clear that they were waiting for me to say something. No, I said. I guess it wouldn’t be very hard to teach. Although I’ve never taught it, I added. Now’s your chance, said Mr Etah. You’ll be serving your country, said Mr Raef. Serving in silence and obscurity, far from the glitter of medals, he added. To put it bluntly, you’re going to have to keep your mouth shut, said Mr Etah. Hush-hush, said Mr Raef. Lips sealed, said Mr Etah. Silent as the grave, said Mr Raef. No going around shooting your mouth off about it, you understand, absolute discretion, said Mr Etah…

[By Night in Chile, Bolano, R.]

...of the gaze

…like a good Chilean his first impulse was to invite the man out for dinner or supper, but the Guatemalan refused, on the pretext that for some reason or other he was incapable of going out into the street at that time of day or night, at which point our diplomat hit the roof or at least the table and asked him how long it had been since he had last eaten, and the Guatemalan said he had eaten a little while ago, just how long he didn’t remember, Don Salvador however did remember a detail and that detail was this: when he stopped talking and put the few bits and pieces of food he had brought with him on the sideboard beside the gas burner, in other words, when silence reigned once more in the Guatemalan’s attic room and Don Salvador’s presence became less obtrusive, busy as he was setting out the food or looking for the hundredth time at the Guatemalan’s canvases hanging on the walls or sitting and thinking and smoking to pass the time with a will (and an impassibility) possessed only by those who have spent long years in the diplomatic corps or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Guatemalan sat down on the other chair, deliberately placed beside the only window, and while Don Salvador let time slip away sitting in the chair at the back of the room, watching the shifting landscape of his own soul, the gaunt, melancholic Guatemalan let time slip away watching the repetitive and unpredictable landscape of Paris. And when our writer’s eyes discovered the transparent line, the vanishing point upon which the Guatemalan’s gaze was focused, or from which on the contrary it emanated, well, at that point a chill shiver ran through his soul, a sudden desire to shut his eyes, to stop looking at that tremulous dusk over Paris, a desire to be gone or to embrace him, a desire (arising from a reasonable curiosity) to ask him what he could see and to seize it then and there, and at the same time a fear of hearing what cannot be heard, the essential words to which we are deaf and which in all probability cannot be pronounced…

[By Night in Chile, Bolano, R.]

...of responsibilities

I am dying now, but I still have many things to say. I used to be at peace with myself. Quiet and at peace. But it all blew up unexpectedly. That wizened youth is to blame. I was at peace. I am no longer at peace. There are a couple of points that have to be cleared up. So, propped up on one elbow, I will lift my noble, trembling head, and rummage through my memories to turn up the deeds that shall vindicate me and belie the slanderous rumors the wizened youth spread in a single storm-lit night to sully my name. Or so he intended. One has to be responsible, as I have always said. One has a moral obligation to take responsibility for one’s actions, and that includes one’s words and silences, yes, one’s silences, because silences rise to heaven too, and God hears them, and only God understands and judges them, so one must be very careful with one’s silences. I am responsible in every way. My silences are immaculate. Let me make that clear. Clear to God above all. The rest I can forego. But not God. I don’t know how I got on to this. Sometimes I find myself propped up on one elbow, rambling on and dreaming and trying to make peace with myself…

[By Night in Chile, Bolano, R.]