Thursday, 2 March 2017

...of imagination

Later, when, glancing over his shoulder, he sees the cave dwelling as nothing more than a rock among many others, the old man begins to sing. He has long since changed direction - what started out as an open plateau has acquired steep walls on all sides. Now he is roaming through a jungle almost all of whose trees are dead - roaming happily, as though triumphing every time he stumbles. He has kept on writing, but now he does it while walking, no longer in his book but in the air, drawing big letters. In a hoarse falsetto voice he sings:

Into the silence.
Alone into the silence.
Silence alone.
Where are you, silence?

You’ve always been good to me, silence.
I’ve always been happy in you, silence.
Time and again, I’ve become a child with you, silence;
through you I came into the world, silence;
in you I learned to hear, silence;
from you I acquired a soul, silence;
by you alone have I let myself be taught, silence;
from you alone have I gone as a man among men, silence.

Be to me again what you were, silence.
Embrace me, silence.
Take me under the armpits, silence.
Make me silent, silence;
and make me receptive, silence -
only receptive, silence.
I cry out to you, silence.
You above all, silence.

Silence, source of images.
Silence, great image.
Silence, imagination’s mother.

[Absence, Handke, P.]

...of writing

Suddenly he broke off, forgot those around him, and pulled out his notebook, the used part of which, blackened and bloated by his entries, was as thick as an imposing volume. The barely audible sound of the CUMBERLAND pencil fell in with other persistent sounds that intensified the silence; its rhythm was that of a Morse transmitter. The pencil spoke, interfered, argued, asked questions; it was trying to make a point. Though we could not see what was being written - the notebook was half hidden by the writer’s elbow - it must have been verbs which, when we looked up after a time, had acted on the landscape. Every part of it was shot through with a soundless whirring; so that the towering of the cliffs and the lying of the savannah were as much an action as the perching of the birds in the bushes. In the grass at our feet a perpetual greening, in the sky overhead a vibrant bluing, and in between, at eye-level, the forest’s constantly renewed marching-across-the-plain and climbing-the-slope, all its trees, even the dead ones, as though on duty, like streetlamps advancing in long rows, their branches swinging vigorously. What was happened again and again in the rhythm of the pencil, and became, time and time again, what it was.

[Absence, Handke, P.]

...of a picture

Only a short time has passed since they left the plain, and yet the very first S-curve has carried them far away: the plain’s details and movements stand out clearly all the way to the snow-covered mountains on one side and the luminous mist on the other which, along with the dark ships that sail it, is called the “sea.” At the same time, almost all its sounds have been swallowed up, and those few that are still audible transformed: the clanking of trains into a soft knocking, as though from behind a glass wall; and the crowing of cocks, also from behind a glass wall, into incessant call signs. The clear, varied, quiet design is that of medieval panels, in which for the first time pure landscape became subject matter, and taken together, sea, tilled plain, and high mountains represent the whole world. The car flashing somewhere in the distance is also part of this silent world, and despite their many different colors the houses of a settlement plunked down in a niche in the mountainside give off the same sienna tone of earth shooting up at the sky. So sharpened is the hearing by the silence here that not even the grazing of butterfly wings against the sand of the path goes unheard.

[Absence, Handke, P.]


His days work is evidently done. The old man sits down on the camp bed; wearing a loose-fitting suit and a fully buttoned shirt, he sits erect with his hands on his knees. The window is open and the roar of the Sunday-evening traffic pours in from the expressways, punctuated now and then by a backfire. Then comes a loud screech, followed at once by a crash. A brief silence is broken by screams of pain, fear, and horror, cries for help; finally a general shouting and bellowing, accompanied in the background by a mindless blowing of horns. The old man’s window offers a good view of the goings-on. But he remains seated, apparently unmoved. Then by chance, in the midst of the sobbing and wailing from the scene of the accident, the institution’s funeral bell starts to ring for an entirely different person. Though the clamor outside continues, now intermingled with the howling of sirens, and though the old man in his cell has raised his head to listen, he shuts his ears more resolutely to all that. What gradually becomes audible, drowning out the tumult, are bird calls and the flow of water in the little irrigation ditch, merging with the rustling of the trees in the park, ocean breakers, the chirping of birds, the cry of gulls. The old man on the folding bed begins to rock back and forth from the waist and to tap his thighs with his fingers in the same rhythm. He leans his head back and opens his mouth, but no sound emerges. With his dilated nostrils and protuberant eyes he resembles an old, old singer, long fallen silent, whose singing today comes only from his hearing and seeing.

[Absence, Handke, P.]

...of a deserted island

The island was completely deserted; Dan Yack had explored all over it several times.
Nothing ever happened.
There was nothing but the vast unfolding of nature, with its storms, its blustery winds and, in calm weather, the palpable ebb and flow that washed the floating ice, the flotilla of ice-floes, the squadron of icebergs away from the shore and back in again. Everything moved to and fro in perpetual motion: the great continental clouds, like a ship’s crew in seaman’s jerseys, worked their way across a sky that was concave, a deserted sports drome; the humped backs of the hollowed-out waves; the punctual sun that turned and turned, silent as a gramophone record on which nothing had been recorded, dumb as a virgin disc.
There were no animals on the island. Only a little snow petrel that flew over at regular intervals, quite low, gliding round in a circle, describing figures of eight, while its head and its lidless eye swivelled in all directions, before it flew out to sea again with long, melancholy strokes of the wing, strong, rhythmical strokes, returning whence it came without so much as a cry.

[Dan Yack, Cendras, B.]

...of unease

A profound unease held the room in thrall.
The lamps began to dim, for the first time in many long months. At last the long-awaited dawn was filling the one and only window.
A few seconds later a ray of sunlight struck Dan Yack’s head, and his monocle began to blaze.
It was as swift as it was brief. And not one of the three men gathered together in the room perceived it, for, behind the monocle, Dan Yack’s eye was shut. He was thinking bitterly: Bari chose between us, and attached himself to disease. Pfaugh!
Still Lamont lay there like a dead man and Arkadie Goischman was contemplating the shadow of his nose on the partition screen.
Bari was the only one who noticed the luminous bee that flew away as rapidly as it had entered.
Already dusk was drawing a curtain over the window and, outside, total darkness had descended once more.
The light of the lamps intensified a little.
A profound unease held the room in thrall. Not even the ticking of a clock was to be heard.
André Lamont and Dan Yack, in truth, no longer had anything to say to each other. As for Arkadie Goischman, he was squinting down at his nose.
’The sun! The sun!’ cried Ivan Sabakov, rushing into the room like a madman. ‘Danny, did you see it?’
This voice struck Dan Yack to the heart. He jumped to his feet. He wanted to say something. He dropped his monocle and it sparkled on the floor like a huge tear.
Dan Yack sat down again.
His head was spinning.
He could not say a word.

[Dan Yack, Cendras, B.]

...of musical thought

‘Well then, in your opinion, why is my dog so attached to your friend?’ he asked Ivan Sabakov.
Ivan replied: ‘Bari is an intelligent dog. An animal is often more sensitive than a human being. Besides, André is an artist, that is to say, a human being who is much closer to the true nature of things than the ordinary run of men. And don’t forget that at the moment he is working. Certainly he must be giving off a lot of vibrations. Musical thought carries a long way, even when it is unformulated, embryonic. In this state, something physical must already enter into its constitution, something analogous to and parallel with the laws of interference which govern the speed of the propagation of light, the vibrations of the ether and all those waves of motion and heat, of which the most elementary is sound. A dog’s hearing is very acute. It’s one of his most highly developed senses. Perhaps Bari can already hear the music, or rather, the elementary rhythms that are condensing around this human spirit in gestation, the phrases and triplets which accumulate above this head in labour, the tonalities and modalities which crowd in and jostle one another in an effort to reach Lamont’s eardrum and became rejuvenated. Certain rhythms are very ancient. Tenaries, for instance, date back to the beginning of the world. They are eternal. They must make the air vibrate, just as prayers do as they pass over. I noticed that Bari often pricks up his ears, as if he could hear something passing that we don not perceive. Probably he loves music.’

[Dan Yack, Cendras, B.]

...of melancholia

Coming out behind the Winter Palace, Dan Yack suddenly fell silent. He felt uneasy again. His legs sagged. He was overwhelmed by fatigue. An infinite sadness took hold of him, drained him, blew him up again, oppressed him. He staggered as far as the Bridge of Sighs. He dumped himself down right in the middle of the hog’s back, careless of the carriages that brushed past him. A gardavoï rushed up to him, then, recognising this famous reveller who was the envy of all of St Petersburg, discreetly withdrew.
Dan Yack experienced the sensation of rising up into the air like an observation balloon. A cable held him back, painfully, like something anchored in the marrow of his bones. A weight. A steam-winch creaked. His nerves were stretched to breaking-point. His heels left the ground, fell back, then rose again, very gently.
Little by little, this movement became more pronounced. It affected his calf muscles, his shins, his knees and, finally, his thighs.
Now Dan Yack was marking time on the spot and flapping his arms. Even his head was wagging. It seemed to inflate and float away on its own.

[Dan Yack, Cendras, B.]