Monthly Archives: July 2009

In the café

I paid. Madeleine took away my saucer. My glass crushes a puddle of beer, with a bubble floating in it, against the marble top. The bench is broken just where I am sitting, and to avoid slipping I am forced to press the soles of my shoes hard against the floor; it is cold. On the right, they are playing cards on a woollen cloth. I didn’t see them when I came in; I simply sensed that there was a warm packet, half on the bench, half on the table at the back, with some pairs of arms waving about. Since then, Madeleine has brought them cards, the cloth, and the chips in a wooden bowl. There are three or four of them, I don’t know how many, I haven’t the courage to look at them. There’s a spring inside me that’s broken: I can move my eyes but not my head. The head is all soft and elastic, as if it had just been balanced on my neck; if I turn it, it will fall off. All the same, I can hear a short breath and now and then, out of the corner of my eye, I can see a reddish flash covered with white hairs. It is a hand.

— Sartre, Nausea (trans. R. Baldick)

The word which escapes me

A scholar: I settle in my work, but the work is unaware of it. The more I care about what I write, the more I cut myself off from the sources of my writing. The more sincere I want to be, the more the faster I must let the words take over: I cannot refuse to let them exist without me.
    And yet I am the origin of their existence. I am, therefore, the man who conceived the verbal being which will have a fate of its own on which, in turn, my fate as a writer depends.

A scholar: I write and right away I become the word which escapes me and thanks to which I am, the word which leads to other words and asserts itself as such. I am multiplied in my sentence as a tree unfolds in its branches.

A scholar: When a writer bends over his work he believes, or rather makes us believe, that his face is the one his words reflect. He is lying. He is lying as God be if He claimed to have created man in His image; because which then would be His image?

— Jabés, The Book of Questions (trans. R. Waldrop)


Contradiction is not a sign of falsity, nor the lack of contradiction a sign of truth.

— Pascal

The existence of others

Like someone whose eyes, when lifted up after staring at a book for a long time, wince at the mere sight of a naturally bright sun, so too, when I lift my eyes from looking at myself, it hurts and stings me to see the vivid clarity and independence-from-me of the world outside, of the existence of others, of the position and correlation of movements in space. I stumble on the real feelings of others. The antagonism of their psyches towards mine shoves me and trips up my steps. I slide and tumble above and between the sounds of their strange words in my ears, the hard and definite falling of their feet on the actual floor, their motions that really exist, their various and complex ways of being persons who are not mere variants of my own.

— Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet (trans. R. Zenith)

Better hope deferred than none

Deviser of the voice and of its hearer and of himself. Deviser of himself for company. Leave it at that. He speaks of himself as of another. He says speaking of himself, He speaks of himself as of another. Himself he devises too for company. Leave it at that. Confusion too is company up to a point. Better hope deferred than none. Up to a point. Till the heart starts to sicken. Company too up to a point. Better a sick heart than none. Till it starts to break. So speaking of himself he concludes for the time being, For the time being leave it at that.

— Beckett, from ‘Company’

Dialogue of the Ferryman and the River-Dweller

River-dweller: I cannot get to the other bank without your help. Ferryman, tell me of the other bank.

Ferryman: For me, it is the bank to get to, just like this one is when I am over there.

River-dweller: Is it like the banks of my childhood? It is so far I cannot tell form here.

Ferryman: What matter what the country is like if it excites your imagination. What matter what its banks are like. It is your country as long as you think of it, your banks.

River-dweller: I would like to know where this country begins and ends, if its vegetation is related to ours. The shape of its trees and rocks. I would like to know what happens there.

Ferryman: There is life, like here, and life in death. Like here, there is darkness in the light of the Name.

— Jabés, The Book of Questions (trans. R. Waldrop)

The dead twin

X tells me he thinks some malevolent spirit must have visited him in the womb, a bad ghost. I can feel it now, is it you? he asks me. Something went wrong somewhere, he says, probably as far back as the womb. You slipped out of the womb with me, didn’t you? he asks. Or maybe you slipped into the womb, grew with me, then slipped back out with me, he says. That’s why you’re still here, like a dead twin, he says, that’s why I can’t get rid of you.