Monthly Archives: December 2009

Nothing that is not false

Decidedly this evening I shall say nothing that is not false, I mean nothing that is not calculated to leave me in doubt as to my real intentions.

— Beckett, Malone Dies

A certain longing

I am touching the house in which I was born, but my hand passes through the place, leaving a residue of fog where the house was. This is the place where I was born. A certain longing was conceived here. Muffled and croaking, it finds its expression in the body of the nostalgic. I am here, and my hand passed through the white wall, reaching into a lacuna in space, but comprised from the boundary of my hand. It is as though something outside of this place exceeds the material presence I face, as though this place resists the very act of being touched.

Dylan Trigg

The new day at last

For it if was really day again already, in some low distant quarter of the sky, it was not yet day again already in the kitchen. But that would come, Watt knew that would come, with patience it would come, little by little, whether he liked it or not, over the yard wall, and through the window, first the grey, then the brighter colours one by one, until getting on to nine a.m. all the gold and white and blue would fill the kitchen, all the unsoiled light of the new day, of the new day at last, the day without precedent at last.

— Beckett, Watt (quoted here)

Fragments of Heraclites

(a). Everything flows and nothing abides; everything gives way and nothing stays fixed.

1. Although this Logos is eternally valid, yet men are unable to understand it – not only before hearing it, but even after they have heard it for the first time. That is to say, although all things come to pass in accordance with this Logos, men seem to be quite without any experience of it […]

6. The sun is new each day.

16. How can anyone hide from that which never sets?

17. Most people do not take heed of the things they encounter, nor do they grasp them even when they have learned about them, although they think they do.

21. Whatever we see when awake is death; when asleep, dreams.

22. Seekers after gold dig up much earth and find little.

34. Fools, although they hear, are like the deaf: to them the adage applies that when present they are absent.

45. You could not discover the limits of soul, even if you traveled by every path in order to do so; such is the depth of its meaning.

47. Let us not make arbitrary conjectures about the greatest matters.

49a. Into the same rivers we step and do not step.

59. For the wool-carders the straight and the winding way are one and the same.

60. The way up and the way down are one and the same.

62. Immortals become mortals, mortals become immortals; they live in each other’s death and die in each other’s life.

72. Although intimately connected with the Logos, men keep setting themselves against it.

75. Even sleepers are workers and collaborators in what goes on in the universe.

84a. It is in changing that things find repose.

88. It is one and the same thing to be living and dead, awake or asleep, young or old. The former aspect in each case becomes the latter, and the latter becomes the former, by sudden unexpected reversal.

91. It throws apart and then brings together again; it advances and retires.


In the evening

In the evening they tramped out across a field trying to find a place where their fire would not be seen. Dragging the cart behind them over the ground. So little of promise in that country. Tomorrow they would find something to eat. Night overtook them on a muddy road. They crossed into a field and plodded on toward a distant stand of trees skylighted stark and black against the last of the visible world. By the time they got there it was dark of night. He held the boy’s hand and kicked up limbs and brush and got a fire going. The wood was damp but he shaved the dead bark off with his knife and he stacked brush and sticks all about to dry in the heat. Then he spread the sheet of plastic on the ground and got the coats and blankets from the cart and he took off their damp and muddy shoes and they sat there in silence with their hands outheld to the flames. He tried to think of something to say but he could not. He’d had this feeling before, beyond the numbness and the dull despair. The world shrinking down about a raw core of parsible entities. The names of things slowly following those things into oblivion. Colors. The names of birds. Things to eat. Finally the names of things one believed to be true. More fragile than he would have thought. How much was gone already? The sacred idiom shorn of its referents and so of its reality. Drawing down like something trying to preserve heat. In time to wink out forever.

— Cormac McCarthy, The Road


I am lying in my bed five flights up, and my day, which nothing interrupts, is like a clock-face without hands. As something that has been lost for a long time reappears one morning in its old place, safe and sound, almost newer than when it vanished, just as if someone had been taking care of it–: so, here and there on my blanket, lost feelings out of my childhood lie and are like new. All the lost fears are there again.
I prayed to rediscover my childhood, and it has come back, and I feel that it is just as difficult as it used to be, and that growing older has served no purpose at all.

— Rilke, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge (tr. S. Mitchell)

In broad daylight

The work is no longer innocent; it knows whence it comes. Or at least it knows how to seek, and in this seeking how to approach always nearer to the origin, and in this approach how to keep without fail to the path where possibility is gambled, where the risk is essential and failure threatens. This is what the work seems to ask, this is where it pushes the artist: away from itself and from its own realisation. This experience has become so grave that the artist pursues it endlessly. Despairing of success yet at the same time concerned for the essential, he produces this experience in the broad daylight. He seeks to express it directly or, in other words, to make of the work a road toward inspiration – that which protects and preserves the purity of inspiration – and not of inspiration a road toward the work.

— Blanchot, The Space of Literature (tr. A. Smock)

Some people are like that

She says, ‘Nothing can come from outside you and me to teach us.’
‘No knowledge, no ignorance?’
‘None. Some people are like that – closed – they can’t learn from anyone. Us, for example – we can’t learn anything, neither I from you nor you from me, nor from anyone, nor from anything, nor from what happens. Like mules.’
No matter how many centuries of oblivion pile up over their existences, their ignorance will have existed just as it is at that moment, on that date, in that cold light. They realize this and are delighted.
Also, that in a thousand years’ time this day will have existed for a thousand years to the day. And the ignorance of the whole world about what they’ve said today will have a date too. Without words, without ink to write it down or a book to read it in, it will have a date, a place in time. And they’re delighted about that too.
She says, ‘And so everything there is is here, in the room.’ And with the palm of her hand she indicates the tile floor, the sheets, the light, the bodies.

— Marguerite Duras, Blue Eyes, Black Hair (tr. B. Bray)

Praised then be He, for when minds contemplate His Godhead, their awareness turns to incomprehension; when they consider the nexus of His acts to His will, their knowledge turns to ignorance; when tongues aspire to praise Him by ascribing attributes to Him, all their eloquence turns to tedium and vapidity.

— Moses Maimonides, Guide of the Perplexed (tr. L. E. Goodman)

During the night, still a long time before dawn, while the walkers are going along the beach, she asks him a question she’s been wanting to ask him for several nights.
‘What you meant was that paying for time spent in this room was paying for time lost, wasted. Wasted by the woman?’
At first he can’t remember, then he does.
‘Wasted by the man, too. Time that he had no further use for.’
She asks him what he’s talking about.
He says, ‘Like you, about our affair, about the room.’
‘The room is no use now either,’ he says. ‘Everything in it has stopped.’
He must be on the wrong track. He can’t ever have thought it would be of any use. What use could it have been?
She says, ‘You said the room was to keep people here, with you.’
He says that applied to young male prostitutes, but not to this case.
He has stopped trying to understand. So has she.
She says, ‘It was also so that they had to go, had to leave you, when the time was up.’
‘Perhaps. But I was wrong, I didn’t want anything.’
She looks at him a long while, her gaze taking him and keeping him shut up inside her till it hurts. He knows it’s happening. And also that it’s nothing to do with him.
She says, ‘Perhaps you’ve never wanted anything.’
Suddenly he’s interested. He asks, ‘Do you think so?’
‘Yes. Not ever.’
He’s the sort of man who doesn’t notice whether something is said by himself or by the other person, doesn’t notice who answers questions, even if they are put by himself.
‘It’s possible. Never wanted anything.’
He waits, thinks, says, ‘Perhaps that’s what the matter is. I never wanted anything, ever.’
Suddenly she laughs. ‘We could leave together if you like. I don’t want anything anymore either.’
He laughs too, but with a sort of uncertainty, of apprehension, as if he had just escaped from some danger, or from some piece of good fortune he hadn’t asked for.

— Marguerite Duras, Blue Eyes, Black Hair (tr. B. Bray)