The scene is like the Sentence: structurally, there is no obligation for it to stop; no internal constraint exhausts it, because, as in the Sentence, once the core is given (the fact, the decision), the expansions are infinitely renewable. Only some circumstance external to its structure can interrupt the scene: the exhaustion of the two partners (that of only one would not suffice), the arrival of a third party (in Werther, it is Albert), or else the sudden substitution of desire for aggression. Unless these accidents are employed, no partner has the power to check a scene. What means might I have? Silence? It would merely quicken the will to have the scene; I am therefore obliged to answer in order to soothe, to erase. Reasoning? None is of such pure metal as to leave the other partner without something to say. Analysis of the scene itself? To shift from the scene to the metascene merely means opening another scene. Flight? This is the sign of a defection already achieved: the couple is already undone: like love, the scene is always reciprocal. Hence, the scene is interminable, like language itself: it is language itself, taken in its infinity, that ‘perpetual adoration’ which brings matters about in such a way that since man has existed, he has not stopped talking.
– Barthes, A Lover’s Discourse (tr. R. Howard)
Soon (or simultaneously) the question is no longer ‘Why don’t you love me?’ but ‘Why do you only love me a little?’ How do you manage to love a little? What does that mean, loving ‘a little’? I live under the regime of too much or not enough; greedy for coincidence as I am, everything which is not total seems parsimonious; what I want is to occupy a site from which quantities are no longer perceived, and from which all accounts are banished.
— Barthes, A Lover’s Discourse (tr. R. Howard)
Whenever I happen to see you
I forget for a while
That I am ugly in my own eyes
For not winning you
I wanted you to choose me
Over all the men you know
Because I am destroyed
In their company
I have often prayed for you
Let me have her
— Leonard Cohen, The Energy of Slaves
I want to walk naked or in rags; I want to experience at least once the insipid flavour of the Host. To eat communion bread will be to taste the world’s indifference, and to immerse myself in nothingness. This will be my courage: to abandon comforting sentiments from the past.
But let us return to today. As is known, today is today. No one understands my meaning and I can obscurely hear mocking laughter with that rapid, edgy cackling of old men. I also hear measured footsteps on the road. I tremble with fear. Just as well that what I am about to write is already written deep inside me. I must reproduce myself with the delicacy of a white butterfly. This idea of the white butterfly stems from the feeling that, should the girl marry, she will marry looking as slender and ethereal as any virgin dressed in white. Perhaps she will not marry? To be frank, I am holding her destiny in my hands and yet am powerless to invent with any freedom: I follow a secret, fatal line. I am forced to seek a truth that transcends me. Why should I write about a young girl whose poverty is so evident? Perhaps because within her there is seclusion. Also because in her poverty of body and soul one touches sanctity and I long to feel the breath of life hereafter. In order to become greater than I am, for I am so little. I write because I have nothing better to do in this world: I am superfluous and last in the world of men. I write because I am desperate and weary. I can no longer bear the routine of my existence and, were it not for the constant novelty of writing, I should die symbolically each day. Yet I am prepared to leave quietly by the back door. I have experienced almost everything, even passion and despair. Now I only wish to possess what might have been but never was.
— Lispector, The Hour of the Star (tr. G. Pontiero)
Waking in the morning, I would see the day ahead from behind closed like a dark sea, an infinite, irremissibly frozen sea.
Sometimes I woke up in the middle of the night without even opening my eyes. I would keep them shut and put my hand on Edmondsson’s arm. I would ask her to console me. Softly, she would ask, Console you for what? Console me, I would say. But for what? she would say. Console me, I would say (console, not comfort).
‘But when I thought more deeply, and after I had found the cause for all our distress, I wanted to discover its reason. I found out there was a valid one, which consists in the natural distress of our weak and mortal condition, and so miserable that nothing can console us, when we think it over’ (Pascal, Pensées).
After my nap I would not get up at once. No, I preferred to wait. Sooner or later the force would come that would enable me to move without consciousness of my body, with the ease of gestures that have not been premeditated.
– Toussaint, The Bathroom (tr. N. Amphoux and P. de Angelis)
I was beginning to sink into poverty. Slowly, it was drawing circles around me; the first seemed to leave me everything, the last would leave me only myself. One day, I found myself confined in the city; travelling was no longer more than a fantasy.
I had no enemies. No one bothered me. Sometimes a vast solitude opened in my head and the entire world disappeared inside it, but came out again intact, without a scratch, with nothing missing.
— Blanchot, ‘The Madness of the Day’
Three hundred and sixty-five nights without daytimes, huge, massive, this is what I wish upon the haters of the night.
Early sun, I see you, but only where you no longer are.
— René Char, ‘In a Crude Mountain Shelter‘ (tr. S. Dubroff)
Sitting on the bed with my head in my hands (always these extreme postures), I told myself that the people were not afraid of the rain; some, coming out of the hairdresser’s, might want to avoid it, but no one was actually afraid it would never stop, would become a continuous downpour obliterating everything – annihilating everything. It was I who, standing in front of my window and misled by the dread inspired in me by the movements taking place before my eyes – rain, moving humans and automobiles – had suddenly felt afraid of the bad weather, when what had really terrified me, once again, was the passing of time itself.
— Toussaint, The Bathroom (tr. N. Amphoux and P. de Angelis)