Monthly Archives: October 2011

Look how it’s getting dark!

If our life were an eternal standing by the window, if we could remain there for ever, like hovering smoke, with the same moment of twilight forever paining the curve of the hills…. If we could remain that way for beyond forever! If at least on this side of the impossible we could thus continue, without committing and action, without our pallid lips sinning another word!

Look how it’s getting dark! …The positive quietude of everthing fills me with rage, with something that’s a bitterness in the air I breathe. My soul aches … A slow wisp of smoke rises and dissipates in the distance… A restless tedium makes me think no more of you…

All so superfluous! We and the world and the mystery of both.

Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet (tr. Zenith), via here

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Anonymity

Wasn’t that your first lesson in anonymity, there in that room with nothing to do, with the endless hours stretching ahead of you? Wasn’t that when the other ‘you’ was first born, the you I’ve written so often about in the past? The you with the capital Y, I could call it, the You beyond us both. The Anonymous itself.

Dorm

What happened when you got to your room? Wasn’t I being born then, like some deformed twin? Or were you being born as my deformed twin? A corridor flanked by rectangular dormitories, yours the last, the one facing the artificial lake. That uncanny Scandinavian silence you could never get used to, broken by sudden sounds and voices. The odd quick body stomping by, the women with their heels were the worst. Avoid the eyes. Get into the room, lock the door, make it safe. There are voices in the hall. I think I heard footsteps after mine. Did they see me? Are they talking about me? I can hear them. They’re laughing at me. You can still see each detail of that room, can’t you? The cupboard, the cot, the desk, the window. Hear the echoing voices in the hall, the noises echoing off the tiles in the shared bathrooms.

I was waiting

My room was bright. Filled with sunshine. I made it a strict rule with myself to take a trip to the bathroom, wash up, and shave every day. On cloudy days, however, I still washed but I didn’t shave. After I had finished, I made my way along the tiny path that I had created between the piles of food and stacks of bottles, and lay down again. I made my bed, swept up a bit. I opened the door to my room to put out the dirty linen and pick up the clean. All that took a great deal of time and effort, and made me feel tired enough to feel fully justified in once again taking to my bed, from which I could see the sky or the ceiling. I was waiting. For what I didn’t know. But an active, pulsing wait. I tried to read signs from heaven, and when cottony clouds would pass by, mixing with the blue, I tried to fathom what it might mean. I wasn’t unhappy, the way I once had been. Was it age that had made me wiser, or had age merely blunted the forces that had stirred and struggled within me? I don’t want to give the mistaken impression that I was happy, either.

– Ionesco, The Hermit (tr. Seaver)

Approaching

It all happened too quickly, didn’t it, when you shook hands with your father and walked down the concrete path between the thistles to your new room – in those moments when I was meant to emerge from within you, with you. But I couldn’t do the work of a whole childhood in a few moments. I turned up too late and too suddenly. Sometimes all it takes for everything to go wrong is a single moment. A strange command made us face each other.

From the well of absolute night

Her eyes were already open. Dawn was breaking. The rock she leaned against hurt her back. She sighed, and shifted her position a bit. Among the rocks out there beyond the town it was very quiet at this time of the day. She looked into the sky, saw space growing ever clearer. The first slight sounds moving through that space seemed no more than variations on the basic silence of which they were made. The nearby rock forms and the more distant city walls came up slowly from the realm of the invisible, but still only as emanations of the shadowy depths beneath. The pure sky, the bushes beside her, the pebbles at her feet, all had been drawn up from the well of absolute night. And in the same fashion the strange languor in the center of her consciousness, those vaporous ideas which kept appearing as though independently of her will, were mere tentative fragments of her own presence, looming against the nothingness of a sleep not yet cold—a sleep still powerful enough to return and take her in its arms. But she remained awake, the nascent light invading her eyes, and still no corresponding aliveness awoke within her; she had no feeling of being anywhere, of being anyone.

— Paul Bowles, The Sheltering Sky

I have a religious temperament. I have not been educated to use it. I’m afraid of power. It makes me nervous. In real life, I identify with the victim. That’s why I went into art.

— Louise Bourgeois (via here)

Comfort

After a certain length of time they left the valley and turned across a wide plantless region strewn with stones. The yellow dunes lay ahead. There was the heat of the sun, the slow climbing to the crests and the gentle going down into the hollows, over and over. She raised no problem for herself; she was content to be relaxed and to see the soft unvaried landscape going by. To be sure, several times it occurred to her that they were not really moving at all, that the dune along whose sharp rim they were now traveling was the same dune they had left behind much earlier, that there was no question of going anywhere since they were nowhere. And when these sensations came to her they started an ever so slight stirring of thought. “Am I dead?” she said to herself, but without anguish, for she knew she was not. As long as she could ask herself the question: “Is there anything?” and answer: “Yes,” she could not be dead. And there were the sky, the sun, the sand, the slow monotonous motion of the mehari’s pace. Even if the moment came, she reflected at last, when she no longer could reply, the unanswered question would still be there before her, and she would know that she lived. The idea comforted her.

— Paul Bowles, The Sheltering Sky

The nether side

I endeavoured to show how Kafka sought — on the nether side of that ‘nothingness’, in its inside lining, so to speak — to feel his way towards redemption. This implies that any kind of victory over that nothingness, as understood by the theological exegetes around Brod, would have been an abomination for him.

Benjamin