frm

Prose

A COMMON EXPERIENCE, resulting in a common confusion. A. has to transact important business with B. in H. He goes to H. for a preliminary interview, accomplishes the journey there in ten minutes, and the journey back in the same time, and on returning boasts to his family of his expedition. Next day he goes again to H., this time to settle his business finally. As that by all appearances will require several hours, A. leaves very early in the morning. But although all the surrounding circumstances, at least in A.'s estimation, are exactly the same as the day before, this time it takes him ten hours to reach H. When he arrives there quite exhausted in the evening he is informed that B., annoyed at his absence, had left half an hour before to go to A.'s village, and that they must have passed each other on the road. A. is advised to wait. But in his anxiety about his business he sets off at once and hurries home.

This time he covers the distance, without paying any particular attention to the fact, practically in an instant. At home he learns that B. had arrived quite early, immediately after A.'s departure, indeed that he had met A. on the threshold and reminded him of his business; but A. had replied that he had no time to spare, he must go at once.

In spite of this incomprehensible behavior of A., however, B. had stayed on to wait for A.'s return. It is true, he had asked several times whether A. was not back yet, but he was still sitting up in A.'s room. Overjoyed at the opportunity of seeing B. at once and explaining everything to him, A. rushes upstairs. He is almost at the top, when he stumbles, twists a sinew, and almost fainting with the pain, incapable even of uttering a cry, only able to moan faintly in the darkness, he hears B.–impossible to tell whether at a great distance or quite near him–stamping down the stairs in a violent rage and vanishing for good.

-Kafka (“A Common Confusion”)

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Joy in old age. The thinker or artist whose better self has fled into his works feels an almost malicious joy when he sees his body and spirit slowly broken into and destroyed by time; it is as if he were in a corner, watching a thief at work on his safe, all the while knowing that it is empty and that all his treasures have been rescued.

-Nietzsche (“Human, All Too Human”)

But sometimes the place is lost in the years behind us. Or sometimes it is a thing of air, a kind of vaporous distortion above a heap of rubble. We cling to a time and a place because without them man is lost, not only man but life. This is why the voices, real or unreal, which speak from the floating trumpets at spiritualists seances are so unnerving. They are voices out of nowhere whose only reality lies in their ability to stir the memory of a living person with some fragment of the past. Before the medium’s cabinet both the dead and the living revolve endlessly about an episode, a place, an event that has already been engulfed by time.
This feeling runs deep in life; it brings stray cats running over endless miles, and birds homing from the ends of the earth . It is as though all living creatures, and particularly the more intelligent, can survive only by fixing or transforming a bit of time into space or by securing a bit of space with its objected immortalized and made permanent in time.

-Loren Eiseley (‘The Brown Wasps,’ from “The Night Country”)

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Lucky Jim, Kingsley Amis

Dixon was alive again. Consciousness was upon him before he could get out of the way; not for him the slow, gracious wandering from the halls of sleep, but a summary, forcible ejection. He lay sprawled, too wicked to move, spewed up like a broken spider-crab on the tarry shingle of the morning. The light did him harm, but not as much as looking at things did; he resolved, having done it once, never to move his eye-balls again. A dusty thudding in his head made the scene before him beat like a pulse. His mouth had been used as a latrine by some small creature of the night, and then as its mausoleum. During the night, too, he’d somehow been on a cross-country run and then been expertly beaten up by secret police. He felt bad.’

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You must include author and title of work! This is absurd!

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First she let her hair fal and down it flussed to her feet its teviots winding coils. Then, mothernaked, she sampood herself with galawater and fraguant pistania mud, wupper and lauar, from crown to sole. Next she greesed the groove of her keel, warthes and wears and mole and itcher, with antifouling butter- scatch and turfentide and serpenthyme and with leafmould she ushered round prunella isles and eslats dun, quincecunct, allover her little mary. Peeld gold of waxwork her jellybelly and her grains of incense anguille bronze. And after that she wove a gar- land for her hair. She pleated it. She plaited it. Of meadowgrass and riverflags, the bulrush and waterweed, and of fallen griefs of weeping willow. Then she made her bracelets and her anklets and her armlets and a jetty amulet for necklace of clicking cobbles and pattering pebbles and rumbledown rubble, richmond and rehr, of Irish rhunerhinerstones and shellmarble bangles. That done, a dawk of smut to her airy ey, Annushka Lutetiavitch Pufflovah, and the lellipos cream to her lippeleens and the pick of the paintbox for her pommettes, from strawbirry reds to extra violates, and she sendred her boudeloire maids to His Affluence, Ciliegia Grande and Kirschie Real, the two chirsines, with respecks from his missus, seepy and sewery, and a request might she passe of him for a minnikin. A call to pay and light a taper, in Brie-on-Arrosa, back in a sprizzling. The cock striking mine, the stalls bridely sign, there’s Zambosy waiting for Me! She said she wouldn’t be half her length away. Then, then, as soon as the lump his back was turned, with her mealiebag slang over her shulder, Anna Livia, oysterface, forth of her bassein came.

including the author biases you, making it harder for you see with fresh eyes…bitch!

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George is gettin’ upset!

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auden, the sea and the mirror

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Soccer, Jean-Philippe Toussaint

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Edward St Aubyn, At Last

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Iris Murdoch, The Flight from the Enchanter

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Robert Aickman, The Attempted Rescue

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Now you’re on the trolley.

Balloon Journey

The three people, the captain, a gentleman, and a young girl, climb into the basket, the anchoring cords are loosed, and the strange house flies, slowly, as if it had first to ponder something, upward. “Bon voyage,” shout the people gathered below, waving hats and handkerchiefs. It is ten o’clock in the evening. The captain pulls a map from a case and asks the gentleman if he would like to do the map reading. The map can be read, comparisons made, everything to be seen can be clearly seen. Everything has an almost brownish clarity. The beautiful moonlit night seems to gather the splendid balloon into invisible arms, gently and quietly the roundish flying body ascends, and now hardly so that one might notice, subtle winds propel it northward. The map-reading gentleman tosses, from time to time, as directed by the captain, a handful of ballast into the depth below. There are five sacks of sand on board, and they must be used sparingly. How beautiful it is, the round, pale, dark depth below. The moonlight, tender and evocative, picks the rivers out, silver. One can see houses down there, so small, like innocuous toys. The forests seem to be chanting somber and ancient songs, but this chanting strikes on as being more like a noble silent knowledge. The earth’s image has the features of a huge sleeping man, at least that is what the youthful girl dreams; she lets her bewitching hand hang indolently over the rim of the basket. Obeying a whim, the cavalier is wearing a medieval plumed hat, but is otherwise dressed in a modern way. How quiet the earth is! One can see everything distinctly, the particular people in the village streets, the church spires; tired after a long day’s work, the laborers trampling across the farmyard; the ghostly railroad streaking by, the dazzling long, white turnpike. Human sorrow, familiar or unknown, seems to send murmurs up from below. The loneliness of remote regions has a special tone, such that one believes one ought to understand and even see this special thing that slips away from thought. Wondrously now the three people are dazzled as they see in the glory of its colors the luminous course of the Elbe. The nocturnal river draws from the girl a low cry of longing. What might she be thinking of? From a posy she has brought along with her she pulls a dark rose, in full bloom, and throws it into the sparkling water. How sadly her eyes shine as she does so! It is as if the young woman had just now forever shed a painful conflict. It is a very painful thing, having to part company with what torments you. And how mute the world is! Far off, the lights of a major town are glittering; the canny captain pronounces its name. Beautiful, enticing depth! Countless areas of field and forest are now behind them, it is midnight. Somewhere on the solid ground now a thief prowls, hunting for swag, there is a burglary, and all these people down there, in their beds, this great sleep slept by millions. An entire earth is dreaming now, and a people rests from its labors. The girl smiles. And how warm it is, as if one were sitting in a room, just like home, with mother, aunt, sister, brother, or with one’s lover, lamplit, and reading from a beautiful but rather monotonous long story. The girl wants to sleep; looking at things has made her quite tired now. The two men standing in the basket gaze silently but resolutely into the light. Remarkably white, polished-looking, plateaus alternate with gardens and small wildernesses of bush. One peers down into regions where one’s feet would never, never have trod, because in certain regions, indeed in most, one has no purpose whatever. How big and unknown to us the earth is, thinks the feather-hatted gentleman. Yes, your own country does finally become intelligible from up here, looking down. You feel how unexplored and powerful it is. Two provinces they have now crossed, and the dawn is coming. Below in the villages human life wakens again. “What’s the name of this place?” the leader shouts downward. A boy’s clear voice replies. And still the two men are gazing; now, too, the girl is awake again. Colors appear and things become more distinct. One sees lakes inside their drawn contours, wondrously secluded among forests; one glimpses ruins of old bastions towering up through old foliage; hills rise almost imperceptibly, on sees swans trembling and pale on waters, and the human voices become pleasantly audible, and onward one flies, onward, and finally the glorious sun appears, and, attracted by this proud star, the balloon soars upward into a magical dizzy height. The girl shrieks with fear. The men laugh.

-Robert Walser

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shirley hazzard, the transit of venus

Then we came to the end of a another dull and lurid year. Lights were strung across the front of every shop. Men selling chestnuts wheeled their smoky carts. In the evenings the crowds were immense and traffic built to a tidal roar. The santas of Fifth Avenue rang their little bells with an odd sad delicacy, as if sprinkling salt on some brutally spoiled piece of meat. Music came from all the stores in jingles, chants and hosannas, and from the Salvation Army bands came the martial trumpet lament of ancient Christian legions. It was a strange sound to hear in that time and place, the smack of cymbals and high-collared drums, a suggestion that children were being scolded for a bottomless sin, and it seemed to annoy people. But the girls were lovely and undismayed, shopping in every mad store, striding through those magnetic twilights like drum majorettes, tall and pink, bright packages cradled to their tender breasts. The blind man’s German shepherd slept through it all.

Finally we got to Quincy’s place. His wife opened the door. I introduce her to my date, B.G. Haines, and then began counting the people in the room. As I counted I was distantly aware that Quincy’s wife and I were talking about India. Counting the house was a habit of mine. The question of how many people were present in a particular place seemed important to me, perhaps because the recurring news of airline disasters and military engagements always stressed the number of dead an missing; such exactness is a tickle of electricity to the numbered brain. The next most important thing to find out was the degree of hostility. This was relatively simple. All you had to do was look at the people who were looking at you as you entered. One long glance was usually enough to give you a fair reading. There were thirty-one people in the living room. Roughly three out of four were hostile

Quincy’s wife and my date smiled at each other’s peace earrings. Then I took B.G. into the living room. We waited for somebody to approach us and start a conversation. It was a party and we didn’t want to talk to each other. The whole point was to separate for the evening and find exciting people to talk to and then at the very end to meet again and tell each other how terrible it had been and how glad we were to be together again. This is the essence of Western civilization. But it didn’t matter really because an hour later we were all bored. It was one of those parties which are so boring that boredom itself soon becomes the topic of conversation. one moves from group to group and hears the same sentence a dozen times. “It’s like an Antonioni movie.” But the faces were not quite as interesting.

Don Delillo, Americana