Candid Matters

This is an old one, but I found it in a notebook this morning and thought it needed a home. [Blackout poem from p. 63 of Freud’s Five Lectures]



The Fish have Risen

for George


Just like that, the fish have risen; they have reached the surface of their element and now own it the way humans once owned land.

One fish has planted a tree on his part of the surface – although what fish call a tree is to us no more than an empty floating can – and he has made it his purpose to convince other fish to do the same. Agriculture is, it seems, an important aspect of progressive developments, even across species. Get in there quick! – the fish are not fools, they know there is only a limited amount of human garbage available, no matter how out-of-hand it may have seemed to the humans who made it.

Because they are only at the beginning of their exploitation of this new material, i.e. human waste, it may not seem so limited yet; but fish, unlike humans, have the ability to see the end of things superimposed upon their beginnings. Water dwellers see the entirety of things curled up into a timeless model where land dwellers see only straight lines vanishing toward the horizon.

Underneath their floating bellies, the seaweed waves like gently remembered hands.

The fish, not being fools, begin to team up; collectivity is natural to them. They don’t call their groupings ‘family’ the way humans used to, but like families they bond their instincts and senses in order to protect what they have dragged to the surface with them.

It no longer matters what humans used to call things, or who they were. They have left behind material to be used. This is what makes humans, in a sense, useful. But the fish have their own plans for the future.

They create string by holding just about any soppy material between two mouths and spinning their bodies around and around until the material has given in and twisted and lengthened into rope; then, they drag the string along the surface of the water where it stays afloat, exhausted.

What lies below the surface is so familiar, so well-known, that it has no appeal. What is new to the first is what lies above this frontier where water becomes air.

Air sits on top of water the way fresh water sits on top of salt water. Water water water. The fish are sick of it.

Now that all things but fish are gone, there is nothing left in the sky for them to fear. The surface is no longer a portal towards a world of danger: no more nets, no more ravenous birds, no more slicing, knocking, howling ships. All there is, is wide open potential.

The fish wrap their lips around the string and measure out their plots. One for you, one for you, one for you. At the beginning of all things, there are mathematics, and there is fairness in the way we share. Then, afterwards, things become muddled, and all of a sudden the string is full of knots.

On a Saturday full of engines, reading Michel Serres.

Je ne puis, d’une part, sentir le lisier des porcs, pourtant biodégradable, frémir de nausée à l’orée des papeteries, souffrir d’asthme au voisinage des autoroutes, ouïr aussi, et d’autre part, les bruits d’un avion ou d’une moto sans que mon corps, animalement, comprenne que les émetteurs correspondants prennent, par ces odeurs, ces souillures et ces sons, possession de l’espace qu’ils habitent ou traversent. Des volumes qu’ils envahissent ainsi de leurs issues expansées, dures, matérielles, ou douces comme des abois ou des signes, ils excluent ma présence, mon existence, ma santé, ma respiration, ma tranquillité, bref, mon habitat. Comme tigres et lions, ils menacent ma vie, mes poumons et ma santé… quand ils entrent dans ma niche ou l’espace public; comme coqs ou moustiques, ils sonnent leur victoire sur l’étendue qu’ils occupent. Lesdits émetteurs envahissent; bref, ils s’approprient le monde.

Michel Serres, Le Mal Propre. Polluer pour s’approprier? pp. 42-43


The only Miserere Beckett has ever uttered is for those burdened with the compulsion to write, the only liberation he is interested in is from the oppression of language.

A. Alvarez, Beckett

Upon finishing (for the second time in a decade, i.e. since my BA dissertation) Alvarez’s little tome on Beckett, here a few (barely) summarising thoughts I seem to have somehow scribbled down while reading:

In Beckett’s world, what the mind seems to want is to immobilise (as much as possible) the body in a state of quiet despair, removing from the human duet the corporeal voice, so as to focus entirely on the mind’s voice, for whom there is no greater spur to keep talking than to hear itself speak.

Thus, with a defunct body finally retired from the attempt to make itself heard, one is locked inside purgatory with that which, unlike the body, will never die, not, at least, of its own accord: the endlessly, vigorously chattering mind. The mind who whips up the past again and again, adding to it only more and more frantic strokes, muddling and tangling its concerns.

The body’s quest, if it is allowed to have one, is easily vanquished, extinguished by its own fruitlessness.

The mind’s quest is indefatigable; because the mind does not lie outside itself, will not allow itself to believe itself bound to the corporeal, it is stuck and rewarded with permanence at the same time. Its quest is nothing but to simply keep going, keep talking, fulfilling itself as it formulates itself.

Who knows if this is true, but it seems that Beckett constantly renews an attempt at vanquishing this need (which is abstract, born from the psyche) by destroying the form, or the container (the form of the novel, for instance), reducing it to the bare necessities before crippling it further with more and more intense constraints, like those he imposes upon the bodies of his heroes, legless, kneeless, incapable of forward/upward movement, buried in bins and heaps of sand.

The need to go on does nothing but go on and on.

Sudden and Two-Dimensional

Everything makes sense yet is beyond reason. He once remarked to an interviewer:

The dream is pure drama. In a dream, one is always in mid-situation … I think that the dream is a lucid thought, more lucid than any one has when awake, a thought expressed in images, and that at the same time its form is always dramatic.

At his best, Ionesco has been true to his dreams. He almost never creates characters of any depth or substance, the people in his plays are sudden and two-dimensional, like the figures in a dream. And, as in a dream, the complexity is all in their immediate situation. He has put his nightmares on stage, unadulterated and with an uncanny sense of what works in that tight space framed by the proscenium arch. The result is pure nihilism. After all, what can survive when the placid façade of middle-class life splits open and the submerged fantasies come pulsing through?

A. Alvarez, Beckett, p. 14

Said about A.  Brings to mind B.


The Pirates

Most of the men in Sophie’s room are prisoners. Not of her room, of course – they escaped from elsewhere and found refuge here. But their prisoner status hangs on them in ways they find difficult to scrub off, even against each other, rubbing body on body like furry backs against tree trunks.
Sophie’s bathroom is off-limits; the men are not allowed to use the shower. Despite these established rules, the space Sophie is able to occupy in her own bedroom eventually shrinks to a small section between the left-hand side of the bed and the floor-to-ceiling closet, with just a small sliver of the window available. The rest is covered in the moulting bodies and thrumming voices of men. The way the men behave is how Sophie imagines pirates do; they make large rounded gestures, with their teeth at all angles, and sounds shoot out from deep within their colossal barrel-like anatomies.

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