Another twenty rooms and then there’ll still be more and you’ll tell me to describe them, and more and more kitchens servants tell-tale tittle-tattle secrets of the bedchamber families mile upon mile of streets and stairs and lumber rooms and junk-shoips of antique-dealers grocers butchers skimping and scraping everywhere in our heads how dreary it all is always starting over again why, all these dead people around us all these dead people we third degree to make them talk when will you have finished I haven’t asked anything, am I always going to have to start again the evenings in the bistro in the street what how why
Pull yourself together, describe them
Pull yourself together, describe them
Robert Pinget, The Inquisitory, 1962.
Am I pushing or dying? the light up there, the immense round blazing white light is drinking me. It drinks me slowly, inspires me into space. If I do not close my eyes, it will drink all of me. I seep upward, in long icy threads, too light, and yet inside me there is a fire too, the nerves are twisted, there is no rest from this long tunnel dragging me, or am I pushing myself out of the tunnel, or is the child being pushed out of me, or is the light drinking me. Am I dying? The ice in the veins, the cracking of the bones, this pushing in darkness, with a small shaft of light in the eyes like the edge of the knife, the feeling of a knife cutting the flesh, the flesh somewhere is tearing as if it were burned through by a flame, somewhere my flesh is tearing and the blood is spilling out. I am pushing in the darkness, in utter darkness.
Anais Nin, “Birth”, 1938.
It was amusing to watch their backs, one lost her footing and rolled over, she was seized by the legs and pulled along. Divided from the women by the width of the room, the guards watched in silence. Two girls carried fire from behind a screen in iron dishes as tall as themselves, suffering magnified their limbs, no greetings, no word, the wind rising, their voices lamented, I could not distinguish one from the other, we went on eating, their breasts hanging over us like long potatoes. The sound of drums on stage confused with exploding shells outside, the building was roofed with tiles, the pillars painted, the walls streaked with lime. She was seated in shadow, her face oval in the dim room, she carried an umbrella which she twirled to prevent any man staring at her, she offered me a bowl of milk, placing it at my feet, it was not necessary to know what she meant by the movement, there was no mystery,she used a poem to kill. The troops were outside, there was no time for marriage, I gave her some clothes but she would not put them on, she sent them out of the room. Because she had been bitten by one of the dogs, she kept her face half-hidden. I had only to wait, the idea was to do nothing at all. The stage was a fortress surrounded by a wall,loopholed, on either side were piles of grenades for the last troops who kept guard. The crumbling of the place brought out the rats and other vermin, circus dogs dressed in yellow, wearing caps, trotted on money. Her hunger was so strong her flesh was like earth that disappears, with her skirt held up she ran with the spotlight, she scrambled for paper and rubber, there was no space, she had no form, she drifted in the strong light, in the haze of dust her face was white, her body bare, she wore no jewels, I had no desire at all.
Alan Burns, Europe After the Rains, 1965.
The current of the crowd wanted to sweep me along with it. The green lights on the street corners ordered me to cross the street, the policemen smiled to invite me to walk between the silver-headed nails. Even the autumn leaves obeyed the current. But I broke away from it like a fallen piece. I swerved out and stood at the top of the stairs leading down to the quays. Below me flowed a river. Not like the current I had just broken from, made of dissonant pieces colliding rustily, made of hunger and desire.
Anais Nin, “Houseboat”, 1941.
It was not that I was indifferent, I was not, but I was calm, I had no part of her trembling. I felt that I did not care for the means by which this women’s had been broken, but I was relieved when I was no longer with her. This was deplorable, but the fact remained. There had been a number of factors and their effect had been cumulative.
A bit of the nightmarish ambiguous flood of Alan Burns’ Europe After the Rain, 1965. More 60s surrealist finds from the Brooklyn Public Library.