Saturday, 29 October 2011

To Have Done with the Judgement of God

by Antonin Artaud (radio play)


puc te
Everything must
puk te
be arranged
li le
to a hair
pek ti le
in a fulminating

I learned yesterday
(I must be behind the times, or perhaps it's only a false rumor,
one of those pieces of spiteful gossip that are circulated between
sink and latrine at the hour when meals that have been ingurgitated
one more time are thrown in the slop buckets),
I learned yesterday
one of the most sensational of those official practices of American
public schools
which no doubt account for the fact that this country believes itself
to be in the vanguard of progress,
It seems that, among the examinations or tests required of a child
entering public school for the first time, there is the so-called
seminal fluid or sperm test,
which consists of asking this newly entering child for a small
amount of his sperm so it can be placed in a jar
and kept ready for any attempts at artificial insemination that
might later take place.
For Americans are finding more and more that they lack muscle
and children,
that is, not workers
but soldiers,
and they want at all costs and by every possible means to make
and manufacture soldiers
with a view to all the planetary wars which might later take place,
and which would be intended to demonstrate by the overwhelming
virtues of force
the superiority of American products,
and the fruits of American sweat in all fields of activity and of the
superiority of the possible dynamism of force.
Because one must produce,
one must by all possible means of activity replace nature
wherever it can be replaced,
one must find a major field of action for human inertia,
the worker must have something to keep him busy,
new fields of activity must be created,
in which we shall see at last the reign of all the fake manufactured
of all the vile synthetic substitutes
in which beatiful real nature has no part,
and must give way finally and shamefully before all the victorious
substitute products
in which the sperm of all artificial insemination factories
will make a miracle
in order to produce armies and battleships.
No more fruit, no more trees, no more vegetables, no more plants
pharmaceutical or otherwise and consequently no more food,
but synthetic products to satiety,
amid the fumes,
amid the special humors of the atmosphere, on the particular axes
of atmospheres wrenched violently and synthetically from the
resistances of a nature which has known nothing of war except
And war is wonderful, isn't it?
For it's war, isn't it, that the Americans have been preparing for
and are preparing for this way step by step.
In order to defend this senseless manufacture from all competition
that could not fail to arise on all sides,
one must have soldiers, armies, airplanes, battleships,
hence this sperm
which it seems the governments of America have had the effrontery
to think of.
For we have more than one enemy
lying in wait for us, my son,
we, the born capitalists,
and among these enemies
Stalin's Russia
which also doesn't lack armed men.

All this is very well,
but I didn't know the Americans were such a warlike people.
In order to fight one must get shot at
and although I have seen many Americans at war
they always had huge armies of tanks, airplanes, battleships
that served as their shield.
I have seen machines fighting a lot
but only infinitely far
them have I seen the men who directed them.
Rather than people who feed their horses, cattle, and mules the
last tons of real morphine they have left and replace it with
substitutes made of smoke,
I prefer the people who eat off the bare earth the delirium from
which they were born
I mean the Tarahumara
eating Peyote off the ground
while they are born,
and who kill the sun to establish the kingdom of black night,
and who smash the cross so that the spaces of spaces can never
again meet and cross.

And so you are going to hear the dance of TUTUGURI.


The Rite of the Black Sun

And below, as if at the foot of the bitter slope,
cruelly despairing at the heart,
gapes the circle of the six crosses,
very low
as if embedded in the mother earth,
wrenched from the foul embrace of the mother
who drools.
The earth of black coal
is the only damp place
in this cleft rock.

The Rite is that the new sun passes through seven points before
blazing on the orifice of the earth.

And there are six men,
one for each sun,
and a seventh man
who is the sun
in the raw
dressed in black and in red flesh.

But, this seventh man
is a horse,
a horse with a man leading him.

But it is the horse
who is the sun
and not the man.

At the anguish of a drum and a long trumpet,
the six men
who were lying down,
rolling level with the ground,
leap up one by one like sunflowers,
not like suns
but turning earths,
water lilies,
and each leap
corresponds to the increasingly somber
and restrained
gong of the drum
until suddenly he comes galloping, at vertiginous speed,
the last sun,
the first man,
the black horse with a
    naked man,
    absolutely naked
    and virgin
    riding it.
After they leap up, they advance in winding circles
and the horse of bleeding meat rears
and prances without a stop
on the crest of his rock
until the six men
have surrounded
the six crosses.

Now, the essence of the Rite is precisely


When they have stopped turning
they uproot
the crosses of earth
and the naked man
on the horse
holds up
an enormous horseshoe
which he has dipped in a gash of his blood.

The Pursuit of Fecality

There where it smells of shit
it smells of being.
Man could just as well not have shat,
not have opened the anal pouch,
but he chose to shit
as he would have chosen to live
instead of consenting to live dead.

Because in order not to make caca,
he would have had to consent
not to be,
but he could not make up his mind to lose
that is, to die alive.

There is in being
something particularly tempting for man
and this something is none other than
(Roaring here.)
To exist one need only let oneself be,
but to live,
one must be someone,
to be someone,
one must have a BONE,
not be afraid to show the bone,
and to lose the meat in the process.

Man has always preferred meat
to the earth of bones.
Because there was only earth and wood of bone,
and he had to earn his meat,
there was only iron and fire
and no shit,
and man was afraid of losing shit
or rather he desired shit
and, for this, sacrificed blood.

In order to have shit,
that is, meat,
where there was only blood
and a junkyard of bones
and where there was no being to win
but where there was only life to lose.

    o reche modo
    to edire
    di za
    tau dari
    do padera coco
At this point, man withdrew and fled.

Then the animals ate him.

It was not a rape,
he lent himself to the obscene meal.

He relished it,
he learned himself
to act like an animal
and to eat rat

And where does this foul debasement come from?

The fact that the world is not yet formed,
or that man has only a small idea of the world
and wants to hold on to it forever?

This comes from the fact that man,
one fine day,
the idea of the world.

Two paths were open to him:
that of the infinite without,
that of the infinitesimal within.

And he chose the infinitesimal within.
Where one need only squeeze
the spleen,
the tongue,
the anus
or the glans.

And god, god himself squeezed the movement.

Is God a being?
If he is one, he is shit.
If he is not one
he does not exist.

But he does not exist,
except as the void that approaches with all its forms
whose most perfect image
is the advance of an incalculable group of crab lice.

"You are mad Mr. Artaud, what about the mass?"

I deny baptism and the mass.
There is no human act,
on the internal erotic level,
more pernicious than the descent
of the so-called jesus-christ
onto the altars.

No one will believe me
and I can see the public shrugging its shoulders
but the so-called christ is none other than he
who in the presence of the crab louse god
consented to live without a body,
while an army of men
descended from a cross,
to which god thought he had long since nailed them,
has revolted,
and, armed with steel,
with blood,
with fire, and with bones,
advances, reviling the Invisible
to have done with GOD'S JUDGMENT.

The Question Arises ...

What makes it serious
is that we know
that after the order
of this world
there is another.
What is it like?

We do not know.

The number and order of possible suppositions in
this realm
is precisely

And what is infinity?

That is precisely what we do not know!

It is a word
that we use
to indicate
the opening
of our consciousness
toward possibility
beyond measure,
tireless and beyond measure.

And precisely what is consciousness?

That is precisely what we do not know.

It is nothingness.

A nothingness
that we use
to indicate
when we do not know something
from what side
we do not know it
and so
we say
from the side of consciousness,
but there are a hundred thousand other sides.


It seems that consciousness
in us is
to sexual desire
and to hunger;

but it could
just as well
not be linked
to them.

One says,
one can say,
there are those who say
that consciousness
is an appetite,
the appetite for living;

and immediately
alongside the appetite for living,
it is the appetite for food
that comes immediately to mind;

as if there were not people who eat
without any sort of appetite;
and who are hungry.

For this too
to be hungry
without appetite;


the space of possibility
was given to me one day
like a loud fart
that I will make;
but neither of space,
nor possibility,
did I know precisely what it was,

and I did not feel the need to think about it,

they were words
invented to define things
that existed
or did not exist
in the face of
the pressing urgency
of a need:
the need to abolish the idea,
the idea and its myth,
and to enthrone in its place
the thundering manifestation
of this explosive necessity:
to dilate the body of my internal night,

the internal nothingness
of my self

which is night,

but which is explosive affirmation
that there is
to make room for:

my body.

And truly
must it be reduced to this stinking gas,
my body?
To say that I have a body
because I have a stinking gas
that forms
inside me?

I do not know
I do know that

are nothing to me;
but there is a thing
which is something,
only one thing
which is something,
and which I feel
because it wants
the presence
of my bodily

the menacing,
never tiring
of my

however hard people press me with questions
and however vigorously I deny all questions,
there is a point
at which I find myself compelled
to say no,

to negation;

and this point
comes when they press me,

when they pressure me
and when they handle me
until the exit
from me
of nourishment,
of my nourishment
and its milk,

and what remains?

That I am suffocated;

and I do not know if it is an action
but in pressing me with questions this way
until the absence
and nothingness
of the question
they pressed me
until the idea of body
and the idea of being a body
was suffocated
in me,

and it was then that I felt the obscene

and that I farted
from folly
and from excess
and from revolt
at my suffocation.

Because they were pressing me
to my body
and to the very body

and it was then
that I exploded everything
because my body
can never be touched.


    - And what was the purpose of this broadcast, Mr. Artaud?
    - Primarily to denounce certain social obscenities officially sanctioned and acknowledged:
  1. this emission of infantile sperm donated by children for the artificial insemination of fetuses yet to be born and which will be born in a century or more.
  2. To denounce, in this same American people who occupy the whole surface of the former Indian continent, a rebirth of that warlike imperialism of early America that caused the pre-Columbian Indian tribes to be degraded by the aforesaid people.
  3. - You are saying some very bizarre things, Mr. Artaud.
  4. - Yes, I am saying something bizarre, that contrary to everything we have been led to believe, the pre-Columbian Indians were a strangely civilized people and that in fact they knew a form of civilization based exclusively on the principle of cruelty.
  5. - And do you know precisely what is meant by cruelty?
  6. - Offhand, no, I don't.
  7. - Cruelty means eradicating by means of blood and until blood flows, god, the bestial accident of unconscious human animality, wherever one can find it.
  8. - Man, when he is not restrained, is an erotic animal,
    he has in him an inspired shudder,
    a kind of pulsation
    that produces animals without number which are the form that the ancient tribes of the earth universally attributed to god.
    This created what is called a spirit.
    Well, this spirit originating with the American Indians is reappearing all over the world today under scientific poses which merely accentuate its morbid infectuous power, the marked condition of vice, but a vice that pullulates with diseases,
    because, laugh if you like,
    what has been called microbes
      is god,
    and do you know what the Americans and the Russians use to make their atoms?
    They make them with the microbes of god.
    - You are raving, Mr. Artaud.
    You are mad.
    - I am not raving.
    I am not mad.
    I tell you that they have reinvented microbes in order to impose a new idea of god.

    They have found a new way to bring out god and to capture him in his microbic noxiousness.

    This is to nail him though the heart,
    in the place where men love him best,
    under the guise of unhealthy sexuality,
    in that sinister appearance of morbid cruelty that he adopts
    whenever he is pleased to tetanize and madden humanity as he
    is doing now.

    He utilizes the spirit of purity and of a consciousness that has
    remained candid like mine to asphyxiate it with all the false
    appearances that he spreads universally through space and this
    is why Artaud le Mômo can be taken for a person suffering
    from hallucinations.

    - What do you mean, Mr. Artaud?

    - I mean that I have found the way to put an end to this ape once and for all
    and that although nobody believes in god any more everybody believes more and more in man.
    So it is man whom we must now make up our minds to emasculate.
    - How's that?

      How's that?

    No matter how one takes you you are mad, ready for the straitjacket. - By placing him again, for the last time, on the autopsy table to remake his anatomy.
    I say, to remake his anatomy.
    Man is sick because he is badly constructed.
    We must make up our minds to strip him bare in order to scrape off that animalcule that itches him mortally,

      and with god
      his organs.
    For you can tie me up if you wish,
    but there is nothing more useless than an organ.

    When you will have made him a body without organs,
    then you will have delivered him from all his automatic reactions
    and restored him to his true freedom.

    They you will teach him again to dance wrong side out
    as in the frenzy of dance halls
    and this wrong side out will be his real place.


To Have Done with the Judgement of God
(Pour en finir avec le jugement de dieu),
a radio play by Antonin Artaud (1947).
Excerpted from the collection:
Antonin Artaud
Selected Writings
Edited, and with an Introduction by
Susan Sontag
Translated from the French, Oeuvres complètes, by
Helen Weaver
Published by
University of California Press
Berkeley Los Angeles
ISBN 0-520-06443-7 (paperback)

Monday, 4 July 2011

Slap In The Face Of Public Taste

by David Burliuk, Alexander Kruchenykh, Vladimir Mayakovsky,       Victor Khlevnikov
To the readers of our New First Unexpected.  
We alone are the face of our Time. Through us the horn of time blows in the art of the word.

The past is too tight. The Academy and Pushkin are less intelligible than hieroglyphics.

Throw Pushkin, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, etc., etc. overboard from the Ship of Modernity.

He who does not forget his first love will not recognize his last.

Who, trustingly, would turn his last love toward Balmont's perfumed lechery? Is this the reflection of today's virile soul?

Who, faintheartedly, would fear tearing from warrior Bryusov's black tuxedo the paper armorplate? Or does the dawn of unknown beauties shine from it?

Wash Your hands which have touched the filthy slime of the books written by those countless Leonid Andreyevs.

All those Maxim Gorkys, Kuprins, Bloks, Sologubs, Remizovs, Averchenkos, Chornys, Kuzmins, Bunins, etc. need only a dacha on the river. Such is the reward fate gives tailors.

From the heights of skyscrapers we gaze at their insignificance!...
We order that the poets' rights be revered:
  1. To enlarge the scope of the poet's vocabulary with arbitrary and derivative words (Word-novelty).
  2. To feel an insurmountable hatred for the language existing before their time.
  3. To push with horror off their proud brow the Wreath of cheap fame that You have made from bathhouse switches.
  4. To stand on the rock of the word "we" amidst the sea of boos and outrage.
And if for the time being the filthy stigmas of Your "Common sense" and "good taste" are still present in our lines, these same lines for the first time already glimmer with the Summer Lightening of the New Coming Beauty of the Self-sufficient (self-centered) Word.

David Burliuk, Alexander Kruchenykh, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Victor Khlevnikov
15th December 1913

Thursday, 30 June 2011


by Czeslaw Milosz

You whom I could not save
Listen to me.
Try to understand this simple speech as I would be ashamed of another.
I swear, there is in me no wizardry of words.
I speak to you with silence like a cloud or a tree.

What strengthened me, for you was lethal.
You mixed up farewell to an epoch with the beginning of a new one,
Inspiration of hatred with lyrical beauty,
Blind force with accomplished shape.

Here is the valley of shallow Polish rivers. And an immense bridge
Going into white fog. Here is a broken city,
And the wind throws the screams of gulls on your grave
When I am talking with you.

What is
poetry which does not save
Nations or people?
A connivance with official lies,
A song of drunkards whose throats will be cut in a moment,
Readings for sophomore girls.
That I wanted good poetry without knowing it,
That I discovered, late, its salutary aim,
In this and only this I find salvation.

They used to pour millet on graves or poppy seeds
To feed the dead who would come disguised as birds.
I put this book here for you, who once lived
So that you should visit us no more.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Willian Faukner: An Interview

Interviewed by Jean Stein

Mr. Faulkner, you were saying a while ago that you don't like interviews.

The reason I don't like interviews is that I seem to react violently to personal questions. If the questions are about the work, I try to answer them. When they are about me, I may answer or I may not, but even if I do, if the same question is asked tomorrow, the answer may be different.

How about yourself as a writer?

If I had not existed, someone else would have written me, Hemingway, Dostoyevsky, all of us. Proof of that is that there are about three candidates for the authorship of Shakespeare's plays. But what is important is Hamlet and A Midsummer Night's Dream, not who wrote them, but that somebody did. The artist is of no importance. Only what he creates is important, since there is nothing new to be said. Shakespeare, Balzac, Homer have all written about the same things, and if they had lived one thousand or two thousand years longer, the publishers wouldn't have needed anyone since.

But even if there seems nothing more to be said, isn't perhaps the individuality of the writer important?

Very important to himself. Everybody else should be too busy with the work to care about the individuality.

And your contemporaries?

All of us failed to match our dream of perfection. So I rate us on the basis of our splendid failure to do the impossible. In my opinion, if I could write all my work again, I am convinced that I would do it better, which is the healthiest condition for an artist. That's why he keeps on working, trying again; he believes each time that this time he will do it, bring it off. Of course he won't, which is why this condition is healthy. Once he did it, once he matched the work to the image, the dream, nothing would remain but to cut his throat, jump off the other side of that pinnacle of perfection into suicide. I'm a failed poet. Maybe every novelist wants to write poetry first, finds he can't, and then tries the short story, which is the most demanding form after poetry. And, failing at that, only then does he take up novel writing.

Is there any possible formula to follow in order to be a good novelist?

Ninety-nine percent talent . . . ninety-nine percent discipline . . . ninety-nine percent work. He must never be satisfied with what he does. It never is as good as it can be done. Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Don't bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself. An artist is a creature driven by demons. He don't know why they choose him and he's usually too busy to wonder why. He is completely amoral in that he will rob, borrow, beg, or steal from anybody and everybody to get the work done.

Do you mean the writer should be completely ruthless?

The writer's only responsibility is to his art. He will be completely ruthless if he is a good one. He has a dream. It anguishes him so much he must get rid of it. He has no peace until then. Everything goes by the board: honor, pride, decency, security, happiness, all, to get the book written. If a writer has to rob his mother, he will not hesitate; the “Ode on a Grecian Urn” is worth any number of old ladies.

Then could the lack of security, happiness, honor, be an important factor in the artist's creativity?

No. They are important only to his peace and contentment, and art has no concern with peace and contentment.

Then what would be the best environment for a writer?

Art is not concerned with environment either; it doesn't care where it is. If you mean me, the best job that was ever offered to me was to become a landlord in a brothel. In my opinion it's the perfect milieu for an artist to work in. It gives him perfect economic freedom; he's free of fear and hunger; he has a roof over his head and nothing whatever to do except keep a few simple accounts and to go once every month and pay off the local police. The place is quiet during the morning hours, which is the best time of the day to work. There's enough social life in the evening, if he wishes to participate, to keep him from being bored; it gives him a certain standing in his society; he has nothing to do because the madam keeps the books; all the inmates of the house are females and would defer to him and call him “sir.” All the bootleggers in the neighborhood would call him “sir.” And he could call the police by their first names.
So the only environment the artist needs is whatever peace, whatever solitude, and whatever pleasure he can get at not too high a cost. All the wrong environment will do is run his blood pressure up; he will spend more time being frustrated or outraged. My own experience has been that the tools I need for my trade are paper, tobacco, food, and a little whiskey.

Bourbon, you mean?

No, I ain't that particular. Between Scotch and nothing, I'll take Scotch.

You mentioned economic freedom. Does the writer need it?

No. The writer doesn't need economic freedom. All he needs is a pencil and some paper. I've never known anything good in writing to come from having accepted any free gift of money. The good writer never applies to a foundation. He's too busy writing something. If he isn't first rate he fools himself by saying he hasn't got time or economic freedom. Good art can come out of thieves, bootleggers, or horse swipes. People really are afraid to find out just how much hardship and poverty they can stand. They are afraid to find out how tough they are. Nothing can destroy the good writer. The only thing that can alter the good writer is death. Good ones don't have time to bother with success or getting rich. Success is feminine and like a woman; if you cringe before her, she will override you. So the way to treat her is to show her the back of your hand. Then maybe she will do the crawling.

Can working for the movies hurt your own writing?

Nothing can injure a man's writing if he's a first-rate writer. If a man is not a first-rate writer, there's not anything can help it much. The problem does not apply if he is not first rate because he has already sold his soul for a swimming pool.

Does a writer compromise in writing for the movies?

Always, because a moving picture is by its nature a collaboration, and any collaboration is compromise because that is what the word means—to give and to take.

Which actors do you like to work with most?

Humphrey Bogart is the one I've worked with best. He and I worked together in To Have and Have Not and The Big Sleep.

Would you like to make another movie?

Yes, I would like to make one of George Orwell's 1984. I have an idea for an ending which would prove the thesis I'm always hammering at: that man is indestructible because of his simple will to freedom.

How do you get the best results in working for the movies?

The moving-picture work of my own which seemed best to me was done by the actors and the writer throwing the script away and inventing the scene in actual rehearsal just before the camera turned on. If I didn't take, or feel I was capable of taking, motion-picture work seriously, out of simple honesty to motion pictures and myself too, I would not have tried. But I know now that I will never be a good motion-picture writer; so that work will never have the urgency for me which my own medium has.

Would you comment on that legendary Hollywood experience you were involved in?

I had just completed a contract at MGM and was about to return home. The director I had worked with said, “If you would like another job here, just let me know and I will speak to the studio about a new contract.” I thanked him and came home. About six months later I wired my director friend that I would like another job. Shortly after that I received a letter from my Hollywood agent enclosing my first week's paycheck. I was surprised because I had expected first to get an official notice or recall and a contract from the studio. I thought to myself, the contract is delayed and will arrive in the next mail. Instead, a week later I got another letter from the agent, enclosing my second week's paycheck. That began in November 1932 and continued until May 1933. Then I received a telegram from the studio. It said: “William Faulkner, Oxford, Miss. Where are you? MGM Studio.”
I wrote out a telegram: “MGM Studio, Culver City, California. William Faulkner.”
The young lady operator said, “Where is the message, Mr. Faulkner?” I said, “That's it.” She said, “The rule book says that I can't send it without a message, you have to say something.” So we went through her samples and selected I forget which one—one of the canned anniversary-greeting messages. I sent that. Next was a long-distance telephone call from the studio directing me to get on the first airplane, go to New Orleans, and report to Director Browning. I could have got on a train in Oxford and been in New Orleans eight hours later. But I obeyed the studio and went to Memphis, where an airplane did occasionally go to New Orleans. Three days later, one did.
I arrived at Mr. Browning's hotel about six p.m. and reported to him. A party was going on. He told me to get a good night's sleep and be ready for an early start in the morning. I asked him about the story. He said, “Oh, yes. Go to room so-and-so. That's the continuity writer. He'll tell you what the story is.”
I went to the room as directed. The continuity writer was sitting in there alone. I told him who I was and asked him about the story. He said, “When you have written the dialogue I'll let you see the story.” I went back to Browning's room and told him what had happened. “Go back,” he said, “and tell that so-and-so—. Never mind, you get a good night's sleep so we can get an early start in the morning.”
So the next morning in a very smart rented launch all of us except the continuity writer sailed down to Grand Isle, about a hundred miles away, where the picture was to be shot, reaching there just in time to eat lunch and have time to run the hundred miles back to New Orleans before dark.
That went on for three weeks. Now and then I would worry a little about the story, but Browning always said, “Stop worrying. Get a good night's sleep so we can get an early start tomorrow morning.”
One evening on our return I had barely entered my room when the telephone rang. It was Browning. He told me to come to his room at once. I did so. He had a telegram. It said: “Faulkner is fired. MGM Studio.” “Don't worry,” Browning said. “I'll call that so-and-so up this minute and not only make him put you back on the payroll but send you a written apology.” There was a knock on the door. It was a page with another telegram. This one said: “Browning is fired. MGM Studio.” So I came back home. I presume Browning went somewhere too. I imagine that continuity writer is still sitting in a room somewhere with his weekly salary check clutched tightly in his hand. They never did finish the film. But they did build a shrimp village—a long platform on piles in the water with sheds built on it—something like a wharf. The studio could have bought dozens of them for forty or fifty dollars apiece. Instead, they built one of their own, a false one. That is, a platform with a single wall on it, so that when you opened the door and stepped through it, you stepped right off onto the ocean itself. As they built it, on the first day, the Cajun fisherman paddled up in his narrow, tricky pirogue made out of a hollow log. He would sit in it all day long in the broiling sun watching the strange white folks building this strange imitation platform. The next day he was back in the pirogue with his whole family, his wife nursing the baby, the other children, and the mother-in-law, all to sit all that day in the broiling sun to watch this foolish and incomprehensible activity. I was in New Orleans two or three years later and heard that the Cajun people were still coming in for miles to look at that imitation shrimp platform which a lot of white people had rushed in and built and then abandoned.

You say that the writer must compromise in working for the motion pictures. How about his writing? Is he under any obligation to his reader?

His obligation is to get the work done the best he can do it; whatever obligation he has left over after that he can spend any way he likes. I myself am too busy to care about the public. I have no time to wonder who is reading me. I don't care about John Doe's opinion on my or anyone else's work. Mine is the standard which has to be met, which is when the work makes me feel the way I do when I read La Tentation de Saint Antoine, or the Old Testament. They make me feel good. So does watching a bird make me feel good. You know that if I were reincarnated, I'd want to come back a buzzard. Nothing hates him or envies him or wants him or needs him. He is never bothered or in danger, and he can eat anything.

What technique do you use to arrive at your standard?

Let the writer take up surgery or bricklaying if he is interested in technique. There is no mechanical way to get the writing done, no shortcut. The young writer would be a fool to follow a theory. Teach yourself by your own mistakes; people learn only by error. The good artist believes that nobody is good enough to give him advice. He has supreme vanity. No matter how much he admires the old writer, he wants to beat him.

Then would you deny the validity of technique?

By no means. Sometimes technique charges in and takes command of the dream before the writer himself can get his hands on it. That is tour de force and the finished work is simply a matter of fitting bricks neatly together, since the writer knows probably every single word right to the end before he puts the first one down. This happened with As I Lay Dying. It was not easy. No honest work is. It was simple in that all the material was already at hand. It took me just about six weeks in the spare time from a twelve-hour-a-day job at manual labor. I simply imagined a group of people and subjected them to the simple universal natural catastrophes, which are flood and fire, with a simple natural motive to give direction to their progress. But then, when technique does not intervene, in another sense writing is easier too. Because with me there is always a point in the book where the characters themselves rise up and take charge and finish the job—say somewhere about page 275. Of course I don't know what would happen if I finished the book on page 274. The quality an artist must have is objectivity in judging his work, plus the honesty and courage not to kid himself about it. Since none of my work has met my own standards, I must judge it on the basis of that one which caused me the most grief and anguish, as the mother loves the child who became the thief or murderer more than the one who became the priest.

What work is that?

The Sound and the Fury. I wrote it five separate times, trying to tell the story, to rid myself of the dream which would continue to anguish me until I did. It's a tragedy of two lost women: Caddy and her daughter. Dilsey is one of my own favorite characters, because she is brave, courageous, generous, gentle, and honest. She's much more brave and honest and generous than me.

How did The Sound and the Fury begin?

It began with a mental picture. I didn't realize at the time it was symbolical. The picture was of the muddy seat of a little girl's drawers in a pear tree, where she could see through a window where her grandmother's funeral was taking place and report what was happening to her brothers on the ground below. By the time I explained who they were and what they were doing and how her pants got muddy, I realized it would be impossible to get all of it into a short story and that it would have to be a book. And then I realized the symbolism of the soiled pants, and that image was replaced by the one of the fatherless and motherless girl climbing down the drainpipe to escape from the only home she had, where she had never been offered love or affection or understanding.
I had already begun to tell the story through the eyes of the idiot child, since I felt that it would be more effective as told by someone capable only of knowing what happened but not why. I saw that I had not told the story that time. I tried to tell it again, the same story through the eyes of another brother. That was still not it. I told it for the third time through the eyes of the third brother. That was still not it. I tried to gather the pieces together and fill in the gaps by making myself the spokesman. It was still not complete, not until fifteen years after the book was published, when I wrote as an appendix to another book the final effort to get the story told and off my mind, so that I myself could have some peace from it. It's the book I feel tenderest toward. I couldn't leave it alone, and I never could tell it right, though I tried hard and would like to try again, though I'd probably fail again.

What emotion does Benjy arouse in you?

The only emotion I can have for Benjy is grief and pity for all mankind. You can't feel anything for Benjy because he doesn't feel anything. The only thing I can feel about him personally is concern as to whether he is believable as I created him. He was a prologue, like the gravedigger in the Elizabethan dramas. He serves his purpose and is gone. Benjy is incapable of good and evil because he had no knowledge of good and evil.

Could Benjy feel love?

Benjy wasn't rational enough even to be selfish. He was an animal. He recognized tenderness and love though he could not have named them, and it was the threat to tenderness and love that caused him to bellow when he felt the change in Caddy. He no longer had Caddy; being an idiot he was not even aware that Caddy was missing. He knew only that something was wrong, which left a vacuum in which he grieved. He tried to fill that vacuum. The only thing he had was one of Caddy's discarded slippers. The slipper was his tenderness and love, which he could not have named, but he knew only that it was missing. He was dirty because he couldn't coordinate and because dirt meant nothing to him. He could no more distinguish between dirt and cleanliness than between good and evil. The slipper gave him comfort even though he no longer remembered the person to whom it had once belonged, any more than he could remember why he grieved. If Caddy had reappeared he probably would not have known her.

Does the narcissus given to Benjy have some significance?

The narcissus was given to Benjy to distract his attention. It was simply a flower which happened to be handy that fifth of April. It was not deliberate.

Are there any artistic advantages in casting the novel in the form of an allegory, as the Christian allegory you used in A Fable?

Same advantage the carpenter finds in building square corners in order to build a square house. In A Fable, the Christian allegory was the right allegory to use in that particular story, like an oblong, square corner is the right corner with which to build an oblong, rectangular house.

Does that mean an artist can use Christianity simply as just another tool, as a carpenter would borrow a hammer?

The carpenter we are speaking of never lacks that hammer. No one is without Christianity, if we agree on what we mean by the word. It is every individual's individual code of behavior, by means of which he makes himself a better human being than his nature wants to be, if he followed his nature only. Whatever its symbol—cross or crescent or whatever—that symbol is man's reminder of his duty inside the human race. Its various allegories are the charts against which he measures himself and learns to know what he is. It cannot teach man to be good as the textbook teaches him mathematics. It shows him how to discover himself, evolve for himself a moral code and standard within his capacities and aspirations, by giving him a matchless example of suffering and sacrifice and the promise of hope. Writers have always drawn, and always will draw, upon the allegories of moral consciousness, for the reason that the allegories are matchless—the three men in Moby Dick, who represent the trinity of conscience: knowing nothing, knowing but not caring, knowing and caring. The same trinity is represented in A Fable by the young Jewish pilot officer, who said, “This is terrible. I refuse to accept it, even if I must refuse life to do so”; the old French Quartermaster General, who said, “This is terrible, but we can weep and bear it”; and the English battalion runner, who said, “This is terrible, I'm going to do something about it.”

Are the two unrelated themes in The Wild Palms brought together in one book for any symbolic purpose? Is it, as certain critics intimate, a kind of aesthetic counterpoint, or is it merely haphazard?

No, no. That was one story—the story of Charlotte Rittenmeyer and Harry Wilbourne, who sacrificed everything for love and then lost that. I did not know it would be two separate stories until after I had started the book. When I reached the end of what is now the first section of The Wild Palms, I realized suddenly that something was missing, it needed emphasis, something to lift it like counterpoint in music. So I wrote on the “Old Man” story until “The Wild Palms” story rose back to pitch. Then I stopped the “Old Man” story at what is now its first section and took up “The Wild Palms” story until it began again to sag. Then I raised it to pitch again with another section of its antithesis, which is the story of a man who got his love and spent the rest of the book fleeing from it, even to the extent of voluntarily going back to jail where he would be safe. They are only two stories by chance, perhaps necessity. The story is that of Charlotte and Wilbourne.

How much of your writing is based on personal experience?

I can't say. I never counted up. Because “how much” is not important. A writer needs three things, experience, observation, and imagination—any two of which, at times any one of which—can supply the lack of the others. With me, a story usually begins with a single idea or memory or mental picture. The writing of the story is simply a matter of working up to that moment, to explain why it happened or what it caused to follow. A writer is trying to create believable people in credible moving situations in the most moving way he can. Obviously he must use as one of his tools the environment which he knows. I would say that music is the easiest means in which to express, since it came first in man's experience and history. But since words are my talent, I must try to express clumsily in words what the pure music would have done better. That is, music would express better and simpler, but I prefer to use words, as I prefer to read rather than listen. I prefer silence to sound, and the image produced by words occurs in silence. That is, the thunder and the music of the prose take place in silence.

Some people say they can't understand your writing, even after they read it two or three times. What approach would you suggest for them?

Read it four times.

You mentioned experience, observation, and imagination as being important for the writer. Would you include inspiration?

I don't know anything about inspiration because I don't know what inspiration is—I've heard about it, but I never saw it.

As a writer you are said to be obsessed with violence.

That's like saying the carpenter is obsessed with his hammer. Violence is simply one of the carpenter's tools. The writer can no more build with one tool than the carpenter can.

Can you say how you started as a writer?

I was living in New Orleans, doing whatever kind of work was necessary to earn a little money now and then. I met Sherwood Anderson. We would walk about the city in the afternoon and talk to people. In the evenings we would meet again and sit over a bottle or two while he talked and I listened. In the forenoon I would never see him. He was secluded, working. The next day we would repeat. I decided that if that was the life of a writer, then becoming a writer was the thing for me. So I began to write my first book. At once I found that writing was fun. I even forgot that I hadn't seen Mr. Anderson for three weeks until he walked in my door, the first time he ever came to see me, and said, “What's wrong? Are you mad at me?” I told him I was writing a book. He said, “My God,” and walked out. When I finished the book—it was Soldier's Pay—I met Mrs. Anderson on the street. She asked how the book was going, and I said I'd finished it. She said, “Sherwood says that he will make a trade with you. If he doesn't have to read your manuscript he will tell his publisher to accept it.” I said, “Done,” and that's how I became a writer.

What were the kinds of work you were doing to earn that “little money now and then”?

Whatever came up. I could do a little of almost anything—run boats, paint houses, fly airplanes. I never needed much money because living was cheap in New Orleans then, and all I wanted was a place to sleep, a little food, tobacco, and whiskey. There were many things I could do for two or three days and earn enough money to live on for the rest of the month. By temperament I'm a vagabond and a tramp. I don't want money badly enough to work for it. In my opinion it's a shame that there is so much work in the world. One of the saddest things is that the only thing a man can do for eight hours a day, day after day, is work. You can't eat eight hours a day nor drink for eight hours a day nor make love for eight hours—all you can do for eight hours is work. Which is the reason why man makes himself and everybody else so miserable and unhappy.

You must feel indebted to Sherwood Anderson, but how do you regard him as a writer?

He was the father of my generation of American writers and the tradition of American writing which our successors will carry on. He has never received his proper evaluation. Dreiser is his older brother and Mark Twain the father of them both.

What about the European writers of that period?

The two great men in my time were Mann and Joyce. You should approach Joyce's Ulysses as the illiterate Baptist preacher approaches the Old Testament: with faith.

How did you get your background in the Bible?

My Great-Grandfather Murry was a kind and gentle man, to us children anyway. That is, although he was a Scot, he was (to us) neither especially pious nor stern either: he was simply a man of inflexible principles. One of them was everybody, children on up through all adults present, had to have a verse from the Bible ready and glib at tongue-tip when we gathered at the table for breakfast each morning; if you didn't have your scripture verse ready, you didn't have any breakfast; you would be excused long enough to leave the room and swot one up (there was a maiden aunt, a kind of sergeant-major for this duty, who retired with the culprit and gave him a brisk breezing which carried him over the jump next time).
It had to be an authentic, correct verse. While we were little, it could be the same one, once you had it down good, morning after morning, until you got a little older and bigger, when one morning (by this time you would be pretty glib at it, galloping through without even listening to yourself since you were already five or ten minutes ahead, already among the ham and steak and fried chicken and grits and sweet potatoes and two or three kinds of hot bread) you would suddenly find his eyes on you—very blue, very kind and gentle, and even now not stern so much as inflexible—and next morning you had a new verse. In a way, that was when you discovered that your childhood was over; you had outgrown it and entered the world.

Do you read your contemporaries?

No, the books I read are the ones I knew and loved when I was a young man and to which I return as you do to old friends: the Old Testament, Dickens, Conrad, Cervantes, Don Quixote—I read that every year, as some do the Bible. Flaubert, Balzac—he created an intact world of his own, a bloodstream running through twenty books—Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Shakespeare. I read Melville occasionally and, of the poets, Marlowe, Campion, Jonson, Herrick, Donne, Keats, and Shelley. I still read Housman. I've read these books so often that I don't always begin at page one and read on to the end. I just read one scene, or about one character, just as you'd meet and talk to a friend for a few minutes.

And Freud?

Everybody talked about Freud when I lived in New Orleans, but I have never read him. Neither did Shakespeare. I doubt if Melville did either, and I'm sure Moby Dick didn't.

Do you ever read mystery stories?

I read Simenon because he reminds me something of Chekhov.

What about your favorite characters?

My favorite characters are Sarah Gamp—a cruel, ruthless woman, a drunkard, opportunist, unreliable, most of her character was bad, but at least it was character; Mrs. Harris, Falstaff, Prince Hal, Don Quixote, and Sancho of course. Lady Macbeth I always admire. And Bottom, Ophelia, and Mercutio—both he and Mrs. Gamp coped with life, didn't ask any favors, never whined. Huck Finn, of course, and Jim. Tom Sawyer I never liked much—an awful prig. And then I like Sut Lovingood, from a book written by George Harris about 1840 or 1850 in the Tennessee mountains. He had no illusions about himself, did the best he could; at certain times he was a coward and knew it and wasn't ashamed; he never blamed his misfortunes on anyone and never cursed God for them.

Would you comment on the future of the novel?

I imagine as long as people will continue to read novels, people will continue to write them, or vice versa; unless of course the pictorial magazines and comic strips finally atrophy man's capacity to read, and literature really is on its way back to the picture writing in the Neanderthal cave.

And how about the function of the critics?

The artist doesn't have time to listen to the critics. The ones who want to be writers read the reviews, the ones who want to write don't have the time to read reviews. The critic too is trying to say “Kilroy was here.” His function is not directed toward the artist himself. The artist is a cut above the critic, for the artist is writing something which will move the critic. The critic is writing something which will move everybody but the artist.

So you never feel the need to discuss your work with anyone?

No, I am too busy writing it. It has got to please me and if it does I don't need to talk about it. If it doesn't please me, talking about it won't improve it, since the only thing to improve it is to work on it some more. I am not a literary man but only a writer. I don't get any pleasure from talking shop.

Critics claim that blood relationships are central in your novels.

That is an opinion and, as I have said, I don't read critics. I doubt that a man trying to write about people is any more interested in blood relationships than in the shape of their noses, unless they are necessary to help the story move. If the writer concentrates on what he does need to be interested in, which is the truth and the human heart, he won't have much time left for anything else, such as ideas and facts like the shape of noses or blood relationships, since in my opinion ideas and facts have very little connection with truth.

Critics also suggest that your characters never consciously choose between good and evil.

Life is not interested in good and evil. Don Quixote was constantly choosing between good and evil, but then he was choosing in his dream state. He was mad. He entered reality only when he was so busy trying to cope with people that he had no time to distinguish between good and evil. Since people exist only in life, they must devote their time simply to being alive. Life is motion, and motion is concerned with what makes man move—which is ambition, power, pleasure. What time a man can devote to morality, he must take by force from the motion of which he is a part. He is compelled to make choices between good and evil sooner or later, because moral conscience demands that from him in order that he can live with himself tomorrow. His moral conscience is the curse he had to accept from the gods in order to gain from them the right to dream.

Could you explain more what you mean by motion in relation to the artist?

The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life. Since man is mortal, the only immortality possible for him is to leave something behind him that is immortal since it will always move. This is the artist's way of scribbling “Kilroy was here” on the wall of the final and irrevocable oblivion through which he must someday pass.

It has been said by Malcolm Cowley that your characters carry a sense of submission to their fate.

That is his opinion. I would say that some of them do and some of them don't, like everybody else's characters. I would say that Lena Grove in Light in August coped pretty well with hers. It didn't really matter to her in her destiny whether her man was Lucas Burch or not. It was her destiny to have a husband and children and she knew it, and so she went out and attended to it without asking help from anyone. She was the captain of her soul. One of the calmest, sanest speeches I ever heard was when she said to Byron Bunch at the very instant of repulsing his final desperate and despairing attempt at rape, “Ain't you ashamed? You might have woke the baby.” She was never for one moment confused, frightened, alarmed. She did not even know that she didn't need pity. Her last speech for example: “Here I ain't been traveling but a month, and I'm already in Tennessee. My, my, a body does get around.”
The Bundren family in As I Lay Dying pretty well coped with theirs. The father having lost his wife would naturally need another one, so he got one. At one blow he not only replaced the family cook, he acquired a gramophone to give them all pleasure while they were resting. The pregnant daughter failed this time to undo her condition, but she was not discouraged. She intended to try again, and even if they all failed right up to the last, it wasn't anything but just another baby.

And Mr. Cowley says you find it hard to create characters between the ages of twenty and forty who are sympathetic.

People between twenty and forty are not sympathetic. The child has the capacity to do but it can't know. It only knows when it is no longer able to do—after forty. Between twenty and forty the will of the child to do gets stronger, more dangerous, but it has not begun to learn to know yet. Since his capacity to do is forced into channels of evil through environment and pressures, man is strong before he is moral. The world's anguish is caused by people between twenty and forty. The people around my home who have caused all the interracial tension— the Milams and the Bryants (in the Emmett Till murder) and the gangs of Negroes who grab a white woman and rape her in revenge, the Hitlers, Napoleons, Lenins—all these people are symbols of human suffering and anguish, all of them between twenty and forty.

You gave a statement to the papers at the time of the Emmett Till killing. Have you anything to add to it here?

No, only to repeat what I said before: that if we Americans are to survive it will have to be because we choose and elect and defend to be first of all Americans; to present to the world one homogeneous and unbroken front, whether of white Americans or black ones or purple or blue or green. Maybe the purpose of this sorry and tragic error committed in my native Mississippi by two white adults on an afflicted Negro child is to prove to us whether or not we deserve to survive. Because if we in America have reached that point in our desperate culture when we must murder children, no matter for what reason or what color, we don't deserve to survive, and probably won't.

What happened to you between Soldier's Pay and Sartoris—that is, what caused you to begin the Yoknapatawpha saga?

With Soldier's Pay I found out writing was fun. But I found out afterward not only that each book had to have a design but the whole output or sum of an artist's work had to have a design. With Soldier's Pay and Mosquitoes I wrote for the sake of writing because it was fun. Beginning with Sartoris I discovered that my own little postage stamp of native soil was worth writing about and that I would never live long enough to exhaust it, and that by sublimating the actual into the apocryphal I would have complete liberty to use whatever talent I might have to its absolute top. It opened up a gold mine of other people, so I created a cosmos of my own. I can move these people around like God, not only in space but in time too. The fact that I have moved my characters around in time successfully, at least in my own estimation, proves to me my own theory that time is a fluid condition which has no existence except in the momentary avatars of individual people. There is no such thing as was—only is. If was existed, there would be no grief or sorrow. I like to think of the world I created as being a kind of keystone in the universe; that, small as that keystone is, if it were ever taken away the universe itself would collapse. My last book will be the Doomsday Book, the Golden Book, of Yoknapatawpha County. Then I shall break the pencil and I'll have to stop.

This conversation took place in New York City, early in 1956.
Taken from Paris Review.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Not I

by Samuel Beckett

Starring Billie Whitelaw 

Written in English in spring 1972. First performed at the Forum Theater of the Lincoln Center, New York, in September 1972. First published by Faber and Faber, London, in 1973. First performed in Britain at the Royal Court Theatre, London, on 16 January 1973.
Movement: this consists in simple sideways raising of arms from sides and their falling back, in a gesture of helpless compassion. It lessens with each recurrence till scarcely perceptible at third. There is just enough pause to contain it as MOUTH recovers from vehement refusal to relinquish third person.
Stage in darkness but for MOUTH, upstage audience right, about 8 feet above stage level, faintly lit from close-up and below, rest of face in shadow. Invisible microphone.
AUDITOR, downstage audience left, tall standing figure, sex undeterminable, enveloped from head to foot in loose black djellaba, with hood, fully faintly lit, standing on invisible podium about 4 feet high shown by attitude alone to be facing diagonally across stage intent on MOUTH, dead still throughout but for four brief movements where indicated. See Note.
As house lights down MOUTH`S voice unintelligible behind curtain. House lights out. Voice continues unintelligible behind curtain, l0 seconds. With rise of curtain ad-libbing from text as required leading when curtain fully up and attention sufficient into:
MOUTH: . . . . out . . . into this world . . . this world . . . tiny little thing . . . before its time . . . in a godfor– . . . what? . . girl? . . yes . . . tiny little girl . . . into this . . . out into this . . . before her time . . . godforsaken hole called . . . called . . . no matter . . . parents unknown . . . unheard of . . . he having vanished . . . thin air . . . no sooner buttoned up his breeches . . . she similarly . . . eight months later . . . almost to the tick . . . so no love . . . spared that . . . no love such as normally vented on the . . . speechless infant . . . in the home . . . no . . . nor indeed for that matter any of any kind . . . no love of any kind . . . at any subsequent stage . . . so typical affair . . . nothing of any note till coming up to sixty when– . . . what? . . seventy?. . good God! . . coming up to seventy . . . wandering in a field . . . looking aimlessly for cowslips . . . to make a ball . . . a few steps then stop . . . stare into space . . . then on . . . a few more . . . stop and stare again . . . so on . . . drifting around . . . when suddenly . . . gradually . . . all went out . . . all that early April morning light . . . and she found herself in the--– . . . what? . . who? . . no! . . she! . . [Pause and movement 1.] . . . found herself in the dark . . . and if not exactly . . . insentient . . . insentient . . . for she could still hear the buzzing . . . so-called . . . in the ears . . . and a ray of light came and went . . . came and went . . . such as the moon might cast . . . drifting . . . in and out of cloud . . . but so dulled . . . feeling . . . feeling so dulled . . . she did not know . . . what position she was in . . . imagine! . . what position she was in! . . whether standing . . . or sitting . . . but the brain– . . . what?. . kneeling? . . yes . . . whether standing . . . or sitting . . . or kneeling . . . but the brain– . . . what? . . lying? . . yes . . whether standing . . . or sitting . . . or kneeling . . . or lying . . . but the brain still . . . still . . . in a way . . . for her first thought was . . . oh long after . . . sudden flash . . . brought up as she had been to believe . . . with the other waifs . . . in a merciful . . . [Brief laugh.] . . . God . . . [Good laugh.] . . . first thought was . . . oh long after . . . sudden flash . . . she was being punished . . . for her sins . . . a number of which then . . . further proof if proof were needed . . . flashed through her mind . . . one after another . . . then dismissed as foolish . . . oh long after . . . this thought dismissed . . . as she suddenly realized . . . gradually realized . . . she was not suffering . . . imagine! . . not suffering! . . indeed could not remember . . . off-hand . . . when she had suffered less . . . unless of course she was . . . meant to be suffering . . . ha! . . thought to be suffering . . . just as the odd time . . . in her life . . . when clearly intended to be having pleasure . . . she was in fact . . . having none . . . not the slightest . . . in which case of course . . . that notion of punishment . . . for some sin or other . . . or for the lot . . . or no particular reason . . . for its own sake . . . thing she understood perfectly . . . that notion of punishment . . . which had first occurred to her . . . brought up as she had been to believe . . . with the other waifs . . . in a merciful . . . [Brief laugh.] . . . God . . . [Good laugh.] . . . first occurred to her . . . then dismissed . . . as foolish . . . was perhaps not so foolish . . . after all . . . so on . . . all that . . . vain reasonings . . . till another thought . . . oh long after . . . sudden flash . . . . . very foolish really but– . . . what? . . the buzzing? . . yes . . . all the time buzzing . . . so-called . . . in the ears . . . though of course actually . . . not in the ears at all . . . in the skull . . . dull roar in the skull . . . and all the time this ray or beam . . . like moonbeam . . . but probably not . . . certainly not . . . always the same spot . . . now bright . . . now shrouded . . . but always the same spot . . . as no moon could . . . no . . . no moon . . . just all part of the same wish to . . . torment . . . though actually in point of fact . . . not in the least . . . not a twinge . . . so far . . . ha! . . so far . . . this other thought then . . . oh long after . . . sudden flash . . . very foolish really but so like her . . . in a way . . . that she might do well to . . . groan . . . on and off . . . writhe she could not . . . as if in actual agony . . . but could not . . . could not bring herself . . . some flaw in her make-up . . . incapable of deceit . . . or the machine . . . more likely the machine . . . so disconnected . . . never got the message . . . or powerless to respond . . . like numbed . . . couldn't make the sound . . . not any sound . . . no sound of any kind . . . no screaming for help for example . . . should she feel so inclined . . . scream . . . [Screams.] . . . then listen . . . [Silence.] . . . scream again . . . [Screams again.] . . . then listen again . . . [Silence.] . . . no . . . spared that . . . all silent as the grave . . . no part–. . . what? . . the buzzing? . . yes . . . all silent but for the buzzing . . . so-called . . . no part of her moving . . . that she could feel . . . just the eyelids . . . presumably . . . on and off . . . shut out the light . . . reflex they call it . . . no feeling of any kind . . . but the lids . . . even best of times . . . who feels them? . . opening . . . shutting . . . all that moisture . . .but the brain still . . . still sufficiently . . . oh very much so! . . at this stage . . . in control . . . under control . . . to question even this . . . for on that April morning . . . so it reasoned . . . that April morning . . . she fixing with her eye . . . a distant bell . . . as she hastened towards it . . . fixing it with her eye . . . lest it elude her . . . had not all gone out . . . all that light . . . of itself . . . without any . . . any. . . on her part . . . so on . . . so on it reasoned . . . vain questionings . . . and all dead still . . . sweet silent as the grave . . . when suddenly . . . gradually . . . she realiz–. . . what? . . the buzzing? . . yes . . . all dead still but for the buzzing . . . when suddenly she realized . . . words were– . . . what? . . who?. . no! . . she! . . [Pause and movement 2.] . . . realized . . . words were coming . . . imagine! . . . words were coming . . . a voice she did not recognize at first so long since it had sounded . . . then finally had to admit . . . could be none other . . . than her own . . . certain vowel sounds . . . she had never heard . . . elsewhere . . . so that people would stare . . . the rare occasions . . . once or twice a year . . . always winter some strange reason . . . stare at her uncom-prehending . . . and now this stream . . . steady stream . . . she who had never . . . on the contrary . . . practically speechless . . . all her days . . . how she survived! . . even shopping . . . out shopping . . . busy shopping centre . . . supermart . . . just hand in the list . . . with the bag . . . old black shopping bag . . . then stand there waiting . . . any length of time . . . middle of the throng . . . motionless . . . staring into space . . . mouth half open as usual . . . till it
was back in her hand . . . the bag back in her hand . . . then pay and go . . . not as much as good-bye . . . how she survived! . . and now this stream . . . not catching the half of it . . . not the quarter . . . no idea . . . what she was saying . . . imagine! . . no idea what she was saying! . . till she began trying to . . . delude herself . . . it was not hers at all . . . not her voice at all . . . and no doubt would have . . . vital she should . . . was on the point . . . after long efforts . . . when suddenly she felt . . . gradually she felt . . . her lips moving . . . imagine! . . her lips moving! . . as of course till then she had not . . . and not alone the lips . . . the cheeks . . . the jaws . . . the whole face . . . all those– . . what?. . the tongue? . . yes . . . the tongue in the mouth . . . all those contortions without which . . . no speech possible . . . and yet in the ordinary way . . . not felt at all . . . so intent one is . . . on what one is saying . . . the whole being . . . hanging on its words . . . so that not only she had . . . had she . . . not only had she . . . to give up . . . admit hers alone . . . her voice alone . . . but this other awful thought . . . oh long after . . . sudden flash . . . even more awful if possible . . . that feeling was coming back . . . imagine! . . feeling coming back! . . starting at the top . . . then working down . . . the whole machine . . . but no . . . spared that . . . the mouth alone . . . so far . . . ha! . . so far . . . then thinking . . . oh long after . . . sudden flash . . . it can't go on . . . all this . . . all that . . . steady stream . . . straining to hear . . . make some-thing of it . . . and her own thoughts . . . make something of them . . . all– . . . what? . . the buzzing? . . yes . . . all the time the buzzing . . . so-called . . . all that together . . . imagine! . . whole body like gone . . . just the mouth . . . lips . . . cheeks . . . jaws . . . never– . . . what?. . tongue? . . yes . . . lips. . . cheeks . . . jaws . . . tongue . . . never still a second . . . mouth on fire . . . stream of words . . . in her ear . . . practically in her ear . . . not catching the half . . . not the quarter . . . no idea what she's saying . . . imagine! . . no idea what she's saying! . . and can't stop . . . no stopping it . . . she who but a moment before . . . but a moment! . . could not make a sound . . . no sound of any kind . . . now can't stop . . . imagine! . . can't stop the stream . . . and the whole brain begging . . . something begging in the brain . . . begging the mouth to stop . . . pause a moment . . . if only for a moment . . . and no response . . . as if it hadn’t heard . . . or couldn’t . . . couldn't pause a second . . . like maddened . . . all that together . . . straining to hear . . . piece it together . . . and the brain . . . raving away on its own . . . trying to make sense of it . . . or make it stop . . . or in the past . . . dragging up the past . . . flashes from all over . . . walks mostly . . . walking all her days . . . day after day . . . a few steps then stop . . . stare into space . . . then on . . . a few more . . . stop and stare again . . . so on . . . drifting around . . . day after day . . . or that time she cried . . . the one time she could remember . . . since she was a baby . . . must have cried as a baby . . . perhaps not . . . not essential to life . . . just the birth cry to get her going . . . breathing . . . then no more till this . . . old hag already . . . sitting staring at her hand . . . where was it? . . Croker's Acres . . . one evening on the way home . . . home! . . a little mound in Croker's Acres . . . dusk . . . sitting staring at her hand . . . there in her lap . . . palm upward . . . suddenly saw it wet . . . the palm . . . tears presumably . . . hers presumably . . . no one else for miles . . . no sound . . . just the tears . . . sat and watched them dry . . . all over in a second . . . or grabbing at straw . . . the brain . . . flickering away on its own . . . quick grab and on. . . nothing there . . . on to the next . . . bad as the voice . . . worse . . . as little sense . . . all that together . . . can't– . . . what? . . the buzzing? . . yes . . . all the time the buzzing . . . dull roar like falls . . . and the beam . . . flickering on and off . . . starting to move around . . . like moonbeam but not . . . all part of the same . . . keep an eye on that too . . . corner of the eye . . . all that together . . . can't go on . . . God is love . . . she'll be purged . . . back in the field . . . morning sun . . . April . . . sink face down in the grass . . . nothing but the larks . . . so on . . . grabbing at the straw . . . straining to hear . . . the odd word . . . make some sense of it . . . whole body like gone . . . just the mouth . . . like maddened . . . and can't stop . . . no stopping it . . . something she– . . . something she had to– . . . what? . . who? . . no! . . she! . . [Pause and movement 3.] . . . something she had to–. . . what? . . the buzzing? . . yes . . . all the time the buzzing . . . dull roar . . . in the skull . . . and the beam . . . ferreting around . . . painless . . . so far . . . ha! . . so far . . . then thinking . . . oh long after . . . sudden flash . . . perhaps something she had to . . . had to . . . tell . . . could that be it? . . something she had to . . . tell . . . tiny little thing . . . before its time . . . godforsaken hole . . . no love . . . spared that . . . speechless all her days . . . practically speechless . . . how she survived! . . that time in court . . . what had she to say for herself . . . guilty or not guilty . . . stand up woman . . . speak up woman . . . stood there staring into space . . . mouth half open as usual . . . waiting to be led away . . . glad of the hand on her arm . . . now this . . . some-thing she had to tell . . . could that be it? . . something that would tell . . . how it was . . . how she– . . . what? . . had been? . . yes . . . something that would tell how it had been . . . how she had lived . . . lived on and on . . . guilty or not . . . on and on . . . to be sixty . . . something she– . . . what? . . seventy? . . good God! . . on and on to be seventy . . . something she didn't know herself . . . wouldn't know if she heard . . . then forgiven . . . God is love . . . tender mercies . . . new every morning . . . back in the field . . . April morning . . . face in the grass . . . nothing but the larks . . . pick it up there . . . get on with it from there . . . another few– . . . what? . . not that? . . nothing to do with that? . . nothing she could tell? . . all right . . . nothing she could tell . . . try something else . . . think of something else . . . oh long after . . . sudden flash . . . not that either . . . all right . . . something else again . . . so on . . . hit on it in the end . . . think everything keep on long enough . . . then forgiven . . . back in the– . . . what? . . not that either? . . nothing to do with that either? . . nothing she could think? . . all right . . . nothing she could tell . . . nothing she could think . . . nothing she– . . what? . . who? . . no! . . she! . . [Pause and movement 4.] . . . tiny little thing . . . out before its time . . . godforsaken hole . . . no love . . . spared that . . . speechless all her days . . . practically speechless . . . even to herself . . . never out loud . . . but not completely . . . sometimes sudden urge . . . once or twice a year . . . always winter some strange reason . . . the long evenings . . . hours of darkness . . . sudden urge to . . . tell . . . then rush out stop the first she saw . . . nearest lavatory . . . start pouring it out . . . steady stream . . . mad stuff . . . half the vowels wrong . . . no one could follow . . . till she saw the stare she was getting . . . then die of shame . . . crawl back in . . . once or twice a year . . . always winter some strange reason . . . long hours of darkness . . . now this . . . this . . . quicker and quicker . . . the words . . . the brain . . . flickering away like mad . . . quick grab and on . . . nothing there . . . on somewhere else . . . try somewhere else . . . all the time something begging . . . something in her begging . . . begging it all to stop . . . unanswered . . . prayer unanswered . . . or unheard . . . too faint . . . so on . . . keep on . . . trying . . . not knowing what . . . what she was trying . . . what to try . . . whole body like gone . . . just the mouth . . . like maddened . . . so on . . . keep– . . . what? . . the buzzing? . . yes . . . all the time the buzzing . . . dull roar like falls . . . in the skull . . . and the beam . . . poking around . . . painless . . . so far . . . ha! . . so far . . . all that . . . keep on . . . not knowing what . . . what she was– . . . what? . . who? . . no! . . she! . . SHE! . . [Pause.] . . . what she was trying . . . what to try . . . no matter . . . keep on . . . [Curtain starts down.] . . . hit on it in the end . . . then back . . . God is love . . . tender mercies . . . new every morning . . . back in the field . . . April morning . . . face in the grass . . . nothing but the larks . . . pick it up–
[Curtain fully down. House dark. Voice continues behind curtain, unintelligible, 10 seconds, ceases as house lights up.]