Sunday, September 30, 2007

Two Literary Excerpts

Some existential panic to enliven the Sunday evening.

This from the opening paragraph of Ferdydurke by Witold Gombrowicz:

Tuesday morning I awoke at that pale and lifeless hour when night is almost gone but dawn has not yet come into its own. Awakened suddenly, I wanted to take a taxi and dash to the railroad station, thinking I was due to leave, when in the next minute, I realized to my chagrin that no train was waiting for me at the station, that no hour had stuck. I lay in the murky light where my body, unbearably frightened, crushed my spirit with fear, and my spirit crushed my body, whose tiniest fibers cringed in apprehension that nothing would ever happen, nothing ever change, that nothing would ever come to pass, and whatever I undertook, nothing, but nothing, would ever come out of it. It was the dread of nonexistence, the terror of extinction, it was the angst of nonlife, the fear of unreality, a biological scream of all my cells in the face of an inner disintegration when all would be blown to pieces and scattered to the winds. It was the fear of unseemly pettiness and mediocrity, the fright of distraction, panic at fragmentation, the dread of rape from within and of rape that was threatening me from without -- but most important, there was something on my heels at all times, something that I would call a sense of inner, intermolecular mockery and derision, an inbred superlaugh of my bodily parts and the analogous parts of my spirit, all running wild.

And this from Javier Marias in Dark Back of Time. About the perception of time in children (and "certain women"):

"It's over now, there, there, it's all over," mothers often say to their children to calm them after a fright or a nightmare or some other woe, lending disproportionate importance to the present, almost as if to declare, "That which is not here now has never been." Perhaps it's understandable, intuition or memory tells us that for children the present is so strong every moment seems eternal and excludes whatever is not there in it, whatever is past or future, which is why children find it so hard to bear even the slightest setback or reversal, they believe them to be definitive; they see no more than the now they live embedded in, so if they're hungry or thirsty or need to pee they cannot wait, they fly into a rage if there's nothing to be done but get to a cafe or home to solve the enormous disruption, that's how they experience any delay, even if it's only two minutes long, they don't know what a minute is, or an hour or a day, they don't know what time is, they don't understand that in fact it consists in just that, in passing and being lost, in its own passage and loss to the point of sometimes becoming impossible to remember. I've seen the same impatience or incomprehension of the passage of time in certain women, rarely in men, men seem to rely more on the future, and some of them even know that the future exists only to become the past.


Cheshire Cat said...

Ferdydurke, Ferdydurke! It's a wonderful book, a comic-philosophical masterpiece. Recognition-wise, Gombrowicz suffers compared to someone like Bernhard, partly because he is harder to pigeonhole, and partly because he's Polish. (Not that Bernhard is exactly a household name, but it's all relative here...)

Alok said...

Milan Kundera is a big fan of Gombrowicz... to him he is one of the giants of modern central european literature, along with kafka, musil and broch. out of these only kafka is a household name.