You didn't notice, in the anguish of waiting, never noticed you were waiting alone. That's the show: waiting alone, in the restless air, for it to begin, for something to begin, for there to be something else but you. For the power to rise, the courage to leave. You try and be reasonable: perhaps you are blind, probably deaf. The show is over, all is over? But where then is the hand, the helping hand? (Or merely charitable? Or the hired hand?) It's a long time coming, to take yours and draw you away. That's the show (free, gratis and for nothing): waiting alone, blind, deaf. You don't know where, you don't know for what: for a hand to come and draw you away, somewhere else (where perhaps it's worse).
And now for the it: I prefer that, I must say I prefer that. (What a memory, real fly-paper!) I don't know - I don't prefer it any more, that's all I know. So why bother about it, a thing you don't prefer? Just think of that, bothering about that! Perish the thought! One must wait, discover a preference, within one's bosom. Then it will be time enough to institute an inquiry.
Moreover (that's right, link, link, you never know), moreover their attitude toward me has not changed. I am deceived, they are deceived. They have tried to deceive me, saying their attitude towards me had changed. But they haven't deceived me: I didn't understand what they were trying to do to me. I say what I'm told to say, that's all there is to it.
And yet I wonder..... I don't know. I don't feel a mouth on me, I don't feel the jostle of words in my mouth. And when you say a poem you like (if you happen to like poetry) - in the underground, or in bed, for yourself - the words are there, somewhere, without the least sound. I don't feel that either. Words falling, you don't know where, you don't know whence? Drops of silence through the silence? I don't feel it. I don't feel a mouth on me, nor a head.
Do I feel an ear? Frankly now, do I feel an ear?
Well frankly now I don't. So much the worse: I don't feel an ear either.
This is awful. Make an effort: I must feel something.
Yes, I feel something (they say I feel something). I don't know what it is, I don't know what I feel. "Tell me what I feel and I'll tell you who I am." They'll tell me who I am, and I'll have heard (without an ear I'll have heard). And I'll have said it (without a mouth I'll have said it). I'll have said it inside me, then in the same breath outside me. Perhaps that's what I feel: an outside and an inside and me in the middle. Perhaps that's what I am: the thing that divides the world in two - on the one side the outside, on the other the inside. (That can be as thin as foil.) I'm neither one side nor the other, I'm in the middle. I'm the partition. I've two surfaces and no thickness. Perhaps that's what I feel: myself vibrating. I'm the tympanum. On the one hand the mind, on the other the world: I don't belong to either. It's not to me they're talking, it's not of me they're talking.
No, that's not it, I feel nothing of all that. Try something else, herd of shites! Say something else, for me to hear (I don't know how), for me to say (I don't know how). What clowns they are, to keep on saying the same thing when they know it's not the right one! No, they know nothing either. They forget. They think they change and they never change. They'll be there saying the same thing till they die. Then perhaps a little silence, till the next gang arrives on the site. (I alone am immortal. What can you expect? I can't get born.)
Perhaps that's their big idea: to keep on saying the same old thing, generation after generation, till I go mad and begin to scream. Then they'll say: "He's mewled, he'll rattle - it's mathematical. Let's get out to hell out of here, no point in waiting for that. Others need us. For him it's over, his troubles will be over. He's saved, we've saved him. They're all the same - they all let themselves be saved, they all let themselves be born. He was a tough nut. He'll have a good time, a brilliant career - in fury and remorse. He'll never forgive himself."
And so depart, thus communing (in Indian file, or two by two), along the seashore (now it's the seashore), on the shingle, along the sands, in the evening air (it's evening). That's all I know: evening, shadows. Somewhere, anywhere. On the earth.
Yes, but there it is. (What would I go mad with?)
And evening isn't sure either, it needn't be evening. Dawn too bestows long shadows (on all that is still standing). That's all that matters: only the shadows matter, with no life of their own, no shape and no respite. Perhaps it's dawn, evening of night. It doesn't matter.
And so depart, towards my brethren (no, none of that, no brethren: that's right, take it back, they don't know). They depart, not knowing whither, towards their master (it's possible, make a note of that, it's just possible), to sue for their freedom. For them it's the end, for me the beginning: my end begins. They stop to listen to my screams. (They'll never stop again? Yes, they'll stop: my screams will stop, from time to time. I'll stop screaming, to listen and hear if anyone is answering, to look and see if anyone is coming. Then go, close my eyes and go, screaming, to scream elsewhere.)
Yes: my mouth. But there it is. I won't open it.
I have no mouth? And what about it? I'll grow one. A little hole at first, then wider and wider, deeper and deeper. The air will gush into me (and out a second later, howling). But is it not rather too much to ask, to ask so much, of so little? Is it really politic? And would it not suffice (without any change in the structure of the thing as it now stands, as it always stood, without a mouth being opened at the place which even pain could never line) - would it not to suffice to....
The thread is lost. No matter, here's another: would not a little stir suffice, some tiny subsidence or upheaval, that would start things off? The whole fabric would be infected, the ball would start a-rolling, the disturbance would spread to every part. Locomotion itself would soon appear, trips properly so called: business trips, pleasure trips, research expeditions, sabbatical leaves, jaunts and rambles, honeymoons at home and abroad and long sad solitary tramps in the rain (I indicate the main trends), athletics, tossing in bed, physical jerks, locomotor ataxy, death throes, rigor and rigor mortis, emergal of the bony structure. (That should suffice.)
Unfortunately it's a question of words, of voices (one must not forget that, one must try and not forget that completely), of a statement to be made (by them, by me).
Some slight obscurity there.
It might sometimes almost be wondered if all their ballocks about life and death is not as foreign to their nature as it is to mine. The fact is they no longer know where they've got to in their affair, where they've got me to. (I never knew, I'm where I always was, wherever that is.) And "their affair"? I don't know what is meant by that: some process no doubt, that I've got stuck in, or haven't yet come to. I've got nowhere, in their affair, that's what galls them: they want me there somewhere, anywhere.
If only they'd stop committing reason (on them, on me, on the purpose to be achieved), and simply go on - with no illusion about having begun one day or ever being able to conclude. But it's too difficult, too difficult, for one bereft of purpose, not to look forward to his end, and (bereft of all reason to exist) back to a time he did not. Difficult too not to forget, in your thirst for something to do (in order to be done with it, and have that much less to do), that there is nothing to be done: nothing special to be done, nothing doable to be done. No point either, in your thirst, your hunger. (No, no need of hunger, thirst is enough.) No point in telling yourself stories, to pass the time: stories don't pass the time, nothing passes the time. (That doesn't matter, that's how it is.) You tell yourself stories, then any old thing, saying: "No more stories from this day forth." And the stories go on: it's stories still.
Or it was never stories: always any old thing, for as long as you can remember (no, longer than that). Any old thing, the same old thing, to pass the time (then, as time didn't pass, for no reason at all), in your thirst. Trying to cease and never ceasing, seeking the cause (the cause of talking and never ceasing). Finding the cause, losing it again, finding it again, not finding it again. Seeking no longer, seeking again, finding again, losing again. Talking without ceasing, thirstier than ever. Seeking as usual, losing as usual. Blathering away. Wondering what it's all about. Seeking what it can be you are seeking. Exclaiming "Ah yes!", sighing "No no!", crying "Enough!", ejaculating "Not yet!" Talking incessantly (any old thing). Seeking once more (any old thing). Thirsting away, you don't know what for. Ah yes: something to do! (No, no: nothing to be done.)
And now enough of that. Unless perhaps (that's an idea!)..... let's seek over there! One last little effort!
Pertinent objection: let us try and determine, before we seek, what it can be, before we seek over there. (Over where?)
Talking unceasingly, seeking incessantly. In yourself, outside yourself. Cursing man, cursing God. Stopping cursing. Past bearing it, going on bearing it. Seeking indefatigably (in the world of nature, the world of man). Where is nature? Where is man? Where are you? What are you seeking? Who is seeking? Seeking who you are (supreme aberration), where you are, what you're doing, what you've done to them, what they've done to you. Prattling along: "Where are the others?" "Who is talking? Not I." "Where am I? Where is the place where I've always been?"
Where are the others? It's they are talking, talking to me. I hear them, I'm mute. What do they want? What have I done to them? What have I done to God? What have they done to God? What has God done to us? Nothing. And we've done nothing to him. You can't do anything to him, he can't do anything to us. We're innocent, he's innocent, it's nobody's fault. (What's nobody's fault? This state of affairs. What state of affairs?) So it is, so be it (don't fret), so it will be. (How so?) Rattling on, dying of thirst, seeking determinedly what they want.
They want me to be, this, that: to howl, stir, crawl out of here, be born, die, listen.
It's not enough. I must understand.
I stop doing my best, I can't do my best. I can't go on, poor devil. Neither can they. Let them say what they want: give me something to do, something doable to do, poor devils. They can't, they don't know. They're like me, more and more. No more need of them, no more need of anyone. No one can do anything. It's I am talking, thirsting, starving (let it stand), in the ice and in the furnace.
You feel nothing? Strange! You don't feel a mouth on you? You don't feel your mouth any more?
No need of a mouth: the words are everywhere, inside me, outside me. (Well, well! A minute ago I had no thickness!) I hear them? No need to hear them, no need of a head. Impossible to stop them, impossible to stop. I'm in words, made of words, others' words. (What others?) The place too - the air, the walls, the floor, the ceiling: all words. The whole world is here with me. I'm the air, the walls, the walled-in one. Everything yields, opens, ebbs, flows. Like flakes. I'm all these flakes, meeting, mingling, falling asunder. Wherever I go I find me, leave me, go towards me, come from me: nothing ever but me, a particle of me, retrieved, lost, gone astray. I'm all these words, all these strangers: this dust of words (with no ground for their settling, no sky for their dispersing) coming together to say (fleeing one another to say) that I am they, all of them: those that merge, those that part, those that never meet. And nothing else.
Yes, something else: that I'm something quite different, a quite different thing. A wordless thing in an empty place, a hard shut dry cold black place, where nothing stirs, nothing speaks. And that I listen, and that I seek. Like a caged beast born of caged beasts born of caged beasts born of caged beasts born in a cage and dead in a cage, born and then dead, born in a cage and then dead in a cage. In a word like a beast (in one of their words), like such a beast. And that I seek, like such a beast, with my little strength: such a beast, with nothing of its species left but fear and fury.
No, the fury is past. Nothing but fear. Nothing of all its due but fear centupled. Fear of its shadow? No: blind from birth. Of sound then? If you like, we'll have that - one must have something (it's a pity, but there it is). Fear of sound, fear of sounds: the sounds of beasts, the sounds of men, sounds in the daytime and sounds at night (that's enough). Fear of sounds, all sounds (more or less). More or less fear.
All sounds? There's only one: continuous, day and night. What is it? It's steps coming and going. It's voices speaking for a moment. It's bodies groping their way. It's the air, it's things, it's the air among the things (that's enough), that I seek. Like it? No, not like it: like me. In my own way.
What am I saying (after my fashion)? That I seek. What do I seek now? What it is (it must be that, it can only be that): what it is, what it can be. What what can be? What I seek - no, what I hear (now it comes back to me, all back to me). They say I seek what it is I hear (I hear them, now it comes back to me): what it can possibly be, and where it can possibly come from (since all is silent here, and the walls thick). And how I manage, without feeling an ear on me (or a head, or a body, or a soul) - how I manage...... to do what? How I manage.....
[It's not clear? Dear dear! You say it's not clear? Something is wanting to make it clear? I'll seek, what is wanting, to make everything clear. (I'm always seeking something, it's tiring in the end - and it's only the beginning.)]
.....how I manage, under such conditions, to do what I'm doing. What am I doing? I must find out what I'm doing. "Tell me what you're doing and I'll ask you how it's possible."
I hear, you say I hear. And that I seek (it's a lie, I seek nothing - nothing any more: no matter, let's leave it, no harking), and that I seek. (Listen to them now, jogging my memory!) Seek what? Firstly what it is. Secondly where it comes from. Thirdly how I manage, to do it (seeing that this, considering that that, inasmuch as God knows what - that's clear now): how I manage to hear, and how I manage to understand (it's a lie - what would I understand with, that's what I am asking?), how I manage to understand. Oh not the half, not the hundredth, nor the five thousandth (let us go on dividing by fifty), nor the quarter millionth (that's enough): but a little nevertheless - it's essential, it's preferable. (It's a pity, but there it is.) Just a little all the same, the least possible. It's appreciable, it's enough: the rough meaning of one expression in a thousand, in ten thousand (let us go on multiplying by ten, nothing more restful than arithmetic), in a hundred thousand, in a million.
It's too much, too little. We've gone wrong somewhere. No matter: there is no great difference here between one expression and the next. When you've grasped one you've grasped them all. (I am not in that fortunate position.) All! How you exaggerate! Always out for the whole hog, the all of all and the all of nothing - never in the happy golden. "Never", "always" - it's too much, too little: "often", "seldom".
Let me now sum up (after this digression).
There is I (yes, I feel it, I confess, I give in): there is I, it's essential (it's preferable). I wouldn't have said so, I won't always say so. So let me hasten to take advantage of being now obliged to say (in a manner of speaking) that there is I, on the one hand, and this noise on the other. That I never doubted. (No, let us be logical: there was never any doubt about that.) This noise, on the other (if it is the other): that will very likely be the theme of our next deliberation.
I sum up. (Now that I'm here it's I will do the summing up, it's I will say what is to be said and then say what it was. That will be jolly!) I sum up: I and this noise. I see nothing else for the moment, but I have only just taken over my functions. I and this noise. (And what about it? Don't interrupt me, I am doing my best.) I repeat: I and this noise. On the subject of which (inverting the natural order) we would seem to know for certain, among other things, what follows: namely, on the one hand (with regard to the noise), that it has not been possible up to date to determine with certainty, or even approximately, what it is, in the way of noise - or how it comes to me, or by what organ it is emitted, or by what perceived, or by what intelligence apprehended (in its main drift). And on the other, that is to say with regard to me (this is going to take a little longer) - with regard to me (nice time we're going to have now) - with regard to me, that it has not yet been our good fortune to establish with any degree of accuracy what I am, where I am: whether I am words among words, or silence in the midst of silence (to recall only two of the hypotheses launched in this connection). (Though silence to tell the truth does not appear to have been very conspicuous up to now. But appearances may sometimes be deceptive.) I resume: not yet our good fortune to establish, among other things, what I am (no, sorry - already mentioned), what I'm doing, how I manage to hear (if I hear, if it's I who hear), and how to understand (ellipse when possible, it saves time) - how to understand (same observation), and how it happens (if it's I who speak - and it may be assumed it is, as it may be suspected it is not), how it happens (if it's I who speak) that I speak without ceasing, that I long to cease, that I can't cease (I indicate the principal divisions: it's more synoptic). I resume: not the good fortune to establish, with regard to me (if it's I who seek), what exactly it is I seek, find, lose, find again, throw away, seek again, find again, throw away again (no, I never threw anything away, never threw anything away of all the things I found, never found anything that I didn't lose, never lost anything that I mightn't as well have thrown away); if it's I who seek, find, lose, find again, lose again, seek in vain, seek no more: if it's I, what it is (and if it's not I, who it is, and what it is).
I see nothing else for the moment.
Yes, I do.
I conclude: not the good fortune to establish, considering the futility of my telling myself even any old thing, to pass the time, why I do it (if it's I who do it).
As if reasons were required for doing any old thing to pass the time! No matter, the question may be asked (off the record): why time doesn't pass, doesn't pass, from you? Why it piles up all about you, instant on instant, on all sides, deeper and deeper, thicker and thicker? (Your time, others' time, the time of the ancient dead and the dead yet unborn.) Why it buries you grain by grain neither dead nor alive? With no memory of anything, no hope of anything, no knowledge of anything, no history and no prospects, buried under the seconds, saying any old thing, your mouth full of sand. Oh I know it's immaterial: time is one thing, I another. But the question may be asked, why time doesn't pass? (Just like that, off the record, en passant - to pass the time.)
I think that's all, for the moment. I see nothing else (I see nothing whatever), for the time being.
But I really mustn't ask myself any more questions (if it's I), I really must not.
More resolutions, while we're at it. (That's right: resolutely, more resolutions.) Make abundant use of the principle of parsimony, as if it were familiar to me (it is not too late). Assume notably henceforward that the thing said and the thing heard have a common source (resisting for this purpose the temptation to call in question the possibility of assuming anything whatever). Situate this source in me (without specifying where exactly, no finicking): anything is preferable to the consciousness of third parties and (more generally speaking) of an outer world. Carry if necessary this process of compression to the point of abandoning all other postulates than that of a deaf half-wit, hearing nothing of what he says and understanding even less.. Evoke at painful junctures (when discouragement threatens to raise its head) the image of a vast cretinous mouth (red, blubber and slobbering) in solitary confinement, extruding indefatigably (with a noise of wet kisses and washing in a tub) the words that obstruct it. Set aside once and for all (at the same time as the analogy with orthodox damnation) all idea of beginning and end. Overcome the fatal leaning towards expressiveness. Equate me (without pity or scruple) with him who exists (somehow, no matter how, no finicking), with him whose story this story had the brief ambition to be. Better: ascribe to me a body. Better still: arrogate to me a mind. Speak of a world of my own (sometimes referred to as the inner) without choking. Doubt no more. Seek no more. Take advantage of the brand-new soul and substantiality to abandon, with the only possible abandon, deep down within. And finally (these and other decisions having been taken) carry on cheerfully as before.
Something has changed nevertheless. Not a word about Mahood, or Worm, for the past..... Ah yes, I nearly forgot: speak of time, without flinching. And what is more, it just occurs to me (by a natural association of ideas), treat of space with the same easy grace. As if it were not bunged up on all sides, a few inches away. After all that's something - a few inches - to be thankful for. It gives one air: room for the tongue to loll, to have lolled, to loll on.
When I think (that is to say..... no, let it stand), when I think of the time I've wasted with these bran-dips (beginning with Murphy, who wasn't even the first), when I had me on the premises, within easy reach! Tottering under my own skin and bones (real ones), rotting with solitude and neglect, till I doubted my own existence. And even still, today, I have no faith in it, none: so that I have to say, when I speak, "Who speaks?" - and seek. And so on and similarly for all the other things that happen to me and for which someone must be found (for things that happen must have someone to happen to). Someone must stop them. But Murphy and the others (and last but not least the two old buffers here present) could not stop them, the things that happened to me. Nothing could happen to them, of the things that happened to me. And nothing else either: there is nothing else (let us be lucid for once), nothing else but what happens to me (such as speaking, and such as seeking), and which cannot happen to me - which prowl round me, like bodies in torment: the torment of no abode, no repose. No, like hyenas, screeching and laughing (no, no better - no matter). I've shut my doors against them, I'm not at home to anything, my doors are shut against them. Perhaps that's how I'll find silence, and peace at last: by opening my doors, and letting myself be devoured. They'll stop howling, they'll start eating, the maws now howling. "Open up, open up! You'll be all right, you'll see!"
What a joy it is, to turn and look astern, between two visits to the depths! Scan in vain the horizon for a sail! It's a real pleasure, upon my word it is, to be unable to drown, under such conditions. Yes, but there it is: I am far from my doors, far from my walls. Someone would have to wake the turnkey (there must be one somewhere).
Far from my subject too. Let us get back to it.
It's gone! No longer there where I thought I last saw it!
[Strange this mixture of solid and liquid.]
Where was I? Ah yes, my subject: no longer there, or no longer the same. Or I mistake the place?
It's the same, still there, in the same place. It's a pity. I would have liked to lose it, I would have liked to lose me: lose me the way I could long ago (when I still had some imagination) - close my eyes and be in a wood, or on the seashore. Or in a town where I don't know anyone. It's night, everyone has gone home. I walk the streets, I lash into them one after the other. It's the town of my youth. I'm looking for my mother to kill her. (I should have thought of that a bit earlier, before being born.) It's raining, I'm all right. I stride along on the crown of the street with great yaws to left and right.
Now that's all over: with closed eyes I see the same as with them open, namely.....
Wait: I'll say it, I'll try and say it. I'm curious to know what it can possibly be that I see (with closed eyes, with open eyes).
Nothing. I see nothing.
Well that is a disappointment! I was hoping for something better than that.
Is that what it is to be unable to lose yourself? (I'm asking myself a question). Is that what it is: to see nothing, no matter where I look? Nor, eyeless, the little creature in his different guises: coming and going (now in shadow, now in light, doing his best, seeking the means of staying among the living, of getting off with his life), or shut up looking out of the window at the ever-changing sky. Is that it, to be unable to lose myself? I don't know. What did I see in the old days, when I ventured a quick look? I don't know, I don't remember. There I am in any case equipped with eyes, which I open and shut (two, perhaps blue), knowing it avails nothing. (For I have a head now too, where all manner of things are known.)
Can it be of me I'm speaking? Is it possible? Of course not: that's another thing I know. I'll speak of me when I speak no more. In any case it's not a question of speaking of me, but of speaking, of speaking no more.
This slight confusion augurs well.
Now I'll have to find a name for this latest surrogate, his head splitting with vile certainties and his doll's eyes.
Later on, later on. First I must describe him in greater detail, see what he's capable of, whence he comes and whither he returns (in his head of course - we don't intend to relapse into picaresque, with the stink of Mahood and Worm still in our nostrils).
Now it's I the orator. The beleaguerers have departed. I am master on board (after the rats). I no longer crawl between the thwarts, under the moon, in the shadow of the lash.
Strange this mixture of solid and liquid! A little air is all we need to complete the elements. (No, I'm forgetting fire.) Unusual hell when you come to think of it. Perhaps it's paradise. Perhaps it's the earth. Perhaps it's the shores of a lake beneath the earth. You scarcely breathe, but you breathe (it's not certain). You see nothing. (Hear nothing? You hear the long kiss of dead water and mud.) Aloft at less than a score of fathoms men come and go. You dream of them: in your long dream there's a place for the waking. You wonder how you know all you know. You even see grass - grass at dawn, glaucous with dew: not so blind as all that my eyes. (They're not mine, mine are done. They don't even weep any more, they open and shut by the force of habit - fifteen minutes exposure, fifteen minutes shutter, like the owl cooped in the grotto in Battersea Park.)
Ah misery! Will I never stop wanting a life for myself?
No no, no head either: anything you like, but not a head. In his head he doesn't go anywhere either, I've tried. (Lashed to the stake, blindfold, gagged to the gullet, you take the air - under the elms in se, murmuring Shelley - impervious to the shafts.)
Yes a head - but solid: solid bone. And you imbedded in it, like a fossil in the rock. Perhaps there go I after all. I can't go on in any case. But I must go on. So I'll go on. Air! Air, I'll seek air: air in time, the air of time. And in space, in my head. That's how I'll go on.
All very fine - but the voice is failing. It's the first time. No, I've been through that: it has even stopped, many a time. That's how it will end again. I'll go silent, for want of air, then the voice will come back and I'll begin again. (‘My voice’? ‘The voice’?) I hardly hear it any more.
I'm going silent. Hearing this voice no more, that's what I call going silent. That is to say I'll hear it still, if I listen hard. I'll listen hard. (Listening hard, that's what I call going silent.) I'll hear it still, broken, faint, unintelligible, if I listen hard. (Hearing it still, without hearing what it says, that's what I call going silent.) Then it will flare up, like a kindling fire, a dying fire (Mahood explained that to me), and I'll emerge from silence. (Hearing too little to be able to speak, that's my silence.) That is to say I never stop speaking - but sometimes too low, too far away, too far within, to hear. (No, I hear: to understand. Not that I ever understand).
It fades. It goes in, behind the door. I'm going silent, there's going to be silence. I'll listen, it's worse than speaking (no: no worse, no better). Unless this time it's the true silence, the one I'll never have to break any more, when I won't have to listen any more, when I can dribble in my corner, my head gone, my tongue dead. The one I have tried to earn, that I thought I could earn.
I'm going to stop - that's to say I'm going to look as if I had (it will be like everything else). As if anyone were looking at me! As if it were I! It will be the same silence, the same as ever, murmurous with muted lamentation: panting and exhaling of impossible sorrow, like distant laughter. And brief spells of hush, as of one buried before his time. Long or short, the same silence. Then I resurrect and begin again. That's what I'll have got for my pains.
Unless this time it's the real silence at last! Perhaps I've said the thing that had to be said (that gives me the right to be done with speech, done with listening, done with hearing) without my knowing it. I'm listening already, I'm going silent. The next time I won't go to such pains: I'll tell one of Mahood's old tales (no matter which, they are all alike). They won't tire me. I won't bother any more about me. I'll know that no matter what I say the result is the same: that I'll never be silent, never at peace.
Unless I try once more (just once more, one last time), to say what has to be said, about me (I feel it's about me, perhaps that's the mistake I make, perhaps that's my sin), so as to have nothing more to say, nothing more to hear, till I die. It's coming back. I'm glad. I'll try again. Quick before it goes again!
Try what? I don't know. To continue?
Now there is no one left. (That's a good continuation.) No one left? It's embarrassing. If I had a memory it might tell me that this is a sign of the end: this having no one left, no one to talk to, no one to talk to you, so that you have to say: "It's I who am doing this to me, I who am talking about me." Then the breath fails, the end begins, you go silent. It's the end (short-lived). You begin again. You had forgotten: there's someone there, someone talking to you (about you, about him). Then a second, then a third. Then the second again. Then all three together (these figures just to give you an idea), talking to you (about you, about them). All I have to do is listen. Then they depart, one by one, and the voice goes on. It's not theirs: they were never there. There was never anyone but you, talking to you about you. The breath fails, it's nearly the end. The breath stops, it's the end (short-lived). I hear someone calling me, it begins again. (That must be how it goes, if I had a memory.)
Even if there were things, a thing somewhere, a scrap of nature, to talk about, you might be reconciled to having no one left, to being yourself the talker. If only there were a thing somewhere, to talk about (even though you couldn't see it, or know what it was, simply feel it there, with you), you might have the courage not to go silent.
No, it's to go silent that you need courage: for you'll be punished, punished for having gone silent. And yet you can't do otherwise than go silent (than be punished for having gone silent, than be punished for having been punished) since you begin again. The breath fails.
If only there were a thing! But there it is, there is not: they took away things when they departed, they took away nature. There was never anyone, anyone but me, anything but me, talking to me of me. Impossible to stop, impossible to go on. But I must go on - without anyone, without anything, but me, but my voice. That is to say I'll stop, I'll end. It's the end already (short-lived).
What is it? A little hole. You go down into it, into the silence (it's worse than the noise). You listen, it's worse than talking (no, not worse: no worse). You wait, in anguish. Have they forgotten me?
No. Someone calls me. I crawl out again.
What is it? A little hole, in the wilderness.
It's the end that is the worst. No, it's the beginning that is the worst - then the middle, then the end. In the end it's the end that is the worst, this voice that....I don't know. It's every second that is the worst, it's a chronicle. The seconds pass, one after another - jerkily, no flow. (They don't pass, they arrive, bang bang - they bang into you, bounce off, fall and never move again.) When you have nothing left to say you talk of time, seconds of time. There are some people add them together to make a life, I can't: each one is the first. (No, the second, or the third. I'm three seconds old!) Oh not every day of the week.
I've been away, done something, been in a hole. I've just crawled out. Perhaps I went silent.
No, I say that in order to say something, in order to go on a little more: you must go on a little more, you must go on a long time more, you must go on evermore. If I could remember something by heart I'd be saved: I have to keep on saying the same thing and each time it's an effort. The seconds must be alike and each one is infernal.
What am I saying now?
I'm saying I wish I knew.
And yet I have memories. I remember Worm (that is to say, I have retained the name). And the other (what is his name? what was his name?) in his jar. I can see him still, better than I can see me. I know how he lived, now I remember. I alone saw him. But no one sees me, nor him: I don't see him any more. (Mahood, he was called Mahood.) I don't see him any more, I don't know how he lived any more, he isn't there any more, he was never there, in his jar, I never saw him. And yet I remember. I remember having talked about him. (I must have talked about him. The same words recur and they are your memories.) It is I invented him (him and so many others, and the places where they passed, the places where they stayed), in order to speak (since I had to speak) without speaking of me. I couldn't speak of me, I was never told I had to speak of me. I invented my memories, not knowing what I was doing: not one is of me. It is they asked me to speak of them. They wanted to know what they were, how they lived. That suited me (I thought that would suit me), since I had nothing to say and had to say something.
I thought I was free to say any old thing, so long as I didn't go silent. Then I said to myself that after all perhaps it wasn't any old thing, the thing I was saying: that it might well be the thing demanded of me (assuming something was being demanded of me).
No, I didn't think anything and I didn't say anything to myself. I did what I could, a thing beyond my strength, and often for exhaustion I gave up doing it. And yet it went on being done, the voice being heard - the voice which could not be mine (since I had none left), and yet which could only be mine (since I could not go silent, and since I was alone, in a place where no voice could reach me). Yes, in my life (since we must call it so) there were three things: the inability to speak, the inability to be silent, and solitude. That's what I've had to make the best of.
Yes, now I can speak of my life: I'm too tired for niceties. But I don't know if I ever lived, I have really no opinion on the subject. However that may be I think I'll soon go silent for good, in spite of its being prohibited. Then (yes, phut! just like that, just like one of the living), then I'll be dead, I think I'll soon be dead. I hope I find it a change.
I should have liked to go silent first. There were moments I thought that would be my reward for having spoken so long and so valiantly: to enter living into silence. So as to be able to enjoy it? No, I don't know why. So as to feel myself silent? One with all this quiet air shattered unceasingly by my voice alone? (No, it's not real air.) I can't say it. I can't say why I should have liked to be silent a little before being dead. So as in the end to be a little as I always was and never could be? Without fear of worse to come peacefully in the place where I always was and could never rest in peace? No, I don't know. It's simpler than that. I wanted myself, in my own land for a brief space. I didn't want to die a stranger in the midst of strangers (a stranger in my own midst), surrounded by invaders.
No, I don't know what I wanted, I don't know what I thought. I must have wanted so many things, imagined so many things, while I was talking, without knowing exactly what - enough to go blind, with longings and visions, mingling and merging in one another. I'd have been better employed minding what I was saying. But it didn't happen like that, it happened like this, the way it's happening now, that is to say..... I don't know: you mustn't believe what I'm saying. I'm doing as I always did, I'm going on as best I can. As to believing I shall go silent for good and all: I don't believe it particularly. I always believed it, as I always believed I would never go silent. You can't call that believing. (It's my walls.)
But has nothing really changed, all this time?
If instead of having something to say I had something to do, with my hands or feet - some little job! Sorting things out for example, or simply arranging things. Suppose for the sake of argument I had the job of moving things from one place to another. Then I'd know where I was, and how far I had got.
No, not necessarily (I can see it from here). They would contrive things in such a way that I couldn't suspect the two vessels (the one to be emptied and the one to be filled) of being in reality one and the same. It would be water. Water. With my thimble I'd go and draw it from one container, and then I'd go and pour it into another. Or there would be four (or a hundred), half of them to be filled, the other half to be emptied (numbered: the even to be emptied the uneven to be filled). No, it would be even more complicated, less symmetrical. No matter: to be emptied, and filled, in a certain way, a certain order, in accordance with certain homologies (the word is not too strong) - so that I'd have to think.Tanks, communicating (communicating!), connected by pipes under the floor (I can see it from here). Always showing the same level? No, that wouldn't work, too hopeless: they'd arrange for me to have little attacks of hope from time to time (yes, pipes and taps - I can see it from here), so that I might fool myself from time to time.
If I had that to do, instead of this! Some little job with fluids, filling and emptying (always the same vesssel). I'd be good at that, it would be a better life than this. (No, I mustn't start complaining.) I'd have a body. I wouldn't have to speak. I'd hear my steps, almost without ceasing, and the noise of the water, and the crying of the air trapped in the pipes. (I don't understand.) I'd have bouts of zeal. I'd say to myself: "The quicker I do it the quicker it will be done." (The things one has to listen to!) That's where hope would come in.
It wouldn't be dark? Impossible to do such work in the dark? That depends. Yes, I must say I see no window, from here. Whereas here that has no importance, that I see no window. Here I needn't come and go (fortunately: I couldn't). Nor be dextrous. For naturally the water would have great value and the least drop spilt on the way (or in the act of drawing, or in the act of pouring) would cost me dear. And how could you tell in the dark, if a drop.....
What's this story?
It's a story! Now I've told another little story, about me - about the life that might have been mine for all the difference it would have made. Which was perhaps mine: perhaps I went through that before being deemed worthy of going through this. Who knows towards what high destiny I am heading? (Unless I am coming from it.) But once again the fable must be of another. I see him so well, coming and going among his casks, trying to stop his hand from trembling, dropping his thimble, listening to it bouncing and rolling on the floor, scraping round for it with his foot, going down on his knees, going down on his belly, crawling.
It stops there.
It must have been I. But I never saw myself, so it can't have been I. I don't know: how can I recognize myself who never made my acquaintance? It stops there, that's all I know. I don't see him any more, I'll never see him again..... Yes I will: now he's there with the others. (I won't name them again: you say that for something to say - you say anything for something to say.) Some do this, others do that. He does as I said (I don't remember). He'll come back, to keep me company. (Only the wicked are solitary.) I'll see him again. (It's his fault - his fault for wanting to know what he was like, and how he lived). Or he'll never come back: it's one or the other. They don't all come back. I mean there must be some I have only seen once. Up to now? Very true: it's only beginning. I feel the end at hand and the beginning likewise. (To every man his orbit, that's obvious.)
But (and here I return to the charge), but has nothing really changed, all this mortal time? (I'm speaking now of me: yes, henceforward I shall speak of none but me, that's decided, even though I should not succeed. There's no reason why I should succeed, so I need have no qualms.) Nothing changed? I must be ageing all the same. (Bah, I was always aged, always ageing, and ageing makes no difference. Not to mention that all this is not about me.)
Hell, I've contradicted myself! No matter, so long as one does not know what one is saying and can't stop to enquire, in tranquillity (fortunately, fortunately). One would like to stop, but unconditionally, (I resume), so long as..... let me see..... so long as one, so long as he.....
Ah fuck all that: so long as this, then that. Agreed? That's good enough. (I nearly got stuck.)
If I could only describe this place - I who am so good at describing places! Walls, ceiling, floors, they are my speciality. Doors! Windows! What haven't I imagined in the way of windows in the course of my career! Some opened on the sea - all you could see was sea and sky. If I could put myself in a room, that would be the end of the wordy-gurdy. Even doorless, even windowless - nothing but the four surfaces (the six surfaces). If I could shut myself up! It would be a mine, it could be black dark. I could be motionless and fixed. I'd find a way to explore it: I'd listen to the echo. I'd get to know it, I'd get to remember it. I'd be home. I'd say what it's like, in my home, instead of any old thing.
This place! If I could describe this place! Portray it!
I've tried. I feel no place, no place round me. There's no end to me. I don't know what it is: it isn't flesh, it doesn't end. It's like air, now I have it (you say that, to say something - you won't say it long): like gas. (Balls, balls.) The place, then we'll see. First the place, then I'll find me in it: a solid lump, in the middle (or in a corner, well propped upon three sides).
The place! If only I could feel a place for me! (I've tried. I'll try again.) None was ever mine. That sea under my window (higher than the window)! And the rowboat, do you remember? And the river, and the bay! (I knew I had memories - pity they are not of me.) And the stars, and the beacons, and the lights of the buoys, and the mountain burning! It was the time nothing was too good for me. (The others benefited by it, they died like flies.) Or the forest! (A roof is not indispensable, an interior.) If I could be in a forest, caught in a thicket - or wandering round in circles! It would be the end of this blither. I'd describe the leaves, one by one: at the moment of their growing, at the moment of their giving shade, at the moment of their falling.
Those are good moments, for one who has not to say "But it's not I, it's not I. Where am I, what am I doing?" all the time (as if that mattered). But there it is, that takes the heart out of you, your heart isn't in it any more (your heart that was, among the brambles, cradled by the shadows). You try the sea, you try the town. You look for yourself in the mountains and the plains - it's only natural. You want yourself, you want yourself in your own little corner. It's not love, not curiosity: it's because you're tired. You want to stop, travel no more, seek no more, lie no more, speak no more, close your eyes (but your own): in a word lay hands on yourself. After that you'll make short work of it.
I notice one thing: the others have vanished, completely. I don't like it. (Notice? I notice nothing.)
I go on as best I can. (If it begins to mean something I can't help it.)
I have passed by here (this has passed me by) thousands of times: its turn has come again. It will pass on and something else will be there, another instant of my old instant. (There it is: the old meaning that I'll give myself, that I won't be able to give myself.)
There's a god for the damned, as on the first day: today is the first day, it begins. I know it well. (I'll remember it as I go along.) All adown it I'll be born and born, births for nothing - and come to night without having been.
Look at this Tunis pink! It's dawn!
If I could only shut myself up! Quick, I'll shut myself up (it won't be I). Quick, I'll make a place. It won't be mine, it doesn't matter. (I don't feel any place for me, perhaps that will come.) I'll make it mine. I'll put myself in it. I'll put someone in it. I'll find someone in it, I'll put myself in him, I'll say he's I. Perhaps he'll keep me. Perhaps the place will keep us: me inside the other, the place all round us. It will be over, all over. I won't have to try and move any more. I'll close my eyes. All I'll have to do is talk. That will be easy: I'll have things to say, about me, about my life (I'll make it a good one). I'll know who's talking, and about what. I'll know where I am.
Perhaps I'll be able to go silent. Perhaps that's all they're waiting for (there they are again), to pardon me - waiting for me to reach home, to pardon me. (It's the lie they refuse to stop.) I'll close my eyes, be happy at last: that's the way it is this morning. Morning, I call that morning? That's right (shilly-shally a little longer), I call that morning: I haven't many words. I haven't much choice, I don't choose: the word came. (I should have avoided this bright stain.) It's the dayspring - but it doesn't last, I know it. (I call that the dayspring! If you could only see it!)
I'm off! (You wouldn't think so.) Perhaps it's my last gallop. I smell the stable. (I always smelt the stable, it's I smell of the stable: there's no stable but me, for me.)
No, I won't do it.
What won't I do? (As if that depended on me!)
I won't seek my home any more. (I don't know what I'll do.) It would be occupied already: there would be someone there already, someone far gone. He wouldn't want me (I can understand him). I'd disturb him.
What am I going to say now? I'm going to ask myself, I'm going to ask questions: that's a good stop-gap. (Not that I'm in any danger of stopping. Then why all this fuss?) That's right, questions: I know millions, I must know millions. And then there are plans. When questions fail there are always plans: you say what you'll say and what you won't say (that doesn't commit you to anything), and the evil moment passes, it stops stone dead. Suddenly you hear yourself talking about God knows what as if you had done nothing else all your life (and neither have you). You come back from a far place, back to life. That's where you should be, where you are: far from here, far from everything.
If only I could go there! If only I could describe it! (I who am so good at topography.) That's right, aspirations: when plans fail there are always aspirations. It's a knack, you must say it slowly: "If only this, if only that." That gives you time, time for a cud of longing to rise up in the back of your gullet. Nothing remains but to look as if you enjoyed chewing it.
There's no knowing where that may lead you, on tracks as beaten as the day is long. Often you pass yourself by (someone passes himself by). If only you knew! (That's right, aspirations!) You turn and look behind you, so does the other. You weep for him, he weeps for you - it's screamingly sad. (Anything rather than laughter.) What else? Opinions? Comparisons? (Anything rather than laughter.) All helps, can't help helping, to get you over the pretty pass. (The things you have to listen to! What pretty pass?)
It's not I speaking, it's not I hearing: let us not go into that. Let us go on as if I were the only one in the world (whereas I'm the only one absent from it). Or with others: what difference does it make - others present, others absent? They are not obliged to make themselves manifest. All that is needed is to wander and let wander, be this slow boundless whirlwind and every particle of its dust. (It's impossible.)
Someone speaks, someone hears: no need to go any further. It is not he, it's I. (Or another, or others - what does it matter?) The case is clear: it is not he, he who I know I am (that's all I know), who I cannot say I am. (I can't say anything - I've tried, I'm trying.) He knows nothing, knows of nothing: neither what it is to speak, nor what it is to hear.
To know nothing, to be capable of nothing, and to have to try! You don't try any more, no need to try: it goes on by itself, it drags on by itself, from word to word, a labouring whirl. You are in it somewhere, everywhere. Not he.
If only I could forget him! Have one second of this noise that carries me away, without having to say (I don't, I haven't time): "It's not I. I am he."
After all, why not? Why not say it? (I must have said it.) As well that as anything else. "It's not I, not I." I can't say it. (It came like that, it comes like that.) "It's not I."
If only it could be about him! If only it could come about him! (I'd deny him, with pleasure, if that could help.) It's I, here it's I. Speak to me of him, let me speak of him! That's all I ask. (I never asked for anything.) Make me speak of him!
What a mess!
Now there is no one left. Long may it last! In the end it comes to that, to the survival of that alone.
Then the words come back. Someone says "I", unbelieving.
If only I could make an effort, an effort of attention, to try and discover what's happening to me! (What then? I don't know, I've forgotten my apodosis.) But I can't, I don't hear any more, I'm sleeping (they call that sleeping). (There they are again, we'll have to start killing them again.) I hear this horrible noise (coming back takes time), I don't know where from. I was nearly there, I was nearly sleeping (I call that sleeping).
There is no one but me. (Here I mean: elsewhere is another matter. I was never elsewhere, here is my only elsewhere.) It's I who do this thing and I who suffer it, it's not possible otherwise (it's not possible so). It's not my fault, all I can say is that it's not my fault. It's not anyone's fault: since there isn't anyone it can't be anyone's fault, since there isn't anyone but me it can't be mine. Sometimes you'd think I was reasoning, I've no objection. They must have taught me reasoning too - they must have begun teaching me, before they deserted me. I don't remember that period, but it must have marked me. I don't remember having been deserted, perhaps I received a shock.
Strange, these phrases that die for no reason. Strange.
What's strange about it? Here all is strange, all is strange when you come to think of it. (No, it's coming to think of it that is strange.)
Am I to suppose I am inhabited? I can't suppose anything: I have to go on, that's what I'm doing, let others suppose. There must be others in other elsewheres, each one saying to himself (when the moment cames, the moment to say it): "Let others suppose." And so on, so on: let others do this, others do that, if there are any. That helps you on, that helps you forward: I believe in progress. I know how to believe too, they must have taught me believing too! (No, no one ever taught me anything, I never learnt anything. I've always been here, here there was never anyone but me.)
"Never", "always", "me", "no one": old slush to be churned everlastingly. (Now it's slush, a minute ago it was dust. It must have rained.)
He must have travelled, he whose voice it is, he must have seen, with his eyes, a man or two, a thing or two, been aloft, in the light. Or else heard tales: travellers found him and told him tales. That proves my innocence.
Who says "That proves my innocence"? He says it. Or they say it - yes, they who reason, they who believe. No, in the singular: he who lived, or saw some who had. He speaks of me, as if I were he, as if I were not he (both), and as if I were others (one after another). He is the afflicted. "I am far, do you hear me?" He says I'm far, as if I were he - no, as if I were not he: for he is not far, he is here. It's he who speaks. He says it's I, then he says it's not, I am far. Do you hear him?
He seeks me. (I don't know why, he doesn't know why.) He calls me, he wants me to come out, he thinks I can come out. He wants me to be he (or another, let us be fair). He wants me to rise up, up into him (or up into another, let us be impartial). He thinks he's caught me, he feels me in him, then he says "I", as if I were he (or in another, let us be just). Then he says "Murphy", or "Molloy" (I forget, as if I were Malone). But their day is done, he wants none but himself, for me, he thinks it's his last chance (he thinks that, they taught him thinking). It's always he who speaks. Mercier never spoke, Moran never spoke, I never spoke. I seem to speak, that's because he says "I" as if he were I. (I nearly believed him. Do you hear him: "As if he were I"?) I who am far, who can't move, can't be found. But neither can he. He can only talk, if that much. Perhaps it's not he. Perhaps it's a multitude, one after another.
Someone mentions confusion? Is it a sin? All here is sin. You don't know why, you don't know whose, you don't know against whom.
Someone says "you"? It's the fault of the pronouns. There is no name for me, no pronoun for me: all the trouble comes from that.
"That?" It's a kind of pronoun too. It isn't that either, I'm not that either.
Let us leave all that, forget about all that: it's not difficult. Our concern is with someone, or our concern is with something (now we're getting it) - someone or something that is not there, or that is not anywhere, or that is there. (Here? why not, after all?) And our concern is with speaking of that (now we've got it). You don't know why, why you must speak of that: no one can speak of that, you speak of yourself, someone speaks of himself. That's it, in the singular: a single one, the man on duty. (He? I? No matter.) The man on duty speaks of himself. (It's not that. Of others? It's not that either.) He doesn't know (how could he know?) whether he has spoken of that or not (when speaking of himself, when speaking of others, when speaking of things). How can I know (I can't know) if I've spoken of him? I can only speak of me. No, I can't speak of anything. And yet I speak. Perhaps it's of him, I'll never know. (How could I know?) Who could know? Who knowing could tell me?
I don't know who it's all about, that's all I know. No, I must know something else, they must have taught me something. It's about him who knows nothing, wants nothing, can do nothing (if it's possible you can do nothing when you want nothing), who cannot hear, cannot speak, who is I, who cannot be I, of whom I can't speak, of whom I must speak.
That's all hypotheses: I said nothing, someone said nothing. It's not a question of hypotheses, it's a question of going on. It goes on. Hypotheses are like everything else, they help you on - as if there were need of help (that's right, impersonal), as if there were any need of help to go on with a thing that can't stop. And yet it will, it will stop. Do you hear? The voice says it will stop, some day. It says it will stop and it says it will never stop.
Fortunately I have no opinion: what would I have an opinion with? With my mouth perhaps, if it's mine. I don't feel a mouth on me, that means nothing. If only I could feel a mouth on me, if only I could feel something on me! I'll try, if I can. I know it's not I, that's all I know. I say "I", knowing it's not I: I am far. "Far" - what does that mean, "far"? No need to be far, perhaps he's here, in my arms. I don't feel any arms on me. If only I could feel something on me, it would be a starting-point. A starting-point! (Ah if I could laugh! I know what it is, they must have told me what it is, but I can't do it. They can't have shown me how to do it. Perhaps it's one of those gifts that can't be acquired.)
The silence. A word on the silence, in the silence. (That's the worst, to speak of silence.) Then lock me up (lock someone up). That is to say.....
What is that to say?
I'm calm. I'm locked up, I'm in something. It's not I, that's all I know. No more about that. That is to say, make a place, a little world. It will be round, this time it will be round (it's not certain), low of ceiling, thick of wall. (Why low, why thick? I don't know, it isn't certain, it remains to be seen - all remains to be seen.) A little world. Try and find out what it's like (try and guess). Put someone in it, seek someone in it. And what he's like, and how he manages. It won't be I. No matter.
Perhaps it will! Perhaps it will be my world! (Possible coincidence.) There won't be any windows, we're done with windows: the sea refused me, the sky didn't see me, I wasn't there - and the summer evening air weighing on my eyelids. (We must have eyelids, we must have eyeballs, it's preferable.) They must have explained to me (someone must have explained to me) what it's like, an eye: at the window, before the sea, before the earth, before the sky. At the window, against the air. Opening, shutting: grey, black, grey, black. I must have understood. I must have wanted it, wanted the eye, for my own. I must have tried.
All the things they've told me, all the things I've tried! They come in useful still, when I think of them. That too - you must go on thinking too, the old thoughts. They call that thinking: it's visions, shreds of old visions, that's all you can see - a few old pictures, a window. What need had they to show me a window, saying - no, I forget, it doesn't come back to me - a window, saying "There are others, even more beautiful"? And the rest: walls, sky, man (like Mahood), a little nature. (Too long to go over, too forgotten, too little forgotten.) Was it necessary?
But was that how it happened?
Who can have come here? The devil perhaps: I can think of no one else. It's he showed me everything - here, in the dark. And how to speak, and what to say, and a little nature, and a few names. And the outside of men (those in my image, whom I might resemble), and their way of living - in rooms, in sheds, in caverns, in woods (or coming and going, I forget). And who went away and left me, knowing I was tempted, knowing I was lost, whether I succumbed or not.
Have I succumbed, or not? I don't know. It's not I, that's all I know. Since that day it's not I any more, since that day there is no one any more. I must have succumbed.
That's all hypotheses, that helps you forward: I believe in progress, I believe in silence.
Ah yes, a few words on the silence, then the little world: that will be enough, for the rest of eternity. (You'd think it was I - I speaking, I hearing, I making plans, for the passing hour, for the rest of eternity. Whereas I'm far, or in my arms somewhere, or stowed away somewhere, behind walls.) A few words on the silence, then just one thing more. Just one space and someone within, perhaps, until the end. I believe it….. (it's evening already: I call that evening, I wish you could see it)…. I believe it this evening, it's announced and I believe it. You announce, then you renounce. So it is. That helps you on, that helps the end to come, evenings when there is an end. (I speak of evening, someone speaks of evening. Perhaps it's still morning, perhaps it's still night. Personally I have no opinion.)
They love each other, marry (in order to love each other better, more conveniently). He goes to the wars, he dies at the wars. She weeps (with emotion) at having loved him, at having lost him. (Yep!) Marries again (in order to love again, more conveniently again). They love each other. (You love as many times as necessary - as necessary in order to be happy.) He come back (the other comes back) from the wars: he didn't die at the wars after all. She goes to the station, to meet him. He dies in the train (of emotion) at the thought of seeing her again, having her again. She weeps (weeps again, with emotion again) at having lost him again. (Yep!) Goes back to the house. He's dead - the other is dead. The mother-in-law takes him down: he hanged himself (with emotion) at the thought of losing her. She weeps (weeps louder) at having loved him, at having lost him.
There's a story for you! That was to teach me the nature of emotion (that's called emotion): what emotion can do (given favourable conditions), what love can do. (Well well! So that's emotion! That's love!) And trains, the nature of trains. And the meaning of your back to the engine, and guards, stations, platforms, wars, love, heart-rending cries. (That must be the mother-in-law: her cries rend the heart as she takes down her son. Or her son-in-law? I don't know. It must be her son, since she cries.) And the door? The house-door is bolted: when she got back from the station she found the house-door bolted. Who bolted it? He the better to hang himself? Or the mother-in-law the better to take him down? Or to prevent her daughter-in-law from re-entering the premises? There's a story for you! (It must be the daughter-in-law: it isn't the son-in-law and the daughter, it's the daughter-in-law and the son. How I reason to be sure this evening!) It was to teach me how to reason, it was to tempt me to go, to the place where you can come to an end.
I must have been a good pupil up to a point (I couldn't get beyond a certain point). I can understand their annoyance, this evening I begin to understand. (Oh there's no danger: it's not I, it wasn't I.)
The door, it's the door interests me (a wooden door). Who bolted the door, and for what purpose? I'll never know.
There's a story for you! I thought they were over. Perhaps it's a new one, lepping fresh. Is it the return to the world of fable? No, just a reminder, to make me regret what I have lost, long to be again at the place I was banished from. (Unfortunately it doesn't remind me of anything.)
The silence. Speak of the silence before going into it. Was I there already? I don't know. At every instant I'm there. Listen to me speaking of it, I knew it would come. I emerge from it to speak of it, I stay in it to speak of it. (If it's I who speak - and it's not: I act as if I were, sometimes I act as if I were.) But at length? Was I ever there at length, a long stay? I understand nothing about duration, I can't speak of it. I never say "never" and "ever", I speak of the four seasons and the different parts of the day and night. (The night has no parts, that's because you are asleep.) The seasons must be very similar: perhaps it's springtime now.
That's all words they taught me (without making their meaning clear to me). That's how I learnt to reason. I use them all, all the words they showed me. There were columns of them (oh the strange glow all of a sudden!): they were on lists, with images opposite. I must have forgottten them, I must have mixed them up - these nameless images I have, these imageless names. These windows I should perhaps rather call doors (at least by some other name). And this word "man" which is perhaps not the right one for the thing I see when I hear it? But an instant, an hour, and so on - how can they be represented? A life, how could that be made clear to me, here, in the dark? (I call that the dark, perhaps it's azure.) Blank words. But I use them, they keep coming back - all those they showed me, all those I remember. I need them all, to be able to go on. (It's a lie: a score would be plenty, tried and trusty, unforgettable, nicely varied - that would be palette enough. I'd mix them, I'd vary them. That would be gamut enough.)
All the things I'd do if I could! If I wished (if I could wish)! No need to wish, that's how it will end: in heart-rending cries, inarticulate murmurs (to be invented, as I go along, improvised, as I groan along). I'll laugh - that's how it will end, in a chuckle. "Chuck chuck, ow, ha, pa." (I'll practise). "Nyum, hoo, plop, psss." (Nothing but emotion). "Bing bang!" (That's blows.) "Ugh, pooh!" What else? "Oooh, aaah!" (That's love.) Enough, it's tiring. "Hee hee!" (That's the Abderite - no, the other).
In the end (it's the end, the ending end) it's the silence, a few gurgles on the silence, the real silence. Not the one (where I macerate up to the mouth, up to the ear) that covers me, uncovers me, breathes with me, like a cat with a mouse: that of the drowned. I've drowned, more than once (it wasn't I), suffocated, set fire to me, thumped on my head with wood and iron. It wasn't I. There was no head, no wood, no iron. I didn't do anything to me, I didn't do anything to anyone, no one did anything to me: there is no one (I've looked), no one but me. No, not me either (I've looked everywhere). There must be someone? The voice must belong to someone? I've no objection. What it wants I want. I am it. (I've said so, it says so: from time to time it says so, then it says not - I've no objection.) I want it to go silent, it wants to go silent, it can't. It does for a second, then it starts again: that's not the real silence. What can be said of the real silence? I don't know. That I don't know what it is? That there is no such thing? That perhaps there is such a thing? Yes, that perhaps there is somewhere. I'll never know.
But when it falters? And when it stops? But it falters every instant, it stops every instant! Yes, but when it stops for a good few moments, a good few moments (what are a good few moments?) - what then? Murmurs, then it must be murmurs. And listening, someone listening. No need of an ear, no need of a mouth: the voice listens, as when it speaks, listens to its silence - that makes a murmur, that makes a voice (a small voice - the same voice only small). It sticks in the throat (there's the throat again, there's the mouth again), it fills the ear (there's the ear again). Then I vomit, someone vomits, someone starts vomiting again. That must be how it happens. I have no explanations to offer, none to demand. The comma will come where I'll drown for good, then the silence. I believe it this evening.
Still this evening! How it drags on! (I've no objection.) Perhaps it's springtime: violets (no, that's autumn). There's a time for everything: for the things that pass, the things that end (they could never get me to understand that), the things that stir, depart, return, a light changing (they could never get me to see that). And death into the bargain: a voice dying. (That's a good one!) Silence at last. Not a murmur, no air, no one listening (not for the likes of me). Amen. On we go.
Enormous prison, like a hundred thousand cathedrals. Never anything else any more, from this time forth. And in it, somewhere, perhaps - riveted, tiny - the prisoner. How can he be found?
(How false this space is! What falseness instantly, to want to draw that round you, to want to put a being there! A cell would be plenty.)
If I gave up! If only I could give up! Before beginning, before beginning again! (What breathlessness! That's right, ejaculations! That helps you on, that puts off the fatal hour. No? The reverse? I don't know.)
Start again? In this immensity, this obscurity? Go through the motions of starting again.? You who can't stir, you who never started?
You the who?
Go through the motions? What motions? You can't stir.
You launch your voice, it dies away in the vault. (It calls that a vault - perhaps it's the abyss: those are words). It speaks of a prison (I've no objection) vast enough for a whole people, for me alone (or waiting for me). I'll go there now, I'll try and go there now.
I can't stir.
I'm there already! I must be there already! Perhaps I'm not alone: perhaps a whole people is here, and the voice its voice, coming to me fitfully. We would have lived, been free a moment. Now we talk about it, each one to himself (each one out loud for himself). And we listen. A whole people, talking and listening, all together! That would ex .....
No, I'm alone (perhaps the first, or perhaps the last): talking alone, listening alone, alone alone. The others are gone, they have been stilled (their voices stilled, their listening stilled, one by one, at each new-coming). Another will come? I won't be the last? I'll be with the others (I'll be as gone) in the silence? (It won't be I, it's not I.)
I'm not there yet. I'll go there now, I'll try and go there now.
No use trying. I wait for my turn: my turn to go there, my turn to talk there, my turn to listen there, my turn to wait there for my turn to go, to be as gone. (It's unending, it will be unending.) Gone where? Where do you go from there? You must go somewhere else, wait somewhere else, for your turn to go again, and so on (a whole people, or I alone). And come back? And begin again? No: go on, go on again. It's a circuit, a long circuit. I know it well. (I must know it well.)
It's a lie. I can't stir. I haven't stirred. (I launch the voice? I hear a voice.) There is nowhere but here. There are not two places, there are not two prisons. It's my parlour (it's a parlour!), where I wait for nothing. I don't know where it is, I don't know what it's like, that's no business of mine. I don't know if it's big, or if it's small, or if it's closed, if it's open. (That's right, reiterate: that helps you on.) Open on what? There is nothing else, only it. Open on the void, open on the nothing. (I've no objection: those are words.) Open on the silence, looking out on the silence, straight out - why not? All this time on the brink of silence, I knew it! On a rock, lashed to a rock, in the midst of silence. Its great swell rears towards me, I'm streaming with it. (It's an image: those are words.) It's a body, it's not I - I knew it wouldn't be I. I'm not outside, I'm inside, I'm in something, I'm shut up: the silence is outside. Nothing but this voice and the silence all round. No need of walls? Yes, we must have walls: I need walls, good and thick. I need a prison (I was right), for me alone. I'll go there now, I'll put me in it.
I'm there already: I'll start looking for me now, I'm there somewhere. It won't be I - no matter, I'll say it's I. Perhaps it will be I. Perhaps that's all they're waiting for (there they are again) to give me quittance. Waiting for me to say I'm someone, to say I'm somewhere, to put me out, into the silence.
I see nothing. It's because there is nothing. Or it's because I have no eyes. Or both. (That makes three possibilities, to choose from.) But do I really see nothing? It's not the moment to tell a lie. But how can you not tell a lie? What an idea!
A voice like this, who can check it? It tries everything. It's blind, it seeks me blindly, in the dark. It seeks a mouth, to enter into. Who can query it? There is no other. (You'd need a head? you'd need things? I don't know. I look too often as if I knew. It's the voice does that: it goes all knowing, to make me think I know, to make me think it's mine.)
It has no interest in eyes. It says I have none, or that they are no use to me. Then it speaks of tears. Then it speaks of gleams. It is truly at a loss. Gleams? Yes: far or near. (Distances: you know, measurements. Enough said?) Gleams, as at dawn. Then dying, as at evening. Or flaring up - they do that too: blaze up more dazzling than snow, for a second (that's short!), then fizzle out.
That's true enough?
If you like: one forgets, I forget. I say I see nothing, or I say it's all in my head (as if I felt a head on me!). That's all hypotheses, lies. These gleams too: they were to save me, they were to devour me. That came to nothing. I see nothing (either because of this or else on account of that). And these images at which they watered me, like a camel, before the desert? I don't know. More lies, just for the fun of it? (Fun! What fun we've had! What fun of it!) All lies? (That's soon said - you must say soon, it's the regulations.)
The place. I'll make it all the same. I'll make it in my head, I'll draw it out of my memory, I'll gather it all about me. (I'll make myself a head, I'll make myself a memory.) I have only to listen: the voice will tell me everything (tell it to me again), everything I need - in dribs and drabs, breathless.
It's like a confession, a last confession. You think it's finished, then it starts off again: there were so many sins, the memory is so bad. The words don't come, the words fail, the breath fails.
No, it's something else. It's an indictment, a dying voice accusing. (Accusing me: you must accuse someone, a culprit is indispensable.) It speaks of my sins, it speaks of my head. It says it's mine, it says that I repent, that I want to be punished, better than I am, that I want to go, give myself up (a victim is essential). I have only to listen. It will show me my hiding-place: what it's like, where the door is (if there's a door), and whereabouts I am in it. And what lies between us, how the land lies, what kind of country (whether it's sea, or whether it's mountain). And the way to take, so that I may go, make my escape, give myself up, come to the place where the axe falls (without further ceremony) on all who come from here. (I'm not the first, I won't be the first.) It will best me in the end (it has bested better than me). It will tell me what to do, in order to rise, move, act like a body endowed with despair. (That's how I reason, that's how I hear myself reasoning.)
All lies: it's not me they're calling, not me they're talking about. It's not yet my turn, it's someone else's turn. That's why I can't stir, that's why I don't feel a body on me. I'm not suffering enough to be able to stir, to have a body (complete with head, to be able to understand), to have eyes to light the way. I merely hear, without understanding, without being able to profit by it (by what I hear). To do what? To rise and go and be done with hearing.
I don't hear everything, that must be it, the important things escape me: it's not my turn. (The topographical and anatomical information in particular is lost on me.) No, I hear everything (what difference does it make?), the moment it's not my turn: my turn to understand, my turn to live, my turn of the life-screw (it calls that living!), the space of the way from here to the door. It's all there, in what I hear, somewhere - if all has been said, all this long time. All must have been said. But it's not my turn to know what: to know what I am, where I am, and what I should do to stop being it, to stop being there (that's coherent), so as to be another (no? the same? I don't know), depart into life, travel the road, find the door, find the axe (perhaps it's a cord) for the neck, for the throat, for the cords. (Or fingers: I'll have eyes, I'll see fingers.) It will be the silence. (Perhaps it's a drop: find the door, open the door, drop. Into the silence.)
It won't be I. I'll stay here - or there (more likely there). It will never be I, that's all I know. It's been done already, said and said again: the departure, the body that rises, the way (in colour), the arrival, the door that opens, closes again. It was never I. I've never stirred, I've listened.
I must have spoken?
Why deny it? Why not admit it, after all? (I deny nothing, I admit nothing.) I say what I hear? I hear what I say? I don't know. One or the other. Or both. (That makes three possibilities: pick your fancy.)
All these stories about travellers, these stories about paralytics: all are mine. I must be extremely old (or it's memory playing tricks). If only I knew if I've lived, if I live, if I'll live - that would simplify everything! Impossible to find out, that's where you're buggered. I haven't stirred, that's all I know. (No, I know something else: it's not I - I always forget that.) I resume (you must resume): never stirred from here, never stopped telling stories, to myself (hardly hearing them, hearing something else, listening for something else), wondering now and then where I got them from. Was I in the land of the living? Were they in mine? And where? Where do I store them? (In my head? I don't feel a head on me.) And what do I tell them with? With my mouth? (Same remark.) And what do I hear them with?
And so on, the old rigmarole. It can't be I. Or it's because I pay no heed: it's such an old habit, I do it without heeding. Or as if I were somewhere else.
There I am far again, there I am absentee again: it's his turn now, he who neither speaks nor listens, who has neither body nor soul. It's something else he has: he must have something, he must be somewhere. He is made of silence (there's a pretty analysis), he's in the silence. He's the one to be sought, the one to be, the one to be spoken of, the one to speak. But he can't speak: then I could stop, I'd be he, I'd be the silence, I'd be back in the silence, we'd be reunited, his story the story to be told.
But he has no story, he hasn't been in story? It's not certain. He's in his own story, unimaginable, unspeakable. That doesn't matter: the attempt must be made, in the old stories incomprehensibly mine, to find his. It must be there somewhere. It must have been mine, before being his. I'll recognize it, in the end I'll recognize it: the story of the silence that he never left, that I should never have left, that I may never find again, that I may find again. Then it will be he, it will be I, it will be the place: the silence, the end, the beginning, the beginning again - how can I say it? That's all words, they're all I have - and not many of them: the words fail, the voice fails. So be it. I know that well. It will be the silence, full of murmurs, distant cries. The usual silence, spent listening, spent waiting, waiting for the voice.
The cries abate, like all cries. (That is to say they stop.) The murmurs cease, they give up. The voice begins again (it begins trying again). Quick now before there is none left, no voice left, nothing left but the core of murmurs, distant cries: quick now and try again, with the words that remain. Try what? (I don't know, I've forgotten, it doesn't matter, I never knew.) To have them carry me into my story, the words that remain? (My old story, which I've forgotten, far from here.) Through the noise, through the door. Perhaps I'm at the door! (That would surprise me.) Perhaps it's I! Perhaps somewhere or other it was I! I can depart! All this time I've journeyed without knowing it: it's I now at the door. (What door? What's a door doing here?)
It's the last words, the true last? Or it's the murmurs? (The murmurs are coming, I know that well.) No, not even that. You talk of murmurs, distant cries, as long as you can talk. You talk of them before and you talk of them after. More lies: it will be the silence (the one that doesn't last) spent listening, spent waiting (for it to be broken, for the voice to break it). Perhaps there's no other, I don't know. It's not worth having, that's all I know. (It's not I, that's all I know.) It's not mine. It's the only one I ever had? That's a lie: I must have had the other, the one that lasts - but it didn't last. (I don't understand.) That is to say it did: it still lasts. I'm still in it. I left myself behind in it. I'm waiting for me there. (No, there you don't wait, you don't listen.)
I don't know: perhaps it's a dream, all a dream. (That would surprise me.) I'll wake, in the silence, and never sleep again. (It will be I?) Or dream (dream again), dream of a silence, a dream silence, full of murmurs (I don't know, that's all words), never wake (all words, there's nothing else).
You must go on, that's all I know.
They're going to stop, I know that well: I can feel it. They're going to abandon me. It will be the silence, for a moment (a good few moments). Or it will be mine? The lasting one, that didn't last, that still lasts? It will be I?
You must go on.
I can't go on.
You must go on.
I'll go on. You must say words, as long as there are any - until they find me, until they say me. (Strange pain, strange sin!) You must go on. Perhaps it's done already. Perhaps they have said me already. Perhaps they have carried me to the threshold of my story, before the door that opens on my story. (That would surprise me, if it opens.)
It will be I? It will be the silence, where I am? I don't know, I'll never know: in the silence you don't know.
You must go on.
I can't go on.
I'll go on.