Sunday, 5 August 2012

Willy nilly a willow

"William saw her home as usual and cuddled her a little in the darkness of the doorway. All of a sudden, she felt that his face was wet. He covered it with his hand and groped for his handkerchief. 'Raining in Paradise,' he said... 'the onion of happiness... poor Willy is willy nilly a willow.' He kissed the corner of her mouth and then blew his nose with a faint moist squizzle. 'Grown-up men don't cry,' said Anne. 'But I'm not a grown-up,' he replied with a whimper. 'That moon is childish, and that wet pavement is childish, and Love is a honey-suckling babe...' 'Please stop,' she said. 'You know I hate when you go on talking like that. It's so silly, so...' 'So Willy', he sighed. He kissed her again and they stood like some soft dark statue with 2 dim heads. A policeman passed leading the night on a leash and then paused to let it sniff at a pillar-box. 'I'm as happy as you', she said, 'but I don't want to cry in the least or to talk nonsense.' 'But can't you see,' he whispered, 'can't you see that happiness at its very best is but the zany of its own mortality?' 'Good night', said Anne. 'Tomorrow at 8,' he cried as he slipped away. He patted the door gently and presently was strolling down the street. She is warm and she is pretty, he mused, and I love her, and it's all no good, no good, because we are dying. I cannot bear that backward glide into the past. That last kiss is already dead and The Woman in White [a film they had been to see that night] is stone-dead, and the policeman who passed is dead too, and even the door is as dead as its nail. And that last thought is already a dead thing by now. Coates (the doctor) is right when he says that my heart is too small for my size. And sighs. He wandered on talking to himself, his shadow now pulling a long nose, now dropping a curtsey, as it slipped back round a lamp-post. When he reached his dismal lodgings he was a long time climbing the dark stairs. Before going to bed he knocked at the conjuror's door and found the old man standing in his underwear and inspecting a pair of black trousers. 'Well?' said William... 'They don't kinda like my accent,' he replied, 'but I guess I'm going to get that turn all the same.' William sat down on the bed and said: 'You ought to dye your hair.' 'I'm more bald than gray,' said the conjuror. 'I sometimes wonder,' said William, 'where the things we shed are- because they must go somewhere, you know- lost hair, fingernails...' 'Been drinking again,' suggested the conjuror without much curiosity. He folded his trousers with care and told William to quit the bed, so that he might put them under the mattress. William sat down on a chair and the conjuror went on with his business; the hairs bristled on his calves, his lips were pursed, his soft hands moved tenderly. 'I am merely happy,' said William. 'You don't look it,' said the solemn old man. 'May I buy you a rabbit?' asked William. "I'll hire 1 when necessary,' the conjuror replied drawing out the 'necessary' as it it were an endless ribbon. 'A ridiculous profession,' said William, 'a pick-pocket gone mad, a matter of patter. The pennies in a beggar's cap and the omelette in your top hat. Absurdly the same.' 'We are used to insult,' said the conjuror. He calmly put out the light and William groped his way out. The books on the bed in his room seemed reluctant to move. As he undressed he imagined the forbidden bliss of a sunlit laundry: blue water and scarlet wrists. Might he beg Anne to wash his shirt? Had he really annoyed her again? Did she really believe they would be married some day? The pale little freckles on the glistening skin under her innocent eyes. The right front-tooth that protruded a little. Her soft warm neck. He felt again the pressure of tears. Would she go the way of May, Judy, Juliette, Augusta and all the rest of his love-embers? He heard the dancing-girl in the next room locking the door, washing, bumping down a jug, wistfully clearing her throat. Something dropped with a tinkle. The conjuror began to snore."

This is an excerpt from a fictitious book by Sebastian Knight. Chapter 10, "The Real Life of Sebastian Knight"- Vladimir Nabokov. 
The similarity between Sebastian Knight and Seymour Glass is indeed striking. 

I'm currently reading this book. 
Yesterday whilst walking on Karl Johans gate with my mom and looking at passers-by, I was attracted to a bookstore and came in. It had loads of books. And it's not just the number of books, but the way the books were put on the shelves and the shelves were put beside each other that overwhelmed me really, and I was filled with joy, immense joy, especially when I, to my surprise, found 1 of the 3 books that I had been thinking and talking of buying, "Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction" by J. D. Salinger (since reading it last year, I have always wanted to own it), I was, literally, ecstatically happy, and remained so for the rest of the day. 

Edit- 8/8/2012: 
Another passage in the book: 
"...Time and space were to him measures of the same eternity, so that the very idea of his reacting in any special "modern" way to what Mr Goodman calls "the atmosphere of postwar Europe" is utterly preposterous. He was intermittently happy and uncomfortable in the world into which he came, just as a traveller may be exhilarated by visions of his voyage and be almost simultaneously sea-sick. Whatever age Sebastian might have been born in, he would have been equally amused and unhappy, joyful and apprehensive, as a child at a pantomime now and then thinking of tomorrow's dentist. And the reason of his discomfort was not that he was moral in an immoral age, or immoral in a moral one, neither was it that cramped feeling of his youth not blowing naturally enough in a world which was too rapid a succession of funerals and fireworks; it was simply his becoming aware that the rhythm of his inner being was so much richer than that of other souls..." 
Doesn't that sound exactly like Buddy talking of his brother Seymour- the poet, the true artist, the seer? 

I finished the book last night, and no need to say, I love it, and Vladimir Nabokov is indeed a monster and a master. 

Edit- 10/8/2012: 
Milena Jesenska, on Kafka: 

“He was shy, timid, gentle, and kind, but he wrote gruesome and painful books. He saw the world as full of invisible demons, who tear apart and destroy defenseless people. He was too clear-sighted and too wise to be able to live; he was too weak to fight, he had that weakness of noble, beautiful people who are not able to do battle against the fear of misunderstandings, unkindness, or intellectual lies. Such persons know beforehand that they are powerless and go down in defeat in such a way that they shame the victor. He knew people as only people of great sensitivity are able to know them, as somebody who is alone and sees people almost prophetically, from one flash of a face. He knew the world in a deep and extraordinary manner. He was himself a deep and extraordinary world.”
"We are all capable of living, because at one time or another we have taken refuge in a lie, in blindness, enthusiasm, optimism, a conviction, pessimism, or something else. But has never fled to any refuge, not one. He is absolutely incapable of lying, just as he is incapable of getting drunk. He lacks even the smallest refuge; he has no shelter. That is why he is exposed to everything we are protected from. He is like a naked man among the dressed."

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