Thursday, 25 July 2013

Civilised Bigotry

Nell watches Frieda as she enters the room, walks across it, and goes out through the French windows.  She tries faintly to say hallo to a woman who appears neither to see nor to hear, nor to notice anything; stiff and silent Frieda is acting like the zombie she indeed is; all the life sucked out of her by the prejudices of this family who have rejected her in a time of crisis.  For a few moments Nell is confused, and remains seated in her chair.  Then curious and uneasy she gets up, goes to the open window and looks out onto the snow covered-countryside, where she sees Frieda walking towards the river.  Nell has a revelation: she is going to jump in!  After a few seconds of hesitation she goes back into the room, draws the curtains, and slowly returns to her comfortable armchair.  It is an extraordinary moment, which the photography turns into brilliant images: a series of shadows vanish and emerge again and again out of the folds of the curtains as Nell moves across the room towards the camera.  A crowd of ghosts is following her!  Real psychological demons - of guilt, of shame, of national fanaticism and of populist politics – that refuse to leave her alone, despite her inflexible will and ideological obduracy.  For Nell has decided, as she herself will later say, that it is for best – for Frieda, for Robert (and of course for Nell Dawson) – that this young German should die.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Get Me Out of Here!

Albert Brent… could not understand… how they could have ever reached, and could continue to suffer, such a condition of dullness, torpidity, inactivity, stupidity, and silence…

They didn’t talk, they didn’t laugh, they didn’t seem to enjoy their food, they didn’t seem to go out, they didn’t seem to have any interests, they didn’t seem to like each other much, they didn’t even seem to hate each other much, they didn’t seem to do anything.  All they seemed to do was to crawl in one by one, murmur a little to the waitress, mutter little requests to pass the salt, shift in their chairs, occasionally modestly cough or blow their noses, sit, eat, wait, eat, and at last crawl out again, one by one, without a word, to heaven knew where to do heaven knew what…

Most of them, he thought, were pretty ordinary boarding-house specimens…  The two younger women also, he supposed, were of a type.

He studied these two – one of whom, he observed, was a foreigner.  Plain women, both of them, though the darker one had a “nice” face.  Not likely to marry, either of them – the spinster type – not likely to marry unless a bit of luck came their way – which might not be impossible with all these Americans about.  What puzzled him was the way the awful atmosphere of the place seemed to have got these two women down as well.  They were comparatively young – young enough to talk and laugh, to exhibit some sign of vivacity, of response to life.  But no – instead of this they seemed to be, in some way, duller, dumber, more deadly quiet and lifeless than all the others.

Imagine this.  Then imagine you live alone, with plenty of habits, which you have come to rely on, including the fifteen-minute chat with your neighbours at the end of each work busy day.  Think about this.  Now imagine the community in which you live.  It is a tightly squeezed small-minded place that has the power to ostracise you for once and forever if it thinks you aloof or strange.  One fundamental disagreement and poof! gone is your daily fix.  And although these conversations will be banal and repetitive, mostly about the weather and “those beastly Germans”, and the “greasy spivs” who are making a fortune “while our lads are losing their legs and limbs”, they are as necessary for you as a hit is for a heroin addict.  Heroin!  “A vile practice the social scum do in back alleys…”

Friday, 5 July 2013

The Abominable Lake

Deep in the still mysterious waters of the lake a world lies
drowned.
How sombre and sad the silent world in the womb of the lake,
Not the reflection of Tellus, not the arch of heaven
Lies in the waters of the abominable lake,
But an earth and a heaven beyond the dominion of Time,
Beyond the soft sensual touch of the seasonal flow
And the inviolable sequence of midnight and noon.
Poor world, my heart breaks for your sealed inarticulate woe,
And the tears that are frozen in yours melt to flood in my eyes,
Overflow and descend and impinge on the waters of the lake
And shatter at once the form of the silent world.
But the teardrops mingle, the waters shudders and close,
And again and again the sad world is revealed to my sight.
Then I know, and the knowledge transfixed my sensitive heart,
Not my tears, nor my prayers, nor my gold shall encompass at last
A freedom unthought, manumission unhoped, undesired.