Uit: The Quest
“Two lonely figures came down from the high mountains. They were dressed in travel-worn furs and leather helmets with ear-flaps strapped beneath their chins against the cold. Their beards were untrimmed and their faces weatherbeaten. They carried all their meagre possessions upon their backs. It had taken a hard and daunting journey to reach this spot. Although he led, Meren had no inkling where they were, neither was he sure why they had come so far. Only the old man who followed close behind him knew that, and he had not yet chosen to enlighten Meren.
Since leaving Egypt they had crossed seas and lakes and many mighty rivers; they had traversed vast plains and forests. They had encountered strange and dangerous animals and even stranger and more dangerous men. Then they had entered the mountains, a prodigious chaos of snowy peaks and gaping gorges, where the thin air was hard to breathe. Their horses had died in the cold and Meren had lost the tip of one finger, burned black and rotting by the crackling frosts. Fortunately it was not the finger of his sword hand, nor one of those that released the arrow from his great bow.
Meren stopped on the brink of the last sheer cliff. The old man came up beside him. His fur coat was made from the skin of a snow tiger that Meren had slain with a single arrow as it sprang upon him. Standing shoulder to shoulder, they looked down on a foreign land of rivers and dense green jungles.
‘Five years,’ Meren said. ‘Five years we have been upon the road. Is this the end of the journey, Magus?’
‘Ha, good Meren, surely it has not been that long?’ Taita asked, and his eyes sparkled teasingly under frost-white brows.
In reply Meren unslung his sword scabbard from his back and displayed the lines of notches scratched in the leather. ‘I have recorded every day, should you wish to count them,’ he assured him. He had followed Taita and protected him for more than half his own lifetime, but he was still never entirely certain whether the other was serious or merely jesting with him. ‘But you have not answered my question, revered Magus. Have we reached the end of our journey?’
Wilbur Smith (Broken Hill, 9 januari 1933)
Uit: Berlin! Berlin!
„Diese Stadt zieht mit gefurchter Stirne – sit venia verbo! – ihren Karren im ewig selben Gleis. Und merkt nicht, daß sie ihn im Kreise herumzieht und nicht vom Fleck kommt. Der Berliner kann sich nicht unterhalten. Manchmal sieht man zwei Leute miteinander sprechen, aber sie unterhalten sich nicht, sondern sie sprechen nur ihre Monologe gegeneinander.
Die Berliner können auch nicht zuhören. Sie warten nur ganz gespannt
, bis der andere aufgehört hat, zu reden, und dann haken sie ein. Auf diese Weise werden viele berliner Konversationen geführt.
Die Berlinerin ist sachlich und klar. Auch in der Liebe. Geheimnisse hat sie nicht. Sie ist ein braves, liebes Mädel, das der galante Ortsliederdichter gern und viel feiert.
Der Berliner hat vom Leben nicht viel, es sei denn, er verdiente Geld. Geselligkeit pflegt er nicht, weil das zu viel Umstände macht – er kommt mit seinen Bekannten zusammen, beklatscht sich ein bißchen und wird um zehn Uhr schläfrig.
Der Berliner ist ein Sklave seines Apparats. Er ist Fahrgast, Theaterbesucher, Gast in den Restaurants und Angestellter. Mensch weniger. Der Apparat zupft und zerrt an seinen Nervenenden, und er gibt hemmungslos nach. Er tut alles, was die Stadt von ihm verlangt nur leben … das leider nicht.
Der Berliner schnurrt seinen Tag herunter, und wenns fertig ist, dann ists Mühe und Arbeit gewesen. Weiter nichts. Man kann siebzig Jahre in dieser Stadt leben, ohne den geringsten Vorteil für seine unsterbliche Seele.
Früher war Berlin einmal ein gut funktionierender Apparat. Eine ausgezeichnet angefertigte Wachspuppe, die selbsttätig Arme und Beine bewegte, wenn man zehn Pfennig oben hineinwarf. Heute kann man viele Zehnpfennigstücke hineinwerfen, die Puppe bewegt sich kaum – der Apparat ist eingerostet und arbeitet nur noch träge und langsam. Denn gar häufig wird in Berlin gestreikt. Warum -? So genau weiß man das nicht. Manche Leute sind dagegen, und manche Leute sind dafür. Warum -? So genau weiß man das nicht.
Die Berliner sind einander spinnefremd. Wenn sie sich nicht irgendwo vorgestellt sind, knurren sie sich in der Straße und in den Bahnen an, denn sie haben miteinander nicht viel Gemeinsames. Sie wollen voneinander nichts wissen, und jeder lebt ganz für sich. Berlin vereint die Nachteile einer amerikanischen Großstadt mit denen einer deutschen Provinzstadt. Seine Vorzüge stehen im Baedeker.
In der Sommerfrische sieht der Berliner jedes Jahr, daß man auch auf der Erde leben kann. Er versuchte vier Wochen, es gelingt ihm nicht – denn er hat es nicht gelernt und weiß nicht, was das ist: leben – und wenn er dann wieder glücklich auf dem Anhalter Bahnhof landet, blinzelt er seiner Straßenbahnlinie zu und freut sich, daß er wieder in Berlin ist. Das Leben hat er vergessen.“
Kurt Tucholsky (9 januari 1890 – 21 december 1935)
Uit: Faith Healer
„GRACE. Abergorlech, Abergynolwyn, Llandefeilog, Llanerchymedd, Aberhosan, Aberporth …
It’s winter, it’s night, it’s raining, the Welsh roads are narrow, we’re on our way to a performance. He always called it a performance, teasing the word with that mocking voice of his — “Where do I perfor
m tonight?” “Do you expect a performance in a place like this?” — as if it were a game he might take part in only if he felt like it, maybe because that was the only way he could talk about it. Anyhow Teddy’s driving as usual, and I’m in the passenger seat, and he’s immediately behind us, the Fantastic Francis Hardy, Faith Healer, with his back to us and the whiskey bottle between his legs, and he’s squatting on the floor of the van — no, not squatting — crouched, wound up, concentrated, and happy — no, not happy, certainly not happy, I don’t think he ever knew what happiness was — but always before a performance he’d be … in complete mastery — yes, that’s close to it — in such complete mastery that everything is harmonized for him, in such mastery that anything is possible. And when you speak to him he turns his head and looks beyond you with those damn benign eyes of his, looking past you out of his completion, out of that private power, out of that certainty that was accessible only to him. God, how I resented that privacy! And he’s reciting the names of all those dying Welsh villages — Aberarder, Aberayron, Llangranog, Llangurig — releasing them from his mouth in that special voice he used only then, as if he were blessing them or consecrating himself. And then, for him, I didn’t exist. Many, many, many times I didn’t exist for him. But before a performance this exclusion — no, it wasn’t an exclusion, it was an erasion — this erasion was absolute: he obliterated me. Me who tended him, humoured him, nursed him, sustained him — who debauched myself for him. Yes. That’s the most persistent memory. Yes. And when I remember him like that in the back of the van, God how I hate him again —
Plaidy, Kirkinner …
(quietly, almost dreamily) Kinlochbervie’s where the baby’s buried, two miles south of the village, in a field of the lefthand side of the road as you go north. Funny, isn’t it, but I’ve never met anybody who’s been to Kinlochbervie, not even Scottish people. But it is a very small village and very remote, right away up in the north of Sutherland, about as far north as you can go in Scotland.“
Brian Friel (Omagh, 9 januari 1929)
Uit: Toomas Nipernaadi
„And the meadows are so brown, so brown and so grey, slopes and hollows brimming with early snow. I am flying, and feel as if everything is already past, as if I’ll never see those woods, those meadows and marshes again – this is the last flight, then farewell. In the distant south, my proud
wings will fold forever, and my white neck will droop. Sensing the transience of life, I try to take the last look down, as if wishing to take with me all those places where I’ve flown around so proudly for so many summers. Have you ever heard the song of the swans? It is but a scream, a horrifying, weird, wild scream, as if discarding the last ounce of vitality and joy to the fields below that stare back like a lover grown old.
Grey columns of smoke are ascending from huts and cottages into the crisp autumn air, the dogs bark, caravans move along the roads, rivers and lakes already hide under their icy cover, but all that is so far from me, so far! I still see – but my heart is cold and silent. I cannot, after all, take anything with me, the grave awaits me, and me alone.
Why am I thinking of autumn and transience in mid-summer?
Who knows, dear Anne-Mari – this summer might well be my last journey and my last farewell. What comes next, is something quite different.
These white nights make us sad and crazy.
I’d love to utter only tender words, but my lips reek of rotting corpse. At nights like this, our soul abandons its husk and wanders around restlessly, God only knows along which solitary roads and paths. In which marshes and thickets does it make friends with goblins, ferns and witches, what parties it attends in the company of ghosts! Perhaps it wanders in foreign lands and places where our mind will never take us. Maybe this is why we, northerners, yearn for new countries and new worlds, so that no place feels like home. Even our father’s house is like the shadow of a tree to a gypsy, where he will rest awhile, but never stay. The higher the sun climbs, the more restless we become, we resemble birds caught in a net, eyes bloodshot and mouth full of anguished screams. Our white nights have thus become nights of suffering, anxiety and sadness. The soul has departed, travelling its own course, while the shell, stuck firmly to ground, is distressed and uneasy, because it is rooted to its land like a tree clings with its roots, wishing the soul to return.
This is probably why I cannot keep still either.
I feverishly grasp every thought and plan, totally unable to calm down. One thought chases the other, one venture leads to ten more. I mostly mean well, but it often ends in misery. Just my bad luck, my dear.”
August Gailit (9 januari 1891 – 5 november 1960)
Wind blew, light drew them all.
New songs revive their mornings.
Only I, small bird, am forsaken
under the Shekhina’s wing.
Alone. I remain alone.
The Shekhina’s broken wing
trembled over my head. My heart knew hers:
her fear for her only son.
Driven from every ridge –
one desolate corner left –
in the House of Study she hides in shadow,
and I alone share her pain.
Imprisoned beneath her wing
my heart longed for the light.
She buried her face on my shoulder
and a tear fell on my page.
Dumbly she clung and wept.
Her broken wing sheltered me:
“scattered to the four winds of heaven;
they are gone, and I am alone”.
It was an ancient lament
a suppliant cry I heard
in that lost and silent weeping,
and in that scalding tear.
Vertaald door Ruth Nevo
Chaim Nachman Bialik (9 januari 1873 – 4 juli 1934)
Uit: Sweetwater Creek
„On a Thanksgiving eve, just before sunset, Emily and Elvis sat on the bank of a hummock where it slid down into Sweetwater Creek. Autumn in the Lowcountry of South Carolina is usually as slow and sweet as thick tawny port, and just as sleepily intoxicating. But this one had been born cold, with frosts searing late annuals in early October and chill nights so clear and still that the stars over the marshes and creeks bloomed like white chrysanthemums. Sweaters came out a full two months early, and furnaces rumbled dustily on in late September. Already Emily was shivering hard in her thin denim jacket, and had pulled Elvis closer for his body heat. In the morning, the spartina grass would be tinkling with a skin of ice and rime and the tidal creek would run as dark and clear as iced tea, the opaque, teeming strata of creek life having died out early or gone south with migratory birds. Emily missed the ribbons of birdsong you could usually hear well after Thanksgiving, but the whistle of quail and the blatting chorus of ducks and other waterfowl rang clearer, and the chuff and cough of deer come close. Emily loved the sounds of the winter animals; they said that life on the marsh would go on.
They sat on the bank overlooking the little sand beach where the river dolphins came to hurl themselves out of the water after the fish they had herded there. The dolphins were long gone to warmer seas, but at low tide the slide marks they wore into the sand were still distinct. They would not fade away until many more tides had washed them.
“There won’t be any of them this late,” Emily told Elvis. Elvis grinned up at her; he knew this. The dolphins were for heat and low tide. Girl and spaniel came almost every day in the summer and fall to watch them. Elvis’s internal clock was better by far than the motley collection of timepieces back in the farmhouse.”
Anne Rivers Siddons (Atlanta, 9 januari 1936)
Uit: Black Book (Il libro nero)
„A dear Maronite priest I met a few days before and that shows sincere appreciation to me, told me this morning:
– You’ve seen all the wonders that are expected to be seen in Constantinople, from Hagia Sophia to the Great Bazaar. But you haven’t seen yet the most peculiar curiosity of this amazing Byzantium: the Museum of the Remains.
– I’ve never heard about it.
– Do you have time? We can go at once. The owner of the museum, Muzafer, is my friend. Let’s go.
Already in one of the oldest and tortuous streets of the imperial sector, the good Maronite let me in by a little door leading to a beautiful courtyard, where a singing fountain let it sound a note of joy. A few moments later, the owner, a venerable Turk, dressed old-fashioned, corpulent and obsequious, accompanied us to visit his small but unique museum.
– My friend Muzafer, the good priest said, has wanted to gather here those complements of life that men, usually, discard or disdain.
In the first room there were displayed in boxes or tasteful cases, glasses of all shapes and colors, old mirrors with iron or horn handles, some misted up, dusty, striated by cracks.
Along with the lenses there were glass eyes, light-blue and chestnut-colored, which showed a motionless and sinister look.
Then we saw a rich collection of teeth and dentures, with old gold straps and gutta-percha palates that seemed to be taken from skulls with squeaking jaws.
The wigs were coming next, for men and women, as black as brushes to shine shoes, blondes as leftovers of corn ears, white, with a dirty and yellowish whiteness, similar to cut-off tails of decrepit horses, almost all of them worm-eaten, miserable trophies of dead coquetry.
In another room, they displayed rows of rubber breasts, elastic girdles, and belts for hernias, unctuous and stripped. In a big glass display case there were aligned crutches of all shapes and sizes, artificial hands, mechanical arms, orthopedic legs, leather and metallic ribs for paralyzed people.“
Giovanni Papini (9 januari 1881 – 8 juli 1956)
Hymn to Love
We are thine, O Love, being in thee and made of thee,
As théou, Léove, were the déep thought
And we the speech of the thought; yea, spoken are we,
Thy fires of thought out-spoken:
But burn’d not through us thy imagining
Like fiérce méood in a séong céaught,
We were as clamour’d words a fool may fling,
Loose words, of meaning broken.
For what more like the brainless speech of a fool,—
The lives travelling dark fears,
And as a boy throws pebbles in a pool
Thrown down abysmal places?
Hazardous are the stars, yet is our birth
And our journeying time theirs;
As words of air, life makes of starry earth
Sweet soul-delighted faces;
As voices are we in the worldly wind;
The great wind of the world’s fate
Is turn’d, as air to a shapen sound, to mind
And marvellous desires.
But not in the world as voices storm-shatter’d,
Not borne down by the wind’s weight;
The rushing time rings with our splendid word
Like darkness fill’d with fires.
For Love doth use us for a sound of song,
And Love’s meaning our life wields,
Making our souls like syllables to throng
His tunes of exultation.
Down the blind speed of a fatal world we fly,
As rain blown along earth’s fields;
Yet are we god-desiring liturgy,
Sung joys of adoration;
Yea, made of chance and all a labouring strife,
We go charged with a strong flame;
For as a language Love hath seized on life
His burning heart to story.
Yea, Love, we are thine, the liturgy of thee,
Thy thought’s golden and glad name,
The mortal conscience of immortal glee,
Love’s zeal in Love’s own glory.
Lascelles Abercrombie (9 januari 1881 – 27 oktober 1938)
Après nous le soleil
Ils sont venus
Avec leurs rêves dans leurs mains
Avec le pommier du jardin debout dans leurs poitrines
Les enfants nus les enfants teints
Les enfants éclairés comme des ballerines
Près de l’âne doré et de la vierge peinte
Près du beau jour qui tinte
Près du soir habillé en carême tzigane
Les enfants qui cueillirent les étoiles des mers
Les cloches qui baignent d’eau pure les déserts
Les soleils obscurcis comme des cathédrales
Les enfants purs les enfants chauds
Aux cris éclatés comme des châtaignes
Au dernier horizon nouveau
Qui est comme un homme qui saigne
Avec leurs noms leurs paysages
Tirant sur la corde des mots
Des yeux de paix sur leurs visages
Des bruits d’étoiles sur leur os.
Pierre Garnier (Amiens, 9 januari 1928)
Written at Stonehenge
Thou noblest monument of Albion’s isle!
Whether by Merlin’s aid, from Scythia’s shore,
To Amber’s fatal plain Pendragon bore,
Huge frame of giant-hands, the mighty pile
T’ entomb his Britons slain by Hengist’s guile:
Or Druid priests, sprinkled with human gore,
Taught ‘mid thy massy maze their mystic lore:
Or Danish chiefs, enrich’d with savage spoil,
To Victory’s idol vast, an unhewn shrine,
Rear’d the rude heap: or, in thy hallow’d round,
Repose the kings of Brutus’ genuine line;
Or here those kings in solemn state were crown’d:
Studious to trace thy wondrous origine,
We muse on many an ancient tale renown’d.
Thomas Warton (9 januari 1728 – 21 mei 1790)