My room was bright. Filled with sunshine. I made it a strict rule with myself to take a trip to the bathroom, wash up, and shave every day. On cloudy days, however, I still washed but I didn’t shave. After I had finished, I made my way along the tiny path that I had created between the piles of food and stacks of bottles, and lay down again. I made my bed, swept up a bit. I opened the door to my room to put out the dirty linen and pick up the clean. All that took a great deal of time and effort, and made me feel tired enough to feel fully justified in once again taking to my bed, from which I could see the sky or the ceiling. I was waiting. For what I didn’t know. But an active, pulsing wait. I tried to read signs from heaven, and when cottony clouds would pass by, mixing with the blue, I tried to fathom what it might mean. I wasn’t unhappy, the way I once had been. Was it age that had made me wiser, or had age merely blunted the forces that had stirred and struggled within me? I don’t want to give the mistaken impression that I was happy, either.
– Ionesco, The Hermit (tr. R. Seaver)
Sometimes he thinks of himself as the shadow of my dreams, X tells me, or a recurring thought I can’t complete. He wishes I would hurry up, he says. But hurry up and what? he says. Cut me loose. We’ll both be better off. But you can’t, can you? You can’t cut loose your own shadow, or a recurring thought you can’t finish, it doesn’t depend on you. Or rather it does but you have no power over it. Though that’s not what it feels like to me, he says, not at all. I wish you’d hurry up, he says, and just cut me loose.
Each time he took a walk, he felt as though he were leaving himself behind, and by giving himself up to the movement of the streets, by reducing himself to a seeing eye, he was able to escape the obligation to think, and this, more than anything else, brought him a measure of peace, a salutary emptiness within… By wandering aimlessly, all places became equal and it no longer mattered where he was. On his best walks he was able to feel that he was nowhere. And this, finally was all he ever asked of things: to be nowhere.
– Paul Auster, via A Piece of Monologue
All that which Anne still loved, silence and solitude, were called night. All that which Anne hated, silence and solitude, were also called night. Absolute night where there were no longer any contradictory terms, where those who suffered were happy, where white found a common substance with black. And yet, night without confusion, without monsters, before which, without closing her eyes, she found her personal night, the one which her eyelids habitually created for her as they closed. Fully conscious, full of clarity, she felt her night join the night. She discovered herself in this huge exterior night in the core of her being, no longer needing to pass before a bitter and tormented soul to arrive at peace. She was sick, but how good this sickness was, this sickness which was not her own and which was the health of the world!
– Blanchot, Thomas the Obscure (tr. R. Lamberton)
The world or what we term the world, that medium in which we find ourselves, and indeed whatever of it we set apart and term selves, is not related to what we make of it and not dependent on what we make of the world or make of ourselves. It is not in the least altered, nor is our basic nature altered, by any cosmology or culture or individual character we may devise, or by the failure or destruction of any of these, as all of them fail. If they seem for a time to succeed, they blind us as though they were real; and it is by our most drastic failures that we may perhaps catch glimpses of something real, of something which is. It merits our whole mind. The good society and the good life are more than we could imagine. To devise them or to assert and defend their devising is not the point.
– William Bronk, via However Fallible
X tells me he dreams of a pub, of his ideal pub. It’s silent, above all it’s silent. No music! he says. It’s like a library without books, where everyone drinks, where alcohol flows through everyone but no one talks. Except for the occasional friendly hello, thank you, and goodbye. A pub enveloped in an amorphous silence, vague yet clear, within which you can drift off or concentrate as you please, that’s what he dreams of, he says. The drinkers get up and go to the toilet and return to their seats. They get up and buy drinks and return to their seats. They read or write, stare into space, come and go as they please. As the sun moves across the sky. As dusk settles. At closing time we leave, he says, no need for a bell. No need to shout. No need for a sign urging us to respect the neighbours. Above all, no music! No jukebox. No fights, no one on the pull, no shrieking made-up women. No conversations, no laughter. His ideal pub, he tells me, that’s what he spends his time thinking about, when he’s in the pub.
‘I sat before you in the dusk like Rilke before the Sphinx and waited. For what? Some revelation? But I didn’t receive any revelation, did I? No owl brushed its wing against your cheek. You remained beyond indifference, beyond laughter: absent beyond absence. I pulled off a piece of myself, a handful of earth and stone, and threw it at you. I sat down where my body was and waited in the night. But for what?’
You’re right, X tells me, I haven’t done enough. I’ve hardly started. Have I started? It’s a disgrace! he says. What a waste of time! What a waste of space! There’s so much more to do, you’re right. But what? I don’t even know where to start, he says.
‘I float in and out of the hole, in and out of you. What’s changed? The hole’s been uprooted so to speak, it’s a void in the air, or behind the air, or nowhere near the air. You pull me in and out, you give and you take away.’
‘Those weren’t the right days, it was all wrong. And when the time came at last it was too late. I still look for a way to begin again.’