We sit beside each other, like two uncomfortable men on a couch. It’s the end of the day, dusk is settling. We can’t talk like women can, there’s an empty space between us, all around us. It’s up to us. What’s up to us? To make contact, to make life bearable, to give the evening, as they say, some semblance of meaning. You start. No, you start. But what is there to say?
The need to set something down, to pluck some words from the current of language that seems to have carried on outside you, to have left you dry forever, just like yesterday… Let’s try then, start with a question. When you’re empty you need to fill yourself up, don’t you? You find it where you can, what else can you do, who could blame you. Guilt follows you for your greed. When you’re full, what you’re full of becomes a kind of interference, white noise, and you seek emptiness any way you can, what else can you do, who could blame you. Guilt follows you for what you desert. What’s worse, then, emptiness or fullness?
He was seventeen. An age with wide margins. And then one night, a little before day. And then one day, and then one night, and then nights, and days which were nights, the confrontation with death, the confrontation with the dawn and dusk of death, the confrontation with himself, with no one.
Jabés, The Book of Questions (tr. Waldrop)
Don’t you have anything to say? Shall I say it for you? You’ve had plenty to say recently, haven’t you, in conversations with the people you’ve sought out, the friends you’ve had to make, the people you gratefully meet to make it sane though another evening, to escape from me, from yourself… Conversations tinged with the sense of an ending, with the sense that everything is coming to an end… Increasingly drunken conversations full of sarcasm, laughter… Conversations full of goodwill and confusion and fragile hope… Helplessness… Conversations overshadowed by the sense of a coming catastrophe, by the catastrophe that’s already happening… Stoned conversations in which you say too much, in which you go on about the End, about the necessity of the End, losing yourself in your words even as you shame yourself… Mad monologues in different voices in which you free yourself of me and the others free themselves of whomever they carry on their backs, free at last, in the end of time, the end of conversation, the end of sense… An endless confused monologue resembling the End, enacting the End as you get beyond me, beyond yourself, and everyone yawns and makes a move, goes to bed, bikes home, just as you’re getting started, just as the End is finally coming…
Ordinarily, in times of idleness, he would stroll into town. But when concentrating on his work, he usually went to the outskirts – out into the wilderness; thus far, he had adhered to this rule. But did he actually have any rules? Weren’t the few that he had tried to impose on himself constantly giving way to something else – a mood, an accident, a sudden inspiration – that seemed to indicate the better choice? True, his life had been oriented for almost twenty years toward his literary goal; but reliable ways and means were still unknown to him. Everything about him was still as temporary as it had been in the child, as later in the schoolboy, and still later in the novice writer.
– Handke, The Afternoon of a Writer (tr. Manheim)
I made you cryptic, didn’t I? The truth is we grew into each other not like lovers or happy families do, but like tendrils and thistles. It affected me too, you must know that. Where else could I have gone, after I fell into you like some bumbling guardian angel? You hid, and I hid with you, what choice did I have? I couldn’t have a voice in the world without you, couldn’t perform what was suddenly my only function without your help. So we both had to wait, but as we waited and our voices failed to unite we remained threats to each other, and so our lives – our life – became a cryptic waiting game. It was as if our story had ended the moment it began, ended with no beginning or end in sight, the moment we found each other on that concrete path between the thistles, like some Kaspar Hauser with his failed teacher.
Follow me, all you whom humiliation in love or neglect in friendship confines to your apartments, far from the pettiness and treachery of your fellow men. Let all the wretched, the sick, and the bored follow men—let all the lazy people of the world rise en masse;—and you, whose brain is aboil with sinister plans of reform; you, who in your boudoir are contemplating renouncing the world in order to live; gentle anchorites of an evening […] be so good as to accompany me on my voyage, we shall travel by short stages, laughing all along the way at travelers who have seen Rome and Paris.—Nothing shall stop us; and abandoning ourselves gaily to our fancy, we shall follow it wherever it wishes to take us.
– Xavier de Mastre, Voyage around My Room (via here)