Corona Diaries – VIII April through May 3

8

Finished Westworld series one today. It had an interesting ending, but was ultimately unsatisfying in the way some TV shows are these days – the puzzle solution is basic and doesn’t make sense, whilst the puzzle itself is engaging. It’s like the producers just wanted it to grip and confuse, and drive compulsive viewing, without worrying about the solution, the denouement. In fact, fully satisfying someone is the last thing a modern American Commercial TV producer would want their show to do.

I clean the loo, then walk. I translate some more of Bonjour Tristesse, then a package arrives. I carefully cut it open, dropping the packaging straight in the bin, and then clean it with washing up liquid and tissue paper – a copy of the 2013 penguin translation to check mine against when I get really confused.

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V.80

Memory danger. It’s a pinch.
They’re in our heads, in our bodies
They could strike at any time. Know:
Memories are dangerous things.

They wrench our heads through time, it’s worse
even than the ground opening
and letting you plummet away.
Just to jangle from side to side

from rock face to rock face – insults
raining from their mouths. “Good lord, boy,
Call that falling!? A downy scrap
of feather would do it better.

Call that hitting your head? Go on…
Pull the other one! Try again –
Oof but that was okay, good byeeee!
AND THE DARKNESS SWALLOWS YOU UP.

So melodramatic, but yeah.
It’s like the world is scattered all
with massive invisible traps.
Bear traps with a ghost chain attached.

And then you drag the ghost around
as it complains mightily – “Please,
I’m as tired as you, my liege. But
can’t you stop that racket I’m sick”

Aphorisms XI

A plot or storyline can be outlined in a more or less random string of images. If you want to, you just have to massage them into shape to make them seem like they were destined to appear together.

*

Say a french novel was published in 1954. If you are nostalgic, or a scholar, you may want to translate it in a way that expresses the 1950s in France through a kind of amalgamated 1950s english. But, If I want to really relate with the characters, as it were, I have to go all the way, and rather than travelling back in time to put myself in their positions, I bring them forward in time, putting them in our positions, or at least positions more well known to us, living as we do. If we are going to translate a book, why not really translate it? We need both kinds of translations, and more and different still, if we are to really translate something.

To do otherwise is to fetishize language, do our best to ignore who was speaking it, or at least to try and control them by confining them to the past, or to a kind of nostalgic revery.

Good lord, listen to me, I’ve only just  started translating. So ignore me, or don’t. It doesn’t matter.

*

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Hello Sadness – Part 2-5

All that about the cigarettes wasn’t without consequences. Like some people who think a lot before acting, who are very sure of themselves, Anne wouldn’t tolerate being disobeyed, dishonoured. By doing the soft thing, by releasing her harsh hands from my face, she was going against that side of herself. She’d guessed that something was happening, and she would have made me own up to whatever it was, but at the last moment she gave in to pity or indifference. Because she had just as much trouble taking care of me, training me even, as she did admitting my weaknesses. The only thing that pushed her into this role as my tutor, my teacher, was a feeling of duty – that by marrying my dad, she was taking responsibility for me as well. I would have liked it if the constant disapproval, if I can call it that, could have improved to just annoyance. I would have liked it if I could have felt that she was just over-sensitive, because then it would have faded as she got used to me. It’s much easier to get used to someone’s behaviour if you don’t feel like it’s up to you to sort them out. In six months she would have been tired of me, but in an affectionate way, and that was exactly what I needed. But that wasn’t going to happen, because she felt responsible for me, and in a way she was, because I was still easily mouldable. That and stubborn.

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Hello Sadness – Part 2-4

My father showed no other feelings, just surprise. The cleaner explained to him that Elsa had picked up her suitcases and left straight away. I don’t know why she didn’t mention Elsa and me meeting. She was a woman from the countryside, and very sweet. She must have known more or less exactly what was going on, especially since she’d changed all the rooms around. I felt suddenly very grateful to her.

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V.79

See all the souls anchored to you
each faint and crackling golden line
like a nylon line, but neater,
each is a life you’ve saved in here.

You look like a heaven-flower
like an aurum tree. The fire-work
frozen in time, on the blue black
all the still-paths, the fizzing strings.

The key to self-hood is the gap
between what we would like to be
and what is. These things are all sent
to test us, see: to build us up

Without these moments we would fall
again, into the depths of hell
which is a flat, blank, pool of white
like milk. But tastless, vigorless.

Humans need this pain to grow full.
If there was fruit hanging from each
tree, we would never need to think,
never need a revelation.

And so, these two things connect us.
These metallic wires, our trellis.
To be saviour to each other
And see what newness can encroach

Hello Sadness – Part 2-3

The next day, as I was walking down to Sal’s house, I felt a lot less sure of my thoughts. To celebrate the feeling of closure, I’d drunk a lot at dinner – I ended up pretty drunk. I explained to my dad how I was going to study literature, visit professors, that I would end up famous and boring. He would need to use all the techniques of advertising and probably a scandal to set off my caree. We were in hysterics, talking over our crazy ideas. Anne laughed too, less loudly – she was indulging us. From time to time she stopped laughing, when my ideas strayed from literature into simple decadence. But my dad was so obviously enjoying himself messing around with me that she said nothing. Eventually they put me to bed, tucking me in. I thanked them profusely, asked what I would do without them. My dad really didn’t know, and Anne seemed to have some pretty brutal ideas on the subject, but as I was begging her to tell me, as she leaned over, I fell asleep. In the middle of the night, I threw up a lot. Waking up in the morning taught me just how crappy waking up can be. It was worse than I’d ever had before. My thoughts fuzzy, my heart beating too fast, I headed towards the pine woods without noticing the sea at all, or probably the overexcited seagulls.

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Corona diaries VII – 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 April

3

Not meant to meet anyone from outside the household, emphasised in a Government ad on TV.

Went for walk in the woods, saw a fair few people out. Among them a guy in a grey hoody, stood, quite still, off the path, just staring out at nothing. I find that, as a population, the sometimes pathological levels of politeness come in handy now, as we were basically observing the two meter distancing anyway. Now there’s just the added dance, where I have to jump off a ledge to avoid an old couple.

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Hello Sadness (1954-2020) Part 2-2

Two days passed, I was treading water, tiring myself out. I couldn’t free myself, I was obsessed – Anne was going to trash our existence. I didn’t go looking for Salil, he reassured me and gave me happiness and I didn’t want that. I just collapsed into questioning myself with impossible questions, remembering the days before, fearing the days that would come. It was so hot – my room was shadowed, my shutters closed, but that wasn’t enough to drain away the heaviness, the stickiness in the air. It was unbearable. I stayed on my bed, head thrown back, eyes on the ceiling, barely moving and then only to find a bit of cold sheet. I didn’t really sleep, I put the digital radio on at the foot of the bed, found a synthwave channel, where they were playing their slow records, almost melody free, just a kind of beautiful rhythm. I smoked a lot, it was decadent, and I liked it. But all this playing couldn’t distract me, I was sad and disoriented.

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Corona Diaries VI – 1, 2 April

1

It’s all over, we’re being let out! The virus magically disappeared overnight!

Early start today, walking in the woods. It was going to be a ‘teacher start’ which is a bit like – shall we just do a couple of the circuits of the woods at 4:30am. But I convinced my friend that we could have a bit more of a sane meeting time. Of course I’m exaggerating – I’m lazy. We did 9:00am.

Fried eggs on crumpets for breakfast with fresh coffee. Mum had thrown some seeds for the small birds onto the mossy lawn, but immediately the industrial cleanup team arrives, and spend about half an hour proceeding to methodically hoover it all up. Two mated woodpigeons, very beautiful but absolutely tactless.

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