10 texts to cope by:
#coping #apocalypse #melancholy #theworldhasnotendedyet
War & War by László Krasznahorkai, trans. George Szirtes (New Directions, 2006)
The only streetlights burning were those at the top of the stairs and the light they gave out fell in dingy cones that shuddered in the intermittent gusts of wind assailing them because the other neon lights positioned in the thirty or so meters between them had all been broken, leaving them squatting in darkness, yet as aware of each other, of their precise positions, as of the enormous mass of dark sky above the smashed neon, the sky which might have glimpsed the reflection of its own enormous dark mass as it trembled with stars in the vista of railway yards spreading below it, had there been some relationship between the trembling stars and the twinkling dull red lights of semaphores sprinkled among the rails, but there wasn’t, there was no common denominator, no interdependence between them, the only order and relationship existing within the discrete worlds of above and below, and indee of anywhere, for the field of stars and the forest of signals stared as blankly at each other as does each and every form of being, blind in darkness and blind in radiance, as blind on earth as it is in heaven, if only so that a long moribund symmetry among this vastness might appear in the lost glance of some higher being, at the center of which, naturally, there would be a miniscule blind spot: as with Korin … the footbridge … the seven kids.
The Stranger by Albert Camus, trans. Matthew Ward (Vintage International, 1989)
Nothing, nothing mattered, and I knew why. So did he. Throughout the whole absurd life I’d lived, a dark wind had been rising toward me from somewhere deep in my future, across years that were still to come, and as it passed, this wind leveled whatever was offered to me at the time, in years no more real than the ones I was living. What did other people’s deaths or a mother’s love matter to me; what did his God or the lives people choose or the fate they think they elect matter to me when we’re all elected by the same fate, me and billions of privileged people like him who also called themselves my brothers? Couldn’t he see, couldn’t he see that? Everybody was privileged. There were only privileged people. The others would all be condemned one day. And he would be condemned, too.
Melancholy by László F. Földényi, trans. Tim Wilkinson (The Margellos World Republic of Letters, 2016)
Melancholics are prominent…precisely because they are too full of life; because of them, existence overflows itself. This explains their unappeasable sense of absence: since they have left the world of moderation, overflowing is inconceivable without being emptied. The universe is damaged in their person; hence, melancholics’ sense of being among the elect, but also their self-hatred to the point of self-annihilation. That makes them strong and outstanding, but also exceedingly frail. Their strength is infinite, because they have gained knowledge of the end, but they are unhappy, since having experienced the ephemeral nature of humans, they have lost their trust in existence. Their strength and frailty, their unhappiness and their heroism, cannot be detached from each other. This leads us back once again to the starting point of our argument, to the Aristotelian question “Why is it that all those who have become eminent in philosophy or politics or poetry or the arts are clearly melancholic?”
The Road by Cormac McCarthy (Vintage Books, 2006)
He started down the rough wooden steps. He ducked his head and then flicked the lighter and swung the flame out over the darkness like an offering. Coldness and damp. An ungodly stench. The boy clutched at his coat. He could see part of a stone wall. Clay floor. An old mattress darkly stained. He crouched and stepped down again and held out the light. Huddled against the back wall were naked people, male and female, all trying to hide, shielding their faces with their hands. On the mattress lay a man with his legs gone to the hip and the stumps of them blackened and burnt. The smell was hideous.
Jesus, he whispered.
Then one by one they turned and blinked in the pitiful light. Help us, they whispered. Please help us.
Christ, he said. Oh Christ.
He turned and grabbed the boy. Hurry, he said. Hurry.
He’d dropped the lighter. No time to look. He pushed the boy up the stairs. Help us, they called.
A bearded face appeared blinking at the foot of the stairs. Please, he called. Please.
Hurry. For God’s sake hurry.
Bluets by Maggie Nelson (Wave Books, 2009)
1. Suppose I were to begin by saying that I had fallen in love with a color. Suppose I were to speak this as though it were a confession; suppose I shredded my napkin as we spoke. It began slowly. An appreciation, an affinity. Then, one day, it became more serious. Then (looking into an empty teacup, its bottom stained with thin brown excrement coiled into the shape of a sea horse) it became somehow personal.
2. And so I fell in love with a color—in this case, the color blue—as if falling under a spell, a spell I fought to stay under and get out from under,in turns.
3· Well, and what of it? A voluntary delusion, you might say. That each blue object could be a kind of burning bush, a secret code meant for a single agent, an X on a map too diffuse ever to be unfolded in entirety but that contains the knowable universe. How could all the shreds of blue garbage bags stuck in brambles, or the bright blue tarps flapping over every shanty and fish stand in the world, be, in essence, the fingerprints of God? I will try to explain this.
4· I admit that I may have been lonely. I know that loneliness can produce bolts of hot pain, a pain which,if it stays hot enough for long enough, can begin to simulate, or to provoke—take your pick—an apprehension of the divine. (This ought to arouse our suspicions. )
A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit (Penguin Books, 2006)
The world is blue at its edges and in its depths. This blue is the light that got lost. Light at the blue end of the spectrum does not travel the whole distance from the sun to us. It disperses among the molecules of the air, it scatters in water. Water is colorless, shallow water appears to be the color of whatever lies underneath it, but deep water is full of this scattered light, the purer the water the deeper the blue. The sky is blue for the same reason, but the blue at the horizon, the blue of land that seems to be dissolving into the sky, is a deeper, dreamier, melancholy blue, the blue at the farthest reaches of the places where you see for miles, the blue of distance. This light that does not touch us, does not travel the whole distance, the light that gets lost, gives us the beauty of the world, so much of which is in the color blue.
For many years, I have been moved by the blue at the far edge of what can be seen, that color of horizons, of remote mountain ranges, of anything far away. The color of that distance is the color of an emotion, the color of solitude and of desire, the color of there seen from here, the color of where you are not. And the color of where you can never go. For the blue is not in the place those miles away at the horizon, but in the atmospheric distance between you and the mountains.
The Melancholy of Resistance by László Krasznahorkai, trans. George Szirtes (New Directions, 1989)
Driven by her sense of foreboding, she hurried on, feeling ever more convinced that she was crossing some nightmare terrain permeated by evil, then, as she got ever closer to the source of that now clearly audible puffing, and through the bars of the wild chestnut trees could see the heap of machinery which produced it, she felt quite certain that, exhausted as she was by her struggles against the powers of terror, she was imagining, simply imagining everything, for what she saw in that first glance seemed not only stupefying but downright impossible. Not far from her, a spectral contraption was moving at melancholy pace through the winter night down the middle of the road-that is if this satanic conveyance whose desperately slow crawl in the direction of the town centre reminded her of a steam roller struggling to gain each centimetre of ground, could be said to be moving at all: it wasn’t even a matter of overcoming strong wind resistance on the normal road surface, but of ploughing through a tract of dense, refractory clay. Sheathed in blue corrugated iron and sealed on every side, the lorry, which reminded her of an enormous wagon, was covered with bright yellow writing (an indecipherable dark brown shape hovered at the centre of the inscriptions) and was much higher and longer-she noted incredulously-than those vast Turkish trucks that used to pass through town, and the whole shapeless hulk, which smelled vaguely of fish, was being drawn by a smoking, oily, and wholly antediluvian wreck of tractor which was making fearful exertions in the process.
Melancholy by Jon Fosse, trans. Damien Searls (Dalkey Archive, 2006)
I am a darkness without you. I miss you. I am walking up the street, but I can’t see anything. I am my longing for you. And I hear laughter far behind me. But the laughter is just there, because in me is only my movement toward you. I am only a turning toward you. I am walking. I am walking to you, I am a turning toward you. I am my longing for you. I am only a turning toward you. I am walking. I am walking to you. I can’t do anything else, I can only be a movement turned toward you, whether you’re there or not. All I am is a movement toward you. A movement, a turning, toward you. I am nothing but you, who are not there. And it’s precisely there, in what I am not, in that which is turned toward you, it’s precisely there, in that which maybe isn’t there, in what is just a turning, a movement, it’s precisely there that I am in everything I paint and I see. I am walking down a street and I am my desperate turning toward you. Nothing else is.
Of Walking In Ice by Werner Herzog, trans. by Alan Greenberg (University of Minnesota Press, 2015)
I see ever so many mice. No one has the vaguest idea just how many mice there are in the world, it’s unimaginable. The mice rustle very lightly in the flattened grass. Only he who walks see these mice. Across the fields, where the snow lay, they’ve dug tunnels between grass and snow; now that the snow’s gone the serpentine traces still remain. Friendship is possible with the mice.
In a village before Stotzheim I sat on the steps of a church, my feet were so tired and a sorrow was gnawing at my chest; then a window opened in the schoolhouse next door, a child was opening it following orders from inside, and then I overheard a young teacher scream so harshly at the children that I hoped no one would notice that a witness to these terrifying screams was sitting below the window. I went away, although I could hardly put one foot in front of the other. I headed toward a fire, a fire that kept burning in front of me like a glimmering wall.
The Vegetarian by Han Kang, trans. Deborah Smith (Hogarth, 2016)
The feeling that she had never really lived in this world caught her by surprise. It was a fact. She had never lived. Even as a child, as far back as she could remember, she had done nothing but endure. She had believed in her own inherent goodness, her humanity, and lived accordingly, never causing anyone harm. Her devotion to doing things the right way had been unflagging, all her successes had depended on it, and she would have gone on like that indefinitely. She didn’t understand why, but faced with those decaying buildings and straggling grasses, she was nothing but a child who had never lived.