Thursday, October 26, 2006

More Bernhard

In my last post I recommended two Bernhard books for those who hadn't yet read him. It got me thinking about the virtuosity and utter originality behind his writing. Last night, I picked "Yes" off the bookshelf and read from this passage-


From the house there was a view in only one direction and even that was virtually no view at all. It was three-quarters enclosed by the wood. The walls were blackened with damp and the footings had not even been entirely filled in yet. It looked as if the builders had abruptly stopped their work, a lot of tools were lying around in the mud. After a prolonged period of waiting the Persian woman eventually opened to me. I had of course come entirely unexpected and she had no idea that it was me knocking at the door. She had thought that the ethnic Germans who had driven away in the converted ambulance had left something behind. I squeezed through the gap in the doorway and, after she had relocked the door, followed her to her room. Room, however, is certainly not the right word for the space to which she retired. This was evidently the smallest room in the whole house, on the ground floor and utterly unsuitable as a room to live in; there were a few mattresses lying on the floor, covered with a sheet. In spite of the gloom, or almost darkness in the room, I was struck by the dirtiness of that sheet. When we had stepped into the room, in which there was a frightfully stale smell and dankness, the Persian woman, now wrapped in a long flannel dressing gown on which dirt and floral pattern were no longer distinguishable, lay down on the mattress and invited me to sit down on a chair which stood by the only window in the room. As I sat down I noticed how shabby and neglected and actually how deliberately grubby everything was in that room. Because of the darkness in the room, I could not see the Persian woman's face, but on the way in I had had the impression that she had lost weight and gone grey. By her bed, at the head end, the Persian woman had two small tables piled high with nothing but medicines, as I believe exclusively sleeping pills. She had been in that room for two weeks, she told me while my eyes were focused on those packets of medications and on her still not unpacked suitcases, and for those two weeks had she not left her house. Nor did she intend ever to leave it again.

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