Uit: A Partisan’s Daughter
“I am not the sort of man who goes to prostitutes.
Well, I suppose that every man would say that. People would disbelieve it just because you felt you had to say it. It’s a self-defeating statement. If I had any sense I’d delete it and start again, but I’m thinking, “My wife’s dead, my daughter’s in New Zealand, I’m in bad health, and I’m past caring, and who’s paying any attention? And in any case, it’s true.”
I did know someone who admitted it, though. He was a Dutchman who’d done it with a prostitute during his national service. He was in Amsterdam and he was suffering from blue balls at a time when he was on leave and had a little money in his pocket. He said she was a real stunner, and the sex was better than he had expected. However, the woman kept a bin by her bedside, the kind that is like a miniature dustbin, with a lid. You can still get them in novelty shops. Anyway, after he’d finished he eased off the condom, and she reached out and lifted the lid off for him out of good manners. It was packed to the brim with used condoms, like a great cake of pink and brown rubber. He was so horrified by that bin of limp milky condoms that he never went to a prostitute again. Mind you, I haven’t seen him for twenty years, so he may well have succumbed by now. He liked to tell that story because he was an artist, and probably felt he had a Bohemian duty to be a little bit outrageous. I expect he was hoping I’d be shocked, because I am only a suburbanite.
I tried to go with a prostitute just once in my life, and it didn’t work out as I had expected. It wasn’t a case of blue balls so much as a case of loneliness. It was an impulse, I suppose. My wife was alive back then, but the trouble is that sooner or later, at best, your wife turns into your sister. At worst she becomes your enemy, and sets herself up as the principal obstacle to your happiness. Mine had obtained everything she wanted, so she couldn’t see any reason to bother with me any more. All the delights with which she had drawn me in were progressively withdrawn, until there was nothing left for me but responsibilities and a life sentence. I don’t think that most women understand the nature of a man’s sexual drive. They don’t realise that for a man it isn’t just something quite nice that’s occasionally optional, like flower arranging. I tried talking to my wife about it several times, but she always reacted with impatience or blank incomprehension, as if I was an importunate alien freshly arrived from a parallel universe. I never could decide whether she was being heartless or stupid, or just plain cynical. It didn’t make any difference. You could just see her thinking to herself, “This isn’t my problem.” She was one of those insipid Englishwomen with skimmed milk in her veins, and she was perfectly content to be like that. When we married I had no idea that she would turn out to have all the passion and fire of a codfish, because she took the trouble to put on a good show until she thought it was safe not to have to bother any more.”
Louis de Bernières (Londen, 8 december 1954)
Uit: In A Sunburned Country
“Flying into Australia, I realized with a sigh that I had forgotten again who their prime minister is. I am forever doing this with the Australian prime minister–committing the name to memory, forgetting it (generally more or less instantly), then feeling terribly guilty. My thinking is that there ought to be one person outside Australia who knows.
But then Australia is such a difficult country to keep track of. On my first visit, some years ago, I passed the time on the long flight reading a history of Australian politics in the twentieth century, wherein I encountered the startling fact that in 1967 the prime minister, Harold Holt, was strolling along a beach in Victoria when he plunged into the surf and vanished. No trace of the poor man was ever seen again. This seemed doubly astounding to me–first that Australia could just lose a prime minister (I mean, come on) and second that news of this had never reached me.
The fact is, of course, we pay shamefully scant attention to our dear cousins Down Under–not entirely without reason, of course. Australia is after all mostly empty and a long way away. Its population, just over 18 million, is small by world standards–China grows by a larger amount each year–and its place in the world economy is consequently peripheral; as an economic entity, it ranks about level with Illinois. Its sports are of little interest to us and the last television series it made that we watched with avidity was Skippy. From time to time it sends us useful things–opals, merino wool, Errol Flynn, the boomerang–but nothing we can’t actually do without. Above all, Australia doesn’t misbehave. It is stable and peaceful and good. It doesn’t have coups, recklessly overfish, arm disagreeable despots, grow coca in provocative quantities, or throw its weight around in a brash and unseemly manner.“
Bill Bryson (Des Moines, 8 december 1951)
Uit: Reading Jesus
“Is it possible that the story of the Prodigal Son is the first story I remember? Or that I remember it alongside Snow White, Goldilocks, the Three Little Pigs? Fixing it in my mind (they weren’t wrong, the iconoclasts; they knew the power of artifacts) was one of my most treasured possessions, what we would now call a sticker book. At that time what are now called stickers were referred to as “seals,” the model being Easter Seals, which you bought in order to pledge your determination to stamp out polio. They were not common, these books of seals, and certainly a book of Bible stories was not. I can recall the taste of the glue on my tongue: sharp, cutting, even painful, and the drastic importance to me of the correct placement of the sticky image onto the blank square that was meant to frame it.
The seal of the Prodigal Son presented him bare-chested among the pigs. But in my imagination, I created other costumes for him: the robe, which I saw very clearly. It was striped, magenta, orange, red. And the ring, a large signet ring
that I knew went on his index finger, although I had never seen anyone in life wear any jewelry on that digit. I saw his legs, smooth, tanned (was I confusing him with the Old Testament Jacob, as I confused his robe with Joseph’s many-colored coat?). But there were other images that were more vivid to me than these, images that I felt kinesthetically rather than saw. The first were the husks provided for the pigs; he longed for the husks, envied the pigs: even husks had not been provided for him. I imagined used-up corncobs, tossed on the ground after a summer picnic. Dried out; devoid of succulence. I understood that he would have to wait even for these until the pigs had had their fill; without articulating it, I knew that he was less valuable to his employer than the pigs were. This frightened me: that kind of hunger.
I was the child of an ardent father, so I could imagine the heat of a father’s embrace that was led up to by a yearning run: the unseemly speed of the father who could not wait to see his child. Who runs for him, unable to bear the slowness of the normal progression, the son’s ordinary pace. I could feel the warmth of the father’s ardent arms; I knew the boy’s safety, his sense of relief. Forgiveness.“
Mary Gordon (Far Rockaway, 8 december 1949)
De Amerikaanse zanger, dichter en tekstschrijver James Douglas (Jim) Morrison werd geboren in Melbourne (Florida) op 8 december 1943. Hij was de zanger van de band The Doors en heeft verschillende gedichtenbundels geschreven. Morrison stond bekend als een intellectueel en men schrijft hem een IQ van 146 toe. Morrison ging naar de filmacademie in Los Angeles, Californië, en leerde daar Ray Manzarek kennen, met wie hij The Doors oprichtte. Deze naam was ontleend aan ‘The Doors of Perception’, de titel van een boek van Aldous Huxley, die op zijn beurt de frase had ontleend aan een gedicht van William Blake: “If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite”. Morrison leefde zeer intens en gebruikte verschillende en vele soorten verslavende genotsmiddelen. Zijn enorme drankgebruik was exemplarisch. Hij was gefascineerd door literatuur, las enorm veel en was fanatiek bezig met het maken van poëzie. Zijn muziek toont invloeden van jazz en blues en zijn teksten waren vaak zeer filosofisch en dichterlijk van aard. Van Morrison is een aantal dichtbundels uitgegeven, zoals “The Lords & The New Creatures”, “Wilderness” en “The American Night”. Morrison zag muziek als vehikel voor zijn poëzie en met zijn sterke theatrale persoonlijkheid en zijn beeldende gedichten werden concerten van The Doors complete seances, waarbij Morrison op geniale wijze direct contact met het publiek wist te leggen.
Between childhood, boyhood,
& manhood (maturity) there
should be sharp lines drawn w/
Tests, deaths, feats, rites
stories, songs, & judgements
THE AMERICAN NIGHT
for leather accrues
The miracle of the streets
The scents & songs &
pollens of existence
so totally naked she was
We looked around
lights now on
To see our fellow travellers
I can make the earth stop in
its tracks. I made the
blue cars go away.
I can make myself invisible or small.
I can become gigantic & reach the
farthest things. I can change
the course of nature.
I can place myself anywhere in
space or time.
I can summon the dead.
I can perceive events on other worlds,
in my deepest inner mind,
& in the minds of others.
Jim Morrison (8 december 1943 – 3 juli 1971)
All Night, All Night
“I have been one acquainted with the night” – Robert Frost
Rode in the train all night, in the sick light. A bird
Flew parallel with a singular will. In daydream’s moods and
The other passengers slumped, dozed, slept, read,
Waiting, and waiting for place to be displaced
On the exact track of safety or the rack of accident.
Looked out at the night, unable to distinguish
Lights in the towns of passage from the yellow lights
Numb on the ceiling. And the bird flew parallel and still
As the train shot forth the straight line of its whistle,
Forward on the taut tracks, piercing empty, familiar —
The bored center of this vision and condition looked and
Down through the slick pages of the magazine (seeking
The seen and the unseen) and his gaze fell down the well
Of the great darkness under the slick glitter,
And he was only one among eight million riders and
And all the while under his empty smile the shaking drum
Of the long determined passage passed through him
By his body mimicked and echoed. And then the train
Like a suddenly storming rain, began to rush and thresh–
The silent or passive night, pressing and impressing
The patients’ foreheads with a tightening-like image
Of the rushing engine proceeded by a shaft of light
Piercing the dark, changing and transforming the silence
Into a violence of foam, sound, smoke and succession.
A bored child went to get a cup of water,
And crushed the cup because the water too was
Boring and merely boredom’s struggle.
The child, returning, looked over the shoulder
Of a man reading until he annoyed the shoulder.
A fat woman yawned and felt the liquid drops
Drip down the fleece of many dinners.
And the bird flew parallel and parallel flew
The black pencil lines of telephone posts, crucified,
At regular intervals, post after post
Of thrice crossed, blue-belled, anonymous trees.
And then the bird cried as if to all of us:
0 your life, your lonely life
What have you ever done with it,
And done with the great gift of consciousness?
What will you ever do with your life before death’s
Provides the answer ultimate and appropriate?
As I for my part felt in my heart as one who falls,
Falls in a parachute, falls endlessly, and feel the vast
Draft of the abyss sucking him down and down,
An endlessly helplessly falling and appalled clown:
This is the way that night passes by, this
Is the overnight endless trip to the famous unfathomable
Delmore Schwartz (8 december 1913 – 11 juli 1966)
Uit: My Life and Hard Times
“I suppose that the high-water mark of my youth in Columbus, Ohio, was the night the bed fell on my father. It makes a better recitation (unless, as some friends of mine have said, one has heard it five or six times) than it does a piece of writing, for it is almost necessary to throw furniture around, shake doors, and bark like a dog, to lend the proper atmosphere and verisimilitude to what is admittedly a somewhat incredible tale. Still, it did take place.
It happened, then, that my father had decided to sleep in the attic one night, to be away where he could think. My mother opposed the notion strongly because, she said, the old wooden bed up there was unsafe: it was wobbly and the heavy headboard would crash down on father’s head in case the bed fell, and kill him. There was no dissuading him, however, and at a quarter past ten he closed the attic door behind him and went up the narrow twisting stairs. We later heard ominous creakings as he crawled into bed. Grandfather, who usually slept in the attic bed when he was with us, had disappeared some days before. (On these occasions he was usually gone six or eight days and returned growling and out of temper, with the news that the federal Union was run by a passel of blockheads and that the Army of the Potomac didn’t have any more chance than a fiddler’s bitch.)
We had visiting us at this time a nervous first cousin of mine named Briggs Beall, who believed that he was likely to cease breathing when he was asleep. It was his feeling that if he were not awakened every hour during the night, he might die of suffocation. He had been accustomed to setting an alarm clock to ring at intervals until morning, but I persuaded him to abandon this. He slept in my room and I told him that I was such a light sleeper that if anybody quit breathing in the same room with me, I would wake instantly. He tested me the first night-which I had suspected he would-by holding his breath after my regular breathing had convinced him I was asleep. I was not asleep, however, and called to him. This seemed to allay his fears a little, but he took the precaution of putting a glass of spirits of camphor on a little table at the head of his bed. In case I didn’t arouse him until he was almost gone, he said, he would sniff the camphor, a powerful reviver. Briggs was not the only member of his family who had his crotchets.“
James Thurber (8 december 1894 – 2 november 1961)
Carolina Spring Song
Against the swart magnolias’ sheen
Pronged maples, like a stag’s new horn,
Stand gouted red upon the green,
In March when shaggy buds are shorn.
Then all a mist-streaked, sunny day
The long sea-islands lean to hear
A water harp that shallows play
To lull the beaches’ fluted ear.
When this same music wakes the gift
Of pregnant beauty in the sod,
And makes the uneasy vultures shift
Like evil things afraid of God,
Then, then it is I love to drift
Upon the flood-tide’s lazy swirls,
While from the level rice fields lift
The spiritu’ls of darky girls.
I hear them singing in the fields
Like voices from the long-ago;
They speak to me of somber worlds
And sorrows that the humble know;
Of sorrow–yet their tones release
A harmony of larger hours
From easy epochs long at peace
Amid an irony of flowers.
So if they sometimes seem a choir
That cast a chill of doubt on spring,
They have still higher notes of fire
Like cardinals upon the wing.
William Hervey Allen (8 december 1889 – 28 december 1949)
Uit: Fiancés en herbe
„Henriette (après un temps relevant la tête): Ah! que c’est ennuyeux ! Ça ne veut pas entrer…
René: Moi ça commence !… Je sais jusqu’à “fromage!”, “… tenait dans son bec un fromage”.
Henriette: Deux lignes !… déjà!…
René: Oui, et toi?
Henriette: Moi, je commence un peu à savoir le titre.
René: Oh ! tu verras, ça n’est pas très difficile… c’est très bête cette fable-là… c’est pour les petits enfants…mais on la retient facilement.
Henriette : Dis donc, tu les aimes, toi, les Fables de La Fontaine?
René (bon enfant): Oh ! non… ça n’est plus de mon âge.
Henriette (naïvement): Qui est-ce qui les a faites, les Fables de La Fontaine? …
René (très carré): Je ne sais pas !… il n’a pas de talent.
Henriette (avec conviction): Non !… D’abord pourquoi est-ce que ça s’appelle les Fables de La Fontaine?
René: Pour rien…c’est un mot composé… comme dans la grammaire, «rez-de-chaussée, arc-en-ciel, chou-fleur».
Henriette: Haricots verts.
René: Parfaitement !
Henriette: Eh bien ! moi j’aurais appelé ça Fables des animaux … plutôt que Fables de La Fontaine.., parce qu’il y a tout le temps des animaux.., et qu’il n’y a presque pas de fontaines. Voilà!
René : C’est évident… et on devrait le dire à l’auteur.
Henriette: Ah ! l’auteur, ce qu’il aurait fait de mieux c’est de ne pas les écrire, ses fables ! car enfin c’est à cause de lui qu’il faut les savoir, s’il ne les avait pas faites, on n’aurait pas à les apprendre… Et puis, à quoi ça sert-il les fables?
René: Ah bien! ça vous apprend quelque chose.
Henriette: Ah! par exemple, je voudrais bien savoir ce que nous apprend Le Corbeau et le Renard?
René: Mais cela t’apprend qu’il ne faut pas parler aux gens quand on a du fromage dans la bouche. »
Georges Feydeau (8 december 1862 – 5 juni 1921)
Uit: Brief over de dichtkunst
Maecenas, telg van ouden vorstenstam,
mijn steun en trots, mijn blijdschap en mijn roem,
het stof der renbaan van Olympia
is menigeen tot vreugd, een mooie draai
en dan de eerepalm, een heerlijkheid,
waarbij de hemel nauwlijks halen kan.
Een ander, als het wuft Quiritendom
hem heffen wil tot een curulisch ambt.
Een derde, als hij in zijn schuren heeft
den heelen oogst van ’t Africaansch domein.
De boer, die welgemoed zijn erfdeel spit,
laat door geen fabelachtig tractement
zich lijmen om met cederhouten kiel
in duizend vreezen ’t ruime sop te kiezen.
Als stormwind worstelt met de golven, snakt
de koopman naar de landelijke rust
van zijn geboorteplaats … Dra ligt het schip
weer zeilree: zich bekrimpen kan hij niet.
Een zeker iemand prefereert Bourgogne
en ’n stevig middagdutje, uitgestrekt
onder een lijsterbes of bij een bron,
waarvan het beekje kabb’lend nedervliet.
Maar velen trekt ’t soldatenleven aan,
trompetgeschal en oorlog, voor de moeders
een vloek. Daarbuiten in de kou vergeet
de jager zijn lief vrouwtje, als zijn hond
een hinde signaleert, of een wild zwijn
de strakke koorden van het net verbreekt.
Wat mij ten hemel heft zijn lauwerkransen,
der wijsheid kroon, het koele woud waarin
de nymphen met de satyrs spelemeien,
dat is mijn adeldom, wanneer Euterpe
voor mij haar wijsjes pijpt, wanneer de luit
van Polyhymnia voor mij weerklinkt.
Mag ik een zanger van het lierdicht heeten,
dan zal ik boven alle wolken zijn.
Vertaling: Rutgers van der Loef
Horatius (8 december 65 v. Chr. – 27 november 8 v. Chr.)
Zie voor onderstaande schrijvers ook mijn blog van 8 december 2008.
De Spaanse schrijfster, vertaalster en journaliste Carmen Martín Gaite werd geboren op 8 december 1925 in Salamanca.
De Griekse dichter en schrijver Nikos Gatsos werd geboren op 8 december 1911 in Kato Asea in Arcadië.
De Amerikaanse schrijver Joel Chandler Harris werd geboren op 8 december 1848 in Eatonton, Georgia.