Uit: The Lives of Animals
“He is waiting at the gate when her flight comes in. Two years have passed since he last saw his mother; despite himself, he is shocked at how she has aged. Her hair, which had had streaks of gray in it, is now entirely white; her shoulders stoop; her flesh has grown flabby.
They have never been a demonstrative family. A hug, a few murmured words, and the business of greeting is done. In silence they follow the flow of travelers to the baggage hall, pick up her suitcase, and set off on the ninety-minute drive.
“A long flight,” he remarks. “You must be exhausted.”
“Ready to sleep,” she says; and indeed, en route, she falls asleep briefly, her head slumped against the window.
At six o’clock, as it is growing dark, they pull up in front of his home in suburban Waltham. His wife Norma and the children appear on the porch. In a show of affection that must cost her a great deal, Norma holds her arms out wide and says, “Elizabeth!” The two women embrace; then the children, in their well-brought-up though more subdued fashion, follow suit.
Elizabeth Costello the novelist will be staying with them for the three days of her visit to Appleton College. It is not a period he is looking forward to. His wife and his mother do not get on. It would be better were she to stay at a hotel, but he cannot bring himself to suggest that.
Hostilities are renewed almost at once. Norma has prepared a light supper. His mother notices that only three places have been set. “Aren’t the children eating with us?” she asks. “No,” says Norma, “they are eating in the playroom.” “Why?”
The question is not necessary, since she knows the answer. The children are eating separately because Elizabeth does not like to see meat on the table, while Norma refuses to change the children’s diet to suit what she calls “your mother’s delicate sensibilities.”
“Why?” asks Elizabeth Costello a second time.
Norma flashes him an angry glance. He sighs. “Mother,” he says, “the children are having chicken for supper, that’s the only reason.”
“Oh,” she says. “I see.”
His mother has been invited to Appleton College, where her son John is assistant professor of physics and astronomy, to deliver the annual Gates Lecture and meet with literature students. Because Costello is his mother’s maiden name, and because he has never seen any reason to broadcast his connection with her, it was not known at the time of the invitation that Elizabeth Costello, the Australian writer, had a family connection in the Appleton community. He would have preferred that state of affairs to continue.”
Zelfmoord van een gematigde dictator
Dit is een dag waarop de waarheden misschien naar buiten komen;
lekken uit de bungelende oortelefoons
en de kracht van de versierde schakelborden ondermijnen;
uit de ramen vallen, van de vensterbanken waaien,
– de vage, ietwat onopvallende inhoud
van het legen van asbakken; afgeven aan onze vingers
zoals inkt van de niet-proefgelezen kranten,
zoals de onscherpe foto’s
van snode gezichten die onze jassen vervuilen,
onze jassen met tropisch gewicht, als doodgeslagen motten.
Vandaag is een dag waarop degenen die werken
rondhangen. Degenen die speelden, moeten werken
en zich haasten, ook, om het voor elkaar te krijgen,
met weinig of geen waardigheid.
De kranten worden verkocht; de luiken van de kiosk
vallen neer. Maar hoe dan ook, in de nacht
schreven de koppen zichzelf, kijk, op de straat
en de trottoirs overal; het bezinksel spat
zelfs tot de eerste verdiepingen van appartementsgebouwen.
Dit is ook een mooie dag
en warm en helder. Om zeven uur zag ik
honden uitgelaten worden langs het beroemde strand
zoals gewoonlijk, in een glanzende grijsgroene dageraad,
hun pootafdrukken achterlatend in het nat.
De lijn van brekers was stabiel en de roze,
opgesplitste regenboog hing er aldoor boven.
Om acht uur waren twee kleine jongens aan het vliegeren.
Vertaald door Frans Roumen