I was about to give an irritated reply and turn over on my side when I heard it. I jumped out of bed and ran barefoot out of the house, into this sound that hovered like an oppressive weight between the clear constellations and the dark earth, not here and not there but everywhere in space; there was no escaping it.
One didn’t dare to inhale for fear of breathing it in. It was the sound of eighteen hundred airplanes approaching Hamburg from the south at an unimaginable height. We had already experienced two hundred or even more air raids, among them some very heavy ones, but this was something completely new. And yet there was an immediate recognition: this was what everyone had been waiting for, what had hung for months like a shadow over everything we did, making us weary. It was the end. […]
The sound immediately drove me back into the house. It is possible that Misi called out to me from above, and that I answered something or other—I no longer remember. It wouldn’t have been more than a few words; for this sound made a lie of all talk, it disarmed every word and pressed it to the ground. […]
— Hans Erich Nossack, from The End: Hamburg 1943, trans. Joel Agee
By my violet-eyed little sister
I sent home, saying I’d be coming,
that I’d do some work on the fences
and put the rose-bushes to bed.
I heard that my mother baked some cakes,
sieving flour for them from
the bottom of the sack, the drawer’s corners,
and dusted off her floury apron.
She laid the table with a clean cloth,
warm goat’s milk was in the mug,
my white shirt, spread out freshly ironed
shone waiting for me on the bed.
My father sliced tobacco leaves
for me to blow smoke-rings; he’d gathered up
a basketful of dry stalks and shavings
and lit a fire, so I wouldn’t shiver:
white paper won’t keep out the cold.
From early morning they stood at the gate,
shuffling their feet, coughing now and then,
looking up at the sky, then down the street,
they smiled at the boy herding the cattle,
they’d picked a bouquet of numb Michaelmas daisies.
As I didn’t come, they stood there felled
by frost, only their sighs rustling;
the autumn wind was breaking loose
scattering thick rime down their heads.
— Ferenc Juhász, “Violet-eyed little sister”, trans. Kenneth McRobbie & Ilona Duczynska
Physical love is a sin because there, and not in the arguments of atheists, god has been rendered unnecessary: in the centre of the ovum is the atheistical void. To redeem our immersion in this void we are destined to beget a second generation of victims and sufferers. Thus the purpose of the suffering in life is to redeem the blasphemy of two lovers, at that mutually sufficient moment of consummated love, when god, standing in the corner of the room, knows that, at that kiss, he is unnecessary, this is the blasphemy that drives him, no matter how briefly, out of our house.
— George Barker, from The Dead Seagull
I have a story to relate which proves that Love, with no blood on its knife, does not sleep easily, if it sleeps at all, until every one of its devotees lies dead. The great destroyer. In every bed. In every single bed. In every double bed. No, it is nothing new. It has a more formidable virtue than novelty. It is inevitable. Its virtue is that of divine volitional victimisation. I warn you that as you lie in your bed and feel the determination of your lover slipping its blade between your ribs, this is the real consummation. “Kill me, kill me,” you murmur. But it always surprises you when you die.
— George Barker, from The Dead Seagull
My vengeance will catch up with him, however. It will be noble revenge but he will suffer like a dog. I will dedicate a short novel to his Napoleonically conceived life, to the description of his character and the proper representation of the dirty work done at the clinic. This novel must awaken nationwide interest.
— Géza Csáth (né József Brenner), 9 January 1913, The Diary of Géza Csáth, trans. Peter Reich
There are blows in life, so powerful … I don’t know!
Blows as from the hatred of God; as if, facing them,
the undertow of everything suffered
welled up in the soul … I don’t know!
They are few; but they are … They open dark trenches
in the fiercest face and in the strongest back.
Perhaps they are the colts of barbaric Attilas;
or the black heralds sent to us by Death.
They are the deep falls of the Christs of the soul,
of some adored faith blasphemed by Destiny.
Those bloodstained blows are the crackling of
bread burning up at the oven door.
And man … Poor … poor! He turns his eyes, as
when a slap on the shoulder summons us;
turns his crazed eyes, and everything lived
wells up, like a pool of guilt, in his look.
There are blows in life, so powerful … I don’t know!
— César Vallejo, “The Black Heralds”, trans. Clayton Eshleman
See here the tulip, and see there the roses,
Where in the park Love sports beneath the trees,
Sing in the long rose-red, unruffled eves
Under the bronze and marble’s massive poses.
Gaily at night have sung the flower-beds
On which the slanting moonbeams pirouette,
And gusts of wind blow heavy, desolate,
Troubling the white dream of the lonely birds.
See here the tulip, and see there the roses
And lilies dusk-empurpled, crystalline,
Gleam sadly in the sun that now declines;
And now the pain of things and creatures closes.
My shattered love is bruised and raw; but see,
The quivering nerves grow still, the hurt reposes.
And the lily now, the tulip and the roses
Watch my soul bathe in memories, and weep.
— Émile Nelligan, “Autumn Evenings”, trans. P. F. Widdows.
It was once asked, in my hearing, what was the greatest pleasure in Love? Someone, of course, answered: To receive, and someone else: To give oneself — The former said: The pleasure of pride, and the latter: The voluptuousness of humility. All those swine talked like The Imitation of Jesus Christ. Finally, there was a shameless Utopian who affirmed that the greatest pleasure in Love was to beget citizens for the State. For my part, I say: the sole and supreme pleasure in Love lies in the absolute knowledge of doing evil. And man and woman know, from birth, that in Evil is to be found all voluptuousness.
— Baudelaire, Intimate Journals, trans. Christopher Isherwood.
Experiments with Weird: Eugène Savitzkaya -
We cling to every word as if to handholds in a rock face, because at every moment we have no idea what to expect. In the absence of conventionally established expectations, anything is possible. Every word defers the promise of sense; in fact this creeping progress is Savitzkaya’s narrative drive. Story lies in smithereens. This is narrative atomized, moving forward by crumbs; we can see no further than the next word, focus yoked to this infinitesimal progress, like a tile in a vast mosaic, a scrutiny of minutiae, while all around us is a spreading sensation of alarm that the bigger picture, could we but see it, is quite terrifying.
— Edward Gauvin on Savitzkaya’s prose. Read the rest here.
Inside there were two of them, one a short specimen with heavy legs, his eyes like the horns of a bull tossing the patients up, the other extremely thin with lips like sparkling scissors, a nose like a blade—it was the same man who … I ran to him as to a dear friend, straight over close to the blade, and muttered something about insomnia, dreams, shadows, yellow sand. The scissors lips sparkled and smiled.
"Yes, it is too bad. Apparently a soul has formed in you.”
A soul? That strange, ancient word that was forgotten long ago…
"Is it … v-very dangerous?" I stuttered.
"Incurable," was the cut of the scissors.
"But more specifically, what is it? Somehow I cannot imagine—"
"You see … how shall I put it? Are you a mathematician?"
"Then you see … imagine a plane, let us say this mirror. You and I are on its surface. You see? There we are, squinting our eyes to protect ourselves from the sunlight, or here is the bluish electric spark in that tube, there the shadow of that aero that just passed. All this is on the surface, is momentary only. Now imagine this very same surface softened by a flame so that nothing can glide over it any longer, so everything will instead penetrate into that mirror world, which excites such curiosity in children. I assure you, children are not so foolish as we think they are! The surface becomes a volume, a body, a world. And inside the mirror—within you—there is the sunshine, and the whirlwind caused by the aero propeller, and your trembling lips and someone else’s trembling lips also. You see, the cold mirror reflects, throws out, while this one absorbs; it keeps forever a trace of everything that touches it. Once you saw an imperceptible wrinkle on someone’s face, and this wrinkle is forever preserved within you. You may happen to hear in the silence a drop of water falling—and you will hear it forever!"
— Yevgeny Zamyatin, from We, trans. Gregory Zilboorg.
Bright moments is like seeing something that you ain’t never seen in your life and you don’t have to see it because you know how it looks. Bright moments is like hearing some music and ain’t nobody else heard and if they heard it they wouldn’t even recognize it if they heard it because they been hearing it all they life, so when you hear it and start popping your feet and jumping up and down they get mad because you are enjoying yourself but those are bright moments they can’t share with you because they don’t know even how to go about listening to what you are listening to and when you try to tell them about it they don’t know a damn thing about what you talking about.
— Rahsaan Roland Kirk, from “Bright Moments”, used as an epigraph in the poetry collection You by Frank Stanford.