Sunday, July 21, 2013
without hedges or ditches or any kind of edge
Samuel Beckett has ambient country cows and so I see that they are safe from no human being, these poor concepts known as cows, "It was on a road remarkably bare," says Molloy, "I mean without hedges or ditches or any kind of edge, in the country, for cows were chewing in enormous fields, lying and standing, in the evening silence." Always there like props or trees, the interior foreigner of British literature, present, reliable, and inhuman, with their unreadable minds and their unknowable possibly violent, vicious, or conniving characters, weirdly four-legged, and so steady in the background that they are like Indian servants when an old story is set in the Raj, though destined eventually for stew, chops, shoes, or fertiliser, an undertone not often mentioned.
The qualities of Beckett's cows are so roundly and carelessly enumerated (and in the present or else eternal with no past or future state for the cows except perpetual exercise of the identical activities) that they are like a summary of other writers' cows, of cows that have belonged to scenes forever, and the reader I believe is not close to the cows because they are not particularised cows, they are not detailed, they are tapped on like dabs of paint that represent tree leaves, roughly in the correct position as taught by other teachers and not offensive to any mild or general critic.
So that the promise of contentment in these cows seems somewhat false and distant; they are a hallucination of peacefulness that the reader is reminded that they cannot touch, though they see it represented.
The cows have offered me a segue from the last post into the subject of Molloy, which is a book that Kevin Neilson at Interpolations has asked me to discuss or talk about, and yet states of extreme separation, I notice, are present throughout Molloy, and nonsegue could be in fact the essence of the book or a significant part of the essence anyway, not the essence I think but something at least, and maybe a clue or more than idle thought: the two narrators themselves never meeting, the polarisation between silence and speech being a primary source of action or torment, the separation too of locations (Molloy imprisoned in a room or extremely outdoors, Moran at home or away from home); and then there are the clumsy physical acts that perpetually will undo or ruin a possibly-spiritual state of perfection or unity as if one part of life is by default at war against the other, like sin and not-sin, humanity living in a state of hopeful damnation.
Why else is it sad and ridiculous, the hat on the lace attached to the buttonhole, if there is not an ethereal position of flawlessness that it might otherwise have inhabited?