Sunday, October 26, 2014

you know not, you omniscient nullity

Captain, laughs the audience, we have been allowed to know who is suffering in this scene and it is not you -- thinking like that as they hear the Captain complain to the badgered, haunted Woyeck, “You keep stabbing at me with those eyes of yours.” Woyzeck has been stabbed too; the Doctor pays him to eat nothing but peas and then he assaults him with scientific attention. “It walks upright. Wears coats and pants.”

Doctor examines a cat through his magnifying glass and spots a rabbit louse. Rare new species, he says. I go back to Woolf again, whose self won't stop passing judgment. “And further, there was another prick of the pin: one was wasting one’s chance.” Once she decided in a letter, that “To a person of imagination, Land's End is as impressive as the Equator” (1st of October, 1905, writing to Violet Dickinson, in The Letters of Virginia Woolf: Volume 1, 1888 - 1912), which, if you wanted, you could connect to Ruskin in his private correspondence with himself (The Diaries of John Ruskin, Vol. 2: 1848 - 1873), writing, “that all forms are thus either indicative of lines of energy or pressure, or motion, variously impressed or resisted,” with Land's End as the form and the measuring, weighing imagination as energy, pressure, or motion.

Then I turn to Knut Hamsun, whose narrator, in Hunger, is trying to find the source of judgment; and who tries to evict it from its stronghold with his transgressions. Accusing God of hating him, he shouts --

I tell you, you have used force against me, and you know not, you omniscient nullity, that I never bend in opposition! I tell you, all my life, every cell in my body, every power of my soul, gasps to mock you -- you Gracious Monster on High. I tell you, I would, if I could, breathe it into every human soul, every flower, every leaf, every dewdrop in the garden! I tell you, I would scoff you on the day of doom, and curse the teeth out of my mouth for the sake of your Deity's boundless miserableness! I tell you from this hour I renounce all thy works and all thy pomps! I will execrate my thought if it dwell on you again, and tear out my lips if they ever utter your name!

(translated by George Egerton)

Nothing responds to the blasphemy and soon he's saying “God” casually again without shame, as if that speech had never existed. “I was, God be praised, all right in my senses as any man.” Judgment isn't always very perpetual, though in Dorothy Wordsworth's Journals it seems to be, and if she loves her brother today then she will love him again tomorrow; and the sheep will be beautiful no matter when they appear in the landscape -- next week, next month, whenever -- she seems to have a steady source of appreciation on which she naively draws; like a fictional character she seems guileless, whereas the narrator of Hunger is volatile, like a person.

(n.b., I began reading Hamsun after I saw this post at Wuthering Expectations.)

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