Monday, 1 September 2008

A Little Márai 2

The excerpt.

The ribbon hadn’t faded, simply looked a little worn, in that peculiar way dead people’s possessions can do. Have you noticed how the hats and handkerchiefs of the dead tend to age, practically the moment the wearer dies? They lose color somehow, like leaves torn off the branch, and the green begins immediately to fade as green watercolour does… It seems there is a certain electric power in people whose current runs through all their belongings, the way sunlight runs through the world.

The lilac ribbon was barely alive. It was as if it had been worn a very long time ago. The person who wore might already be dead… or at least dead to my husband. That’s what I was hoping. I gazed at it, sniffed it, rubbed it between my fingers, questioned it… but the ribbon did not give up its secret. It remained obstinately silent, with all the defiance of an inanimate object.

And yet at the same time it gave something away. It was somehow superior, dense with schadenfreude. It was as if a mischievous goblin had stuck out its apoplectic lilac tongue to mock and ridicule me. This is what it said in goblin language: ‘See, I have been hiding behind the lovely, well-arranged façade of things. I had existence then and exist now. I am the buried, the secret, the truth.’ Did I understand what it was saying?... I felt so agitated, so cheated, so shaken - such fury and curiosity burned in me - that I would not have baulked at rushing into the street to find the woman who had once worn it in her hair or her corset… I was red with fury at being so insulted. See, even now my face is quite hot, flushed and red, just thinking of the lilac ribbon. Wait, lend me a little powder, let me make myself presentable.

There. Thank you, I feel better now. Well, the clerk soon appeared and I tidily put back everything in the purse; the calling cards, the proofs of identity, the money and the lilac ribbon that was so important to my husband that he rang home excitedly from the factory in the morning and had to send a clerk for it… And then I stood there, the great decision made in my heart, blazing with indignation, understanding nothing of life.

This is, of course, only a draft at this stage. I have also started writing the Englishness of English Poetry lecture. So far so good.


The Plump said...


George S said...

Thank you. Márai is a gorgeous writer. The prose kind of creeps and swells, then brightens into simple plain sentences.