Life in this bed of roses, however, was not without its longueurs. It was not at all amusing to sit in silence, in an armchair, listening to the endless discussions between Carlos and Craft on art and science. And as he confessed later, he did feel slightly put out when they took him to the laboratory to perform electrical experiments on his body. “They held me down like two demons,” he told the Countess de Gouvarinho, “and I’ve always hated any kind of spiritualism!”
She sat down, they offered her champagne, and Dona Adosinda began to reveal herself to be a truly astonishing creature. They were talking about politics, about the government and the deficit. Dona Adosinda immediately announced that she knew the deficit very well, and that he was a lovely fellow. The deficit “a lovely fellow” – well, everyone roared with laughter. Dona Adosinda became annoyed and declared that she had been to Sintra with him, and that he was a perfect gentleman and worked for the Bank of England.
Ega got up and made a desolate gesture: “We have failed in life, my friend!”
Over his white robe in which the wind was trapped like the wings of anxious seagulls he wore a jacket buttoned to the chin and around the head he had wrapped a turban and on his face he had a pointed beard. He thoughtfully fondled the sharpness of the hairy little sword on his chin and carefully and slowly explained to us from deep in his throat that he could, upon request, rapidly accompany us to a place where we might obtain assistance, but only the men would be allowed to come. This after all, was dictated by the customs of Islam. And concerning the women we weren’t to worry excessively for they would be safe here during our brief absence. But we had to take our shoes off. With the guide we clambered over the sandhill and sunk to our knees in the shifts and the slides of the surface. Behind the hill we saw the grey sandflats decorated with shadows of all shapes. Like more palpable shadows there were also broad drawers standing upright, half buried in the sand itself, with shiny knobs by which they could be opened upwards. The Arab with the burnt-out eyes asked us whether we wished to arrive at our destination quickly or less quickly or less slowly or slowly or in God’s own time. We said: as soon as possible, please. Rather, that was my answer, and I assume the others answered in the same way. Thus he opened the left most “drawer” and we climbed in. And with a giddy speed we tumbled down, transported by a vertical conveyer belt, until down below we were spilt head over heels on a square. In the middle of the square was a fountain. Around this square with its fountain there were the fronts of tall buildings – some were even palaces. A crowd of people with smiles wreathed around their mouths strolled up and down and then stopped to listen with cocked heads how the spouting water plunges back with a rinkle-tinkle. It was warm in that place. And it was evening because spray-lights lit up the buildings and shone through the tree of water. I think it must have been in Switzerland. A long long time ago.
It has fifteen lines, but still seems like Petrarch to me.
Adesso che il tempo sembra tutto mio
e nessuno mi chiama per il pranzo e per la cena,
adesso che posso rimanere a guardare
come si scioglie una nuvola e come si scolora,
come cammina un gatto per il tetto
nel lusso immenso di una esplorazione, adesso
che ogni giorno mi aspetta
la sconfinata lunghezza di una notte
dove non c’è richiamo e non c’è piú ragione
di spogliarsi in fretta per riposare dentro
l’accecante dolcezza di un corpo che mi aspetta,
adesso che il mattino non ha mai principio
e silenzioso mi lascia ai miei progetti
a tutte le cadenze della voce, adesso
vorrei improvvisamente la prigione.
(tr. Judith Baumel)
Now that time seems all mine
and no one calls me for lunch or dinner,
now that I can stay to watch
how a cloud loosens and loses its color,
how a cat walks on the roof
in the immense luxury of a prowl, now
that what waits for me every day
is the unlimited length of a night
where there is no call and no longer a reason
to undress in a hurry to rest inside
the blinding sweetness of a body that waits for me,
now that the morning no longer has a beginning
and silently leaves me to my plans,
to all the cadences of my voice, now
suddenly I would like prison.
By Sunday evening, exhausted, she thought quietly to herself: ‘Sello, after all, is just a fool, and he looks like a monkey.’
She closed her eyes, wearily. There was an instant attack from Medusa. She stood next to brown-suit and said, accusingly, ‘You see, she says you look like a monkey. What are you going to do about it?’
As Elizabeth watched, brown-suit’s face slowly changed to the shape of an owl. He said: ‘Oh, no, I’m not a monkey. I’m a wise old owl.’
She jerked upright in bed. What was this? Did it mean she had no privacy left?