Monday, April 29, 2019

Защитная корка бесчувственности/ L. Petranovskaya on the concept of containing

В продолжение темы

Если в основе личности – прочный, как из титана, стержень убеждения «я существую и это хорошо», человек гораздо меньше зависит от внешней оценки. Стрелы критики, осуждения не разрушат его. А значит, будучи спокойным за свою безопасность на самом глубинном уровне, взрослый человек сможет отнестись к критике разумно, что-то принять, что-то отвергнуть, виноват – исправить и принести извинения, сделать выводы на будущее.
Критика воспринимается как субъективное суждение другого человека, которое может быть как верным, так и ошибочным, как важным, так и не имеющим особого значения. То же и с положительной оценкой, похвалой. Она приятна, но не остро необходима, в самые потаенные глубины личности не проникает, не существует такой похвалы, которая была бы сильнее и важней той базовой убежденности «я хороший», усвоенной в младенчестве.

А если титанового основания, прочного позитивного отношения к себе нет?
Тогда критика, особенно от близких или значимых людей воспринимается как угроза личности в целом, как послание мира: «Ты недостаточно хорош. Лучше бы тебя не было». И хотя разум понимает, конечно, что критика сама по себе не может убить, отменить, вышвырнуть их жизни, подсознательно осуждение воспринимается как смертный приговор. Стоит ли удивляться, что человек в этом случае не может извлечь из критики пользу, он будет либо обороняться любой ценой, как раненый гладиатор, не церемонясь в средствах, нападая и раня в ответ, либо опять же любой ценой избегать всякой активности, впадать в паралич, чтобы не рисковать совершить ошибку.
Как ни странно, похвала тоже не идет впрок: она либо крайне смущает, воспринимается мучительно, поскольку всегда кажется «незаслуженной». «неискренней», либо превращается в необходимый допинг, и тогда человеком легко можно управлять с помощью лести и комплиментов. И то, и другое в жизни встречается, и, увы, чаще, чем хотелось бы. А в самых тяжелых случаях принимает форму болезненной зависимости от оценок окружающих – нарциссического расстройства личности.

Сколько их вокруг нас, людей, которые словно не уверены, что существуют, что они в мире по праву? Не обязательно бывших сирот, но почти всегда обделенных в свое время вниманием и принятием самых значимых в своей жизни людей.

Мы просыпаемся среди ночи от рева мотоцикла, который без глушителя несется по спящим улицам города. Что заставляет ездока так агрессивно сообщать миру о своем существовании, почему в другой способ заявить о себе он не верит?
Мы видим толпы людей, на кастингах в глупые телешоу, людей, готовых утратить на потеху публики не только приватность, но и чувство собственного достоинства – только ради того, чтобы «круто попасть на ТВ» и, появившись на тысячах экранов, хоть на время поверить, что они существуют.
Сколько мелодрам заканчиваются хэппи-эндом, который состоит в том, что герой видит себя на первых полосах газет – только после такого радикального подтверждения социумом своего существования он начинает верить в себя, в свое право жить и быть таким, какой есть.
Сколько людей бесконечно постят в соцсетях фото и отчеты о каждом своем дне, о любой детали своей жизни, словно без ответных лайков не вполне уверены, что у них и правда есть лицо, фигура, машина, дача, кошка, ребенок и пирог с ягодами на десерт. Помните, еще у Гоголя: «Передайте государю императору, что есть на свете такие Добчинский и Бобчинский»…

Конечно, позитивное отзеркаливание не заканчивается в младенчестве, мы продолжаем и дальше давать ребенку понять, что он любим, важен, что мы рады его присутствию в нашей жизни. Потребность в таком «теплом душе» может вновь обостряться в кризисные периоды жизни, в периоды тяжелых испытаний или возрастных трудностей, например, в подростковом возрасте. В эти момент ребенку вновь бывает очень важно увидеть в глазах родителя, услышать в его словах понимание, одобрение и безусловное принятие, чтобы вновь убедиться: «я существую – и это хорошо».

Защитная корка бесчувственности

Что происходит, если ребенка не контейнируют**? Стресс вот он, нервы напряжены, боль от разочарования, от неудачи, от падения, от испуга никуда не девается. Поплакать не получается: за это ругают или не обращают внимания, оставляют одного со стрессом.
Помощи нет. Что же делать?
Никто не берет меня на ручки, мне приходится брать себя в руки, самому становиться контейнером для себя. Для взрослого это нормально, мы все так и поступаем в большинстве случаев. Но у малыша ресурса для того, чтобы действительно позаботиться о себе, нет. Способность заботиться о себе не падает с неба – она формируется как результат заботы, полученной от других. Если меня не контейнировали, как я начну, где научусь?

[Термин «контейнирование» известен благодаря психологам — популяризаторам теории привязанности. Когда ребенок не может справиться со своими эмоциями, родитель должен помочь ему их пережить: успокоить, выслушать и объяснить, что это за чувства. По сути, контейнирование — это вбирание эмоций ребенка и помощь в их переживании. И родители, которые сознательно подходили к воспитанию детей, так всегда и делали: жалели ребенка и были с ним рядом, когда ему трудно.
...«Контейнирование» - способность человека не раниться, не разрушаться от собственных переживаний.]

И как же быть?
Можно научиться не чувствовать. Отрастить защитный панцирь. Можно натренироваться и притерпеться к боли, не воспринимать ее. Если я маленький ребенок, который сам не может о себе позаботиться – это единственный выход для меня – диссоциация, отсоединение от чувств. Я ничего не чувствую, я не в контакте с собой. Если называть вещи своими именами, это значит, что я немножко мертвый.
Все живые существа делают это: если опасность явно превышает возможности справиться с ней, можно притвориться мертвым – и так попробовать пережить стресс. В жизни есть ситуации, когда это разумно, очень стрессовые, очень опасные, когда лучше всего «отморозиться», впасть в диссоциацию, чтобы пережить ужас. Но если это не временная стратегия, а постоянная, то это означает быть немножко неживым, одеть на себя броню, уже неснимаемую. Теперь я спокоен и не расстраиваюсь. Удобно, не так ли? Всё нипочем. Больно – не плачу. Плохо – не пожалуюсь. Побьют, обидят – подумаешь, а мне все равно. Я справлюсь, я не раскисаю, я держу себя в руках – всю жизнь.

Кстати, возможно, это объясняет причину типичной ссоры супругов: жена жалуется на какие-то проблемы, ей нужны утешение и поддержка, а муж вместо этого начинает давать советы и предлагать решения. Возможно, дело вовсе не в том, что «мужчины с Марса, а женщины с Венеры», а все проще: мальчикам на порядок чаще отказывают в контейнировании, чем девочкам. Они все детство слышат: «не реви, ты же не девчонка, разберись сам, дай сдачи». Их не контейнировали – и они не могут, не включается бессознательное поведение.
В лучшем случае получается осознанно, через голову, после того, как прочли книжку с советом: не объясняй ей, в чем причина проблемы и что она должна сделать, просто обними и скажи, что все будет хорошо. А проблему она решит сама – либо скажет тебе, чем ты можешь помочь.

Возможно, и большее число сердечно-сосудистых заболеваний у мужчин тоже отчасти объясняется тем, что им с детства было сложнее перейти от мобилизации к принятию и печали. В культурах, где мужские слезы не считаются постыдными, нет такой резкой разницы в продолжительности жизни между мужчинами и женщинами.

Если ребенку не помогают перейти от плана А (мобилизации) к плану Б (печали и расслаблению), он, по сути, остается в незавершенном, не нашедшем выхода усилии и напряжении. Стресс «запирается» в психике, поэтому иногда «панцирь» вдруг дает трещину, и из него вырываются протуберанцы неконтролируемой ярости, пугая всех вокруг. И если ярость ребенка – это просто неприятная проблема, то ярость взрослого, обросшего панцирем, может быть серьезной угрозой для окружающих. Не думаю, что родители, растящие детей под девизом «соберись, не распускай нюни», хотят именно этого, но получается вот так.

Не лучше выглядит и вариант, при котором ребенок, не надеясь на помощь взрослых, просто отказывается преодолевать барьеры, не переходит даже к плану А, капитулирует сразу. Остаться в тисках стресса одному так мучительно, что лучше даже не начинать мобилизацию, сдаться сразу.

Это часто становится очень серьезной проблемой у детей, которые провели первые годы жизни без семьи, в учреждении. Даже многие годы спустя, уже давно обретя родителей и совершенно забыв свой сиротский опыт, они легко капитулируют при малейших трудностях, избегают напряжения, готовы все бросить и расплакаться даже при одной мысли о том, что у них что-то может не получиться.

Страхи вырастить неженку, которая не сможет справляться с жизненными невзгодами, необоснованны. Перестараться с контейнированием невозможно, никто не останется сидеть в психологической утробе всю жизнь, там вообще-то скучно. Как только ребенок восстановится, он немедленно выскочит из нее и побежит дальше.

Нам кажется, что тот, кто закален невзгодами с детства, будет лучше справляться с ними и потом. Это не так. Исследования показывают, что лучше справляются с трудностями те, у кого было счастливое детство и благополучная семья. Их психика имеет запас прочности, в стрессе она сохраняет способность быть гибкой и изобретательной, они обращаются за помощью и способны утешиться сами. А те, кому уже в детстве досталось, и они вынуждены были справляться со страхом и болью без помощи родителей, напротив, крайне остро реагируют на стресс, сваливаются либо в агрессию, либо в отчаяние.

Л. Петрановская, из книги «Тайная опора: привязанность в жизни ребенка»

I felt sorry when I came to the last page/ The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath

It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn't know what I was doing in New York. I'm stupid about executions. The idea of being electrocuted makes me sick, and that's all there was to read about in the papers — goggle-eyed headlines staring up at me on every street corner and at the fusty, peanut-smelling mouth of every subway. It had nothing to do with me, but I couldn't help wondering what it would be like, being burned alive all along your nerves.
I thought it must be the worst thing in the world.
New York was bad enough. By nine in the morning the fake, country-wet freshness that somehow seeped in overnight evaporated like the tail end of a sweet dream. Mirage-gray at the bottom of their granite canyons, the hot streets wavered in the sun, the car tops sizzled and glittered, and the dry, cindery dust blew into my eyes and down my throat.

Only I wasn't steering anything, not even myself. I just bumped from my hotel to work and to parties and from parties to my hotel and back to work like a numb trolleybus.

Great white bearskins lay about underfoot, and the only furniture was a lot of low beds covered with Indian rugs. Instead of pictures hung up on the walls, he had antlers and buffalo horns and a stuffed rabbit head. Lenny jutted a thumb at the meek little gray muzzle and stiff jackrabbit ears.
"Ran over that in Las Vegas."

The two of them didn't even stop jitterbugging during the intervals. I felt myself shrinking to a small black dot against all those red and white rugs and that pine paneling. I felt like a hole in the ground.

The mirror over my bureau seemed slightly warped and much too silver. The face in it looked like the reflection in a ball of dentist's mercury. I thought of crawling in between the bed sheets and trying to sleep, but that appealed to me about as much as stuffing a dirty, scrawled-over letter into a fresh, clean envelope. I decided to take a hot bath.

I opened the door and blinked out into the bright hall. I had the impression it wasn't night and it wasn't day, but some lurid third interval that had suddenly slipped between them and would never end.
Doreen was slumped against the doorjamb. When I came out, she toppled into my arms. I couldn't see her face because her head was hanging down on her chest and her stiff blonde hair fell down from its dark roots like a hula fringe.

The sight of all the food stacked in those kitchens made me dizzy. It's not that we hadn't enough to eat at home, it's just that my grandmother always cooked economy joints and economy meat loafs and had the habit of saying, the minute you lifted the first forkful to your mouth, "I hope you enjoy that, it cost forty-one cents a pound," which always made me feel I was somehow eating pennies instead of Sunday roast.

I'd discovered, after a lot of extreme apprehension about what spoons to use, that if you do something incorrect at table with a certain arrogance, as if you knew perfectly well you were doing it properly, you can get away with it and nobody will think you are bad-mannered or poorly brought up. They will think you are original and very witty.
I learned this trick the day Jay Cee took me to lunch with a famous poet. He wore a horrible, lumpy, speckled brown tweed jacket and gray pants and a red-and-blue checked open-throated jersey in a very formal restaurant full of fountains and chandeliers, where all the other men were dressed in dark suits and immaculate white shirts.
This poet ate his salad with his fingers, leaf by leaf, while talking to me about the antithesis of nature and art. I couldn't take my eyes off the pale, stubby white fingers traveling back and forth from the poet's salad bowl to the poet's mouth with one dripping lettuce leaf after another. Nobody giggled or whispered rude remarks. The poet made eating salad with your fingers seem to be the only natural and sensible thing to do.

"I'm very interested in everything." The words fell with a hollow flatness on to Jay Cee's desk, like so many wooden nickels.

Physics made me sick the whole time I learned it. What I couldn't stand was this shrinking everything into letters and numbers. Instead of leaf shapes and enlarged diagrams of the holes the leaves breathe through and fascinating words like carotene and xanthophyll on the blackboard, there were these hideous, cramped, scorpion-lettered formulas in Mr. Manzi's special red chalk.
I knew chemistry would be worse, because I'd seen a big chart of the ninety-odd elements hung up in the chemistry lab, and all the perfectly good words like gold and silver and cobalt and aluminum were shortened to ugly abbreviations with different decimal numbers after them.

She looked terrible, but very wise.

Mrs. Guinea answered my letter and invited me to lunch at her home. That was where I saw my first fingerbowl.
The water had a few cherry blossoms floating in it, and I thought it must be some clear sort of Japanese after-dinner soup and ate every bit of it, including the crisp little blossoms. Mrs. Guinea never said anything, and it was only much later, when I told a debutante I knew at college about the dinner, that I learned what I had done.

...the streets were gray and fuming with rain. It wasn't the nice kind of rain that rinses you clean, but the sort of rain I imagine they must have in Brazil. It flew straight down from the sky in drops the size of coffee saucers and hit the hot sidewalks with a hiss that sent clouds of steam writhing up from the gleaming, dark concrete.

I hate Technicolor. Everybody in a Technicolor movie seems to feel obliged to wear a lurid costume in each new scene and to stand around like a clotheshorse with a lot of very green trees or very yellow wheat or very blue ocean rolling away for miles and miles in every direction. [//Salinger's Holden]

There is nothing like puking with somebody to make you into old friends.

The next thing I had a view of was somebody's shoe.
It was a stout shoe of cracked black leather and quite old, with tiny air holes in ascalloped pattern over the toe and a dull polish, and it was pointed at me. It seemed to be placed on a hard green surface that was hurting my right cheekbone.
I kept very still, waiting for a clue that would give me some notion of what to do. A little to the left of the shoe I saw a vague heap of blue cornflowers on a white ground and this made me want to cry. It was the sleeve of my own bathrobe I was looking at, and my left hand lay pale as a cod at the end of it.
"She's all right now."
…I listened with interest. The floor seemed wonderfully solid. It was comforting to know I had fallen and could fall no farther.

The room hovered around me with great gentleness, as if the chairs and the tables and the walls were withholding their weight out of sympathy for my sudden frailty.

[about tips] I hate handing over money to people for doing what I could just as easily do myself, it makes me nervous.

I flipped through one story after another until finally I came to a story about a fig tree.
This fig grew on a green lawn between the house of a Jewish man and a convent, and the Jewish man and a beautiful dark nun kept meeting at the tree to pick the ripe figs, until one day they saw an egg hatching in a bird's nest on a branch of the tree, and as they watched the little bird peck its way out of the egg, they touched the backs of their hands together, and then the nun didn't come out to pick figs with the Jewish man any more but a mean-faced Catholic kitchen maid came to pick them instead and counted up the figs the man picked after they were both through to be sure he hadn't picked any more than she had, and the man was furious.
I thought it was a lovely story, especially the part about the fig tree in winter under the snow and then the fig tree in spring with all the green fruit. I felt sorry when I came to the last page. I wanted to crawl in between those black lines of print the way you crawl through a fence, and go to sleep under that beautiful big green fig tree.

Now, lying on my back in bed, I imagined Buddy saying, "Do you know what a poem is, Esther?"
"No, what?" I would say.
"A piece of dust."
Then just as he was smiling and starting to look proud, I would say, "So are the cadavers you cut up. So are the people you think you're curing. They're dust as dust as dust. I reckon a good poem lasts a whole lot longer than a hundred of those people put together."
And of course Buddy wouldn't have any answer to that, because what I said was true. People were made of nothing so much as dust, and I couldn't see that doctoring all that dust was a bit better than writing poems people would remember and repeat to themselves when they were unhappy or sick and couldn't sleep.

Buddy told me Will was a third-year man and had to deliver eight babies before he could graduate.
Then he noticed a bustle at the far end of the hall and some men in lime-green coats and skull caps and a few nurses came moving toward us in a ragged procession wheeling a trolley with a big white lump on it.
"You oughtn't to see this," Will muttered in my ear. "You'll never want to have a baby if you do. They oughtn't to let women watch. It'll be the end of the human race."
Buddy and I laughed, and then Buddy shook Will's hand and we all went into the room.
I was so struck by the sight of the table where they were lifting the woman I didn't say a word. It looked like some awful torture table, with these metal stirrups sticking up in mid-air at one end and all sorts of instruments and wires and tubes I couldn't make out properly at the other.
Buddy and I stood together by the window, a few feet away from the woman, where we had a perfect view.
The woman's stomach stuck up so high I couldn't see her face or the upper part of her body at all. She seemed to have nothing but an enormous spider-fat stomach and two little ugly spindly legs propped in the high stirrups, and all the time the baby was being born she never stopped making this unhuman whooing noise.
Later Buddy told me the woman was on a drug that would make her forget she'd had any pain and that when she swore and groaned she really didn't know what she was doing because she was in a kind of twilight sleep.
I thought it sounded just like the sort of drug a man would invent. Here was a woman in terrible pain, obviously feeling every bit of it or she wouldn't groan like that, and she would go straight home and start another baby, because the drug would make her forget how bad the pain had been, when all the time, in some secret part of her, that long, blind, doorless and windowless corridor of pain was waiting to open up and shut her in again.

As soon as the baby was born the people in the room divided up into two groups, the nurses tying a metal dog tag on the baby's wrist and swabbing its eyes with cotton on the end of a stick and wrapping it up and putting it in a canvas-sided cot, while the doctor and Will started sewing up the woman's cut with a needle and a long thread.
I think somebody said, "It's a boy, Mrs. Tomolillo," but the woman didn't answer or raise her head.
"Well, how was it?" Buddy asked with a satisfied expression as we walked across the green quadrangle to his room.
"Wonderful," I said. "I could see something like that every day.

Then he just stood there in front of me and I kept staring at him. The only thing I could think of was turkey neck and turkey gizzards and I felt very depressed.
…Then we kissed and hugged a while and I felt a little better.

… I felt happier than I had been since I was about nine and running along the hot white beaches with my father the summer before he died.

I remember Jody, my best and only girlfriend at college

I tried to imagine what it would be like if Constantin were my husband.
It would mean getting up at seven and cooking him eggs and bacon and toast and coffee and dawdling about in my nightgown and curlers after he'd left for work to wash up the dirty plates and make the bed, and then when he came home after a lively, fascinating day he'd expect a big dinner, and I'd spend the evening washing up even more dirty plates till I fell into bed, utterly exhausted.
This seemed a dreary and wasted life for a girl with fifteen years of straight A's, but I knew that's what marriage was like, because cook and clean and wash was just what Buddy Willard's mother did from morning till night, and she was the wife of a university professor and had been a private school teacher herself.
Once when I visited Buddy I found Mrs. Willard braiding a rug out of strips of wool from Mr. Willard's old suits. She'd spent weeks on that rug, and I had admired the tweedy browns and greens and blues patterning the braid, but after Mrs. Willard was through, instead of hanging the rug on the wall the way I would have done, she put it down in place of her kitchen mat, and in a few days it was soiled and dull and indistinguishable from any mat you could buy for under a dollar in the five and ten.
And I knew that in spite of all the roses and kisses and restaurant dinners a man showered on a woman before he married her, what he secretly wanted when the wedding service ended was for her to flatten out underneath his feet like Mrs. Willard's kitchen mat.
Hadn't my own mother told me that as soon as she and my father left Reno on their honeymoon — my father had been married before, so he needed a divorce – my father said to her, "Whew, that's a relief, now we can stop pretending and be ourselves"? — and from that day on my mother never had a minute's peace.
I also remembered Buddy Willard saying in a sinister, knowing way that after I had children I would feel differently, I wouldn't want to write poems any more. So I began to think maybe it was true that when you were married and had children it was like being brainwashed, and afterward you went about numb as a slave in some private, totalitarian state.

Mr. Willard drove me up to the Adirondacks.
It was the day after Christmas and a gray sky bellied over us, fat with snow. I felt overstuffed and dull and disappointed, the way I always do the day after Christmas, as if whatever it was the pine boughs and the candles and the silver and gilt-ribboned presents and the birch-log fires and the Christmas turkey and the carols and the piano promised never came to pass.
At Christmas I almost wished I was a Catholic.
First Mr. Willard drove and then I drove. I don't know what we talked about, but as the countryside, already deep under old falls of snow, turned us a bleaker shoulder, and as the fir trees crowded down from the gray hills to the road edge, so darkly green they looked black, I grew gloomier and gloomier.

The color scheme of the whole sanatorium seemed to be based on liver. Dark, glowering woodwork, burnt-brown leather chairs, walls that might once have been white but had succumbed under a spreading malady of mold or damp. A mottled brown linoleum sealed off the floor.
On a low coffee table, with circular and semicircular stains bitten into the dark veneer, lay a few wilted numbers of Time and Life. I flipped to the middle of the nearest magazine. The face of Eisenhower beamed up at me, bald and blank as the face of a fetus in a bottle.

"Remember how you asked me where would I like to live best, the country or the city?"
"And you said. . ."
"And I said I wanted to live in the country and in the city both?"
Buddy nodded.
"And you," I continued with sudden force, "laughed and said I had the perfect setup of a true neurotic and that that question came from some questionnaire you'd had in psychology class that week?"
Buddy's smile dimmed.
"Well, you were right. I AM neurotic. I could never settle down in either the country OR the city."
…"Neurotic, ha!" I let out a scornful laugh. "If neurotic is wanting two mutually exclusive things at one and the same time, then I'm neurotic as hell. I'll be flying back and forth between one mutually exclusive thing and another for the rest of my days."

Then I remembered that at medical school Buddy had won a prize for persuading the most relatives of dead people to have their dead ones cut up whether they needed it or not, in the interests of science. I forget what the prize was, but I could just see Buddy in his white coat with his stethoscope sticking out of a side pocket like part of his anatomy, smiling and bowing and talking those numb, dumb relatives into signing the postmortem papers.

A dispassionate white sun shone at the summit of the sky. I wanted to hone myself on it till I grew saintly and thin and essential as the blade of a knife.

I didn't want my picture taken because I was going to cry. I didn't know why I was going to cry, but I knew that if anybody spoke to me or looked at me too closely the tears would fly out of my eyes and the sobs would fly out of my throat and I'd cry for a week. I could feel the tears brimming and sloshing in me like water in a glass that is unsteady and too full.
…I stared through the frieze of rubber-plant leaves in Jay Cee's window to the blue sky beyond. A few stagey cloud puffs were traveling from right to left. I fixed my eyes on the largest cloud, as if, when it passed out of sight, I might have the good luck to pass with it.

When I lifted my head, the photographer had vanished. Jay Cee had vanished as well. I felt limp and betrayed, like the skin shed by a terrible animal. It was a relief to be free of the animal, but it seemed to have taken my spirit with it, and everything else it could lay its paws on.
I fumbled in my pocketbook for the gilt compact with the mascara and the mascara brush and the eyeshadow and the three lipsticks and the side mirror. The face that peered back at me seemed to be peering from the grating of a prison cell after a prolonged beating. It looked bruised and puffy and all the wrong colors. It was a face that needed soap and water and Christian tolerance.

It dazzled and danced with light like a heavenly ice cube. I slipped it quickly into my imitation jet bead evening bag and looked around. The faces were empty as plates, and nobody seemed to be breathing.

Sylvia Plath - The Bell Jar

see Extracts from the book - part 2

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

peace of mind at nights and a bit of ordinary cheerfulness in the day

Katya? said Mrs. Mercer beginning to side away the breakfast things. I don’t remember any Katya. I don’t remember you telling me about a Katya.
I tell you everything, he said. I’ve always told you everything.
Not Katya you haven’t.

What worried Mrs. Mercer suddenly took shape. Into the little room came a rush of ghosts. She sat down opposite him and both felt cold.
That Katya, she said.
Yes, he said. They’ve found her in the ice.
I see, said Mrs Mercer. After a while she said: I see you found your book.
Yes, he said. It was behind the pickles. You must have put it there.
I suppose I must, she said.
It was an old Cassell’s. There were words in the letter, in the handwriting, he could not make out and words in the dictionary he could hardly find, in the old Gothic script; still, he had understood.
Years since I read a word of German, he said. Funny how it starts coming back to you when you see it again.
I daresay, said Mrs Mercer. The folded cloth lay between them on the polished table.
It’s this global warming, he said, that we keep hearing about.
What is? she asked.
Why they’ve found her after all this time. - Though he was the one with the information his face seemed to be asking her for help with it.
The snow’s gone off the ice, he said. You can see right in. And she’s still in there just the way she was.
I see, said Mrs Mercer.
She would be, wouldn’t she, he added, when you come to think about it.
Yes, said Mrs Mercer, when you come to think about it I suppose she would.

Again, with his face and with a slight lifting of his mottled hands he seemed to be asking her to help him comprehend.
Well, she said after a pause during which she drew the cloth towards her and folded it again and then again. Can’t sit here all day. I’ve got my club.
Yes, he said. It’s Tuesday. You’ve got your club.
She rose and made to leave the room but halted in the door and said: What are you going to do about it?
Do? he said. Oh nothing. What can I do?

All day in a trance. Katya in the ice, the chaste snow drawn off her.

He cut himself shaving, stared at his face, tried to fetch out the twenty-year-old from under his present skin. Trickle of blood, pink froth where it entered the soap.
He tried to see through his eyes into wherever the soul or spirit or whatever you call it lives that doesn’t age with the casing it is in.
The little house oppressed him. There were not enough rooms to go from room to room in, nowhere to pace.
He looked into the flagstone garden but the neighbours either side were out and looking over.
It drove him only in his indoor clothes out and along the road a little way to where the road went down suddenly steeply and the estate of all the same houses was redeemed by a view of the estuary, the mountains and the open sea.
He stood there thinking of Katya in the ice. Stood there so long the lady whose house he was outside standing there came out and asked: Are you all right, Mr Mercer?
Fine, he said, and saw his own face mirrored in hers, ghastly.
I’m too old, he thought. I don’t want it all coming up in me again. We’re both of us too old. We don’t want it all welling up in us again.
But it had begun.

His unease was palpable. Whether to stand or sit, whether to speak or not. Two or three times he shrugged. In the end he managed to say: Where was the trip then?
Prestatyn, she answered brightly. We went to Prestatyn.
You always enjoy your trips, he said.
Yes, she said, I wouldn’t miss a Tuesday trip if I could help it.
He had lapsed away again.
How old was she? Mrs. Mercer asked.
Same age as you, he answered. Nearly to the day. I told you, you’re both Virgo.

So quiet that house was in the night, so quiet all the other little homes around it were that held the elderly in them and the old alone or still in couples sleeping early, waking, lying awake and thinking about the past. So much past every night in the silence settling over those houses that all looked much the same on a hillside creeping up against the rock and gorse and tipping down to the river where it widened, widened and ended in the sea.

Whatever is in there behind the eyes or around the heart or wherever else it is, whatever it is that is not the husk of us will cease when the husk does but in the meantime never ages, does it?
In the night, in the utter silence of the nights among those little houses where old people live, she felt him leave the bed and in the pitch-black reach his dressing gown and leave the room. She let him go. How it troubled her, all this. Not much to ask, peace of mind at nights and a bit of ordinary cheerfulness in the day, some conversation, something to laugh about and doing nobody any harm. And not all this.
A slit of light came on under the bedroom door.

One thing I didn’t tell you, Mr. Mercer said next morning after a quieter night though sleepless mostly, open-eyed and thinking.
Oh? said Mrs. Mercer. You made an appointment at the doctor’s, I hope.
Yes, he said. This afternoon. I was thinking in the night one thing I never told you. Never told anyone come to that. Not a living soul. Nobody ever knew. I’m the only one in the world who knows it even now, only one alive, I mean.
Well? Mrs. Mercer said.
She was going to have a baby. My Katya was.
More and more slowly Mrs. Mercer went on with her toast and homemade damson jam. He sat, turning over his empty hands. His face, she knew, had she confronted it, was looking at her with its puzzled and pleading look, the eyes behind the glasses rather washed out.
I suppose I thought it might upset you at the time.
I see, she said after a while when her mouth had given up trying to eat. I suppose you would think that.
Then she took her own things to the draining board and left him sitting there with his.

The ladder to the loft was permanently down, encumbering the way into the little living room. A breath of cold hung over the opening. Or the warmth of their living space, being drawn up there, was converted into cold just above their heads. He was often up there, rooting around. In the mechanism of her love and duty she called him down when his meal was on the table. But also at nights he went up there and she heard him moving and muttering over the bedroom ceiling. Then she wept to herself, for the unfairness. Surely to God it wasn’t much to ask, that you get through to the end and looking back you don’t fill with horror and disappointment and hopeless wishful thinking? All she wanted was to be able to say it hasn’t been nothing, it hasn’t been a waste of time, the fifty years, that they amount to something, if not a child, a something made and grown between man and wife you could be proud of and nearly as substantial as a child. And now all this: him burrowing back though the layers, him rooting through all their accumulations, to get back where he wanted to be, in the time before she was.
Once with a bitterness that twisted her mouth as if the question were vinegar she asked: How far gone was she?
Six weeks, Mr. Mercer answered. We worked it out it would be about six weeks.

"In Another Country" by David Constantine
(Из рассказа английского писателя Дэвида Константайна «В другой стране»; в качестве иллюстраций - кадры из фильма по мотивам рассказа)

Monday, April 22, 2019

Christopher Hitchens: We too are “animals,” whose claim to the “dominion” looks increasingly dubious.

Almost as an afterthought I will venture to predict a quite different renaissance for “Animal Farm”. Recent advances in the study of our genome have shown how much we possess in common with other primates and mammals, and perhaps especially with pigs (from whom we can receive skin and even organ transplants). In Orwell’s own time the idea of “animal rights” let alone “animal liberation” would have seemed silly or fanciful, but these now form part of our ever-expanding concept of rights, and bring much thought-provoking scientific discovery to bear. We too are “animals,” whose claim to the “dominion” awarded us in the Book of Genesis looks increasingly dubious. In that grand discussion, this little book will probably earn itself an allegorical niche.


Christopher Hitchens (April 23, 1949–December 15, 2011),
an introduction to a 2010 edition of George Orwell’s Animal Farm,
which was later included in Hitchens’s posthumously published essay collection “Arguably”.


- source

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