Thursday, June 20, 2019

Wakefield/ unexplained mystery of human behaviour

Wakefield - by Nathaniel Hawthorne

In some old magazine or newspaper I recollect a story, told as truth, of a man – let us call him Wakefield – who absented himself for a long time from his wife. The fact, thus abstractedly stated, is not very uncommon, nor – without a proper distinction of circumstances – to be condemned either as naughty or nonsensical.
Howbeit, this, though far from the most aggravated, is perhaps the strangest, instance on record, of marital delinquency; and, moreover, as remarkable a freak as may be found in the whole list of human oddities. The wedded couple lived in London. The man, under pretence of going a journey, took lodgings in the next street to his own house, and there, unheard of by his wife or friends, and without the shadow of a reason for such self-banishment, dwelt upwards of twenty years. During that period, he beheld his home every day, and frequently the forlorn Mrs. Wakefield. And after so great a gap in his matrimonial felicity – when his death was reckoned certain, his estate settled, his name dismissed from memory, and his wife, long, long ago, resigned to her autumnal widowhood – he entered the door one evening, quietly, as from a day’s absence, and became a loving spouse till death.

What sort of a man was Wakefield? We are free to shape out our own idea, and call it by his name. He was now in the meridian of life; his matrimonial affections, never violent, were sobered into a calm, habitual sentiment; of all husbands, he was likely to be the most constant, because a certain sluggishness would keep his heart at rest, wherever it might be placed. He was intellectual, but not actively so; his mind occupied itself in long and lazy musings, that ended to no purpose, or had not vigor to attain it; his thoughts were seldom so energetic as to seize hold of words. Imagination, in the proper meaning of the term, made no part of Wakefield’s gifts. With a cold but not depraved nor wandering heart, and a mind never feverish with riotous thoughts, nor perplexed with originality, who could have anticipated that our friend would entitle himself to a foremost place among the doers of eccentric deeds?

Let us now imagine Wakefield bidding adieu to his wife. It is the dusk of an October evening. His equipment is a drab great-coat, a hat covered with an oilcloth, top-boots, an umbrella in one hand and a small portmanteau in the other. He has informed Mrs. Wakefield that he is to take the night coach into the country.
She would fain inquire the length of his journey, its object, and the probable time of his return; but, indulgent to his harmless love of mystery, interrogates him only by a look. He tells her not to expect him positively by the return coach, nor to be alarmed should he tarry three or four days; but, at all events, to look for him at supper on Friday evening. Wakefield himself, be it considered, has no suspicion of what is before him. He holds out his hand, she gives her own, and meets his parting kiss in the matter-of-course way of a ten years’ matrimony; and forth goes the middle-aged Mr. Wakefield, almost resolved to perplex his good lady by a whole week’s absence.

He is in the next street to his own, and at his journey’s end. He can scarcely trust his good fortune, in having got thither unperceived – recollecting that, at one time, he was delayed by the throng, in the very focus of a lighted lantern; and, again, there were footsteps that seemed to tread behind his own, distinct from the multitudinous tramp around him; and, anon, he heard a voice shouting afar, and fancied that it called his name. Doubtless, a dozen busybodies had been watching him, and told his wife the whole affair. Poor Wakefield! Little knowest thou thine own insignificance in this great world! No mortal eye but mine has traced thee. Go quietly to thy bed, foolish man...

It is perilous to make a chasm in human affections; not that they gape so long and wide – but so quickly close again!

The vagueness of the project, and the convulsive effort with which he plunges into the execution of it, are equally characteristic of a feeble-minded man.

The singularity of his situation must have so moulded him to himself, that, considered in regard to his fellow-creatures and the business of life, he could not be said to possess his right mind. He had contrived, or rather he had happened, to dissever himself from the world – to vanish – to give up his place and privileges with living men, without being admitted among the dead. The life of a hermit is nowise parallel to his. He was in the bustle of the city, as of old; but the crowd swept by and saw him not; he was, we may figuratively say, always beside his wife and at his hearth, yet must never feel the warmth of the one nor the affection of the other. It was Wakefield’s unprecedented fate to retain his original share of human sympathies, and to be still involved in human interests, while he had lost his reciprocal influence on them.

Amid the seeming confusion of our mysterious world, individuals are so nicely adjusted to a system, and systems to one another and to a whole, that, by stepping aside for a moment, a man exposes himself to a fearful risk of losing his place forever. Like Wakefield, he may become, as it were, the Outcast of the Universe.

* * *
Натаниэль Готорн (1804—1864) 
«Уэйкфилд» (1835)

В каком-то старом журнале или в газете я, помнится, прочел историю, выдававшуюся за истину, о том, что некий человек — назовем его Уэйкфилдом — долгое время скрывался от своей жены.
Самый поступок, отвлеченно рассуждая, не так уж удивителен, и нет основания, не разобравшись внимательно во всех обстоятельствах, считать его безнравственным или безрассудным. Тем не менее этот пример, хотя и далеко не самый худший, может быть, самый странный из всех известных случаев нарушения супружеского долга. Более того, его можно рассматривать в качестве самой поразительной причуды, какую только можно встретить среди бесконечного списка человеческих странностей. Супружеская пара жила в Лондоне. Муж под предлогом того, что он уезжает по делам, нанял помещение на соседней с его домом улице и там, не показываясь на глаза ни жене, ни друзьям (при том, что он не имел для такого рода добровольной ссылки ни малейшего основания), прожил свыше двадцати лет. В течение этого времени он каждый день взирал на свой дом и очень часто видел покинутую миссис Уэйкфилд. И после такого долгого перерыва в своем супружеском счастье — уже после того, как он считался умершим и его имущество было передано наследникам, когда имя его было всеми забыто, а жена его уже давным-давно примирилась со своим преждевременным вдовством, — он в один прекрасный вечер вошел в дверь совершенно спокойно, точно после однодневной отлучки, и вновь сделался любящим супругом уже до самой своей смерти.

Что за человек был Уэйкфилд? Мы можем вообразить его себе каким угодно и окрестить его именем созданный нами образ. Он уже прошел половину своего жизненного пути. Его супружеская любовь, никогда не бывшая слишком пламенной, охладела и превратилась в тихое, привычное чувство. Впрочем, из всех мужей на свете он, возможно, был бы одним из самых верных, ибо известная вялость характера не позволила бы ему нарушить покой, в котором пребывало его сердце. Он был по-своему мыслителем, но не очень деятельным. Его мозг был постоянно занят долгими и ленивыми размышлениями, которые ни к чему не приводили, так как для того, чтобы добиться определенных результатов, ему не хватало упорства. То, о чем он думал, редко обладало достаточной определенностью, чтобы вылиться в слова. Воображением, в истинном смысле этого слова, Уэйкфилд особенно одарен не был. Кто мог предполагать, что, обладая сердцем холодным, хотя отнюдь не развращенным или непостоянным, и умом, никогда не отличавшимся лихорадочным кипением мысли или блуждавшим в поисках решений необычных вопросов, наш друг займет одно из первых мест среди чудаков, прославившихся своими эксцентрическими поступками?

Давайте представим себе Уэикфилда в тот момент, когда он прощается со своей женой. Время — сумрачный октябрьский вечер. На нем коричневое пальто, шляпа с клеенчатым верхом, высокие сапоги, в одной руке у него зонтик, в другой — маленький саквояж. Он предупредил миссис Уэйкфилд, что уедет за город с ночным дилижансом. Она бы охотно спросила его о длительности его путешествия, о его цели и о примерном сроке возвращения. Но, снисходя к его невинной любви к таинственности, она вопрошает его только взглядом. Он говорит ей, чтобы она его не ждала обязательно с обратным дилижансом, и советует ей не волноваться, буде он задержится на лишних трое или четверо суток. Однако, во всяком случае, он просит ее дожидаться его к ужину в пятницу. Сам Уэйкфилд — и это следует подчеркнуть — не имеет ни малейшего представления о том, что его ожидает. Он протягивает ей руку, она кладет в нее свою и принимает его прощальный поцелуй как нечто само собой разумеющееся, к чему приучили ее десять лет их совместной жизни. И вот пожилой мистер Уэйкфилд уходит, и в душе у него уже почти созрел замысел смутить покой своей любезной супруги недельным отсутствием.

Он теперь находится на соседней с его собственной улице и достиг цели своего путешествия. Он едва может поверить своей удаче, что попал сюда незамеченным, вспоминая, что один раз его задержала толпа в тот момент, когда его осветил уличный фонарь; в другой раз он как будто слышал чьи-то шаги, которые преследовали его, явственно отличаясь от других бесчисленных шагов вокруг него; и, наконец, ему раз даже как будто послышался вдали чей-то голос, и голос этот звал его по имени. Несомненно, дюжина каких-то досужих людей следила за ним и доложила обо всем его жене. Бедный Уэйкфилд! Ты очень плохо представляешь себе свое собственное ничтожество в этом огромном мире. Ни один смертный, за исключением меня, не следил за тобой. Спи спокойно, глупец!

Чрезвычайно опасно разделять пропастью человеческие отношения. Не потому, что зияющая бездна с течением времени становится все шире, а потому, что она очень быстро затягивается!

Смутность намерения, равно как и судорожная поспешность его выполнения, одинаково типичны для слабохарактерного человека.

Странность его положения должна была настолько извратить всю его сущность, что если судить по его отношению к ближним и к целям человеческого существования, он и впрямь был безумцем. Ему удалось или, вернее, ему пришлось — порвать со всем окружающим миром, исчезнуть, покинуть свое место (и связанные с ним преимущества) среди живых, хоть он и не был допущен к мертвым. Жизнь отшельника никак не идет в сравнение с его жизнью. Он, как и прежде, был окружен городской сутолокой, но толпа проходила мимо, не замечая его. Он был, выражаясь фигурально, по-прежнему рядом с женой и со своим очагом, но уже никогда не ощущал более никакого тепла — ни от огня, ни от любви. Глубокое своеобразие судьбы Уэйкфилда заключалось в том, что он сохранил отпущенную ему долю человеческих привязанностей и интересов, будучи сам лишен возможности воздействовать на них.

Среди кажущейся хаотичности нашего таинственного мира отдельная личность так крепко связана со всей общественной системой, а все системы — между собой и с окружающим миром, что, отступив в сторону хотя бы на мгновение, человек подвергает себя страшному риску навсегда потерять свое место в жизни. Подобно Уэйкфилду, он может оказаться, если позволено будет так выразиться, отверженным вселенной.

Перевод В. Метальникова

см. О фильме по мотивам

Monday, June 17, 2019

Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar/ extracts, part 2

Extracts, part 2 (see part 1)

The face in the mirror looked like a sick Indian.
I dropped the compact into my pocketbook and stared out of the train window. Like a colossal junkyard, the swamps and back lots of Connecticut flashed past, one broken-down fragment bearing no relation to another.
What a hotchpotch the world was!
…The domesticated wilderness of pine, maple and oak rolled to a halt and stuck in the frame of the train window like a bad picture. My suitcase grumbled and bumped as I negotiated the long aisle.

‘Elaine sat on the breezeway in an old yellow nightgown of her mother's waiting for something to happen. It was a sweltering morning in July, and drops of sweat crawled down her back one by one, like slow insects.’
I leaned back and read what I had written.
It seemed lively enough, and I was quite proud of the bit about the drops of sweat like insects, only I had the dim impression I'd probably read it somewhere else a long time ago.

I had imagined a kind, ugly, intuitive man looking up and saying "Ah!" in an encoraging way, as if he could see something I couldn't, and then I would find words to tell him how I was so scared, as if I were being stuffed farther and farther into a black, airless sack with no way out.
Then he would lean back in his chair and match the tips of his fingers together in a little steeple and tell me why I couldn't sleep and why I couldn't read and why I couldn't eat and why everything people did seemed so silly, because they only died in the end.
And then, I thought, he would help me, step by step, to be myself again.

I circled the Public Garden […] reading the names of the trees.
My favorite tree was the Weeping Scholar Tree. I thought it must come from Japan. They understood things of the spirit in Japan.

[Doctor Gordon’s private hospital] As my mother and I approached the summer heat bore down on us, and a cicada started up, like an aerial lawnmower, in the heart of a copper beech tree at the back. The sound of the cicada only served to underline the enormous silence.
…Then I realized that none of the people were moving.
I focused more closely, trying to pry some clue from their stiff postures. I made out men and women, and boys and girls who must be as young as I, but there was a uniformity to their faces, as if they had lain for a long time on the shelf, out of the sunlight, under siftings of pale, fine dust.

Every time I tried to concentrate, my mind glided off, like a skater, into a large empty space, and pirouetted there, absently.

"How do you get into that prison?"
"You get a pass."
"No, how do you get locked in?"
"Oh," the guard laughed, "you steal a car, you rob a store."
"You got any murderers in there?"
"No. Murderers go to a big state place."
"Who else is in there?"
"Well, the first day of winter we get these old bums out of Boston. They heave a brick through a window, and then they get picked up and spend the winter out of the cold, with TV and plenty to eat, and basketball games on the weekend."
"That's nice."
"Nice if you like it," said the guard.

I hadn't counted on the beach being overrun with summer people. In the ten years of my absence, fancy blue and pink and pale green shanties had sprung up on the flat sands of the Point like a crop of tasteless mushrooms, and the silver airplanes and cigar-shaped blimps had given way to jets that scoured the rooftops in their loud off rush from the airport across the bay.
…The gulls on their wooden stilts at the tip of the bar miaowed like cats. Then they flapped up, one by one, in their ash-colored jackets, circling my head and crying.

I had a suspicion that my mother had called Jody and begged her to ask me out, so I wouldn't sit around in my room all day with the shades drawn. I didn't want to go at first, because I thought Jody would notice the change in me, and that anybody with half an eye would see I didn't have a brain in my head.
But all during the drive north, and then east, Jody had joked and laughed and chattered and not seemed to mind that I only said, "My" or "Gosh" or "You don't say.”

I wondered at what point in space the silly, sham blue of the sky turned black.

After a discouraging time of walking about with the silk cord dangling from my neck like a yellow cat's tail and finding no place to fasten it, I sat on the edge of my mother's bed and tried pulling the cord tight.
But each time I would get the cord so tight I could feel a rushing in my ears and a flush of blood in my face, my hands would weaken and let go, and I would be all right again.
Then I saw that my body had all sorts of little tricks, such as making my hands go limp at the crucial second, which would save it, time and again, whereas if I had the whole say, I would be dead in a flash.
I would simply have to ambush it with whatever sense I had left, or it would trap me in its stupid cage for fifty years without any sense at all.

I wondered, after the hanging fiasco, if I shouldn't just give it up and turn myself over to the doctors, and then I remembered Doctor Gordon and his private shock machine. Once I was locked up they could use that on me all the time.
And I thought of how my mother and brother and friends would visit me, day after day, hoping I would be better. Then their visits would slacken off, and they would give up hope. They would grow old. They would forget me.
They would be poor, too.
They would want me to have the best of care at first, so they would sink all their money in a private hospital like Doctor Gordon's. Finally, when the money was used up, I would be moved to a state hospital, with hundreds of people like me, in a big cage in the basement.
The more hopeless you were, the further away they hid you.

Against the khaki-colored sand and the green shore wavelets, his body was bisected for a moment, like a white worm. Then it crawled completely out of the green and onto the khaki and lost itself among dozens and dozens of other worms that were wriggling or just lolling about between the sea and the sky. [Andrey// Tolstoy]

So I rode the elevator up three flights to the maternity ward and reported to the head nurse. She gave me the trolley of flowers. I was supposed to put the right vases at the right beds in the right rooms.
But before I came to the door of the first room I noticed that a lot of the flowers were droopy and brown at the edges. I thought it would be discouraging for a woman who'd just had a baby to see somebody plonk down a big bouquet of dead flowers in front of her, so I steered the trolley to a washbasin in an alcove in the hall and began to pick out all the flowers that were dead.
Then I picked out all those that were dying.
There was no wastebasket in sight, so I crumpled the flowers up and laid them in the deep white basin. The basin felt cold as a tomb. I smiled. This must be how they laid the bodies away in the hospital morgue. My gesture, in its small way, echoed the larger gesture of the doctors and nurses.

Lately I had considered going into the Catholic Church myself. I knew the Catholics thought killing yourself was an awful sin. But perhaps, if this was so, they might have a good way to persuade me out of it.
… The only trouble was, Church, even the Catholic Church, didn't take up the whole of your life. No matter how much you knelt and prayed, you still had to eat three meals a day and have a job and live in the world.

I thought it odd that in all the time my father had been buried in this graveyard, none of us had ever visited him. My mother hadn't let us come to his funeral because we were only children then, and he had died in the hospital, so the graveyard and even his death had always seemed unreal to me.
I had a great yearning, lately, to pay my father back for all the years of neglect, and start tending his grave.

The graveyard disappointed me. It lay at the outskirts of the town, on low ground, like a rubbish dump, and as I walked up and down the gravel paths, I could smell the stagnant salt marshes in the distance.

Then I saw my father's gravestone.
It was crowded right up by another gravestone, head to head, the way people are crowded in a charity ward when there isn't enough space. The stone was of a mottled pink marble, like canned salmon, and all there was on it was my father's name and, under it, two dates, separated by a little dash.
At the foot of the stone I arranged the rainy armful of azaleas I had picked from a bush at the gateway of the graveyard. Then my legs folded under me, and I sat down in the sopping grass.
I couldn't understand why I was crying so hard.
Then I remembered that I had never cried for my father's death.
I laid my face to the smooth face of the marble and howled my loss into the cold salt rain.

The earth seemed friendly under my bare feet, but cold. I wondered how long it had been since this particular square of soil had seen the sun.
Then, one after the other, I lugged the heavy, dust-covered logs across the hole mouth. The dark felt thick as velvet. I reached for the glass and bottle, and carefully, on my knees, with bent head, crawled to the farthest wall.
Cobwebs touched my face with the softness of moths.

I felt the darkness, but nothing else, and my head rose, feeling it, like the head of a worm. Someone was moaning. Then a great, hard weight smashed against my cheek like a stone wall and the moaning stopped.
The silence surged back, smoothing itself as black water smooths to its old surface calm over a dropped stone.
A cool wind rushed by. I was being transported at enormous speed down a tunnel into the earth. Then the wind stopped. There was a rumbling, as of many voices, protesting and disagreeing in the distance. Then the voices stopped.
A chisel cracked down on my eye, and a slit of light opened, like a mouth or a wound, till the darkness clamped shut on it again. I tried to roll away from the direction of the light, but hands wrapped round my limbs like mummy bands, and I couldn't move.

The boy looked at me as if I were some exciting new zoo animal and he was about to burst out laughing. … He didn't really know me, either. He just wanted to see what a girl who was crazy enough to kill herself looked like.

I wanted to tell her that if only something were wrong with my body it would be fine, I would rather have anything wrong with my body than something wrong with my head, but the idea seemed so involved and wearisome that I didn't say anything. I only burrowed down further in the bed.

I knew I should be grateful to Mrs. Guinea, only I couldn't feel a thing. If Mrs. Guinea had given me a ticket to Europe, or a round-the-world cruise, it wouldn't have made one scrap of difference to me, because wherever I sat — on the deck of a ship or at a street café in Paris or Bangkok — I would be sitting under the same glass bell jar, stewing in my own sour air.

"I was going to kill myself, mind you. I said 'If this doctor doesn't do the trick, that's the end.' Well, the receptionist led me down a long hall, and just as we got to the door she turned to me and said, 'You won't mind if there are a few students with the doctor, will you?' What could I say? 'Oh no,' I said. I walked in and found nine pairs of eyes fixed on me. Nine! Eighteen separate eyes.
"Now, if that receptionist had told me there were going to be nine people in that room, I'd have walked out on the spot.
"He folded his hands together and looked at me and said, 'Miss Gilling, we have decided that you would benefit by group therapy.' "
"Group therapy?" I thought I must sound phony as an echo chamber, but Joan didn't pay any notice.
"That's what he said. Can you imagine me wanting to kill myself, and coming round to chat about it with a whole pack of strangers, and most of them no better than myself. . ."
"That's crazy." I was growing involved in spite of myself. "That's not even human."

The walls were bright, white lavatory tile with bald bulbs set at intervals in the black ceiling. Stretchers and wheelchairs were beached here and there against the hissing, knocking pipes that ran and branched in an intricate nervous system along the glittering walls.

And she set something on my tongue and in panic I bit down, and darkness wiped me out like chalk on a blackboard.

"No, it was his family I liked."
"You mean Mr. and Mrs. Willard?"
"Yes." Joan's voice slid down my spine like a draft. "I loved them. They were so nice, so happy, nothing like my parents. I went over to see them all the time," she paused, "until you came."

"I don't see what women see in other women," I'd told Doctor Nolan in my interview that noon. "What does a woman see in a woman that she can't see in a man?"
Doctor Nolan paused. Then she said, "Tenderness." That shut me up.

In spite of my profound reservations, I thought I would always treasure Joan. It was as if we had been forced together by some overwhelming circumstance, like war or plague, and shared a world of our own.

…I have never really cared for cold beer in midwinter, but I accepted the glass to have something solid to hold on to

Massachusetts would be sunk in a marble calm. I pictured the snow flaky, Grandma Moses villages, the reaches of swampland rattling with dried cattails, the ponds where frog and horn pout dreamed in a sheath of ice, and the shivering woods.
But under the deceptively clean and level slate the topography was the same, and instead of San Francisco or Europe or Mars I would be learning the old landscape, brook and hill and tree. In one way it seemed a small thing, starting, after a six months' lapse, where I had so vehemently left off.

"We'll take up where we left off, Esther," she [the mother] had said, with her sweet, martyr's smile. "Well act as if all this were a bad dream."
A bad dream.
To the person in the bell jar, blank and stopped as a dead baby, the world itself is the bad dream.
A bad dream.
I remembered everything.

Valerie's last, cheerful cry had been "So long! Be seeing you."
"Not if I know it," I thought.
But I wasn't sure. I wasn't sure at all. How did I know that someday — at college, in Europe, somewhere, anywhere — the bell jar, with its stifling distortions, wouldn't descend again?

Then, behind the coffin and the flowers and the face of the minister and the faces of the mourners, I saw the rolling lawns of our town cemetery, knee-deep in snow now, with the tombstones rising out of it like smokeless chimneys.
There would be a black, six-foot-deep gap hacked in the hard ground. That shadow would marry this shadow, and the peculiar, yellowish soil of our locality seal the wound in the whiteness, and yet another snowfall erase the traces of newness in Joan's grave.
I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart.
I am, I am, I am.

The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath

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