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"NAUSEA" ("La Nausée", "Der Ekel"), J.-P. Sartre

For the moment, the jazz is playing; there is no melody, only notes, a myriad of tiny jolts. They know no rest, an inflexible order gives birth to them and destroys them without even giving them time to recuperate and exist for themselves. They race, they press forward, they strike me a sharp blow in passing and are obliterated. I would like to hold them back, but I know if I succeeded in stopping one it would remain between my fingers only as a raffish languishing sound. I must accept their death; I must even will it. I know few impressions stronger or more harsh.
I grow warm, I begin to feel happy. There is nothing extraordinary in this, it is a small happiness of Nausea: it spreads at the bottom of the viscous puddle, at the bottom of our time - the time of purple suspenders and broken chair seats - it is made of wide, soft instants, spreading at the edge, like an oil stain. No sooner than born, it is already old, it seems as though I have known it for twenty years. There is another happiness: outside there is this band of steel, the narrow duration of the music which traverses our time through and through, rejecting it, tearing at it with its dry little points; there is another time.
"Monsieur Randu plays hearts ... and you play an ace."
The voice dies away and disappears. Nothing bites on the ribbon of steel, neither the opening door, nor the breath of cold air flowing over my knees, nor the arrival of the veterinary surgeon and his little girl: the music transpierces these vague figures and passes through them. Barely seated, the girl has been seized by it: she holds herself stiffly, her eyes wide open; she listens, rubbing the table with her fist.
A few seconds more and the Negress will sing. It seems inevitable, so strong is the necessity of this music: nothing can interrupt it, nothing which comes from this time in which the world has fallen; it will stop of itself, as if by order. If I love this beautiful voice it is especially because of that: it is neither for its fulness nor its sadness, rather because it is the event for which so many notes have been preparing, from so far away, dying that it might be born. And yet I am troubled; it would take so little to make the record stop: a broken spring, the whim of Cousin Adolphe. How strange it is, how moving, that this hardness should be so fragile. Nothing can interrupt it yet all can break it.
The last chord has died away. In the brief silence which follows I feel strongly that there it is, that something has happened.
Some of these days
You'll miss me, honey!

What has just happened is that the Nausea has disappeared. When the voice was heard in the silence, I felt my body harden and the Nausea vanish. Suddenly: it was almost unbearable to become so hard, so brilliant. At the same time the music was drawn out, dilated, swelled like a waterspout. It filled the room with its metallic transparency, crushing our miserable time against the walls. I am in the music. Globes of fire turn in the mirrors; encircled by rings of smoke, veiling and unveiling the hard smile of light. My glass of beer has shrunk, it seems heaped up on the table, it looks dense and indispensable. I want to pick it up and feel the weight of it, I stretch out my hand ... God! That is what has changed, my gestures. This movement of my arm has developed like a majestic theme, it has glided along the song of the Negress; I seemed to be dancing.
Adolphe's face is there, set against the chocolate-coloured wall; he seems quite close. Just at the moment when my hand closed, I saw his face; it witnessed to the necessity of a conclusion. I press my fingers against the glass, I look at Adolphe: I am happy.
"Voila!"
A voice rises from the tumult. My neighbour is speaking, the old man burns. His cheeks make a violet stain on the brown leather of the bench. He slaps a card down on the table. Diamonds.
But the dog-faced young man smiles. The flushed opponent, bent over the table, watches him like a cat ready to spring.
"Et voila!"
The hand of the young man rises from the shadow, glides an instant, white, indolent, then suddenly drops like a hawk and presses a card against the cloth. The great red-faced man leaps up:
"Hell! He's trumped."
The outline of the king of hearts appears between his curled fingers, then it is turned on its face and the game goes on. Mighty king, come from so far, prepared by so many combinations, by so many vanished gestures. He disappears in turn so that other combinations can be born, other gestures, attacks, counterattacks, turns of luck, a crowd of small adventures.
I am touched, I feel my body at rest like a precision machine. I have had real adventures. I can recapture no detail but I perceive the rigorous succession of circumstances. I have crossed seas, left cities behind me, followed the course of rivers or plunged into forests, always making my way towards other cities. I have had women, I have fought with men; and never was I able to turn back, any more than a record can be reversed. And all that led me-- where?
At this very instant, on this bench, in this translucent bubble all humming with music.

And when you leave me.

Yes, I who loved so much to sit on the banks of the Tiber at Rome, or in the evening, in Barcelona, ascend and descend the Ramblas a hundred times, I, who near Angkor, on the island of Baray Prah-Kan, saw a banyan tree knot its roots about a Naga chapel, I am here, living in the same second as these card players, I listen to a Negress sing while outside roves the feeble night.
The record stops.
Night has entered, sweetish, hesitant. No one sees it, but it is there, veiling the lamps; I breathe something opaque in the air: it is night. It is cold. One of the players pushes a disordered pack of cards towards another man who picks them up. One card has stayed behind. Don't they see it? It's the nine of hearts. Someone takes it at last, gives it to the dog-faced young man.
"Ah. The nine of hearts."
Enough, I'm going to leave. The purple-faced man bends over a sheet of paper and sucks his pencil. Madeleine watches him with clear, empty eyes. The young man turns and turns the nine of hearts between his fingers. God! ...
I get up with difficulty; I see an inhuman face glide in the mirror above the veterinary's head.
In a little while I'll go to the cinema.

------
[...] I see the future. It is there, poised over the street, hardly more dim than the present. What advantage will accrue from its realisation? The old woman stumps further and further away, she stops, pulls at a grey lock of hair which escapes from her kerchief. She walks, she was there, now she is here ... I don't know where I am any more: do I see her motions, or do I foresee them? I can no longer distinguish present from future and yet it lasts, it happens little by little; the old woman advances in the deserted street, shuffling her heavy, mannish brogues. This is time, time laid bare, coming slowlyinto existence, keeping us waiting, and when it does come making us sick because we realise it's been there for a long time. The old woman reaches the corner of the street, no more than a bundle of black clothes. All right then, it's new, she wasn't there a little while ago. But it's a tarnished deflowered newness, which can never surprise. She is going to turn the corner, she turns-— during an eternity.
I tear myself from the window and stumble across the room; I glue myself against the looking glass. I stare at myself, I disgust myself: one more eternity. Finally I flee from my image and fall on the bed. I watch the ceiling, I'd like to sleep.
Calm. Calm. In can no longer feel the slipping, the rustling of time. I see pictures on the ceiling. First rings of light, then crosses. They flutter. And now another picture is forming, at the bottom of my eyes this time. It is a great, kneeling animal. I see its front paws and pack saddle. The rest is in fog. But I recognize it: it is a camel I saw at Marrakesh, tethered to a stone. He knelt and stood up six times running; the urchins laughed and shouted at him.
It was wonderful two years ago: all I had to do was close to my eyes and my head would start buzzing like a bee-hive: I could conjure faces, trees, houses, a Japanese girl in Kamaishiki washing herself naked in a wooden tub, a dead Russian, emptied of blood by a great, gaping wound, all his blood in a pool beside him. I could recapture the taste of kouskouss, the smell of olive oil which fills the streets of Burgos at noon, the scent of fennel floating through the Tetuan streets, the piping of Greek shepherds; I was touched. This joy was used up a long time ago.
Will it be reborn today?
A torrid sun moves stiffly in my head like a magic lantern slide. A fragment of blue sky follows; after a few jolts it becomes motionless. I am all golden within. From what Moroccan (or Algerian or Syrian) day did this flash suddenly detach itself? I let myself row into the past.
Meknes. What was that man from the hills like—the one who frightened us in the narrow street between the Berdaine mosque and that charming square shaded by a mulberry tree? He came towards us, Anny was on my right. Or on my left?
This sun and blue sky were only a snare. This is the hundredth time I've let myself be caught. My memories are like coins in the devil's purse: when you open it you find only dead leaves. Now I can only see the great, empty eye socket of the hill tribesman. Is this eye really his? The doctor at Baku who explained the principle of state abortions to me was also blind on one eye, and the white empty socket appears every time I want to remember his face. Like the Norns these two men have only one eye between them with which they take turns.
As for the square at Meknes, where I used to go every day, it's even simpler: I do not see it at all any more. All that remains is the vague feeling that it was charming, and these five words are indivisibly bound together: a charming square at Meknes. Undoubtedly, if I close my eyes or stare vaguely at the ceiling I can re-create the scene: a tree in the distance, a short dingy figure running towards me. But I am inventing all this to make out a case. That Moroccan was big and weather-beaten, besides, I only saw him after he had touched me. So I still know he was big and weather-beaten: certain details, somewhat curtailed, live in my memory. But I don't see anything any more: I can search the past in vain, I can only find these scraps of images and I am not sure what they represent, whether they are memories or just fiction.
There are many cases where even these scraps have disappeared: nothing is left but words: I could still tell stories, tell them too well (as far as anecdotes are concerned, I can stand up to anyone except ship's officers and professional people) but these are only the skeletons. There's the story of a person who does this, does that, but it isn't I, I have nothing in common with him. He travels through countries I know no more about than if I had never been there. Sometimes, in my story, it happens that I pronounce these fine names you read in atlases, Aranjuez or Canterbury. New images are born in me, images such as people create from books who have never travelled. My words are dreams, that is all.
For a hundred dead stories there still remain one or two living ones. I evoke these with caution, occasionally, not too often, for fear of wearing them out, I fish one out, again I see the scenery, the characters, the attitudes. I stop suddenly: there is a flaw, I have seen a word pierce through the web of sensations. I suppose that this word will soon take the place of several images I love. I must stop quickly and think of something else; I don't want to tire my memories. In vain; the next time I evoke them a good part will be congealed.

Mit zweiwöchiger Verspätung ge-cross-posted aus Mangel an sonstigen Berichtbarkeiten.

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Aktuelle Lieblingsmusik: "Limbo" (Throwing Muses, LP), "Chemical Chords" (Stereolab, LP), "In Gut's House" (Ut, LP), "Sand" (Einstürzende Neubauten, Song, Lee Hazlewood-Cover), "Let Armies Loose" (Bertine Zetlitz, Song), Nancy Sinatra, Margo Guryan
Aktuelle Lieblingsfilmereien: Christopher Nolan, mit oder ohne Bale, Caine et al
Aktuelle Bebücherung: Nancy Mitford, Nicole Krauss, sonstiger Semi-Stumpfsinn mit 'love' im Titel
30.8.08 12:49


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31.8.08 15:07





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