Wild Pleasure

June 17, 2020

I will destroy you with wild pleasure.

Hélène Cixous
The Perjured City
The Selected Plays of Hélène Cixous

Adventure…

May 18, 2020

“Would you like an adventure now, or shall we have our tea first?”

Peter Pan
J. M. Barrie

The sea…

May 12, 2020

I can smell the sea air. The rest of my time I’m going to spend on the sea. And when I die, I’m going to die on the sea.

Tennessee Williams
A Streetcar Named Desire

Electra:

No!
Don’t let him speak —
by the gods! Brother — no speechmaking now!
When a human being is so steeped in evil as this one
what is gained by delaying his death?
Kill him at once.
Throw his corpse out
for scavengers to get.
Nothing less than this
can cut the knot of evils
inside me.

Sophocles,
Electra,
Translated by Anne Carson

For comparison the same passage with different translator:

Electra:

By the gods, don’t let him say another thing,
brother, or spin out words at length.
For when mortals are in the thick of trouble,
what can one who is about to die gain with time?
No, kill him as quickly as possible, and when you’ve killed him,
hand him over to such grave-diggers as he deserves,
far from our sight. For this is my only release from
the pains that have plagued me for so long.

Sophocles,
Electra,
Translated by Hanna M Roisman

Monster

April 21, 2020

When monster meets monster, one monster has to give way.

Tennessee Williams
Sweet Bird of Youth

Dionysus is a god who takes human form, a powerful male who looks soft and feminine, a native of Thebes who dresses as a foreigner. His parentage is mixed between divine and human; he is and is not a citizen of Thebes; his power has both feminine and masculine aspects. He does not merely cross boundaries, he blurs and confounds them, makes nonsense of the lines between Greek and foreign, between female and male, between powerful and weak, between savage and civilized. He is the god of both tragedy and comedy, and in his presence the distinction between them falls away, as both comedy and tragedy…

Paul Woodruff
Translator’s introduction to Euripides’ play The Bacchae

“We did not think that it was brilliant enough, so it was sewn all over with real green beetle wings…”
– Costumier Alice Comyns-Carr, on the dress designed for Ellen Terry’s portrayal of Lady Macbeth, 1888

When you come to carrion,
with your long braids and blood-won crown,
you may glitter in this way again:
the shields of beetles
your glassy armor, a thousand green eyes
in your flickering skin.
Sewn in rows to the neck,
to the wrist, to the hem that sweeps aside the dirt
dragged by strangers’ feet,
safe in your glory
of shed things, dead things, charnel like jewels,
chips of bone, ropes of pearls.

They will find you broken
on the flagstones, your fall a shriek that tears
the smoky air;
blink-quick, shame-hushed,
they will cart you away, circle you with candles,
chant you down into the dark.
There your new subjects
will swarm, with their needle-thin legs and gnawing jaws,
eating away each love and crime
and stain, their gleaming shells
a skin that takes the place of yours: a brief, burning siege
before the last scrap is gone.

Jacqueline West

I’m a drinker with writing problems.

Brendan Behan
Interviews and Recollections

saw a sign that said ‘Drink Canada Dry’. So I did.

Brendan Behan
The Quare Fellow

scíth a ligean

I know it is a sign of ingratitude on the part of the author, if he raises both hands against a certain popularity that has befallen something which is called his spiritual brainchild; for that matter, he is aware that by doing so he can no longer change a thing. The author was silent a goodly time and kept his own counsel, while the notion that robots have limbs of metal and innards of wire and cogwheels (or the like) has become current; he has learned, without any great pleasure, that genuine steel robots have started to appear, robots that move in various directions, tell the time, and even fly aeroplanes; but when he recently read that, in Moscow, they have shot a major film, in which the world is trampled underfoot by mechanical robots, driven by electromagnetic waves, he developed a strong urge to protest, at least in the name of his own robots. For his robots were not mechanisms. They were not made of sheet-metal and cogwheels. They were not a celebration of mechanical engineering. If the author was thinking of any of the marvels of the human spirit during their creation, it was not of technology, but of science. With outright horror, he refuses any responsibility for the thought that machines could take the place of people, or that anything like life, love, or rebellion could ever awaken in their cogwheels. He would regard this sombre vision as an unforgivable overvaluation of mechanics or as a severe insult to life.

The author of the robots appeals to the fact that he must know the most about it: and therefore he pronounces that his robots were created quite differently—that is, by a chemical path. The author was thinking about modern chemistry, which in various emulsions (or whatever they are called) has located substances and forms that in some ways behave like living matter. He was thinking about biological chemistry [sic], which is constantly discovering new chemical agents that have a direct regulatory influence on living matter; about chemistry, which is finding—and to some extent already building—those various enzymes, hormones, and vitamins that give living matter its ability to grow and multiply and arrange all the other necessities of life. Perhaps, as a scientific layman, he might develop an urge to attribute this patient ingenious scholarly tinkering, with the ability to one day produce, by artificial means, a living cell in the test tube; but for many reasons, amongst which also belonged a respect for life, he could not resolve to deal so frivolously with this mystery. That is why he created a new kind of matter by chemical synthesis, one which simply behaves a lot like the living; it is an organic substance, different to that from which living cells are made; it is something like another alternative to life, a material substrate, in which life could have evolved, if it had not, from the beginning, taken a different path. We do not have to suppose that all the different possibilities of creation have been exhausted on our planet. The author of the robots would regard it as an act of scientific bad taste if he had brought something to life with brass cogwheels or created life in the test tube; the way he imagined it, he created only a new foundation for life, which began to behave like living matter, and which could therefore have become a vehicle of life — but a life which remains an unimaginable and incomprehensible mystery. This life will reach its fulfilment only when (with the aid of considerable inaccuracy and mysticism) the robots acquire souls. From which it is evident that the author did not invent his robots with the technological hubris of a mechanical engineer, but with the metaphysical humility of a spiritualist.

Well then, the author cannot be blamed for what might be called the worldwide humbug over the robots. The author did not intend to furnish the world with plate-metal dummies stuffed with cogwheels, photovoltaic cells, and other mechanical gizmos. It appears, however, that the modern world is not interested in his scientific robots and has replaced them with technological ones; and these are, as is apparent, the true flesh-of-our-flesh of our age. The world needed mechanical robots, for it believes in machines more than it believes in life; it is fascinated more by the marvels of technology than by the miracle of life. For which reason, the author who wanted—through his insurgent robots, striving for a soul—to protest against the mechanical superstition of our times, must in the end claim something, which nobody can deny him: the honour that he was defeated.

Karel Čapek
Karel Čapek: the Man Who Gave us Robots
Lido’vé noviny, 43, 9 June 1935
Trans. Cyril Simsa

Dead Voices

January 16, 2020

All the dead voices.
They make a noise like wings.
Like leaves.
Like sand.
Like leaves.

Samuel Beckett
Waiting for Godot