conscious only of you

February 28, 2020

I am now going to ask you a favour which sounds quite crazy, and which I should regard as such, were I the one to receive the letter. It is also the very greatest test that even the kindest person could be put to. Well, this is it:

Write to me only once a week, so that your letter arrives on Sunday — for I cannot endure your daily letters, I am incapable of enduring them. For instance, I answer one of your letters, then lie in bed in apparent calm, but my heart beats through my entire body and is conscious only of you. I belong to you; there is really no other way of expressing it, and that is not strong enough. But for this very reason I don’t want to know what you are wearing; it confuses me so much that I cannot deal with life; and that’s why I don’t want to know that you are fond of me. If I did, how could I, fool that I am, go on sitting in my office, or here at home, instead of leaping onto a train with my eyes shut and opening them only when I am with you? Oh, there is a sad, sad reason for not doing so. To make it short: My health is only just good enough for myself alone, not good enough for marriage, let alone fatherhood. Yet when I read your letter, I feel I could overlook even what cannot possibly be overlooked.

If only I had your answer now! And how horribly I torment you, and how I compel you, in the stillness of your room, to read this letter, as nasty a letter as has ever lain on your desk! Honestly, it strikes me sometimes that I prey like a spectre on your felicitous name! If only I had mailed Saturday’s letter, in which I implored you never to write to me again, and in which I gave a similar promise . . . But is a peaceful solution possible now? Would it help if we write to each other only once a week? No, if my suffering could be cured by such means it would not be serious. And already I foresee that I shan’t be able to endure even the Sunday letters. And so, to compensate for Saturday’s lost opportunity, I ask you with what energy remains to me at the end of this letter: If we value our lives, let us abandon it all.

Did I think of signing myself Dein [Yours]? No, nothing could be more false. No, I am forever fettered to myself, that’s what I am, and that’s what I must try to live with.


Franz Kafka
Letter to Felice Bauer 11th November 1912

Before –

April 3, 2019

The Adams and Eves
continually expelled
and with what tenacity
returning at night!

when the two of them
did not count
and there were no months
no births and no music
their fingers were unnumbered.

when the two of them did not count
did they feel
a prickling behind the eyes
a thirst in the throat
for something other than
the perfume of infinite flowers
and the breath of immortal animals?
In their untrembling sleep
did the tips of their tongues
seek the bud of another taste
which was mortal and sweating?

Did they envy the longing
of those to come after the Fall?

Women and men still return
to live through the night
all that uncounted time.

And with the punctuality
of the first firing squad
the expulsion is at dawn”

John Berger
And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos

desire keeps you alive

March 7, 2019

Let suffering be removed, but not desire, because desire keeps you alive. That’s why they are afraid. They are consumed by the fear of desire. They want to suffer so they won’t think about desire. You’re maimed when you’re little, and fear is hammered into the back of your head. Because desire keeps you alive, they kill it off while you’re growing up, the desire for all things, in that way when you’re grown…

Mercè Rodoreda
Death in Spring
Trans. by Martha Tennent

Rodoreda’s posthumous novel, Death in Spring, utilizes a Catalan village setting to explore the nature of human relations and a search for identity. Published in 1989, Death in Spring further explores the dual senses of alienation and self-discovery through the eyes of a young village girl. In Death in Spring water, particularly a local stream, serves as a metaphor for change:

“I lowered myself gently into the water, hardly daring to breathe, always with the fear that, as I entered the water world, the air – finally rid of my nuisance – would begin to rage and be transformed into furious wind, like the winter wind that nearly carried away houses, trees, and people.”

Throughout the novel, water is never a metaphor for peace. Instead, it is a destructive force, one that batters bridges, bludgeons unfortunate souls who venture into its treacherous depths, all while reinforcing the cruel capriciousness of people, even as they grow estranged from each other. Rodoreda’s characters are often cruel and distant from one another, as in the case of their treatment of prisoners as caged animals to be tortured before they are killed. One character, referred to by the narrator simply as “Senyor,” is sentenced to die by having cement poured down his gullet until he suffocates. This concrete metaphor for the silencing of dissenters echoes “The Salamander”’s treatment of foreigners/outsiders as nefarious agents who must die by fire. Zealotry and irrational fear, Rodoreda reminds us, often leads to human loss and suffering, while also dehumanizing those who perpetuate such inhumane treatment upon other human beings.

In Rodoreda’s fictions, the weird is not just something inexplicable that occurs within a narrative, but also a commentary on human relations. We see in Death in Spring a girl who munches on bees, followed shortly by a young boy who, after venturing into the treacherous waters underneath the village bridge, is mutilated by the waters as the villagers watch on, some with apparent glee.

Zoran Rosko
Mercè Rodoreda

‘listen girl,’ Medea says, ‘you are
not the first person in the world to
suffer from a broken heart.
but i will treat you like you are.
listen girl. he is not calling out your name.
your name to him is nothing.
it might have been before.
once, your name might have been
the only word he knew when he
was blind sad or bursting with sun.
those days are over.
your name can only exist in your own mouth now.
say it over and over. say it until it doesn’t sound
like a name, but just a sound.
the promises he made you are just sounds now too.
remember that.
your hands are what will hold you together now.
and you want to be mad? be mad.
here is a plate. throw it through his window,
listen to the crack. the shatter. laugh into the night.
call yourself the sun. see, you will rise.
and are you less of a woman for this? no
what is woman?
woman is this – enduring.
listen girl, you will get over this – you will.
but what fool said you had to do it silently?
here is a tip – scream.’

Salma Deera

ecstasy and suffering

October 25, 2018

You arrive at my altar with no idea what it means to worship — to adore. You haven’t even learned it: ecstasy and suffering make the same face.

Gretchen Marquette
The Offering

the riot in your heart

November 15, 2017

Bring me your suffering
The rattle roar of broken bones.
Bring me the riot in your heart.
Angry, wild and raw.
Bring it all.
I am not afraid of the dark.

Mia Hollow

fighting something

August 3, 2017

How I suffer. And no one knows how I suffer, walking up this street, engaged with my anguish – alone; fighting something alone.

Virginia Woolf
diary entry, September 1929

the mermaid’s agony…

June 21, 2016


During the writing of The Little Mermaid, Andersen must have suffered greatly indeed. As Tatar notes, much representational energy was spent on dramatizing the mermaid’s agony, both physical and emotional. This is perhaps best exemplified in the image of the mermaid, secretly brokenhearted, celebrating the marriage of her beloved prince to another woman. During the festivities, she:

“Whirled into dance, gliding like a swallow when it is being pursued. . . .It was as if sharp knives were cutting her delicate feet, but she did not feel it; the pain that pierced her heart was far worse. She knew that this was the last night that she would see the prince — the one for whom she had left her family and her home, given up her beautiful voice, and suffered endless torment every day without his knowing it. It was the last night that she would breathe the same air as he, that she would see the deep ocean and the starry blue sky. Eternal night, without thoughts or dreams, awaited her, she who didn’t have a soul and could not win one. . . .The mermaid laughed and danced, her heart filled with thoughts of death.”

Not only does the little mermaid suffer, but she must suffer in silence (having given up her voice) and alone (having abandoned her family and home).

Virginia Borges
A Million Little Mermaids

The pain

January 24, 2016


I waited
Hearing the seconds tick by I waited to hear his breath slow
I sat up with tears in my eyes
Finally he was gone but too soon I would see the monsters face again
I went in silent misery to wash clean his filth
A hole in my world, my heart, my soul
I cried never ending tears in the sorrowful night
No one would know the secret in light
The pain never leaves
It lingers like a thief getting ever last treasure as the hostage is made to wait
For the inevitable death that was sure to come

krystle conyers

No rest nor peace…

April 28, 2015


I said to myself, what I would say to someone else in such a case: “You will have to resign yourself to the fact, and above all, not distress yourself about a misfortune that you have not deserved.” I did my utmost not to cry not to complain –

But when one does not complain, and when one wants to master oneself with a tyrant’s grip – one’s faculties rise in revolt – and one pays for outward calm with an almost unbearable inner struggle.

Day and night I find neither rest nor peace – if I sleep I have tormenting dreams in which I see you always severe, always saturnine and angry with me –

Forgive me then Monsieur if I take the step of writing you again – How can I bear my life unless I make an effort to alleviate its suffering?

Charlotte Brontë
letter to Constantin Héger