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220 pages, Paperback
First published January 1, 1999
“But the truth, he knows, is otherwise. His pleasure in living has been snuffed out. Like a leaf on a stream, like a puffball on a breeze, he has begun to float towards his end. He sees it quite clearly, and it fills him with (the word will not go away) despair. The blood of life is leaving his body and despair is taking its place, despair that is like a gas, odourless, tasteless, without nourishment. You breathe it in, your limbs relax, you cease to care, even at the moment when the steel touches your throat.”At 52, twice divorced, David is solitary, resigned, erudite and sarcastic. He does not care for the disinterest of his students show his poetry classes.
“He continues to teach because it provides him with a livelihood; also because it teaches him humility, brings it home to him who he is in the world. The irony does not escape him: that the one who comes to teach learns the keenest of lessons, while those who come to learn learn nothing.”He contemplates writing an opera on Lord Byron, but always postpones the project. He believes to have “solved the problem of sex rather well”: on Thursdays afternoons he visits a prostitute that could be his daughter, pays what he owes her and has the right to the oasis of one and half hours of his continuous and dreary mundane existence.
“'How humiliating, ' he says finally. 'Such high hopes, and to end like this.'____
'Yes, I agree, it is humiliating. But perhaps that is a good point to start from again. Perhaps that is what I must learn to accept. To start at ground level. With nothing. Not with nothing but... With nothing. No cards, no weapons, no property, no rights, no dignity.'
‘Like a dog.'
'Yes, like a dog.'"
„După o anumită vîrstă, nu există decît pedeapsă” (p.194).
complex proteins swirling in the blood, distending the sexual organs, making the palms sweat and voice thicken and the soul hurl its longings to the skies. That is what [Lurie's regular prostitute] and the others were for: to suck the complex proteins out of his blood like snake-venom, leaving him clear-headed and dry.
‘Maybe, for men, hating the woman makes sex more exciting. You are a man, you ought to know. When you have sex with someone strange – when you trap her, hold her down, get her under you, put all your weight on her – isn't it a bit like killing? Pushing the knife in; exiting afterwards, leaving the body behind covered in blood – doesn't it feel like murder, like getting away with murder?’
Only the monosyllables can still be relied on, and not even all of them.
‘No more than a child! What am I doing? Yet his heart lurches with desire.’
‘What if…what if that is the price one has to pay for staying on? Perhaps that is how I should look at it too. They see me as owing something.’
‘More and more he is convinced that English is an unfit medium for the truth of South Africa. Stretches of English code whole sentences long have thickened, lost their articulations, their articulateness, their articulatedness.’
Hatred . . . When it comes to men and sex, David, nothing surprises me any more. Maybe, for men, hating the woman makes sex more exciting. You are a man, you ought to know. When you have sex with someone strange - when you trap her, hold her down, get her under you, put all your weight on her - isn't it a killing? Pushing the knife in; exiting afterwards, leaving the body behind covered in blood - doesn't it feel like murder, like getting away with murder?
But it is true. They are not going to lead me to a higher life, and the reason is, there is no higher life. This is the only life there is. Which we share with animals.
But I say to myself, we are all sorry when we found out. Then we are very sorry. The question is not, are we sorry? The question is, what lesson have we learned? The question is, what are we going to do now that we are sorry?