I sit among the books and scraps of books he arrived with. G_____ he repeats, and beats my ear with the sound of it. He forms sentences from that word, though the sentences have grown so bloated I should properly call them monologues. Of which, all is expressed through G_____, in G_____, about G_____, intoned from that single utterance in no easily decipherable way, though I have long begun to classify his G_____, about which I have only learned, and hardly that, namely, and with the greatest precision, his G_____ has no particular order or repeating pattern of rising G_____, falling G_____, stuttered G_____, and so on. At no predictable point he barely whispers G_____, after which his lips must become puckered (though I cannot see them), delivering a puckered G_____ followed by some unremarkable variations on G_____, and then, finally, a G_____ full of venom like a G_____ forced through saliva, which being another variation on G_____ though slightly different, spews forth between teeth, or gums, or the gaps between teeth, or from some other orifice, probably the mouth, all mentions of G_____ being or amounting to nothing but G_____, or everything in G_____, which has to be an overstatement, better to say G_____ in every conceivable form, much better, much less of an exaggeration. I conceive of little. That is to say, with or without spittle, from the gut, exhaled dry, or drawn through backwards. Which might have been explained in fewer words though failing still to express his G_____ without resorting to it. The permutations of G_____ from his outlet are endless, and beyond study. As he speaks I suffer his G_____, laid prone against the noise of his word. And as I lie, I write, looking for clues to his madness. I have my writing despite his madness. Although I set down my words because of it. I only write because of it, and in that sense, my words are closer to his madness than I should comfortably allow. They are not identical to his madness, I might add. I refrain from G_____, in all its forms, for the most part. That is obvious. Look how my words outnumber his G_____. I set these words down, and find myself entirely sparing in my use of his G_____, by comparison at least, though it is difficult to avoid mentioning his G_____, since my ears are full of it. There is nothing but G_____ in my ears. Even the wax has retreated. Put differently, my words and his madness cannot be conflated, as if my words were his madness, and his madness my words. I have already explained about his G_____. There is a gulf between his word and my own, though I depend on his G_____, it sets me to work. Suffice to say, my lips never move, my mouth never utters. Too poetic. My mouth is shut. Better. More prosaic. Unfeeling. Suffering his word, my words are neither separate from, nor are they a function of his madness. Or, if they are a function of it, they are nonetheless set down in spite of it. It is hard to decide. I should not be expected to decide. I should not insist upon it. Do not insist upon it, I say to myself, though I do not speak. Ridiculous. I would leave my words entirely out of it, carve them out alone, and confirm simply that his speech is his madness, so much can be said, and I plug my ears against it. But with my ears plugged I cannot write. I need my fingers for that. I plug my ears with my fingers and know that he still speaks. I know he is speaking because it is light. He must be speaking. His speech is unbroken and steady, no, that is not right, it is broken and unsteady, but constant, a relentless onslaught of sound in the form of G_____. The sound of him talking lengthens the lightened time more than I can bear. That time would be unbearable to any listener, so I plug my ears again. With my ears plugged into my fingers I cannot deny the fact he speaks. I think of him speaking, and can think of nothing but the sound of it. There is nothing beyond the thought of him speaking. I can only think the thought of him speaking, though there is the additional thought, a lamentation at best, if that, at that, of the fact I can only think of him speaking outside my stopped up ears. His speech has been replaced by the thought of him speaking. And my fingers. It possesses me even when I cannot hear him. The thought of him speaking whilst my ears are plugged is almost as bad as the sound of him speaking. No, it is much worse. I strain to listen with my ears still plugged to confirm that he still speaks. That seems better than the thought of him speaking without the confirmation. I remind myself of the word G_____, of how much is made to mean by it, though I could scarcely elaborate on that impression it gives, of meaning, as it entirely dominates my thought, so that, all I can think is the thought of him saying G_____. I convince myself that I can hear his speech as a murmur against my skull. Yes he still speaks I tell myself. There is no denying it. Even with my ears plugged I can hear him. He speaks without pause and so I cannot write, or hardly write, if this is writing. My head transmits his speech to my inner ear because my outer ear is plugged. Not a bad little chain of words. Perhaps I think after all. That must account for the murmur. His speech is transmitted to by inner ear through my head. That is how I hear him, through my head, a vibration that passes through skull and flesh, with the wax removed, or the wax remaining, but further down, since it retreated inwards. Whatever happened, I still cannot defy his G_____. With my ears plugged his speech impresses itself upon me. I feel the weight of his talking outside my plugged up ears. My head resounds with it. His speech is unstoppable, though repeatedly broken, and when the period of light that I call the lightened time, falls dark, he falls silent. And crawls. But when the light snuffs out, and this speaker, my tormentor, who never stops talking, goes entirely still at the mouth, I cannot think for the thought of him talking. As he crawls about, I lie entirely prone, rendered useless by the sound of his G_____. When it is light again, I have the books and bits of books he arrived with to look through. I read these books against the sound of his G_____. As I write, I read all of them, or as much of them as all of his speech allows, because his insistent G_____ has me repeat some lines so often there is no time left for the others. There are, moreover, books I read but would never dare mention they are so well trod over. If they were his books, no, they were his books. Broken in many places it is clear that he read them too. He wrote about G_____ in the margins. My reading of his books provides a clue to his reading, if he read, though he most surely did. How else could I explain this obsession with G_____, that reduction of all to G_____, which is a kind of opening outwards through, and perhaps beyond G_____, although I over-read his G_____ in my hypothesis here stated about an opening in G_____ and should scrub it out, if not for the fact that I have nothing to scrub with, plus the additional fact, call it that, though it is an abuse of the word fact to use it in this context, although the word is ruined anyway, I distract myself, from the fact that by comparison alone I see how, whatever his G_____ might mean or not mean in relation to what it promises, it is not limited as my words are to their definition, however broad. These books provide access to his madness, I say, though my mouth is shut. Excellent. Very prosaic. They are my protection against that madness, as I read these books I protect myself from his speech, though I suspect they are also the reason for his speech, given all the notes about G_____ in the margins. He talks. I listen. If listening is a giving in before sound, then I listen. I have no choice but to listen. I cannot stop my ears for long. It hurts the shoulders. The fingers too. By speaking he submits himself to study. I will study this speaker who lies and talks during the day but falls silent and crawls during the night. He forces himself upon me so I will study him in return. I will submit him to my thought, even if my thought barely exceeds the thought of him speaking, though barely more is still more, where the thought of him speaking behind the sound of my thinking is too satisfying to bare. By thinking against the sound of him talking I will discover the reason for his madness, and I will find it in his books. I will stack my words against his G_____, though I suspect his G_____ has already said more than I dare. I respond to his madness and the violence his speech does to me in the only way I can, by inflicting violence of my own. I will do to him what every so-called man of the intellect does to another, or so it is said, so I quote, as I write, with my finger to each word, as he constantly walks all over others, killing them and making corpses of them for his intellectual purposes.[1] I must objectify this speaker who forces himself upon me with his G_____. His speech fills my mind, so I will attend to the madness that produces it. I know that I repeat myself, in respect of my mission. No, I am not certain of that. Rather, I am dimly aware of some kind of repetition or rough iteration in my bearing upon things. Repetition, if it happens, must be necessary, unavoidable actually, in order that, so that, I may clarify my intent before him, define myself, given the extent of his utterance of G_____ and its subsequent grip upon me. I will push my words into his G_____ as I listen closely to every permutation of G_____, attending to all repetitions of G_____, to protect myself from his word. I should avoid writing it too often. I have already marked it down often enough, but with a careful evasion all of my own. To write G_____ without sufficient pretext is the beginning of the fall. No, not fall. Nor decline, enfeeblement, capitulation. Something else. I must prevent his word becoming all I think. It is better to suffer the thought of him speaking than the fact of him speaking. No, it was the other way round. Fortunately I have his books. I take their printed, silent words and lay them out before me. I put their words against his word because his word is forcing itself upon my words which are only ever their words, never mine, or not nearly mine, though I make them mine. I must have their words to place against his, though I suspect nonetheless that their words must inevitably lead to G_____. Their words may well be nothing but a detour to G_____. It would be more efficient simply to admit that his G_____ is all, and leave it at that. But to study his madness I must have my words, never my own because to think these words against his word I must suck them off the page of his books. I must have these authors and piles of printed matter to draw from, though they were once his authors and almost certainly led him to G_____ as he now puts G_____ before me. People exist for the sole purpose of tracking down the intellect and annihilating it.[2]  So it is written in a book he arrived with. Sensing that somebody’s brain is on the point of some intellectual effort, they come along and stifle this intellectual effort at birth.[3]  People conspire against the intellect, I thought, thinking his books against his G_____. Everything is set up to destroy the intellect. As he lies there talking, making it impossible or nearly impossible to think the thought of him talking, I push against his G_____. Surely, something might still be done, nothing grand I think, but against the thought of him talking nonetheless. There might be a gesture, an itch against his G_____. I accumulate these notes and by doing, place my words against his speech. I use these words to scratch my arse with his G_____, or my armpits, which are easier to reach. I pilfer the books he arrived with for words, for lines of text, for notes that are long enough to rub back and forth against his incessant talking. Though I only write to drown out what he says, nothing more, almost nothing more than that, though quite a bit more still, and though I only study him to attack him as he attacks me, if it is an attack his G_____. The process of writing corrupts me to its logic. It pushes me to his G_____. I cannot help thinking that these words I write will do more than take me to the limit of his G_____. The very process of writing commits me to return to the problem of his G_____, of what his G_____ represents, which leaves me with nothing but the thought of G_____.

[1] Bernhard, Thomas. Concrete: A Novel. New York: Vintage, 2010 [1982]. p. 25.

[2] Bernhard. Concrete. p. 8.

[3] Bernhard. Concrete. p. 8.


This piece was originally published at Zeno Press.

Ansgar Allen: Lecturer in Education at the University of Sheffield, UK. Based on the idea that academic form restricts (and is often in ironic relation to) academic content, my writing experiments with style, ranging from more standard academic tropes, to the fictive and fragmentary. As well as the usual research outputs (peer-reviewed papers), I have written two fragmentary monographs, co-written a textbook, and have published a range of book chapters, reviews, encyclopaedia entries, blogs, and media articles. I have recently secured a contract to write an introduction to cynicism and Cynic philosophy for MIT Press.

Submit a comment