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Wednesday, 3 February 2010

The Red Tower


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File:Bundesarchiv N 1603 Bild-051, Schwarzes Meer, junge Frau am Strand.jpg




His obsession with her name, which we shall here represent as N, bound him to say those foolish little things which made the determinant powers of fate, which we shall here represent as the gods, send down upon him the disintegrating melancholy overnaming always produces in those who speak too soon in postulating the existence of the supernatural in women.

He was given a week's leave, which he spent upon the Black Sea, at a hostel called The Red Tower, commonly frequented by those unwillingly caught up in these terrible movements of history, and driven to withdraw from complicity, yet constrained from fleeing very far or for very long.

He became as a man who has leapt overboard from a departing ship, hanging on to the stanchions of the pier to resist the overpowering pull of the tide. The stanchions were N's limbs, originally implanted in the world, as he thought, by the gods, but now perversely rooted in the complicated contingency of circumstance.

He couldn't make out her face, much of the time, only the saffron bubble of her hair, which in certain lights appeared to change and become as black as the humid starless sky of the becalmed southern night suspended motionless over the port, surrounding a head that was alternately fair and dark, pale blue and ghostly.




File:The Red Tower.jpg




The tide was irresistibly dragging him out to sea, she seemed to offer the only hope of a support to which he might cling for his life, this hope was merely a figment of his fevered mind, it was impossible not to know that, still the gods had availed him of no other choice, therefore on he went, struggling to somehow stay above the surface, desperately hanging on to her, though to an outsider it may have appeared there was no relation between them at all.

Instead of steadying him, however, she too yielded to the intensity of his need. And that was to be her undoing. The power of the undertow generated by the gods tugged them both downward. Together they fought against the current, bobbing up, falling back. After flailing about in that way for a considerable period of time, exactly how long it was impossible to know, they ran out of strength, each in almost the same moment, and began to collapse together into the invisible yawning depths of the sea, no longer resisting its compulsion.

His leave was coming to an end. By a tremendous exertion of will he made up his mind to set out for shore and started to swim, progressing painfully in the crossing lash and play of the retarding element, aiming for a distant fixed point, carving through crashing breakers with long, exhausting strokes. She meanwhile stayed where she had been, flailing about uncertainly in a vain effort to stay afloat. The last time he looked back over his shoulder, her head had disappeared, a pink moon swallowed up by the black waves.

He awakened gasping upon burning sand, explosions further shattering the already broken air all around him, great ships ablaze and foundering, planes screaming horribly as they plummeted from the fiery heavens, the beach awash with frightening cries in a language he could not understand, N nowhere in sight and the unconcerned laughter of the gods now dimly audible, a soft rasping buzz gradually and inexorably growing by almost imperceptible stages into an overwhelming din that eventually drowned out everything.





File:Bundesarchiv N 1603 Bild-263, Sewastopol, Hafen, versenkter Zerstörer.jpg




Young woman at the beach, Black Sea: photo by Horst Grund, 1941 (Deutsches Bundesarchiv)
The Red Tower: Giorgio de Chirico, 1913
Sunken Soviet destroyer, the port, Sevastopol, USSR: photo by Horst Grund, 1942 (Deutsches Bundesarchiv)

8 comments:

gamefaced said...

'He couldn't make out her face, much of the time,'
my mind wants to keep fondling this over and over till something other falls out.

~otto~ said...

Since gamefaced is fondling that, I'll fondle this:

"...soft rasping buzz gradually and inexorably growing by almost imperceptible stages into an overwhelming din that eventually drowned out everything."

Of course, the whole thing deserves to be fondled.

Lucy in the Sky said...

Obsession, supernatural, movements of history, he, "she", the gods, the sea, fate... All of them entwined into this extraordinary piece.

A shipwreck worthy of Prospero!

TC said...

Gratifying and humbling to receive such sensitive comments from such sensitive souls.

The mind fondling these words in hopes something other may yet drop out.

(Obsession indeed is the theme of this small historical fantasia, a fiction of the descent of the psyche into murky waters, set on the Eastern Front in the early days of the second great European war of the last century, the heroine an undiscovered sea, the hero a naufrago with a looking-glass in search of a clue, though what he may learn later in his darkroom remains to be pondered... when and if he finds it his mind may drop out.)

STEPHEN RATCLIFFE said...

Tom,
Sorry to have missed this yesterday when I looked, what a saga to go w/ such pictures, "determinant power of fate" -- grey wall to the left in "The Red Tower" --

2.3

grey whiteness of clouds against canyon
of ridge, shadowed green leaf on branch
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

the root meaning of closing,
correspond to conceal

think of color, for example,
grey wall to the left

grey-white clouds reflected in channel,
shadowed green of ridge across from it


And then today this, gull on GROIN sign watching as current pulls out from lagoon. . . .

2.4

first grey light in sky above blackness
of ridge, motion of shadowed green leaf
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

therefore the system, which
matter to be extended

as follows, “constant mass”
elsewhere, “rest mass”

sunlit white cloud to the left of point,
whiteness of gull perched on GROIN sign

TC said...

Stephen,

Thanks as always.

The root meaning of closing, and the two kinds of mass: parallel ways of thinking about both (or all three of) these texts, maybe.

All part of the (unintended, thus "innocent") parallel systems?

Also:

"correspond to conceal"
"current pulls out"

and out.

(Horst Grund, the photographer upon whose wartime portfolio I projected my tale, would have grabbed a shot of that GROIN sign.)

STEPHEN RATCLIFFE said...

yes, I think he (Horst) would have!

Elmo St. Rose said...

The Blue Light
The Blue Angel
Leni and then Marlene

Personally I prefer
Marlene

There's no doubt
men's Gods have
paid attention
to German women