Wednesday, December 20, 2006

from THE SOFA: A Moral Tale (1740)

“It was apparently owing to my addiction to couches that Brahma conceived the idea of confining my soul in such a piece of furniture. He decreed that it should retain all its faculties in that prison, no doubt not so much to mitigate the horrors of my lot as to make me feel them the more. He further decreed that my soul should begin a new lease of life only when two persons, with myself as opportunity, should render each other the first fruits of mutual affection.”


“I remembered enough both of what I had done and of what I had seen,” Amanzei proceeded, “to realize that the conditions under which Brahma was granting me new life would keep me no small length of time in the furniture he had chosen for my prison; but the permission he gave me to transfer myself at pleasure from sofa to sofa somewhat alleviated the hardship. This freedom brought a variety into my life which could not make it less wearisome; and, moreover, my soul was as alive to the absurdities of other people as when it had animated a woman; and the pleasure of being able to ensconce myself in the most private corners, and of being a third party in matters supposed to be a dead secret, made amends for my sufferings.

“After Brahma had pronounced my doom, he himself bore my soul into a sofa which the maker was about to deliver to a woman of quality, reputed to be superbly chaste; but just as it is said that few men are heroes to their valets, so I may safely affirm that few women are saints to their sofas.”

CRÉBILLON FILS (Claude Prosper Jolyot)
Translated by BONAMY DOBREÉ

Entire text available at:
In Parentheses Publications, Cambridge, Ontario 2000

Friday, December 08, 2006


Why foreknowledge of death? Does it only help to plan funerals? (Not that we can bear it.) To ask the patient which dress she would prefer? To feel its absent presence, always, as we cross the street against the light, as we tear open a bag of spinach, as we breathe strangely flavored air? Is it the silent running engine of ambition? A reminder to love fully, despite our primitive memory? Honestly. Why know that, and forget so much else? Or is it a dripping faucet in the kitchen of time, repeating, with maddening indifference, that one day, all experience will end? Is this simply bad taste, a bug in the program, a sneak peek at the playbook?

Some things I wish I couldn’t ask: Is it really rest, as poets say, or more like a job?