ISHMAEL (Reads) ‘I
am thinking back to the time when for the four of us the known world hardly
existed; days became simply the spaces between dreams, spaces between the
shifting floors of time, of acting, of living out the
topical . . . A tide of meaningless affairs nosing along the
dead level of things, entering no climate, leading us
nowhere’ . . .
ISHMAEL (Reads) . . . ‘demanding
nothing of us save the impossible – that we should be. Justine would
say’ . . .
KENNETH Good, good.
That’ll do for now.
ISHMAEL I’ll just finish
the paragraph. (Reads) ‘Justine would say that we had been trapped in
the projection of a will too powerful and too deliberate to be human – the
gravitational field which Alexandria threw down about those it had chosen as
KENNETH Good, very good.
ISHMAEL Thank you.
KENNETH Yes, very good.
Precisely what I wanted.
ISHMAEL Thank you.
KENNETH Not just the
voice, I mean, no. The pitch, the tone, the rhythm, all of that. They’re just
ISHMAEL Thank you very
KENNETH All that is
important, naturally. But I mean how it is read, you understand? The way the
written word . . .
ISHMAEL Yes, I already . . .
. . . becomes the spoken word. Would you repeat the part at the
ISHMAEL (Reads) ‘Justine
would say that we had been trapped in the projection of a will too powerful and
too deliberate to be human – the gravitational field which Alexandria threw
down about those it had chosen as its exemplars.’
KENNETH Lord. (Pauses)
It’s not the same.
ISHMAEL It’s not?
KENNETH There was too
much intention in it this time, too much meaning. You tried to impose your own
reading on me, your interpretation.
ISHMAEL Do you think so?
KENNETH Yes, too
intentional. Slightly too intentional. It’s not the same. You were there,
getting in between the text and I.
ISHMAEL I’m sorry.
KENNETH As though you
were telling me what I should understand from the text.
ISHMAEL I’m sorry. Can I
try it again?
KENNETH You weren’t there
before. You were merely an organ, a machine, . . . or a simple
tool turning the letters into sounds, creating acoustic shapes, forms I
could . . .
ISHMAEL Would you allow
me to read it again?
KENNETH It was a question
of transparency. Yes, that’s the word, transparency. Do you understand me?
ISHMAEL I think so.
KENNETH A purely
physiological organ, with no more thought than what’s necessary to turn the
chain of graphic signs into . . .
ISHMAEL Hmm, yes.
. . . into melodic and rhythmic units of meaning.
ISHMAEL I understand.
It’s as if . . .
KENNETH As soon as we
think too much about it, the transparency disappears. And then the translucency
itself becomes visible, and a shape appears – yours – and a part of you gets in
the way, between the text and I.
ISHMAEL Yes, an
interpretation of . . .
KENNETH Would you like
some more tea?
ISHMAEL Yes, thank you.
KENNETH Silvia is very
sensitive. (Pause) She was never an easy character, to tell the truth.
Intransigent might be a good word for her . . . if we took away
all its negative connotations. No sugar?
ISHMAEL No, no sugar,
KENNETH And any positive
ones too. She is as intransigent, you could say, as a puma is predatory, or
obsidian is hard, or a glacier is . . .
ISHMAEL Let me try again.
(Reads) ‘Justine would say that we had been trapped in the projection of
a will too powerful and too deliberate to be human – the gravitational field
which Alexandria threw down about those it had chosen as its exemplars.’
. . . overwhelming.
KENNETH Overwhelming, the
glacier. (Pause) But after the accident she became erratic,
unpredictable, tyrannical. Like a seismograph picking up the tiniest
perturbance. (Pause) I warn you, it won’t be an easy job.
ISHMAEL I think I can
KENNETH Do you have
children? Actually, don’t answer that, if you don’t wish. It makes no odds,
anyway. It was a rhetorical question, a way of saying to you, and to myself
also, that children are the messengers of death, our deaths. She sends them to
us, like a poisoned chalice, to remind us that our job here is done, we can be
done without, we can go now. Am I going too far?
KENNETH It’s no
exaggeration, believe me. But Silvia, thanks to her accident, has brought us
back to life. We can’t be done without again. She relies on us completely, you
ISHMAEL I don’t know
if . . .
KENNETH Completely. Some
ISHMAEL No, thank you.
KENNETH You’re not given
to much talking. I like that. And so will Silvia. She didn’t ask us for a
ISHMAEL That’s certainly
KENNETH The last time you
read was possibly a little too transparent. It’s not a question of erasing the
meaning either. . . . But I do prefer it that way. (Pause) Transparent,
that’s the word. Noone getting in the way. Just an organ, you understand me?
KENNETH You do? You
understand I’m not employing you, the person you
are . . . just your reading ability?
ISHMAEL That’s what I
KENNETH I’m not
interested in the person you are. Nor is Silvia, naturally. She was very clear
about it: ‘Someone to read’, she said. ‘That’s all, someone who knows how to
read.’ . . . And I think you are that someone.
ISHMAEL Thank you.
KENNETH Someone who knows
how to read. Nothing more. Nothing less. There have been other applicants, did
ISHMAEL I supposed there
KENNETH Very able people,
very worthy. . . . But, regrettably, much too personal.
They invaded the texts intolerably, some of them even with their emotions,
grimacing. . . . And, what is worse, right from the very
first interview they started showing me their CVs, their personal lives, their
likes and dislikes. . . . By the way, I have no interest in
your likes and dislikes either.
ISHMAEL I understand.
KENNETH I expect you have
them, everyone does. Am I wrong?
ISHMAEL To some extent.
But . . .
KENNETH But I’m not
interested in them. Nor is Silvia. She’ll tell you herself the books she wants
to read. She has a vast literary education. And here, as you can see, we have
more than enough books to fill a entire lifetime. Wouldn’t you agree?
ISHMAEL Of course.
KENNETH And this is only
part of my library. In fact, I’d almost say I have everything here. Everything
worth reading, naturally. My appraisers are well‑qualified people. As a
result, nothing written in the last twenty years. For twenty years no‑one
has written a single book worth the name. Am I going too far?
perhaps . . .
KENNETH Believe me, noone
has produced a single thing worth the name. In creative writing, I mean,
novels, poetry, theatre . . . In the last twenty years,
nothing. Creation is dead. Only plagiaries, quotations, copies, rehashed
imitations, secondhand works . . . My appraisers are well‑qualified people.
There are several academics, publishers, booksellers,
critics . . . I am well‑informed. I don’t read
everything they send me, naturally. My businesses require more and more
attention every day. Even today, the things . . .