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Reader by the Hour

Author: José Sanchis Sinisterra
Translated by: Paul Rankin
Language: English
ISBN: 84-95683-41-5
Price: 2,00 €
File size: (LectorPorHorasEN.pdf) 911 Kb.
Available in: Spanish

(1 woman and 2 men).
A man is employed to read novels to a blind girl from a comfortably well-off family. The works by Durrell, Lampedusa, Conrad, Flaubert, Schnitzler and Rulfo he reads to her have a strange effect on the relationship that develops between the two characters.
Includes sketches of the set design and models by Joaquím Roy.

Reader by the Hour

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 its exemplars.’

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 perfect, naturally.

ISHMAEL  Thank you very much.

KENNETH  All that is important, naturally. But I mean how it is read, you understand? The way the written word . . .

ISHMAEL  Yes, I already . . .

KENNETH  . . . becomes the spoken word. Would you repeat the part at the end?

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.

KENNETH  . . . 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, thank you.

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.’

KENNETH  . . . 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 manage.

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?

ISHMAEL  Perhaps.

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 understand?

ISHMAEL  I don’t know if . . .

KENNETH  Completely. Some more tea?

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 conversationalist.

ISHMAEL  That’s certainly not me.

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?

ISHMAEL  Perfectly.

KENNETH  You do? You understand I’m not employing you, the person you are . . . just your reading ability?

ISHMAEL  That’s what I thought.

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 you know?

ISHMAEL  I supposed there would be.

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?

ISHMAEL  Well, 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 wellqualified 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 . . .

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