Tuesday, March 22, 2022

the last book I ever read (Leonora Carrington's Down Below (NYRB Classics), excerpt two)

from Down Below by Leonora Carrington:

In Saint-Martin next morning, the schoolmistress gave me papers stamped by the town hall, which made it possible for us to depart. Catherine got the car ready. All my willpower strained towards that departure. I hurried my friends. I pushed Catherine toward the car; she took the wheel; I sat between her and Michael. The car started. I was confident in the success of the journey, but terribly anguished, fearing difficulties which I thought inevitable. We were riding normally when, twenty kilometres beyond Saint-Martin, the car stopped; the brakes had jammed. I heard Catherine say: “The brakes have jammed.” “Jammed!” I, too, was jammed within, by forces foreign to my conscious will, which were also paralyzing the mechanism of the car. This was the first stage of my identification with the external world. I was the car. The car had jammed on account of me, because I, too, was jammed between Saint-Martin and Spain. I was horrified by my own power. At that time, I was still limited to my own solar system, and was not aware of other people’s systems, the importance of which I realise now.

We had driven all night long. I would see before me, on the road, trucks with legs and arms dangling behind them, but being unsure of myself, I would say shyly: “There are trucks ahead of us,” just to find out what the answer would be. When they said: “The road is wide, we’ll manage to bypass them,” I felt reassured; but I did not know whether or not they saw what was carried in those trucks, greatly fearing I would arouse their suspicions and becoming prey to shame, which paralysed me. The road was lined with rows of coffins, but I could find no pretext to draw their attention to this embarrassing subject. They obviously were people who had been killed by the Germans. I was very frightened: it all stank of death. I learned later that there was a huge military cemetery in Perpignan.

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