Sunday, January 28, 2024

the last book I ever read (The Hamlet: A Novel of the Snopes Family by William Faulkner, excerpt eleven)

from The Hamlet: A Novel of the Snopes Family by William Faulkner:

That was the fall before the winter from which the people as they became older were to establish time and date events. The summer’s rainless heat—the blazing days beneath which even the oak leaves turned brown and died, the nights during which the ordered stars seemed to glare down in cold and lidless amazement at an earth being drowned in dust—broke at last, and for the three weeks of Indian summer the ardor-wearied earth, ancient Lilith, reigned, throned and crowned amid the old invincible courtesan’s formal de-function. Through these blue and drowsy and empty days filled with silence and the smell of burning leaves and woodsmoke, Ratliff, passing to and fro between his home and the Square, would see the two small grimed hands, immobile and clasping loosely the bars of the jail window at a height not a great deal above that at which a child would have held them. And in the afternoons he would watch his three guests, the wife and the two children, entering or leaving the jail on their daily visit. On the first day, the day he had brought her home with him, she had insisted on doing some of the housework, all of it which his sister would permit, sweeping and washing dishes and chopping wood for fires which his nieces and nephews had heretofore done (and incidentally, in doing so, gaining their juvenile contempt too), apparently oblivious of the sister’s mute and outraged righteousness, big yet not fat, actually slender as Ratliff realised at last in a sort of shocked and sober … not pity: rather, concern; usually barefoot, with the untidy mass of bleached hair long since turning back to dark at the roots, and the cold face in which there was something of a hard not-quite-lost beauty, though it may have been only an ingrained and ineradicable self-confidence or perhaps just toughness. Because the prisoner had refused not only bond (if he could have made one) but counsel. He had stood between two officers—small, his face like a mask of intractability carved in wood, wasted and almost skeleton-thin—before the committing magistrate, and he might not even have been present, hearing or perhaps not hearing himself being arraigned, then at a touch from one of the officers turning back toward the jail, the cell. So the case was pretermitted from sheer desuetude of physical material for formal suttee, like a half-cast play, through the October term of court, to the spring term next May; and perhaps three afternoons a week Ratliff would watch his guests as, the children dressed in cast-off garments of his nephews and nieces, the three of them entered the jail, thinking of the four of them sitting in the close cell rank with creosote and old wraiths of human excreta—the sweat, the urine, the vomit discharged of all the old agonies: terror, impotence, hope. Waiting for Flem Snopes, he thought. For Flem Snopes.

No comments:

Post a Comment