Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The form

Traveling through Siberia, on the train, in winter. I heard this story:

There are places in Siberia that are so cold that if you step outside and open your mouth, your teeth will crack. As the first cold snap comes, if you stand on one bank of the river, and call across to the other, your words will freeze in the air and be trapped midstream. Only when the spring comes will they be free to move again, though by then their audience is gone. Mixed with all the other words that were spoken and frozen they go swirling down stream, confused, confusing, looking for someone to hear them.

This is how I thought of the sequence: disembodied voices, swirling, caught by the geographical space of Coventry. Like those Siberian conversations, they muddle together as the sequence progresses. Is it Tom or Leofric speaking? Who is this narrator who crops up occasionally, who is not any of the characters? As the second section progresses, it trails off, starts to repeat itself, as if the voices are being blown away, as if the speakers are trying to get the message correct, but only succeeding in making it more muddled.

The final words are Leofric’s. But Leofric never went to Samarkand.

No comments: