The Sentence

‘The only real pleasure of writing (and reading) is repetition,’ the Writer pondered. Repeating the same situation, the same idea with only slightly different words, is what makes writing (or reading) the most pleasurable. There is no greater pleasure than reading (or writing) the same thing over and over again, with only little changes in the wordings.

And, as a matter of fact, not even a change of words is necessary. Why not simply repeat the same sentence over and over again?

‘When I am famous and I can do whatever I well please, I will do that,’ the Great Writer mused. ‘I will write a book with the same sentence repeated over and over again.’ It would be a book with, over and over again, the same sentence. It should be a simple sentence. Nothing fancy. A simple sentence without any coy cleverness or fake fanciness.

The man took off his hat when he entered the shop… ” (The man clearly should wear a hat, to give it a touch of the archaic.)

“The man took off his hat when he entered the shop, greeted the shop girl, and asked for half a loaf of whole wheat bread, in slices.”

Maybe it could be “the smiling shop girl“, but that would be already pushing it, because why would she be smiling?

The book, about 278 pages long, would only contain that same sentence. Over and over again. What a pleasure would it be to write it! What a pleasure would it be to read it! Its title would be “The Sentence“. The Dutch translation would even be nicer because “De Zin” would mean “the sentence”, “the meaning”, “the sense” and “the desire”.

He would read the entire book, sentence after sentence and in the end would turn over the last page and read the last line: “The man took off his hat when he entered the shop, greeted the smiling shop girl, and asked for half a loaf of whole wheat bread, in slices.” And then he would close the book and then open it again and start all over right from the beginning. No other book would be necessary any longer.

It would be the book to end all books.


How to make a fool of yourself without dying in the attempt (2)

I am a nervous guy. I can’t just leave things half undone. When a book is not quite aligned on the coffeetable, I first have to put it right, before I can  watch my favorite film on the video (or listen to my favorite song of my favorite band). To take my time and relax instead of fixing something right away, is a difficult thing for me to do.

One morning I was having a long, hot shower in my bathroom which was big and without windows, so that all the steam stayed inside it, creating quite a sauna effect. It was probably this heat and humidity which caused the light bulb to suddenly explode. Shards of glass flew all around and landed on the floor. I quickly switched off the water and opened the bathroom door to let in some light. That’s when I saw that, strangely enough, parts of the bulb and the complete cap and electrical contact of the bulb had remained still screwed into the electrical socket.

‘Well, let’s first take that out,’ I thought without thinking or taking time to dry myself. So, naked and wet, I stood up on my toes, stuck out my hand and procured to turn out the bulb from the socket.

I am a tall person, but luckily the ceiling of this bathroom was so high that I had to stand on my toes. The electricity went straight through my right hand, traveled through one side of my trunk, then proceeded along my hip, my right leg and finally my toes. The force was strong enough to throw me off balance and, so, break the electrical contact.

I lied on the floor between pieces of glass for maybe a minute while realising that I just barely had escaped death. I laughed maniacally, whispered: ‘I made it’ with a voice as if I was acting my part in a David Lynch movie and then stood up, switched off the light, walked out of the bathroom and switched off the main electricity too, just to be sure.

Then I sat down, still naked and wet, on the sofa and took a deep breath.

(En español)

Continue reading “How to make a fool of yourself without dying in the attempt (2)”

How to make a fool of yourself without dying in the attempt (1)

One early morning, while I was still living in Amsterdam, I rode on my bike to work on the Rooseveltlaan, a very broad street, which I assumed was a priority road. Hence, when I saw a car coming from a side street without stopping, and a group of cyclists waiting for the car to cross the bike path, I thought: the bastard! And, also: the fools!

I calculated distances and relative velocities and figured that I could still make it, passing the car with a slight margen. I was right about that. Moreover, feeling that I had both justice and the law on my side, I stuck up my middle finger to the driver in the car while I rode by, just for good measure.

Unfortunately, I had not seen that the side street was wider than I thought and alongside the car I had just passed another car came along which was also about to cross the bike path. Instead, the car hit me on the side, full-on, and both me and my bike made a semi-arc through the air and came to lie down beyond the crossing, back on the bike path.

Just before I landed on the street, still flying in the air, I saw the traffic lights… They were red. Which meant I had been wrong all along. I did not have any priority whatsoever. I laid on the pavement with my eyes closed and my bike lying over me and heard worried voices of other people. I was so much filled with shame about the enormity of my blunder that I did not want to see them.  The memory of the middle finger I had raised to the car driver made me cringe in painful embarrassment. I faintly hoped that I was sufficiently badly injured for it to be necessary to take me away unconsciously.

Alas, I had nothing except for some scratches.

The drivers of both cars had stepped out. Both were concerned, even friendly, which made ​​things even worse. “Sorry, sorry, sorry,” I told them a three hundred thousand times. My face was, not unlike an overripe tomato, ready to explode. I waved away all the help, said I was fine, got up on my bike and rode away.

The shame was so big that I needed pretty much the rest of the entire day to pick myself up again.

(En español)

Yesterday is tomorrow, only backwards

Good and well in the 7th year of an economical crisis still going strong, our hero, Sandy Prime, decided to write down all the things she used to know before the crisis had come. Things that were lost now and things she sometimes even had trouble remembering or believing they once really existed. In fact, her project was doomed from the beginning for this very reason for the few things she did remember hardly seemed real: fresh milk, newspapers, elections, holiday seasons, trainstations, broken hearts and hotdog stands. Also: bookshops and beaches, blind dates and blue bloods and broken beer bottles in brown bricked back streets. It had been a long time since she had seen an old man in a wheelchair or a group of children playing football in the streets. Surely, the latter was a product of her imagination and never really had existed.

On the other hand, she was pretty sure it once had been possible to open a window.

(Note: The title comes from a song by the Virgin Prunes)

(En español)

Off day off

Our secondary school gave its classes in various buildings: shacks in shambles in the woods, a desolate office building next to a chemistry factory, and, most importantly, an musty stone building so old that one could smell the dead souls of generations long gone. This building was called the dépendance, which was a French word which none of us could neither pronounce nor explain but which meant something like extra building. It was here were we committed our most atrocious crimes against our fellow students. It was here that we tied with impossible knots a girl to a staircase post. It was here that we covered with dog poo the saddle of a bike. It was here that we wrote swastikas on bare legs. And it was here that we locked me up for half a day in a shed and threw my schoolbag in the lake behind. No, I am lying. In the last case, we didn’t do that, they did that. I felt a bit weak that day.

( En español )

What I should have said

‘I got it!’ I exclaimed suddenly. ‘They might have been my songs, but you all played it the wrong way!’

People started. I sat in the 8:13 train which was crowded and people hadn’t expected me to shout out like that. Looking at their faces, some shocked, others scared or at least reasonably annoyed, I felt that an explanation was in order.

‘No, you see. A few days ago I was in a bar. And a friend of mine said something to me and I didn’t know what to reply. And only now, three days later, I thought of an answer: “They might have been my songs, but you all played them the wrong way!” That’s what I should have said.’

This explanation, however, did not seem to satisfy my audience. A pretty accurate summary of the general point of view seemed to be: “who is this freak?” I realized that any further explanation would be useless and I got off the train at the next stop, before my destination.

Not for the first time, I learned that in life, as soon as you solve one problem, you create another one. Now I knew what I should have said three days ago, which was a good thing, but I could never take the 8:13 train anymore, for having made a fool out of myself. Which was a bad thing.