21 January, 2006

Silence: a fable

A few days ago I offered a picture of my immediate surroundings: far from London indeed, the expanse north of our apartment is a wilderness of grasses and mountains, a pair of skeletal factory-stacks and some roads in the foreground.

And it has grown quiet, too. No longer that mysterious distant roar which swelled up in the small hours of the morning; no more the engine revving outside for half an hour at dawn. The whistles of the freight-trains crossing Rural have ceased too, or at least, perhaps, I no longer notice them. The jovial cries of our Asian neighbours splashing about in the pool downstairs have stopped for the winter. And rarely is there bird-sound out here in the half-desert. We still hear each evening the klaxon of an itinerant Mexican vendor passing by, honking doggedly, and now and then the sweet and drunken mariachi of a tequila party down the street. But mostly the place is quited, quieted.

A tetter or morphew is encroaching upon me also, sheathing the flesh of my arms with hives, blotches, welts, petechiae, infernally itchy. Still, I refuse to see a doctor.

This weekend I prepare an attempt to improve my German by Englishing Der Prozess, page by page. Last semester I had a go at Leibniz's De arte combinatoria, written at only 19, purely because I wanted so badly to read the untranslated opuscule, but alas! I gave up after the first paragraph. So much is lost in the movement of words. The Byzantine pharmacologist Nicolaus Myrepsus compiled from Muslim sources a handbook of natural remedies, translating the Arabic darsini, which means cinnamon, as 'arsenic'; for centuries it was thus believed in the West that arsenic had medicinal properties. So it goes.

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