How it is, p.11
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       How It Is, p.11

           Samuel Beckett
 
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  not one deprived of tormentor as number 1 would be not one deprived of victim as number 50000000 would be assuming this latter at the head of the procession which wends as we have seen from left to right or if you prefer from west to east

  and that there be never offered to the eyes of

  of whom

  of him in charge of the sacks

  possible

  to his eyes the spectacle on the one hand of a single one among us towards whom no one ever goes and on the other of a single other who never goes towards anyone it would be an injustice and that is above in the light

  in other words in simple words I quote on either I am alone and no further problem or else we are innumerable and no further problem either

  save that of conceiving but no doubt it can be done a procession in a straight line with neither head nor tail in the dark the mud with all the various infinitudes that such a conception involves

  nothing to be done in any case we have our being in justice I have never heard anything to the contrary

  with that of a slowness difficult to conceive the procession we are talking of a procession advancing in jerks or spasms like shit in the guts till one wonders days of great gaiety if we shall not end one after another or two by two by being shat into the open air the light of day the regimen of grace

  a slowness of which figures alone however arbitrary can give a feeble idea

  allowing then I quote twenty years for the journey and knowing furthermore from having heard so that the four phases through which we pass the two kinds of solitude the two kinds of company through which tormentors abandoned victims travellers we all pass and pass again being regulated thus are of equal duration

  knowing furthermore by the same courtesy that the journey is accomplished in stages ten yards fifteen yards at the rate of say it’s reasonable to say one stage per month this word these words months years I murmur them

  four by twenty eighty twelve and half by twelve one hundred and fifty by twenty three thousand divided by eighty thirty-seven and a half thirty-seven to thirty-eight say forty yards a year we advance

  correct

  from left to right we advance each one advances and all advance from west to east year in year out in the dark the mud in torment and solitude at the speed of thirty-seven to thirty-eight say forty yards a year we advance

  such the feeble idea of our slowness given by these figures of which it is sufficient to admit and no doubt it can be done on the one hand that assigned to the duration of the journey and on the other those expressing the length and frequency of the stage to obtain this feeble idea of our slowness

  our slowness the slowness of our procession from left to right in the dark the mud

  an image in its discontinuity of the journeys of which it is the sum made up of stages and of halts and of those stages of which the journey is the sum

  when we crawl in an amble right leg right arm push pull flat on face mute maledictions left leg left arm push pull flat on face mute maledictions ten yards fifteen yards halt

  all that once without quaqua on all sides now in me when the panting stops all that fainter weaker but still audible less clear but the purport in me when the panting stops

  and that here in truth all discontinuous journey images torment even solitude part three when a voice speaks then stops a few scraps then nothing more save the dark the mud all discontinuous save the dark the mud

  an image too of this voice ten words fifteen words long silence ten words fifteen words long silence long solitude once without quaqua on all sides vast stretch of time then in me when the panting stops scraps

  from it everything I know how it was before Pim before that again with Pim after Pim how it is words for that too how it will be words for that in a word my life vast tracts of time

  I hear me again murmur me in the mud and am again

  the journey I made in the dark the mud straight line sack tied to my neck never quite fallen from my species and I made that journey

  then something else and I didn’t make it then again and I made it again

  and Pim how I found him made him suffer made him speak and lost him and all that while it lasts I had it all when the panting stops

  and how there are three of us four a million and there I am always was with Pim Bom and another and 999997 others journeying alone rotting alone martyring and being martyred oh moderately listlessly a little blood a few cries life above in the light a little blue little scenes for the thirst for the sake of peace

  and how there cannot be only three of us only four only a million and there I am always was with Pim Bom innumerable others in a procession without end or beginning languidly wending from left to right straight line eastward strange in the dark the mud sandwiched between victim and tormentor and how these words not weak enough most of them not quite enough

  or alone and no further problem never any Pim never any Bom never any journey never anything but the dark the mud the sack perhaps too it seems constant too and this voice which knows not what it says or I hear wrong which if I had a voice a little heart a little head I might take for mine once without quaqua on all sides then in me when the panting stops faint now scarce a breath

  all that all that while it lasts all those kinds of lives when the panting stops I had it all it depends on what you hear knew it all did and suffered as the case may be in the present too and in the future that’s sure a matter of hearing nothing more when the panting stops ten seconds fifteen seconds all those kinds of lives bits and scraps murmur them to the mud

  and finally how now the panting wilder more and more animal in want of air and to stop it again for it to stop again so wild a panting and this voice to hear it again that was without quaqua on all sides now in me when the panting stops how that will soon no doubt be possible no more

  at that moment I quote on from that moment on and following I being this voice these scraps nothing more shall at last be no more but without ceasing for such a trifle end of part three and last it must be almost ended

  that yes a panting in the mud to that it all comes in the end the journey the couple the abandon when the whole tale is told the tormentor you are said to have had then lost the journey you are said to have made the victim you are said to have had then lost the images the sack the little fables of above little scenes a little blue infernal homes

  the voice quaqua on all sides then within in the little vault empty closed eight planes bone-white if there were a light a tiny flame all would be white ten words fifteen words like a fume of sighs when the panting stops then the storm the breath token of life part three and last it must be nearly ended

  then that you have your life and that you had it the long journeys and company of your likes lost and forsaken when the panting stops to that it all comes in the end a panting in the dark the mud not unlike certain laughs but not one

  or then that all begins and then the life you’ll have the tormentor you’ll have the journey you’ll make the victim you’ll have the two lives the three lives the life you had the life you have the life you’ll have

  hard to conceive this last when instead of beginning as traveller I begin as victim and instead of continuing as tormentor I continue as traveller and instead of ending abandoned

  instead of ending abandoned I end as tormentor

  the essential would seem to be lacking

  this solitude when the voice recounts it sole means of living it

  my life we’re talking of my life

  unless it recounts it the voice my life during that other solitude when I journey that is to say instead of a first past a second past and a present a past a present and a future something wrong there

  refreshing alternations of history prophesy and latest news whereby I learn in turn it’s no doubt what keeps me young how it was my life we’re still talking of my life

  how it was before Pim how it was with Pim how it is present formulation

  how it was with Bom how it is how it will be
with Pim

  how it is how it will be with Bom how it will be before Pim

  how it was my life still with Pim how it is how it will be with Bom

  fleeting impression I quote that in trying to present in three parts or episodes an affair which all things considered involves four one is in danger of being incomplete

  that to this third part now ending at last a fourth should normally be appended in which would be seen among a thousand and one other things scarcely or not at all to be seen in the present formulation this thing

  instead of me sticking the opener into Pim’s arse Bom sticking it into mine

  and instead of Pim’s cries his song and extorted voice be heard indistinguishably similar mine

  but we shall never see Bom at work I shall pant on in abeyance in the dark the mud the voice being so ordered I quote that of our total life it states only three quarters

  now the first second and third now the fourth first and second

  now the third fourth and first now the second third and fourth

  something wrong there

  and so ordered that it is loath for the episode couple even in its twofold aspect to figure twice in the same communication as would be the case if instead of having me begin as traveller present formulation or as abandoned possible formulation it had me begin as tormentor or as victim

  need then to emend what has just been said in which it succeeds by saying in its stead that of the four three quarters of our total life only three lend themselves to communication

  the three quarters of which the first the journey present formulation and the three quarters of which the first the abandon formulation equally defendable

  loathing most understandable if it be kindly considered that the two solitudes that of the journey and that of the abandon differ appreciably and consequently merit separate treatment whereas the two couples that in which I figure in the north as tormentor and that in which I figure in the south as victim compose the same spectacle exactly

  having already appeared with Pim in my quality of tormentor part two I have not to take cognizance of a part four in which I would appear with Bom in my quality of victim it is sufficient for this episode to be announced Bom comes right leg right arm push pull ten yards fifteen yards

  or emotions sensations take a sudden interest in them and even then what the fuck I quote does it matter who suffers faint waver here faint tremor

  the fuck who suffers who makes to suffer who cries who to be left in peace in the dark the mud gibbers ten seconds fifteen seconds of sun clouds earth sea patches of blue clear nights and of a creature if not still standing still capable of standing always the same imagination spent looking for a hole that he may be seen no more in the middle of this faery who drinks that drop of piss of being and who with his last gasp pisses it to drink the moment it’s someone each in his turn as our justice wills and never any end it wills that too all dead or none

  two possible formulations therefore the present and that other beginning where the present ends and consequently ending with the journey in the dark the mud the traveller right leg right arm push pull coming so utterly from nowhere and no one and so utterly on his way there that he has never ceased from travelling will never cease from travelling dragging his sack where provisions are dwindling but not so fast as appetite

  that cognizance then of the present communication be taken backward and once studied from left to right its course be retraced from right to left no objection

  on condition that by an effort of the imagination the still central episode of the couple be duly adjusted

  all that once without scraps in me when the panting stops ten seconds fifteen seconds all that fainter weaker less clear but the purport in me when it abates the breath we’re talking of a breath token of life when it abates like a last in the light then resumes a hundred and ten fifteen to the minute when it abates ten seconds fifteen seconds

  it’s then I hear it my life here a life somewhere said to have been mine still mine and still in store bits and scraps strung together vast stretch of time an old tale my old life each time Pim leaves me till Bom finds me it is there

  words quaqua then in me when the panting stops bits and scraps a murmur this old life same old words same old scraps millions of times each time the first how it was before Pim before that again with Pim after Pim before Bom how it is how it will be all that words for all that in me I hear them murmur them

  my life ten seconds fifteen seconds it’s then I have it murmur it it’s preferable more logical brief movements of the lower face with murmur in the mud

  of an ancient voice ill-spoken ill-heard murmur ill some ancient scraps for Kram who listens Krim who notes or Kram alone one is enough Kram alone witness and scribe his lamps their light upon me Kram with me bending over me till the age-limit then his son his son’s son so on

  with me when I journey with me with Pim with me abandoned part three and last with me with Bom from age to age their lamps their light upon me

  their books where all is noted whatever little there is to note my doings my murmur ten seconds fifteen seconds part three and last present formulation

  my life a voice without quaqua on all sides words scraps then nothing then again more words more scraps the same ill-spoken ill-heard then nothing vast stretch of time then in me in the vault bone-white if there were a light bits and scraps ten seconds fifteen seconds ill-heard ill-murmured ill-heard ill-recorded my whole life a gibberish garbled sixfold

  the panting stops I hear it my life I have it murmur it it’s preferable more logical for Kram to note and if we are innumerable then Krams innumerable if you like or one alone my Kram mine alone he’s enough here where justice reigns one life all life not two lives our justice one Kram not one of us there’s reason in me yet his son begets his son leaves the light Kram goes back up into the light to end his days

  or no Kram that too when the panting stops an ear above somewhere above and unto it the murmur ascending and if we are innumerable then murmurs innumerable all alike our justice one life everywhere ill-told ill-heard quaqua on all sides then within when the panting stops ten seconds fifteen seconds in the little chamber all bone-white if there were a light oakum of old words ill-heard ill-murmured that murmur those murmurs

  fallen in the mud from our mouths innumerable and ascending to where there is an ear a mind to understand a means of noting a care for us the wish to note the curiosity to understand an ear to hear even ill these scraps of other scraps of an antique rigmarole

  immemorial imperishable like us the ear we’re talking of an ear above in the light and in that case for us days of great gaiety in that untiring listening to this unchanging drone the faint sign for us of a change some day nay even of an end in all honour and justice

  or for which as for us each time the first and in that case no problem

  or of the fragile kind made for the blackbirds when to the day the long night yields at last and to the night a little later the interminable day but us this life how it was how it is how most certainly it will be not made for that a second time next per shaving and in that case no surprise to be expected either

  all that among other things so many others ill-spoken ill-heard ill-remembered to the sole end that there may be white on white trace of so many and so many words ill-given ill-received ill-rendered to the mud and whose ear in these conditions the gift of understanding the care for us the means of noting what does it matter

  whose his in charge of the sacks the sacks possible and food these words again the sack as we have seen

  the sack as we have seen there being occasions when the sack as we have seen is more than a mere larder for us yes moments when if needs be it may appear more than a mere larder to us

  those words of old in their place of old end of part three and last present formulation at the end before the silence the panting without pause the animal in want of air the mouth murmuring them to the mud and the continuation of old when the panting stops ten
words fifteen words a murmur to the mud

  and later much later these aeons my God when it stops again ten more fifteen more in me a murmur scarce a breath then from mouth to mud brief kiss brush of lips faint kiss

  namely string them together last reasonings namely these sacks these sacks one must understand try and understand these sacks innumerable with us here for our journeys innumerable on this narrow track one foot two foot all here in position already like us all here in position at the inconceivable start of this caravan no impossible

  impossible that at every journey we should have had to scale a mountain of sacks and should still have and should for ever have each one of us at every journey in order to reach his victim to scale a mountain of sacks our progress as we have seen while admittedly laborious yet the terrain the terrain try and understand no accidents no asperities our justice

  last reasonings last figures number 777777 leaves number 777776 on his way unwitting towards number 777778 finds the sack without which he would not go far appropriates it to himself and continues on his way the same to be taken by number 777776 in his turn and after him by number 777775 and so back to the unimaginable number 1 each one no sooner on his way than he finds the sack indispensable to his journey and not to be relinquished till a little before arrival as we have seen

  whence if all the sacks in position like us at the beginning that hypothesis such an acervation of sacks on the track nay concentrated in a little room since each finds his as we have seen his sack we are talking of our sacks no sooner his tormentor forsaken as he must if he is ever to reach his victim as we have seen if his victim is ever to be reached

  such an acervation of sacks at the very outset that all progress impossible and no sooner imparted to the caravan the unthinkable first impulsion than arrested for ever and frozen in injustice

  then from left to right or west to east the atrocious spectacle on into the black night of boundless futurity of the abandoned tormentor never to be victim then a little space then his brief journey done prostrate at the foot of a mountain of provisions the victim never to be tormentor then a great space then another abandoned so on infinitely

 
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