Claire-Louise Bennett: Pond: Stories

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Claire-Louise Bennett Pond: Stories
  • Название:
    Pond: Stories
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    Stinging Fly Press
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    Современная проза / на английском языке
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Pond: Stories: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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How much should you let in and how much should you give away? Feverish and forthright, Pond is an absorbing chronicle of a solitudinous life told by an unnamed woman living on the cusp of a coastal town. The physical world depicted in these stories is unsettling yet intimately familiar and soon takes on a life of its own. Captivated by the stellar charms of seclusion but restless with desire, the woman’s relationship with her surroundings becomes boundless and increasingly bewildering. Claire-Louise Bennett’s startlingly original first collection is by turns darkly funny and deeply moving.

Claire-Louise Bennett: другие книги автора

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I saw it first through the hedgerow. It was summer and the hedgerow was very thick and actually almost impossible to see through but if you parted the leaves carefully, just a little bit, you could see all the way through — but you had to be careful, because of the bright flowers that extended, like dancers on tiptoes, everywhere among the hedgerow’s branches. That can’t be it, I said to my friend. Do you think that’s it? I stepped back and stood in the road and looked downhill then uphill. It must be it, I said. There’s nothing else. It’s perfect, she said. I can’t believe it, I said. Then we both peered through the hedge silently and I knew that of course this was it.

Placemats aren’t really my thing to be perfectly honest but it looks as if I’m going to have to buy some to put beneath the bowls on the windowsill. Evidently the stone there has become rather too cold and possibly a bit damp because the other day an orange went off very quickly and I see today that the aubergine has developed some moist fluff in the shape and hue of an oyster. I ought to go down to the compost bin, it seems I have been putting it off. I think I’ve lost interest in it actually, it’s got very boring. Someone told me the other day that they had worms escaping from theirs, which I thought sounded quite momentous. I like worms and have no problem picking them up, which is unusual and thus gives me a clear advantage in certain situations because it means I can fling them at people if I feel like it and that never fails to cheer me up. There’s a blue plastic bowl in the kitchen on the worktop where I collect scraps and skins and teabags and rinds and stalks and weeping leaves and shells etc for the compost bin and the idea was to use a smallish bowl so that I would empty it often, daily in fact, but I don’t do that. I don’t do that and it piles up, it all piles up and sometimes, though this happens rarely, I tip it all into a bigger bowl and just carry on.

Carry on with what? Well, for your information, there are always things that must be done — this, for one thing, after the fire has been lit of course. The birds need feeding at least once a day this time of year. And after a while I make the bed. I go up the steps and take a look in the post box. I like a coffee first thing. Sometimes I have a banana along with it. Sometimes that’s all I need. And the blue bowl gets emptied, or not, into the compost bin. And the enamel bucket taken without fail to the side of the cottage and filled up with coal again and again. And because there is no step everything gets in here so there is never a time when the floor couldn’t do with a good sweep. And of course there is always something to fold.

I texted the man, whose estranged wife is a very dear friend of mine, and asked him if he’d fallen asleep — I really couldn’t think what else might have happened to him. He texted back right away to say he was en route. He brought a bag of wood with him that had come from trees in his own garden and a bottle of wine that came from the country where his estranged wife — my dear friend — now lives. It was a wine I was familiar with and it was jarring, sort of, to drink it here, at this time, without her. The Japanese frames and their pared back interiors were in a large cotton bag which he leant against the ottoman beneath the mirror. I did not go near the bag and perhaps he supposed I had no real interest in the contents but I didn’t want to look at the pieces in front of him, I wanted to be alone, because in that way I wouldn’t have to come up with something to say about them. Quite often, in circumstances such as these, when an impression is proffered for the benefit of the person looming nearby, whatever is said is rarely anything at all evocative and the moment it is said something intrinsic is circumvented and cannot be recaptured later on. Anyhow, I didn’t mind waiting— waiting was a pleasure in fact. Anticipation, when it occurs, often makes me animated and expansive, as if I am perhaps reviving and honing my senses in preparation for the awaited object: yes indeed, the world is a scintillant and fascinating place when a half-remembered mystery leans within reach. He stayed for an hour and we talked about the three sons and renting apartments abroad and the recent success of a mutual friend and now and then he expressed deliberately autocratic views in order to rile me but in fact he was wasting his time because I could not be offended — on the contrary, I found a great deal to be amused by, and it might be that my irreverent attitude threw him; some people would much rather make you cross it seems. We may have mentioned Christmas, I do not recall. Even after he left I did not go to the bag directly — I took his emptied glass and the wine cooler out to the kitchen, I arranged the wood he’d kindly given me, I hung up a coat — the wine you see had gone gallivanting through my blood and I didn’t want to come at the pictures with a giddy head full of fanciful expectation. So I waited a while longer, until a more subdued atmosphere was restored, and then I went to the bag and lifted out the heavy frames; focused and unfazed — like a connoisseur.

There are six and a half small flowers. Their petals are small and heart-shaped. Scattered about them are individual petals, these are not heart-shaped and they are slightly darker, as if falling further away. A pair of hands reaches up to the flowers, just the outline of a pair of hands and the edge of one sleeve of a kimono. There is a face, turned, not looking up towards the hands, not at all concerned with the hands’ activity: the forehead, the heavy eyelids, the pursed lips, and an earring. All of this occurs in just one small diagonal area of the cloth, the rest is in blackness. And it is the same face in the second frame, where there are even fewer stitches. And while I look at this downcast profile and the few vertical lines which denote, again, the fabric of a heavy kimono, I realise I was quite wrong. Nothing had been undone; there hasn’t ever been more than this. What I saw, what I can still see when I stand close enough, was the idea — the plan — of course! Whoever created these did not remove stitches with the intention, as I had initially suspected, of beginning again; they’d simply stopped what they were doing. They did not feel obliged to complete the plan and so they did not complete the plan. Just this, just these few details showed enough. And they must have really felt that and been quite satisfied with it, because why else would they have put these two dark fragments into such beautiful frames?

I’ve put them on the mantelpiece — you could say they’ve been given pride of place. They are close to one another but not exactly side by side: they are related, but they aren’t a pair. Some people don’t notice them at all and other people are instantly intrigued by them, in which case I go into the kitchen so they have every opportunity to become utterly absorbed without feeling obliged to talk about it, which would spoil everything. Yes, I could stand in the kitchen maybe and keep an eye on things from there and perhaps one day my heart by then will be right up in the roof of my mouth as I feel someone becoming more and more taken in until finally they call out to me, excited and amazed, and say, ‘Look at that — she’s been holding a parasol all along!’

There were so many flowers already in bloom when I moved in: wisteria, fuchsia, roses, golden chain, and many other kinds of flowering trees and shrubs I do not know the names of— many of them wild — and all in great abundance. The sun shone most days so naturally I spent most days out the front there, padding in and out all day long, and the air was absolutely buzzing with so many different species of bee and wasp, butterfly, dragonfly, and birds, so many birds, and all of them so busy. Everything: every plant, every flower, every bird, every insect, just getting on with it. In the mornings I flitted about my cottage, taking crockery out of the plate rack and organising it into jaunty stacks along the window ledge, slicing peaches and chopping hazelnuts, folding back the quilt and smoothing down the sheet, watering plants, cleaning mirrors, sweeping floors, polishing glasses, folding clothes, wiping casements, slicing tomatoes, chopping spring onions. And then, after lunch, I’d take a blanket up to the top garden and I’d lie down under the trees in the top garden and listen to things.

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