Saturday, December 30, 2017




A possible English title in for DIE OBSTDIEBIN might be -
“ALEXIA, THE FRUIT THIEF {OR FILCHER?]” plain THE FRUIT THIEF it will probably be once it appears in English… when.. in seven years as MORAVIAN NIGHT did subsequent to its original publication. M.R.

"This story began on one of those midsummer days on which if you walk barefoot in the grass you will get the first bee sting of the year. At least that is what kept happening to me, though meanwhile I know that the days of the first and often unique annual bee sting usually coincide with the white clover starting to bloom, at ground level, where the bees, half-hidden, are scurrying about. It was, as always in this respect too, a sunny - at least late mornings - but not yet hot day in early August, skyward a steady blue, high and higher and higher; scarcely a single cloud, and if, already dissolved. A light, increasingly uplifting wind, as usual in summer, blew in from the West, in my mind from the Atlantic and, fanning me, into my No-Man's-Bay No-Man’s Book. There was no morning dew in need of drying; at least not in the past week as, in the course of my early morning garden amble on the soles of my feet not even the notion of ​​moisture could be detected, let alone between my toes. It is said that bees who, as compared to wasps, lose their stinger when they apply it, die as they sting. In all prior years, whenever I was stung - almost always in the bare foot - I was given as much to understand in as much at the sight of the innermost flesh that was torn from the bee - a tiny as primordial, three-pronged harpoon - had at the end something fuzzy-jelly-like, as the innermost of the animal, bulging in front of my eyes, a curling, trembling, jitteryness, wings becoming lame. But on the day that I was stung, back then at the inception of the story of the fruit thief or filcher, the  bee that stung me did not expire. Although it was teeny tiny like a single pea, furry,
woolly, in the familiar bee colors and stripes, she did not lose a stinger of any kind and, after the sting, whirred off and away - a bee sting like no other – sudden and vehement - in one fell swoop, as though it not only had not been nothing, but as though per force of what she had accomplished she had been invigorated. Being stung was fine with me, and not only because the bee survived; for other reasons, too. Firstly, it was said that bee stings, allegedly - again as opposed to those of wasps or hornets - are good for one’s health, for rheumatic problems, as vigorish for circulation, or whatever - and such a sting now - yet another of my fancies - would help revive my toes that had become number by the year, at least for a while. Similarly wish- or fanciful I would pluck bushels of stinging nettles, often as tufts, bare-handed out of the yellowish earth here, or the there limestone soil whether in the garden of the No-Man's-Bay or on the terraces of the property in far away in Picardy. For a second reason, the sting was welcome. I took it as an omen. A good or a bad one? Neither a good nor bad, even evil sign - a mere sign. The sting was a sign, to get going. Hey, fellow it’s time for you to leave. Get away from the garden and the area. Away with you. The hour of departure, it has come. Did I need such signs? On that day at that time: yes, and even if it was only imagined or a summer’s day-dream. I cleaned up in the house and garden, what there was to clean up, left this and that, also specifically, where it stood or lay, ironed the two, three old shirts - barely dried in the grass, of which I had a particular liking, packed, pocketed the country keys, so much heavier than the ones for the suburban house.
And not for the first time, just prior a departure, it transpired that while I grabbed to tie my ankle-high shoe’s laces they tore, and that I failed, just could not find socks that matched, that of the three dozen of
detailed maps that I was shuffling sorting between my fingers, except for the one I was looking for, with the difference this time,
that I tore both shoelaces – and that during the quarter of  and hour it had taken earlier to unknot them one of my thumbnails had broken off – and that, ultimately, I stuffed pairs of mismatched socks - almost only such -
and that it was suddenly o.k. with me to be on my way without any map whatsoever.
Simultaneously I was also freed from being pressed for time, a condition that had started to seize me - irrational time trouble - which seized me time and again and again, not only while taking leave - throttling my breath especially then, and in the hour before the actual leaving the full court press of the need for time was downright murderous. My last hour had tolled for sure! Book of life? Eyes bandaged as though blind! Finito the dream. Fin de parti. But how unexpected now that the full court press for time had eased off, disparu, turned into thin air. Suddenly I had All the Time in the World. Old as I was: more time than ever. And the Book of Life: it was open, while simultaneously its pages, solid as could be, especially the blank ones, were shining in the wind of the world, the earth here, the here-ness. Yes, I and my fruit thief would - though not today and not tomorrow, but soon, very soon - come face to face, as persons, as whole entities, and not just as phantasmal fragments, as my eyes, that had aged, espied these fragments in all previous years, mostly in crowds, and there only from afar, which put me on the alert that I might have one last go at her!
One last time? Yes, have you forgotten that it does not behoove you to speak of a "last time", just as little as of a "last glass of wine"? Or, if you speak like that, then do so like that child who, after it has received its "one last time” gift (Say, on a swing or seesaw), and shouts: "One last time!"; and then shouts, joyfully: "And one more last time!" – But haven’t you mentioned this already any number of times? - Yes, but that was in another country. And if –

I didn’t pack a single book that summer's day, not even the one on the table which I had been reading that morning, the medieval story of a young woman who, so as to disfigure herself - as to make herself unattractive for the men pursuing her - had cut off both her hands. (Hacking off both hands herself? Only in medieval tales was the like possible?) I also left my notebooks and journal in the house, locked them away, hiding them as though from myself, even willing to chance their becoming undiscoverable, at least for the foreseeable time, forbidding myself to make use of them.  

Before I set out, I sat down, my bundle at my feet, in the garden, in the middle of it, on a solitary chair, a stool really, at some distance from the trees, above all away from the tables, the one under the elderberry, the one under the lime tree, especially the largest table, the one under the apple tree, or at least the most expansive. In my imagination, I - sitting there idly, halfway upright, one leg hooked over the other, my traveler’s straw hat stuffed over my head – am an incarnation of the gardener whose name was "Vaillier" (or something like it), whom Paul Cézanne kept painting and drawing towards the end of his life, especially in 1906, the year of the painter's death. In all these paintings "The gardener Vaillier" - and not just because his hat’s shadow concealed his forehead –  has scarcely a face, or a face -  so I imagined - without eyes; the nose and mouth have been wiped away, too. I am picturing in my mind nothing but the outline of the face of the person who is squatting there now. But what an outline. A contour by virtue of which the nearly vacant surface of the face that the outline surrounds embodies, expresses, and transmits something beyond whatever a detail-faithfully-rendered physiognomy could convey - or at least something else is transmitted, something fundamentally different, a basically different kind of modus. Could my gardener's   name, refashioned from Vaillier to Vaillant, possibly be translated as "watchman," or "guard," or “waking” or “the awake one” which would be appropriate - his sense organs half of them now invisible - no ears, no nose, no mouth, especially the eyes have been wiped away – for the totality of the gardener Vaillier images? Sitting thusly, awake, yet also as if asleep, another kind of sleep, a voice, nearby – impossible for it to be nearer – began to soufleur into to my ear. It was Alexia the fruit thief's voice, a questioning, delicate as well as tender, yet firm. And what did she ask me? If I recall correctly (our story after all lies well in the past), the voice said nothing special; for example, it said: "How are you?", "When are you taking off?" (Or no, now my memory is coming back to me). She asked: "What is wrong with you, sir? What are you worried about? Qu'est-ce qu'il vous manque, monsieur? C'est quoi, souci?" And that's the only time in history that the fruit thief addressed me in person. (By the way, where in God’s name did I get the idea that she addressed me with the familiar, the “tu”?) What was special about her was her voice alone, a voice that has become rare today, or perhaps has always been a rarity. Full of solicitude, without a tone of being overly solicitous, and above all a voice, the voice of patience, of patience both as a quality and, even more so, as an activity, of constant action, in the sense of "patience" "I tolerate myself and I tolerate you, him, her - I tolerate who or whatever, without distinction and, yes, without ceasing." Never in life would such a voice modulate differently, let alone switch into a frighteningly different tone - as I have found to be the case with most human voices (even my own), especially so with women's voices. But this voice was in constant danger of falling silent, possibly even – Beware ye powers that be, protect my Fruit Thief!  - forever. This voice, after hearing it in my ear for years on end, I think, it suits her, and is consonant to an actor’s response when asked how his voice helped him to play a particular story in a film, and he replied that he felt - not only he himself - that when a scene, or even the whole story, has "the right tone," he will not ascertain the truthfulness of a scene, yes of the entire film, by what he sees, but by what he hears. Whereupon the actor, laughingly – a laugh that for a moment put me in his place - added "And besides, I hear very well, I have that from my mother."

It was high noon, the kind of noonday high as perhaps only in the first week of August. All nearby neighbors seemed to have disappeared, not just since yesterday. It was as if they had not just moved into their second homes or chalets in the French provinces or elsewhere during the summer. They, I imagined, had moved out altogether and for good and far away, far from France, back to the homeland of their ancestors, to Greece, to the Portuguese hinterland, to the Argentine pampas, to the East Sea of Japan, to the Spanish Meseta, and, chiefly, to the Russian steppes. Their houses and cottages in the No-Man's-Bay all stood empty and, unlike previous summers, during the days and nights before I left none of the alarm systems, not even in the few cars that were parked and had not been started -   seemingly without motors - for weeks, started up. The whole morning, as in the pre-morning, a silence spread out as the hours passed, spread beyond the borders or edges of the No-Man’s-Bay area, and was less frequently than usual interrupted by the episodic - usually three-bar - raven calls, as though these perhaps conveyed the silence even further. Now at the noon hour, embraced by an inaudible soughing and on the summer foliage, an invisible windless streaming, an additional current that had a special flow of its own, additional air that, however   was undetectable on the skin, neither on my arms nor temples, an indiscernible air supply - not a single leaf, not even the lightest, that of the linden tree – stirred; the silence spread over the area, all at once, with a jolt as gentle as powerful down onto the landscape, and, uniquely, each summer, it only happens for one moment: the landscape - already enveloped in silence while yet remaining the familiar gently hilly, arched, all-bearing surface of the earth - assisted by the sudden lowering of the sky from the heights of the heavens - sinks or sank down. And it transpired beyond the threshold of the audible, the visible, the perceptible. And yet it was obvious. Falling into the country has always been one of my daydreams. And so far, once each summer, it has become fulfilled for a single summer moment, at least for the more than twenty-five years of my existence in the same place. Also on that day, in the hour prior to my departure to the Departement of the Oise, there had lowered  itself for the long-awaited moment in the general silence the additioanal silence. It had happened as alwaay. And yet a few matters were not as always not altogether. As invariable I saw, as I lifted my head to see it in the sky the wide-pread, sickel-shaped curving wingbeats of the eagle, soaring and circling, which - each time dependably - had become the live image of that moment, silently curving about as the consequential moment. I imagined that, year after year, it was the same predatory bird had lifted itself up together with his falcons and buzzards.

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