RW Excerpt of the Day From BLGF p. 463: Belgrade I

Twice it happened to me, before I married you, that people who were close friends of mine wrote inquiring how I was and what my plans were, and I had to write back to them telling that an extraordinary calamity had befallen me, something almost as extraordinary as that a wicked stepmother had sent me out into the woods in winter with instructions not to come back till I had gathered a basket of wild strawberries, and infinitely agonizing as well. On neither occasion did I receive any answer:  and when I met my friends afterwards each told me that she had been so appalled by my news that she had not been able to find adequate words of sympathy, but that I was not to think she was anything but my friend and would be till death.  And indeed both women are still my friends. It, however, only gives me a modified pleasure, it presents me with the knowledge that two people know me very well and enjoy my society but are not inspired by that to do anything to save me when I am almost dying of loneliness and misery, and that this unexhilarating relationship is likely to persist during my lifetime.  —  Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, p. 463 (“Sarajevo VIII”)

RW’s style here reminds self so much of Lydia Davis.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

BLGF pp. 380-381: Sarajevo VII, A Visit to a Cemetery

Swimming along here, self is just swimming along.  Hopefully, in a week’s time she will be done with the behemoth.  Then, it’s The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family.  And after that come two books by Jhumpa Lahiri:  Unaccustomed Earth and The Namesake.  These will be the first Jhumpa Lahiri books self has read since Interpretor of Maladies.

Now to the topic at hand:  Self spent hours yesterday answering on-line students, and revising a few stories, and also reading the Sarajevo chapters in BLGF.  The erudition of RW is unmatched.  Not content to visit places like convents, she must also describe the history of the convent, who was killed there, hours for mass, scandalous tidbits, and so forth.

But in the Sarajevo chapters, everything revolves around one single point:  that day in June when Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were assassinated in Sarajevo.

One day, two men, a judge and a banker, accompany them to the local cemetery where the Archduke’s assassin, Princip, is buried.

. . . the banker said, “Look, they are here.” Close to the palings of the cemetery, under three stone slabs, lie the conspirators of Sarajevo, those who were hanged and those who died in prison; and to them has been joined Zheraitch, the boy who tried to kill the Bosnian Governor General Vareshanin and was kicked as he lay on the ground.  The slab in the middle is raised.  Underneath it lies the body of Princip.  To the left and the right lie the others, the boys on one side and the men on the other, for in this country it is recognized that the difference between old and young is almost as great as that between men and women.  The grave is not impressive.  It is as if a casual hand had swept them into a stone drawer.  There was a battered wreath laid askew on the slabs, and candles flickered in rusty lanterns.

RW has an unmatched eye for description, doesn’t she, dear blog readers?

Following Sarajevo VII is Sarajevo VIII, in which RW spends almost an entire page discussing the merits of Balkan furniture, and writes:  “Taste degenerated more rapidly in Austria during the nineteenth century than in any other country, with the possible exception of Russia . . . ”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Stay tuned.

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