Excerpt from Animals by Michel Laub
After my father died, my mother was left alone. His death came in the wake of a particularly grim period in her life, during which she had also lost her best friend. My sister had a Labrador puppy whose life was devoted to drooling, trashing the apartment, stealing food and barking at night, and my mother came to enjoy looking after him and taking him to a square frequented by other dogs and their owners or trainers. My mother likes to talk about my father but there’s nothing morbid about this, not at all, and I like it too because every now and then her memories include something I didn’t know or had forgotten: the time he won a prize from the Engineering Council, the time he decided to have a barbecue and to fan the hot coals with a hairdryer, the time he made me a little theatre out of modelling clay because I was having nightmares about giant otters.
In 1977, a sergeant saved a child in the zoo in Brasilia. She had falled into the enclosure containing giant otters, and the sergeant leaped in after her and was attacked and later died in the hospital when the bites he had received became infected. The incident was featured on the TV news for days afterwards, and one night my dad called me into his room, where he had placed the ‘theatre’ on the bed with a towel as the curtain and behind it various dolls. He had made them all himself. The story always began with giant otters, about the babies they had and how they swam on their backs when eating fish. My dad told the story over several nights, explaining that giant otters are only aggressive when they feel threatened and that, besides, such creatures were unknown in Porto Alegre. I would watch this show before going to sleep and my mum says I never again woke up screaming.
Hershleder turned down Fairweather Drive. He stepped over a discarded red tricycle. He noticed that the Fishmans had a blue Jag in their carport. The Fishman boy was his own boy’s nemesis. Charlie Fishman could run faster, hit harder. No matter that Hershleder’s own boy could speak in numbers - a=1 b=2, for example, when Hershleder arrived home at night the kid said: “8-9 4-1-4” (translation: Hi Dad!) - the kid was practically a savant, a genius! So what, the Fishman boy could kick harder, draw blood faster in a fight. Could Charlie Fishman bring tears to his own father’s eyes by saying, “9 12-15-22-5 25-15-21” when Fishman’s father tucked him in at night?
— Excerpt from The Revisionist by Helen Schulman, 1998
Voyelles (Vowels) by Arthur Rimbaud, 1872
A noir, E blanc, I rouge, U vert, O bleu: voyelles,
Je dirai quelque jour vos naissances latentes:
A, noir corset velu des mouches éclatantes
Qui bombinent autour des puanteurs cruelles,
Golfes d’ombre ; E, candeur des vapeurs et des tentes,
Lances des glaciers fiers, rois blancs, frissons d’ombelles;
I, pourpres, sang craché, rire des lèvres belles
Dans la colère ou les ivresses pénitentes;
U, cycles, vibrements divins des mers virides,
Paix des pâtis semés d’animaux, paix des rides
Que l’alchimie imprime aux grands fronts studieux;
O, suprême Clairon plein des strideurs étranges,
Silence traversés des Mondes et des Anges:
— O l’Oméga, rayon violet de Ses Yeux!
A Black, E white, I red, U green, O blue: vowels,
I shall tell, one day, of your mysterious origins:
A, black velvety jacket of brilliant flies
Which buzz around cruel smells,
Gulfs of shadow; E, whiteness of vapours and of tents,
Lances of proud glaciers, white kings, shivers of cow-parsley;
I, purples, spat blood, smile of beautiful lips
In anger or in the raptures of penitence;
U, waves, divine shudderings of viridian seas,
The peace of pastures dotted with animals, the peace of the furrows
Which alchemy prints on broad studious foreheads;
O, sublime Trumpet full of strange piercing sounds,
Silences crossed by Worlds and by Angels:
O the Omega, the violet ray of Her Eyes!
(As translated by Oliver Bernard)