“Snips of the Tongue” — Harry Mathews

“Snips of the Tongue”


Harry Mathews

from Selected Declarations of Independence

Once burned, twice snide


Every drug has its day


The road to help is paved with good intentions


Never pull of tomorrow what you can do today


When in Rome, do as the Trojans do


Half a loan is better than no bread


Every crowd has a silver lining


One man’s meat is another man’s person


Look before you leave


A snitch in time saves nine


In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is kinky


Too many cooks spoil the dwarf

“The She-Owl” — Robert Walser

“The She-Owl”


Robert Walser

A she-owl in a ruined wall said to herself: What a horrifying existence. Anyone else would be dismayed, but me, I am patient. I lower my eyes, huddle. Everything in me and on me hangs down like gray veils, but above me, too, the stars glitter; this knowledge fortifies me. Bushy plumage covers me: by day I sleep, at night I’m awake. I need no mirror to discover how I look: feeling tells me. I can easily think of my peculiar face.

People say I’m ugly. If they only knew what smiles I feel in my soul, they’d not run from me in fright anymore. Yet they don’t see into the interior, they stop at the body, the clothes. Once I was young and pretty, I might say, but that makes it sound as if I pine for the past, and that is not my way. The she-owl, who once practiced growing big, endures the course and change of time tranquilly, she finds herself and every present moment.

They say to me: “Philosophy.” Yet the death that comes beforetimes cancels the later one. Death is nothing new to this she-owl, she knows it already. It looks as if I’m a lady of learning, wear glasses, and somebody is so interested in me that he pays me a visit now and then. He finds me Harmonious. He tells me I’m somebody who doesn’t disappoint him. Of course, I have never bewitched him either. He studies me profoundly, strokes my wings, brings me candy sometimes, with which to delight, so he believes, the most serious of females, and he’s making no mistake. I am reading a poet whose finesse makes him fit to be digested by owls. There’s something sweet in his ways, something veiled, undefinable, which is to say, he suits me well. Once I was charming, I laughed and twittered jokes into the blue of the day, I turned many young men’s heads. Now things look different, the shoes I wear have holes in them, I’m old, I sit and say nothing.

Translated by Christopher Middleton.

“A Christmas Thought” — Barry Hannah

“Tragic Hunt” — Michelangelo Antonioni


“New Continent” — Georges Perec

“The Rowboat” — Robert Walser


“A Famous Dancer” — Thomas Bernhard


“The Silence” — Michelangelo Antonioni


Index fragment


“The Top” — Franz Kafka


“The Brawl” — Michelangelo Antonioni