(All the sentences in Beckett’s The Unnamable beginning with ‘I’)
‘…perhaps they have said me already, perhaps they have carried me to the threshold of my story…’
‘I will never say I again, ever again…’
I, say I. I seem to speak, it is not I, begin with. I should mention before going any further, any further on, that I say aporia without knowing what it means. I don’t know. I shall never be silent. I shall not be alone, in the beginning. I am of course alone. I shall have company. I don’t see how. I am almost sure it is he. I see him from the waist up, he stops at the waist, as far as I am concerned. I see him in profile. I see no other clothes. I shall examine it after my fashion. I thought I had done with the preliminaries. I have no opinion, on these matters. I have been here ever since I began to be, my appearances elsewhere having been put in by other parties. I owe my existence to no one these faint fires are not those that illuminate or burn. I cannot be silent. I hope I may have occasion to revert to this question. I resume, having no alternative. I may of course. I don’t know. I’ll try it another way. I like to think I occupy the center, but nothing is less certain. I do not deny it that I too am in perpetual motion, accompanied by Malone, as the earth by its moon. I remember the first sound in this place, I have often heard it since I have been here, disorder of the lights perhaps an illusion, all change to be feared, incomprehensible uneasiness. I may well be glad of them. I do not know if Malone heard it too. I was surprised, the word is not too strong. I am getting to know them. I do not know them at all. I must have been expecting it. I await its recurrence without impatience. I naturally thought of the pseudo-couple Mercier and Camier. I continue to see Malone as darkly as the first time. I may add that my seat would appear to be somewhat elevated, in relation to the surrounding ground, if ground is what it is. I can see them still, my delegates. I refused to believe them. I could have dispensed with it. I don’t say it was all to no purpose. I’ll make use of it., if I’m driven to it. I remember little or nothing of these lectures. I cannot have understood a great deal. I use it still to scratch my arse with. I have said that all things recur here sooner or later, no, I was going to say it, then thought the better of it. I repeat they do not disturb me. I shall be reduced to it sooner or later. I am motionless in vain, he is the god. I have assigned him eyes that implore me, offerings for me, need of succour. I alone am man and all the rest divine. I would need a stick or pole, and the means of plying it, the former being of little avail without the latter, and vice versa. I could also do, incidentally with future and conditional participles. I sometimes wonder if the two retinae are not facing each other. I could know. I am Matthew and I am the angel, I who came before the cross, before the sinning, came into the world, came here. I add this to be on the safe side. I am here, who cannot speak, cannot think, and who must speak, and therefore perhaps think a little, cannot in relation only to me who am here, to here where I am, but can a little, sufficiently, I don’t know how, unimportant, in relation to me who was elsewhere, who shall be. I hope this preamble shall soon come to an end and the statement begin that will dispose of me. I thought I was right in enlisting these sufferers of my pains. I was wrong. I, of whom I know nothing, I know my eyes are open, because of the tears that pour from them unceasingly. I know I am seated, my hands on my knees, because of the pressure against my rump, against the soles of my feet, against the palms of my hands, against my knees. I don’t know. I mention these details to make sure I am not lying on my back, my legs raised and bent, my eyes closed. I feel my back straight, my neck stiff and free of twist and up on top of it the head, like the ball of the cup-and-ball in its cup at the end of the stick. I’ll dry these streaming sockets too, bung them up, there, it’s done, no more tears, I’m a big talking ball, talking about things that do not exist, or that exist perhaps, impossible to know, beside the point. I feel strongly tempted to inquire. I speak, I speak, because I must, but I do not listen, I seek my lesson, my life I used to know and would not confess, hence possibly an occasional slight lack of limpidity. I’ll try, I’ll try in another present, even though it be not yet mine, without pauses, without tears, without eyes, without reasons. I’ll ask no more questions, there are no more questions, I know none any more. I know no more questions and they keep pouring out of my mouth. I think I know what it is, it’s to prevent the discourse from coming to an end, this futile discourse which is not credited to me and brings me not a syllable nearer silence. I say years, though here there are no years. I kept silence, that’s all that counts, if that counts, I have forgotten if that is supposed to count. I listened. I strained my ear towards what must have been my voice still, so weak, so far, that it was like the sea, a far calm sea dying – no, none of that, no beach, no shore, the sea is enough, I’ve had enough of shingle, enough of sand, enough of earth, enough of sea too. I don’t know how it was done. I always liked not knowing, but Mahood said it wasn’t right. I am doing my best, and failing again, yet again. I don’t mind failing, it’s a pleasure, but I want to go silent. I spoke, I must have spoken, of a lesson, it was pensum shold have said, I confused pensum with lesson. I’ll leave it at that for the time being. I never paid him enough attention. I’ll forbid myself everything, then go on as if I hadn’t. I’ll consider the former first, if I can. I want all to be well with you, do you hear me, that’s what he keeps dinning at me. I say that to cheer him up, he sounds so unhappy. I am good-hearted, on the surface. I don’t know. I have nothing to do, that is to say, nothing in particular. I have to speak, whatever that means. I never saw him, I don’t see him, he has told me what he is like, what I am like, they have all told me that, it must be one of their principal functions. I say an instant, perhaps it was years. I had already advanced a good ten paces, if one may call them paces, not in a straight line I need hardly say, but in a sharp curve which, if I continued to follow it, seemed likely to restore me to my point of departure, or to one adjacent. I must have got embroiled in a kind of inverted spiral, I mean one the coils of which, instead of widening more and more, grew narrower and narrower and finally, given the kind of space in which I was supposed to evolve, would come to an end for lack of room. I found myself in a kind of vast yard or campus, surrounded by high walls, its surface an amalgam of dirt and ashes, and this seemed sweet to me after the vast and heaving wastes I had traversed, if my information was correct. I almost felt out of danger! I had moved no further proof was needed. I had been drawing near for so long now that provided I remained in motion there could be no cause for anxiety. I was launched, there was no reason why I should suddenly begin to retreat, I just wasn’t made that way. I could have no doubt. But I had to husband my strength, if I was to ever arrive. I had no wish to arrive, but I had to do my utmost, in order to arrive. I must really lend myself to this story a little longer, there may possibly be a grain of truth in it. I’ll explain why, that will permit me to think of something else and in the first place of howto get back to me, back to where I am waiting for me, I’d just as soon not, but it’s my only chance, at least I think so, the only chance, I have of going silent, of saying something at last that is not false, if that is what they want so as to have nothing more to say. I’ll begin again. I am therefore forgiven. I’ve plenty of time to blow it all sky high, this circus where it is enough to breather to qualify for asphyxiation, I’ll find a way out of it, it won’t be like the other times. I like to fancy, even if it is not true, that it was in mother’s entrails that I spent the last days of my long voyage, and set out to the next. I never understood a word of it in any case, not a word of the stories it spews, like gobbets in a vomit6 I am neither, I needn’t say, Murphy, nor Watt, nor Mercier, of the others whose very names I forget, who told me I was they, who I must have tried to be, under duress, or through fear, or to avoid acknowledging me, not the slightest connexion. I never desired, never sought, never suffered, never partook in any of that, never knew what it was to have things, adversaries, mind, senses. I might as well tell another of Mahood’s stories and no more about it, in a way I was given to understand it, namely as being about me. I’ll recite it. I’ll try and look as if I was telling it willingly, to keep them quiet in case they should feel like refreshing my memory, on the subject of my behaviour above in the island, among my compatriots in distress. I was under the impression I spent my life in spirals round the earth. I don’t know it either, never having had the stomach to look at it. I hope this gives a fair picture of my situation. I like to fancy that when the fatal hour of reckoning comes, if it ever does, and my debt to nature is paid off at last, she will do her best to prevent the removal, from where it now stands, of the old vase in which I shall have accomplished my vicissitudes. I have tried to make her understand, dashing my head angrily against the neck of the jar, that I should like to be shrouded more often. I may therefore perhaps legitimately suppose that the one-armed one-legged wayfarer of a moment ago and the wedge-headed trunk in which I am now marooned are simply two phases of the same carnal envelope, the soul being notoriously immune of the same terioration and dismemberment. I have dwindled, I dwindle. I could never bear to be idle, it saps one’s energy. I mentioned I cannot turn my head, and this is true, my neck having stiffened prematurely. I who murmured each time I breathed in, Here comes more oxygen, and each time I breathed out, There go the impurities, the blood is bright red again. I could have sworn they had gelt me. I’ll concentrate again. I like this colorful language, these bold metaphors and apostrophes. I accuse myself of inertia, and yet I move, at least I did, can I by any chance have missed the tide? I suppose they might bring me typhus. I have seen a few, but they are not yet reduced to me. I could describe it, I could have a moment ago, as if I had been there, in the form they chose for me, diminished certainly, not the man I was, not much longer for this world, but the eyes still open to impressions, and one ear, sufficiently obedient, to provide me at least with a vague idea of the elements to be eliminated from the setting in order for all to be empty and silent. I shall never see this place again, where my jar stands on its pedestal, with its garland of many-coloured lanterns, and me inside it, I could not cling to it. I have my faults but changing my tune is not one of them. I have only to go on as if there was something to be done, something begun, somewhere to go. I have naturally remarked, in a moment of exceptional receptivity, that these exhortations are conveyed to me by the same channel as that used by Malone and Co for transports. I. I won’t be caught at that again, I’ll leave it to this year’s damned. I’ll die in the lower third, bowed down with years and impositions, four foot tall again, like when I had a future, bare-legged in my black pinafore, wetting my drawers. I couldn’t. I’ll have my belly full of mammals, I can see that from here, before I wake. I must not forget I don’t know him. I can hear him yet, faithful, begging me to still this dead tongue of the living. I imagine that is what he says, in his unchanging tone. I have a feeling I shall be spared this spectacle. I’ve swallowed three hooks and am still hungry. I’ll soon know if the other is still after me. I am he who will never be caught, never delivered, who crawls between the thwarts, towards the new day that promises to be glorious, festooned with lifebelts praying for rack and ruin. I should have noted them if only in my head. I knew I had only to try and talk of Worm to begin talking of Mahood, with more felicity and understanding than ever. I spent all morning under my cover. I wonder will she powder my skull this evening, with her great puff. I seem to exist for none but Madeleine. I should further remark, with regard to this testimony which I consider indispensible, that I shall soon be in no fit condition to receive it, so greatly have my faculties declined, in recent times. I must admit it is not so preposterous as it looks at first sight, it even accounts for certain bizarreries which had not yet struck me at the time of its formulation, among others my inexistence in the eyes of those who are not in the know, that is to say all mankind. I shall now sum up. I don’t know. I shall be patient, asking no more questions, on the qui vive. I placed them before my responsibilities, perhaps they have let me go. I left it yesterday, Mahood’s world, the street, the chop-house, the slaughter, the statue and, through the railings, the sky like a slate-pencil. I shall never hear again the lowing of the cattle, nor the clinking of the forks and glasses, nor the angry voices of the butchers, nor the litany of the dishes and the prices. I shall no doubt be launched again, girt with better arms, against the fortress of mortality. I say what I am told to say, in the hope that some day they will weary of talking at me. I don’t say it’s not the right method. I don’t say they won’t catch me in the end. I wish they would, to be thrown away. I think Murphy spoke now and then, the others too perhaps, I don’t remember, but it was clumsily done, you could see the ventriloquist. I shall do my best as always, since I cannot do otherwise. I shall submit, more corpse-obliging than ever. I shall transmit the words as received, by the ear, or roared through a trumpet into the arsehole, in all their purity, and in the same order, as far as possible. I listen. I’m Worm, that is to say I am no longer he, since I hear. I’ll smell them before I’m finished. I still leave much to be desired, I have no technique, none. I don’t now how to want to, I want to in vain. I only think, if that is the name of this vertiginous panic as of hornets smoked out of their nest, once a certain degree of terror has been exceeded. I don’t hear what they say, all I know is they are still there, they haven’t done, with me. I wonder if I couldn’t sneak out by the fundament, one morning, with the French breakfast. I can’t rejoice, and I can’t grieve, it’s in vain they explained to me how it’s done, I never understood. I don’t know what it is they want. I say what it is, but I don’t know. I emit sounds, better and better it seems to me. I felt the cang, the flies, the sawdust under my stumps, the tarpaulin on my skull, when they were mentioned to me. I don’t see why not. I would have pity, give me quittance, not harry me into appearing my own destroyer. I shall not say I again, ever again, it’s too farcical. I shall put in its place, whenever I hear it, the third person, if I think of it. 363 I can see me, I see my place, there is nothing to show it, nothing to distinguish it, from all the other places, they are mine, all mine, if I wish, I wish none but mine, there is nothing to mark it, I am there so little, I see it, I feel it around me, it enfolds me, it covers me, if only this voice would stop, for a second, it would seem long to me, a second of silence. I’d listen, I’d know if it was going to start over, or if it was stilled for ever, what would I know it with, I’d know. I have endured, that must be it, I shouldn’t have endured, but I feel nothing, yes yes, this voice, I have endured it, I didn’t fly from it, I should have fled, Worm should have fled, but where, how, he’s riveted, Worm should have dragged himself away, no matter where, towards them, towards the azure, but how could he, he can’t stir, it needn’t be bonds, there are no bonds here, it’s as if he were rooted, that’s bonds if you like, the eartht would have to quake, it isn’t earth, one doesn’t know what it is, it’s like Sargasso, no, it’s like molasses, no, no matter, an eruption is what’s needed, to spew him into the light. I think I must have blackouts, whole sentences lost, no, not whole. I wouldn’t have understood it, but I would have said it, that’s all that’s required, it would have spoken in my favour, next time they judge me from time to time they judge me, well well, so they judge me from time to time, they neglect nothing. I must doze off from time to time, with open eyes, and yet nothing changes, ever. I myself have been scandalously bungled, they must be beginning to realize it, I on whom all dangles, better still, about whom, much better, all turns, dizzily, yes yes, don’t protest, it’s a head, I’m in a head, what an illumination, sssst, pissed on out of the hand. I am exceptionally given to the tear, I should have omitted this detail, the truth being I have no vent at my disposal, neither the aforesaid nor those less noble, how can one enjoy good health under such conditions, and what is one to believe, that is not the point, to believe this or that, the point is to guess right, nothing more, they say, If it’s not white, it’s very likely black, it must be admitted the method lacks subtlety, in view of the intermediate shades all equally worth of a chance. I wonder what the chat is about at the moment. I too weary of pleading an incomprehensible cause, at six and eight the thousand flowers of rhetoric, let myself drop among the contumacious, nice image that, telescoping space, it must be the Pulitzer Prize, they want to bore me to sleep, at long range, for fear I might defend myself, they want to catch me alive, so as to be able to kill me, thus I shall have lived, they think I’m alive, what a business, were there but a cadaver it would smack of body-snatching, not in a womb either, the slut has yet to menstruate capable of whelping me, that should singularly narrow the field of research, a sperm dying of cold, in the sheets, feebly wagging its little tail, perhaps I’m a drying sperm, in the sheets of an innocent boy, even that takes time, no stone must be left unturned, one mustn’t be afraid of making a howler, how can one know it is one before it’s made, and one it most certainly is now that it’s irrevocable, for the good reason, here’s another, here comes another, for the excellent reason that counts as living too, counts as murder, it’s notorious, ah you can’t deny it, some people are lucky, born of a wet dream and dead before morning, I must say I’m tempted, no, the testis has yet to descend that would want any truck with me, it’s mutual, another gleam down the drain. 380 I have mine, somewhere, let them tell me, they’ll see there’s nothing to be got from it either, nothing to be got from me, it will be the end, of this hell of stories, you’d think I was cursing them, always the same trick, you’d be sorry for them, perhaps I’ll curse them yet, they’ll know what it is to be a subject of conversation, I’ll impute words to them you wouldn’t throw to a dog, an ear, a mouth, and in the middle, a few rags of mind, I’ll get my own back, a few flitters of mind, they’ll see what it’s like, I’ll clap an eye at random in the thick of the mess, on the off chance something might stray in front of it, then I’ll let down my trousers and shit stories on them, stories photographs, records, sites, lights, gods and fellow-creatures, the daily round and common task, observing the while. Be born dear friends, be born, enter my arse, you’ll just love my colic pains, it won’t take long, I’ve the bloody flux. I can’t go on in any case. I hardly hear it any more. I’m going to stop, that is to say. I’m going to look as if I had, it will be like everything else. I’m listening already, I’m going silent. I’m glad. I’ll try it again, quick before it goes again. I’ve been away, done something, been in a hole, I’ve just crawled out, perhaps I went silent, no, I say that in order to say something, in order to go on a little more, you must go on a long time more, you must go on evermore, if I could remember what I have said I could repeat it, if I could learn something by heart I’d be saved, I have to keep on saying the same thing and each time it’s an effort, the seconds must be all alike and each one is infernal, what am I saying now, I’m saying I wish I knew. I should have liked to go silent first, there were moments I thought that would be my reward for having spoken so long and so valiantly, to enter living into silence, so as to be able to enjoy it, no, I don’t know why, so as to feel myself silent, one with all this quiet air shattered unceasingly by my voice alone, no, it’s not real air, I can’t say it, I can’t say why I should have liked to be silent a little before being dead, so as in the end to be a little as I always was and never could be, without fear of worse to come peacefully in the place where I always was and could never rest in peace, no, I don’t know what I thought I must have wanted so many things, while I was talking, without knowing exactly what, enough to go blind, with longings and visions, mingling and merging in one another, I’d have been better employed minding what I was saying. I’d say to myself, the quicker I do it the quicker it will be done, the things one has to listen to, that’s where hope would come in, it wouldn’t be dark, impossible to do such work in the dark, yes, I must say I see no window, from here, whereas here that has no importance, that I see no window, here I needn’t come and go, fortunately, I couldn’t nor be dexterous, for naturally the water would have great value and the least drop spilt on the way, or in the act of drawing, or in the act of pouring, would cost me dear, and how could you tell, in the dark, if a drop, what’s this story, it’s a story, now I’ve told you another little story, about me, about the life that might have been mine for all the difference it would have made, which was perhaps mine, perhaps I went through that before being deemed worthy of going through this, who knows toward what high destiny I am heading, unless I am coming from it. I must be aging all the same, bah, I always aged, always aging, and aging makes no difference, not to mention that all this is not about me, hell, I’ve contradicted myself, no matter. I notice one thing, the others have vanished completely, I don’t like it.