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Показать все книги автора/авторов: Burgess Anthony
 

«The Clockwork Testament (Or: Enderby 's End)», Anthony Burgess

Иллюстрация к книге

Anthony Burgess

 

The Clockwork Testament (Or: Enderby's End)

Book 3 of the Enderby Quartet

to Burt Lancaster

"… deserves to live, deserves to live."

 

ONE

The first thing he saw on waking was his lower denture on the floor, its groove encrusted with dried Dentisement, or it might be Orastik, Mouthficks, Gripdent, or Bite (called Bait in Tangier, where he could be said to have a sort of permanent, that is to say, if you could talk of permanency these days in anything, so to speak, address); the fully teethed in my audience will hardly conceive of the variety of denture adhesives on the market. His tongue, at once sprung into life horribly with no prelude of decent morning sluggishness, probed the lower gum briskly and found a diminution of yesterday's soreness. Then it settled into the neutral schwa position to await further directives. So. The denture, incrustations picked loose, laved, recharged with goo of Firmchew-family size with new wintergreen flavor-could be jammed in without serious twinge. As well, since today students must be met and talked at.

He lay, naked for the central heating, on his belly. If the bed, which was circular in shape, were a clock, then he was registering twenty of two, as Americans put it, meaning twenty to two. If, that was, his upper part were the hour hand. If, that was, twelve o'clock was where the bed touched the wall. The Great Bed of Ware of English legend had been round also, though much bigger, the radius being the length of a sleeper-say six feet. How many pairs of dirty (read Rabelaisian, rollicking) feet meeting at the center(re)? Circumference 2 pi r, was it? It didn't seem big enough somehow. But all the big things of European legend were smaller than you had been brought up to imagine. American scholars sorted that sort of thing out for you. Anybody could eat whole mediaeval sheep, being no bigger than rabbit. Suits of armor(our) would accommodate a twelve-year-old American girl. Not enough vitamins in roistering rollicking diet. Hell was originally a rubbish dump outside Jerusalem.

He lay naked also on a fast-drying nocturnal ejaculation, wonderful for man of your age, Enderby. What had the dream been that had conduced to wetness? Being driven in a closed car, muffled to the ears, in black spectacles, funeral sombrero, very pimply guffawing lout driving. Driven into slum street where twelve-year-old girls, Puerto Rican mostly, were playing with a ball. Wait, no, two balls, naturally. The girls jeered, showed themselves knickerless, provoked. He, Enderby, had to go on sitting in black and back of car while guffawing driver got out and ministered very rapidly to them all, their number of course changing all the time. Finnegans Wake, ladies and gentlemen, is false to the arithmetic of true dreams, number in that book being an immutable rigidity while, as we know, it is a mutable fluidity in our regular dreaming experience. There are seven biscuits, which you call er cookies, on a plate. You take away, say, two, and three remain. Or, of course, they could be what you call biscuits and we, I think, muffins. Principle is the same. I question that, said a sneering Christ of a student. Professor Enderby, asked a what Enderby took to be Polack, Nordic anyway, lacking eyelashes, please clarify your precise threshold of credibility.

This driver lout got through the lot, standing, with quick canine thrusts. Then Enderby was granted discharge and the entire scene, as in some story by that blind Argentinian he had been urged to read by somebody eager and halitotic in the Faculty Lounge, collapsed.

The bed he lay on, twenty of two, squinting down at his watch also on the floor, ten of eight of a New York February morning, was circular because of some philosophy of the regular tenant of the apartment, now on sabbatical and working on Thelma Garstang (1798-1842, bad poetess beaten to death by drunken husband, alleged anyway) in British Museum. The traditional quadrangular bed was male tyranny, or something. This regular tenant was, as well as being an academic, a woman novelist who wrote not very popular novels in which the male characters ended up being castrated. Then, it was implied, or so Enderby understood, not having read any of them, only having been told about them, they became considerate lovers eager for cunnilingus with their castratrices, but they were sneered at for being impotent. Well, he, unimpotent Enderby, temporary professor, would do nothing about cleaning that sperm stain from her circular mattress, ridiculous idea, must have cost a fortune.

Enderby had slept, as now he always did, with his upper denture in. It was a sort of response to the castrating aura of the apartment. He had also found it necessary to be ready for the telephone to ring at all hours, an edentulous chumble getting responses of Pardon me? if the call were a polite one, but if it were insulting or obscene or both, provoking derision. Most of the Serious Calls came from what was known as the Coast and were for his landlady. She was connected with some religiolesbic movement there and she had neglected to send a circular letter about her sabbatical. The insults and obscenities were usually meant for Enderby. He had written a very unwise article for a magazine, in which he said that he thought little of black literature because it tended to tendentiousness and that the Amerindians had shown no evidence of talent for anything except scalping and very inferior folk-craft. One of his callers, who had once termed him a toothless cocksucker (that toothlessness had been right, anyway, at that time anyway), was always threatening to bring a tomahawk to 91st Street and Columbus Avenue, which was where Enderby lodged. Also students would ring anonymously at deliberately awkward hours to revile him for his various faults-chauvinism, or some such thing; ignorance of literary figures important to the young; failure to see merit in their own free verse and gutter vocabulary. They would revile him also in class, of course, but not so freely as on the telephone. Everybody felt naked these days without the mediacy of a mode of mechanical communication.

Eight of eight. The telephone rang. Enderby decided to give it the honour of full dentition, so he jammed in the encrusted lower denture. Try it out. Gum still sorish. But, of course, that was the hardened Gripdent or whatever it was. He had them all.

"Professor Enderby?"

"Speaking."

"You don't know me, but this is just to inform you that both my husband and I consider that your film is filth."

"It's not my film. I only wrote the-"

"You have a lot to answer for, my husband says. Don't you think there's enough juvenile crime in our streets without filth like yours abetting it?"

"But it's not filth and it's not my-"

"Obscene filth. Let me inform you that my husband is six feet three and broad in proportion-"

"Is he a red Indian?"

"That's just the sort of cheap insult I would expect from a man capable of-"

"If you're going to send him round here, with or without tomahawk-"

She had put down the receiver. What he had been going to say was that there was twenty-four-hour armed protection in the apartment lobby as well as many closed-circuit television screens. This, however, would not help him if the enemies were within the block itself. That he had enemies in the block he knew-a gat-toothed black writer and his wife; a single woman with dogs who had objected to his mentioning in his magazine article the abundance of cockroaches in this part of Manhattan, as though it were a shameful family secret; a couple of fattish electronic guitarists who had smelt his loathing as they had gone up together once in the elevator. And there might be also others affronted by the film just this moment referred to.

Flashback. Into the bar-restaurant Enderby, exiled poet, ran in Tangier, film men had one day come. Kasbah location work or something of the kind. One of the film men, who had seemed and indeed proved to be big in his field, an American director considered for the brilliance of his visual invention quite as good as any director in Europe, said something about wanting to make, because of the visual possibilities, a shipwreck film. Enderby, behind bar and hence free to join in conversation without any imputation of insolence, having also British accent, said something about The Wreck of the Deutschland.

"Too many Kraut Kaput movies lately. Last days of Hitler, Joe Krankenhaus already working on Goebbels, then there was Visconti."

"A ship," said Enderby, "called the Deutschland. Hopkins wrote it."

"Al Hopkins?"

"G.M.," Enderby said, adding, "S.J."

"Never heard of him. Why does he want all those initials?"

"Five Franciscan nuns," Enderby said, "exiled from Germany because of the Falk Laws. 'On Saturday sailed from Bremen, American-outward-bound, take settler and seaman, tell men with women, two hundred souls in the round…' "

"He knows it all, by God. When?"

"1875. December 7th."

"Nuns," mused the famed director. "What were these laws?"

" 'Rhine refused them. Thames would ruin them,' " Enderby said. " 'Surf, snow, river and earth,' " he said, " 'gnashed.' "

"Totalitarian intolerance," the director's assistant and friend said. "Nuns beaten up in the streets. Habits torn off. Best done in flashback. The storm symbolic as well as real. What happens at the end?" he asked keenly Enderby.


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