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WEST, Nathaniel

The Day of the Locust


It was a picture of Faye Greener, a still from a two-reel farce in which she had worked as an extra. She had given him the photograph willingly enough, had even autographed it in a large, wild hand, “Affectionately yours, Faye Greener,” but she refused his friendship, or, rather, insisted on keeping it impersonal. She had told him why. He had nothing to offer her, neither money nor looks, and she could only love a handsome man and would only let a wealthy man love her. Tod was a “good-hearted man,” and she liked “good-hearted men,” but only as friends. She wasn’t hard-boiled. It was just that she put love on a special plane, where a man without money or looks couldn’t move

Het was een foto van Faye Greener en hij kwam uit een korte filmkomedie waarin ze had gefigureerd. Ze had hem de foto zomaar gegeven en deze zelfs in een groot, zwierig handschrift gesigneerd: ‘Met hartelijke groet, Faye Greener’. Maar ze wilde zijn vriendin niet worden, of liever gezegd, ze wilde het niet persoonlijk laten worden. En ze had hem ook gezegd waarom. Hij had haar niets te bieden, geen geld en hij was ook niet knap, en ze kon alleen maar van knappe mannen houden alleen een rijke man mocht van háár houden. Tod was weliswaar een ‘aardige’ man, en zij mocht ‘aardige mannen’ graag, maar alleen als vriend. Niet dat ze zo’n keiharde tante was. Maar ze vond nou eenmaal dat de liefde een bepaald niveau moest hebben en daarbij was geen plek voor een man die geen geld had of die niet aantrekkelijk was.

Vertaling : Meta GEMERT en Henk VAN BAKEL

Their boredom becomes more and more terrible. They realize that they’ve been tricked and burn with resentment. Every day of their lives they read the newspapers and went to the movies. Both fed them on lynchings, murder, sex crimes, explosions, wrecks, love nests, fires, miracles, revolutions, war. This daily diet made sophisticates of them. The sun is a joke. Oranges can’t titillate their jaded palates. Nothing can ever be violent enough to make taut their slack minds and bodies. They have been cheated and betrayed. They have slaved and saved for nothing.

“I'm going to be a star some day," she announced as though daring him to contradict her.

"I'm sure you..."

"It's my life. It's the only thing in the whole world that I want."

"It's good to know what you want. I used to be a bookkeeper in a hotel,


"If I'm not, I'll commit suicide.”

He got out of bed in sections, like a poorly made automaton, and carried his hands into the bathroom. He turned on the cold water. When the basin was full, he plunged his hands in up to the wrists. They lay quietly on the bottom like a pair of strange aquatic animals. When they were thoroughly chilled and began to crawl about, he lifted them out and hid them in a towel. He was cold. He ran hot water into the tub and began to undress, fumbling with the buttons of his clothing as though he were undressing a stranger. He was naked before the tub was full enough to get in and he sat down on a stool to wait. He kept his enormous hands folded quietly on his belly. Although absolutely still, they seemed curbed rather than resting”

Miguel opened the trunk and took out a small wooden box, the kind chessmen are kept in. It was full of curved gaffs, small squares of chamois with holes in their centers and bits of waxed string like that used by a shoemaker. They crowded around to watch him arm. Juju. First he wiped the short stubs on the cock’s legs to make sure they were clean and then placed a leather square over one of them so that the stub came through the hole. He then fitted a gaff over it and fastened it with a bit of the soft string, wrapping very carefully. He did the same to the other leg.

When he had finished, Earle started on the big red. “That’s a bird with lots of cojones,” Miguel said. “He’s won plenty fights. He don’t look fast maybe, but he’s fast all right and he packs an awful wallop.”

There was another rush, shorter this time, and he found himself in a dead spot where the pressure was less and equal. He became conscious of a terrible pain in his left leg, just above the ankle, and tried to work it into a more comfortable position. He couldn’t turn his body, but managed to get his head around. A very skinny boy, wearing a Western Union cap, had his back wedged against his shoulder. The pain continued to grow and his whole leg as high as the groin throbbed. He finally got his left arm free and took the back of the boy’s neck in his fingers. He twisted as hard as he could. The boy began to jump up and down in his clothes. He managed to straighten his elbow, by pushing at the back of the boy’s head, and so turn halfway around and free his leg. The pain didn’t grow less.

There was another wild surge forward that ended in another dead spot. He now faced a young girl who was sobbing steadily. Her silk print dress had been torn down the front and her tiny brassiere hung from one strap. He tried by pressing back to give her room, but she moved with him every time he moved. Now and then, she would jerk violently and he wondered if she was going to have a fit. One of her thighs was between his legs. He struggled to get free of her, but she clung to him, moving with him and pressing against him.

She turned her head and said, “Stop, stop,” to someone behind her.

He saw what the trouble was. An old man, wearing a Panama hat and horn-rimmed glasses, was hugging her. He had one of his hands inside her dress and was biting her neck.


The Dream Life of Balso Snell

Have you thought of the grave? O love! have you thought of the grave and of the change that shall come over your fair body? Your most beautiful bride — though now she be pleasant and sweet to the nose — ^will be damnably mouldy a hundred years hence. O how small a part of time they share, that are so wonderous sweet and fair. Ah, make the most of what we yet may spend before we too into the dust descend. Into the dust, Mary! Thy sweet plenty, in the dust. I tremble, I bum for thy sweet embrace. Be not miserly with thy white flesh. Give your gracious body, for such a short time lent you. Give, for in file giving you shall receive and still have what you give. Only time can rob you of your flesh, I cannot. And time will rob you — it will, it will! And those who husbanded the golden grain, and those who flimg it to the wind like rain.