One More

I'll just post one more of the stories I've written for the Far Far Away exhibition and save the rest for the catalogue, which will be available at the end of June. The writing brief was to create a series of stories that captured something of the romance, anxiety and uncertainty that characterises the works that Karl Chitham has selected for the exhibition. I have to say that I've been surprised by the dark tone of some of the stories that have come out but I've thoroughly enjoyed the assignment and the opportunity to write about art in an alternative way.

Sam Mitchell, untitled, pen and wash drawing on vintage book page.

In 1869 Machado married a white woman five years his senior, a cultured Portuguese who lived with him in what appears to have been complete harmony and devotion; she died in 1904. They had no children.

[Preface, Epitaph of a Small Winner by Machado de Assis, (1880), 1953:13]

From his sickbed the writer dictated his greatest literary work to his devoted wife who carefully transcribed his words keeping pace with him as he spoke. In the final page the deceased protagonist of the story totted up the balance sheet of his life's achievements and failures and concluded that he could claim a small surplus owing to the fact that he had left no progeny to inherit the misery of human existence.

His wife struggled to conceal her discomfort with the ending that he had written but she reminded herself that it was important to make the distinction between her husband's real life and his writing life. There had been no children of their marriage on account of his physical frailty. It was a sacrifice that she had gladly borne for the sake of their love and his art but she was wounded deeply by the thought that he might consider their childlessness a modest measure of his success when the day of reckoning came.

Privately she acknowledged that the real source of her grievance was that his words exposed the folly of the fantasy that she had nurtured for so many years. His words threatened the existence of the four daughters who populated her mind and whose lives she had cherished just as a real mother might. His words pricked the bubble of her invented world. The fantasy was now impossible to sustain because she knew that when she died her make-believe children would die with her and she could claim no surplus at the gates of heaven for pretended motherhood.

She planted four rosebushes in the front garden - wordless floral epitaphs for her four dream children. Her husband looked up from the book he was reading and watched her through the window. When he saw that she was weeping he wondered absently whether she had pricked her finger on a thorn.


and you know what else? I really like those stories! Woman, you write well!!!

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