Saturday, August 21, 2010

Sergeant Pluck on the Tragedy of Atoms

Sergreant Pluck embraces the view that our atoms bounce around and get all mixed up, changing, for example, a man into a bicycle.  Or a man into a horse.  And vice versa:
'My great-grandfather was eighty-three when he died.  For a year before his death he was a horse!'
'A horse?'
'A horse in everything but extraneous externalities.  He would spend the day grazing into a field or eating hay in a stall.  Usually he was lazy and quiet but now and again he would go for a smart gallop, clearing the  hedges in great style.  Did you ever see a man on two legs galloping?'
'I did not.'
'Well, I am given to understand that it is a great sight.  He always said he won the Grand national when he was a lot younger and used to annoy his family with stories about the intricate jumps and the great heights of them.'
'I suppose your great-grandfather got himself into this condition by too much horse riding?'
'Tht was the size of it.  His old horse Dan was in the contrary way and gave so much trouble, coming into the house at night and interfering with young girls during the day and committing indictable offences, that they had to shoot him.  The police were unsympathetic...'
 --Flann O'Brien, The Third Policeman 91 (Granada ed. 1985)

Afterthought:  It strikes me that  O'Brien's comedy is somewhat like Chekhov's in that I can see his homeboy audience falling apart in rueful hilarity, saying "Oh God, he's got us to the life" (I remember reading the same thing somewhere about Kafka and the Czechs, though this one seems harder to get the mind around).    With O'Brien, it's the petty vanity, the dreamy arrogance, the self-delusion.  With Chekhov is, well, okay, the same.  Ah, humanity...

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