The builder said I was trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. ‘It’s the raw material,’ he said. ‘It just isn’t there.’ He stood staring out of the kitchen window at the small garden, where the concrete slabs had risen up at jagged angles, prised apart by tree roots that had tunnelled underneath them. There was an apple tree that drooped amidst its own rotted, fallen fruit and a dominating conifer that had forced the surrounding trees to grow at strange angles, so that they appeared frozen in postures of madness or distress. Some of them had been driven sideways across the fence and had broken it where the garden was divided across the middle. The further half was ours and was reached along a narrow walkway from the back door. The nearer part belonged to the people who lived below, in the basement flat. Their half was full of things that were all at different stages in the process of decay, so that the boundary between ornament and junk had been obscured.
To the right of mine was the professors’ garden, whose geometric design of gravelled paths and abstract statuary and fronded, esoteric plants suggested thought and contemplation. Sometimes I would see one or the other of them, sitting on a bench in the shade, reading. They had spoken to me once, over the fence, to ask whether I would mind giving them some of my apples, as my predecessor, they said, had been wont to do. The desolate apple tree in my garden was a Bramley, apparently. It yielded surprisingly good fruit: she had always given them a generous amount, which kept them in apple pies for the whole winter. ‘You haven’t made life easy for yourself, I’ll say that much,’ the builder said when we got back inside. ‘Like I say, it’s a can of worms.’ He looked at me quizzically. ‘It seems a shame,’ he said, ‘to put yourself though all this. You could always stick it back on the market, let some other idiot take it on. Buy yourself something in a nice new development – you’d have a lot of change left over, believe me, by the time you’re done here.’
stem: rachel cusk
perspectief: a strange, oblique, devastated novel that inhabits the landscape after a big break-up without giving up any details. kazuo ishiguro
bron: transit (2016)
mopw: meerstemmige encyclopedie / appel