Monday, February 11, 2008

The Annotated Nexus - Pages 44, 45

44.0 - 45.0 Henry gives a brief account of the routine that occured whenever Mona and Stasia returned home in the early hours of the morning. Next, he is telling us how he is a magnet for crazy derelicts who use him as their confessor--and how Henry understands the motives for their crimes because a writer is "a fellow criminal, a judge, an executioner."

44.1 Ruy Lopez opening
Henry has become accustomed to the "Ruy Lopez opening" dialogue that followed the early hour return to the apartment by Mona and Stasia. The 'Ruy Lopez' is a popular opening chess move that sets up a wide variety of possibilities. It was named after Ruy López de Segura, a 16th-century Spanish clergyman and chess fiend; an early propotent of this tactic. [see this move executed on YouTube]. As a metaphor for dialogue, it implies that the opening words were always evasive and open, leading to seemingly endless variation. The resulting verbal stalemate always ended with the ladies fishing for cigarettes and eating sweet junkfood.

44.2 Auslanders
Once the candles went out and the conversation ceased, Henry was alone again with his thoughts: "the most delicious, the most extraordinary recollections--of persons, places, conversations." He refers to these thoughts as Auslanders. The German word auslander means "outlander," or "foreigner"; this applies not just to people without German passports, but also, in a xenophobic sense, people who are deemed to exist outside German culture/people [ref]. As Miller's background is German, the use of this word is natural. These thoughts are "all displaced, all visitors from weird realms" and mingle within the inland of his mind. His feelings about them are mixed: as the paragraph begins, these thoughts are like "clots of blood dripping from a clear sky" and "mad bedfellows," but by the end, he has "tender" feelings for these "angels temporarily ostracized." At the end of page 45, Miller clarifies that he only recognized these thoughts as "angels" after they had departed upon his awakening.

44.3 on the bum
This term is probably still widely understood, but has fallen into antiquity as far as I'm concerned, along with film noir words like palooka. "On the bum" means, of course, being in the state of being a bum, of bumming/begging for change, food, etc. (origin: a loafer, sitting on his bum). Miller explains this American slang: "jargon which only derelicts, angels and outcasts employ." Miller seems to continue this juxtaposition of the idea of outcasts being angels, presented in the previous paragraph.

In this case on page 44, it's used in dialogue from just such a "bum" who has immediately latched on as a friend, which appears to happen often to Henry. The man, whom Miller refers to as "one of these nobodies," (then, later, "nomads") procedes to rationalize how it is he came to axe someone to death ("murder, theft, rape, desertion--they were dropped like calling cards," says Miller, explaining the "straightforward admissions" these men always laid on him.) The bum's explanation is profound enough that Miller keeps repeating "Of course!" when asked if he understands the man's motivations and state of mind (see the quote in the summary at the top of this posting, for how it is that Miller can relate; guilt, sin, deception and trauma are as much part of his make-up as the bum or anyone else).

45.1 qui vive
"On the qui vive" means on the alert. This is how Henry feels as he wanders the streets "on an empty belly." The term comes from the challenge that a French sentry guard would put to anyone approaching. The literal translation is "who lives," and the question being asked was essentially "long live who?" This demanded that the intruder identify his political allegiance. Miller's implied allegiance is to the man on the bum; in this state of alertness, "one never fails to recognize a fellow traveler." "What more natural, more understandable, more human and forgivable than these monstrous rampages of the isolated poet?"

<--- previous pages 42-43 . next pages 46-47 --->


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know the Ruy Lopez well. I would have liked to play chess against Miller (and ping-pong).

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