Tuesday, 29 September 2009
The Scorpion by Paul Bowles
This is a short story by Paul Bowles. An old woman lives in a cave. A man sits outside on a boulder. Her son comes to take her away. She dreams of swallowing a scorpion. The old man says goodbye. She ignores him. At first reading it infuriates, as one tries to locate some kind of meaning. Eventually one must accept that this is a piece of surrealism. It is full of mythic resonance but it is without message. It is as pure a piece of escapism as can be imagined. What is left in the reader's mind is a series of images. It is a kind of gift to the reader's imagination. This can only be written with absolute authority. The writer's mark is as indelible as the painter's signature. At the same time, there is no style, no "look-at-me"; the reader is not diverted. Masterful stuff.