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Pincher Martin by William Golding.

BW5

Title: Pincher Martin.
Author: William Golding.
Genre: Literature, fiction, survival lit, death, philosophical fiction.
Country: U.K.
Language: English.
Publication Date: 1956.
Summary: The sole survivor of a torpedoed destroyer, Christopher Martin, is miraculously cast up on a huge, barren rock in mid-Atlantic. Pitted against him are the sea, the sun, the night cold, and the terror of his isolation. At the core of this raging tale of physical and psychological violence lies Christopher’s will to live as the sum total of his life.

My rating: 8.5/10
My review: This is, by far, the most terrifying book I have ever read. Unfortunately, since I found out about it from another book (On Evil by Terry Eagleton referenced it quite a bit), I knew the end twist, but it probably worked out for the best, since it's a necessity to re-read the novel once you've found out the ending and can now look at all that happens to Martin in that context.


♥ But the man lay suspended behind the whole commotion, detached from his jerking body. The luminous pictures that were shuffled before him were drenched in light but he paid no attention to them. Could he have controlled the nerves of his face, or could a face have been fashioned to fit the attitude of his consciousness where it lay suspended between life and death that face would have worn a snarl. But the real jaw was contorted down and distant, the mouth was slopped full. The green tracer that flew from the centre began to spin into a disc. The throat at such a distance from the snarling man vomited water and drew it in again. The hard lumps of water no longer hurt. There was a kind truce, observation of the body. There was no face but there was a snarl.

♥ He lay back, forcing his head against the pain so that his eyes if they had been open would have been looking at the sky. The pressure on his legs was bearable now. They were no longer flesh, but had been transformed to some other substance, petrified and comfortable. The part of his body that had not been invaded and wholly subdued by the sea was jerking intermittently. Eternity, inseparable from pain was there to be examined and experienced. The snarl endured. He thought. The thoughts were laborious, disconnected but viral.

♥ The pattern was white and black but mostly white. It existed in two layers, one behind the other, one for each eye. He thought nothing, did nothing while the pattern changed a trifle and made little noises. The hardnesses under his cheek began to insist. They passed through pressure to a burning without heat, to a localized pain. They became vicious in their insistence like the nag of an aching tooth. They began to pull him back tino himself and organize him again as a single being.

♥ He let his eyes close and ignored the pictures that came and went behind him. There was a small fire in his body that was almost extinguished but incredibly was still smouldering despite the Atlantic. He folded his body consciously round that fire and nursed it. There was not more than a spark. The formal words and the pictures evolved themselves.

♥ But inside, where the snores were external, the consciousness was moving and poking about among the pictures and revelations, among the shape-sounds and the disregarded feelings like an animal ceaselessly examining its cage. It rejected the detailed bodies of women, slowly sorted the odd words, ignored the pains and the insistence of the shaking body. It was looking for a thought. It found the thought, separated it from the junk, lifted it and used the apparatus of the body to give it force and importance.

"I am intelligent."

♥ The wind went down with him and urged him forward. As long as he went forward the wind was satisfied but if he stopped for a moment's caution it thrust his unbalanced body down so that he scraped and hit. He saw little of the open sea and sky or the whole rock but only flashes of intimate being, a crack or point, a hand's breadth of yellowish surface that was about to strike a blow, unavoidable fists of rock that beat him personally, stuck bright flashes of light from his body. The pain in the corner of his eye went with him too. This was the most important of all the pains because it thrusts a needle now into the dark skull where he lived. The pain could not be avoided. His body revolved around it.

♥ The idea that he must ignore pain came and sat in the centre of his darkness where he could not avoid it.

♥ "I shall live!"

CHRISTOPHER
HADLEY
MARTIN
TY.LIEUT., R.N.V.R.
C. OF E.


He read the inscription again and again, cut by cut. His lips began to move. He dropped the disc, looked down at his salted legs with their scars, at his belly and the bush of hair over his privates.

He spoke out loud, using his voice hoarsely and with a kind of astonishment.

"Christopher Hadley Martin. Martin. Chris. I am what I always was!"

All at once it seemed to hi that he came out of his curious isolation inside the globe of his head and was extended normally through his limbs. He lived again on the surface of his eyes, he was out in the air.

♥ He scrambled back to the too heavy stone and fought with it. He moved it, end over end. He built steps to the top of a wall and worked the great stone up. He drew from his body more strength than he had got. He bled. He stood sweating among the papers at last. He dismantled the dwarf and rebuilt him on the stone that after all was not too heavy for education and intelligence and will.

♥ "I must watch my mind. I must not let madness steal up on me and take me by surprise. Already—I must expect hallucinations. That is the real battle. That is why I shall talk out loud for all the blotting-paper. In normal life to talk out loud is a sign of insanity. Here it is proof of identity."

♥ "I am busy surviving. I am netting down this rock with names and taming it. Some people would be incapable of understanding the importance of that. What is given a name is given a seal, a chain. If this rock tries to adapt me to its ways I will refuse and adapt it to mine. I will impose my routine on it, my geography. I will tie it down with names. If it tries to annihilate me with blotting-paper, then I will speak in here where my words resound and significant sounds assure me of my own identity. I will trap rainwater and add it to this pool. I will use my brain as a delicate machine-tool to produce the results I want. Comfort. Safety. Rescue."

♥ Sleep is a condition to be attained by thought like any other.

♥ Or sleep was a consenting to die, to go into complete unconsciousness, the personality defeated, acknowledging too frankly what is implicit in mortality that we are temporary structures patched up and unable to stand the pace without a daily respite from what we most think ours—

"Then why can't I sleep?"

Sleep is where we touch what is better left unexamined. There, the whole of life is bundled up, dwindled. There the carefully hoarded and enjoyed personality, our only treasure and at the same time our only defence must die into the ultimate truth of things, the black lightning that splits and destroys all, the positive, unquestionable nothingness.

♥ Familiar, not as a wartime acquaintance whom one knows so quickly because one of forced to live close to him for interminable stretches of hours but familiar as a relative, seldom seen, but to be reckoned with, year after year, familiar as a childhood friend, a nurse, some acquaintance with a touch of eternity behind him; familiar now, as the rocks of childhood, examined and reapprized holiday after holiday, remembered in the darkness of bed, in winter, imagined as a shape one's fingers can feel in the air—

♥ "The squeezing did it, the awful pressure. It was the weight of the sky and air. How can one human body support all that weight without bruising into a pulp?"

♥ "Be careful, Nat, for God's sake."

But not known, not understood—what is he to be careful of? Of staying near me? Of standing with her in the lighted centre of my darkness?

♥ Intelligence. Will like a last ditch. Will like a monolith. Survival. Education, a key to all patterns, itself able to impose them, to create. Consciousness in a world asleep. The dark, invulnerable centre that was certain of its own sufficiency.

♥ "It was something I remembered. I'd better not remember it again. Remember to forget. Madness?"

Worse than madness. Sanity.

♥ His tongue felt along the barrier of his teeth—round to the side where the big ones were and the gap. He brought his hands together and held his breath. He stared at the sea and saw nothing. His tongue was remembering. It pried into the gap between the teeth and re-created the old, aching shape. It touched the rough edge of the cliff, traced the slope down, trench after aching trench, down towards the smooth surface where the Red Lion was, just above the gum—understood what was so hauntingly familiar and painful about an isolated and decaying rock in the middle of the sea.

♥ Pattern repeated from the beginning of time, approach of the unknown thing, a dark centre that turned back on the thing that created it and struggled to escape.

♥ There is no centre of sanity in madness. Nothing like this "I" sitting in here, staving off the time that must come. The last repeat of the pattern. Then the black lightning.

♥ The cellar door swinging to behind a small child who must go down, down in his sleep to meet the thing he turned from when he was created.

♥ Sensations. Coffee. Hock. Gin. Wood. Velvet. Nylon. Mouth. Warm, wet nakedness. Caves, slack like a crevice or tight like the mouth of the red anemone. Full of stings. Domination, identity.
Tags: 1950s - fiction, 20th century - fiction, 3rd-person narrative, british - fiction, death (fiction), fiction, literature, my favourite books, nautical fiction, naval fiction, philosophical fiction, psychology (fiction), survival fiction
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