posted Saturday, 3 June 2006
This is a full-length novel written during 1973 and, to date, only two people have read it: the author and the author's correspondent whose then concurrent (meta-)comments on the unfolding novel were bodily incorporated in the novel itself during its later stages.
by DF Lewis
PROLOGUE by Des Lewis
For many days, he-who-was-known-as-the-art-Master had loitered through those streets, far from his home and fireside family, searching - in the gruesome cafés, disused railway sidings and forgotten bins - for a sign, some scrawled communication, that art was alive and well, despite the silent ignorance otherwise abounding. I shall say no more than that he did not find it.Instead, he stumbled, one day of slanting rain, into a dark schoolroom where a teacher, with spectacles, gown and mortar board, gestured with a white cane to row upon row of upturned faces, faces innocent and fixed. Their brows were creased in concentration. The art Master took a spare desk at the back of the class, behind a pofaced girl with golden plaids, and he commenced to absorb the room: its black walls and deep ceiling, the smudged panes set high where brown light struggled through … the exercise book resting on the desk before him. Carefully turning the front cover, but not without the slightest squeak, he saw revealed the first blank page, sharp white in the darkness. It reminded him of a canvas before the planting of paint, frighteningly empty. Meanwhile, the archetype teacher, standing before the speechless children, still waved the cane, seemingly oblivious of the art Master’s arrival. His whole being was centred on the one message he was now presumably conveying … but the string of words that flowed from his lips was very difficult to hear, let alone understand.
The art Master imagined himself at the front, in the teacher’s place, stressing to the children the value and beauty of art, perhaps explaining the philosophy of aesthetics - whether a canvas with one mere haphazard scratch be art or not - even exhibiting items of primitive carving and of classical painting. He dreamed of the lecture he would have made. He mused on his life and his family...
His dreams were suddenly dispersed, for his sullen eyes had noticed something peculiar about the teacher. There was a broad streak of blood across his brow, a deep, dripping scratch. Still unaware of the art Master’s wide-eyed curiosity, the teacher proceeded with the incomprehensible lesson that entranced the silent girls and boys.
No sooner had the art Master set his eyes on the fleshy gutter in the teacher’s brow, than into the classroom crept an old man, also sporting a mortar-board and bent like a grotesque sculpture. He shambled up to the first teacher and whispered in his ear. After a few seconds, when the words had been absorbed in his slow mind, the first teacher uttered the following unmistakable words:
“The class is dismissed.”
He grabbed a large clapperless bell from his desk and shook its silence violently. The children immediately erupted into cacophony as their shouts followed their forms through the door, leaving the startled art Master sitting at the back. At times of stress, he would often pray to Art, as poets of old did call upon their Muse … and he did this now, crushed his mind beneath Beauty and Art, those helpmates on many a previous occasion. One such, he recalled, was the period when his family was starving through lack of money. In desperation, he had stretched his supplicating hands to Art, as if it were a god, and, to support this plea, he had bent his body all night before a neighbour’s blazing log fire. The following morning, with no obvious solution to his problems forthcoming, he had made a terrible scratch across a virgin canvas poised on the easel. Need more be said than that the canvas was sold for an extraordinary amount of money to a foreign gallery.
Coming back to his present surroundings, he saw the teacher replacing the bell on the desk, meticulously ensuring that the imaginary clapper did not repeat its knell. The other, the wizened old man, slowly clearing the books from the untidy desks, gazed curiously above his half-spectacles at the seated figure.
“Who are you?” he monotoned.
“I am an artist, known in my home town as the art Master. I apologise if you feel that I have intruded, but I was captivated by this classroom as I passed.”
“As you passed?” the other intoned.
“Yes ... yes, I was roaming the streets, seeking work ... some artistic work. Perhaps I may be allowed to stay and paint this classroom?”
“Can’t you see, thicko, that we have a problem.” The old man motioned towards the first teacher, flopped in his chair and dabbing his wound. “We have no time to pander to strange intellectuals. So, yobbo, git!” The voice was cracked and twisted - like the neck.
To read the rest of this novel, please transfer: HERE:
1. Paul Dracon left...
Monday, 19 June 2006 9:33 pm
Thank you for posting this, Des. It's going to be a treat to see how your style has evolved over a thirty-three year period.