How to Be Both, p.1Ali Smith
HOW TO BE BOTH
Who says stories reach everybody in the same order?
This novel can be read in two ways and this e-book provides you with both.
In one version, EYES precedes CAMERA.
In the other, CAMERA precedes EYES.
The stories are exactly the same in both versions, just in a different order.
Eyes, camera. Camera, eyes.
The choice is yours.
By the same author
Other stories and other stories
The whole story and other stories
Girl Meets Boy
The first person and other stories
There but for the
For Frances Arthur
and everyone who made her,
to keep in mind
walking work of art,
and for Sarah Wood,
Excerpt from ‘Introduction’ by Hannah Arendt from Illuminations by Walter Benjamin. Introduction copyright © 1968 by Hannah Arendt. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Lyrics from ‘Being Boring’ Written by Neil Tennant and Christopher Lowe, published by Sony/ ATV Music Publishing (UK) Ltd.
Excerpt from ‘The Eel’ from COLLECTED POEMS 1920–1954 by Eugenio Montale, translated and edited by Jonathan Galassi. Translation copyright © 1998, 2000, 2012 by Jonathan Galassi. Reprinted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC.
Excerpt from ‘Le Testament’ (lyrics by Gilles Thibaut) © Société d’éditions Musicales Internationales (S.E.M.I), 5, rue Lincoln, Paris (8e) France. By courtesy of Société d’éditions Musicales Internationales (S.E.M.I).
Et ricordare suplicando a quella che io sonto francescho del cossa il quale a sollo fatto quili tri canpi verso lanticamara :
Francesco del Cossa
green spirit seeking life
where only drought and desolation sting;
spark that says that everything begins
when everything seems charcoal
Eugenio Montale / Jonathan Galassi
J’ai rêvé que sur un grand mur blanc je lisais mon testament
Although the living is subject to the ruin of the time, the process of decay is at the same time a process of crystallization, that in the depth of the sea, into which sinks and is dissolved what once was alive, some things ‘suffer a sea-change’ and survive in new crystallized forms and shapes that remain immune to the elements, as though they waited only for the pearl diver who one day will come down to them and bring them up into the world of the living –
Just like a character in a novel, he disappeared suddenly, without leaving the slightest trace behind.
Giorgio Bassani / Jamie McKendrick
Ho this is a mighty twisting thing fast as a
fish being pulled by its mouth on a hook
if a fish could be fished through a
6 foot thick wall made of bricks or an
arrow if an arrow could fly in a leisurely
curl like the coil of a snail or a
star with a tail if the star was shot
upwards past maggots and worms and
the bones and the rockwork as fast
coming up as the fast coming down
of the horses in the story of
the chariot of the sun when the
bold boy drove them though
his father told him not to and
he did anyway and couldn’t hold them
he was too small too weak they nosedived
crashed to the ground killed the crowds
of folk and a fieldful of sheep beneath
and now me falling upward at the
rate of 40 horses dear God old
Fathermother please spread extempore
wherever I’m meant to be hitting
whatever your target (begging your
pardon) (urgent) a flock of the nice
soft fleecy just to cushion (ow) what the
just caught my (what)
on a (ouch)
dodged a (whew) (biff)
look is that
blue sky the white drift
the blue through it
rising to darker blue
start with green-blue underpaint
add indigo under lazzurrite mix in
lead white or ashes glaze with lapis
same old sky? earth? again?
home again home again
jiggety down through the up
like a seed off a tree with a wing
cause when the
roots on their way to the surface
break the surface they turn into stems
and the stems push up over themselves into stalks
and up at the ends of the stalks
there are flowers that open for
all the world like
A boy in front of a painting.
Good : I like a good back : the best thing about a turned back is the face you can’t see stays a secret : hey : you : can’t hear me? Can’t hear? No? My chin on your shoulder right next to your ear and you still can’t hear, ha well, old argument about eye or ear being mightier all goes to show it’s neither here nor there when you’re neither here nor there so call me Cosmo call me Lorenzo call me Ercole call me unknown painter of the school of whatever you like I forgive you I don’t care – don’t have to care – good – somebody else can care, cause listen, once an old man slept for winters tucked in a bed with my Marsyas (early work, gone for ever, linen, canvas, rot) stiff with colours on top of his bedclothes, he hadn’t many bedclothes but my Marsyas kept him warm, nice heavy extra skin kept him alive I think : I mean he died, yes, but not till later and not of the cold, see?
No one remembering that old man.
Except, I just did, there
though very faint, the colours now
can hardly remember my own name, can hardly rememb anyth
though I do like, I did like
a fine piece of cloth
and the way the fall of a ribboned bit off a shirt or sleeve will twist as it falls
and how the faintest lightest nearly not-there charcoal line can conjure a sprig that splits open a rock
and I like a nice bold curve in a line, his back has a curve at the shoulder : a sadness?
Or just the eternal age-old sorrow of the initiate
(put beautifully though I say so myself)
but oh God dear Christ and all the saints – that picture he’s – it’s – mine, I did it,
who’s it again?
not St Paolo though St Paolo’s always bald cause bald’s how you’re supposed to do St Paolo –
wait, I – yes I, think I – the face, the –
cause where are the others? Cause it wasn’t just it, it was a piece belonged with others : someone’s put it in a frame
very nice frame
and the stonework in it, uh huh, the cloakwork good, no, very good the black of it to show the power, see how the cloak opens to more fabric where you’d expect flesh to be, that’s clever, revealing nothing and ah, small forest of baby conifers tucked on the top of the broken column behind his head –
but what about that old Christ at the top of it?
like He made it after all all the way to old man when e
Wait – cause – think I remember : something : yes, I put some hands, 2 hands below his (I mean His) feet : something you’d only see if you really looked, hands that belong to the angels but all the same look like they don’t belong to anyone : like they’re corroded with gold, gold all over them like sores turned into gold, a velvet soup of gold lentils, gold mould as if blisters of the body can become precious metal
but why on earth did I?
Look at all the angels round Him pretty with their whips and scourges, I was good
no, no, step back take a look at a proper distance at the whole thing
and other pictures in this room : stop looking at your own : look at others for edification.
Think I recog
oh Christ – that’s a –
Cosmo, isn’t it?
St Gerolamo –?
but ha ha oh dear God look at it piece of oh ho ho ho ridiculous nonsense
(from whom my saint averts his eyes with proper restraint and dignity)
showy Cosmo’s showy saint, mad, laughable, his hand in the air holding the rock up high about to stone himself so the patrons get their money’s worth : look at the tree all gesture-bent unnatural behind him and the blood all adrippy on his chest : dear God dear Motherfather did I come the hard way back through the wall of the earth the stratifications the rocks and the soil the worms and the crusts the stars and the gods the vicissitudes and the histories the broke bits of forgettings and rememberings all the long road from gone to here – for Cosmo to be almost the first thing as soon as I open my
Cosmo bloody Cosmo with his father a cobbler, no higher than mine, lower even : Cosmo high on nothing but court frippery vain as vain can : veering as ever in all his finery towards the gnarled and the unbeautiful : the fawning troupe of assistants attending to each mark he made like his every gesture was a ducal procession.
Though that picture over there, also a Cosmo, is truthfully, yes I admit, quite good
(but then the hanging baubles above her head I myself showed him how to make better when we worked in the, wasn’t it, palace of beautiful flowers? the time Cosmo feigned not knowing me though he knew exactly who I)
and that over there, that’s him, isn’t it? Never seen it before but it’s him : yes : ah : it’s a beauty : and that one there’s him too, is it?
That makes 4. In this 1 room.
4 Cosmos to my 1 saint.
Please God dear God send me right now back to oblivion : Jesus and the Virgin and all the saints and angels and archangels obscurate me fast as possible please cause I am not worthy &c and if Cosmo’s here, if the world’s all Cosmo same as it ever was –
but then again
from Cosmo I learned how to use the white lead to mark details in the underwash
and from Cosmo I learned how to make the incision marks in the paint for the extra perspective
And anyway, look.
Up against Cosmo’s Gerolamo whose is really the real saint here?
And, just saying, but whose saint is it anyway that that boy with his back to me’s spending all his time
torch bearer, Ferara, seen from the back, he was a boy who ran past me in the street : it was when they were calling for painters for painting the palace of not being bored and I was up for the job, I’d worked on the panels of the muses at the palace of beautiful flowers with Cosmo and the rest and was now well known in Ferara and even more well known in Bologna, I didn’t need the court, no one in Bologna gave a toss about the court (anyway the court didn’t need me, the court had Cosmo) no, wait, start at the
cause it truly began with the man they called the Falcon cause of his first name being Pellegrin : he was Borse’s adviser, a professor and scholar, he’d known Greek and Latin since he was a boy and he’d found some magic books in eastern languages that no one else even knew about : he knew the stars and the gods and the poems : he knew the legends and stories that the Ests all loved about the kings on their horses and their sons and half-sons and cousins and their magicians in caves and their joustings and maidens and rivals and who was in love with whom and whose horse was the best and the cleverest and fastest and most of all their neverending triumphant outwittings of the infidels and crushings of the moorish kings : the Falcon’d been appointed in charge of the new design of the walls of the big room in the palace of not being bored and he was looking for painters other than Cosmo (terribly in demand, going around town bejewelled like a Marquis and though it was said that Cosmo’d be playing a major part in the wall design for the palace of not being bored in reality Cosmo’d glide in and out like a swan, I myself saw him a total of twice doing the minimum of sinop, for which, being so in demand he was mightily well paid, I heard) anyway he (not Cosmo, the Falcon) summoned me to his house.
The Falcon lived behind the building works for the castle : he came to the door when the door girl called him and first he looked my horse behind me up and down cause he was a wise enough man to know you can tell much about the person by the horse, and the coat on mine was glossy even after the road from Bologna, waiting for me with his head right down, his nose an inch above the ground and his nostrils connoisseuring the destination, never needing tethered or watched, cause let anybody but me try mounting Mattone they’d fly without wings through the air and hit the brickwork.
So when I saw him look to my horse I liked him the better for it : then he turned to me, had a look at me, and I had a look back : he wasn’t old and wise, he was roughly the same years as me, thin for a scholar who’re usually heavy and inadequate from all the nothing but books : his nose was imperial Roman (the Marquis’d like that, they were mad for old Romans, the Ests, almost as mad as they were for the stories of routing the infidel and conquering Afric) and his eye was fast : he looked me up and down : his eye stopped at the front of my breeches : he stared there as he spoke : he’d heard I was good, he said.
Then he looked back up at my eyes and waited to see what I’d say and right then – my luck – the boy ran past us in the street, a beauty of a boy moving so fast that I felt the air shift (still feel it now when I remember) cause the boy was himself all air and fire, a lit torch in his hand, in the other a banner, was it? a long bit of tunic? he ran up the steps holding it up so that it caught the wind in the loops of it, he was off to the court : that’s where the jobs were, at the court, and the rumour was that the pictures they wanted in the palace this time were court pictures, pleasure pictures, not sacred things but pictures of the Marquis himself, of a year of his life in the town and him doing the different things he did in the months of his year with real everyday things running through them exactly like that boy running past : I thought to myself if I can catch that running boy I’ll show this Falcon whose eye (my own eye saw) was taken by the back of the boy how good and how fast and how well I’d
then they’d know how exemplary
and imburse me accordingly
so I said as the boy disappeared Mr de Prisciano, a pen and a paper and somewhere to lean and I’ll catch you that rabbit faster than any falcon he raised an eyebrow at the cheek of me but I was being comical, he saw (still not unsweet on me himself at this time) and called for the door girl to fetch the things I wanted while I kept in my head the speed and the shape of the boy, the way he’d held up the silk and caught the air as he went, a breathing thing in itself, that’s what I wanted, cause I’m good at the real and the true and the beautiful and can do with some skill and with or without flattery the place where all 3 meet
I wiped the crumbs off the board in the doorway (the Falcon watched them fall on his threshold, narrowed his eyes) and on the paper though the boy had vanished I mapped his constellation there, there, there the back of his head, base of his spine, place of this foot, the other, this arm, the other, and sketch in a head (well the head barely mattered, it wasn’t what mattered) but I spent most time on his back foot, the place with the curve of the sole on the rise : get it right, how it sprung the whole body, just that single detail and it’ll lift the whole picture like the foot lifted him : get it right and the picture itself will lift (cause the way he’d gone up the stone steps had made even the stone of them unheavy) : he was off to a ceremony maybe, the boy? He had the torch lit though it was daylight, ergo I added the suggestion of a door so he’d need a lit torch, doubled a line into a lintel above his head for somewhere to go and I shaded in front of and round him so the torch in his hand had more purpose (made the flame on it like long hair flowing, but upward instead of downward, beauty of impossibility) then round him on the ground a scatter of small rocks, twig here, 4 or 5 by the wall, then right at the front 3 stones and a brickslice very like a slice of cheese all arranged round grassblades in a curtsey for the Falcon as if even grass will bow respectfully at such a man.
(After which, a final touch, there at the end of a grassblade, 2 or 3 points, a slip of the pen? a butterfly? for my pleasure alone cause no one else’d notice.)
Long gone, the picture, I expect.
Long gone the life I, the boy and the man I, the sleek good sweet-eyed horse Mattone I, the blushing girl I.
Long gone, torch bearer Ferara seen from the back, ink on paper folded torn eaten, wasp nest shredded into air burnt away to ash to air to nothing.
How to Be Both by Ali Smith / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes