Room

 

Room, written by the Irish author Emma Donoghue, was published in 2010. It was around that same time that I read her novel and now, 6 years later, a film adaptation of the novel has been released, directed by the Irish film director Leonard Abrahamson. Room is about Jack, a 5 year old boy, and his mother (referred to as “ma” throughout the story) who live in a small room because (as is later found out) Jack’s mother was kidnapped by a man seven years ago. This man, who goes by the name of “Old Nick”, is the only one who has the key to their space and who brings them food and other basic necessities. Horrifyingly, “Old Nick” frequently abuses Jack’s mother and rapes her. Jack is the product of this, and he grows up in the room with his mother, whom he calls “ma”. The entire plot is narrated by Jack, which is very special, in my opinion, because we get the perspective of an innocent 5 year old boy who is in a situation that is otherwise very serious. His voice provides some comic relief to the plot. Continue reading “Room”

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Summer Reading Tips – Tying the Knot

The summer holidays are upon us. For a few weeks, you actually have time to read! Deciding which books to dedicate your precious spare time to is a big commitment. We get that. WB presents four suggestions to help you tie the knot.roselindeartikeljuli1) Something old – Orlando (1928)
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Summer Reading Tips – J.M. Coetzee’s Diary of a Bad Year (2007)

 

Summer has arrived – sorry – you have arrived at summer, and with summer you’ve presumably reached freedom. You leave a year of university behind you; another year of musty academia that simultaneously bore and excite you; another year of consuming dense and authoritative ‘researches’, ‘considerations’, ‘analyses’ – half of which end in a proclamation of what basically amounts to “well we haven’t quite gotten our answer but we’ve had just the greatest time thinking about this”. And now you get to leave all that behind you for a little while.

Continue reading “Summer Reading Tips – J.M. Coetzee’s Diary of a Bad Year (2007)”

The LACE That Lived

“An evening with Rowling” was most definitely not the first event hosted by the Literary Activities Committee Etcetera (LACE). But, it was arguably the best. Zahia Siab’s enthusiasm was catching as she presented the evening in the Doelenzaal – that was hardly distinguishable from Hogwarts’ Great Hall. Gorgeous, atmospheric hall? Check. Hogwarts banners? Check. Drinks provided? Check, check, check. Continue reading “The LACE That Lived”

Short Story Competition – First Place: In Between Places

IN BETWEEN PLACES
By Charlotte Nijhuis

Hungaria

The bumping of the carriage on the railway could put me to sleep within minutes. Using my backpack as a pillow and the views flashing before my eyes as a lullaby, it was easy to drift off. Nights in hostel beds made out of little more than a card wood box helped, too. We’d been traveling little over three weeks when we figured out our rhythm: days were for coffee shops and museums; nights for hostel-cooked dinners and dancing; trains for sleeping.

Though we had long left August behind, the summer heat lingered in Hungaria, and even more so in Hungaria’s public transport. In each new place we visited we learned to say hello in the language and bought fruits at the market. This time it was Szia – easy to remember, sounds like ‘see ya!’ – and tangerines. She handed me the paper bag.
“Can you peel one for me? You’re so much better at peeling.”
I peeled while she took pictures. She bent down on the opposite side of the carriage to gain eye level with the seats, and playfully prompted me to look away. Outside, an endless formation of green hilltops unfolded, getting higher as we went on, while on the forefront small ranches alternated fields of cattle. Cows looked the same everywhere.

With her elbow resting on my leg she held up the camera.
“Look.”
I blinked my eyes open.
“What do you think?”
The image was skewed slightly to the left and a bit underexposed, but the composition wasn’t too bad. I showed her some settings – it was my camera she was using – and she got up to give it another try. To the sound of the camera clicking I finally drifted off, my cheek resting against the sunlit window, half a tangerine resting in my lap.

Bukarest, Romania

The small square in Romania’s capital was drenched in a faint morning light. The wind blew leaves up in a whirl; a miniature hurricane unfolding right in front of us. Minus the destruction. We were sitting in a café on the western side. Outside at first, until we had no tea left to warm our hands and decided to move to a spot by the window. We ordered another round – with milk and sugar, the lady decided for us. Personalized drinks are a Starbucks thing, not a Bukarest thing. We discussed bus timetables and laundry and how we should probably buy warmer jackets soon, carefully tiptoeing around the one thing neither one of us dared to address: this little bubble would pop sooner or later. The next stop was Bosnia.

Sajarevo, Bosnia

We first met in Prague. On the fourth floor, or maybe the third, of that club I didn’t want to go to in the first place. I asked her to dance – she was a ridiculous dancer, her head wouldn’t move in synchronicity with her body – and she told me she’d never seen a girl as pale as me. We exchanged formalities; where were we from? – Ireland, Mexico –, where were we headed? – Bratislava, anywhere –, what did we think of the Czech Republic?
“I love it here,” she yelled over a high-pitched Beyoncé song. “Don’t you?”
I left the next morning for Bratislava, slept my way through the six-hour journey. I hadn’t forgotten about the girl named Isabella with a uniquely high tolerance for tequila shots, but I convinced myself I would, soon. Two days later she walked into the kitchen at the hostel during breakfast time. A sign from the universe, she said. And: we should travel together.

Five countries later I still hadn’t asked her about jobs or plans or her idea of a future beyond backpacking. It didn’t seem to matter; the present kept us busy. Sarajevo was filled with history I had never found in my high-school textbooks, and architecture that called for elaborate photo shoots. It was here, in Bosnia, where I first realized how lucky I had been. How, maybe, us meeting again was a sign from the universe. Or maybe that was just her, and her almost childlike willingness to believe in miracles, rubbing off on me.

Hvala means thank you,” I read out loud, “and molim is please.”
I flipped through the Lonely Planet that we’d found lying around at the hostel. We were standing in line for the Jewish museum.
“How do you say ‘sorry’?”
“Let me see, I probably won’t pronounce this right … Sorry is oprostite.”
Oprostite.” She echoed.
We were silent for a while. I skimmed the history & religion chapter. Two more steps and we’d be standing in the sun again.
“I’m sorry.” It sounded like a question.
I flipped another page. “Do you think they list verbs in here or—”
“I am going home.”
It took me a few moments to understand she meant home home, Mexico home, not the hostel a couple of blocks down the road. The line moved forward.
Home home?” I thought I’d make sure.
She nodded. “I got this job, so I need to come in on Monday… I never thought I’d get it, to be honest.” She paused. “I am flying out to Brussels tomorrow, in the afternoon.”
I realized I was still holding up the Lonely Planet, open, with two hands. Closing it would mean I’d have to look up.
She placed her hand on my lower arm. “I really am sorry.”

I got on a train to Vienna that same night.

Vienna, Austria

It is a truth universally acknowledged that leaves change color before they fall. Autumn is a time embellished by warning signs: shades of red and orange where we first saw green. Winter may come sooner or later, and in the height of spring it may seem like it never will, but it does, and we always get a warning.

She is not a tree. She is quiet blue on one day and screaming pink the next. She turns from fiery red to sunflower yellow to the pale pastel hues that fill my mom’s closet. At night she’s dressed in silver; she wakes up in rusty crimson. She leaps from summer to spring to fall. And I never saw this coming.

Short Story Competition – Second Place: Old Devil Moon

OLD DEVIL MOON

By Luc de Vries

The spotlight is on us. The fallen night encircles the floor on which we sway, one foot to the other. Shadowed treetops crown my horizon. The stars are aligned in perfect structure: our diamond chandeliers laced with translucent clouds, drifting slowly. A tender step left, a hand on my side pulls me closer, and I abide. The moon shines down on us, and we are its children. Its light favors us, encapsulates us, follows us. We dance.

There is an audience, captivated by our every step. Every moment we almost kiss—don’t kiss. They sit at their tables, gowns stitched to the table cloths, caged like us in the moon’s iridescent gaze. Had the floor been coated to the point where we could see our own reflections once, it is now but rocks and dirt. We did not lose our footing, on the contrary. A finer waltz has not graced the earth.

My heels high, my lipstick a murderous red. His hands hard, his breath caressing my neck. The magic is lost on them. They, who sit around our hallowed grounds, our stage. Their thin hands jingling with jewelry as they point at us. The dangling glitter from their earlobes. All smiles and teeth. They don’t understand what is happening. But as the moon commands us, we sway. Again and again. Truth be told, I’ve yet to grasp the situation myself.

As our spirit wanes, the music appears. Each step adds a layer, each slide a touch. The earth is drizzled in the dew that reflects the faint glimmer of starshine, only to be broken and absorbed into the fabric of my dress, his legs. The perfect fourth sounds, there and back again. I lean in to him, and he leans in to me. The strings’ sweet lull harmonizes with his hums behind my ear. A chill shivers through my flesh like a nail on porcelain. A beat, a turn, back and forth. His gentle touch guides me.

At that moment, he throws me back; I let him. The music tumbles. The audience takes an empty breath. He catches me by the wrist, a grip of ice, and pulls me back towards his embrace. Dry, vacant sockets stare into my eyes. His lipless smile almost brushes my face. I return a smile of my own. From his fractured throat rattles a sweet nothing. I giggle, his skull turns to look sideways, we waltz on. The music returns, and nothing has happened. The bare toes of our feet touch, embracing each other. They won’t let go anymore.

*

My heart beats like a mellow drum, a melodrama. How I would wish for it to stop and leave me to live on. But it is a truth universally acknowledged that when the heart stops beating, life ends. It is a fact of life as troubling as the tide: it holds nothing until you give meaning to it. My reason is the person who holds me right now. He is mine, and I am his.

But this shared existence of a singular soul drifts uneasily on the tide. My heart hasn’t stopped beating, yet his has. Won’t someone tell me of my fate? What twisted pathway has been laid out for me that leads towards a free fall into nothingness? A pathway that intersected and intertwined with his, only to fade away like smoke from a gun. I can no longer see the outlines: they have shattered into countless fragments, and are spread among the sky like stars. My road ended along with his, yet I remain. Still, in his cold guidance. His chalk fingers intertwined with mine, our love undying.

*

The night is almost at an end. I see it, I can feel it. The moon slowly soars downward in galactic anticipation of the sun, and its pull lessens. Our graceful waltz devolves into a waggle, a slapstick struggle against gravity. Our toes have merged, and we cling to each other as we try to maintain balance. Where my knees buckle and touch his, the skin is graying. Cracking and popping, my shinbones splinter as they pierce into his. It doesn’t hurt, quite the opposite. The more I am absorbed into my love, the surer I am that we won’t be separated once the sun dispels our fateful reunion. I indulge in the bliss, lose concentration for a split second, and tumble to the ground in a sheltering embrace.

They laugh, how could they not? Beauty rots in front of their eyes, maggots gnawing through remnants of gray skin, their torn eyelids fluttering loosely in the bleak night air. They haven’t enough skin left to shape anything else but a ghastly grin. They try to rise for the applause; a rustle of hollow rattles and clinking rings and bracelets. They stumble; their clothes attached to their seating and their feet partway buried in cold ground. Some fall, some break, some laugh on. They’re heading towards us.

We scuffle to our coalesced feet, only to find that the bones in our fingers have vanished. His hand digs deep into my side, and my wrist now stops where his spine begins. The hand he guides me with is the same one I’m led by.

The music has long since stopped, and the skeletal fiends that surround us sing us a choir of malady as replacement. Their hands connected, yet not unified like me and my love: our bodies now share one pair of legs. Their screams are fearful, and they swell to the rise of the sun whose first rays color the sky. I no longer deem any part of me to belong to the sun. Its warmth has been replaced. Its light is unnecessary. I no longer need the illusion. I look up at my dearest. His faceless visage, that yet vessels our love, stares into me. The horror that fills me is at once invigorating. I dare not look down at our shambling, decomposing legs. Let this soon be over, my eyes beg him. There is no reply. A sweet, sweet nothing. I smile. Nothing is what I long for. Eternity lies within, hidden deep in those eyes.

Our ribcages connect through our clothes. Cackles drown out the ripping and tearing of my beautiful dress, now drifting downward. And it keeps falling: the ground below us has opened. The ground on which we dance sinks deeper, deeper, earthbound.

The audience leans over the rocky edges, their arms frantically waving towards us. Perhaps they are not yet satisfied with our performance. Me and my love only have eyes for each other. Always have. We’ve never been in it for the glory, all the glitter and the roar.

Our embrace deepens. The ground above us narrows. Our bodies are one, two necks upon a single shape. The cries are silenced.

The earth shuts.

Short Story Competition – Third Place: Terminal Velocity

TERMINAL VELOCITY

By Casper Rudolph

1

For billions of years have I voyaged across the luminous emptiness, rocketing amongst silent worlds. I am bound to journey onward through this timeless haze, in the absence of any company. Over the aeons I have forgotten my point of origin and my destination has always been unknown to me. Though I am so very weary, I am ceaselessly chasing a faraway tomorrow along these starlit lanes to a place where I may finally lay myself to rest. Oh, how I long for the unfelt embrace of deepest sleep…

2

Before me I see the infernal giant rising from beyond floating debris, its scorching claws crunching everything within reach. I am almost sure that it has set its eyes on me, already licking its lips of flame, always hungering for consumption. As I blast with extreme velocity at this behemoth of fire, I behold how it devours other travellers of stone. Helplessly they fall prey to the raging monstrosity, only to disintegrate inside its burning heart. I, too, shall be eradicated as thousands of fiery tongues trace me. It is inescapable. Inevitable. Oh, the heat! How it burns my outer shell! How it shakes me to my core! How it cracks me! I can take no more.

Nothing will stand the test of time. Everything dies. It is a truth universally acknowledged. But what is the cause of all the destruction that is upon us? It has to be this searing beast. Now that I am so close, confronted with its awesome power, I realise this.

Then I come to understand something else: this gargantuan predator roams not by itself but in a pack. It’s these remote pinpoints that have been lighting my way, watching me everywhere I wander. Oh, the sheer thought of it, the idea that the beast is but one from many. If a monster like this holds such catastrophic power on its own, I can only imagine what it’s like when they unite to take all of existence.

First it draws me near but then it begins to push me away, as if it has decided that it does not want me, after all. Some unfortunate drifters are swallowed before me while my course is being changed for reasons unknown. I thank the wildfire for sparing me and sail on to nowhere, away from the terrible heat and back into the cool calmness of the cosmos.

3

I venture forth until she appears up ahead in my galactic path. Where the flaming creature had been terrifying, she exudes an aura of peace as she beckons me. Whether I want this or not, I am forced to go where destiny takes me, and if she ushers in the end of my journey I shall gladly join her in all her blue and green glory.

She appears to be smaller than most others I have passed by, but she is beautiful from here. As I come ever closer, I begin to notice the sapphire surface and emerald exterior that covers her completely. She does not seem to be polluted by vast sky-scraping towers or airborne crafts, nor poisoned by artificial gasses or punctured by mighty drills like so many of her brethren. She hovers undisturbed, a haven of serenity. She reminds me of something from an obscure past, long ago, but I can’t quite open my inner eye to it. Nevertheless I accept her welcoming embrace, giving myself over to it. Yet I cannot shake the feeling that, in a strange way, it’s like admitting defeat.

4

She softens my approach, slowing me down as she gently holds me back with unseen hands. It is like the starry galaxy, which has always been my world, gradually transforms into this large, round body. She is an entire microcosm of her own, absorbing the radiant darkness.

At last it dawns on me that even this beautiful living globe, overgrown with all the vegetation—the green trees and the bush and the grass—is a threat.

I break through an invisible barrier, catching fire in the process. It sears my skin of stone and deepens the cracks made by my earlier encounter with that colossal destroyer. I scream in my mind as I stop flying and begin to fall, trapped in her powerful, gravitational grasp. She ignites me; I become a ball of fire.

As I descend and the prolonged flares expand the cracks, I am fully aware of my own collapse. I leave a trail of crumbs behind as I cut through this bright sky. It hurts how I come undone, how my body is ripped apart, how my skin is shredded to little bits until I am reduced to a small boulder, barely able to contain myself.

Then I hear a roar. There, taller than the trees surrounding it on that mountain, stands a grotesque, dominant animal, sweeping its tail as it focuses on me. How alien does the brute appear to be, with those minuscule arms dangling on its chest, the rows of teeth and those black eyes. But suddenly it’s out of sight, for I blaze past, over valleys and forests and mountaintops and volcanoes until there is nothing but ocean for miles.

Below I see the blue stretch of water, glistening in the light of a distant sun. Though this planet has decelerated me, I still fall fast, and the following moment I crack open the surface, water splashing as I impact, my skin sizzling out in an instant. I’m washed away by these waves, sinking into the depths.

5

It seems fitting that even this underwater realm, nearly as black as the void outside, is illumined by coruscating creatures. Only these strange, small monsters are harmless to me. They swim by with incandescent scales. Some have orbs swishing back and forth on their heads. How restricted they are in their freedom; how restricted all living things are within their own limited zones. They are merely able to go where their environment permits them to roam, much like myself, even if I have crossed a seemingly endless vacuum.

Finally my remains touch upon the sandy bottom of this deep rift and I lie still. My journey has come to an end. Isn’t this what I wanted? Isn’t this what I needed? What I’ve been craving? Oh, it seems so unfair to lie here, of all places, but where would I rather be? I don’t belong anywhere, you see.

I submerge into a slumber, dreaming of the stars, wondering what it would be like to cruise among them once more with an unbroken body. And in this death-dream a vision is presented to me—an image of who I used to be. A planet like the one that’s smothering me. I was torn asunder by war and this little piece of mind is all I have left. I can almost remember, nearly conceive my past self, but before I manage to do so I fade out like an extinguished nova…

The End.