Zeus in the Attic

On “Recommended Instrument: Apartment Thunder” from Henri Michaux’s “Life in the Folds”.





If you’ve lived next to a basketball court, or if the walls of your ground floor apartment have been used for football or squash practice, you know the sound.

It’s the sound of a headache.

Add some shouting, squealing, and laughter, make the noise polluters children rather than “sensible” adults and voilà, you have yourself a reason to let Zeus move into your attic and provide you with some audio cover. (As apartments don’t have attics, he might consider moving into the indoor cornices, suitable dangling lamps, or wallpaper patterns at a stretch.)

Recommended Instrument: Apartment Thunder

Instead of eliminating every kid in the area, it would be more peaceful to let thunder reign over the apartment, or over the room where their shouting is shredding peace.

A great force of noisy will is necessary […] It’s better not to employ a brass band: even imaginary brass will cause a headache. In which case, why go through the trouble?

With thunder, provided it’s easy enough to handle, you should be able to put up with a good hour and a half of some brats playing and shouting. More than that gets difficult.

It’d be better to move.

Anyway, one should always avoid schools. Even after twenty years, they can still stir up memories.

I started the series on Henri Michaux’s Life in the Folds1 three weeks ago with the warning that his texts defy characterisation. Saying they’re pessimistic or misanthropic would miss the important and distinctly human self-exploratory aspect. We’re not all sugar and cheer on the inside—we’re anything but, and denying, burying, or prettifying our nature resolves little.

Today’s Apartment Thunder is one of Michaux’s more frivolous texts, despite its casual assumption that anyone would consider eliminating every kid in the area before proceeding with other noise solutions, or its poignant observation that decades later schools can still stir up memories. Sandwiched between those two “throwaway” comments is an original idea—of letting thunder reign over your apartment—which is so ludicrous it’s difficult to believe you’ve just spent a minute of your life considering it. Though that’s exactly where the best fiction starts and the best insights are to be found: in crazy ideas. 

Yes, crazy ideas.

Usually they’re much truer, more substantial, and longer lasting than the sugar and cheer. And I mean that in a good, not-so-cynical way.



This post is part of series on the fantastic grotesque.

  1.  Translated from the French by Darren Jackson 

Author: A Quiver of Quotes

Jousts with words, jaunts through all genres. In favour of hendiadys, synaesthesia, and the transferred epithet. Books, books, books. Writing. Author of https://quiverquotes.com

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