Leavings from the feast of language

The moment when a life ended was as mysterious as when it began. A corpse not cold was like a child in the womb: a golem-thing, neither truly alive nor truly un-alive. The body, going through its after-death changes, continued to hold on to the soul, in whole or in part, for an unpredictable duration. In olden times the last rites had been meant as banishments to expel the spirit, less to assist the dead to heaven than to protect the living from any remnants of will and desire that might be stuck in the flesh and could thus remain, lost, half-sentient, and potentially troublesome. No one liked ghosts or walking corpses. But modern prayers weren’t worth much. They were hack jobs, leavings from the feast of language, the work of bad translators and worse poetasters. It was no wonder that the daily newspapers were full of ghost sightings. Shreds of the dead were surely lingering like unwashed clothes in corners and under beds.

from K. J. Bishop’s extraordinary debut novel The Etched City which I’ll review in due course.


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