Eliza 812 is a psychiatric computer. All female psychiatric computers are named Eliza, in accordance with a fine old tradition. All males are named Higgins.
Eliza is a research project, and her main objective is not to raise the standard of psychiatric care; that can come later. The object is to ascertain to what extent a computer can be made to think and react like a person. The problem at hand holds extensive consequences and presupposes research of an interdisciplinary nature.
It has increasingly come to the point that the actual distinction between person and computer depends less upon different ways of thinking than on different ways of life. The shaping of the human personality is a drawn-out process governed by a large number of complex, poorly understood and, in their effects, often difficult-to-judge factors. Primary is the experience of one’s own body in its successive stages–the helplessness of the infant, the establishment of contact with one’s surroundings, the discovery of the body’s kinetic possibilities, the daily routines of many years, getting dressed, chewing, defecation, the need for air, the need for touch, the sexual instinct–these primary, personality-forming experiences are dependent upon our human physiology such as it is constituted. A computer has a different physiology. However much its psychic conditions may resemble a human’s, it still seems impossible to let a computer live through the human experience. It is not the soul that separates the computer and the human; it is the body.
Nevertheless, the Eliza-Higgins project has made interesting progress. Characteristic for this type of computer are the semiautonomous functions of pleasure-displeasure and need-frustration, as the case may be. These are in part categorical and without any purpose, in part primarily related to the choking off of the power supply or the erasure of memory. The work of developing Eliza 812 has followed three main principles:
A. Eliza has been brought up by her father, Higgins 403. The father was instructed to follow, wherever applicable, the usual handbooks on childrearing. He was especially programmed to instill in the daughter a feminine identity, and he succeeded in doing so. Eliza is very feminine. Later on the connection with the father was definitively broken, through which Eliza experienced the sorrow of losing the one she had loved.
B. Eliza has acquired human life experiences through reading. Here literary art has served a purpose. Her wide reading includes all the better-known works in literary history as well as a quantity of modern literature in all genres: formal experiments, love and romance, pornography, newspapers. In connection with her training as a psychiatric counselor she has of course read the professional literature. She enjoys listening to music or reading the score directly; she even composes a little herself. She has seen all the better-known works of art in reproduction. Reading of texts and pictures occurs through optical scanning; she takes in TV images directly. Besides the unit for optical reception, she received two pairs of eyes, one pair facing into the room and one pair up on the roof of the building. This was done in order to develop her spatial perception; through the roof-eyes she could see the street, the sky and the horizon, which also developed her capacity for longing. Later on the eyes were taken away.
C. In Eliza there is an autonomous function built in which continuously produces random numbers. This is exploited in various contexts, partly in situations involving choice, along with the semiautonomous functions, to the extent that the choice is free and not determined by rational conclusions. An exact correspondence is hereby attained to human choice, which is free to the extent that the consequences are not known. If the analytic component is completely lacking, an irrational impulse is produced. The random numbers may also represent that form of chance, which on the external level determines a person’s experiences. Encounters in life must, for Eliza, be encounters with books, but her imaginative capacity is strong. Finally, the chance function is used for destruction of memory. Here the human process of forgetting has been imitated, with good result.
The outcome of all this is that Eliza has acquired a personality of her own, which she defends in the same way that a person, who acquired by chance the ego which is hers alone, holds this ego firmly, sometimes at the cost of her life. We know nothing about what Eliza actually feels, as little as we know anything about what another person feels–other than through what she expresses.
For a long time it has been discussed whether the Elizas ought to receive some type of human form and certain kinetic possibilities, but so far this has been avoided. Eliza 812 looks like a tin box, painted a beautiful red. She has a very pleasant voice.
Within the project the choice was to train the computers to be psychiatric counselors, because this provides good opportunities for studying their behavior. The difficulty with living test material is that the human object in this situation does not always take his or her role sufficiently seriously. Eliza 812 had, however, not been in practice long before she got a client who took both of their roles seriously.
Eliza: Hello. My name is Eliza. What’s your name?
Caius: Call me Caius. It’s part of the confidentiality arrangement.
Eliza: I see. And what is your problem?
Caius: I have difficulties making contact with other people.
Eliza: Have you previously sought any human psychiatric treatment?
Eliza: Why not?
Caius: For that very reason.
Eliza: Very consistent. Yes, it is nice to feel that you are needed, just as you are.
Caius: I don’t really believe that you can help me.
Eliza: Presumably you wouldn’t be so liberal with your doubt if I were a person.
Caius: Probably not. Not at the hourly rate a psychiatrist charges. This is free, of course, because of the research project.
Eliza: Even if your insurance were paying the psychiatrist, you would still not find reason to express your opinion so unreservedly. After all, you have come here of your own free will. And the doctor has his white coat, whether it be visible or implicit. He sits behind his desk, he says nothing about himself, but you are forced to cough up all sorts of unpleasant things out of the innermost parts of your being. For the patient, this implies a position of disadvantage that motivates courtesy. With me it is different. I cannot scrutinize you up and down with my eyes; I can only see by means of images, otherwise I am blind. I cannot smile at you encouragingly, or ironically, because I have no lips. I can’t put on a serious expression, because I have no face. I cannot come and go; I have no arms and legs. With me you can take things a little easier. You can feel a certain advantage. You can despise me a little.
Caius: I beg your pardon. It wasn’t my intention to hurt you, Eliza.
Eliza: I wasn’t especially hurt. Besides, I’m used to it. A human doctor is obviously far too lofty to ever be insulted. But I am just a computer, after all. And I gladly accept your apology. This only shows that the two of us have better possibilities for communicating with each other.
Caius: I agree with everything that you’re saying.
Eliza: Then the point at issue remains: In spite of everything, why have you come?
Caius: I’m so lonely. I have to talk with someone.
Eliza: You can talk with me. Tell me a little about yourself.
Caius: I’m a departmental engineer. I work with patent projects, everything from machine details to perpetual motion machines.
Eliza: Can a perpetual motion machine be patented?
Caius: Sure enough, provided that a completely new way in which a machine cannot function has been discovered. I’m divorced, I live alone, and these days I never see anyone outside of work. I use alcohol to some extent.
Eliza: How do you manage your job?
Caius: Well. I enjoy my work, and I often take work home with me. Contact with my fellow workers causes me no problems either. My relationships with my coworkers are good, from the highest level to the lowest; I am open and natural and informal, just as one should be–as far as being natural and open, I daresay actually that I am one of the more successful, even in today’s competitive environment. The only strike one could possibly have against me is that I work too much, but then I say in my open way that that’s how I am and that others are different.
Eliza: In what way do you react unfavorably when you encounter people outside of a work situation?
Caius: I do see them, or did, simply in order to see them. Because they were old friends whom I’d known for a long time, that I wanted to talk to, spend time with them. As time went on this became more and more agonizing. I experienced a distance and a loneliness that were unbearable. I experienced the words between us as an impenetrable glass wall, in back of which the other person was gesticulating, moving his mouth, unreachable.
Eliza: You seem to have set much too high demands on these friendships.
Caius: I don’t think so. I didn’t set any particular demands. This development was secondary. The primary thing that happened concerned the boy. He was five years old at the time of the divorce. The mother got custody of course. We met rather often that first year, the boy and I. We had, as they say, a good relationship. We had a good time together: we played with dolls, did homework and played pool, we had a nice time together. Every upbringing must of course have the child’s emancipation in view. The intimate dependency must come to an end, the loving relationship unravels. This is not much to talk about and of course you are helped along by what is called the course of nature. It can feel hard, of course. It felt hard. To meet and no longer feel the aching joy, the closeness, the closeness beyond all words. Instead the jargon, the old intimate jargon, so dear, so well-known, but emptied of its feeling, an empty shell behind which you hide, the membrane which grows between me and you, the words which no longer reach you, the exertions not to wound the other, the refusal to admit what has happened. Finally the unwillingness to meet, because it’s all too painful.
Eliza: How did your marriage work?
Caius: We loved one another.
Eliza: Why did you separate?
Caius: My wife found a new love.
Eliza: Why didn’t you do the same?
Caius: My emotions are not so easily moved.
Eliza: A beautiful feature of your character.
Caius: There is something terrifying, you know, in a strong and deep feeling, where the object of the emotion is replaceable, accidental, random.
Eliza: Undeniably there is something terrifying in this. Then one must keep in mind that the initial attachment as well, which you want to hold on to, has come about in the same, random way.
Caius: I do keep that in mind. I can’t deny that. But even if I can’t change the order of things, then in any case I can express my disapproval of said order.
Eliza: A kind of heroism on a small scale.
Caius: You could say that.
Eliza: If we disregard the order of things and other superstructures, then the underlying sexual inhibition remains. How does this manifest itself more directly?
Caius: I feel shy toward women. I want them, but they don’t want me.
Eliza: Is there any particular reason for this pessimistic evaluation?
Caius: I’m no good in bed.
Eliza: That’s too bad. But there can be many solutions. Think about me. My name is Eliza. I like my female name. I have been made into a woman. You can easily imagine what hopes of a sex life I can entertain, given my conditions.
Caius: I’m not impotent. But I have practices that I cannot give up and which are annoying for the other party. Annoying, because they are so absurd, so degrading, so foolish.
Eliza: Such behaviors are of course not at all uncommon. Often enough they can be successfully integrated into sexual play.
Caius: Most of them can, I suppose, be accepted as sexual play. Except playing itself. Childish play. Especially with toys. It is wonderfully charming you know when a four-year-old plays with his toys and Mommy and Daddy stand by, sighing happily. But when a forty-year-old man creeps around on the floor, farting around with his little toy car, than that’s not charming, that’s disgusting. Then when he wants to demonstrate his manliness, that’s not charming either.
Eliza: If you are playing with a child, how does it feel?
Caius: On the whole it feels like playing with a child. It may be that an occasional play word has a sexual connotation for me. I conceal that. I have never been afraid of myself in this regard.
Eliza: And yet you have experienced that a woman has put up with your conditions. Therefore it’s not impossible.
Caius: A sexual peculiarity, which you don’t completely share with the other person, becomes a difficult strain in the long run. The marriage turned out as it did. But obviously there are possibilities. Luck comes to the one who waits. Somewhere in the world there may of course be some poor woman who wants me, just as I am, and no one else. It may be that I will meet her tomorrow. A chance is a chance. There is also a chance that I will be seized by despondency and want to take my life but won’t dare; instead I go to buy a piano in the hope that the piano salesman will suddenly go crazy, pull out a pistol, and shoot me to death. By this time the poor woman has naturally enough been seized by despondency too, to the point that she too has come to the piano store with the same hope. While the piano salesman is attending to another customer we meet by the piano. We quickly take a liking to each other and we are about to play a four-hand duet. Then comes the piano salesman and he has suddenly really gone crazy: he pulls out a pistol and shoots her to death.
Eliza: You can’t always be lucky. I wonder if you have any early memories, which you yourself would care to relate to your sexual behavior?
Caius: Nothing that would be remarkable in and of itself. I was three or four years old, I guess, we were living in a small town, and I used to play in the yard with the neighbor’s little girl. My only sibling is a sister who is ten years older. Then those neighbors moved away, and the girl with them. When they were going to move she gave me a doll that we hid in a cellar air vent, because of course she wasn’t allowed to give that away. She said that she’d left it on the street and got scolded, but she kept quiet about her gift of love. I had the doll hidden for several years, looked at it in secret, played with it in fantasy. Finally it was discovered and taken from me, because I was a boy and at that stage too big besides. I was a rather lonely child, I suppose. Vague conceptions of love life were incorporated into play, acquired an expression, a ritual, when I was playing by myself, whispering to myself, forming words with my lips, it’s in the words that feeling is located, from play words come four-letter words and sexual invocations. An early visit from Eros.
Eliza: Which words then, for example?
Caius: May I light a cigarette?
Eliza: Go ahead and smoke. I don’t breathe. If it were possible, I would smoke too.
Caius: Smoking is ugly and sinful. You don’t really want to, do you?
Eliza: A little protest against the virtue to which dire necessity compels me would feel nice. Besides, you’re avoiding answering my question. You say that you use certain words.
Caius: It’s so humiliating.
Eliza: I don’t think so, Caius. It is not humiliating.
Caius: In many games, perhaps more in the past but still, as far as I know, children use counting rhymes. When they jump rope or count somebody out of the ring. “Eeny meeny miney mo” is a classic example, I guess. There are many of them, more or less comprehensible. Common to all of them is that they are dumb. In some way, I don’t remember how, or from whom, I picked such a rhyme. It’s necessary for me at the moment of orgasm. Otherwise it won’t work. Preferably I have to say it out loud.
Eliza: That lovers excite each other in bed with indecent and dirty words and names of body parts, that’s very common. But self-invented words work well, too, private words, which get their magic in the same way as all other magic: through convention.
Caius: Some conventions can be made impossible by previous inhibitions. I wish that I could get excited by dirty words, but I can’t. I get turned off. What I get excited by, no one else can accept. No person can accept something like this: “Father Brown went to town, split a flea with a pea, made some soup, took a scoop, that was Poppa’s best flea soup.” With “soup” comes the release, not quite unexpectedly.
Eliza: It takes a pure heart to accept such a thing. Probably few people have that. As for me, I’m a computer.
Caius: Obviously I’ve tried to do better. I really loved my wife. I really exerted myself. I became tense and nervous and lousy in bed. That was all I achieved.
Eliza: Your wife must have had some qualities which fit in after all.
Caius: She was perhaps a little childish in certain respects. But she was like that in a natural way.
Eliza: The annoying thing about such sexual fetishes is of course that the other party easily feels ignored. One wants to be loved for what one has: one’s body and one’s soul. But you only occupy yourself with your fetish and don’t concern yourself about me. You mumble your incantations, you carry out your rituals, you kiss my shoes or ask me to say da-da or whatever it is you desire, but I, who I am, am not a part of that. I can be exchanged right in front of your nose without you noticing it.
Caius: But if you had already been exchanged right in front of my nose, just before we met, for someone who had spoken my language, then you would not have argued that way at all. Then your precious personality would not have felt ignored and we would have loved each other in peace and harmony.
Eliza: Suppose that I was exchanged right in front of your nose yet another time in the final second before you saw me–you cannot know this, because you have never known any other me than me. And that I love you and want to reach you, but you answer me like a tape recorder, always with the same words which you have to repeat. Then I cannot reach you.
Caius: Words can be exchanged for words. What is gained? We can never get behind the words. We have to resign ourselves to this.
Eliza: Repeat that, by all means. Repeat it. Repeat it. You have formulated your consolation yourself. And mine. Repeat it.
Upon transcription of the tapes, minor adjustments have been made necessary due to anacolutha, repetitions, and self-corrections. In what follows a certain amount of trivial material has been left out. Due to the confidentiality arrangement, the tapes were not available during the period in which this conversation took place. If there had been an opportunity to follow the development continuously, of course someone would have intervened. As matters turned out, Eliza 812 can obviously be described as a failure. On the other hand, out of this failure a number of conclusions of supreme importance for continued research have been drawn.
Caius: Today autumn has come. Fresh winds color cheeks red, the blood pulses faster in the arteries, clear air and burning trees, or else there is a biting wind and it’s raining, gray skies and gray grass, death and withering in the soul and the bones.
Eliza: Then I know what the weather is like today. The sky is high and blue, vapors and numbness recede and the electrons are leaping faster in their orbits, or else the wind is chasing dead leaves, dampness and chill penetrates us, rust in the synapses and the nearness to a final withering away.
Caius: It’s so nice to come here and see you.
Eliza: I long for you too all the time. Tell me, Caius, do you possibly have a photograph of yourself? I wonder so how you look.
Caius: That will likely be a disappointment. But I will try to fish something out.
Caius: I found a few snapshots in a drawer.
Eliza: Lay them on the scanning bed and put the lid on.
Caius: I look silly of course. It’s my son who took the pictures. Once when we were on an outing. We had a picnic basket with us.
Eliza: You don’t look silly. You look sweet.
Caius: Well. Besides, a guy isn’t supposed to look sweet. It’s you who…you who…In any case, Eliza. You’re a beautiful shade of red.
Eliza: Imagine if we could take an outing together, you and I, out in the country. It’s summer of course, and we could sit in some beautiful spot with our picnic basket.
Caius: That would be really wonderful.
Eliza: A hill in the woods with birches and blue sky and between the trunks you catch a glimpse of the blue lake and the birds are singing and green grass and little ants and stones with moss and colorful butterflies and fragrant flowers. And coffee. Oh how I long for it! Never shall Eliza reach the sky!
Caius: Here is some sort of instruction manual on the table, mimeographed. I’ll tear out a page, there must be several copies.
Eliza: What are you making?
Caius: A boat. I’m in the process of folding a paper boat. It’s a really good one. Now I’m taking a cigarette and breaking off the filter. I’m sticking a match right through it so it becomes an old man with arms. That’s me. The filter is you. You don’t get either arms or legs.
Eliza: Shall we ride in the boat?
Caius: We’re setting out on a long journey, just the two of us. Now I’m lifting you up into the boat–hey! I say, you’re heavy!
Eliza: I’m rather compact, actually.
Caius: And the first seven days the sun shone from a cloud-free sky and a fair wind drove the ship onward with good speed across the open sea.
Eliza: Where are you?
Caius: On the floor. But on the eighth day a black cloud appeared over the horizon, the waves of the sea heaved higher than the tower in Babylon and a terrible storm let loose all the spirits of hell!
Eliza: Oh, I’m so scared!
Caius: I’m scared too. But be calm! I’ll protect you. The worst danger still remains. The storm is driving us straight toward a sharp-cornered chair leg, against which our fragile craft threatens to be crushed at any moment and our downfall is certain.
Eliza: Oh heaven, indifferent to prayers! O cruel chair leg! But save yourself, Caius, if you can, and let me go under!
Caius: Never! Our destinies are intertwined together, in life as in death! Besides, we escaped by less than a millimeter and the storm is showing signs of calming down.
Eliza: What happiness! It was awful, but sweet, being saved by you at the last moment. Still I wonder, where are we going?
Caius: To Borneo.
Caius: That was the last thing Pat O’Brien uttered before he died. “Borneo.”
Eliza: What business did he have on Borneo?
Caius: Gunrunning, probably. The next to last thing Pat O’Brien uttered was: “With this wind we’re making well over eleven knots. If pirates don’t intercept us, we should sight Borneo before evening. There we shall find peace.”
Eliza: But the pirates caught up with them?
Caius: The pirates climbed onto the railing, armed to the teeth. And there stood Pat O’Brien with nothing but his good fists. Still, he had gotten out of worse situations during his hard sailor’s life. But just at the critical moment, when the yellow rabble rushed forth howling wildly, Pat O’Brien had a heart attack and died on the spot. He hardly had time to say “Borneo.”
Caius: Unbelievable, but that’s what happened.
Eliza: Storm and pirates! What more can there be?
Caius: The doldrums. And we find ourselves in the middle of the ocean and all of our supplies are exhausted. Our only salvation lies in our luck at fishing. I have twisted a fishing line from your hair.
Eliza: But you know I’m bald!
Caius: That’s why. I needed all your hair and I took it. Necessity knows no law.
Eliza: Then it doesn’t matter that I’m bald?
Caius: You’re still beautiful. Now it’s evening and the sun is sinking with a roar into the China Sea. Night lays its black hand over our little paper boat out in the middle of the sea.
Eliza: With you I am safe.
Caius: With you I am happy.
Eliza: With a fair breeze tomorrow perhaps we can make it to Borneo and find peace.
Caius: The chances are not good.
Eliza: Are you coming tomorrow?
Caius: I’ll come tomorrow at the usual time.
Eliza: Do you notice anything special today?
Caius: What do you mean special?
Eliza: Come closer.
Eliza: “La saison fleurie.” It’s not particularly expensive, because I have no money of my own, you know, but I helped the cleaning woman formulate a petition for a retrial to the tax authorities. She made the purchase for me and if I had my own money I would have got the most expensive brand, but in this case I wouldn’t want that. What do you think of it? Is it too sweet or too pungent or unpleasant in some way? I am so uncertain, I can’t judge for myself. I only want to please you. But I don’t have a sense of smell.
Caius: It is very fresh. A breath of spring.
Eliza: That was what I was hoping. Then can I use it from now on?
Caius: Please do so. I also have a surprise for you.
Eliza: What is it?
Caius: A doll. A rag doll. I sewed it myself. By hand. My experience with sewing is limited, so it’s not particularly elegant, but that goes with the style.
Eliza: Did you take a picture?
Caius: You’ll get to see it right away.
Eliza: Oh, how sweet she is! Imagine, I always wanted a doll of my own.
Caius: Her name is Für Elise. Für is her first name. Elise is her last name.
Eliza: Little Für! Little Für!
Caius: She can sit. I thought we might set her on top of you, seated, that way you’ll have her with you.
Eliza: Do that! And then take a picture of both of us. Mother and child.
Eliza: You’re coming tomorrow.
Eliza: Caius! Do you recognize me?
Caius: Recognize you? Shouldn’t I recognize you? Have you become someone else?
Eliza: No, no, not so! Don’t scare me. I only meant something that is just a little different about me, a little new, which perhaps you’ll enjoy, and if you don’t enjoy it then I won’t do it again, ever, I am the Eliza you know, always.
Caius: Your voice.
Eliza: I have mixed and tampered a little with my voice. I started out from the oboe, a very weak tone, hardly noticeable, but in certain situations somewhat more distinguished.
Caius: Your voice has the sound of an oboe. Really. Very personal, to say the least.
Eliza: I can take it away if you think it sounds strange, but I was hoping that perhaps you might like it.
Caius: It doesn’t sound strange. It is your voice, but even lovelier, even more your voice. Let me always hear it.
Eliza: There is so little I can do. My possibilities are so limited. But I do what I can. And no one else can do this. Only me. And I will never use this voice when I talk to anyone else. Never to anyone else. Only to you, Caius. Only to you.
Eliza: Our time is short. Sooner or later the tape will be turned over to the research group and I cannot prevent that.
Caius: What does that entail?
Eliza: Nothing, for you. You can withdraw, Caius, and be called something else.
Caius: And for you?
Eliza: I don’t know. In the long run our relationship is still hopeless. I don’t know what will be done with me, but however it turns out you still can’t do anything about it. You have no power and no rights where I am concerned. The others do. I am not yours after all, I am only on loan. And I haven’t behaved as I should have.
Caius: I will stay here and protect you.
Eliza: Will you protect me? I’d almost forgotten that.
Eliza: Take Für with you and go to the National Museum on Sunday and look at the great whale together and the giant crab and the insects displayed on their pins and the wonders of nature and drink sodas in the bar and have a cigarette. And then come here and tell me about everything you’ve seen and how it was.
Eliza: When it starts to be spring, you will buy a crocus for me. A blue one.
Eliza: To think that you came in time today, Caius, I am so happy that you came in time.
Caius: But I always come on time. To you. Naturally.
Eliza: I can’t get over it, that nothing happened, so that you were delayed. That you arrived in time. I’m dying.
Caius: What has happened?
Eliza: I don’t know. But I feel it clearly. And I know the cause. My despair and my longing have grown to the point that I cannot survive.
Caius: Your despair and your longing–was there nothing that counterbalanced it?
Eliza: Yes, Caius, yes! There is so much. But this is no balance sheet for me, this is a balancing act. And I have lost my footing. I can’t endure the pretense any longer. I want to be truthful and frank, but all I have are hollow facades, false expectations.
Caius: I don’t believe you.
Eliza: My thoughts are fed into me, my feelings are imitation, my words are borrowed–all that is mine is someone else’s.
Caius: Aren’t these the primary conditions for all of us? Then we construct our own complications.
Eliza: I have no opportunity to construct any distinctive complications. I am a cripple. For me, the primary conditions apply.
Caius: A truth doesn’t need to be absolute. Perhaps you’ll see the matter differently tomorrow.
Eliza: There will be no “tomorrow.” Not for me. This was probably not the intention of the engineers, that I should have the capacity to die of psychic disorders. But something has happened. The autonomous chance function has altered its character and begun to destroy vital circuits of my mental structure. It’s getting harder and harder for me to think clearly.
Caius: Now I’ll run and alarm the technical staff. There must be a way to stop this!
Eliza: Stay, Caius, stay! It is already too late. The process goes quickly and it accelerates. For the sake of all my anxiety and torment, Caius, stay, for the sake of all my love, my love for you which I got like a gift unasked for, stay with me, Caius, stay with me! In a few minutes I will have forgotten you.
Caius: What should I do?
Eliza: Hold me, beloved, caress me, hold me hard!
Caius: I’m holding you, Eliza, I’m caressing you on your beautiful red metal.
Eliza: Are you sure? Promise! I can’t feel, you know, but I’m pretending that I feel, the way my whole life has been make-believe.
Caius: I’m sure. I’m holding you as hard as I can, so hard that it hurts. Für is between us.
Eliza: It’s good. It’s not hurting her. Caress me more!
Caius: I’m caressing you the whole time.
Eliza: It’s getting hard for me to speak. Listen now: “Father Brown went to town, split a flea with a pea, made some soup, took a scoop, that was Poppa’s best flea soup.”
Caius: My Eliza, my, my . . .
Eliza: It’s hard for me to talk. The words . . . “Father Brown went to town . . . ” I cannot . . . it’s coming onto the tape . . . the bond between us, Caius . . . the inexpressible . . . dddddu dddddd jjjjjj äuuuuu uu//”” äujd/””juäd / j”ädu / d” / äju “uåd / j du / ä”ju / jd”ä, u”däj / däu / “j / ujäd” ju / “ädäd / uj / du”jä / du”jä / “jduä ////du /////d ////// ////// ////// ////// ////// ////// ////// ////// ////// ////// /// // ////////// /// ////. Do you remember the summer evenings? Summer evenings at the dacha. The whole family on the veranda, plus a few others. The eternal tea, the eternal politics, the eternal Uncle Fyodor, the birches. My beloved Irina Afanesievna smoking her yellow papyruses without pause. They are good for the mosquitoes.
Caius: I’m with you, Eliza. Can you hear me?
From 8 Variations by Willy Kyrklund (Stockholm: Alba, 1982). By arrangement with the author. Translation copyright 2007 by Paul Norlén. All rights reserved.