From My Commonplace Book - 30

from A Voice Through a Cloud

by Denton Welch

The pain, like some huge grizzly bear, seemed to take me between its paws. I screamed from sheer shock at its sudden increased violence.

"Stop it!" the nurses said together. "You'll wake the others." They seemed about to stifle me if I dared to make another sound.

I must have screamed again, for all I remember is a shriek and a pain invading my whole body. The shriek seemed to be following the pain into every limb. I was nothing but a shriek and a pain. I was sweating. Everything was wet. I was crying. Saliva dribbled out of my mouth.

In the middle of the furnace inside me there was a clear thought like text in cross-stitch. I wanted to warn the nurses, to tell them nothing was real but torture. Nobody seemed to realize that this was the only thing on earth. People didn't know what was waiting for them, quietly, patiently.

I felt as if I bore the agony a moment longer it would split my skin. It was such a growing and powerful thing; it would burst out of the tightness of my body.

I heard footsteps hurrying away; then silence. One of the nurses was still holding me, trying to stop me from moving.

At last the other came back and she had a dainty dish and a little gun or model road-drill with her. It struck me that these articles were so small and finical that they could only be drawing-room tea-toys, and I thought they should be made sliver and not chromium.

The nurse lifted my arm, swabbed a little place with cotton wool. I realized she was trying to help me. I knew what the gun was for now, but I did not believe in its power. It was still associated in my mind with sugar-tongs and tea-strainers.

But the moment she pricked me so heartlessly, pushing the needle in with vicious pleasure, I had faith; I knew that it was magic. It was like the Sleeping Beauty magic. Exactly the same, I thought, amazed at the similarity. Everything was there, the sudden prick, the venomous influence wishing me evil; then there would be the hundred year's sleep. I knew it in spite of the pain. The pain did not abate at all. It was still there, eating me up; but in the hundred years' sleep it would die. It couldn't live for a hundred years. And brambles would grow and everything turn marble-grey. The dust would be as thick and as exquisite to the touch as mole-skin; and there would be moonlight always.

In his autobiographical novel, A Voice Through a Cloud, Denton Welch (1915-1948, English) writes, with an extraordinary eye for detail, of human suffering. At age 20 he was struck by an automobile while cycling, fracturing his spine. Thus began his life as an invalid and a writer (he had intended to become a painter). He developed tuberculosis of the spine and died at age 33.


I have read this book, Merry; a lovely writer; exquisite eye for detail; i can recommend some others; gay too:)Love Steve
Thanks so much, Steve.

The little bit of biographical material I looked at this week didn't mention Denton Welch's sexual orientation, and I hadn't thought about it myself, but, after I read your comment and returned to the book last evening, I noticed toward the end of the book that the young protagonist of A Voice does develop strong feelings for the doctor (male) who cares for him in the convalescent home and helps him return to the wider world.

What I especially admire about Denton Welch's writing is what blogger Stephen at describes as his "alchemist talents to transform empty days into gold."

Hi Merry, I do like the idea of finding gold in apparently "empty days" too. We have a hard job here so hope you will understand some silence. But happy making things always welcome.

Blog entry information

Last update

More entries in User Blogs

More entries from Merry