memoirs, art and fragments by Thomas Milner

Archive for June 12, 2011

The mysterious case of the uneatable pears

A brilliant book (for my generation at least) was CATCH 22. Wicked and hilarious this book with brilliant wordplay brings paradox to an inevitable  Zeno-like absurdity. Published in 1957 it dazzled our generations and spread across the Anglophonic world like a wildfire. (Now, of course, we have spawned a generation which, not only has not read CATCH 22 but also hasn’t read much else either – poor them, so many lost conceits, so much lost irony).

Anyway there is a scene in the book where everyone is issued with a pill «to throw away into the bushes». So it is in this place; sometimes we are distributed with green pears so hard and unripe that those of us who still have our own teeth, should we actually attempt to bite into them … but not to worry the pears are not to be eaten but to be put into our pockets or bags and consumed in a couple of days.


That same impulse, the same força de vontade, which is so good for my physical improvement, impels me to make a noise about the pear situation. In pursuant of my policy of withdrawal from the life of the Home in silent protest against the way one or two of the staff shout at some of the old people, I enter the dining room for dinner at 7.00 sharp and notice the rock-like green projectile – what’s this, I think, are we going to have a window-breaking contest after dinner or have some of us been distributed with uneatable pears again:

–          Excuse me, I don’t want this fruit because it’s not ripe, is it? I’ll have the fruit pap, please.

–          There is no more fruit pap.

–          No more fruit pap!

–          You have to warn us in advance if you want fruit pap instead of a green pear.

I’m entering The Twilight Zone again.

–          Can’t you just assume that I will prefer fruit pap to unripe fruit …

Meanwhile someone else has tactfully produced one of the apples that they keep in the kitchen in reserve for difficult cases like mine.

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