The Swords


THE SWORDS by Robert Aickman

“And I don’t mean I just wanted her body. That comes later in life. I wanted to love her and tousle her and all the other, better things we want before the time comes when we know that however much we want them, we’re not going to get them.”

“That night I really grasped the fact that most of the time we have no notion of what we really want, or we lose sight of it. And the even more important fact that what we really want just doesn’t fit in with life as a whole, or very seldom. Most folk learn slowly, and never altogether learn at all. I seemed to learn all at once.
Or perhaps not quite, because there was very much more to come.” (my italics)

I have always thought this story to be the most tawdry one in literature. Now it takes on an even greater power of attrition in the context of what I have discovered to be the prevailing Gestalt of this series of Fontana Great Ghost Stories as chosen by Robert Aickman. The gluey torpor here of the callow, sexually inexperienced narrator, a commercial traveller in seedy digs in seedy townships and currently staying in a “nasty bedroom” in Wolverhampton. I once had the ‘pleasure’ of attritionally having to struggle through 30 locks in a canal boat through a relatively short distance in Wolverhampton, at first looking forward to later visiting more scenic sights on the canal ring, but was unexpectedly made to laboriously turn the boat in a winding-hole and struggle back through the same 30 locks because of weather conditions! This feels like the Words of The Swords. The narrator’s witnessing, at a seedy fairground, a woman being somehow penetrated, and later being given himself the same chance to do so to the same woman in the nasty bedroom of his digs. The inability to unburden himself of a “silly pie”, as a metaphor for something else he can’t rid himself of. The dead meat of the woman to be penetrated, with her too easy dismemberment. Her unpromising burdensome blouse and her other garments. The disarming nature of the seaman and the seamen’s trousers, ‘seaman’ as a homophone?
I, Des, wonder if Mr. Edis actually got to hear the full story to quench his vicarious desires.
“Suddenly it had all become rather like a nightmare.”
Only the actual reality around you can be LIKE a nightmare. Nightmares themselves can be woken up from.
Just like that silly pie, I can’t get this story out of my brain’s ownership. It teases and ‘tousles’ away at me like an endless worry.

Full context of above here:

2 thoughts on “The Swords

  1. Pingback: The Swords Syndrome | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews

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