We have previously posted extracts from the Gertrude Stein manuscript discovered by Denis Kodaly. Here is an extract from the beginning of Denis’ own magnum opus, The 1001 Nights of Iarcus Oralto, which follows the travels of a a pompous Englishman in the strange land of Arrapamatta. Iarcus’ tale starts with a shipwreck from which he barely escapes. Now read on…
My readers will recall that I, Iarcus Oralto, worthy scion of a respectable family, having been cast adrift in a frail dinghy by a villainous sea-captain, found myself bereft of all worldly substance save a small pudding and a flask of Macassar oil. You must know also that I found myself in the company of one Arabella Fundament, a woman of uncertain temper with a fondness for spiritous liquors. My heart was heavy as I gazed into the countenance of this woman. Her teeth and wig, both of which had appeared so gloriously natural during our voyage, had clearly been stored in a missing piece of luggage, and her appearance was now displeasingly coarse. Nor did she fall in graciously with my suggestion that I should divide my pudding into small portions, of which we should partake sparingly every six hours during the day. Consequently I had to use all my acuity and rapidity of reflex to prevent her flinging herself upon the pudding while my attention was distracted.
After our morning collation on the second day, Miss Fundament observed somewhat sharply, “Awful still, isn’t it Mr Oralto?”
“It is indeed, my dear young lady,” I returned pleasantly.
“I wonder where we are going,” she observed.
“In an easterly direction,” I informed her.
“I’d say,” she burst out in a tone I can only describe as venomous, “ we’re not going ANYWHERE. We might be going somewhere if a certain gentleman could pick up them oars and row, but seeing he ain’t, we’re not, are we?”
“My dear Miss Fundament,” I replied somewhat stiffly, “Rowing is a sport for the brutish. For this reason I have never indulged in it and never intend to do so”.
Such was my contention, and my firm intention, but, gentle reader, I reckoned without the force of personality of this unfortunate woman. Some hours later, I set up the oars and commenced rowing. However, my inexperience proved most inconvenient: instead of the prow cutting smoothly through the water, the boat began revolving in an aimless and choppy fashion. After some fifteen minutes of valiant effort, I appeared to have made no progress at all. Furthermore, I had drenched Miss Fundament on two occasions when inadvertently lifting the blade of the right oar completely out of the water. Her demeanour changed yet again.
“Oh, stop, you fool!” she cried, a spasm of irritation rippling through her ample frame. “Of all the ninnies to get maroonded with!”
Too exhausted to reply, I pulled the oars back into the boat and settled myself for a brief rest. Suddenly, I found Miss Fundament kneeling in front of me with a most determined expression on her face.
”Give me that pudding,” she demanded.
“It is only two hours since we last ate. We must conserve our rations,” I warned.
“I don’t care, I’m starving. I haven’t ever gone this long without food. I’ll die.”
“No, you must wait,” I protested, “you must not give way to greed!”
“Greed, ho! I’ll give you greed!”
Somewhat intimidated by the lady’s grim demeanour, I reached into my valise and seized the pudding. Clutching it to my abdominal region, I began to insinuate my body past Miss Fundament. Becoming aware of this evasive manoeuvre, she lunged forward, both hands extended in an attempt to capture the pudding. However, her initial hesitation had enabled me to gain a position out of her immediate reach. A curious stalking procedure now ensured. Maintaining a resolute grip on the pudding, I continued to move around the edge of the boat as Miss Fundament relentlessly tracked me. We completed some three circuits of the boat, during which time I delivered some timely advice on the need for dignity and restraint in social intercourse.
Suddenly Miss Fundament paused and raised her hand to her head, as one about to swoon. In my concern, I also paused. Seizing her opportunity, she leapt forward and pinioned me against the gunwale. Taken by surprise, I released my grip on the pudding, which the wretched woman seized and devoured in the manner of a genuine savage. Seeing my aghast expression, she flung back her head and guffawed coarsely, stamping her feet and swaying her hips in an abandoned manner. Alas, our frail craft was ill-fitted to such terpsichorean excesses. A plank giving way beneath her foot, Miss Fundament was hurled backwards by the sudden lurching of the boat, and disappeared into the boundless ocean with a mighty eruptation of water, such as some intrepid seaman might behold when one of the great denizens of the deep rises and sinks again in its majestic power…