‘The Haile Selassie Funeral Train’ by Guy Davenport

Apollinaire could look so German from time to time that you could see the pickelhaube on his bandaged head, the swallow-wing moustache, the glint of disciplinary idiocy in his sweet eyes. He was Guillaume, Wilhelm. Forms deteriorate, transformation is not always growth, there is a hostage light in shadows, vagrom shadow in desert noon, burgundy in the green of a vine, green in the reddest wine.” 

Taking place in a geography and a history of the imagination, riddled with the gaps and incongruities of such a setting, where figures from various eras converge for the funeral train of the last emperor of Ethiopia. As in much of Davenport’s idiosyncratic fiction, we find a consciousness foraging the tatterdemalion alleys of our collective culture for meaning, for understanding, for knowledge. He proceeds by daring synapses, and finds in them—if not the holy grails of meaning, understanding, knowledge—then at least the baubles of minor epiphany. 

First published in Davenport’s collection Da Vinci’s Bicycle, 1979, New Directions, and available online in audio form, read by Miette, at Miette’s Bedtime Story Podcast

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