Listening time: 4 minutes. A favourite quotation from a favourite novel, Carson McCullers’ The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, reviewed here (soon also available in audio).

In print, it can look dauntingly long, so it is the perfect candidate for the first WritingRedux podcast. However, the full text is provided below, in case you’d like to read it for yourself later. 

Hope it inspires you to listen to Beethoven’s Third Symphony, and to read McCullers. 

Enjoy and thank you for listening.  

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Quotation: Carson McCullers - The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

One programme came on after another, and all of them were punk.  She didn’t especially care.  She smoked and picked a little bunch of grass blades.  After a while a new announcer started talking.  He mentioned Beethoven.  She had read in the library about that musician – his name was pronounced with an a and spelled with a double e.  He was a German fellow like Mozart. When he was living he spoke in a foreign language and lived in a foreign place – like she wanted to do.  The announcer said they were going to play his third symphony.  She only half-way listened because she wanted to walk some more and she didn’t care much what they played. Then the music started. Mick raised her head and her fist went up to her throat.

How did it come? For a minute the opening balanced from one side to the other.  Like a walk or march.  Like God strutting in the night.  The outside of her was suddenly froze and only that first part of the music was hot inside her heart. She could not even hear what sounded after, but she sat there waiting and froze, with her fists tight. After a while the music came again, harder and loud.  It didn’t have anything to do with God.  This was her, Mick Kelly, walking in the day-time and by herself at night. In the hot sun and in the dark with all the plans and feelings.  This music was her – the real plain her.

She could not listen good enough to hear it all.  The music boiled inside her. Which?  To hang on to certain wonderful parts and think them over so that later she would not forget – or should she let go and listen to each part that came without thinking or trying to remember?  Golly!  The whole world was this music and she could not listen hard enough.  Then at last the opening music came again, with all the different instruments bunched together for each note like a hard, tight fist that socked her in the heart. And the first part was over.

This music did not take a long time or a short time. It did not have anything to do with time going by at all. She sat with her arms held tight around her legs, biting her salty knee very hard. It might have been five minutes that she listened or half the night.  The second part was black-coloured – a slow march.  Not sad, but like the whole world was dead and black and there was no use thinking back how it was before.  One of those horn kind of instruments played a sad and silver tune.  Then the music rose up angry and with excitement underneath.  And finally the black march again.

But maybe the last part of the symphony was the music she loved the best – glad and like the greatest people in the world running and springing up in a hard, free way.  Wonderful music like this was the worst hurt there could be.  The whole world was this symphony, and there was not enough of her to listen. 


Source: Carson McCullers,The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2008 (1940)), p.107

1 Comment

  1. Tanya Strevens

    Thank you for these wonderful podcasts Béatrice. Apart from the joy in the writing with its images and sentiments, it’s lively to hear your voice, which is an excellent story-telling voice that is lovely to listen to. You are a natural seanchaí (Irish for story-teller). As Eva rightly says, time is an issue for me, and to be honest, at the end of a day, concentration span is too. These podcasts enable me to enjoy writing redux as I gaze out the window of the train and watch the landscape go by.
    I look forward to the next podcasts.
    Wishing you a lovely September.


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