Lydia Davis

Ödön von Horváth | Brief Incident in Short a, Long a, and Schwa | My Friend’s Creation | Contingency (Vs. Necessity)
December 16, 2011 Davis Lydia

Ödön von Horváth


Ödön von Horváth was once walking in the Bavarian Alps when he discovered, at some distance from the path, the skeleton of a man.  The man had evidently been a hiker, since he was still wearing a knapsack. Von Horváth opened the knapsack, which looked almost as good as new.  In it, he found a sweater and other clothing;  a small bag of what had once been food;  a diary;  and a picture postcard of the Bavarian Alps, ready to send, that read, “Having a wonderful time.”


Brief Incident in Short a, Long a, and Schwa


Cat, gray tabby, calm, watches large, black ant.  Man, rapt, stands staring at cat and ant.  Ant advances along path.  Ant halts, baffled.  Ant back-tracks fast—straight at cat.  Cat, alarmed, backs away.  Man, standing, staring, laughs.  Ant changes path again.  Cat, calm again, watches again.


My Friend’s Creation


We are in a clearing at night.  Along one side, four Egyptian goddesses of immense size are positioned in profile and lit from behind.  Black shapes of people come into the clearing and slip across the silhouettes.  A moon is pasted against the dark sky.  High up on a pole sits a cheerful, red-cheeked man who sings and plays a pipe.  Now and then, he climbs down from his pole.  He is my friend’s creation, and my friend asks me, “What shall he be singing?”


Contingency (Vs. Necessity)


He could be our dog.
But he is not our dog.
So he barks at us.

Lydia Davis’s most recent collection of stories is Can’t and Won’t (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2014). Her translation of Proust’s Letters to His Neighbor was published in 2017 by New Directions, and a collection of essays is forthcoming in 2019.