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The Academic Hour


The Academic Hour The Academic Hour The Academic Hour

The Academic Hour back

Keren Katz

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Page 45 Review by Stephen

"The lesson will begin in five minutes.
"We must all get rid of a horse."

It's an unusual school, as you shall see.

I'm not sure if getting rid of the horse was a prerequisite for the lesson to begin, or whether it's the lesson itself. Neither would surprise me, nor does the equine presence within the confines of classroom itself, for this is as mad as a bag full of spiders.

And if you think the instruction is surreal enough, the students' strategies to achieve their objective will prove stranger still, their ministrations as unorthodox as the task they've been set, and that horse, well, it don't wanna go, no matter their attempts to corral then coax it out of the door. You'll see it desperately clinging to the back of a classroom chair with its front quarters, its hind hooves standing on tippy toes.

Some students take a direct approach, while others perform gymnastics on nearby tables, perhaps in some sort of luring, arcane ritual. I think the horse will win that one.

As to the subsequent 'Anatomy Lesson', it's all a bit like the Beatles' animated 'Yellow Submarine' only with much more white space on crisp, white, open-plan pages and prettier clothes patterns: lots of fish scales or snake scales or even chain mail. I'm seeing Aubrey Beardsley as well. There are a fair few dandies here too, and the fresh, bright colours are predominantly blue and slate-grey, with flames of yellow and slices of red.

Evidently the school takes a hands-on approach to anatomy. Well, hands-off, really. And legs. It's more of a practical than a theoretical class, with syringes, pliers and meat cleavers

"Patella continued arching her back. She knew better than to take the stairs."

Good call.

"Class begins.
"Only three students have made it."

I am far from surprised. The architecture makes Escher look safe.

It begins thus:

"This is the story of Prof. Pothel and Liana set in a school founded and designed by a team of renowned architectural professors accepting only students who have been involved in car accidents but who have never broken any bones. The school was designed so that during the course of their studies, and by way of the conduct within campus, they would break everything they were supposed to break before."

Okay, then.

It's told in a sequence of illuminated love letters from Liana to disgraced Professor Pothel, who has a past involving automobile accidents himself - if only at a distance, obsessed over from his bedroom window as a child - and a future as a crashed car himself. It really is pretty pummelled. Please see "spiders" and the bag thereof. It's when the cemetery starts moving in pursuit of the physical bus that the metaphorical train comes off the tracks completely.

Both the words and images tumble onto the page. Everything tumbles. It's ever so sensual.

I'm not entirely sure whether or not this is an amphigory in its truest sense, but the absurdist narrative positively delights in contradictions, contortions and non-sequiturs.

"If two or more people are able to find their way up there without using the stairs, then that means they are the same person. There are no stairs leading up there."

Try this attempt at a tryst:

"I keep your last note in my pocket: "Please try to meet me after class. I want to see how far we can both venture outside campus before we run into each other.""

Then, when you least expect it, things do make some sense:

"Once someone tricked me into a dream guessing game; he said: "Start asking me about my latest dream. I will answer only yes or no". Then after asking him thirty questions, I got nowhere close to knowing what his dream was about. But he knew exactly what mine was about."

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