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Harry Mathews

An exclusive evolutionary vortex
of world excursions:

the Chronogram for 1998


Note: The rule of the chronogram is that when all letters corresponding to Roman numerals (c, d, i, l, m, v, and x) are added together, they produce a sum equivalent to a specific year of the Christian calendar.

January starts: sun here, stars there.
So what joys & fears has the New Year brought us?


  • In the Irkukst penitentiary ironworks the night shift is finishing its stint, skirting weighty pig-iron ingots as it regains the prison interior.
  • In Pienza, Ernestina is heating tripe fiorentina for thirteen.
  • In Sing-Sing, wearing surreptitious attire, Phineas, Bishop of Ossining, is anointing fifteen Fenian (‘Fighting Irish’) priests in a kiosk of ingenuous piety.
  • Bibi is shirring pigeon eggs in Saint étienne.
  • In Brighton Ignatius is getting high quaffing his fifth straight Irish whisky.
  • In Pretoria, gritty Erwin Higginson (age eight), ignoring fatigue & injuries, is winning his point in a bruising nineteen-eighteen tiebreaker against Fritz Spitzfinger (age nine) by returning a wristy spinner hip-high & without hesitation whipping it fair, Spitzfinger then batting it high into the rows to bring the fifteenth prestigious Witherspoon Tennis Initiation Tourney to a breathtaking finish.
  • In Fuji, pursuing a hashish high with Quentin, Kenny is perusing sporting prints by Hiroshige & Hokusai.
  • Arising at eight in Brisbane, Ian, aspiring historian of propitious intuitions, enjoys the benign aberration that, by getting a grip on his utopian fusion of Augustinian with Einsteinian reasoning, he is attaining a genuine gnosis.
  • In Etrurian Tarquinia, Gigi is eating spaghetti with pepperoni.
  • In Austria, zipping past the Inn, ignoring warning signs, Pippo Peruzzi, first-string Ferrari whiz, big winner in Spain & Argentina, is steering his touring bike (pistons & turbine whirring, its stunning furnishings genuine Pinin-Farina) in brisk pursuit of fiery Zizi, his Hungarian skier, itinerant antithesis, antagonist, tigress, priestess, siren, obsession, happiness, wife.
  • Bobbie is sitting with Bert in a Parisian bistro, in whose noisy interior untiring opportunists are satisfying pretentious ninnies with inferior white wine.
  • Heroin originating in Iquitos is winning first prize with tertiary bargaining arbitrators in Tijuana.
  • Bonnie is frying onion rings in Triffin, Ohio.
  • In antique Poitiers, Antoinette is refreshing her guests with interpretations of Rossini’s quainter offerings, interspersing arias & ariettas with his ‘Nizza’ (singer & piano), his ‘Raisins’ & ‘Noisettes’ (piano), his first sinfonia (strings), & his roguish ‘Iphigenia’ (bass trio).
  • In Tirana, inept Hussein is paying fifty-eight qintars to fortify his Istrian wine with Bosnian raki.
  • In the wintry outskirts of Pori, Father Tiki Haakinen - enterprising & itinerant Finnish priest - is repairing hi-fi wiring for a parish benefit.
  • In spite of its threat to her ingratiating Gibson waist, Rikki, in Zanzibar, is insisting on heaping & eating piggish portions of spaghetti & fig pie.
  • Postponing inopportune issues & putting first things first, Kiwanis, Rotarians, & Shriners are putting their agonizing unity in writing, signing a proposition that reasserts their opposition to atheists, bigotry, euthanasia (‘outright assassination’), heroin, pinkos, the Spanish Inquisition, superstition, & unfairness in business arbitration.
  • In Antibes, binging on pastis is getting Winnie higher than nine kites.
  • In Kiruna, in white tie, sipping a Perrier, Fafnir Grieg, high priest of Ibsen initiates, is testing his register & intonation in painstaking preparation for his fiftieth signature interpretation of the protagonist in Ghosts.
  • In Gorizia, Anita is working up an appetite for anitra triestina.
  • At Trinity, Robin is boating with his tutor, Isaiah Singe. Isaiah is asking if Robin thinks he is going to finish his thesis (Affinities with the Orient: Inquiries into spurious interpretations of Hafiz in Ariosto, Ossian & Kropotkin) within his transitory span of years.
  • In Bingen, penurious Winston is spiking his uninspiring Pepsi with Steinhäger.
  • Business-wise Erika O’Higgins is sitting in Pittsburgh squinting with attention at the infuriating fine print in an IRS opinion assigning Irish pension benefits she is repatriating. The opinion questions her attestation separating foreign benefits, earnings as insurer in Tangier & those in tertiary proprietary rights in Zaïre; pinpoints gains transpiring through inquiries into unwritten but propitious negotiations in Haiti; & reinstates profits inherent in eight-figure operations she is authorizing in Bisk (Siberia).
  • In Bonaire, Georgia, hungry Josiah is weighing into his piping-hot grits & grunts.
  • Interiorizing Rienzi in her isba in Gorki, Anastasia thinks of Patti singing in I Puritani, of Kipnis in Boris, of Kiri Te Kanawa’s Rosina in a Göttingen Figaro.
  • In Ostia, engaging Ethiopian waiters trigger big tips by squirting nips of grappa into porringers of out-of-season fruit.
  • Batting against the Orizaba Tigres in Irapuato, rookie Juanito Arias first whiffs in eight straight opportunities before hitting a ninth-inning zinger & satisfying the inhabitants’ hopes of winning the Zapatista Series.
  • Zazie is biting into rabbit thighs in Barbizon.
  • Zenia, passionate Aquinist, is pursuing an ingenious hypothesis, assigning the origins of Aquinas’s interpretations of Gorgias to an ‘Osirian’ genesis arising in the writings of inquiring Egyptian priests, an origin that the Sophists reinstate, or so Zenia infers in her ingenious synthesis. Questioning the suppositions of post-Aquinist thinkers, Zenia insists on the inferiority of Fourier’s ‘inanities,’ Wittgenstein’s ‘gibberish,’ & Austin’s ‘asininities.’
  • High-intensity spirits inspire high-intensity spirit in noisy Kirin.
  • In an uninspiring quarter of Trier, Ohioan Josiah, a boisterous nineteen, is infuriating Swiss Inge, a serious thirty, by persisting in attributing the first apprehension of the Einstein shift to Igor Sikorsky.
  • In a ristorante in Torino, sheepish Antonio’s superstitious hesitation between arrabiata spaghetti & risotto with funghi both intrigues & irritates patient Giorgina.
  • In Ottawa, thirteen Inuit Situationists are signing treaties with the nation’s highest authorities guaranteeing that their tribes & regions inherit proprietary herring-fishing rights outright & in perpetuity.
  • In Whitby, seagoing Einar, finishing his fifteenth pink gin, insists he is quite fine.
Harry Mathews





Harry Mathews
Photographs copyright
© Arthur Gerbault,
Paris, 1991, 1998

from the book
Immeasurable Distances
by Harry Mathews

The Lapis Press
Venice, CA,1991
ISBN 0 932499 43 0


  • In Twinsburg (Ohio), when a nitwit intern, threatening to irrigate her intestines with his ‘own unique quinine infusion,’ brings out a giant syringe, Queenie, a patient with hepatitis B, her weary inertia shattering at the threat of this aggression, begins reiterating in shrieks of irritation & anguish, ‘No penetration without representation!’
  • Ski-touring in Bennington, Jiri spits out bits of unripe kiwi in a fit of pique.
  • Supine in Biarritz, Tristan - unsparing onanist - is perusing Gautier’s pornographies, whose swift prurient inspiration stiffens his waning spirits.
  • In Rosario (Argentina), fiery Antonio is assuaging his thirst with sweetish Rhine wine.
  • Ianthe, in Berkshire, is initiating with requisite ingenuity her inquiry into ‘Oppositions & affinities in the autobiographies of Gibbon, Twain & Frank Harris’.
  • In the Ain, Fifi is eating pike patties.
  • In their frigate-repair station in Hawaii, engineer’s assistant Rossetti is preparing to assassinate his superior, Ensign Fink, for gratuitous insinuations about his inferior IQ.
  • Anisette fizzes are winning the night in Springs, whither Henri is steering Bettina in his antique Hispano-Suiza.
  • With gaiety, if without authorization, risking fortuitous gunfire & their reputations, a surreptitious retinue of eight British union bigwigs (no unionists), joining nine attrition-wary IRA-Sinn Fein agitators, is whipping the unpropitious weirs of the Isis in sanguine pursuit of hibernating pike &, out of a forthright repositioning of thesis & antithesis, a synthesis that begins separating negotiating opportunities & the proprietary hesitations, intrigues, obsessions, & sourish passions of the antagonists’ institutions & habits. The British suffer their opposites’ priggish interruptions & patronizing bias; the Irish are enjoying their outing, with its fortifying surfeit of whiskies, fine wines, & tangerines. These propitiations presage a beginning.
  • In Saint-Quentin, Pierre is into his fifth pinkish Pinot Noir.
  • Writing finis to his reign in the prize ring in Ashanti, Nigeria, ‘Tiger’ Titus (Niger) is forfeiting a bruising fist fight to his Ibo heir, Tobias, thus ratifying his apparent superiority.
  • In a quaint inn in Rieti, Kiki & Brigitte sniff quasi-appetizing brain fritters hissing in swine fat.
  • Fishing in Touraine, Irwin is unkinking Eugenia’s rig & fitting it with spinners. Their skiff sits in a quiet bight where feisty, spiky pike are rising & biting. First strike! It is raining.
  • Uriah, Griffin, Jennifer, Tabitha are hitting the Pinot Grigio in a wine bar in Waikiki.
  • In Fife, Inigo Higgins finishes writing his iniquitous Jottings on Kinship Etiquette in Barrie, Rattigan, Braine & Pinter.
  • Gauging his position in the whitening Pakistanian heights, Piotr eats his fiftieth fig out of its tin.
  • Its gregarious parties gathering at a transient staging-point, shipping in the Bering Straits, either freight or passenger, is stationary tonight - engines quiet, neither jib nor spinaker astir. As the fortieth ship nears, persistent skiffs begin sprinting through the nippy waters, swapping ostentatious rations & surprising potations & ferrying a rotation of seafaring prostitutes out of Tientsin, Biak, Iquique, Teresina, Kauai, Tenerife, Piraeus, & Hoboken.

Guinness with Brian

  • In Whitefriars, Pip infers that he is gaining genuine insights by sharing a firkin of Guinness with Brian.
  • In Perugia, unwise Arrigo Panin is preparing a presentation that, straining notions of affinities to their breaking-points, risks irking (or boring) knowing trainees in his Institute for Insight & Orientation by arguing that it is appropriate to attribute Hopkins’s inspiration to Whittier, Stein’s to Browning.
  • Faith is refrigerating nineteen stingers & braising nine satiating portions of bison brisket in Topperish (Washington).
  • Hiking in the interior of Shikoku, Kirk is sustaining a tiring Iris with aspirins & interesting attributions of Finnegan’s epiphanies.
  • Sophie & étienne, in an Iberian setting, are swigging refreshing pints of sangria gratis.
  • In Sabine, righteous Sheriff Winthrop Prior, feinting a right, is banging a furious fist into a hirsute rapist’s ribs & a punishing thigh into his iniquitous groin.
  • Georgianna is nourishing nine aging kittens in Big Sur.
  • Benign skies in Arizona. At a prairie spring, Tintin is watering his proprietor’s thirty-eight first-string ponies - they’re skittish ponies, stirring, neighing, biting, nosing bitten withers. Rising high in his stirrups, reins tight against bit, quirt hanging at his wrist, Tintin spits; sitting, he tips a sparing ration into its Zigzag wrapping. Prairie rabbits thinking: rain. Harriers beating their wings in thin bright air. Tintin thinking: this night’s attire - white shirt, string tie - is right for winning his engaging señorita. His pinto whinnies & pisses.
  • Sipping saki in Gifu, Roshi is getting quite tipsy.
  • Zigzagging in nifty figure eights on a skating rink in frosty Keewatin, Nettie is fantasizing an ingenious haikuisation of Swinburne’s ‘Proserpine.’
  • In Pistoia, tiny Pierino, stripping a thin bit of appetizing skin off the shining ribs of a spit-roasting pig, bites into it with a grin.
  • Within sight of eternity, Keith Asquith, wintering in Antigua, is taking unsparing pains to surprise, spite, & punish his nowise ingratiating Yorkshire heirs - ‘The shits!’
  • In Iowa abstainers are abstaining.
  • In Austin, Ira & Justina a striking pair, registering at first sight no antipathies but intriguing affinities, wishing to kiss, interiorize their inhibitions, banish their hesitations, skip propositions, & kiss, hip against hip. A swift shifting into a pertinent interior to quit their attire: whipping off pigskin trainers, unbuttoning Ira’s shirt, stripping off Justina’s T-shirt, unzipping her tight-fitting skirt & his khakis, unhooking her brassiere, ripping away panties & briefs, ignoring trinkets, skin to skin... ‘Wait,’ interrupts Justina, insisting, ‘first this joint,’ to forthwith initiate brisk intakes & an instantaneous high. Kissing again, Ira’s fingertips graze with finesse Justina’s hair, ribs, & thighs. Justina seizes his wrists & entwines his waist between jittering tibias. Straining, Ira nips her tits. Thrashing, her nips stiffening, Justina tightens her grip. Gratifying Justina’s appetite for kissing with ingenious bites, in his benign yearning Ira using his weight tips her posterior hither, baring Justina’s piping fig. Into this engaging shrine Ira insinuates his inspissating thing, an insertion that ingratiates writhing Justina, inquiring in its penetration of her gripping, shifting pith, whose stunning twinges infuse Ira with skittish fire. He begins panting, his sinews stiffen, he hisses, Justina shrieks. It’s brief, it’s nifty, it’s insane. Supine & sweating, Ira & Justina sigh faint sighs, kiss, grin, & sink into unworrying, transitory night.
  • ln the Tsinking zoo, unhesitating hippos, giraffes, kiwis, penguins, tortoises, porpoises, & tigers are ingesting big propitiatory portions of grain, onions, fruit, ginger, fish, & pig.
  • On Thirteenth Street & First, Antoine & Honoria are sharing a pizza & a knish.
  • Aries & Sirius are shining in Tunisian skies.

Key West, February 2, 1998


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