“A table is a table”: Ode to the metaphor ⇒ Kirno Sohochari

Life is truly metaphoric. You live a metaphoric life on chance. This body is the medium of metaphoric conversation to the world. It can feel anything make noise or silence; can think of anything live or inert; and to transmit the meaning word-by-word. You are a transmitter of meaningfully meaningless words, because the words are metaphoric, that could be changed by moment. Your body lead a verbatim life to the verbal and nonverbal words, written or unwritten sentence, recognized and unrecognized meaning and perhaps wait for recognized meaning of the words.

You are the noisemaker and be the meaning-maker too. You live a transitive life on chance, which is truly depended on your solidarity of meaning making. You needed this to deliver your thoughts and feelings to the other. Life is an enlarged metaphor of translated, interpreted and rendered words. You need this to communicate, to be verbal and perhaps beckoning the light that, you could talk, converse, dialogue and debate to the other by a meaningful way. You live here to fill the desire that you can explain your existence by symbolic words and extend it to change the symbolize meaning of the word, sentence or be the phrases.


Words are metaphoric by its apparent meaning or symbols, its transverse fragility; but it could be transformed or translate by the new meaning at any time. You live a meaningful life for the moment to signet the oath that it is transitional and maybe lost to the end. Your meaningful symbol and thoughtful words’ signet the same oath of change, transition, repercussion and reformation to the end. Despite this, literally you cannot think or imagine that the magical and pragmatic words could be changed or omitted by the new waves of meaning.


You wanted to live a secured life where the meaning and symbols are intimate and faithful to the daily routine of life. However, maybe you are right on your used-life of define everything by the fixed meaning and symbols. You like to call the:

Table is table, chair is chair, clock is clock and in this way defines your words to express the feeling of love, hate, envy and lot other millions to prove that you can make word meaningful to the life.

What happened, if an old solitary man wanted to change the discipline? What happened if the lunacy going to be lunatic to replace the things to the opposite? Where the decided order goes disordered by this massive replacement? What happened if he started to call the table as carpet, bed as painting, mirror as chair, alarm clock as photo album and in this way change the name of everything in his daily life?

Does it’s a lunacy? Does it destroyed everything you fixed by words to live a secure life in chance? The Swiss writer Peter Bichsel tried to answer the question in his great short story “A table is a table”. Readers, you are invited to read the story.


A Table is a Table ⇒ Peter Bichsel

I want to tell you the story of an old man, of a man who does not say a word anymore, who has a tired face, who is too tired to smile and too tired to be angry. He lives in a small town, at the end of the road or close to the intersection. Describing him is hardly worthwhile, there’s almost nothing to distinguish him from the others. He is wearing a grey hat, grey pants, a grey skirt and, in winter, a long grey coat and he has got a skinny neck with dry and wrinkly skin, those white shirt collars are too wide for him. He has got his room on the top floor of the house, maybe he was married and had kids, maybe he used to live in another town. Certainly, he once was a child, but that was at a time when children were dressed like adults. It is how they can be seen in grandma’s photo albums. In his room, there are two chairs, a table, a carpet, a bed and a cupboard. On a little table, there is an alarm clock, old newspapers and the photo album are lying next to it. A mirror and a painting were hanged onto the wall.


The old man used to go on a walk in the morning and in the afternoon, he used to say a few words to his neighbors and in the evening, he used to sit at his table.

This never changed, not even on Sundays. And always when the man was sitting at the table, he heard the alarm clock tick, always heard it tick.

Then there was a special day, a day full of sun, not too hot, not too cold, with birds singing, friendly people, kids who were playing – and the special thing about it was that the man suddenly liked all of this.

He smiled.


“Now everything is going to change”, he thought. He opened the top button of his shirt, took his hat, accelerated his walk, he even teetered in his knees and was happy. He arrived in a street, greeted the children, went to his house, climbed the stairs, found the key in his bag and opened the door to his room.

But in the room, everything was unchanged, a table, two chairs, a bed. And as he sat down, he heard the ticking again and all his joy was gone because nothing had changed. And then he became really angry. He saw his face turn red in the mirror, he saw his eyes close; then he forced his hands into fists, lifted them and slammed them onto the table, only one slam at first, then one more, and then he started banging onto the table and shouted again and again:

“Something has to change.” And he didn’t hear the alarm clock anymore. His hands started to hurt, his voice failed, then he heard the alarm clock again, and nothing changed.


“It’s always the same table”, the man said, “the same chairs, the bed, the painting. And I call the table table, call the painting painting, the bed is called bed and the chair is called chair. But why actually?” The French call the bed “li”, the table “tabl”, they call the painting “tablo” and the chair “schäs”, and they understand each other. The Chinese understand each other as well. “Why isn’t the bed called painting”, the man thought and smiled, then he laughed, laughed until the neighbours banged onto the wall and shouted “Silence!”

“Now it will change”, he shouted, and from then on, he called the bed “painting”.

“I’m tired, I want to go to the painting”, he said, and in the morning, he often stayed in the painting for a long time and thought about what he would call the chair, and he called the chair “alarm clock”. Every now and then, he already dreamt in his new language, then he translated songs from his childhood into his language, and he sang them quietly.

So then he stood up, put his clothes on, sat down onto the alarm clock and put his arms onto the table. But the table was no longer called table, it was now called carpet. In the morning, the man thus left the painting, put his clothes on, sat down at the carpet and onto the alarm clock and thought about what to call what.

He called the bed painting.

He called the table carpet.

He called the chair alarm clock.

He called the newspaper bed.

He called the mirror chair.

He called the alarm clock photo album.

He called the cupboard newspaper.

He called the painting table.

And he called the photo album mirror.


In the morning, the old man stayed lying in his painting for long, at nine his photo album rang, the man got up and stood onto the cupboard so that he would not get cold feet, then he took his clothes out of the newspaper, put them on, had a look into the chair on the wall, then sat down onto the alarm clock at the carpet and he skipped through his mirror until he found the table of his mother.


The man found this amusing and he practiced all day in order to learn the new words. Now everything got named differently: He was no longer a man, but a foot, and his foot was a morning and the morning was a man. Now you can continue writing this story yourself. And then you can, just like the man did, replace the other words as well:

to ring means to put,

to freeze means to look,

to lie means to ring,

to stand means to freeze,

to put means to skip.

So then one will say: In the man, the old foot stayed ringing in his painting for long, at nine his photo album put, the foot froze up and skipped himself out of the cupboard so that his mornings would not look. The old man bought blue school booklets and wrote down the new words and he was very busy with it, so he was rarely seen in the street. Then he learned the new names for all things by heart and in doing so, started forgetting the real ones. He now had a new language that belonged to no one but himself. But soon he had troubles translating, he had almost forgotten his old language and he had to search the real words in his blue booklets. And he was afraid to talk to other people.

He had to think for a long time to find out how people call things.

They call his painting bed.

They call his carpet table.

They call his alarm clock chair.

They call his bed newspaper.

They call his chair mirror.

They call his photo album alarm clock.

They call his newspaper cupboard.

They call his mirror photo album.

They call his table painting.

And then it happened that the man had to laugh when he heard people talking.


He had to laugh when he heard someone say: “Are you going to the football game in the morning too?” Or when someone said: “Now it’s been raining for two months.” Or when someone said: “I’ve got an uncle in America”.

He had to laugh because he did not understand any of that.

But this is not a funny story. Its beginning was sad and its ending is sad. The old man in a grey coat could no longer understand other people, that was not too bad.

It was a lot worse that they could no longer understand him.

So he did not say anything anymore.

He kept silent, only talked to himself and would not even greet people.

Youtube link of the film: A Table is a table: Based on a story by Peter Bichsel
Adapted and directed by: Diego Quemada-Diez

Photo Credit: amazon.com/Peter-Bichsel; vimeo.com/tag:peter+bichsel;