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

Word is metaphor despite its perceptible meaning and symbol. A transverse fragility always beacons there to say, it can erupt its identity by sudden. Words and your life is ‘identical twin’; both you are intertwined here by the weaver who weaves this game of life for an uncertain extension. Maybe you are the ever most meaningful man on this planet, it leads you to be happy with symbols and I know you deliver meaningful words. That is your only signet in this vast unknown nowhere. Anyway, let come to the point, you signing the oath that repercussion and reformation are endless atoms. You think yourself atoms and your words too. Despite this, both of you will omit when the new wave swills oldies. 

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 render-words. You need this to communicate, to be verbal and perhaps beckons the light that you can talk, converse, dialogue and make a debate with other people in 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.


Dear friend, moral of life is banal, and that is: just carry on man! However, maybe you are right in your life. Very confidently define everything with a fixed meaning of certainty. It helps you to avoid the careless whisper,… a sudden wind will soon appear with maelstrom. You like to signet this life by calling a “table is a table, a chair is a chair, the clock is a clock” etc. It defines you so that you can hug love, hate, envy and lot other millions like the affectionate buzzers. Affection is ‘expression’; this is communication; this could be the covetous connectivity; and as well as the great certainty for proving this that, -you are caught and shackled by the uncertain meaning of life.


Let think, what happened, if an old solitary man changes the discipline? What happened if his lunacy replaced the order of words to the opposite? Where his life appeared messy due to this? Is it a lunacy? Does it destroy everything that which the everyday life resonate like obedient subservient? Does a rebellion against the order and discipline ensure pleasure?

What happened if the old man started to treat the table as carpet, bed as painting, mirror as chair, and alarm clock as a photo album, and change the name of everything just opposite those are necessary for him to lead this life with certain pleasure? Does a disorder of words, a new ‘beingness’ of this are able to pull out this old man from the inevitable boredom and anxiety of life? Existence is happenstance and meaning of life through words is as well the same echobait of happenstance. The Swiss writer Peter Bichsel tried to deal all this perplexity in his great short story “A table is a table”.


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;


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.