A Simple Benison

In Thomas Bernhard’s memoir Gathering Evidence, after a memorable first bicycle ride, we meet his rather daunting grandfather:

My grandfather liked people to speak clearly and to the point. He hated all the preliminaries, digressions, and circumlocutions which the rest of the world went in for when it had something to tell. He could not endure the longwindedness of the people around him, who were capable only of amateurish utterance and could count on earning his disapproval whenever they took it upon themselves to say anything to him. I knew he abhorred babble. The semi-educated constantly dish up their stale, unappetising stodge, he said. He was surrounded only by half-educated people and it sickened him to have to listen to them. To the end of his days he hated their amateurish way of articulating their thoughts. To hear a simple person speak is a benison, he said. He just speaks, he doesn’t babble. The more educated people are, the more intolerably they babble.

That word benison splintered the narrative. I’ve waited all day to discover its Old French origin in the word beneiçon meaning blessings or benediction or in this context a spoken blessing.

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