Beds in the East

Extracts from Beds in the East (1959)

Rosemary’s reputation was known; he would, by obscure logic, become retrospectively a cuckold.

Rosemary was only a spinster in the strict sense of denotation. She was eminently, eminently nubile.

…the eyes, black, were all East – houris, harems, beds scented with biblical spices; nose and lips were pan-Mediterranean. Her body…was that of the Shulamite and Italian film stars. The décolletage, with its promise of round, brown, infinitely smooth, vertiginous sensual treasure, was a torment to the blood….Many had promised marriage, but all had gone home, the promise unfulfilled….quite considerable capacity for all kinds of sensuous pleasure.

Him they would not harm, Englishmen being, though infidel, yet the race of past District Officers, judges, doctors, men perhaps, in their time, more helpful than otherwise, powerful but mild.

…a fetid cabaret with a beer-bar, two houses of ill-fame disguised as coffee-shops…

Trade and gambling and a woman occasionally – that was a man’s life.

A good morning’s work, and he felt he deserved a small beer in Loo’s kedai round the corner.

…even the police discussed this violence as possibly coming within the scope of their terms of reference.

“…And the rising sun shall rise yet higher, destroying with its flaming fire the evil will of the wicked West, but smiling warmly on the rest”

Lim Cheng Po, Anglican, Royalist, cricketer, respectable husband and father, allowed his animal reflexes out for an avenue walk on the lead.

‘I know what is love. Love is man and woman in bed.’

…I shall often think of you and the things we did.

“You mean,” said ‘Che Ramli, “he is a member of the tribe of the prophet Lot.”

She sank again into the salty water…into the delicious warm brine-tasting depths of her grief.

…the Malay word chium meant to plough the beloved’s face with one’s nose

There was a certain creative excitement, expressed in glandular constrictions which he knew well.

‘It binds the races together,’ said Crabbe.

…the prophet of harmless solace in a harsh world….

…the dark brought out the prostitutes, Malay divorcees mostly, quietly moving from light to light, gaudy and graceful, like other of night’s creatures.

“…I’m a typical Englishman of my class – a crank idealist. What do you think I’m doing here in early middle age?”

..the bathroom which Crabbe visited showed signs that Moneypenny now regarded even a lavatory as supererogatory.

‘it excites the pancreas to fresh efforts’

an Australian….They have suffered under the yoke of the English…

‘Here we go again,’ he thought. ‘Drink and reminiscence. Another day of wasted time. They’re right when they say we drink too much out here. And we slobber too much over ourselves….We’re all sorry for ourselves because we’re not big executives or artists or happily married men in a civilized temperate climate.’

Mr Liversedge…saw the whole ridiculous Oriental susah in true proportion. Here men would murder for five dollars, here men would seek divorce because their wives sighed at the handsomeness of the film star P.Ramlee….nodding at the lucid exposition of Mr Lim from Penang, though contemning inwardly the Pommie accent…

…death came so easily, hardly announced, without apparent cause, often greeted with smiles.

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