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“Magniloquence” by Ramona Ausubel Review

Magniloquence tells a story of Faustus Macelovich, an elderly English professor who recently lost his wife and now suffers from her absence. In a short episode of his life, Faustus presented by the author, along with other professors from different departments, had to attend a lecture delivered by a Nobel Laureate. He found it tiresome to appear in a crowd, shake hands, and “endure sympathy for the loss of his wife” (Ausubel 124). He tried not to ask others about their families, and he has prepared a list of conversational topics to be nice but not intimate with colleagues. Nevertheless, the only thing he tried to do was to pretend to be invisible.

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These parties had not always been so burdensome for Faustus as he used to come earlier with his wife and see how she started conversations. This time it was different without her, and he was confused in this society, not knowing “how to stand in this room right” (Ausubel 124). He remembered his wife through all those everyday activities he was missing, like watering flowers, switching the laundry, or looking at the sunset. She was not doing this, “she was so busy being absent” (Ausubel 130). Faustus remembered their first “bad news” visit to the doctor and how they returned home after it and how Petra touched every little thing in their living room like she was already parting with life surrounding her.

This was how she remembered her, in every little movement, every detail she used to do, and every habit that was an integral part of her. Now she was gone, and Faustus’ heart was filled with sorrow, and all other questions he considered important in his career could not compare to the gravity of his loss. He was remembering the funeral with all the flowers and poems and wished he had a daughter, someone who could feel the loss the way he felt it. But he was utterly alone, consumed in his grief.

Meanwhile, the crowd was getting anxious as the milling stage of the event was becoming longer than usual. The professors were tired of the conversations, and they wanted to sit or doze during the speech. The coffee pots were empty, and almost all the cookies were eaten, but the long-expected laureate did not appear. Faustus sat in a quiet corner with a limited view and was trying to avoid any conversations. He asked the woman who was trying to talk with him to pretend that he was not there and continued sitting in his chair. Nevertheless, the laureate was not there, and people were tired of waiting. Some of them sat on the floor, and others were dozing on their neighbors’ shoulders. The women asked Faustus to join a game of spin the bottle, and he played it with other people he did not know.

Anxious because of the late start, a young undergraduate came onto the stage and announced the first professor who was asked to say a speech merely to fill the time. Professor Paul Pretoria began his lecture, but nobody was listening. People were looking at their watches and waiting for the laureate. He was succeeded by several other speakers who tried to present their ideas and deliver their speeches filled with so many words as “venerable” and “inimitable” and “indefatigable” that were said so many times they began to sound made up” (Ausubel 130). Some of them tried to raise serious issues, while others spoke of their divorce and children. Finally, an African filmologist started his speech about his career journey filled with gratitude to people who supported him. Then he put his head on the podium with his arms around it and fell asleep. People heard his slow breathing through the microphone that was on, but nobody tried to wake him up or continue with the speeches.

Suddenly, the light went off, and the windowless auditorium became utterly dark. Faustus and other people remained at their places, some of them holding hands. Faustus was lying on some woman’s bare calf when he felt a gentle stroke of a hand on his face and lips. For a short moment, he pretended that it was Petra’s hand, but this one was unfamiliar with no rings, and Faustus moved it away. Then he rose and went to where an African filmologist was sleeping, and started speaking into the darkness.

In his speech, Faustus addressed Petra and revealed everything he wanted to tell her about the little things he was doing instead of her. He spoke about the trees and flowers he watered in their garden and about the toilet that had to be repaired, and how hard it was to buy things without her. Then he told something that he called “a very good argument for your return” (Ausubel 132). Faustus promised his wife that he would set a blanket with iced tea in the garden for her and did not disturb her if she could return. Finally, Faustus asked his wife to forgive if he once forgot “to feel this pressing absence of you” (Ausubel 132). Having said these words, he did not return to his place but cured up right where he stood and felt asleep. He was woken hours later when the embarrassed professors were leaving the auditorium, and he felt the fresh air and blinding white light pouring through the open door.

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Work Cited

Ausubel, Ramona. A Guide to Being Born. Riverhead Books, 2013.

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