Exam: The Birthday

Exam: The Birthday
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Exam: The BirthdayThere are certain things that you should be able to do by the time you are an adult. Think carefully and answer the following questions in the space and time provided.

 

1)

I repeated your name over and over

as I did in my journal,

until it merged and became me,

‘I was her, she was me’

 

Write a brief personal description. STOP. Wait for further instruction.

 

2)

separated suddenly on the train to Belgium:

you alighted in a rush as the doors were about

to close, and cheated of a final kiss,

you stood on the platform, watching me oddly, and

I forgot how to blow a kiss properly.

Then the train was gone, and you told me later you

stood on the quai for an hour,

until your cell phone rang to tell you

you were late for work

 

What should she have done? If you think she was right to continue on to Brussels, go to the third question. If you think she should have stayed in Paris, stop writing now.

 

3)

I spoke with my friend in disbelief

of your ardent declarations after just 2 days.

once in Belgium, I was much less sure,

this was freedom but my mind was lonely

on the retail strip, browsing discount shoe stores,

clothing chains where the stereo played,

‘je te garderai jusqu’au bout’

 

Is the use of the ‘futur’ appropriate here? Explain with reference to the

‘conditionnel’. You may refer to the ‘passé du conditionnel’ if you wish.

 

4)

nothing could please me: pots of moules,

baskets of frites, fifteenth-century facades,

ornamental parks, toy dogs,

bowls of hot chocolate, rain-spotted benches,

grey skylights, rattling streetcars, leering men,

Old Masters, all I wanted was you

 

What couldn’t please her? Cross those words out with black pen. What could please her? (answers may vary)

 

5)

the night before my birthday, I lay awake

in a dorm with five strangers,

gazing through liquid dark

at the slats of the bunk above,

shrouded in isolation, cold thin white sheets,

thinking how far you were from me and how,

with enough willpower,

I could be with you now

 

What does the passage above say about the experience of hostelling in Brussels?

 

6)

oh, it was a meaningless birthday.

Wearing a choker of colourful stones,

a pale blue tank top, I didn’t care

that it was warm enough to go sleeveless at night,

didn’t care if the waiter was sexy or not,

smiled as my friend tried to rub out ‘lapin’

from the chalkboard menu beside us

 

What does the rabbit symbolize? Focus specifically on the culture in question.

 

 7)

it was my birthday, and the only thing I wanted,

I’d lost.

I met  my friends at the Irish sisters’ hostel

opposite the Royal Nose Ear and Throat Hospital

(London). Told one of them, away from the

others, in the silence of the damp beige bathroom,

that I must at all costs see him again,

that we had to talk in person.

She thought I shouldn’t go. If I went, she said,

she would go with me,

but didn’t think I should go—

and definitely not by myself

 

Think of a time when you wanted to do something that you didn’t do. Did you regret it? Why not?

 

8)

never had I felt such an exquisite dilemma.

I didn’t care when my friend threw me the glass

goldfish ring I bought in Venice and it smashed

in its bag against the bunk pole.

I read my collected birthday cards from home

with indifference, not even minding this year

the sparkle that came off on my hands

 

Draw a well-labelled diagram explaining how this could have occurred. Use your knowledge of physics to work out the velocity, acceleration, and degree of indifference. Also, comment briefly on the chemical tendency of sparkle to rub off, and on the typical human biological response and how it may be modified.

 

9)

every night my dreaming mind

travelled across the channel

placing three kisses, a benediction,

on his forehead, both eyes,

not knowing that he was living a darkened life,

run down from a month of twelve-hour shifts,

and thinking wrongly, in my silent love,

that I didn’t care enough

 

How is this possible? Explain in a well-organised essay, of not more than 500 words. Be sure to answer the following questions: who did not care enough? How many kisses were placed, and where? How did the speaker complete the actions described, and in what manner? (hint: lines ii, iii)

 

 10)

exam image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What does this image say about the city of Brussels? What might the artist’s feelings be towards the city? Towards the girls in the picture?

 

END

 

On a scale of one to five, rate the complexity of this exam, one being complex, five being very complex: ____

Alison Frank

About Alison Frank

Originally from Toronto, Alison Frank lives in London and works for BBC Radio. Two of her short stories will be published this summer: ‘Monster’ in Gold Dust and ‘The Wall’ in Matrix Magazine. Alison is also the author of the non-fiction book ‘Reframing Reality: The Aesthetics of the Surrealist Object in French and Czech Cinema’.

Originally from Toronto, Alison Frank lives in London and works for BBC Radio. Two of her short stories will be published this summer: ‘Monster’ in Gold Dust and ‘The Wall’ in Matrix Magazine. Alison is also the author of the non-fiction book ‘Reframing Reality: The Aesthetics of the Surrealist Object in French and Czech Cinema’.

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