I would like to know what "accelerated, but still" means in the following sentences:

‘I’m a …’ I tried and failed under her gaze.

It was the same feeling, the same pulling to and fro, that one feels when standing on the edge of a diving board.

‘I’m a—’ My voice almost steady. ‘I’m a homosexual.’

The world did not tumble. Her face remained calm. The white winter light still streamed into the room as if into a church, illuminating the floor and us, my heart pumped blood around my body – accelerated, but still – and a shiver ran through me, through my entire being, and I felt like something dead and heavy inside had been expelled, as if I’d been carrying a leaden ghost within me all that time. I felt dizzy. I tried to say something else but there was nothing to say. She took me into her arms, and I allowed her to – into her soft arms, against her pullover, cushioned by the soft breasts beneath it.

‘It’s OK,’ she whispered. ‘I understand.’ She stroked my hair. ‘You’re good. Don’t you worry. You’ll be fine. You’re good.’

In this novel which is set in the 1980's in Poland under the socialist regime, where homosexuality was socially unacceptable, the protagonist Ludwik left Poland in 1981 to live in the United States of America. And he remembers what it was like back then in Poland, where he decided to leave the country after trying hard to stay in the country. (The main reason that Ludwik decided to leave the country was the fact that his lover Janusz constantly tried to straddle between Ludwik and a girl named Hania, the daughter of some high Party officer.) But the Passport Bureau wouldn't give him the passport, blackmailing him with the fact that he was a homosexual. So Ludwik took another route, by visiting Hania's house and telling her about his situation and asking her help so that he could get the passport, but without telling her that he was a homosexual. But eventually, at the end of the conversation, Hania asked as to what it was that they were blackmailing Ludwik with, because she must know that to know how to best approach the situation, and Ludwik here made the confession for the first time in his life.

In this part, I wonder how his body was "accelerated" (becoming faster) and how it was "still" (calm, perhaps?) at the same time.

Or would it mean that, though his pulse was accelerated, his heart still continued pumping...?

2 Answers 2


It is rather unclear, but a reasonable interpretation is that his heart was "accelerated" (beating faster) "but still" (not moving). This is a contradiction, which I think is what is intended. It's poetic rather than a literal description of how his body is operating at that time. That is how I interpret the meaning. Why the author writes this contradictory phrase is a question of literary interpretation.

  • 2
    It's poetic rather than a literal description of how his body is operating at that time.
    – cyborg
    Dec 21, 2020 at 21:13
  • Dear James K and @cyborg, thank you very much for the explanation. I originally thought that "accelerated" and "still" would modify his "body" rather than his "heart", because the two adjectives are preceded by the "body," but would it be more reasonable to see that it was the "heart" rather than the "body" that is being modified by the two adjectives? Dec 24, 2020 at 7:13
  • 1
    No grammatical reason, and that is why I say it is rather unclear. But I can't think of any reasonable interpretation of saying that his body was accelerated. But I can think of a meaning his heart was accelerated.
    – James K
    Dec 24, 2020 at 8:56

Still can also mean

free from turbulence or commotion; peaceful; tranquil; calm.

(dictionary.com, adjective, entry 4)

The author probably means that the heart was racing, but not troubled.

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