Source: 'The 10 best… closing lines of books', The Guadian broadsheet, by Robert McCrum
"There, in front of us, where a broken row of houses stood between us and the harbour, and where the eye encountered all sorts of stratagems, such as pale-blue and pink underwear cakewalking on a clothesline, or a lady's bicycle and a striped cat oddly sharing a rudimentary balcony of cast iron, it was most satisfying to make out among the jumbled angles of roofs and walls, a splendid ship's funnel, showing from behind the clothesline as something
in a scrambled picture – Find What the Sailor Has Hidden – that the finder cannot unsee once it has been seen."
A brilliant, and moving, mixture of perception and reality. Contrast the incoherent end of William Burroughs's Naked Lunch, "No got … C'lom Fliday."
How are arrangements of underwear, and the coincidence of a car and a bicycle, strategems? I may have detected a clue: does the use of 'strategem' somehow relate to the prepositional clause (that I greyed), because words like
scrambled, hidden, finder suggest something requiring a strategem?
Yet I haven't read the novel, so what's so devious or special about a funnel behind a clothesline? How does this relate to
Find[ing] What the Sailor Has Hidden? Yes, I agree that in general,
the finder cannot unsee once it has been seen [by the finder], but so what? I did try some literary criticism but it doesn't seem to clarify this last line as exhaustively as I seek.