-73

 

Yes, but who will cure us of the dull fire, the colourless fire that at nightfall runs along the Rue de la Huchette, emerging from the crumbling doorways, from the little entranceways, of the imageless fire that licks the stones and lies in wait in doorways, How shall we cleanse ourselves of the sweet burning that comes after, that nests in us forever allied with time and memory, with sticky things that hold us here on this side, and which will burn sweetly in us until we have been left in ashes.  How much better, then, to make a pact with cats and mosses, strike up friendship right away with hoarsevoiced concierges, with the pale and suffering creatures who wait in windows and toy with a dry branch. To burn like this without surcease, to bear the inner burning coming in like fruit’s quick ripening, to be the pulse of a bonfire in this thicket of endless stone, walking through the nights of our life, obedient as our blood is its blind circuit.

        How often I wonder whether this is only writing, in an age in which we run towards deception through infallible equations and conformity machines. But to ask one’s self if we know how to find the other side of habit or if it is better to let one’s self be borne along by its happy cybernetics, is that not literature again? Rebellion, conformity, anguish, earthly sustenance, all the dichotomies: the Yin and the Yang, contemplation or the Tatigkeit, oatmeal or partridge faisandée, Lascaux or Mathieu, what a hammock of words, what pure-size dialectics with pyjama storms and living-room cataclysms. The very fact that one asks one’s self about the possible choice vitiates and muddies up what can be chosen. Que , que no, que en ésta está… It would seem that a choice cannot be dialectical, that the fact of bringing it up impoverishes it, that is to say, falsifies it, that is to say, transforms it into something else. How many eons between the Yin and the Yang? How many, perhaps, between yes and no? Everything is writing, that is to say, a fable.  But what good can we get from that truth that pacifies an honest property owner? Our possible truth must be an invention, that is to say, scripture, literature, picture, sculpture, agriculture, pisciculture, all the tures in this world. Values, tures, sainthood, a sure society, a sure, love, pure sure, beauty, a ture of tures. In one of his books Morelli talks about a Neapolitan who spent years sitting in the doorway of his house looking at a screw in the ground. At night he would pick it up and put it under his mattress. The screw was at first a laugh, a jest, communal irritation, a neighborhood council, a mar of civic duties unfulfilled, finally a shrugging of shoulders, peace, the screw was peace, no one could go along the street without looking out of the corner of his eye at the screw and feeling that it was peace.  The fellow dropped dead of a stroke and the screw disappeared as soon as the neighbours got there.  One of them has it; perhaps he takes it out secretly and looks at it, puts it away again and goes off to the factory feeling something that he does not understand, an obscure reproval. He only calms down when he takes out the screw and looks at it, stays looking at it until he hears footsteps and has to put it away quickly.  Morelli thought that the screw must have been something else, a god or something like that.  Too easy a solution.  Perhaps the error was in accepting the fact that the object was a screw simply because it was shaped like a screw.  Picasso takes a toy car and turns it into the chin of a baboon.  The Neapolitan was most likely an idiot, but he also might have been the inventor of a world. From the screw to an eye, from an eye to a star… Why surrender to the Great Habit? One can choose one´s sure, one´s invention, that is to say, the screw or the toy car.  That is how Paris destroys us slowly, delightfully, tearing us apart among old flames and paper tablecloths stained with wine, with its colourless fire that comes running out of crumbling doorways at nightfall. An invented fire burns in us, an incandescent sure, a whatsis of the race, a city that is the Great Screw, the horrible needle with its night eye through which the Seine thread runs, a torture machine like a board of nails, agony in a cage crowded with infuriated swallows.  We burn within our work, fabulous mortal honour, high challenge of the phoenix. No one will cure us of the dull fire, the colourless fire that at nightfall runs along the Rue de la Huchette.  Incurable, perfectly incurable, we select the Great Screw as a sure, we lean towards it, we enter it, we invent it again every day, with every wine-stain on the tablecloth, with every kiss of mould in the dawns of the Cour de Rohan, we invent our conflagration, we burn outwardly from within, maybe that is the choice, maybe words envelop it the way a napkin does a loaf of bread and maybe the fragrance if inside, the flour puffing up, the yes without the no, or the no without the yes, the day without manes, without Ormuz or Ariman, once and for all and in peace and enough.

 

 

Rayuela – 73 - Julio Cortázar

Translation : Gregory Rabassa