Serban Alexandru

Excerpt from

Critics about

Novel, Ego. Prose series, Polirom, 2015, 296 pages

Copyright: Polirom

Translation rights sold to: All rights available

Excerpt from

 frère Mallarmé, the night after the Sunday when in the sky two suns unexpectedly and inexplicably appeared, for the phenomenon known as parhelion is very rare, was a night of confession, and he who confessed to me was to die that dawn ;
on the Sunday of two suns, blinded by their light, which seemed to have doubled its intensity, driven by an irrepressible impulse I set off for a walk along the Danube ; I felt the light as a material pressure, because I was walking with my head bowed, my back bent, and I would not have been surprised if the sky itself, pressed down by the dense rays, had buckled like the canvas of a tent under the weight of the water during a downpour, if it had sunk close to the earth, a closeness which in the old days, in times immemorial, was constant, as Histrion believed to have been the case, up until the time when, as he argued during a church service, citing an ancient song for his argument, a woman cast up into the sky her child’s dirty shirt and God was enraged and distanced the heavens from the earth ;

Pensiero, too, claimed that during a promenade along the Danube, in his wheelchair, pushed by Valică, also one Sunday, the sky had sunk down and through a fissure Jesus had popped out and pointed his finger at Valică ; there could be no doubt, as he was later to tell me, although Valică vehemently denied that the episode had taken place, there could be no doubt that Jesus’s gesture was a sign that he, Valică, was a chosen one ; on the night of the confession, for it was Pensiero who confessed to me and died that dawn, he told me that at the time he merely wished to make fun of Valică, whose pretensions to being superior were well known ;
it was through just such a fissure in the sky that Cireșica’s little dog, Sapho, was supposed to have vanished, jumping within, and it was supposed to have sat down on the right of God,  ?how could a dog sit down next to God, you madwoman, protested Histrion, it sat down by the God of dogs, stupid, not your God, Cireșica retorted ; anyway, Calistrat, one of the patients at the hospital in Brăila, is also supposed to have vanished, in order to go to his Calistra, through such a fissure, as I was to discover from Storia, the second time I was admitted to the hospital, the third day after Pensiero’s death ;

frère Mallarmé, I was walking along the Danube, unstoppable in my hormism, advancing through that blinding, opalescent light, and I was not thinking about anything ; all of a sudden, I realised that I was retracing the steps of that walk with Valică on the Sunday of the solar eclipse, and a wave of joy washed over me ; it was not out of the question that he himself might make his appearance in that explosion of light, coming out of death, through a fissure in the sky ;
no, Valică did not come ; but I did see Salomé the 10th, my cat, running through the grass, leaping at such a great speed that there was no time for the images of her from the preceding moments to fade, and so the images adhered to each other, elongating her body, Salome looked like an undulating snake and, under the effect of the light, her skin was crinkled in such a way as to appear to consist of imbricated scales of rock, iron, wood ; Salome was a huge fish that had escaped from the waters of the Danube, heading toward me ; she stopped a metre away, the images in her wake collapsing into each other like a concertina, vanishing into the lead image, she reared up on her hind legs, she curled her tail in a ring, she stretched her body, she blinked rapidly for a while, she washed her face now with one paw, now with the other, ronronning all the while, and her eyes sprinkled droplets of light, which scattered all over the grass, powdering it with their fine, aromatic icing sugar ; her body, from the throat down, went into convulsions, releasing sounds and odours, firstly a hum like an electrical transformer, combined with scents of jasmine, lilac, acacia flowers and melon, then a dull rumble, like a volcano about to erupt, accompanied by olfactions of paulownia and frankincense ; the cat’s body was a veritable brûle parfum, yes, a vessel in which burned spices and sandalwood ; I looked at Salome in amazement, in my mouth there was a polygalic taste of Benedictine, afion and kawa, and meanwhile over my skin roamed files of ladybugs, and around my head whirred mosquitos and groggy gnats ; the cat’s body soon shifted shape, becoming first a hyaline sphere, exposing to view the internal organs, then it elongated, outstripping me in height, and finally it shrank, during which time, in utterly bizarre biological disorder, it tested and invented bodies or merely the parts of bodies not only animal but also vegetable, so that from the right shoulder, through a reddish ebrasure of the skin, a wing burst forth, which stretched, in umbellar fashion, toward me, behind her there appeared a rotilate peacock fan with thousands of glow worms dotted among the feathers, from the left shoulder there unfurled an undulating cherry branch white with flowers, and between the shoulder blades there sprouted a corozo as hard and sharp as granite ; all of a sudden, the head too, thitherto unchanged and petrified in the same position, began to move, mewling, and, like the trunk, to alter its shape with great rapidity, so that I saw completely incompatible combinations of heads and trunks ; at one point, I could not stop laughing, especially given that the snakes, emerging onto the path from the grass, some with the heads of children or old folk, others with the heads of men or women, were laughing too ; how can you not laugh when you see the head of a little bee, pricking the air with its beak in search of other bees, atop the trunk of a stentor who can roar only from his backside, a fragile noctuelle with the fierce head of a clabod, at the sight of which I awoke, crying :  !hourvari,  !hourvari, as if I were a hunter there, but I did witness a hunt when the clabodnoctuelle was replaced by a swollen dindron with two heads, one made of paca, the other made of margay, which kept trying to rend the first, but did not succeed, because, standing back to back, it could not twist around as far as the head of the headintorment that pursued them, rotating around its own axis like a spinning top, making the trunk of the ouistiti to which it clung vibrate ; finally, how could I not laugh when I saw in increasingly rapid succession a weary cocarde with a margot head, a marcasin head deafeningly throttling the delicate trunk of a phaon, a frog’s head, whose ribbit ribbit affrighted all the frogs on the banks of the Danube, atop a peewit trunk, a tisonated stepper with the head of an angry jaco that was yelling at the top of its voice :  !cock a doodle doo,  !cock a doodle doo, an irresistibly comical spectacle, a kinkajou with the head of a bubo bubo, with glassy, staring eyes, and the head of a tufted heron, a puny pug dog with the head of a buzzard, whose gaping beak gobbled not fish, but butterflies, cockchafers, wasps and ladybugs ;

frère Mallarmé, as soon as the stepper with the head of a jaco made its appearance, Salome’s speed of transformation slackened, and the following creatures, which to me seemed increasingly natural, as they were nothing more than a sign of a biology’s prodigious imagination, which it activates from time to time in order to test its creative powers, the following creatures, as I was saying, made their entrance bonily, sleepily, estivatively ; nothing that was going on there was unnatural, and even less so was it surreal or frightening, everything I saw seemed to me necessary, it was good that it be that way, and in the instant when the light too began to be transformed and somewhere on the horizon the outlines of the dead appeared, Valică, Terente, Histrion, Ionel, Profira, Nazarina, Cireșica, Ortensia, coming out of death, probably through a fissure in the sky, I was convinced that I had not fallen victim to some strange eidetism, or to a fit of paramnesia, when, all of a sudden, I understood that everything I was seeing I had seen once before ; the memory was clear, and the world that displayed itself to me was the true blank world, presented as a whole and all at once ; you will say that it was an obvious case of anamnesis, that I confirm and perhaps justify Plato ;  !oh, no, I was not in a pure, cold world of ideas, but in the midst of creatures and things, experiencing to the full the joy of being with them and being like unto them ;
I had a memory of a kind of paradise, mine alone, an esidarap, to distinguish it from others’ paradises ;

frère Mallarmé, as I was saying, in the instant when the jaco head on the stepper trunk cried at the top of its voice :  !cock a doodle doo,  !cock a doodle doo, Salome’s speed of transformation began to slacken ; it was also then that the light itself began to be transformed ; first it fluttered, rippling like a curtain hanging from the sky, its folds creating impressive plays of darkness, it rolled wavelets, like a heaving sea, which, crashing to the ground, recoiled and then unravelled, shattered into strips, the upper air was an agglomeration of dresses, shawls, scarves, lacework, soon decoagulating, finally fraying, the flecks of light around them causing all kinds of things and creatures to appear, in endless pullulation, white dryads, dunnocks, apions, sheep keds, perfumed quinces, rock roses with smiling flowers, niveoles, all kinds of babioles, even falbales and dinanderies ; and even letters large and small feeding words, words feeding sentences, such as the one I am now uttering, which I saw there then ; I was living in the midst of a miracle, part of it, along with all the creatures and things, which were clamped like laundry in invisible pegs, clamped by the circuits of a pure and infinite emption, which caused misology to flower in the soul ; unexpectedly, the light reverted to its initial state, as Salome made her final transformation ; in front of me, sitting on its hind legs, its forelegs and head raised toward me, was a mouse ; I recognised it immediately and I was filled with indescribable joy : it was Mefi, Grigore’s Mefi, about whom I shall tell you another time ;
Mefi smiled, then with a commanding voice, he demanded that I enlarge the breast pocket of my jacket,  ?what, do you think I’m going to sit here arse naked in front of you for much longer ; he took a leap and vanished inside the pocket ;
there, in the depths of the sky, it seemed to me that the two suns were laughing too ;


Translated by Alistair Ian Blyth


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