Wednesday, 3 February 2016

...of the impossible

The games never end. Every second the wind shifts a blade of grass or the sea breaks on a crumbling rock and something in the world has changed. Everywhere, underfoot, overhead, to the left, to the right, on front, behind, the world seethes and swarms untiringly. Molecules move, microscopic particles jump nervously, waves come and go, meet, collide, part. There’s no peace anywhere. Nowhere any immobility or silence. Everywhere agitation, a kind of precise and mechanical madness. There’s no escaping the world, no thinking about something else instead. They’re ants, as I said, real ants imprisoned in their garden. Living inside their miniature world, dupers and dupes, without the power to withdraw, without the power to choose. They have words and signs for all the things around them, and a sort of thought to give them the illusion of being free. It’s really very funny. And not one of them can ever imagine what there is anywhere else, not one of them can ever imagine what there is anywhere else, what extraordinary or sweet or terrible things there are just a few yards away. Not one of them will know what it is to be a jelly-fish for example, or an olive-tree with trembling leaves. Not one will have the least idea of what life is like on that grey planet only a few million light-years away. There on the the other side of infinity there may be a world just like this one only as if reflected in an enormous mirror: a world where light is black and ants are white and the earth is soft and the sea hard as a slab of marble. A world where the sun is a sooty dot in the sky and volcanoes belch torrents of muddy ice. A world in which you start dying and end by being born, with the clock-hands all turning frantically backwards. And somewhere in the middle of a big town built downwards into the earth there lives a man perhaps with eyes that look inwards into his head. And perhaps this man has a strange name that can only be said by stopping speaking. Edalecnahc.
But all that was impossible to imagine. It was as if there was nothing anywhere but silence, a dreadful cruel silence through which lightly floated bubbles of sound and life. There was really nothing to be hoped for outside that place, that time, that destiny. One would never penetrate the defences of the unknown, never get away from this old earth. Everything there was was there. You had to play and move about and think without stopping, with all your delirious and contradictory powers. You had to go on with the adventure once begun, without wanting to, torn to pieces by doing so. You had to give each thing its name, and sign each move and event with all the hatred and all the love you were capable of.

[Terra Amata, Le Cl├ęzio, J. M. G.]

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