Some borrowed questions
There are thirteen versions of every story.
Eleven, of course, will be totally false.
The twelfth, simply untrue.
So tomorrow at the latest I’ll start working on a great book.
In which our century will appear as it really is.
As you know, our century was going to improve on the others.
It will never prove it now.
Too many things have happened, that weren’t supposed to happen, and what was supposed to come about, has not.
I will tell you a strange thing:
Yesterday at a gathering, close to the grandstand,
I saw a farm lady scared by a blown piece of paper.
Tell me if I am right:
these are the things we thought we were doing something about.
We can go further back.
There was a man who lived in Jerusalem.
Christ was led past his house.
He saw and heard everything,
but at the time he was suffering from a toothache.
Right before his eyes, Christ stumbled and fell
as He carried the Cross.
The man saw everything, but he had a toothache
and didn’t run out into the street.
A couple of days later, when his tooth had stopped hurting,
he was told how Christ had been raised from the dead.
That’s when he realised,
‘I could have been a witness, but I had a toothache.’
Is that how it always has to be?
It is naïve but let me put it in these terms:
A certain country freed itself from one evil.
I wish another liberation would follow.
Could I help in this? I don’t know.
What you have heard is true.
The history of my stupidity would fill many volumes.
I consume the labour of others and at night pray that I don’t die suddenly. Thankfully, the history of my stupidity will not be written.
For one thing, it’s late.
And the truth is laborious.
I do have a special notebook.
I started keeping notes in it from the early days.
I recorded conversations, rumours, jokes in it.
That’s the most interesting and authentic thing of all.
An accurate impression.
What do we have left of the ancient Greeks?
You will probably tell me how you have executed
a monument more lasting than bronze;
but even bronze is perishable.
Your best poem, you know the one I mean,
the very language in which the poem was written,
and the idea of language,
all these things will pass away in time.
“How should we live?” someone asked me in a letter.
I had meant to ask him the same question.
Again, and as ever, the most pressing questions are naïve ones.
I’ve got a question too. Something I can’t really answer myself. Remember War and Peace?
After the war, Pierre Bezukhov is so shaken
that he feels he and the whole world can never be the same.
But, soon enough, he catches himself slipping back into his old ways: having a go at the coachman, grumbling and growling.
So why do people remember things?
Is it to get at the truth?
For the sake of justice?
To let go and forget?
Because they realise they were part of some monumental event? Or are they taking refuge in the past?
Did you know? The smallest muscle in the human body is in the ear. It is also the only muscle that does not have blood vessels;
it has fluid instead. The reason for this is clear:
The ear is so sensitive that the body, if it heard its own pulse,
would be devastated by the amplification of its own sound.
In this knowledge I sense a great metaphor.
But I do not want to be hasty in trying to capture or describe it.
Words are our weakest hold on the world.
I haven’t told you anything really.
Just some fragments.