The Street of Crocodiles

MY FATHER kept in the lower drawer of his large desk an old and beautiful map of our city. It was a whole folio sheaf of parchment pages which, originally fastened with strips of linen, formed an enormous wall map, a bird’s eye panorama.

Będziemy wiecznie żałowali, żeśmy wtedy wyszli na chwilę z magazynu konfekcji podejrzanej konduity. Nigdy nie trafimy już doń z powrotem. Będziemy błądzili od szyldu do szyldu i mylili się setki razy. Zwiedzimy dziesiątki magazynów, trafimy do całkiem podobnych, będziemy wędrowali przez szpalery książek, wertowali czasopisma i druki, konferowali długo i zawile z panienkami o nadmiernym pigmencie i skażonej piękności, które nie potrafią zrozumieć naszych życzeń.

Będziemy się wikłali w nieporozumienia, aż cała nasza gorączka i podniecenie ulotni się w niepotrzebnym wysiłku, w straconej na próżno gonitwie.

Nasze nadzieje były nieporozumieniem, dwuznaczny wygląd lokalu i służby — pozorem, konfekcja była prawdziwą konfekcją, a subiekt nie miał żadnych ukrytych intencji. Świat kobiecy ulicy Krokodylej odznacza się całkiem miernym zepsuciem, zagłuszonym grubymi warstwami przesądów moralnych i banalnych pospolitości. W tym mieście taniego materiału ludzkiego brak także wybujałości instynktu, brak niezwykłych i ciemnych namiętności.

Ulica Krokodyli była koncesją naszego miasta na rzecz nowoczesności i zepsucia wielkomiejskiego. Widocznie nie stać nas było na nic innego, jak na papierową imitację, jak na fotomontaż złożony z wycinków zleżałych, zeszłorocznych gazet.

Hung on the wall, the map covered it almost entirely and opened a wide view on the valley of the River Tysmienica which wound itself like a wavy ribbon of pale gold, on the maze of widely spreading ponds and marshes, on the high ground rising towards the south, gently at first, then in ever tighter ranges, in a chessboard of rounded hills, smaller and paler as they receded towards the misty yellow fog of the horizon. From that faded distance of the periphery, the city rose and grew towards the centre of the map, an undifferentiated mass at first, a dense complex of blocks and houses, cut by deep canyons of streets, to become on the first plan a group of single houses, etched with the sharp clarity of a landscape seen through binoculars. In that section of the map, the engraver concentrated on the complicated and manifold profusion of streets and alleyways, the sharp lines of cornices, architraves, archivolts and pilasters, lit by the dark gold of a late and cloudy afternoon which steeped all corners and recesses in the deep sepia of shade. The solids and prisms of that shade darkly honeycombed the ravines of streets, drowning in a warm colour here half a street, there a gap between houses. They dramatized and orchestrated in a bleak romantic chiaroscuro the complex architectural polyphony.

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Little Sleep’s-Head




You scream, waking from a nightmare.

When I sleepwalk
into your room, and pick you up,
and hold you up in the moonlight, you cling to me
as if clinging could save us. I think
you think
I will never die, I think I exude
to you the permanence of smoke or stars,
even as
my broken arms heal themselves around you.

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The Ghost’s Leavetaking


Enter the chilly no-man’s land of about
Five o’clock in the morning, the no-color void
Where the waking head rubbishes out the draggled lot
Of sulfurous dreamscapes and obscure lunar conundrums
Which seemed, when dreamed, to mean so profoundly much,

Gets ready to face the ready-made creation
Of chairs and bureaus and sleep-twisted sheets.
This is the kingdom of the fading apparition,
The oracular ghost who dwindles on pin-legs
To a knot of laundry, with a classic bunch of sheets

Upraised, as a hand, emblematic of farewell.
At this joint between two worlds and two entirely
Incompatible modes of time, the raw material
Of our meat-and-potato thoughts assumes the nimbus
Of ambrosial revelation. And so departs.

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Jorge Luis Borges

The Library of Babel
Library of Babel

The Universe, which others call the Library, is composed of an indefinite, perhaps infinite number of hexagonal galleries. In the center of each gallery is a ventilation shaft, bounded by a low railing. From any hexagon one can see the floors above and below—one after another, endlessly. The arrangement of the galleries is always the same: Twenty bookshelves, five to each side, line four of the hexagon’s six sides; the height of the bookshelves, floor to ceiling, is hardly greater than the height of a normal librarian.

One of the hexagon’s free sides opens onto a narrow sort of vestibule, which in turn opens onto another gallery, identical to the first— identical in fact to all. To the left and right of the vestibule are two tiny compartments. One is for sleeping, upright; the other, for satisfying one’s physical necessities. Through this space, too, there passes a spiral staircase, which winds upward and downward into the remotest distance. In the vestibule there is a mirror, which faithfully duplicates appearances. Men often infer from this mirror that the Library is not infinite—if it were, what need would there be for that illusory replication? I prefer to dream that burnished surfaces are a figuration and promise of the infinite…. Light is provided by certain spherical fruits that bear the name “bulbs.” There are two of these bulbs in each hexagon, set crosswise. The light they give is insufficient, and unceasing.

Like all the men of the Library, in my younger days I traveled; I have journeyed in quest of a book, perhaps the catalog of catalogs. Now that my eyes can hardly make out what I myself have written, I am preparing to die, a few leagues from the hexagon where I was born. When I am dead, compassionate hands will throw me over the railing; my tomb will be the unfathomable air, my body will sink for ages, and will decay and dissolve in the wind engendered by my fall, which shall be infinite. I declare that the library is endless. Idealists argue that the hexagonal rooms are the necessary shape of absolute space, or at least of our perception of space. They argue that a triangular or pentagonal chamber is inconceivable.

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Later on, the pages of days turned emptily

The Comet

In the dark apartment my father alone was awake, wandering silently through the rooms filled with the sing-song of sleep. Sometimes he opened the door of the flue and looked grinning into its dark abyss, where a smiling Homunculus slept for ever its luminous sleep, enclosed in a glass capsule, bathed in fluorescent light, already adjudged, erased, filed away, another record card in the immense archives of the sky.

Schulz 1921

THAT YEAR the end of the winter stood under the sign of particularly favorable astronomical aspects. The predictions in the calendar flourished in red in the snowy margins of the mornings. The brighter red of Sundays and Holy days cast its reflection on half the week and these weekdays burned coldly, with a freak, rapid flame. Human hearts beat more quickly for a moment, misled and blinded by the redness, which, in fact, announced nothing, being merely a premature alert, a colorful lie of the calendar, painted in bright cinnabar on the jacket of the week. From Twelfth Night onwards, we sat night after night over the white parade-ground of the table gleaming with candlesticks and silver, and played endless games of patience. Every hour, the night beyond the windows became lighter, sugarcoated and shiny, filled with sprouting almonds and sweetmeats. The moon, that most inventive transmogrifier, wholly engrossed in her lunar practices, accomplished her successive phases and grew ever brighter and brighter. Already by day, the moon stood in the wings, prematurely ready for her cue, brassy and lustreless. Meanwhile whole flocks of feather clouds passed like sheep across her profile on their silent white extensive wandering, barely covering her with the shimmering mother-of-pearl scales into which the firmament froze towards the evening.

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We, Mirrorlike point of the pavement

Twenty-second Entry


Congealed Waves – Everything Is Being Perfected – I Am a Microbe

The building of the Integral will be completed in one hundred and twenty days. The great historic hour when the first Integral will soar into cosmic space is drawing near. One thousand years ago your heroic ancestors subdued the entire terrestrial globe to the power of the One State. Yours will be a still more glorious feat: you will integrate the infinite equation of the universe with the aid of the fire-breathing, electric, glass Integral. You will subjugate the unknown beings on other planets, who may still be living in the primitive condition of freedom, to the beneficent yoke of reason.

Через 120 дней заканчивается постройка ИНТЕГРАЛА. Близок великий, исторический час, когда первый ИНТЕГРАЛ взовьется в мировое пространство. Тысячу лет тому назад ваши героические предки покорили власти Единого Государства весь земной шар. Вам предстоит еще более славный подвиг: стеклянным, электрическим, огнедышащим ИНТЕГРАЛОМ проинтегрировать бесконечное уравнение Вселенной. Вам предстоит благодетельному игу разума подчинить неведомые существа, обитающие на иных планетах — быть может, еще в диком состоянии свободы. Если они не поймут, что мы несем им математически безошибочное счастье, наш долг заставить их быть счастливыми. Но прежде оружия мы испытаем слово.


Imagine yourself standing on the shore: the waves rise rhythmically, then, having risen, suddenly remain there— frozen, congealed. It seemed just as eerie and unnatural when our daily walk, prescribed by the Table of Hours, suddenly halted midway, and everyone was thrown into confusion. The last time something similar happened, according to our annals, was 119 years ago, when a meteorite dropped, smoking and whistling, right into the thick of the marching rows.

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Charmed into a minor key

Charmed into a minor key

Or quand le pianiste eut joué, Swann fut plus aimable encore avec lui qu’avec les autres personnes qui se trouvaient là. Voici pourquoi :

After the pianist had played, Swann felt and shewed more interest in him than in any of the other guests, for the following reason:

L’année précédente, dans une soirée, il avait entendu une œuvre musicale exécutée au piano et au violon. D’abord, il n’avait goûté que la qualité matérielle des sons sécrétés par les instruments. Et ç’avait déjà été un grand plaisir quand au-dessous de la petite ligne du violon mince, résistante, dense et directrice, il avait vu tout d’un coup chercher à s’élever en un clapotement liquide, la masse de la partie de piano, multiforme, indivise, plane et entrechoquée comme la mauve agitation des flots que charme et bémolise le clair de lune. Mais à un moment donné, sans pouvoir nettement distinguer un contour, donner un nom à ce qui lui plaisait, charmé tout d’un coup, il avait cherché à recueillir la phrase ou l’harmonie — il ne savait lui-même — qui passait et lui avait ouvert plus largement l’âme, comme certaines odeurs de roses circulant dans l’air humide du soir ont la propriété de dilater nos narines. Peut-être est-ce parce qu’il ne savait pas la musique qu’il avait pu éprouver une impression aussi confuse, une de ces impressions qui sont peut-être pourtant les seules purement musicales, inétendues, entièrement originales, irréductibles à tout autre ordre d’impressions. Une impression de ce genre, pendant un instant, est pour ainsi dire sine materia. Sans doute les notes que nous entendons alors tendent déjà, selon leur hauteur et leur quantité, à couvrir devant nos yeux des surfaces de dimensions variées, à tracer des arabesques, à nous donner des sensations de largeur, de ténuité, de stabilité, de caprice. Mais les notes sont évanouies avant que ces sensations soient assez formées en nous pour ne pas être submergées par celles qu’éveillent déjà les notes suivantes ou même simultanées. Et cette impression continuerait à envelopper de sa liquidité et de son « fondu » les motifs qui par instants en émergent, à peine discernables, pour plonger aussitôt et disparaître, connus seulement par le plaisir particulier qu’ils donnent, impossibles à décrire, à se rappeler, à nommer, ineffables — si la mémoire, comme un ouvrier qui travaille à établir des fondations durables au milieu des flots, en fabriquant pour nous des fac-similés de ces phrases fugitives, ne nous permettait de les comparer à celles qui leur succèdent et de les différencier. Ainsi à peine la sensation délicieuse que Swann avait ressentie était-elle expirée, que sa mémoire lui en avait fourni séance tenante une transcription sommaire et provisoire, mais sur laquelle il avait jeté les yeux tandis que le morceau continuait, si bien que, quand la même impression était tout d’un coup revenue, elle n’était déjà plus insaisissable. Il s’en représentait l’étendue, les groupements symétriques, la graphie, la valeur expressive ; il avait devant lui cette chose qui n’est plus de la musique pure, qui est du dessin, de l’architecture, de la pensée, et qui permet de se rappeler la musique. Cette fois il avait distingué nettement une phrase s’élevant pendant quelques instants au-dessus des ondes sonores. Elle lui avait proposé aussitôt des voluptés particulières, dont il n’avait jamais eu l’idée avant de l’entendre, dont il sentait que rien autre qu’elle ne pourrait les lui faire connaître, et il avait éprouvé pour elle comme un amour inconnu.

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