Reading Zettel’s Traum: Week 21, pp. 221-240

When Franziska notices a scar on Daniel’s finger and asks him about it, the man recollects how he cut it. It turns out that Pagenstecher remembers the exact date of injuring his finger.

The company is reunited when Daniel and Franziska meet again Wilma and Paul. We learn from Pagenstecher that Freud was an enthusiastic mushroom picker. Wilma delivers another rant against the etym theory, to which Daniel calmly replies that it is in many respects similar to atomic energy: those who possess etyms are masters of the world of words. Immediately after this exchange, Pagenstecher reveals to Wilma, with the usual recourse to etym-analysis, that the town of Görlitz is, in fact, a “girl town”(Mädchenstadt) because its name gives us “girl it’s”.

Wilma, obviously tired of Pagenstecher finding everywhere some hidden erotic symbolism challenges him by reading out loud a passage from Landor’s Cottage in which “a grapevine of unexampled luxuriance” is described. Will he able to find anything here? Of course he will! First of all, Daniel requires his audience to distinguish between the static plant symbols (trees) and the dynamic ones (grapevine, ivy, and any creeper in general). In order to tackle the latter, Pagenstecher resorts to Die Efeuranke (The Ivy Tendril) a poem by Trieste-borne German-language poet Theodor Däubler. The poem is about an ivy climbing the marble balcony of a Gothic palace. It is compared to a spy seeking revenge. Its growing process seems to be dictated by the wish to find out who is living in the palace. Suddenly, a woman appears behind the window awash in moonlight, and it is made clear that the creeper has a long way to grow to learn all the mysteries of this place. For Pagenstecher it is obvious that we are dealing with another image of a voyeur here. Moreover,  the ivy’s “desire for revenge” (Rachewunsch) leads us to (Vulvs)=Rache(literally “wolf’s mouth”), that is, to the maw of the vulva. The grapevine in Landor’s Cottage is even more active and ambitious in its climbing, reaching the gable of the house, which is not surprising as etym analysis of  “grapevine” gives us “grab” + “rape” and vaina, the Spanish for “sheath” derived from the Latin vagina. (The second meaning of Scheide, the German word for a sheath,  is “vagina”).

The notion of the landscape as the human body is  further elaborated when Daniel goes on to show that the grass and moss in Poe’s texts symbolise nothing other than pubic hair. He focuses on the words “grass”, “green”, and “velvet”. The latter one is important because on many occasions Poe compares vegetation to this fabric. In a brief digression Pagenstecher elucidates the phenomenon of pubic hair as a sex relic, referring to different cultures in which it is used in gifts and souvenirs.

Using the white wolf mentioned in Rodman as a starting point, Daniel delves deeper in the etym-induced equation of “wolf” with “vulv[a]”. After that, the phallic aspect of tree symbolism is further mined: might there be a correspondence between the Latin lignum and the Sanskrit lingam? and what should one make of “sultan-like pines” in Poe’s Tamerlane if not  “sultanic penises”? There is a lot to be discovered in POE=tree.

Pagenstecher comes up with his own vision of different periods in man’s life that are, predictably enough, language related. The first period is the time when a baby acquires a language. The second period is that of adolescence when the body is formed and a foreign language is learnt. The third stage is when a person is around 50 when the body starts to disintegrate and etyms are discovered.

When Daniel is talking to Franziska about the early flag of the American revolution, described by James Fenimore Cooper in History of the Navy as “a device representing a pine tree, with a rattlesnake, about to strike, coiled at its root, with the motto, ” Don’t tread on me”, Paul, who has been taken short, asks him under his breath if he has any toilet paper. It turns out that Pagenstecher does. As it is evident that Paul will not be able to sustain his polykorpie (excrement abundance) for long, the discussants leave him behind to tend to his business. Just like Joyce in Ulysses, Arno Schmidt does not shy away from a moment of comical scatology.

Daniel and Franziska discuss the animals in Julius Rodman. Pagenstecher places the image of the antelope caught by the trappers within a larger cultural context that ascribes deer imagery to female beauty. Franziska wonders about the omnipresence of beavers in the novel: they are hunted both for their pelts and meat. Daniel explains to the girl the meaning of the expression bonne bouche (a choice morsel), which iapplied to the beaver meat, following up his explanation with etym-analysis of this French borrowing.

to be continued

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Reading Zettel’s Traum: Week 20, pp. 201-220

Etym-analysis of “cypress” is followed by a more general examination of bushes, shrubbery and trees in Poe’s works.  Three types of etyms are distinguished: universal, which are common to the whole humankind;  generational, which are bound to a particular time-period, and individual, unique to each person. The etyms belonging to the latter type are considered the most toxic and the most difficult to recognise.

Some of the specific trees that are discussed are the willow, the tamarind, and the sycamore. Pagenstecher also touches upon the motif of bleeding and talking trees in the works by Virgil, Tasso, and Spencer, which adds an element of luridness to the discussion. In Book III of The Aeneid, when Aeneas starts tearing at the branches of a tree, he sees blood and hears the voice of Polydorus, the son of Priam killed by the Thracian king. In Book XIII of Jerusalem Delivered, when Tancred stabs a tree in an enchanted forest, the wounded tree starts talking, and the hero realises that it contains the spirit of his lover Clorinda. In Spencer’s The Faerie Queene, the Redcrosse Knight breaks off a branch of a tree that also begins dripping blood and speaking in a human voice, revealing itself to be a young knight called Fradubio who, along with his wife Fraelissa, fell prey to the spells of an evil witch.

Pagenstecher briefly looks at E.T.A. Hoffman’s last novel Master Flea with its rich botanical symbolism. Wilma and Franziska regain their human form and step out of the undergrowth to join the conversation whose next big topic is the relation between trees and voyeurism. The main trigger of the ensuing discussion is the description of the pear tree in Landor’s Cottage.  The said tree grows near the cottage and is an ideal vantage point for spying  should one fancy climbing  it to find out what is going on inside the house. Referring to the fact that the Latin for “pear” is “pirus”, Daniel comes up with the etym “peer-tree” or, in other words, a tree for spying. The voyeur’s recourse to trees or bushes for concealment is a wide-spread phenomenon. A typical example is the main character of  Joseph von Eichendorff’s Memoirs of a Good-for-Nothing spying on the girl he is in love with:

Right in front of the palace, just below the windows of my lovely lady’s room, stood a flowering shrub. Here I used to conceal myself each morning, looking up from between the branches, for I was afraid to show myself openly. And each day I watched her appear at the open window in her snow-white robe, still flushed and not yet fully awake.

When the conversation returns to Landor’s Cottage, Pagenstecher methodically etym-analyses the names of the four bird species singing in wicker cages suspended from the “fantastic pear-tree”: the mocking bird, the oriole, the bobolink, and the canary.

Upon Wilma’s suggestion, the company breaks up into two parties that go mushroom-picking. Wilma goes together with Paul, and Pagenstecher with Franziska. We follow the latter pair, and it is obvious that there is sexual tension between the two. When Franziska puts her hand on the older man’s  elbow, he experiences a “little happy torment”. Their flirting and bantering is, of course, replete with play on words, which is more than often downright obscene. For example, when Daniel tells Franziska to listen more carefully, the trite expression “Sperr mal die Ohren auf!” (literally: “open up the ears”) comes out as “Sperma die Ohrn auf“. The seemingly innocent sentence “she had today more tricks than back in the days” brings to mind the registered prostitute of ancient Rome (i.e. “meretrix”) “Sie hatte heute Mehr=Thrix als damals”. Pagenstecher is very frank, if jokingly self-deprecating, about what is going on, telling Franziska at some point that although it is very kind of her to flirt with him, he is nothing but another “living corpse” (Lebnder Leichnam), and  that if she really would like to derive some benefit from him, she should talk with him about literature.

As they continue chatting and looking for mushrooms, suddenly, Franziska experiences a strong feeling of déjà vu: she thinks she has already been to that place and has already seen the juniper tree before her. She tells Pagenstecher about this, and he confirms Franziska’s suspicions reminding her that she was a guest at his house eight years before. Her parents went to Scotland and left their daughter with him. She remembers that much, but somehow she has completely forgotten the juniper tree and that particular place which, as it turns out, she visited with him as a child.  They start recollecting more details of that stay, especially all the games they played, as, in Daniel’s words, most of the time he performed the duty of the majordomo of her toy world. It is left for the reader to wonder how Franziska’s parents could hand over their eight-year daughter to that creep.

to be continued

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Reading Zettel’s Traum: Week 19, pp. 184-200

As you might have heard, John E. Woods’ translation of Zettel’s Traum is finally available for pre-order. So, let me continue with my slow and patient reading of the book amid the cries of jubilation reverberating throughout  the ranks of Arno Schmidt’s English language readership.

The theme of magic transformation is further explored. This time the metamorphosis concerns human beings and plants. After some speculation around the fascinating topic of nesology (study if islands) and the closer look at the landscape depicted by Poe in Rodman, Pagenstecher introduces the Jacobis to Ludvig Holberg’s 18th century science fiction satire Niels Klim’s Journey to the World Underground .  If you have ever wondered about the origin of the bizarre anthropomorphic tree portrayed on the cover of the typescript edition of Zettel’s Traum, then here is the answer: it is one of the creatures living in a country called Potu on planet Nazar, which is situated in the Underground World that the title character of Holberg’s book discovers by chance.

ZTCover

Pagenstecher notes that transformation of a human being into a plant is a very old and widespread phenomenon in literature and myths; so old, in fact, that even Ovid can be considered a latecomer to the subject matter. Language itself reflects this ancient relation between humans and flora: for example the German for “procreate” is sich fortpflanzen, where “pflanzen” literally means “to plant”.  According to Daniel, Poe’s Rodman is one of the foundation fathers of the “metamorphotic” (spelled as Metamorvotik), comparable only to Ovid, Niels Klim, Darwin and Erasmus. His interest aroused, Paul wants to learn more about Niels Klim.

In the quotation that follows the traveller disembarks on the shores of Music Land where he meets another fantastic species: half-humans, half-bass violins. In compliance with the local laws, if any of them is found guilty of a misdeed, their bow is taken away, which is tantamount to death penalty.  What do these animated stringed instruments have to do with Edgar Alan Poe? Pagenstecher, for whom nothing is ever far-fetched, draws a parallel between these creatures and Angel Israfel (“whose heart-strings are a lute”) from Poe’s well-known poem.

Daniel is certain that Poe read Niels Kim not only because the book was easily available at the time, but also because  he, as many DPs (Writers-Priests) was fascinated by the like utopias. Another passage from Holberg’s book offered by Pagenstecher recounts the mores of the land of Cocklecu in which gender roles are reversed: the men do all the household chores, whereas the women rule the country. What is more, it is women who woo males, write them love letters and shower them with gifts. In addition, Pagenstecher tells the Jacobis about the already mentioned tree-men from Potu and the denizens of Pyglossia who have no mouths and communicate through their backsides, which subjects those who talk with them to wicked stench. The latter made me think of the man who taught his asshole to talk from William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch.

Pagenstecher seizes the opportunity to examine the principles of the rebus once the concept is inadvertently introduced into the discussion by Paul (who merely says “Rebus sic stantibus”, i. e. “in these circumstances”). For Daniel rebuses are similar to the unconscious which makes itself manifest in pictures that patients see in their dreams. Just like rebuses, these unconscious tableaux  have to be deciphered and verbalized by the psychoanalyst in order to be properly understood. Pagenstecher offers some French language rebuses for his audience to solve. These include pictures and letters. Here is a very simple one (if you know French, you will guess it):  G a   No? OK, literally it’s  Gé grand, A petit! (big ‘G’, small ‘a’), but it also sounds like  j’ai grand appétit (I am very hungry). Purportedly it was Voltaire’s reply to Frederick the Great’s similar rebus-like offer to have dinner at Sanssouci Palace. Despite his obsession with the hidden meanings and the secrets of the unconscious, Pagenstecher denies Wilma’s accusation to the effect that he reduces Poe’s tales to mere verbal rebuses that had “escaped” the author’s unconscious. That would be a one-sided and simplistic approach which does not fully correspond to his methodology.

More literary texts depicting humans metamorphosing into plants are examined. This one is from Lucian’s True History, which is considered to be one of the earliest examples of science fiction:

A Snare of Vintage_ for Lucian_s True History

Aubrey Beardsley, A Snare of Vintage, for Lucian’s True History Image Source.

We now crossed the river by a ford, and came to some vines of a most extraordinary kind. Out of the ground came a thick well-grown stem; but the upper part was a woman, complete from the loins upward. They were like our painters’ representations of Daphne in the act of turning into a tree just as Apollo overtakes her. From the finger-tips sprang vine twigs, all loaded with grapes; the hair of their heads was tendrils, leaves, and grape-clusters. They greeted us and welcomed our approach, talking Lydian, Indian, and Greek, most of them the last. They went so far as to kiss us on the mouth; and whoever was kissed staggered like a drunken man. But they would not permit us to pluck their fruit, meeting the attempt with cries of pain. Some of them made further amorous advances; and two of my comrades who yielded to these solicitations found it impossible to extricate themselves again from their embraces; the man became one plant with the vine, striking root beside it; his fingers turned to vine twigs, the tendrils were all round him, and embryo grape-clusters were already visible on him.

After all the talk about magic transformations described in literature it is high time something similar happened to the discussants themselves, and it does: Franzisca and Wilma are turned into miniature trees. The metamorphosis is narrated in two parallel columns. If you remember, it is already a second manifestation of magic in Zettel’s Traum. We encountered the first one a bit earlier when the ladies  turned into horses.

After another brief foray into the text of Rodman reflecting some of Pagenstecher’s preoccupations with the symbiosis of humans and plants (i. e. “we saw here an immense & magnificent cuntree…),  Daniel draws the attention of his audience to a modern literary work dealing with a similar subject, namely Ernst Wilhelm Eschmann’s 1957 novel Die Tanne (The Fir-Tree). The novel tells the story of one Philip Meller, who after being rejected by a girl finds consolation in a friendship with a fir. He comes to understand the language of the tree; she reveals to him various secrets about the world of plants and even falls in love with him. According to Daniel, the story is a typical case of dendrophilia.

to be continued

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The Great Untranslated: Volter Kilpi’s Alastalon Salissa

AlastalonIf you are the kind of person who would find fascinating a 70-page account of a character walking across the room to choose a pipe from the mantelpiece, then Volter Kilpi’s novel Alastalon Salissa (In Alastalo’s Parlour)  is up your alley. The book was published in 1933 and forever changed the landscape of Finnish literature, as the modernist techniques employed by Kilpi allowed him to demonstrate to a stunning effect the creative potential of the Finnish language. The two volumes of Kilpi’s novel amounting to 900 pages of dense experimental writing narrate just six hours from the life of well-off dwellers of an island parish who have gathered in Alastalo’s parlour of the title to negotiate the building of a barque. The paucity of action is overcompensated by detailed overlong descriptions, the disjointed interior monologues of the characters, the use of dialect and linguistic innovations. The novel has been deservedly compared to Ulysses and In Search of Lost Time, although, as Kilpi’s knowledge of English was not sufficient to read Joyce’s masterpiece, it is more appropriate to talk about the artistic affinities between the two authors than about one’s direct influence on the other.

DieAlbatrosAlthough most of the novel consists of the verbalised thought processes of the participants of the meeting and the meticulous descriptions of the setting, there are also more conventional narratives appearing in the text as set pieces. One such story is about Ville from Vaasa, an accountant who runs into debt to fulfill his dream of building his own ship and sending it to Brazil to bring back a load of coffee beans. This story has been translated into German as Die Albatros.

Despite the obvious challenges of translating this modernist classic, the complete translation of Alastalon Salissa into Swedish saw light in 1997. The gargantuan task was undertaken by Thomas Warburton who had previously translated Joyce’s Ulysses, and, as of now, it is the only complete translation of Volter Kilpi’s novel into any language. As for the prospects of seeing an English translation, there is little to be optimistic about. Only a short passage from the novel has been Englished and made available in the now extinct journal Books from Finland. The first sentence of the translator’s letter to the editors says it all: “Reluctantly (I really have tried) I have been driven to conclude that Alastalon salissa is untranslatable, except perhaps by a fanatical Volter Kilpi enthusiast who is prepared to devote a lifetime to it.” (You can read the rest of it as well as the translated excerpt here.) Of course, it is an assessment of just one translator, and who knows, maybe there will appear a daredevil who will be self-confident enough to shoulder this daunting task.

In case I have sparked your interest and you would like to learn more about Volter Kilpi and his monumental novel, without further ado, I’m redirecting you to Kai Latinen’s informative article (also from the defunct Books from Finland) with the dispiriting title On Not Translating Volter Kilpi. 

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Reading Zettel’s Traum: Week 18, pp. 172-183

Pagenstecher brings up Spencer again, but this time it is his lesser known poem Muiopotmos, or the Fate of the Butterfly. Its subject is the death of the heroic butterfly Clarion in the battle with the spider Aragnol.

Everything is important when it comes to looking beneath the surface and reading between the lines. We’re already used to the most bizarre etym-connections dug up by the indefatigable Pagenstecher. Now he goes beyond the word, drawing the attention of his audience to some elements of punctuation which can be as pregnant with meaning as the text itself. The dashes so abundantly used by Poe, according to Daniel, stand for lechery (Lüsternheit). In his own words, they are “typo(e)graphic signs for lechery seams in the word cladding”. He even goes as far as calculating the ratio of dashes to lines in the given Poe text with the results summarised in a table.

Paul and Daniel spy on two lovers getting it on in the underbrush. For each lover there is a separate column of text. This is perhaps  the most cryptic description of copulation you will ever read. Some of the metaphors are borrowed from land surveying so admired by Arno Schmidt. As expected, there is no lack of naughty puns like “Now do your Wurst”.

The discussion returns to the subject of Poe’s unfinished novel Julius Rodman. Wilma is still stunned by the fact that Pagenstecher holds in such high regard this “poorly patched together prose-cento”. (I have to admit that I personally agree with Wilma on this, as reading Julius Rodman proved to be one of the least pleasant experience to me.) Among the drawbacks of this text the woman points out the lack of composition and the author’s negligence of artistic means. It is no surpirse that Pagenstecher has a lot to say in defence of the novel; he particularly stresses the fact that Poe is not really guided here by the intention of creating a smooth, coherent, well-structured text, as his main concern is constructing a “settlement territory” (Ansiedlungsgebiet) for concealing all matters sexual. In other words, the true value of Julius Rodman is in the abundance of secret messages subconsciously encrypted in it by Poe.

Wilma finds this explanation rather disappointing, saying bitterly that if one follows Pagenstecher’s reasoning then one has to accept that the discovery of the Rocky Mountains, the main theme of the novel, is just a pretext for symbolical depiction of the unconscious, the sexual drive “on the plane” of the Extended Mind Game (Längere Gedankenspiel or LG). The latter term is quite often used not only throughout Zettel’s Traum, but also in Arno Schmidt’s theoretical writing, and therefore requires some explication. This is how this term is explained by Volker Langbehn in his study Arno Schmidt’s Zettel’s Traum:

To provide an accurate way of describing our experience and perception of reality Schmidt proposes three modes of consciousness and cognition: the process of recollection, the process of recollecting the most recent past. and the Extended Mind Game. […]

In contrast to the process of recollection, the Extended Mind Game requires two levels of experience, the level of objective reality (the actual experience of events or E I), and the level of subjective reality (the level of imagined events, which is the actual mind game, or E II). Dreams also make this distinction, but dreamed events, according to Schmidt, are experienced passively, whereas with the Extended Mind Game, the individual is much more in control, and selective. The Extended Mind Game functions partly as the conscious object of the narrator of the text.

Perimele

Perimele Acheloo amata in insulam. Copperplate by Johann Wilhelm Baur. Image Source.

A long description of the island in Julius Rodman follows. Pagenstecher views it as a staggering achievement, a vivid example of symbolical representation of sexuality. In the right-hand column, parallel to the respective quotation, there is an excerpt from Ovid’s Metamorphoses in which nymph Perimele is transformed by Poseidon into an island.  The indispensable etym-analysis of the word “island” and its equivalents in different languages is carried out.

to be continued

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Reading Zettel’s Traum: Week 17, pp. 158-171

“[M]y homeland is literature”, declares Pagenstecher. This definitely holds true for Arno Schmidt as well. Zettel’s Traum as, among other things, an encyclopedia of Schmidt’s voracious reading gives us ample proof of how comfortable its author feels navigating the wide variety of literary works that get mentioned, quoted, and discussed in the book with a kaleidoscopic intensity.

Miguel Cervantes’ Don Quijote is the next big subject of the discussion. Pagenstecher speaks about the similarities between the DP (Dichter Priester) and Cervantes’ character. Just like Don Quijote, the writer-priest figure theorised earlier cannot describe reality without falsifying it. To remind his listeners of Don Quijote’s peculiar way of treating reality, Daniel provides an extended quotation from Chapter 2, Book 1, in which the delusional Knight of the Woeful Countenance mistakes an inn for a castle and two prostitutes for noble ladies.

QuijoteInn

Quijote arrives at the inn, Gustave Doré

Back to Poe.  A Tale of the Ragged Mountains is discussed in some detail.  Pagenstecher makes Paul read the panoramic description of the “Eastern-looking city” visited by the main character under ambiguous circumstances that might or might not have been a morphine-induced hallucination. The influence of the panorama on narrative can also be detected in Landor’s Cottage, a companion piece to The Domain of Arnheim that also focuses on the possibilities of “enhancing” nature through ingenious landscape architecture.

The indispensable etym-analysis of the word “panorama” yields the following: pan – pen, penis, pun; ano – anus; ora – orifice, ram – male sheep and rammeln  (to mate); ma – my and mother.

The company climb down the hunting blind and continue their walk through the forest. Pagenstecher, contrarian as he is, surpasses himself by stating that the unfinished and rarely read nowadays Julius Rodman is one of the most important works by Poe. Moreover, it can be regarded as his Book of Metamorphoses. This statement takes time to sink in, enough to have a short digression into the topic of the so-called “feral children” mentioned in Herder’s  Ideas upon Philosophy and the History of Mankind, in particular Marie-Angélique Memmie Le Blanc. After that, Wilma confronts Daniel with his position vis-a-vis the “universally despised” Rodman.

to be continued

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Reading Zettel’s Traum: Week 16, pp. 149-157

Elevated Hunting Blind

The next important landmark of the journey is an elevated hunting blind discovered in the forest. All the four characters climb it. Franziska shows Pagenstecher a small doll representing a Native American girl that she calls Narra-mattah (after a white girl kidnapped by Indians  in Fenimore Cooper’s tale The Wept of Wish-Ton-Wish). The raised platform opens to the observer a beautiful panorama of the forest. As soon as the word “panorama” is uttered, the pandora box of Pagenstecher’s erudition is opened again. Paul believes that “panorama” is an ancient Greek word.  Daniel condescendingly tells him that the first use of the word dates back to the beginning of the 19th century.  Pagenstecher readily grabs the opportunity to regale the Jacobis with another historical excursus. Poe is his starting point: the word “panorama” is mentioned in Arnheim in connection with the view one can enjoy on the summit of Aetna. Originally, however, “panorama” was known not as a natural view but rather as artificial entertainment first introduced in 1792 by English painter Robert Barker.

LeicesterSquarePanorama

Cross section of Robert Barker’s panorama at Leicester Square. Robert Mitchell, c. 1793.

Obviously enthusiastic about the subject, Pagenstecher gives a detailed description of Barker’s sophisticated contraption that attracted numerous visitors and earned its designer tons of money. The Englishman’s invention inspired a lot of creative minds, as various modifications of his panorama were soon to follow. For example there was Gropius’ pleorama that presented to the viewers  panoramic views while they were sitting in a rocking boat or Daguerre’s diorama that ingeniously used two transparent screens with pictures through which light was filtered.

Pagenstecher singles out two distinct periods in the development of the panorama. In the first one, from 1800 to 1850, the most popular subject matter of the panorama was a city view, whereas during the second (1860-1900) the thematic focus was on battle scenes.

It is also important to remember that this new type of entertainment had a considerable influence on works of literature. Pagenstecher uses Jules Verne’s adventure novel Journey to the Centre of the Earth as a case in point. The descriptions of the fantastic landscapes in the hollow earth owe a great deal to the effects created by the panorama and its successors. Here is one of the fragments quoted by Daniel:

‘That must be true. But if prehistoric animals lived in the subterranean regions, who is to say that one of those monsters is not still wandering around in the middle of these dark forests or behind these steep rocks?’

At the idea, I scanned the horizon with a certain dread; but no living creature appeared on the deserted shores.

I felt a little tired, and went and sat down right at the end of a promontory, at whose foot the waves were noisily breaking. From there I could see right round the bay, constituted by an indentation in the coast. At the end there had formed a little harbour enclosed by pyramid-shaped rocks. Its calm waters slept, sheltered from the wind. A brig and two or three schooners might have anchored there with room to spare. I almost expected to see some ship coming out, all sails set, making for the open sea on the southerly breeze.

But this illusion soon faded. We really were the only living creatures in this subterranean world. At times, when the wind dropped, a silence deeper than the silence of the desert fell upon these arid rocks and weighed upon the surface of the ocean. I tried, then, to penetrate the distant mists, to tear apart the curtain which had fallen over the mysterious depths of the horizon.

Despite its verisimilitude, this scenery has nothing to do with the known world on the surface; it is an “illusion”, just like the sophisticated panoramic views painted on moving canvas.

to be continued

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