Danilo Kis

From "Hourglass": "(as in the picture where the eye perceives a white vase or an hourglass or a chalice, until the mind-or is it the will?-discovers that this vase is an empty space, negative, hence an illusion, and there is only one positive, that is, real thing in the picture, is the two profiles turned toward each other, face to face as it were..a reflection of a reflection, a shadow; and consequently these two face, on prolonged scrutiny, move closer to each other, as though wishing to unite and so confirm their identity)"

"How did E. S. see himself?"
"Through the eyes of a dog, as through a biconvex lens or a curved mirror; the tip of his cane is elongated in perspective as far as the head-sized fist at the other end of the cane. In the same distorted perspective, the head-sized fist tapers into a long thin arm, which at shoulder level is thinner than the cane. Following this long, deformed arm from below, the eye perceives a tiny head, no larger than the fist."

"What thought did fear inspire in him?"
"The thought not only of possible mimicry but also of identification; that by changing the prescription of his glasses, he could become a dog."

"The snow-covered crucified Saviour by the roadside, with sky-blue eyes, his bloody palms covered with a salve of frozen snowflakes, and a crown of thorns that looked like a forlorn and empty nest; the crucified Saviour on the outskirts of the village, frozen, and forgotten by all."

"I admit it: my heart menstruates. The late, painful menstruation of my Jewishness... The man you see in front of you, estimeed ladies and gentlemen, this quinquagenarian in a gray suit, with steel-rimmed glasses, a cane, and a yellow star (which, however, you do not see because he is hiding it behind his briefcase), well, this man menstruates. ...my heart menstruates... a manifestation of the Jewish, feminine principle".

"If you write about your bleeding heart or if your heart menstruates, your ink is bound to turn red, and not because of the angle at which the light of the oil lamp falls on your manuscript. It would be a childish, poetic extravagance to emphasize this fact by pricking your fingertip with your steel pen, as when a nurse takes a blood sample."

"The brain of Dr. Freud, the surgeon. ... like a lamb's brain served whole (at the Danubius Restaurant in Vienna, 1930). The snow, trampled all about by heavy soldier's boots, seemed only slightly melted around the brain, whose convolutions, comparable to those of a walnut, and network of fine capillaries were clearly visible. ... So this was the brain of Dr. Freud, the surgeon: a small snowy island between paths trampled into the snow, an intelligence torn from its cranial husk as a mollusc is torn from its emerald shell, a trembling, throbbing mass, lying in the snow as in a refrigerator. ... it was the brain of a genius, preserved and protected in nature's incubator, so that inside (the incubator), freed from its corporeal shackles, a dark pearl might develop, the pearl of thought at last materialized, crystallized."

"The backbone of my cigarette suddenly snapped at the frontier of sleep, at the frontier between movement and breath, and it is not quite certain whether the porous little column of ash broke up, disintegrated into dust and ashes, at the moment when I wrenched myself out of my lethargy, my tired brooding, or whether it was the other way around; namely, that I wrenched myself out of my lethargic half sleep with its mad whirl of thoughts, images, and intimations at the very moment when the porous column of cigarette ash fell with a barely audible sound, as of (d) pigeon shit falling on the thin membrane of quadrille paper lying on the table before me. In that moment I was seized with a violent feeling of transience, as though this little column of ash (still recognizable as a column, though already crushed and splintered, the broken backbone of time), as though this ruined column of time represented transience itself, a painful and only too eloquent symbol symbol of transience, comparable to what a man dimly feels when the minute hand of the clock... advances for this occurs not gradually and imperceptibly but abruptly, with a dull, thudding blow, and the metal hand trembles awhile under the sudden shock, it, too, wrenched out of drowsy timelessness, as though it had remembered its duty at the very last moment, or had been admonished, awakened, wrenched out of its tranquil existence by some superclock, some king of clocks, some stern and incorruptible alarm clock, an alarm-clock God Chronos-Jehovah, who with his rhythmic heartbeat awakens all lesser clocks, calls them to order, and prevents time from standing still."

"This other self goes roaming around in regions unknown to me, and when I surprise him for a moment, by pretending to be wholly preoccupied with shaving or with the little hairs lining my nostrils, I sometimes succeed for a moment, but only for a moment, in observing this other self. I see him taking part in a funeral procession, though I can't be sure whether he is in the hearse or just happens to be attending the uneral, and a moment later (or actually in the very same moment) I'm not even sure whether it is a hearse or just a cab that has been painted black and whether this fellow is really he, my other self. And the worst part of this pursuit of the other man, who is and is not I, is the terrifying fact that this other self, who is connected with me like a Siamese twin by the backbone, the brain, and the sympathetic nervous system, that this Siamese twin of mine, who moves independently with untrammeled hands and feet in a different direction, that this twin brother of mine, this I and not-I of mine, actually thinks with my brain, steals the thoughts of my brain, as though our brains were joined or at least situated in one and the same monstrous skull, in two skulls that have grown together, that have become one single monstrous Wasserkopf containing two brains side by side, in such a way that the thoughts of one are communicated to the other, but not quite clearly or articulately, because one interferes with the other, as when we listen while half asleep to a conversation behind a wall, behind a thick wall that divides and at the same time connects two rooms. ... Thus this other self pursues me, turning up unexpectedly inside me while I am shaving in front of the cracked mirror, peacefully looking, peacefully looking at my foam-framed face in the cracked mirror. ... That other self, my other being, was myself after death: the dead E.S. had come to meet the living one; rising from my dream, the dead E.S. had become flesh and come to live beside the living one."

"Anything that survives death is a paltry, pathetic victory over the eternity of nothingness"

Back to the database of writers | Send more quotes | Back to Literature | Home