Milorad Pavic

From the "Dictionary of the Khazars": "I thought how houses are like books: so many of them around you, yet you only look at a few and visit or reside in a fewer still. Usually you get sent to an inn, a lodging place, a tent rented for the night, or a cellar. Seldom, if at all, does it happen that a storm accidentally drives you back to the same house you used long ago, so that as you spend the night there you remember where you once slept and how everything, although still the same, was different then, how spring dawned through that window and autumn walked out of that door..."

"He did not know a single word of Arabic, and with his jailer, who baked him bread out of ground fly flour, he spoke fluently in a language that the jailer understood but he himself did not. He really knew no language any more, and this was the only trace of his old, prewaking self. The cage hung suspended over the water; when the tide came in, only his head peeked over the waves, but when it went out, he could catch a crab or a turtle with his hand, because then the sea receded and the river rose, and he washed the salt water off with fresh water. He wrote in his cage by using his teeth to cut letters into the shell of a crab or a turtle, but since he did not know how to read what he had written, he dropped the animals back into the water, never knowing what messages he was sending out into the world. At other times, catching turtles at low tide, he would receive messages on their shells and read them, but he never understood a word of what he read."

"Night after night he pored over advertisements put in the papers by people who had long since died; offers that were now meaningless glistened in a dust that was older than he. These yellowed pages advertised French brandy for gout, and water for the mouths of men and women; August Ziegler of Hungary announced that his specialized shop for hospitals, doctors and midwives had cures for upset stomachs, stockings for varicose veins, and inflatable rubber soles. The descendant of a 16th century caliph was selling the family's fifteen-hundred-room palace, situated on the most beautiful part of the Tunisian coast, in the sea, only twenty meters below the water's surface. It could be viewed daily in fair weather with a southern wind called the taram. An unnamed elderly lady was selling an alarm clock that woke you up with rose scent or cow dung; there was an advertisement for glass hair or arm bands that swallowed your hand as soon as you put them on. The Christian pharmacy by the Holy Trinity Church was advertising Dr Leman's lotion for freckles, celandine, and lupus scabs, powder to give camels, horses and sheep an appetite and prevent foal disease, mange and cattle exhaustion to guzzling water. Somebody who did not give his name was looking to buy a Jewish soul on credit; he wanted one of the lowest order, called nephesh. A prominent architect offered to build, at very low cost, a luxurious custom-ordered summer home in heaven; the keys would be turned over to the owner during his lifetime, as soon as he had settled his accounts - not with the builder, but with the rabble of Cairo. "

"The translation was faithful when ben Tibbon was in love wqith his betrothed, good when he was angry, wordy if the winds blew, profound in winter, expository and paraphrased if it rained, and wrong is he was happy. When he finished a chapter, Tibbon would do as the Ancient Alexandrian translators of the Bible had done - he would have someone read him the translation while walking away from him, and Tibbon would stand still and listen. With distance, parts of the text were lost in the wind and around corners, the rest echoing back through the bushes and trees; screened by doors and railings, it shed nouns and vowels, tripped on stairs, and finally, having begun as a male voice, would end its journey as a female voice, with only verbs and numbers still audible in the distance. Then, when the reader returned, the entire process would be reversed, and Tibbon would correct the translation on the basis of the impressions he had derived from this reading walk.

"I decided that nothing happens in the flow of time, that the world does not change through the years but inside itself and through space simultaneously - it changes in countless forms, shuffling them like cards and assigning the past of some as lessons to the future or present of others. Here all of a person's recollections, remembrances, and overall present are lived in various places and in various people at one and the same time. One should not consider all those nights around us, I thought, as being one and the same night, for they are not: they are thousands upon hundreds of thousands of nights, which, instead of traveling through time, one after another, like birds, calendars, or clocks, evolve simultaneously."

"For there is no man's reality around us that someone else is not dreaming about somewhere in this human ocean tonight, nor is there somebody's dream that is not becoming the reality of another. If one were to go from here to the Bosporus, from street to street, one would count all the seasons of a year from date to date, because autumn and spring and all the seasons of a human life are not the same for everyone, because nobody is old or young every day, and an entire life could be gathered like the fire of a candle's flames, and if you blow it out not even a breath remains between birth and death. If you knew exactly where to go, you would this very night find someone who was experiencing your waking days and nights, one who eats your next day's lunch, another who mourns your losses of eight years ago or kisses your future wife, and a fourth who is dying exactly the same death you will die. And if you were to move faster and delve deeper and wider, you would see that a whole infinity of nights is evolving over an immense expanse this evening. Time that has elapsed in one town is only just beginning in another, and one can travel between these two towns forward and backward through time. In a male town you can meet in life a woman who in a female town is already dead, or vice versa. Not individual lives, but all future and past times, all the branches of eternity, are already here, broken up into tiny morsels and divided among people and their dreams. ..."


From "Landscape Painted With Tea" "There is no clear borderline between the past, which grows and feeds on the present, and the future, which, it would seem, is neither inexhaustible nor incessant, so that in some places it is reduced or comes in spurts."

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