A theoretical, mythopoetic work, Tractatüus Philosophiká-Poeticüus uses various poetic, narrative and dramatic techniques and devices to fashion a new scriptoral genre, one that is engaged with critical discourses, even while it reads like a labyrinthine story. An aesthetic theory which depicts the path of writing through the deployment of a group of anonymous wanderers and a constantly metamorphosing ‘I’, Tractatüus Philosophiká-Poeticüus uses the parameters and the dynamics of the reading experience to construct this treatise on poetics. A work that defies convenient categorization and tackles, through formal and stylistic innovations, the very possibilities and limits of literature.
Tractatüus Philosophiká Poeticüus est un ouvrage fictionnel et mythopoétique. Il tente, à travers diverses techniques narratives, dramatiques et poétiques, de s’engager avec des discours philosophiques et critiques, alors même qu’il se lit comme une histoire pure, si fantastique: l’histoire de l’écriture de la révolution iranienne.
Tractatüus est composé de onze sections, chacune desquelles constitue en fait une des stations sur la voie de la création artistique: des premiers tremblements des commencements aux batailles invisibles entre la Voix et le Silence, des craintes des persécutions jusqu’aux confrontations avec la Mort et l’Immortalité. La problématique du Nom en elle-même devenant un des sujets de la tapisserie fictionnelle, il n’y a aucun personnage nommé dans le livre. C’est, au contraire, tout un groupe d’errants anonymes, de clowns et d’acrobates et de mimes, d’anges et d’étranges figures, et, dans ce tumulte, un ‘je’ en perpétuelle transformation, qui parcourent les terrains de la révolution et de la guerre, les Salles imaginaires et les Bazars hantés, et tout un labyrinthe hallucinatoire. La dernière section, enfin, introduit la ville de Baabol, dont le nom et la nature imaginoréelle sont dérivés de l’union de la tour de réputation mythique (Babel), et de la ville iranienne, existante, de Babol (oui, cette fois avec un seul ‘a’).
Le livre fonctionne donc à plusieurs niveaux, tous tissés de manière à devoiler la fusion de diverses traditions et visions, les enjeux entre le réel et l’imaginaire, le sens de la fiction et de la fabrication artistique en général, et le parcours de divers espaces iconiques, mythologiques et géographiques. A la fois une théorie esthétique, (une espèce d’ars poetica’ qui performe ses thèses sous une variété de masques et de tons), une chronique de la révolution iranienne de 1978-79, et un avatar des jeux d’enfants (et tout l’éventail de leurs significations), le livre constitue aussi une réponse, formelle et conceptuelle, à la possibilité de la mort de la littérature.
Dans l’ensemble, Tractatüus Philosophiká Poeticüus, livre des ruptures et des métamorphoses, se démarque de l’appartenance formelle à un genre précis et, à la frontière des expérimentations et des innovations, tente de se placer également à la limite de la littérature.
Ouvrage de fiction mythique et théorique écrit en américian. Le TPP est découpé en onze sections; chacune constituant une station sur la voie de la creation rtistique qui se développe au sein d’un groupe d’errants anonyms: clowns, mimes, anges, parmi lesquels le “je” narrativ: I est en perpétuelle transformation. Sous une variété de jeux de masques se déploie, en toile de fon évanescante, la chronique de la revolution iranienne. Livre des ruptures et des metamorphoses.
It was in this very context that another central obsession was, and remained, the secret provenance, the unexplained existence of the ruins located at the edge of the city, where the magnificent edifice certainly embodied the appearance of any tower of myth. An immense structure well over a hundred meters high, overlooking the entire landscape, it loomed so imposingly that few dared even to approach. Deserted in its immediate vicinity, surrounded by untended fields, at once seemingly rooted in sand, yet, at night, a lit fortress floating on the waves, sinking yet insistently growing, immovable yet ever swaying in the slightest wisp, the massive monument counted one thousand and one windows, arranged symmetrically from the base to the steeple and all around its cylindrical shape. Sectioned into three tiers by railings and loggia, it narrowed increasingly as it swerved into the clouds. And although one of the facades remained untouched by time and the vehemence of natural elements, the other was fully worn, revealing a rusty, gutted, anciently faded look, smashed aberrantly at the top, in such a way that a smooth periphery turned into a jagged edge. Nor was there any evidence, historical evidence that is, that the tower had ever been occupied: not in the preceding centuries, not in the recent past, not now: no one had ever seen or heard of residents climbing the stairways, the famed stairways that spiraled, as in the books, from the base to the summit.
And so it was: that this grandiose edifice, visibly shattered yet standing mysteriously and unperturbed, ignited the passions of some, the placidity of others, the private laments of most. A tower whose origins, despite all efforts, could simply not be unearthed: not by the most expert of Baabol’s archeologists, not by the precise calculation of its foremost physicists and mathematicians. Nor was this provenance fabricated, elaborated or made into an epic, or even a simple tune, not even by the most inspired of the city’s poets. Little was agreed upon, in fact, the majestic tower silent among the disputes. ‘If indeed we are the remnants,’ reasoned a fraction opposed to linking the city to the illustrious myth, ‘would it not hold that these ruins not only would not be situated so far along the periphery – almost at the very edge! – but instead in the center: the very physical center, that is, in such a way that our most reliable architects, our most reliable scientists be able to indicate, with the most precise measurements that, indeed, it is situated exactly at the very center of our city!’
‘Nonsense!’ clamored the enemies, ‘we are the ones who made the borders, we have drawn the frontiers, we have built the city! Nothing holds that they must be situated in the center, nothing at all! We would not exist,’ they insisted, ‘were it not for the tower!’
And the response was vehement in turn: ‘And what of the hunger? What of the cries? Do you not recall how our children succumbed mercilessly to the plague. How the frail begged in the streets and in the houses. Do you not recall the elders, the corpses on the roads. Do you forget how you walked by the strife fashioning your world? And we dared not take refuge in the world that gave us our name?! That gave us our life? Absurd indeed…’
‘We ran away from the shelter,’ the answer was thundered, ‘we feared the shelter. We did not tend to our own children and the suffering among us. We did not build, we did not hear the pleadings of our protector. We did not seek the refuge!’
‘And what of the revolution?’ cried another. ‘They raised their fists and chanted the slogans of the new order. Remember – the painted walls of the street, the converted houses of the hopeful, the hallowed sanctuaries… In the name of another, in the name of another world… And the prodigious powers of the tower did nothing to dissipate the tide?! Can there be disenchantment in the land of myth?!’
‘They hailed a new order and summoned a new god. They held a new banner, they raised the new color, but they did not conquer.’
‘And the scream, and the thrust, and the fall! Can there be revolution, in a world that is not real?’
Endlessly they carried on: the confrontations, the alliances, the provisions. It was true, after all, that people passed away in Baabol, that the children played, teased, chastised, disobeyed, it was true that lovers held secret engagements in private hideaways. What then? Senseless chicanery? Agonies unjustified? Extensions of the fantasies of one, or of longago occupants of this land?
Still, with all of its eccentricities, with all of its own peculiarities, life carried along in Baabol as it does elsewhere. Until, that is, the period in which occurrences of uncommon nature incited further disturbances, leading in turn to new conflicts and igniting veritable transformations in the city. A genuine metamorphosis perhaps, and the reason for which I myself attempted this humble report. From Baabol, indeed, and Baabol only.
The overwhelming fatigue that descended upon many, and the complaints, and the demands, were now reaching unbearable proportions. ‘This is it,’ they lamented, while others were as adamant: ‘We cannot go on like this,’ they thundered angrily, ‘something must give.’
The notice was given to summon all forces, so that the citizens could attempt, as best fit their current capabilities, to fashion a response. They circulated, conversed, consulted. They cried, they thought, they held, they wondered, but no, Baabol would not slip away, not so easily. All agreed, some with more persuasion than others, that all of the troubles rested, at least began, with the storied remnants standing majestically at the edge: that the real gloom (la vraie de vraie! shouted some passionately) lay with the mysterious edifice: and so, that a swift demolition, complete and total, would, if not reverse the tragedies so far suffered, then at least provide a first step. And if not that, still there would be no set-back, there was ‘nothing to lose’, not now, the tower must come down: the order was given, no turning back, the final decree…
In the early hours of the next morning, the citizens of Baabol, all the citizens of Baabol, old and young, vigorous or maimed, the exhausted with the desperate, assembled, without exception, from elders to toddlers, in the public square and adjoining streets. Baabol became a sea of daunted gazes: spiteful, angry or unknowing, wondering or doubting, a legion of faces formed the new tapestry of town. Not a single stone of the cobbled streets could be seen, not a single shadow on the mudbrick walls, for they were all lined with the impatient bodies of chanters wrinkled or pale, paved with the black clothes and veils, the colors of mourning and remembrance, the colors of martyrs and hope, of resistance and revolt:
Streets and domes, sidewalks and hills and slopes, and rooftops and squares and parks, all of Baabol adorned in the shade of triumph and tribute –
With the citizens of Baabol summoned, at dawn, to the center of town: arm in arm or fists frozen
airborne, locked in feverish embraces or standing alone, all the citizens of Baabol brought, children all and their elders, to each one and bar none, all brought to the spectacle a worthy weapon: after the silence they were to stand,
and after the silence, the grand silence, after the call had echoed throughout Baabol and in the hearts of its populace, after the deep sigh of abandoned relics and untouted paths, once more the promises of Forgetting, thunderous the cry, with this I tell of sorrows I scorn I sing, enamored enraged, of Overcoming, as far as they could see, assembled as asked, unrepentous, in every corner of every street, silent figurines animate with scared faces, scared limbs, the citizens of Baabol began the march,
with piercing glares, angry gaits, arm in arm all in rhythm: with knives and clubs, dirks and swords: rapid paces, steady paces, all in rhythm: through the public square each trod, through a small alley and another, the voice and the mask, the crier and the land, the wanderer, the puppet and the hand (holding high the doll), with the end of the reel dreamlands and cities of sand, an actor high atop the cliff chanting the words of players and playmakers, a mad dancer gripping firmly his leg, a restless mime alone: they marched one and all, a forgotten jester, the liar by the bridge, a poet with a rebelled eye, angels and exiles, vagabonds in ecstasy, marched all in rhythm through the city, through the ruins, all in rhythm, to the edge of the city of Baabol,
forbidden in the rage of this fire, of this dawn: dins of bells from far-away will accompany us, whispers banned, murmurs the heresy, silence unforgiving: we will march and with the songs and the fists, and the screams and the wills make a world: new landscapes forged with our gaits, burrows beneath valleys, higher peaks… – and yet…
And yet, from afar, unperturbed, majestic and solitary, undisturbed, grandiose relic of ancient lore, silently the riddle, stands the tower they have come to destroy…
They approached, bereaved and joyous, frazzled and awed: when the signal was given to halt:
The citizens of Baabol stood and peered collectively at the tower rising before them: no one moved as the crowd trickled in, one by one all standing a sea of black with faces, the citizens of Baabol stood silent gazing at the tower before them:
And the order was given. And the order was heard:
It was a sight to behold: from all directions, as if an unending procession, yet swifter than the wind or thunder, flailing arms with shrieks abound, screams united, screams coalescing into one, as if all emanating from one voice, the citizens of Baabol rushed maddened to the monument of their city:
A sight to behold: the swarm to the tower and all around the tower the men and the women and the children, climbing crawling the sides of the edifice, smashing along the way the windows in their path: taken to flight ascending the tower furtively with knives and scythes, back and forth at the worn surface of the tower: hovering around, with hammers and mattocks grabbing the stones ripping out unrestrained: at the top of the tower, a hundred men all around the periphery, swinging up and swinging down, shirts pulled to elbows, pants folded at ankles, frowning and burrowed, on the left wing and the right, along the jagged edge with their shadows, bending and arching, agony and awe both, into the lure, specks scattered on the surface of the colossal edifice – a sight to behold:
And now Baabol lived without the ruins that formed the very question of its existence. They had agreed that the tower must vanish, and vanish it had. The decree, the collective decision brought forth to save Baabol. But in this way? Was it saved, after all, the city they knew? Well, early the next morning, the early risers, and, soon, all of the unsuspecting citizens of Baabol were ever more bewildered when they saw what they never would have fathomed, never would have believed nor imagined. For they noticed, after the initial shrieks, that, once more, at the edge of the city, in the very same location that it had been razed, another ruinous tower had grown: not the same, no: not the same form, not the same colors, not even the same shape, not ascending in quite the same manner: not with the same windows, or bricks, but surely as the eye can see, all agreed, without abstention, that a tower had grown, that was not the tower of before.
And in Baabol, every night, a new tower, unlike the others but bearing an uncanny resemblance to its predecessors, sprouted in the place of the old one, razed to the ground the day before. ‘Six nights, six towers!’ exclaimed one, ‘seven nights, seven towers,’ exclaimed another! They had put into motion the question of their own death, and all was born again, constantly written, constantly traced…
The dilemma, however, was not resolved. Baabol contemplating its withering had rejuvenated itself, and now, as I remember translating the words of one, for they resonate still in my own mind, now that I myself have left Baabol, reluctantly I must add, but with all of its memories relentlessly, restlessly, clamoring through me – I shall not relate my manner of escape from Baabol, although that also would make quite a tale for the tale-teller, quite an epic for the poet! – I recall the words spoken, how the young one asked: ‘And now must we each night raze the new tower to the ground?’ The muted spectators, the muted masses, I also mute: and a silent awe echoed through Baabol, throughout Baabol, known of course, as the wondrous silence, of Baabolians.
But no one dared propose otherwise: again and again, again and again, endlessly alive, Baabolians each night razed the tower that had grown among them the night before: the towers of Baabol each night swerving from the ground: never the same tilt, never the same, unfinished, jagged-edged, endlessly windowed, the strength of an ancient monument each time: at the edge of this city, far away in the distance of all my cities, always: the Towers of Baabol…
With full trust in my passionate perspicacity for such ventures, for such unassuming wanderings and fickle (though harmless, I have always thought) curiosities in unusual locations, in, one might say, sites that appear to the uninitiated as potentially uninviting, perhaps even frightening, given their aura of enigmatic seduction, I decided to do just that: to walk about in the hidden passages that is, in the endless corridors, in the literally labyrinthine pathways behind the scenes. Much more productive, in any case, I thought, than idling impatiently the hours away, or passing them in a neighborhood lounge: without the slightest of deceitful ambitions then, absent all dishonest designs, with no purpose at all, truly, other than to give Time (the father!) a run at its ceaseless monotony, to postpone its unassuming banditry, bref, to keep boredom at bay.
Report: inward thoughts and condition, you are aware. Physical demeanor, exterior manifestation: I have justly portrayed. All systems on go then: I, long ago champion of obscure competitions now forgotten, prone to fits of madness and perversion, louded by some, envied by others, detested by many, down and out at one point like most worthwhile colleagues, transformed into a provider for family no choice, clown by profession, mime by passion, liar by trade: crier by day, wanderer at night: approach, and slowly raise my hand: I hesitate (ah, the pitfalls of the pause), I conquer (the timidity), fist-with grabeth I the rounded knob, I Turn:
I turn, I turn, Impatient ones: yes, I Turn the doorknob – and the Door, miraculously, Opens:
It was a large room, and in such shambles in fact, that it was quite onerous to define any borders or to make out any shapes. Tapestries and curtains were draped on furniture, costumes were haphazardly hanging, books, sheets, boxes, folders and musical instruments lay in all corners, open cabinets and files were strewn about, closets overflowing, wooden statuettes, bigger, smaller, an extraordinary amalgam of things known and not: ancient maps, drawings of imaginary cities, sketches of unknown lands, unfinished works: letters, typescripts and ancient manuscripts, a book of the modern, a History of Perfidy: asphodel mysteriously healthy in all the nooks, chimes and cloven vases and a decanter and a casket along the wall: ‘I cannot possibly attend to all of this,’ I told myself, ‘I cannot possibly get to all of this!’
I was succumbing to an overpowering sense of helplessness when, as I had taken several steps, I stumbled upon a figurine in the shape of an awkward monster (many-headed at that!) of much repute. I paused momentarily, bent down and picked up the object, examined it and noticed quickly that it was constructed out of a rare wood whose provenance I could not establish. It was still in good condition, and so I surmised that it had served either as a mere decorative artifact in a large spectacle, or else as the central focus in a small-scale puppet show. I decided to amuse myself by imagining the effect on an audience made solely of children, believing, unbeknownst, the movements of the grim monster. ‘How may I help,’ I imitated the potential voice – this being, of course, the puppet-monster blocking the way of a puppet-hero, whose adventures would have, up to then, been depicted for the group. ‘Where is your destination,’ I gleamed in my new, deep, baritone, suspecting that my facial contortions matched the imitation I had undertaken. To which, the cocky one: ‘Out of my way, I am the Conquering Hero, I let no obstacle stand in my way!’ (I pictured the wide-eyed muteness of the children, agog with the pronouncements of the figurines!) The monster then lets out an evil laugh – ‘We will see about that!’ – attacks the hero, and temporarily knocks him down. He lies, unmoving, as the hands that guide his motions remain inert behind the stage of this world. The audience gasps. Potential panic. Fearful and uncertain. But he will get up, they fathom, the evil monster cannot get away with it. Not so easily anyway. He must move on. He must! And indeed he does! The puppet-hero miraculously rises again and confronts the challenge before him. He backs off slightly, draws his sword. The monster comes towards him, the hero swings: no match, though, for the strength of the monster. He is helpless, retreats: but does not retire, dares not abandon. As the monster traps him, with miraculous credulity, counting on the devourous desires of his adversary, suddenly, the hero slips away to the other side. He turns again, slowly, faces the monster. But his gesture is only a bluff. He quickly turns back, scampers in the opposite direction, crosses finally the gate that his enemy had been protecting. He enters and the reeling monster can only sulk in defeat. Ruse over rage, the final verdict. And the hero has conquered again! I did not surprise myself of course, it was expected that my hero, also, conquer.
I finally unearthed, under a pile of sheets, a number of marionettes, each of which bore an uncanny resemblance to personages portrayed in the thick tract, whose biographies I had either read or scanned, each deliberately carved and constructed, clothed even, as would be their more animate, and obviously larger, models. Yes, I concluded, this was the marionette room as I had earlier surmised, and these replica were perhaps purposely hidden, to protect from the intrusion of outsiders such as myself. No matter: the fiery lads had their strings attached, almost begging for manipulation. How better to occupy myself, I thought, than to toil away in pleasant idleness: do something wacky, and daringly too: constructive idleness, say. I took off the coat again – it was getting quite warm in the midst of such a throng! – put away the umbrella, and left the scarf on the crowded sofa. I then assembled the marionettes, fetched a miniature stage and kneeled in front: ‘No need to hide,’ I mused, ‘there is no one here but myself.’ Indeed, indeed: I was the god, the player and the befuddled spectator all at once, and this was my playpen. ‘Well then,’ quipped I to the silent dolls, ‘are you ready to perform! Move those arms and legs, now, little ones, don’t disappoint me! Twist that neck, open that mouth, don’t look where you shouldn’t! And remember: don’t disobey your master!’ I readied my fingers, cracked up the voice, took a deep breath, and let it loose: ‘Good evening, little ladies, little gentlemen: we have quite a show for you. Are you reeeeeaddyyyyy?’ And I cheered the cheer of children in awe: obediently they chant a marveled yes, and so I go on: ‘Well then, let us delay no longer. This here (and at each of the presentations, I made bow the appropriate puppet), this here is the father, this one here is the mother, this the young son, and this the daughter. This one is the tyrant, and this one the bold. And the rest of the band, well you’ll meet them in all their glow.’ I simulated a thunderous approval, I cheered a loud Yeay. ‘Our spectacle is titled: The Revolt of the Marionettes. Hope you enjoy the show.’ Clap again, yeay again, let the first act begin:
My playful affabulations temporarily halted, I recalled that the history of the string and the birth of the poupées had not gone uncontested. Had, in fact, sparked some impassioned debates in the early parts of the eleventh century. One most zealous believer, to begin with, had vociferously argued, and this without shame, that the original idea for the marionette and the subsequent development of the theatrical medium had come about in the earliest of societies, and that, in fact, this was an extension of the theological monism that had been embraced by the first civilizations – by this he meant, tautologically enough, those very monist societies – in order to celebrate the controlled destiny that they professed, their intimate love of God, and the unbreakable bond they had with their maker and their guide, without whom their slightest movement would have been impossible. Man was free, he asserted, but only so far as he recognized the limitations of his capacities, only in as much as he willingly accepted, voire celebrated, his prescribed fate, the one and only. Although this line of thought had acquired quite a following, it was just as vehemently opposed. The maître-à-penser (clear the throat!) of the second group proclaimed that, far from reproducing the willing submission of humanity to a god omniscient yet unseen, the play of the marionettes, having its origins in the earlier primitive societies – and not, as his rival would have it, in his own ‘civilized’ version – enlivened the perpetual need of the populace to renew itself, to contemplate its own condition, and to constantly measure the merit of rebellion – a liberty from all shackles, visible or veiled. The very opposite of the first line, it could logically be argued: to promulgate the fallacy of Fate. Nonsense, clamored a third group, with a following inarguably minimal compared to the other factions, and whose leading theorist was known to be a drunk himself: it is neither an embrace of the determined path, he claimed, nor the perpetual call to a willed destiny: no my good men, he had seemingly insisted, ‘it is plain and simple entertainment. I come, I watch, I laud or I hiss, and I go home – if I have one! (The times were bleak!) That’s all there is to it: no morality play, no message, no lesson, not an illustration of anything! Nor will it be able to sustain its current level of popularity. An art form destined to disappear, bound for extinction, and there is no merit in debating the case. Besides,’ he was said to have blurted, ‘children seem to get much more of a kick out of it than we do.’ The prediction had not fully come to fruition, but it was true that in subsequent eras, the genre lost favor in most parts of the globe. It did not fully die out anywhere, but it was indeed constricted to small showcases, with audiences comprised mostly of children.
The debate never raged again as it had in such distant regions, but the aesthetic of the marionette play was taken up again in 19–, when one most ambitious and provocative scientist, researching the topic in his off-hours, an avid fan and a healthy enthusiast – he was, by profession, a heart-surgeon – had fashioned a new interpretation, with evidence culled from various sources and gleaned from various archives, not all of which could be verified – and which, predictably, provided the baleful opportunity for the skeptics and the naysayers, not to mention his personal enemies, to ridicule and vilify the good doctor. He claimed, in a paper sold surprisingly for a hefty sum to a leading scholarly journal, that the significance of the marionette play had been laid, from the very beginning, in the paradox of ‘The Tail in the Tale’ – as he had proudly, bemusedly, coined the pun. (Carried away in private, he seems to have been highly tempted to present his case in the lame name of ‘The Tail in the Tale of the Tale’, only to be discouraged, at the eleventh hour, by a wiser friend.) In other words, of the story, imaginative, free, unattached, and the medium: where the mechanical control and the manipulation of all gestures, contradict, deeply, the fabric of the performance. He had, furthermore, insisted on the singular importance of the imaginative and the fabulous in that fabric. Contrary to popular belief, he had argued, neither the first plays, nor any of those that followed in other parts of the planet, had ever merely ‘played out’, performed, as it were, an already ensconced tenet of one doctrine or another. Far from depicting the primordial dogma of any faith or a crucial episode in the genesis of a sect, far from demanding the rejection of any edicts, and far more than mere entertainment, the plays enlivened the central paradoxes of their own artistic creation: ‘bound and made, malign product of places and tongues, still the artist never ceases the story,’ he had argued passionately – if not wholly convincingly. ‘It is senseless and it is not. There is a dance, and there is not.’ The marionette play, the generous doctor had argued, perhaps in haste and in uncontrolled enthusiasm, was, in itself, in essence, ‘already an aesthetic principle, an entire vision, in fact: no summarizing, no explaining, no translating, no transferring. It is One, or it is not!’
The valiant efforts and the tireless ethic were easily silenced. The issue subsided, without so much as the origin, the history, the significance or any other relevant detail about the medium itself truly revealed. ‘If only I could give them one,’ the doctor had murmured in defeat (or so the rumor goes), ‘but alas, I am only a repairman of hearts!’
Troubled and increasingly perturbed, I paced around the room, grown man with mustache, with a doll in my hand, and a string on its back. Another relapse into old childhood habits? I wondered. More delusions? Or was I experiencing, unaware and undaunted, in this backstage of the great hall, the equivalent of a mystical revelation? I could not tell for certain, but what I was sure of was this: that I was pacing faster and faster, my senses on the edge of unencumbered flights. My heart was pounding indeed, the limbs were shaking, my hearing ever more acute. It seemed as if the walls were tightening, as if the ceiling was inching closer, tortuously, closer to the ground, closer. I felt a coming calamity, an unstoppable destitution. I turned, and back, seeking a hidden savior, my feet on their own, around the room: furiously around, there was not stopping it, no way at all, it was, yes, again, inevitable.
‘Faster’, I yelled suddenly, not knowing the provenance of my exclamation! ‘Faster, go on, faster!’
Thundering it was! As if the coaxing of a charlatan! And yet, I had not willed it, not willed it – that much I knew! Was I being possessed? Haunted? Overtaken? Quavering now a maniac in unnamed labyrinth I? ‘Can’t delay it again now, not this time, not this time!’ Surely the first symptoms of folly creeping upon, I thought, sliding within, pitiless, demonic! Which was my heresy that I among these dolls would burn, I asked? Whence the blasphemy that summoned this punishment? All luster was now gone from my visage, to be sure! Pallid as a ghost I stumbled across the room! Like an aged, vanquished buck tottered I in that vault! My own sepulcher among the dolls, I cried! I like them among them in death, I cried! Dormant seeds of mirth, assemble and rescue the feeble knave! I let fall the marionette, rushed to the window and pulled the blind. A strong gust came through, the wisp of the wind as if a scream had entered also. The sheets flapped, the pages of The History turned wildly: maps and manuscripts flew across, and my monster of the shelf fell as the strong current raced to the other side. ‘It’s now or never,’ I heard again, ‘now or never, don’t be a fool!’ O spirit of Satan! O Dawn of Darkness! What were my follies that such a fate was bestowed! Had I forgotten anything in the book! Did I not stay true enough! I have been a wanderer all of my life, I yelled, is this the terror I must suffer! For I wish not to burden you any further with undue suspense, O guiltless, O gritty, O hapless reader, I wish not to misguide: for I knew now, I knew, it was none other than that throaty Pest, the ubiquitous grit and traitor to all solitary souls, that shaky instrument of the gods and breath of bawdy spirits, say it loud, say it clear, that guileless soldier invading again, fomenter of discord, charmer and provocateur at once, anarchist fiend, collaborator supreme, it was, it was, the one, the only, none other than the voice, the voice, my voice, clamoring unclad, my own voice, clamoring, uncalled!
O spirit of the night, a rage in the room of play, a rave in the room of chance: madman that I am, I will carry on, I will, I will!
I had now arrived at the marionette and picked it up. The confusion within me swirled – that sinister pose, that treacherous smirk! I carried the marionette to the stage I had earlier used (how long ago that seemed), I pushed aside, violently, all of the debris, all of the scattered pieces, all of the shattered pieces. I brought forth the stage on which I had earlier played out the drama, played out The Revolt of the Marionettes. I found a random handle and placed it in the front of my ‘stage’. I took one of the dolls and snapped off the string. O metamorphosing marionette, now is your hour finally come, I sang in revenge. I tied the new string around the neck of my standing Puppe and raised the doll to the stage of insurrection: all was set again, all was ready, here we go. Silence. Voice. The Quarrel, the Duel. ‘In the name of the father,’ I thundered, and paused. ‘In the name of god, the compassionate, the merciful’ – and I pulled the bottom from my ravenous raven! O my suspended marionette, I feigned in tears… But the marionette, to my astonishment, on the string, dangling, seemed alive, alive still, still alive…
A frenzy unfathomable charged through my veins. A fear unimaginable. A jolt inconceivable. Distress unspeakable. It cannot be hung, I mumbled in dismay! It cannot be hung, I shuddered again. It cannot be hung, I clamored louder and louder, it cannot be hung, the marionette cannot be hung! And as the tremors increased, and so the furious pounding of my failed heart, terrorized, once more I heard the quivering of my lips: ‘I’ll never die!’ bellowed I, ‘I’ll never vanish, never go, madman, never rid of me! Always be there the voice always there the voice I’ll never die!’
But this same barter enveloping the air, in an instant had quickly waned. I ceased also, peculiarly, strangely: and, as a curious calm invaded the room, I quivered no more…
I raised my head, which I had bowed in defeat, and saw, before me, a marionette dangling as if dead. Quietly, I approached. I untied my makeshift noose, I strung the marionette around my fingertips, placed it on stage and began to play: ‘I’ll never die,’ I imitated the voice, ‘never die, always there the voice, never die, always with, never wither!’ And as if overrun by some potent force, I burst suddenly into an uncontrollable laughter, wriggling in pain, holding stomach and bending knees, on the ground rolling in the room, stumbling by windowsill by the monster and the maid, the scythe and the stage, in the great hall, by the wall, the door and the shelf, through me my own devilish roar: I will never die, I repeated, always with, will not wither, never will wither – always with, never wither: