Compass - Excerpt

We are two opium smokers each in his own cloud, seeing nothing outside, alone, never understanding each other we smoke, faces agonizing in a mirror, we are a frozen image to which time gives the illusion of movement, a snow crystal gliding over a ball of frost, the complexity of whose intertwinings no one can see, I am that drop of water condensed on the window of my living room, a rolling liquid pearl that knows nothing of the vapor that engendered it, nor of the atoms that still compose it but that, soon, will serve other molecules, other bodies, the clouds weighing heavy over Vienna tonight: over whose nape will this water stream, against what skin, on what pavement, toward what river, and this indistinct face on the glass is mine only for an instant, one of the millions of possible configurations of illusion — look, Herr Gruber is walking his dog despite the drizzle, he’s wearing a green hat and his eternal raincoat; he avoids getting splashed by the cars by making ridiculous little leaps on the pavement: the mutt thinks he wants to play, so it leaps toward its master and gets a good slap the second it places its dirty paw on Herr Gruber’s coat, despite everything he manages to reach the road to cross, his silhouette is lengthened by the streetlights, a blackened pool in the midst of the sea of shadows of the tall trees ripped apart by the headlights along the Porzellangasse, and Herr Gruber seems to think twice about plunging into the Alsergrund night, as I do about leaving my contemplation of the drops of water, the thermometer, and the rhythm of the trams descending toward the Schottentor.

Existence is a painful reflection, an opium addict’s dream, a poem by Rumi sung by Shahram Nazeri, the ostinato of the zarb makes the window vibrate slightly beneath my fingers like the skin of the drum, I should go on reading instead of watching Herr Gruber disappearing under the rain, instead of straining my ears to the swirling melismata of the Iranian singer, whose power and timbre could make many of our tenors blush with shame. I should pause the CD, impossible to concentrate; pointless reading this offprint for the tenth time, I don’t understand any of its mysterious meaning, twenty pages, twenty horrible, frosty pages, which reached me precisely today, today when a compassionate doctor may have named my illness, declared my body officially diseased, almost relieved at having given my symptoms a diagnosis — a deadly kiss — a diagnosis we’ll need to confirm while beginning a treatment, he said, and following the disease’s evolution, evolution, there it is, there we are, contemplating a drop of water evolving toward disappearance before it reforms itself in the Great All.

Compass Cover Image
By Mathias Enard, Charlotte Mandell (Translator)
$26.95
ISBN: 9780811226622
Availability: available for order
Published: New Directions Publishing Corporation - March 28th, 2017