novel the last man, translated here from french by lydia davis. (matt and bill have only tinkered with spacing, italics, and cases) (we wanted to experiment with ventilating it somewhat, putting in a few breath, accent, and reflection spaces) (you know, like yoga))
if I think about what happened,
I would have to say
that for me
it almost merges with
that allowed me to face it.
this calm was a gripping sort of calm,
very close to the word that came from so far away: it wasn't completely commensurate with me, it was even extraordinarily outside of me,
but that didn't bother me,
I had my own share in it,
it touched me,
it even pushed me back slightly,
as though to keep me on the edge
of the moment
when I would have to be calm.
I applied my mind to it, and even though there was no real relation between us, I had the impression there was a
to which I felt bound by an expectation, by precautions, doubts, an intimacy, a solitude that would perhaps have been suitable for a living being-
a human being?
no, it wasn't human yet, it was
less protected, though more important and more real; but because that space was foreign to me, I did not know what bound me to it. I only knew that I owed it some respect, and I didn't even know that, because perhaps I also owed it a fierce lack of respect.
in addition to that first impression, I also felt that this
while appearing infinitely distant and foreign, offered me a sort of immediate means of access. it seemed to me that if I managed to be calm, to be equal to that calm, and to be, in myself, what that calm was outside me, I would remain in balance not only with all my thoughts, but with the motionless, grave, and solitary thought under whose cover my thoughts continued to express themselves so lightly.
all I had to do was wait.
but waiting . . .
had I made the decisive moves?
didn't I have to be more lively in my study of that event, that very recent event by which I felt I was being watched, by means of which I was undoubtedly watching myself, looking after the calm that was confided to my negligence? and yet, as though despite myself, I was already enjoying this new state. I had never been so free, and except for that grave, motionless thought, my thoughts, too, were freer, lighter, almost too light, yielding me up to a spirit of lightness . . . ... . . .. .. . ..... . . . . . . .. . . ..... . ... ..... . . . . . . .... . . ... . . .... . .. .. .. .. ... . . . . . . . .. . .. . .... . .. ... .... . . .... . ... . .... ..... . .. . .... . . .... . . . ... . . .. .... .. . . . . ..
. . . . . ... .. . . .... . . .. .... . . . . .. . . ...... . . . . . .... . . . ..... .. . . .. . .. .. . . . .. . .. .. . . . .. .... .. . .. . . . . . .. .... . . .. . . .. . .. . .... . . . . .. . .. . . . .. . . . . . .. .but I did not doubt the kind of
it constituted. as soon as I was there, I observed it, I experienced it, I leaned lightly on it, my forehead leaning on my forehead, and what held me back was something too easy in that approach, which left it without any defense and me without any decision. it was too simple. this easiness might have been what had deflected me for so long: one gesture and always within my reach. I could only be surprised at it and avoid it.
something warned me that the doubt should always be equal to the certainty, and the certainty of the same nature as the doubt.
I had to wait, allow it to gain strength from that waiting, affirm itself in its contact with me and
it had to find limits that were not too foreign to mine, nor too strict: it could close up again, but on me. its instability was what suddenly scared me, and yet I dreaded, just as much, a distinctness that would have brought it too close to me.
it would have frightened me more as a familiar thing than as a foreign thing . ..... . . . ......... . . .... . . . ... .. ...... . . . .. .. ... .. . . .. . . . .. . ... . .. . .... . .. . .. . . .... .. . ... . . . . . . . . .
. . .. . . . . . .. ........ .. . .. .... . .. .. ..... . . .. . . . .. .. .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . . .. . . .. . . . . . . . .. . . .everything was so calm that if it hadn't been for the
soft, continuous pressure
exerted on me, an extremely light and extremely firm pressure that I wasn't sure I wasn't exerting on it by my resistance and by the direction of my waiting, I could have believed I had already reached some goal- an ultimate one, perhaps, one of the ultimate goals. and yet, the calm also seemed to interpose itself between us, not as an obstacle, true, nor as a distance, but as a memory.
a dangerous calm, I realized once again, and one that was in some sense a danger even to itself, threatened, threatening, yet unshakable, indestructible- it was final, a word which here appeared opaque, but light.
it was dark,
it was cold.
the waiting (the calm) made me feel that over there, on one of the slopes which I could only situate over there, was an opening onto a different region, one that was even more useless and more hostile and that we both dreaded in the same way. the space was evasive, wily, frightened.
maybe it had no center,
which was why it disoriented me by its evasion, it wiliness, its temptation. it stole away; it kept stealing away, and yet not always. abruptly, I had before me a hungry evidence, an ultimate avidity which I had to escape, as though it were drawn, in me, by the sense of that center which it didn't have or by that calm that awaited me.
a terrible feeling that immediately made me draw back.
but I, too, became wily, I learned not to be content with it, not to return to myself. I never despaired, I tirelessly prowled around. I had lost every habit, every path. the only firm thing I had was the motionless thought that enveloped us and perhaps protected us. . . . . . .. . .. .. .. .. . .... ... ..... . . . . . . ..... .. . ... ... .. . ..... ... . . .. ... . . ... .. . .. .. . ..... .. ... ...
. . .. .... .. . .I ask myself why
seem to hide
a deep concern.
thought that wraps me around
and perhaps protects me,
intractable thought that doesn't answer,
that is simply there,
you who do not get up,
grave, solitary thought
in which that point is no doubt hidden,
the extremely fine, amazingly distant
point that keeps inviting me,
but with a cold authority,
to withdraw into forgetfulness.
I want to talk to you,
you who do not answer.
I am allowed to.
I will talk calmly, slowly,
without interrupting myself,
even if I don't talk,
even if I have no relation
to the speech I am capable of uttering.
why isn't everything over?
why can I question you?
why are you there like a
in which I am still lingering
and with which I feel connected?
you are not even silent;
indifferent to everything,
even to silence,
and when I go toward you,
with a movement that surprises me:
a cold, intimate, strange contact-
as though I weren't supposed to,
as though I couldn't, think of
why do you let me believe that if I wanted you to, you could become visible? why do you let me talk to you using intimate words that separate me from everyone else? are you protecting me? are you watching me? why not discourage me? that would be easy, a sign, a firmer pressure, and I would be ready to say: "all right, since you want me to, I'm giving it up." but you are simply there, and the words that go to you go to a wall that sends them back to me so that I can hear them. a wall, a real wall, four walls that form the boundaries of the place I live and make it a cell, an emptiness in the midst of everyone else. why? what is this role I have to play? what is expected of me? haven't I, didn't I enter the calm? what has drawn me out of the calm?
could the calm be destroyed? and yet, if it is destroyed, do we continue to keep watch around it- that instant, that cold moment which we don't remember? and is it true that everyone is watching? maybe only one, maybe no one, maybe we aren't watching over anything, maybe we're all still inside the calm, in that place where we come and go, come and go, ever tottering, ever more restless . . . ..... . .. ... .... . ...... .... ... . .. . .... .. . . .. . ...... . . . . .. .. . ..... .. . .. . ...... . . . .. . . .... . . ...... . . ... . . . .. .. ...... . . ... . . . . . . .. . . . . . . .. . . . . . .. . . .... .. . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . .. . .... .. .... . . . .. . . . . . ... . . .. . . ... . . . . . . . . . . ..... . . .. . . . .. . . . ... . . .... . .. ..... .. .. . . . . .. . . . ...... . . . . .. ... . .. . . .. . . . ..... . . .. ... . . .. . ..... . . ..