Принц Папа Жан

The Universal Gallery

PRINCE PAPA JAN
THE PAPA JAN GALLERY

Book One

 

PRINCE PAPA JAN

THE UNIVERSAL GALLERY “PRINCE PAPA JAN”

THE PALETTE OF  THE WORLDS

To beauty with love!

To you Lydia – my mum,

who created me – I give thanks.

/From the author who created this book in your name./    

 

THE ENERGY LYZISM IN PAINTING AND NEOROMANTISM IN LITERATURE,

 

AND THE BOOK “THE UNIVERSAL GALLERY ‘PRINCE PAPA JAN’ “

 

    The present book is doubtless a brilliant work of verbal art, one of whose many merits is the rare quality of being a unique “pictorial literature” insofar as it is an artistic symbiosis of text and paintings.

    This book-parable would have been an autobiographical novel, were it not enclosed within the silvery frame of several grand metaphors; and it would have been the prolonged night of hallucinations of an enthralled mind, fallen sick to the dangerous illness of being in direct touch with Beauty,  if the measured aesthetic form did not attribute to the blindfold tossing of desire  the subtle smile of a mocking lyrical neorealism.It would have also been naturalism if the erotic text were not reined in by the  whip of intellectual disciplne. But this book could also have been a bestseller.

    Who is the author and does this Dreamlike Text have an author at all? The author, Prince Papa Jan, in fact is a Multiple Ego, unfolded into the painter, the writer, the art collector, the adventurer Prince Papa Jan – plus even more not yet manifested essences. That is, here  the word “author” goes beyond  the particular, generally accepted, notion!

    The author is an adventurer by intellect and a knight by heart who, however, seems unable to steer a definite course in life, in the existence of paintings and words. To attain existence, this mind is hampered by  logic and aestheticism bars the path of this soul to its emotions. But his martyrdom on this “cross”, so to speak, lies above all in hyper-sensitivity.His melancholy is in… an excess of joys! Ungulfed by visions and propelled by impulses, wherever he turns, between him and his life stands the intellectual charm of the Words and the paintings which reflect his sense of reality and of himself.

    The general impression from this book, in which Naturalism directly jumps into Intellectualism, circumventing Psychology as superfluous, is, that the characters (and the author) are personages, ready to sign with both hands the programmatic aphorisms  of Symbolism in the words of Stephan Mallarme: “The world has been created, in order to be described in a book.” and “Everything is summed up in the beautiful sunsets.” Having turned his life into art, he cannot live separately from it, and having turned Death into a supreme  aesthetic phenomenon, he even wishes… to die…

    In this “reversed existence” where art flourishes and life languishes, no logic can possibly errode his imagery simply because  the place of natural necessity is occupied by  the subjective freedom of aesthetic generocity. Conversely to himself, within a hallucinatory world, instead of with soul – with an anti-body – and instead of with feelings – with anti-thoughts – he is himself and abstraction, trying to find its way, somewhat biological, within an abstract existence. Everything is enveloped in mist, as in the early novels of Sartre and Kafka, and perception is merely a fearful joy, as is with Kierkegaard. The Hazy Life shines brightly in the Aesthetic  Clarity and noble meditation  dismembers the criminal existence.

 

——————-

* Johan Valetnine Andrea – an alchemist, restorer of the Rosenkreuzers in the 17th century:

    “Existence is always a crime so long as there are essences, supercilious in their innocence, overhanging donward from a virtuous and mocking heaven, because existence is always individual and Individuation is born of its negation of the General and the killing of the General.Every attempt to free Existence from blam is  turning  it into Essence  and that is why Existence lives only through Crime and only insofar as it is criminal. That is why whoever tries to free life from guilt loses it.”

 

    In this parable-novel, novel-metaphor, the main characters are Death and Beauty, the abased life and the dizzy art, the mocked truth, and just lie, the intellectual demon and the wandering medium.There are humans, too, but they very soon become  ghosts or visions. Each living indivdual descends from the painted canvas into life to  speak his/her part and then climbs back onto the canvas along the walls of the infinite Gallery so that he/she can die  and rest till he/she is recalled again by the author, who however, himself finds out that he has himself been painted by the All-poerful Anonymous Artist who can be  none other than himself  but unfamiliar to his own self.

    The Greatest wonder of this world is not man but language – so says the modern Devil, the Intellect. It would be very naive to believe that novels are written by men and women for soul’s skae. The truth is that novels are written not by men or women    but by the linguistic abilities (or peculiarities). and  – second – they do not describe the soul but the influence of words upon bodies.

    This parable-novel which we recommend in this preface to the reader is therefore quite symptomatic of the epoch: with all its charm of an exquisite literary performance it is  a merciless testimony to the End and Death of the novel as a human literature only to usher in the birth of another, more eternal literature, independent of man: the Literature of Words, of all that is Verbal, of Textuality, in contrast to the literature of the Soul. Quite indicative in this sense is the work “The Universal Papa Jan Gallery” which within the grand plot of a gigantic cosmic parable similar to ERA-SERIA is a chain of consequent naturalistic intellecutal mise-en-scenes which frivolously and with fine artistry always succeed with great wit or cruel auto-aggression (irony) to overstep psychology and all definitely psychological moments. They are a resolute testimony to the fact that the modern soul is not psychological but ontological. Yet, the ontology we find out at the bottom of this soul is not the one of Being (nor even of Time – a fact which makes even the early Heidegger hopelessly out of date)  but the ontology of the Word. Take a close look at the book: besides stressed intellectual fireworks, following one another witha fatal determination, you would not find anything different from life itself. The un-erudite reader could be misled to believe that inside this grandly unfolding metaphor in which art comes before life because in order to live you must first find a niche on a painted canvas and to get passion you must first become a literary character. Yet, there is psychological life, too, there is a soul and fresh, purely natural urges, but the verbalism and textualism have possessed the characters to sucha degree that evidently they experience their emotions in words while at the same time being capable of passion born not of the palette  or the pen.

    The modern man, who has seen the charm of words and is nailed upon their hypnoticism, forever loses any taste to psychology and runs after this abyss where lies the bloated body of the Text; the Word has become  more attractive than the soul!The reader would be surprised by the naturalistic description of a an eventful destiny full of adventure – alife full of risky emotionality but here it is mainly pictures and words that experience emotions – and Man – under the condition  that he repeats their feelings.If you are painted, you will get passion, if you are a literary image, you stand a chance of getting sensibility: the one who has not been re-incarnated by a poet or a painter, by the aesthetic industry, has not chance of coming to life. Brought into the forefront, this dependence of Being upon aestheticism undoubtedly  transports one into the epoch of man’s complete alienation.

    These are not characters who live in order to think and to paint, but characters  who paint in order to be able to derive from their pictures the meaning of a desire which has brought them into life and they think in order to be able to steal from the pathos of thinking thereby attaining the sweetness of existence. What can a sensibility do  whom the cruel images and the  dispassionate words have wrnched from the sweetness of the body and have cast away  into the bitterness of thinking – what can it do except secretly even from itself aquire all the vulnerability of existence as a self-ironic pride of self-ascent? If it can no longer grieve or hope – because every grief and hope have been  ridiculed in advance by the absence of an emotional tender God – what has man left then except to laugh cruelly at his own self?You will live only if you allow yourself to be painted, you will be an existentialist only if before that you possess an aesthetic vocation.

    Unlike the common notions where life precedes art, in “The Universal Papa Jan Gallery” art comes before life.

    But the literature of the 20th century discovered the charm  of the words and human psychology died in the spledour of verbal ontology. The ontology of Language did away with the psychology of Man the very moment at which literature ashamed left the Prose and haughtily came to roost in Poetry. Human psychology  concealed the ontology of Language. The life of the soul concealed the life of the Text. Prose and the novel served for many centuries this myth and this verbal fanaticism, viz., human psychology. This makes it possible to classify literary psychology as psychotic. Down through the centuries only Poetry never betrayed the Word and not recognizing human psychology invented by the Renaissance, it remained true to verbal ontology. “The soul and man’s very psychologism” were themselves invented withn that short span of a few centuries when a large portion of the verbal set split away as Poetry, as a homeland of language and evolved into an invented and artificial location, midway between the Words and the Body, called  loftily and unthinkingly “spirituality”. What we want is to abolish the Logos (“-logy”) from “Psycho-logy” and to restore the objective psyche  where human self-conceit invented  Subjective psyche. After  exiting the body and before arrival at Words (Signs), there exists a no-man’s-land in-between where artificiality is elevated into science. That “Psychology” was to be described and then lived through by the Prosaic Man born of the split  between the Word and the Psychological Man born of  the prosaic and the prosaic emancipation.

    We are never prepared to welcome the talent and greatness of others: for ever nailed to our own self-respect, the intellectual feats of others always surprise us. We all the time forget that Others exist – and our self-consciousness stands firm upon this oblivion – and the forces which wrench us away from this sweet oblivion, reflecting the drunkenness of solipsism, deeply hurt us each time. Then in the applause of rising stars we hear the call of our own self-pity and swear at the cost of crime to perform such a feat of mind or adventure of body, that in the ceremony of  the heart to recover the oblivion of self-adulation and to forget again that the Others also exist.

    In such self-contemplation of our talent, framed in our young literary glory I had relaxed so sweetly in the  quiet pride of my noisy triumph that when I first opened the book “The Universal Papa Jan Gallery” I was sharply pierced  by the pain of literary and intellectual envy which I had forgotten.Yes,I, with my incredible technique, master of a multitude of styles and literary epochs, prince of rhetoric,  bowed under the burden of philological millennia and burdened  by the memory of 10 000  rhythmic years, I, who thought myself the Last Upanishad, envied  this author, envied the light touch and the stylistic skill which with charming exquisiteness pours out human destinies nito aesthetic portraits and intellectually-aphoristic forms. Only when I discovered the limitations of the novel-parable and perceived its “shortcomings” in its”superfluity” and the “lack” of subtle psychological analyses I felt  some relief  but, alas, it did not last long because the merits of the book  were beyond praise.

    There was something young, ringing, brilliant  in this literary jewel in advance of all the avant-guardisms and in the unattainable realm of the enchanting, dream-like romanticism.  Was it the scepticism of the dark and severe theory, longing for this romantic liberation from logic that  attributed further Novalice-like radiance  of this lunar portrait-painter of human destinies? Something imperceptible, virtual like the spider-web spring dress on  the moon, crawling tenderly and cunnigly over the gullible disk?… I could not get rid of the sensation that this giganitc novel-parable is an eternally incomplete, ever renewable dream  in which we all are sunk, out of which we have all come and into which we will return, swinging on board the Ship of Universal Unconscious.

    Then is realized that the rhythm of this epic-existentialist literature is a permanent  oscillating alternation between neorealism and neoromanticism.

    All the time within the frames of the  painted portraits are the everchanging deceived real images. In literary reality the characters try to live, stretching out their hands frantically in the direction of life; but when they touch it in cold fear they withdraw their hands from the painted flesh because the living girls turn into memories. The individual slips away as an image, reality – as an idea and Being – as thought. Instead of being enclosed in things, man is enclosed in the thoughts. The main character is destined to realize that he/she will never get rid of images and attain Reality. More sinister and bitter than the Apple of knowledge turns out to be the Apple of contemplating the Beautiful.If only the wisest had been poisoned by the poison of Truth, the poison of Beauty has poisoned all. In the course of hundreds of pages the protagonist is ever on the borderline  between the real and the unreal. The dreamlike is fused into wakefulness only to return to never aging romance of the creative fanatasy.The Fantasy – queen of reality, out whose dispute with Memory the Universe is born… That is why the passages of aphoistic dialogues with Death and the cruelty of the intellectual wise sayings alternate with fantastic poetry of tenderness, sung  out of the humblest corners of the soul. Horror… Death… Intellectual terror, Poetry of cruelty and Distant Life of Dreams, Near Beauty and Sensibility Beyond fill in the romantic moonlike existence of these predominantly hallucinatory images – individualities of which Deity is accessible and the human  is transcendental; who feed on symbols and die dreaming, who are immortal because they have never lived and cannot be born because they all the time give birth to worlds, being endless creators of life, they cannot live while creating incessantly sensibility for the creatures, themselves are imperturbable, never relaxing to the banning of creation constantly awake and staring at the sleeples eyes of Beauty.

    Where the gods stand still in silly self-adulation, Prince Papa Jan, not yielding to his own joy, indifferent to his next success, bored with the applause which he had anticipated, embarks on his way to his next adventure, no matter whether intellectual or not, because in the warped kingdom of life each feat is just right. He is also a monk – always – as well as a warrior at the same time. All these  incarnations of his souls – poet artist, engraver, collector and patron of the arts, originator of a new style in painting, viz., “Energy Lyzism”, of a new outlook, viz., “Janoism”,  natural healer – all these are merely the pale human expression of a prouder and inexhaustible passion, viz., Beauty! But dissatisfied with the stormy life and the cheap narcicism of the aesthete, he tries  to approach this beauty under a more bitter and melancholy image – Truth.This haughty and offended effeminate form of Beauty becomes his last and final Beloved.

    He is that volcano of energy who is indifferent to the particular form in which the lava is cast. In permanent excitement  by the artistic stimulus, regardless whether it be Earth, Woman or Idea, he  recognizes only one  unshared passion – his own insight  of being unsatisfied. That is why you can see him every day strolling with a smile half in contempt has in self-irony. That is why he constantly pursues his own vision as an unfamiliar, yet thousands of times painted image.Lonely, with the millions of images within his soul and preying  for communication only with his  supercilious Ego, his Energy  brings him honours and loneliness which his dignity rejects condescndingly in society. Proud of the Cosmos of visions and ideas which belongs to him and “modest” with his human paintings, which he executes “in an hour of boredom” (300 canvasses per year) he, sadly ironic smile in loneliness  meditates upon himself i. e. whether I am more talented than prolific? Whether he would embrace an ideal, logic or compassion, or a new style in art – these things are for him an expression of fruitful ecstasy. Besides being a writer and a painter, Papa Jan is also a nature healer using bio-energy. His paintings possess a curative energy effect with extra-sensory activity. The energy of his extra-sensory capabilities has become  the energy  of colours, and out of the ability of the individual has become into a skill  to create beauty in his works which emancipated from the artist himself , themselves  help for Art-Therapy communication.

    Embarrassed by his permanent energy flow in art and in life , in order to free himself of its bursts, Papa Jan “makes himself” to create a new style in painting, viz., “Energy Lyzism” (lyzis from the old Greek word dissolve in the sense of universal dissilvement) – a style of the universal Energy Dissolvement of colours and forms between themselves

    The multiple author Prince Papa Jan evidently  is a doubtless literary talent, imbued with penetrating mind and auto-aggressive aestheticism. the elegant overflow of logical and ethical layers of Being attest to literary mastery without direct analogues. The gathers on a page the epochs and in a sentence he fuses logic and mythology.The strength of the book lies in the desire to think and the inability to live despite total immersion in life. The author, partially influenced by the Enlightment, wishes to make Existence seeing – although it is by definition blind. But is it an error to join the blind Life and the seeing Art into a single image for us to be able to see?

 

    Materius Rozenkreuzer

 

 

    A BRIEF  PRETENTIOUS PREFACE TO AN EXTRAORDINARY BOOK

 

    This book is the natural urge of a complex and interesting destiny  to continue its vitality on the plane reasoning. A difference where life  becomes a mirror and court of law  for thought and its absurd orderliness. The excentricity is not the modus in demand  – rather it is the manner in which thought  is raped by the  bitter taste of a life all too fully realized where there is no room  for the excesses of modern morbidity and is a permanent fulness of events which take place only to vanish, to be erased from memory but which its own charm and  and  denunciation. The fulness of life makes life itself superfluous. Life is accurate and exact in its extremity; it is the second in the our duel with thought. On the one hand  is life with its ferociously insistent  mobility and on the other the mockingly-contemplative world of thought,  submitted as  a mythological creativity which reasons, deliberates and guides.

    Against the background of a radical sincerity,  in the tight grip of babbling insubordination has been cast out the space of  several great metaphors – the Staircase, the Universal Gallery, the Shop for Airy Towers. But they are not fruits of alienated self-reflexion, nor of a primordial duality. Rather, these are two difference spaces  each of which is projected upon the other although lost in its dimensions.In this way, life projected upon thought is not so much a topology of facts in their psychological interpretation but rather their encounter in the metaphor of a great symbol from where alone can they aqyuire their meaning. Life  must be less  lived than  filled with meaning and deciphered. The chaos we often accept as fate is in fact an order of upon a higher level which remains unfamiliar. Precisely the geometrical space of the parable is the spot of their encounter.

    In this novel there is something heathen and demonic in its manifest metaphysics, bared down by psychological interpretation. It is noisily written as well as spiritually, with Renaissance exaltation and scope.

    The main symbol, that of the Universal Gallery, reminds usvery much of Borches’s Babylonian Library. The author is enclosed within the aestheticism of his own Ego without being able to leave behind the auto-aggression of perpetual recall.This gallery is both real and unreal .at one and the same time.It is both a redemption  and law court.It includes a  truly unique collection of art works while at the same time  harboring the entire past and present as well as their accidental arrangement in the future born of the arrangement of the gallery itself.The gallery is the free choice of  the ultra-rational order only to appear as destiny , as a challenge to the pleasure of wanting everything  all the time so that your desire becomes a tyrant  and encloses the individual in the sole picture of reality.

            Erinia Delina

 

    PRINCE PAPA JAN: WARNING INSTEAD OF PREFACE…

 

    The “Gallery” is not a biographical novel. In it there is too much fantasy.

    Yet neither is it a fantasy read. What is meant here is a living peronality – I, Myself, the man of our time, Prince Papa Jan – writer, painter, collector and patron of the arts nature healer and adventurer.

    And above all – a man. A man! because these are all human re-incarnations!

    What the?

    No, the “Gallery” is not a philosophical novel. Let Voltaire rest in peace.Here there none (or almost none) any attempt at re-discovering the world.I simply prove that there are many worlds  so much so that I wonder where to pose under the Sun a profound and brillian Philosophical Question.

    Nor is it an erotic work. Although I do not drop the curtain over the sexual love scenes. maybe this is a hint at the coitus between Society and Language.

    Nor is it a diabolical read. Although in the numerous corners masks peep fo Death and the Devil.

    (Mon Dieu… or mon Diable… It’s for you to choose.)

    The “Gallery” is not a work of magic-realismThe magic arrive here in order to stand for the need for fresh parables

    Although many parables are interwoven in the “Gallery”!

    Nor is – finally – a thriller. Regardless of the fact that the protagonist often brandishes his pistol. Only to be on guard against other guns and knives, one is made to defend oneself from all re-incarnations of the Enlightenment.

    Nor is it a fanatsy novel Yet the tales in it are as necessary for those  who are not yet mature as well as for those who have grown too tall.

    The “Gallery resembles a catalogue of the “Papa Jan” gallery. But it is rather  the gallery itself.

    Neither is it a collection of poetry, although poetry often peeps  out from the mirrors which I carry with me along the wide roads of the world. (I beg aopology from Hyppolite Taine for the mirrors and the roads . “I take what is mine wherever I find it.” I apologize to Molierre, too) But who cares now for the classics?! And I myself (see the cover!) have a beard  and do not shave too much.

    It is not even a bible. (God forbid!)

    Although among my adventures and dreams I preach Janoism and send  one after another my Twenty thousand and thirteen messages to the world.

    Maybe it is a new manifesto? After all in the end you get femiliar with Energy Lyzism a new style in painting and literature.

    And a new style of life!

    If it is a question of life it is a nove after all…

    No “after all”!!! A novel and something else… And something more. And many other things.

    A novel-encyclopedia.

 

    But who still reads encyclopedias nowadayws?

    That is why I accept that the “Gallery” is simply a gallery.

    And the paintings are viewed one after another.

    View them, please! for a short

    And keep your tickets till the end of the performance. Your insurance is included in the price.

    So that you can go out safe and well in This World…

 

    ….    AND A CONFESSION TO THE READER AS A GOD

 

     So many lies are bandied about nowadays that I wished to call the Truth so that everyone can hear.

    But the lie had so penetrated me that I could not  name the Truth even by name.

    I started writing verse in order to utter it. And the charm of poetry entiwined  me in the deceitful words like a Laocon.

    And I stopped writing verse.

    And I felt the poorer.

    Poorer yet not defeated…

    Then I attempted to paint the Truth. And the paints resembled dry blood upon its dead body while the tears in the eyes  brought mist and warped its image.

    I stopped painting it.

    I started looking the One who had already painted it. I firmly believed that although under a mask, it was the mask of Beauty.

    I became a patron of the arts.

    But Beauty left to me her poverty.

    The beautiful cost much and was not always genuine and I could not buy the whole World.

    Then – maybe in the way of a ritual – I planted thousands of trees.And while I planted them I was at least calm about  Beauty and Myself. But as soon as I stopped for a while for a short rest I realized that what I had done was not ore  than simply undressing  and remain naked under the sky.

    And although it reminds one of the sexual arousal (and even of  the sex drive itself) it passes in the eyes of the knights of good manners as lacking propriety (Or at least unusual.)

    To create a verse, to paint a picture or to plant a tree… Behind tham you can hide from the shouts of the Lie.

    But you cannot win against the Lie.

    The world went on speaking lies  while I continued to shout for the Truth without being able to utter it.

    Then I tried with my collection to create an arrangement  entirely mine and not subordinate to the World.

    Yet my order was an imitation of the worldly order. And I was at a loss! I was dejected very much.

    Then I met friends in order to share  with them or at least to divert the Knowledge attacking me.

    And I told them all. Spellbound or inspired.

    Or maybe both.

    But please, do not forget – I can warn that these are the words of a man  who has fallen upon his head. And whose head has suffered much wounds and pain from blows with full or emptry bottles, charged or empty revolevers, with full or ghostly galleries and libraries.

    And I myself sometimes cannot believe that Being is suffering above all and in it there is so much indeterminacy…

    And then how am I to beileve my own Life-Story?Well?

 

    Signed: PRINCE PAPA JAN

    Artist, writer, curator

 

    P.S. These pages could prove superflous. In that case you can  tear them up or cross them over thereby demonstrating your attirude to them. But if you step over that threshold you will be defenceless before the Author. Take care!

 

    BECAUSE HERE WE BEGIN

 

LET US SHAKE HANDS, MASTER VAN GOGH!

I was in tears when the next picture uncovered its face.

I saw myself in the Pushkin Museum!

I was having my first encounter with the French Impressionists. I encountered Renoir and after him came Cézanne, Toulouse-Lautrec, Manet, Gauguin and — naturally — Vincent Van Gogh, represented by two canvases.

I already knew: I had to hide until they close and then the turn of the encounter would come. We had to be alone!

And I spent a long time behind the huge vase just like lovers hide behind the trunk of a tree.

Here I am — we are alone!

I also had to subdue my passion in order to listen to the conversation of the immortals. The cosmic energy locked in the canvases was coming towards me and was animating their angel voice. No, they were talking to each other maybe about ordinary things and I listened spellbound.

Or rather I was reading their thoughts…

Or my head buzzed with everything I had read about them?

It was only now that I remembered the buzzing sound. At the time I did not realize it. I only felt overcome by waves: once warm, another time cold.

And I could see the pictures! Despite the fact that the light in the hall had been switched off.

And I heard them talk — between themselves and to me. Although my French is not particularly polished. To say the least. And to say it quietly…

Because here was Van Gogh with a piece of his ear cut off and the wound still bleeding coming towards me.

He was approaching, approaching, approaching…

He, Van Gogh, the suicide of society…

“He has no prejudice about punctuality. He has a passion for the truth, wrenching from the object its truths, snatching them forcibly from it…”

Is that why my chest ached?

Was he going to snatch my truths, too?

Later, much later, when I again opened the volume of “Thoughts on Art” by Paul Eluard I found the words of Jourdin which I had underlined.

And what Artau had said:

“Gauguin thought that the artist should search for symbols, myths, should enlarge everyday phenomena to mythic proportions whereas Van Gogh believed one should know how to extract the myth from the simplest things in life… I think that so far as that is concerned he was deadly right…”

He was deadly right… He was deadly right… He was deadly

Was the hall resounding with his steps?

The man who gave objects their new faces — the real ones…

What was André Lot’s saying? Ah, yes:

“For half a century now a great battle is fought by two who are in love with light against the glum professors for whom the sun has the color of shit…”

You can still hear the professorial voices say: “Why is this red?” “Why is this white?

Because it aches! That’s why… But how can you explain it to them?

Van Gogh’s sun has the colour of madness! You will ask where has such a colour been seen? Whereas everybody knows the colour of shit… And the smell… And the feel…

My goodness! Am I feeling so sick from the disgusting thought And I did not have tranquilizers…

I did not know tranquilizers at the time. My pockets then were filled with admiration…

And I was on my way to an encounter with the Genius like a man  in love…

Was that hall resounding with his steps? Or were my temples pulsating?

“Do you remember my sunflowers?” he asked me. In Russian, if I’m not mistaken. That was the language I was fumbling with at the time. And he politely conversed with me in Russian. Although he did not know a word of Russian in his lifetime.

“I do!” And my eyes shone bright.

“Others will paint like me, too.” He stretched out his hand. “They’ll paint for your Gallery… Sunflowers, flowers, birds. You must only discover them and keep them from going mad…”

“Keep them from what?” I asked in disbelief of all my senses.

In disbelief of my ears as well. (Was it Kierkegaard who had called the ears the most perfect of the senses?)

Van Gogh had one bleeding ear cut off while mine was aching infernally.

Did I say infernally? That means…

“It means nothing,” Van Gogh smiled then. “Let us shake hands.”

And he squeezed my hand in his. I had never suspected the hands of an Artist could be so big and strong.

And they squeeze like a vise!

“You must find the one who’ll paint like me and save him!” He was not letting go of my hand. “You must not allow him to brandish the knife… Brandishing the brush would be enough… It can also kill! And it can give life, too…”

Much later I read the words of Hokusai. And remembered these words of his — about the tone of the smile.

“This tone, called “varai-guma” — the tone of the smile — is applied to women’s faces in order to make them ruddy with life and is also used in giving colour to flowers… You take mineral red — “shoion-ji”, dissolve it in boiling water and the solution is left to settle…”

“Where are you off to?”

“We must go!…”

You don’t see me!” It was the gallery manageress. “You were talking to some one and was not noticing me at all…”

“I was talking to Van Gogh!” I said curtly. “And I must go. Vincent told me to hurry…”

She attempted to keep pace with me. I was striding forward and she was scampering after me.

“You are again off to some woman,” she sobbed. She had no strength left to argue.

And then I saw her. I saw her smile. “Varai-guma”, or whatever Hokusai had said.

No, Olya resembled a portrait by Renoir, rather.

NOT “BAREFOOT ON THE ASPHALT” BUT RATHER NAKED IN THE SNOW

Did this picture, too, have a melody? Or was it the face of the girl who evoked memories — Olya.

It was in Charles Baudelaire that I came across the idea about the melody. Do you remember his “Fleurs du Mal”?

Well, I remembered other things, too. The poet says:

“In the colour one can discover harmony, melody and counterpoint…”

Did he suggest this thought to me? And was it why I asserted back at the fortress that a voice’s melody can be painted? Later on, in the Gallery of Memories already, I heard the melody of ice and fire.

Now Olya and the cold of that night took me back to the tangle of my thoughts and memories: about the melodies and the col$

Olya!

I was in Harkov once again. I was sitting with her on a bench outside the new opera house.

Hours passed. And then it seemed to me that the hours were all too brief. And now, wasn’t I a stranger in my own body? A stranger who listens how the girl next to him walks him around his own memories and explains: “This is Olya… And this is you… Most probably in love again. You must wait a little and see what will happen to you…”

For the second time I was experiencing my amorous drives as on that night. For the second time I was awaiting the moment in which this was to happen again and I missed it hundreds of times only to postpone it once more. As if even then I had tried to postpone it or to run away from it all. Didn’t I know and remember the silly scene which was to follow? The body had to live through once more all that it was seeking at the time.

Olya was still as sweet as she was then. She was still smiling tenderly — tired and at the same time challenging. She kept on whispering all kinds of words, most of them exciting…

We shall sit here a little longer and then everyone will go his or her way.

I postponed this start and delayed her in all sorts of ways, failing to see that she herself wanted to remain. It was almost like a scene from Dostoyevski’s “White Nights”.

Everything was so normal, so natural and in a way so beautiful that I could not even for a moment imagine what was to follow. Now, however, when I had to live through it again I was unimaginably horrified but could not warn my old “ego” to stop where it had gotten at.

The night was still frosty as it had been then but neither I nor Olya thought about it. The frost gave us cause to embrace, then our timid embraces were becoming more and more bold and everything was leading slowly but surely towards the most intimate thing. This is how I experienced such things in the days of my adolescence, to and with girls whom I really loved. I had always been impulsive and with pleasure I left myself be led by them.

It was midnight when we realized that that night we had to be together. Then it occurred to us that behind the bushes was secluded enough and not all that cold. Besides being cold enough, behind the bushes was not all that secluded. Ant then — oh then the authorities maintained public order and respectability. We had not yet begun that thing but were already undressed when came the bark of police dogs and we were illumined by the torch lights of those who led them.

Just at that moment Olya stunned me. Her feminine subconscious or her pride of a Soviet citizen caused her to scream. She began shouting in Russian: “Rape, rape, rape!”

I realized that that was neither amusing nor resembling Dostoyevski’s “White nights”. I ran as fast as I could. I had not yet done time in Russian jail and then I had no intention at all to languish in such an institution. Naturally, I didn’t have the time to dress and ran in the biting Russian cold stark naked. But I did not think of the cold then; I was scared by the dogs which chased my bare bottom barking loudly. I was jumping over thorns, scratching my body against tree branches but in any case this was much to be preferred to the teeth of the police dogs trained to catch at the “clothes” any fugitive.

And behind their ferocious barking I still heard the hysterical screaming of Olya.

Now, in the Gallery, I recalled Soren Kierkegaard’s words that the feminine counterpart of the male desire to try to seduce all women is to allow to be seduced from the bottom of your heart. Olya did just like that: she did not stop hating me for seducing her although she herself wished it. After all I was the guilty party and had taken advantage of her weakness. It was as if I had given drugs to a cured addict. It seemed that in her case the sexual and the destructive urge had common roots. She could scream with passion and with screams betray me to the police.

When later I recalled the incident I had been through I realized that Olya was decidedly feminine, that this contradiction is inherent in women and it may be useful, making it difficult to us to pick the forbidden fruit… But then, as well as now, in my memories, the dogs were chasing me and I was straining the whole my unsuspected physical reserves and strength. Just as when I froze near Verkhny Mezen… When later I evoked this memory over a glass of spirits, telling it to the incredulous eyes and ears of my friends, as a very funny story, something bitter settled on the bottom of my glass… And I drank it by myself empty…

And the dogs were already reaching me when I dived into the first available hideout I noticed — somewhere in the basement of the opera house. The dogs were bound to find me even there were they not called back by their masters. Even I heard the voices of the policemen and when I next realized by the subsiding sound of barking that the dogs were getting farther away I allowed myself to relax and even laugh. And then I felt the cold. It was even more horrible because now even the sweat all over my body was beginning to freeze. I had to remain a little longer in my cover before I became quite sure I could safely go out and then, I don’t know how, naked as I was, to get to my lodgings. I had just summoned up courage and told myself it was time when I again heard the voices of the policemen and the barking of the dogs. They were approaching. The dogs had perhaps rediscovered the traces and the policemen had doubled their energies in pursuing the rapist. This did not happen to them every day and might earn them official praise, ever a bonus. The braking was getting closer and closer. The cops and the dogs were somewhere near above while I was saying all the prayers I knew. And a particle of myself, maybe the most cowardly one, began to unfreeze me, as one would blow upon a frozen piece of glass in order to look through it, and whispered repeatedly: “Don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid!… This is merely a memory… It’s only a memory and you are now in the Gallery of Memories…”

And I was drenched in warm sweat.

Never mind I was going to come across Diogenes mocking me… Or the straggling corpses which I had grown almost accustomed to. Wasn’t I safe and sound… ? And wasn’t I going to meet the gallery manageress again?

At that moment the policemen’s voices and the barking of the dogs fused into a rumbling noise and began to recede.

I had also grown accustomed to the rumbling noise.

I was surprised by the irony with which the gallery manageress looked at me.

“Are you back? I simply lied to you when I said one cannot come alive in old memories… Now I know what kind of man you are Papa Jan! You have an inordinate love of adventure…”

She had never spoken so sarcastically to me before.

“And what did you see in that vulgar little creature with whom I saw you undress so feverishly? Just to think how you warbled together!”

Was that a manifestation of jealousy? And was it really nothing else but jealousy?

She bent down her head and fell silent. I was not aware how long her silence lasted but it seemed endless to me. I tried to reach out to her but she pushed off my hand. Her eyes betrayed something that was half contempt half reproach.

“What’s the matter with you?” I asked although I knew very well. Or at any rate guessed.

She broke into tears.

“Shall I tell you what kind of man you are? You are a biological type! You know nothing else except your sex drives…” she was now shouting. And she called Olya a vulgar bitch several more times.

I again tried to touch her but she pushed me off a second time.

“But this is all gone!… Pale shadows on the canvas of memory,” I said and even believed myself. At the moment I was thinking of no other woman except the gallery manageress.

“Mere memories! To which you went back with keen delight. You didn’t even leave that canvas…”

“If mere wish could help me go back in the canvases I would again return to the opening of the Papa Jan Gallery. And you very well know it… And you know that art is my link to the world! Wasn’t the manager of the Shop, or whoever the devil he was, offering me the Chart with which I could have all women in the world…”

“What for Christ’s sake did you find in that bitch?”

“Nothing in particular!” I said quietly. And then I realized that one doesn’t talk like that to a woman. “In her image perhaps I had been looking for you!… You have been painted and are so perfect that you can’t imagine how incomplete all other women are. In them there is always something that can’t be encompassed…”

She was no longer sobbing and began listening.

“And I was looking for a complete beauty. But on my way to you I came across only pale shadows of your perfection…”

This was only bla-bla-bla but it had an effect.

“Besides being created by the Almighty you have been produced by human hands and I can encompass you and feel all your beauty…”

No, no, it was still early for “encompassing” and embraces. Though the fire of jealousy was already subsiding in her eyes.

“You who seem so real are not quite real because you are perfect! But this doesn’t give you the right to blame me for being only a man. Because I’m precisely human and not a pig. While there is guilt, there is pain, too, and while there is pain there is redemption. While there are people there is path and while there is a path there are thousands of women on it and thousands of mistakes and sins…”

She was still listening.

But I had to finish. Early on I had thought of the final phrase:

“I mistook Olya for you!”

“For me?” she raised her voice in contempt. “Do I resemble her in anything?”

Indeed she did not. They are all different and no two are alike.

“You don’t… But it was you then, I failed to realize that at the time…”

She did not say anything for some time.

“And why did you go back into the picture now?”

“In order to try and understand both myself and my confusion.”

She kept a suspecting silence.

“And what did you find?”

“Long did I roam, long did I journey in the world of my memories but nothing good did I see. I saw God’s child Papa Jan who lost his Gallery although he did not disown it… But now he, too, is in the Gallery of Memories…”

“You’ll see that despite the orders he’ll get out of the Gallery of Memories,” the gallery manageress caressed my face.

“Is there a way out of the Shop for Airy Towers?”

“No doubt there is!… So obvious is the wretchedness here that it cannot but be an illusion!”

Our feet sank in words like on sand but at least on the sands of words I had learned to walk.

“We can’t separate ourselves from eternity…”

Who was saying that? She or I?

And why did words rumble so? And why did the rumbling fill me to the utmost? Why had my head grown stiff?

Then this stiffness became more and more enormous, it could not be held within the skull nor in my body and it flew outwards. But while I was still in its grip the stiffness led me again to Harkov, to the same old bench, to Olya…

Behind whom lurked dogs and policemen…

I was going to get away from them again.

Why not drop in for a minute. Before I get shut up in the Gallery of Memories?…

That experience though silly was part of myself and not devoid of meaning. Nothing is devoid of meaning! No-thing!

And again everything buzzed in my ears (Every-thing!) and I without returning to the Gallery of Memories was getting back to my past, to myself!

And I found myself with Irina at the entrance to one of my lodgings in Moscow.

I long fumbled for the key. That evening I had had a bit more gin that was good to me, I was not drunk, just slightly tipsy.

Irina was a beauty and we used to meet once in a while. As if for the first or at least the last time. She even impressed the local Russians with her exotic looks. Her shiny, black, long and thick hair and her deeply swarthy skin made her look like an American Indian rather than Russian. She was a metre and eighty centimetres tall and when on high heel shoes she stood half a head taller than me.

As soon as she opened her mouth to speak, however, she became a child.

But when making love everything childish left her and she became a woman, only a woman and a very experienced woman, too!…

We understood each other very well, nothing bound us in any way yet we continued feeling lonely even when we were together. Otherwise she loved me. I filled her life. Anything else was by the way.

She was one year from graduation at the conservatoire and by now was quite skilled at the classic guitar but said that even music failed to give her that complete rapture she sought. And indeed she continued seeking. She also said she had a boyfriend but she could hardly have set much store by him, being so frequently unfaithful to him. She also had some secret of her own which I never discovered…

I searched long for my key in my pockets at that time, long was I searching for it now when everything was repeated. And frankly speaking I was not in a great hurry. Because I was pleasurably to live through everything once more although I had no idea how Gregoriash’s girl was to react.

If she saw us…

At last I found the key an unlocked the door. We both started giggling with no apparent cause. The funny thing came afterwards. The pillow was slightly punctured, only slightly. But the action that followed upon it completely finished it. We were very busy, however, to pay it any attention. Feathers were flying all over the room and sticking to our bodies. We realized this only when we saw ourselves completely covered in feathers. We resembled some flying creature or General Lynch’s victims.

It was too late to stop, however. So we continued rolling in the feathers and even threw them at each other. Like throwing snowballs! Very small, very light and very tender snowballs.

Irina did not find this enough and rummaging in her handbag she finally produced a large hairpin or nail file with which she tore open the two other pillows.

I chased after her as though to stop her but I received a blow with a pillow on the head and an avalanche of feathers rained upon me. Then I grabbed the other pillow and let Irina have it on her naughty pretty head… She turned into a strange bird! This made her laugh still more and she ran around the room flapping her wings. We romped around a long time, made love and again romped…

The next morning I had difficulty stripping myself of the feathers. They clung onto my skin, got entangled in my beard and my hair and even in the nostrils. I rubbed myself at least an hour under the shower, had to take a second bath that day but throughout it I kept pulling feathers from my beard and got more than one friend and business partner laughing telling them about my “misfortune”. I only mentioned the torn pillow but my face beamed so that they must have guessed everything.

Now I remained in the frame of the picture together with Irina two days. I was in no hurry to leave her. I was never to see her…

I did not step into the Gallery at all but teleported myself directly into another memory.

I was maybe a little sad about the gallery manageress. But I thought that was perhaps the way towards the exit. And in that manner I might leave the Shop for Airy Towers. After all the Gallery belonged to the Shop. But weren’t the subjects of its pictures outside the horrible Shop? The canvases undoubtedly belonged to the endless Shop but the subjects belonging to the spirit of the enigmatic painter or to my memories maybe stretched outside the Shop? That could be the only way of escape… I was to part with the most magnificent girl, with the most beautiful gallery manageress and perhaps with the only woman I did not wish to leave. At least, without bidding her a last farewell.

But I had no time for sentimentalities.

The next experience I was to resurrect led me to the Ekaterinsky Museum in Leningrad. I was again with Tanichka and Antonia. They were lively and intelligent company, future art critics and maybe writers. Because at the moment, they said, they were writing a truly unique book! The two adventuresses (this seems to be the most precise description) had crossed half of Europe and half of the former Soviet Union hitchhiking. We exchanged courtesies of introduction after I was very pleasantly surprised to hear Bulgarian speech. I intervened in the conversation in Bulgarian and so began our friendship. They had not visited the Summer Palace so I offered them my services as guide.

The whole day and whole evening we spent roaming inside the Ekaterinsky Palace and in the end we thought why not spend the night there as well and have a nighttime bathing in the palace pool.

We suited the action to the word.

The eternal insubstantial youth has its own sacraments, has it not?

It was summer. It was a beautiful summer night and I, Antonia and Tanichka decided to make it unforgettable. For a long time we swam, frolicked and chased one another. We must have felt cold all of a sudden because we told ourselves at one moment that the statues around us already feel the cold. And people are really heartless to leave beauty shivering with cold.

“We are heartless, too! Because we put on our clothes and left them naked.”

I began muttering an endless story about how these exquisite nudes had been driven out of the Garden of Eden after having tasted the fruit of knowledge.

Antonia interrupted me:

“Nonsense,” she said. “And a whole lot of claptrap. What clap are we talking about when that fellow has such small genitals”

And she pointed at one of the statues.

Then Antonia took pity on them after all and accepted Tanichka’s proposal to dress them.

Anyway we were not all that cold and Tanichka and Antonia were lugging bottomless travel bags in which among other things could be found two bottles of wine. No wine was to be given to the statues. Wine has been made by God to delight the soul of Man.

Naturally, this could only have been thought up by Antonia. About wine being the delight of Man’s soul and the reason for which it had been given him brief mention is made in one or another of David’s psalms.

The idea to dress the statues was a good one and I got inspired by it so that together with the girls I dressed the freezing statues. The clothes made them more elegant. Or at least more amusing. I especially liked the golden statue dressed in the Antonia’s clothes. And she made a speech for the occasion:

“You, too, cold statue, must have realized by now that clothes make a man and you get welcomed by the look of your clothes and seen off by another part of the human anatomy. Now one can talk to you as to a human being… What? Back to Nature? Let Rousseau do that way by himself. Behave like a human and you’ll not regret it. Nobody expects you to be dressed like the daughter of a drug baron or a model for Valentino. Just wear decent clothes.”

The denim safari we had put on the statue suited it extremely well. And it became more acceptable and more real.

At last when we had drunk up all the wine we bathed again and swam a little in order to see the new day in at the Ekaterinsky Palace naked and real. Then we took the clothes off the statues and, still wet, we put on the things by which people welcome to go out of the palace and visit the earliest open coffee bars of St. Petersburg. We even put on a semblance of merriment…

Putting on the clothes, however, somewhat estranged us from one another but some time had to pass before we realized it.

FOUCAULT’S PENDULUM AND THE SONG OF THE BELL

That night I could not fall asleep. We had parted and God only knew when we would meet again. I was alone. I was lonely and excited. And ready for exploits.

Or at least for something more special.

Then I found myself again in St. Isaac’s Cathedral.

Let me remind something to the readers and to myself.

St. Isaac’s Cathedral is one of the foremost landmarks of St. Petersburg. The temple was built from 1818 till 1858 to the design of the architect Montferrand with later additions by V. Stassov and others. The temple is 101.52 meters high and is adorned with fine sculptures.

Was it for them that I came?

No, I came for Foucault’s pendulum!

That is how it was called. And I remembered it not from physics but from St. Petersburg.

It was the idea of a genius. Jean Bernard Léon Foucault proved the rotation of the Earth by his pendulum in 1851 and in 1860 he became a Corresponding Member of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences.

This I later read about in the encyclopedias.

Then I was eager to stop the Earth’s rotation!

“I’ll stop the Earth!” I thought. I was full of so much Mindlessness and Strength that I even thought so at the time.

And the pendulum was a fitting witness in that most titanic duel.

Did it not prove that the Earth’s full rotation must take place in exactly 24 hours and not be late as a capricious mistress for our Date?

In exactly 24 hours!

And then in exactly 365 days to make a full circle round the Sun. (Well in just a little longer to make room for leap years.)

Time passes and humans are subject to it.

Everything else is subject to that Absolute.

Ev-ry-thing!

The constellations in the eyes of the beloved,

the dying light in the eyes of a friend departing this life,

the silly commercials on television,

the pages of the best books — they also end, don’t they?

the meetings and partings,

youthful impulses,

adult disappointments,

feminine artfulness…

Oh, this is so little! Foucault’s pendulum measures absolute values:

Hippocrates’s oath and uprightness,

Achilles’s boldness,

the cruelty of the arrow driven into his heel,

Hector’s sense of duty,

Homer’s blindness,

Christ’s selflessness…

It seemed as if I were at a fancy party in a highly fashionable bar and had just been handed the menu to choose from and then order:

the hypocrisy of the pharisees,

the ardour of the frigid,

the irony of Socrates,

the daring of Luther,

the squeamishness of Sartre,

the alienation of Camus,

the mercilessness of Freud,

the infinite optimism of Diogenes…

And his stupidity! Lugging day and night his lantern about all the alleys and labyrinths of This World.

And even of the Next World!

Foucault’s pendulum had measured so many moments trifled away but I was thinking of Gregoriash’s girl.

Each of her movements is a smile of the skull! Like the skulls nailed in monks’ cells. And like the greeting of the ancients: “Remember that you will die!” and “Remember that you live!”

Yes, remember that you live!

So similar these greetings seem but so different they are in fact!…

Remember that you live!

But remember also you cannot stop the Earth…

“Can’t I try even once?”

“You can,” the Pendulum laughed at me. “Why not?”

I did try.

I had touched it with my hand and again everything buzzed in my ears… And I was again sinking, sinking, sinking… Oh, God, isn’t there a bottom to this temple? Why is there no bottom and no end?…

There was.

Or did I step on another memory. I had not returned to the gallery manageress. I was again with Tanichka and Antonia…

Was I dreaming or simply remembering?

Has Prince Morpheus conquered memories, too?

Were my dreams not enough for him to delve into and conquer my memories too?…

Because I was in Moscow. Tanichka, Antonia and I were taking a stroll about the Kremlin.

You must have traveled on the Red Arrow. Well we were subject to Time but in Space we footed it calm and self-confident.

The two girls were discussing their book. Antonia, Tanichka alleged, had begun to be so proud of her achievements that had become a terrific bore. But Antonia replied quite calmly that she did not intend her achievements to be accessible to all and sundry.

But it was not only that they indulged in boasting. I, too, was an inveterate boaster. I could not stop Foucault’s pendulum… Well, well… A man not always succeeds in his endeavours. But before their inspired and astonished eyes I was now about to lift King — Bell…

“Wha-a-t?” Was it they asking or had the Bell started to ring.

“That’s what!” said I. And was a little angry. “What if you are the biggest bell in the world? We’re not going to stage a show for the benefit of tourists but I’m going to lift you…”

Antonia was eyeing me suspiciously with her springtime green eyes.

But Tanichka began talking about Man’s infinite capacities. Man with a capital “M”. Which sounded proudly. Man could say something more proud and more powerful than the voice of any bell. And not only say it but carry it out, too.

There was so much wonder in the eyes of the two girls. If I was the cause of it, so be it!

And Tanichka continued to warble. In her view such a bell was nothing more than a mere dumbbell for an Apollo.

By which she meant me.

Bugai had painted me as an Apollo, too. Not much of a problem, eh?

“If not me, who else? And if not now when?”

Who said that? And when?

I did not give a damn. And rhetorical questions need not be answered. They are simply cut like any elementary Gordian knot.

Besides Tanya and Antonia a little kid stopped by me and the Bell. A boy of 5 or 6 not more. A boy who believed in fairy-tales and miracles.

In me, too!

Maybe his grandmother or grandfather had wandered off somewhere, or maybe his mother had disappeared with her lover and left him walking about alone with wide open eyes in search of miracles.

AND BELIEVED IN ME!

So, for his sake and his alone I had to lift it!

Because he would remember that. And say to himself: “If that gentleman could lift the bell why wouldn’t I be able to lift the EARTH?”

And would have at least tried. Without waiting for somebody to hand him the lever.

Maybe that’s how somebody had decided to build the tower of Babel!

And the Hanging Gardens of Semiramis!…

Miracles are to the taste of those who believe in them.

They are impossible without belief… Christ himself said that if you had faith as a grain of wheat you could lift mountains.

My belief was bigger than a millstone and King – Bell, no matter how big it wished to seem was no match for any mountain.

So I was confident of my success! Almost…

When lifting a weight the most important is to pull it off the ground. From then on it was easy.

I’ll lift it!

And I heard the sound of unsticking from the ground, that so characteristic sound…

No, no, I was mistaken. It was my own groan. It was let slip involuntarily from my wide open mouth, but a groan nevertheless. Nothing more than a groan!

Was it the world which rocked and swung in front of me or was I looking at the waves on which Christ walked and upon which Peter failed to reach Him because of his unbelief?

Tanya’s eyes were smiling at me. “She must have seen me rocking the bell,” I was thinking.

What remained was to pull it off the ground.

“Unsuspected are the strength and prowess of man,” Tanya’s eyes were saying. “Today Papa Jan may be sweating it out a little but tomorrow somebody who had less faith today will try and then Man will inevitably succeed.”

Ah, Tanichka, darling, thank you for the capital “M” and for the faith.

I will t-t-r-r-y-y again.

And I found myself on the ground — back to the earth with a small letter.

With a small letter — some nondescript man — was I, too.

In the eyes of Antonia I discerned reproach but in Tanichka’s eyes shone crystal clear tears. And that was enough for me. At least for now.

I fell exhausted on the ground but a peal was resounding in my head.

Had I shaken the bell?

Or did it come from the buzzing?

No, no, it was the peal of a bell! At least now…

When I returned to the Gallery of Memories, it was not Tanichka’s and Antonia’s eyes that were looking at me but those of the gallery manageress.

“I thought you would never come back,” she sobbed and in her eyes I noticed tears. “You were so slow to return and the manager of the Shop had been sexually harassing me all those six years…

“Six years?” I needn’t ask about anything else if so much time had passed. “Six years no less!…”

“Yes six years,” she spoke with resignation and that was more than the most eloquent proof. “For six years I hung around the picture in the frame of which you walked and vanished. I thought it was forever and six years is almost forever… They have passed! Two of them were leap years…”

“And what did the manager offer you?” I asked. After all I had attempted to lift King Bell and what’s a manager to that?

“As soon as you lost yourself in your memories the flow of visitors to the Gallery diminished. Then stopped completely. The Gallery seemed dead. Corpses, too, stopped passing. Diogenes also hid himself somewhere and the ghost did not appear at all. I was alone and wept for days on end. Then the manager appeared and started mocking me. He offered my the Systematic Chart. This is how, he said, I could have power over all goods and staff in the Shop for Airy Towers. No, not only over him but over the world I would know the place of everyone of them and could give them orders. With the Chart, he said, I could also choose a place for you. And a role to suit it. In the Chart of my life.”

“And you did not accept? My God, is there in the world a woman, alive or painted, real or frictional but nevertheless a WOMAN who would give up such enormous power?! And you did not accept?”

“Of course I didn’t accept!” She could be modest and yet magnificent. “Why should I need it?… Even power over you?… You would have turned into an obedient robot and no longer be the same…”

She was magnificent! I loved her! I loved her ever so much! Wasn’t she a veritable Penelope?

“I had begun to think you would never come back. Very little hope was left to me, as little as a piece of chewing gum. I thought that the sirens…”

What sirens? Had she had a glimpse of Tanichka and Antonia in the frame of the dim canvas? No, no, thank God! She had simply identified with her role as Penelope too much…

A groan was heard. It was not only Odysseus who had come back. The zombies were returning, too. And off they were again to sell their skins.

“You’ve come back and everything is now in the old way,” the gallery manageress whispered.

“The Systematic Chart — didn’t it put you in mind of the forbidden apple?”

The fruit of knowledge, I mean. The devil attempted to palm it off on us for the second time…

“There must be something else which we don’t understand,” murmured the gallery manageress. “Surely the Gallery is not the Garden of Eden… But if the manager is really a devil he wishes us to be rid of it.”

“If we have time, we’ll understand that as well,” I said perplexed.

“We have time,” the gallery manageress smiled. “The time has come back with you…”

Not only time had returned. Out of the patinated frame of the picture jumped out that girl… “The melody!” I almost shouted but I recognized her. The only difference was that she didn’t carry a flute now but a guitar.

“Hullo!” I greeted her. “I am glad to see you again…”

“But we haven’t met before!” objected.

“Didn’t you sing to me the song of the stony desert?”

“It wasn’t about the stony desert but about the desert of the spirit,” the girl objected calmly and with a smile. “This is one. Number two: it wasn’t me but my sister… I am the melody of the bell…”

Yes, didn’t I hear a bell peal before I lost consciousness. Was it her?

“I am the melody of the lonely peal of the bell… Some really remain closed forever within me… But others can turn into a guitar melody for two, nevertheless. I am alive because you tried to shake the biggest bell in the world and woke me up…

Do you, two, wish to hear me now?”

“Yes, I do,” said I.

“Yes, we do,” the gallery manageress said. “She asked us both. We do!”

 

……. (THIS PART OF THE BOOK IS IN THE ORIGINAL DISC)

 

 

Chapter Forty

ON THE WINGS OF THE EAGLE

The white eagle of the Longer circled freely over the snowcapped peaks when it heard the single word uttered by the Wandering Medium. And the word which had burned Stephen’s tongue singed the eagle also. And appealed to him. The eagle frowned and then dived towards the Machine City.

With his wings he destroyed the metal walls.

With his beak he dismantled the Central Computer.

Then he saved Madame Philosophy: put her on his wings and circled over the ruins of the Gray City.

This was the wish of the Wandering Medium.

Chapter Forty-one

THE RUINS OF THE GRAY CITY

The Gray City was destroyed but people did not yet remove their masks and continued living and moving as they only knew and could.

Their shadows were more alive than they.

The Wandering Medium roamed the ruins of the destroyed city and looked for a road to somewhere else but could not discover it. He often directed his glance towards the mirrors in order to see my face.

And he saw it.

And he even thought it was his face.

The face of his dead friend was more alive than his gray mask.

Then he tore up the mask and hurled it shrunken amidst the ruins. And he accepted my soul in his body…

He was a medium, wasn’t he?

He was a friend, wasn’t he?

He did not wish to leave me dead in the mirrors. Now he was to build a universal gallery.

I came to in his body and the first words I uttered were:

“If you have one friend, let all the rest be his friends, too!”

That was one of my messages to the world.

“If you have one love, let it be for all!”

I had handed over the rose to my daughter.

Now we had to find Madame Philosophy. For ourselves and for others.

I was going to discover the direction. It led towards the goal. And nothing else was left to us but to walk towards the goal.

Chapter Forty-two

NIKOLAY GRIEVES FOR ME — 3

In the villa “The Jaded Truths Of The Lie Seen Through” Gheshev looked about and peered in every dusty corner in search of me. He felt I was somewhere near. He did not even suppose that I was still in the trans-existence from which I might never return. Nikolay saw the imprint of my soul upon every object in the villa “The Jaded Truths Of The Lie Seen Through” and expected to set eyes on me.

Perhaps it was only fair that when one of us is dead the other should be alive.

In order to look for his friend.

The friend or his road…

Chapter Forty-three

THE REALM OF THE LONER

I was to roam long amidst the wilderness of the ruins of the dead city, I, too, perhaps, would have found myself on the endless Absurd Roads like a Wandering Medium if Madame Philosophy had not persuaded the Loner to send the eagles to save me.

I was saved by her love for the Wandering Medium.

And she would have come with me even though she felt so well in the realm of the Loner. The eagle heights bewitched her. What else could be the domain of Philosophy if not the domains of the Loner.

But her love urged her to come with me.

Chapter Forty-four

WITH THE SAD WOODEN IDOLS

Our road passed through the Kingdom of the Wooden Idols. Once this kingdom used to be a happy and prospering country. The people had everything, if one can have everything at all. But their souls cried for more.

Who can satiate the human Soul?

To please it they began making beautiful and exquisite figurines of wood. But is it easy to feed the human Soul? They made wooden figurines and put them in order, they made them and enjoyed them. They almost filled a whole gallery of them. And because they put their hearts and souls into the work they were doing, the people’s very souls remained embedded into the wooden statuettes.

And they turned into Idols!

Idols of beauty, Idols of ideas, Idols of happiness. Madame Philosophy even remembered that she had been invited to the opening of this Gallery.

Now there were only Idols. There were no People.

And Nature went mad. The beasts had forgotten people so they looked at us with curiosity and wondered whether Philosophy and I were sacrificial animals or unknown enemies.

At last we met Ruin also.

She had chosen for herself one comparatively preserved and comfortable human body.

She even smiled at us.

Seeing living people had moved her. She wished to have a chat with somebody. Conveniently for her we arrived.

“I had to be incarnated in a human body,” as I already said she was smiling. “I wished to experience the humiliation to which I had subjected the people… There is no longer Ruin, so I roam alone among all this destruction. I cannot build, nor can I destroy any longer. Sad is the plight of Ruin when everything has been destroyed. There are no people any longer. Even if there were they have nothing to do now. All trees have been turned into wooden idols. There is not a single tree even for a shade. To say nothing about fruit…”

“Has no single living person remained, after all?” I asked.

“Even dead worlds leave behind one last person alive,” Ruin said. “One Noah or one Robinson. In order to remember and tell.”

“Shall we meet him?” Madame Philosophy asked.

“You will, but he is stark mad,” Ruin was flustered and even reddened. “I am not entirely to blame for all that. Once upon a time he was a hermit. Now he comes to these parts and at a certain hour he speaks with the idols. He even gives them flowers. Only he remained from the entire Gray City.”

“Gray City do you say,” I shouted. “But I knew it… And I left it quite recently.”

“This is how it seems to you!” Ruin was kind enough to explain. “As far as we are concerned much time has passed. After the Gray City was destroyed by the Loner a truly happy country was born from the ruins. And it had nothing in common either with the realm of the lecherous or with the Machine-City of the gray. Until the people thought up idols for everything. They even gave them their souls. Only the Hermit remains. A madman weeping at my feet.”

I was shaken. I had attempted to save a world but I had destroyed it.

“You bear no responsibility,” Philosophy told me.

That is what we use Philosophy for: to relieve us of responsibility. Still, I remembered that I and the Wandering Medium exchanged the Garden of Eden of the lecherous for the Machine City And in its place the realm of the idols had sprung up.

“They must have tried to build a gallery,” I sighed.

“You will succeed,” Madame Philosophy squeezed my hand.

“And what about the curses of the dead!?” I asked.

“They’ll melt amidst the prayers of the living,” she replied.

We fell silent. At that moment the Mad Hermit appeared and started talking to the idols. He was telling them some incomprehensible things. Deep down in myself I realized that he was telling them the truth. It is precisely the truth which remains incomprehensible to us.

“He had surely been telling it to the living as well,” I froze.

After a while he must have guessed it was better to talk to lifeless wooden idols.

“I understand!” I suddenly shouted for joy. “Today I will report to you that I can build and not only destroy. And that will be the new world!…”

Both Ruin and Philosophy were perplexed.

“I saw two persons who are born for each other,” I was talking animatedly  to Philosophy. “If Adam and Eve were children of Paradise, the new parents of the New World can be Ruin and the Mad Hermit…”

O, truly beautiful was the smile on the face of Madame Philosophy! And Ruin was game to anything.

Chapter Forty-five

RUIN IS MARRIED

Merry was the wedding attended only by the young couple and the sponsors. The young couple were Ruin and the Mad Hermit. Sponsors were Philosophy and I. This brought us closer together. Was it under the influence of drink that I harked back to early memories? And I was simultaneously there, in my memories, and at the wedding of Ruin and the Mad Hermit. I was again travelling on the “White Swan”, as I called my own motor vehicle, towards the home of my friend Ilko the Donkey. He is a fine maker of weapons who, in spite of the fact that his creations are dedicated to Death, insisted that he was a pacifist. He pointed to us as an example the maker of the Beret, who made the pistol and became a pacifist. Ilko’s atelier was housed in a building where one had to tread with care: you could collapse at any moment with the rotting beams to the floor below. Or something might fall and hit you one the head. On top of it all you could get bitten by one of the dogs which strolled about the rickety wooden structure, out of necessity or by the force of habit.

The atelier itself was plastered with porno cuttings from newspapers and magazines not for their erotic value but to paper over the holes in the wooden walls. In one corner of the atelier were piled broken bottles. The other was set aside for the weapons: Samurai swords, navajo weapons, yataghans, arbalests, sawed-off guns, various makes of pistols…

That evening we were a bit the worse for liquor. Jokingly, I asked him about his nickname which he so loved. Why was he called donkey, I asked. Was it because the donkey’s you-know-what is biggest?

“This is the least you could say,” Ilko said. “I’d like to see someone making the donkey do something against its will. It’s stubbornness the donkey excells in… And I am still in the beginning of my donkey tricks…”

We were drinking heavily and Ilko the Donkey was extolling the merits of metal.

I did not agree. Weren’t the seven wonders of the world all built of stone?

The more bottles we emptied, the more we were philosophizing Singing praises to communism would butter no parsnips, Ilko hotly argued. The spent semen could people several worlds, brand-new, I insisted. And came back to the wedding. And I smiled. Now everything lay in the hands of the descendants of Ruin and the Mad Hermit.

“Cheers!” I shouted.

In my thoughts I wished them success. To the not so lucky young couple.

More lucky would be their children.

Chapter Forty-six

A WORLD WITHOUT EXORCISTS

After the wedding of the  Mad Hermit and Ruin, I and Philosophy set sail again. The Traveller made no secret of the fact that we were headed for the land of the exorcists. He said that was inevitable. When we arrived we saw why. We had been led by the last exorcist.

“After you broke free,” he told Philosophy, “everything with us went to pot. And we did not believe you could save yourself and flee from the Tower of Truth. Then came the questions. With them came the gloomy answers which destroyed our unity and our strength lay in unity. Through our unity we subdued even the waves of the free — according to poets — sea. Now we can no longer be exorcists on  ships either but as John says, one last citizen from every world remains to tell what happened and bequeath his sorrowful experience. Besides, I wanted to give back to him the remaining six magic waves. The Celestial one he can use immediately. It will help you to depart from our dying island.”

“Will there be exorcists no longer?” Philosophy asked.

“There is no need for us,” he said with a sad smile. “One day the navigators are bound to learn to be exorcists of their ships themselves. This is necessary! You succeeded in doing so… More difficulties lay ahead for you but you have broken free. You had before your gallery and your goal. What you have to do is keep on…”

“And the Library of the Worlds?” we asked.

“It has changed, too. And let me tell you that the Library of the Worlds must change in order to remain alive like the worlds themselves… Go on!

Chapter Forty-seven

AFTER THE COMMONPLACE TRUTHS COMES THE SEASON OF FRUIT

Then we released the Celestial Wave and abandoned the dying island of exorcists. This way we found ourselves on the Island of Fruit. To my great surprise here I spotted the double of the carrier of commonplace truths. Philosophy only whispered in my ear:

“Yet another one of my illegitimate sons?…”

The rest it was up to me to realize and it was neither so difficult nor so comforting.

“I’ll tell you all you need to know about our island,” he told us.

“On this island you need plant no trees because all trees have already been planted. Now you only need to gather their fruit. It’s not at all difficult and to do anything else is simply pointless…”

“I must have seen you somewhere,” I told him.

I had realized he was no double, but the very carrier of commonplace truths.

“You saw me in the land of wilderness but it gave birth to the land of fruit…”

“And how did it happen?” I asked with curiosity.

“Thank God, there were people who did not believe the commonplace truths and this began to yield fruit. It’s fine, after all, isn’t it?”

“Then why don’t you try to think up something and say something different,” I advised him.

“Well, every man has his own truths!” he told me.

“And how do you wish me to believe you?” I asked him almost maliciously.

“Even if you don’t believe me now, tomorrow you will see for yourself,” he let slip another of his commonplace truths.

I felt uneasy for having met him. His truths would never yield fruit. But they caused Doubt.

And I also realized he was no alcoholic, either. He simply needed a few shillings to stay alive.

But now trees grew amidst the wilderness and they bore fruit. They were even more delicious than the fruit of the lecherous.

Chapter Forty-eight

IN THE EYES OF THE WEIRD FAIRY

I was overtaken by my Weird Fairy. Wrapped in thousands of cloaks as thin as a spider web, she resembled a cocoon. Only her eyes were visible and in them I saw Nikolay Gheshev roaming the villa “The Jaded Truths Of The Lie Seen Through”.

He was still looking for me.

Chapter Forty-nine

CHASING AFTER THE WIND IS ALSO A USEFUL OCCUPATION

I released the Rosy Wave and it swept the world. And it changed radically. It so resembled the world in my medium and yet was different.

People here had no gods and were more like animals.

They knew they were chasing after the wind and did it with pleasure. Not only the windmills but everything was wind!

And fog! When the weather went bad.

Besides that they wanted power and sexual pleasures.

“But this is also wind,” I said.

“Naturally,” they answered with a smile. “And what else should we chase?”

Here I forever lost Philosophy. She simply died because she couldn’t breathe their air.

I grieved a lot. I had lost a girl I loved very much.

There must be ecology of the spirit but we can’t seem to think of it yet.

So I grieved like a man of flesh and blood. Here I was only a man of flesh and blood. A purely biological type, true to his urges and pursuing his modest everyday goals. If my goals were great they would simply have been megalomaniac. In this world the aspirations had no spiritual motivation, they simple were there, grew and intertwined like a tree’s branches around you. Nothing spiritual disturbed their roots — so sweet and juicy were the fruits.

People here went like lovers at a date even when they were meeting with Death. Weren’t they to meet something new?

Maybe this world’s uppermost need was a gallery. But here they remembered the adage: “In vino veritas, in aqua sanitas”; they knew that truth is in the wine and health — in water. And they got drunk regularly. But they frequently bathed.

Suicides were a common occurrence and were sometimes done in the mass. Others lived for the moment but hysterically sought for novel experiences. Still others lived quietly without hope but also without disappointments. Them they could not have been able to bear.

“Everything is wind,” they reminded me.

I kept my silence.

“And fog,” they added courteously. “Whenever the weather is bad. If we are not mistaken, someone from your medium alleged that there is nothing better than bad weather… Here at least this is so.”

And one day I sold the five remaining waves for a few shiny bottles of super-erotic drinks.

And I got really drunk.

But I was not truly happy.

It occurred to me that I was languishing in the body of a medium but were I to remain in this world I would never be able to see my gallery.

Never!

Chapter Fifty

DON’T OVERDO THE EROTIC VISIONS!

It seemed to me I was again in the Gallery of Memories. Everything I went through was happening for the second time.

No, no, I was only dreaming and realized I had been asleep. I wanted to wake up. I knew that the dream would be erotic: wasn’t it resurrecting a similar experience from my past life? And the body was not my own, I had not grown accustomed to its secret parts and still more secret desires.

I was in Lenin’s house-museum…

And could not wake up.

I was amazed at its former owner’s ability to stay in the same posture for so many years without feeling uncomfortable. While the world was cursing and swearing at him so loudly and so frankly. No, I could not wake up.

And a real lady appeared in the museum. She was dressed in a long gown of fine pink fabric and wore a wide-brimmed hat. On her pale aristocratic features her red lips stood out the more strikingly.

Despite her bodice which held tight her bust it was evident that that part of her anatomy was quite ample and was very likely to burst through the bodice. So many women are capable of underscoring their assets! Because of that the assets become more seductive.

The lady was extraordinary: nobody dresses like that nowadays. Such clothes are truly a bourgeois whimsey, out of touch either with the tempo of the time or with the current lifestyle.

“I am an actress,” she told me when we were acquainted with each other.

Her name was Nadya. She herself initiated our acquaintance: it appeared that she thought I resembled her illegitimate grandfather.

The illegitimate grandfather turned out to be Lenin himself. Her mother was also an actress and frequently shared the bed of the idol of masses. This, despite the fact that his teaching was to create later on one of the most sanctimonious societies… My thinking faculties must have been awake because I calculated that at the time the great leader had already been afflicted with his disease and could not have fathered any progeny.

I very much wished to be awake. But we went to the theatre and then she took me to her apartment. The style of furnishing was again artistic but had nothing in common with her clothes. It was quite modern without a drop of nostalgia after the past.

I told her as much and she replied that she, too, was not particularly keen on such clothes but there was something she liked and that was the bodice. She also liked to make love with it on, only slightly unbuttoning it.

This time, however, she did take it off. She asked me to sit in an armchair and began dancing naked. Without even her bodice! For her this was a role: her mother’s role. This is how she imagined her conception. Quite unexpectedly my mouth alighted between her legs. Nadya accomplished that by a sudden jump and overturned me and the armchair backwards. Further, I did not allow her to be the more active partner. But I know how it happened between her grandmother and the great father of revolution.

And I woke up. I dispelled my horrible dream but was still excited. Two girls lay on either side of me. And the one was really named Nadya. The other was simply Natalia.

But even if this does not have the character of a message to the world, I would like to offer a friendly advice:

DO NOT OVERDO YOUR EROTIC VISIONS!

AND DO NOT DREAM ABOUT YOUR SWEAR WORDS…

Chapter Fifty-one

PREFER THE JADED TRUTHS TO FALSE INSIGHTS

Nikolai Gheshev who was still looking for me in the villa “The Jaded Truths Of The Lie Seen Through” still kept leafing through the blank pages of the book “Shall We Wait To See The Harvest?”

Maybe he expected to see words written by me in it.

Then he put aside the blank book and went in search of me. And he met me. Maybe it was his persistence that pulled me out of my frozen state in the mirror.

“Jan!” he shouted.

“Ghesh!” I answered him feebly and my words seemed to pour icy cold water over him. He saw me different and quite unlike my own self.

“What’s the matter with you?”

“I thought you were dead!” I circumvented his question.

“I thought the same about you… But I am happy we’ve met”

In his voice there still were conflicting emotions discernible.

“I am happy, too,” I said.

“You are not your former self!”

“Then what do you think I do resemble?” I asked almost without any curiosity.

Then Ghesha realized the truth: my body was a dumb shadow quite dispirited…

“Now you’ll not be able to paint… Is that why I left the brush with you?”

“At the moment I’m writing,” I replied embarrassed.

“The way you are, you can’t even write,” he was angry.

“I’ll show you the manuscript…”

“Don’t waste your time looking for it; I saw it: it is blank!”

I was silent for awhile. Then I giggled:

“The title is really excellent, isn’t it? I am waiting for inspiration.”

“You’ll not live to see it!… Your body doesn’t have a shadow even! You are deprived of yourself… Spiritually you are dead! The gentlemen of the pen and the brush love big words.

“I’ll get better in the course of time… This is simply a mental depression… Or an existentialist crisis… I’ll get better, you’ll see!”

“I was full of admiration for you when I saw your third picture of the triptych ‘The Rhodope Sphinx’. The one you dedicated to your grandmother,” Ghesha said. “The voice comes not merely from the throat but from the whole body… And you have achieved a stereo effect… All in one picture! You have painted a voice… If you see what I  mean…”

“I’ll find my shadow,” I said in a flat voice.

I saw tears in Gesha’s eyes.

“Let’s take a stroll,” something trembled in me. “There is a fine lake nearby… I also have a  boat…”

A little later on I, already rowing, only felt physical tiredness. It was approaching sunset and the sun was sinking in the water.

Perhaps it, too, was searching for my soul.

I had at least Ghesha to make happy. If I myself felt nothing. We went back to the villa and I began piling up in front of him my unfinished manuscripts. None of them was finished. Without believing myself I mechanically repeated that the crisis would only last a few days…

Chapter Fifty-two

THE BLADE OF THE SCYTHE

And I travelled in time and through the worlds alone. Someone or something suggested to me I had to flagellate myself. And I flagellated myself. In the cells of my loneliness. Real as the whip with which I lashed myself: on the legs, on the hands, on the bleeding back, across the mouth out of which bubbles of blood came and when they burst they only gave out groans but not words.

Then I had drinking bouts.

After that I asked for an appointment with Death.

And I remembered.

I remember the evening! It was sleeting and the weather was dull or weary: it passed so languidly. I made for a bridge. I was even glad that I would die on just such a day and put an end to my torments. I reached the railing when I saw my Fate. She again seemed to me a cocoon: she had put on so many veils. She did not say anything: I only heard her husky laughter. And it was that laughter that saved me. I was going towards Nothing but had to do so Much! I went back home and threw away the whip. Then I grabbed the bottle. I drank. I drank heavily and thirstily. I drank it all then broke the bottle against the wall. The pieces of glass fell upon the whip twisted like a snake.

I felt like vomiting.

Someone knocked on my door.

It was Death. She was knocking with the handle of her scythe. I was not afraid of it and a short while before I had even wished for her. In fact in the world of Matter she and Life were almost twins. I opened the door and saw her grinning mouth. She did not at all resemble Yuzhakov’s Death, she was much uglier. I was not afraid — I tensed my body like a spring and jumped. I even succeeded in knocking out her scythe.

I felt a burning sensation on the cheek and saw a trickle of blood moving down my face.

I was left with one more scar.

I was to have one scar from Life and one from Death.

Chapter Fifty-three

GOOD COMPANY ALWAYS GATHERS ROUND JADED TRUTHS

Ghesha and I were no longer alone in the villa. It is always so: the best company gathers round the jaded truths.

It was a motley company: there were friends and there were unsavoury types. Like mixed pickles.

The first to come were Wooden Zheko and Ilko the Donkey.

I was very glad to see them and to learn that they had made friends. They talked of their favourite subjects. Zheko never ceased alleging that one is part of one’s artistic product and Ilko was trying to explain that weapons are not part of their maker at all except the brain who is subservient to the human thirst for strength and security… Maybe to the masculine spirit.

“In that case, do we  leave beauty only to the womenfolk?” asked Wooden Zheko.

I listened to them without saying a word. Maybe from them I would elicit advice as to how to get back my soul. In the world of Matter it did not  mean a thing, wasn’t that so?

Some time later Steve appeared, not in the guise of a Wandering Medium but in his Soiled blue jeans outfit with the perpetual smell of beer. He had travelled long. It was evident he was tired. He intervened in the dispute to  make it hotter. I bet he would have agreed with both opinions. The fact that they were so different was not his concern. You could never know what his opinion was on any subject. I, when I had soul, was not unlike him in that respect. The word “convictions” was not one of my favourite dishes. I had my thirteen messages and they were enough.

After Steve came Vitya and Alek who even showed the beautifully written invitations. They did not behave in a hostile manner. If anything, they were a bit scared. Was that the same Vitya who had levelled his gun at me while I was tied up?

Finally, a new group of three appeared: Mariana, Lucy and Victor Bugay.

“I sent out the invitations,” Ghesh explained. “I invited everyone I thought of. As soon as I saw in what condition Papa Jan was I thought of gathering together his friends and enemies. It is written in one of his messages, is it not, that he would give his bread to them, even?

“Does it mean his enemies have no dignity, eh?” Alek said.

“It means they also need bread,” replied Wooden Zheko.

Alek eyed him maliciously.

“He respects the dignity of his enemies, considering them a part of himself which  won’t be forgotten in his gallery!” explained most fully Steve. “But do say Ghesh, why after all you gathered us together?”

“Maybe we all together will find the answers to the questions which disturb us. Maybe this is the way for to him to regain his lost shadow.”

“There must be some spell or magic!” said Ilko. “There must be something that will get him out!…”

“I think it can be found by us all,” insisted Ghesha.

“But it may not be this way!” objected Lucy. “Every person has something which he does not share with others from which stem all other consequences which he is willing to share…”

“What’s more, Papa Jan is difficult to understand even by his closest people,” added Mariana.

“But of course, he is secretive and cunning!” Vitya joined the conversation. “He is secretive because he is scheming…”

“Forget your malice, Vitya, try to give bread to your enemies for once,” cut him short Ilko the Donkey. “You are secretive too. I also am secretive. Anyone can have secrets from the others.”

“You must  be feeling horrible,” Lucy suggested to me.

I did not know what to tell her. I did not feel horrible. I was only in a horrible situation.

“Let’s begin from beginning,” Ghesha proposed.

Once he used to be a gentle person but now he was commanding the whole vociferous company in which there were people like Alek, Vitya and Ilko the Donkey.

“It began with an idea,” I started. “The idea of a great gallery which even in its inception, in its very idea, is a universal one.”

“And then after a while I made my appearance,” Victor made himself heard for the first time. He was smiling. “This is how the picture ‘The Strongest in the World’ appeared and then many others.”

“Then I intervened, too,” added Ghesh. “At any rate this was so till my death.”

“The Papa Jan Gallery was unveiled!” Mariana said with enthusiasm. “A fine little great gallery. I loved it.”

“Then came the difficulties and also your Bulgarian colleagues,” I nodded in the direction of Vitya and Alek.

“We are not all of us docile and intelligent,” Vitya bared his shining teeth in a bright smile. “But you always blame others”.

“Enough, Vitya,” Ilko the Donkey interrupted. I do not know what sort of a pacifist he was but no one until now had been able to silence Vitya with two words.

The others were silent.

“And ‘The Gallery’,” Steve said. “This is the name of the book.”

“But the idea underwent so many changes,” I recalled. “The idea of the book also underwent many changes as did the body. Let us hope it is preserved and reaches its destination.”

“Its destination!? Lucy asked.

“And mine,” I said.

And for the first time a smile appeared upon my almost dead skin.

Chapter Fifty-four

MAGICIANS WRITE FAIRY TALES

And I bore the ugly rugged scar in the World of Matter for everyone to see it on my face. And seeing it, all (or almost all) turned their eyes with an expression of distaste and revulsion.

They did not even suspect that it was the autograph of Death.

Until I met Him.

He was an old man. The Scar of Death not only failed to revolt or frighten him but actually prompted him to call me his friend. He took me to a wretched basement room which he called a cell. I entered his Loneliness and it indeed justified his calling his place of residence a cell.

“The tales I make up are instructive though maybe not attractive…”

The verse, if it was a verse, resounded like a playful bell in the wet and musty cell. I did not make it more hospitable but in any way it was my own Self I was after, not comfortable living conditions.

“I’ll teach you to poeticize. Poeticizing to myself has bored me to death,” the old chap said and managed a toothless grin.

It was a real smile because to me it evoked some one whom I could not remember at once.

Then the old man said his name was Kosta Khalachev.

“Oh, Old Kosta”! I shouted in affection.

“Hold on a minute, don’t hurry with your inspiration!” the old man interrupted me. “I’ll die a loner but your Kosta is not yet a goner.

Then the old man started speaking, the rhymes were more than his teeth in his mouth and kept clattering so it was difficult for me to make out what I heard. I understood he was a magician and poetry was his hobby, if not magic. He was Fate’s bag of bones, a living skeleton with barely a soul left, so he took up the making up of fairy tales in order to shut and preserve his Spirit.

For the Spirit he used a capital letter and something shone in his eyes.

And he asked me to make up fairy together with him, just like the Grimm brothers. We were not brothers but were equally wretched so a bit of fantasizing do us some good.

“But I do not  remember any interesting stories,” I sadly shook my head.

“About your Old Kosta I wish to know; how does his story go?”

It was really better for me to tell stories: his rhymes resounded horribly in the musty cell.

“He had fallen in the street,” I began. “So what I saw at first was an old and ill man. That is perhaps why the others passed him by. They even thought him a drunkard and I saw revulsion and distaste on their faces. And I bent down. Helped him stand on his legs. I took him to his home. I did not even suspect that my act of simple human charity would sow the seeds of a fine friendship. The seeds of this friendship were sown in the soul.”

The word “soul” startled me but the old man ignored it. Then I went on with the story out of which a fairy tale might be born.

“I looked after him till he fully recovered and then accepted his inviation to stay and live with him. For a not very rich student that was a way out. The interior of his home was really impressive. For the man with blue blood in his veins, for the aristocrat Kosta Khalachev, the forgotten and almost banned by the communists words like “Mister” “Madame” “Young Sir” were completely natural as if they were part and parcel of the interior of his home…”

“The interior has been dwelt upon, please go on,” the old man interrupted me with a sly smile. (So he was listening attentively!)

Kosta Khalachev used to say: “Go on, young sir.” And I enjoyed his attention. I was delighted with his pictures: he possessed a fabulous collection. He possessed masterpieces! I inherited them together with all the rest…

The old man was silent.

“Then his nephews started a battle for the inheritance, terrible and tenacious battle, “I went on with unease. “But as in all fairy tales with a happy end I possess his pictures… ‘The Kiss’ included!”

My fairy tale ended not with “…And they lived happily ever after…” but with “The Kiss”! And what finer end could there be?

I lived at the old man’s cell. And like him I tried to make up fairy tales, tailoring the stories and biographies I knew. The brothers Grimm have produced so many tales about tailors. I took up the thread and the needle, so to speak.

The old man listened in silence to my stories. One day he said that it was he perhaps who was MY Kosta Khalachev. Magicians can live at several places simultaneously, can’t they? I was glad to share what this time was the modest dwelling of my triple benefactor: he who had bequeathed to me the pictures, then the seven waves and was now teaching me to make up fairy tales.

One day I mentioned Demerdjiev. Not only I was indebted to him but also the Papa Jan Gallery.

“Tell me then how he came and went,” the old man said, “a fairy tale about him we’ll have to invent…”

“In some respects he was like you,” said I seriously, wishing to stop his rhyming. “Naturally, he also resembled Kosta Khalachev. Like him Ivan Demerdjiev gave tenderness to my soul. He was a graphic artist. He made a drawing of the St Kirik Monastery. It was very difficult to create melody in black and white but he could do it. And the Papa Jan Gallery resounded like an anthem. It was housed in the monastery at the time. His drawing, like a many-voiced choir of bells, awoke the history, deadened by oblivion and the vacant temples, gathered a fresh congregation and new worshippers of Beauty so that the Holy Spirit would not wail so inconsolably amidst the ruins of Truth and Beauty.

The old man was merely shaking his head sadly.

“I cannot forget his drawing with the kite! He had depicted himself holding a kite. The Greeks, too, have this custom: they wish to touch God with their kites. Now the young, ever young, spirit of Ivan Demerdjiev was sending a kite to reach God in order to extend His grace to my gallery. I also visualize another of his drawings: “The Fire Dancer”. In it the interaction between fire and flesh recalled Djalma to me…”

“To learn of Djalma I’m not wishin’,” the old man said. “But do tell me about the magician.”

I forgave his rhyming.

“Very well,” I sighed. “It’s difficult, but I’ll try. I will also write a tale about Ivan Demerdjiev. I will call it ‘The Magician of Black and White’…”

The old man sadly shook his head.

“I will also make up happy manly tales,” I said. “I’ll call one of those ‘Happy Tale About the Winners’… I have gone in for free-style wrestling for seven years…” I sighed. “I stopped exercising because of a bruise… And because of joy and pride…”

I had difficulty pronouncing ‘joy’ and ‘pride’ although I had promised a happy tale.

“At about the time I gave up wrestling,” I said, “the lucky star was rising of the six-time world champion Valentin Yordanov… Men can admire and rejoice at other people’s triumphs and idolize the winners.”

The old man’s face beamed with a smile.

“Now Valentin Yordanov is coach competitor for the American team ‘Foxcatcher’,” I said. “Owner of the team is John Du Pont who is also going in for free-style wrestling with Valentin. When Valentin Yordanov is wrestling in one corner of the mat stands Du Pont and wipes the sweat from Valentin’s face. He is the first to congratulate him with victory and begins to sing the Bulgarian national anthem ‘Mila Rodino’ (Dear Motherland).”

My voice trembled. Fortunately, I thought of the joke.

“Bulgaria’s prominent men teach Bulgarian to the world. And whenever Stoichkov starts protesting on the field the referee runs towards him, repeating: But mamata… but mamata[13].”

The old man smiled: “Your tale is fine… But it had better end on a sweat note Sweat performs miracles even when mamata is no help. Do write about it.”

Chapter Fifty-five

A MAN’S SOUL LURKS IN HIS SHADOW

All the people who had gathered round me in the villa “The Jaded Truths of the Lie Seen Through” were finally joined by Old Kosta Khalachev and Ivan Demerdjiev. While my alter ago ego was still roaming other worlds and making up fairy tales Old Kosta and Ivan were eager to help me. I trembled when I saw them. But I was surprised not by them but by myself. Why nothing shook me? Why did I receive coolly the very people I set so much store by?

“I am happy to see you, Jan!” old Kosta said with a beaming face.

“Help me!” I said. “You have always helped me… I have no soul. Nor do I have a shadow, even. I deprived myself of them, I lost them on the way…”

Was it with fear that my voice shook? If only I could feel fear at least… But I felt nothing. I did not even feel joy like…. I was going to say “like everyone else” almost mechanically. But people have souls and shadows.

“A man’s soul lurks in his shadow,” Old Kosta said. “Have you not heard old folk tales about human shadows being built into something?”

Did this aristocrat and person with blue blood in his veins believe such bu-. I was going to say ‘bullshit’. What stopped me? Maybe a tiny bit of fear was still left in me. Oh, God, why did you take away my soul, my shadow and fear? What was I to fear now, Lord? And what was I to defend?

Old Kosta resembled the American billionaire John Du Pont who had done so much for Valentin Yordanov.

“Help me!” I repeated.

“I’ll try, Jan!” Was it a tear that shimmered in Old Kosta’s eye? And I could not even cry. “There’s sure to be a way for you to regain your shadow, Jan. And with it will come that other thing”

“How can you help him, if he has gambled it away at cards?” sneered Vitya. “The man runs out of dough and stakes his soul, eh? How can you help him? I have done it, too. I have staked my soul and my shadow…”

Where did his words go? Nobody paid any attention to them and they flew out of the villa like flies.

“It was ‘The Kiss’ that saved you from the icy desert,” Old Kosta reminded himself and me. “It can also help you now…”

“At the time time it saved the body,” I said. “But I had a soul… ‘Soul hides under a thumbnail…’ But when you lose it, what then?”

But you have eyes, don’t you?” said Kosta Khalachev in amazement. “You have eyes for beauty, have you not?”

“My eyes are different. Maybe those of a bio-robot,” said I. They see and even identify objects and people but that is all they can do. Have you not seen a house with boarded up windows? It has no soul… Aren’t the eyes the windows of the soul?”

I was speaking bitter truths but I mouthed them with an emotionless evenness. I could no longer shout! No, I couldn’t…

“Your heart doesn’t feel anything either, does it?” my old friend asked.

“The heart is a muscle,” I said as at an anatomy lesson. “It is a pump. And I perceive only a rhythm of that pump.” Could I feel amazement? Why should my own words amaze me: “My heart is  only   fit for taking cardiograms of it… I’m still useful as a guinea pig…”

“And what about the fingers?” It was just as well Old Kosta did not know the folk song about Balkandji Yovo or else he would have sung it by all means. “Don’t your fingers itch to touch ‘The Kiss’?”

“What’s left in the fingers are only carnal desires: they can caress women,” I said. “They’ll only get smeared by the paints”

“But, Jan, I see your face,” the old man went on. “Do you mean to say that a mask has been pulled over it, as well? Kosta Khalachev almost wept. He was a very sensitive person. Contact with art had made his soul tender and vulnerable.

“I do see the mask,” gloomily interposed Ivan Demerdjiev. “Before now I used to have difficulty summing up that face and transferring my observations on the drawing. Now I only need a few lines. How has that happened, Jan? How?!”

“We, too, want to know that,” Ghesha interposed.

“I find it as difficult to paint that face as before,” Bugai never missed a conversation on a professional topic. “I have painted so many times… Now I see one advantage,” Victor tried to crack a joke. “Before now it could not be still…”

“Victor, you have always managed to penetrate into my inner world,” I said. “What is it I’ve got inside? If you find it still difficult to paint me, then there is hope yet? Eh?”

Victor was silent.

“And what do you say, Steve?” Ghesha had not lost hope yet. “You two had so many words in common.”

“You, too, have painted him, Ghesh,” Steve dodged an answer. “Didn’t you paint him as the last Roman Emperor… Now he lacks the toga… Also absent are his shadow and his soul…”

“It’s painful for me to see him like this,” Old Kosta sighed Even Ilko the Donkey was silent. The man who could hammer out anything out of metal. Wooden Zheko, too. His chisel reached to the soul of the wood. And instilled there his spirit. I, too, could do it once… “Once…Once…So long before…” What? Had I also forgotten the lyrics of songs? When one remembers one cherishes hopes… Alek and Vitya stood there like graven images. That was a convenient posture for bodyguards even if former once. Lucy had forgotten she was a swell guy and was on the verge of tears. Mariana was about to say something but her words did not come out.

“What now? A silent shadow?” shouted Vitya. “If he has flesh he is sure to cherish human desires. And as long as he has a body he’ll be in need of bodyguards. What?”

Both his laughter and his words resounded like shots. Vitya knew all there was to know about revolvers.

“You’ll never understand anything,” Bugai said. “Never!”

But then he unexpectedly laughed, too.

“What is it Victor?”

“Reminiscences…” he said. “I thought of something. Memories we both of us shared.”

And he told the others the story:

“It was when we were printing his — no — our catalogue. Of his works! And of his exhibition… For six months we went each week to Moscow. About some endless modifications. One day we gave a lift in the Mercedes to two chicks. They were to spend the night at his brother’s place, at Michael’s. On the morning the young chicks had vanished. Only the open window and the hanging sheet was the evidence of their flight. The rest you might have guessed: we found absent some million rubles and some foreign exchange.

“Do you recall the money?” Vitya interrupted Bugai’s story and addressed me.

“Yes I do,” I said. “But I also had some money with which to pay for the catalogue.”

“Aren’t you bitter about it all?” Vitya asked me point blank.

“Why should I be? The catalogue was produced nevertheless,” I said.

Vitya uttered a curse and curtly said:

“He won’t make it… And what is a shadow for in such a case as his? Even if he regains it they’ll steal it…”

Somebody laughed. Was it Stephen or Ilko the Donkey? Or maybe both. The others were silent.

“I wanted to remind him of something else,” smiled Victor.

“Do you mean about the Cossacks?” I asked.

“Yes, about the Cossacks,” he replied.

His brother’s studio had become a veritable Cossack head-quarters. There came wounded Cossacks from the fighting in Armenia and Azerbaijan. When they were going into battle their eyes were very bright. And also when they broke bread. And when they promised to help us as long as Victor was painting young women from memory…

“Well?” Alek asked. “Did you catch them?”

“Cossacks are always willing to help truth,” Victor said.

“Russia is a regular madhouse,” curtly said Vitya. “Everything is a matter of chance… Even Russian roulette.”

“Vitya, you are a terrible fool,” Stephen shouted. “And you are too dumb for us to suspect you of cherishing any ideals.”

I did not expect such courage on the part of Steve. But Vitya remained silent and did nor react at all.

Alek spoke instead of him:

“And you who have ideals, what would you stake your life for?”

“What would I die for?” Stephen asked. “That I indeed don’t know. But I am dying with him… Here and now! He was my link to life. And I followed him like a shadow…”

“He no longer has a shadow!” Alek solemnly proclaimed.

“I know,” Stephen went on shouting. “I, too, am dying with his shadow… I have the strength and ideas to write two hundred books. People like me built their shadows into their books… Like him, as well…”

“Like Papa Jan, you mean?” Alek tried using irony. “But who is he? Gallery owner? Artist? Or a writer? What is he?”

“A man with ideals,” I interposed to help Stephen.

And for others to hear it once again.

Lucy spoke up:

“You must regain your shadow! There must be something for you  to build into your Universal Gallery…” she broke into sobs. Such as Alek and Vitya have shadows, and you…”

“You must regain your shadow!” the second to speak up was Old Kosta. “Why then did you inherit my pictures?”

“You must regain your shadow!” Ghesha said. “Otherwise my brush would be dead, too. Don’t you use it to sign yourself with?”

“Regain your shadow!” Steve was in hysterics. “Remember how you spoke to me about Art and Beauty and about your friend Stefan Popov… When he had his hands cut on stage in that play about Stembolov you reminded me that upon the hands are written the lines of life. Stretch your arms towards your shadow. You made me believe in hands…”

“Discover your shadow!” shouted Mariana sucked into the general uproar. “Your gallery is also my home…”

“Jan, you need your shadow! Take it back!” Ilko the Donkey’s braying joined the chorus of voices. “Weapons in themselves are neither good nor bad. The only thing that matters is in what hands they will fall. I want to forge weaponry for Jan’s honest hands. Iron gives strength, man gives it character…”

“You must have a shadow so that you don’t merely disfigure the wood which you chisel,” Wooden Zheko wanted to remind me of his warm human logic.

“You must regain your shadow!” Ivan Demerdjiev also had his reasons. “Chiaroscuro is the soul of art…”

“So, in the shadow friends can lurk,” Vitya slyly giggled. “Alek and I will bear that in mind… Get your shadow back, man! One can buy anything at all with money…”

“I cannot paint people without shadows,” Bugai smiled. “I simply can’t.”

And my alter ego was learning to write fairy tales. And the tales became happier and happier and even more impossible.

“Are these  wonders possible in our world?” I asked.

“A miracle is impossible and that is why it is a miracle!” My cell-mate must have been really excited because he forgot to rhyme. “I taught you how to write fairy tales in order to become a child. One learns that, too. A child’s belief is stronger than anyone else’s. And a child is capable of miracles. Jan, you have written such beautiful tales. You are a child already…”

And he passed me the small bottle with the remaining four waves. I opened it and found myself in the villa ‘The Jaded Truths of the Lie Seen Through’

They were still shouting:

“You must regain your shadow!”

“You needed your shadow, Jan,” they persuaded me.

“A man’s soul lurks in his shadow.”

“You must regain your shadow!”

“But I have regained it!” shouted I and pushed away everyone around me. “The whole of myself is here!”

I could shout!

“I have returned to you and to my own Self,” said I and wept.

I could weep, too!

I had recovered everything with my shadow.

They all were amazed indeed and melted with happiness before my eyes.

They melted and vanished.

Nevertheless, I had the eyes of a child, hadn’t I?

The villa “The Jaded Truths of the Lie Seen Through” also melted.

Only I remained and was again up into trans-existence.

EPILOGUE

I walked long. I had switched off but of this I became conscious much later on. I came to at the moment I realized I was to collide with an iron door which barred my way. The inscription upon it read: “43rd Dimension. No entry” The lid was putting on airs. I walked round it. On the other side the road continued but on the reverse side of the door was the inscription: “You’ve missed the party! Ha-ha-ha! You jerk!” I returned and opened the door. Before me lay and endless staircase winding downwards. I went along it. The end of the corridor was not yet in sight although I had been going down for more than an hour. I sat down to rest. My goodness! Was I dreaming? No! Although I am Papa Jan, I had been frightened.

I started descending the stairs. An unclear and unfamiliar excitement gripped me. I had discovered a road and had taken some direction. Hadn’t I lacked just that all the time. I went, went further and further. Till I perceived that my legs again needed rest and two more hours had passed. Finally, I swayed and fell. I realized that now I had to ascend the stairs because “down” had become “up”, and vice versa. “Vice  versa” did the trick. I continued on my way. My excitement mounted. Then I reached the other door which was the exit. I opened it. Before me spread a riotously lit city. The streets were full of people and cars. The shadows of the people were violet, blue, black and gray. They were fleshless. They lost their shapes and changed their colours. A few lines of gray figures passed. They vanished into a roaring enormous machine, towering above the skyscrapers and waving a flag of lead.

My way was barred by an enormous door which bore the following inscription:

SHOP FOR AIRY TOWERS “COURAGE”

“The factory of shadows, a branch of the ‘Absolute’ concern offers you everything at a suitable price.” That was what the advertisement said. I opened the door and stepped in. The first counter was the department of fords.

“What is the price of the ford between the real and the dream world?” I asked.

“Sobering up,” the saleswoman told me and smilingly added “It is expensive but is indispensable.”

“And what about the ford between truth and falsehood?”

“Illusion. It’s cheap. I don’t recommend it to you…”

“And what about the ford between life and death?”

“Chicanery. After all, everyone possesses it.”

“Thank you. I’ll buy one of each after I save up some money”

As in a half-waking state, the memory surfaced of the car heading straight for a roadside tree with me at the wheel. How did I survive then? I had a feeling I had only dreamt it but I hadn’t… Unawares I had neared the attributes department. Behind the counter was a young heavy metal fan.

“What is the crown made of?” I asked.

“This is the star firmament. Its price is Sobering Up. Do buy it, Sir. It symbolizes the domain of Self. Everyone is born under it but no one…”

“You haven’t put it on either!”

“I haven’t saved enough… But soon…”

I got bored with store’s departments and  dropped in on the bar. The waiter leaned over my table.

“What drinks do you have?” I asked.

“Love… Flight… Friendship! Good-bye!!!”

The waiter was smiling almost like a clown.

“Love?” I said without hesitation. But it seems I was just inquiring.

I again recalled that I did not have any of their local currency. Maybe only boredom was free of charge. I was about to leave when a girl from the next table invited me with an unambiguous gesture. I thought she might have overheard my conversation with the waiter and had decided  to treat me to some Love but all she ordered for me was a cup of coffee. She was a dark-haired, spiral-curled girl with pale, pock-marked and very delicate skin out of which peered her big black eyes. In my world such a stare was counted lewd but here it was more appropriate to call it “deep”.

“How am I to call you?” I asked.

“Hope, but please don’t abbreviate it as endearment. I like it as it is.”

“I also like it like that,” I replied although I was not quite sure if that was thoroughly sincere.

We fell awkwardly silent. Hope was silently drinking her coffee and was not looking at me any longer. Then again I recalled the crash. Maybe I was searching for love and understanding and that’s why I thought of Pavlina. Did she survive then? No, I couldn’t remember. That happened so long before while I knew Pavlina for a comparatively short time. There was some link missing in my memory. I only remembered I was in love with Pavlina. A friend of the girl called Hope broke the awkwardness between us. He had appeared unexpectedly even for her. I availed myself of this opportunity to make my exit. As I was walking away I heard the man order two cocktails of love… I nearly got into trouble during a shoot out between recketeers and the security guards of the Shop. I even got scratched by a bullet so I was taken to one of the hospitals of the Shop although it was more like a magician’s tabernacle. The magician doctor was a little girl who seemed to be six but turned out to be four thousand years old. She waved a magic fan, tenderly caressed me and in the end only a small and ugly scar was left of the bullet wound.

“You will bear it for a little time yet,” she smiled at me. “One day you will forget the scar and it will really vanish.”

I thanked for the treatment and boarded the moving staircase to the second floor. The prices at the shop for pleasures varied. From negative figures to such that cost ten fords and one crown… I did not know the pleasures and to buy unknown pleasures is rather snobbish. I was about to board the moving staircase towards the exit when something stopped me. I realized I had an incredible strong attraction for the Shop’s double door. The neon lit inscription above it read: “GALLERY OF MEMORIES” It resembled a magician’s trick at a fun-fair, something like the train of horrors. It must have been one of the cheap diversions to be situated where it was. The entry was indeed free of charge so I looked at thousands of pictures which I did not understand.

Gradually it dawned on me that what was depicted upon the canvases miraculously started changing. Or perhaps it was I who was changing. That was also free of charge. I heard a merry girlish laughter. I looked about me. The laughter was lively and carefree and quite out of harmony with the solemn atmosphere in the Gallery.

“Jan, I am here!” I heard her voice still more lively than her laughter. “I am the lady-painter and am invisible because I paint invisible things.

“A friend of mine writes only horror stories and in line with your logic he himself has to be horrible, hasn’t he?” I tried to alleviate the oppressive atmosphere.

At just that moment my eye caught sight of her. She resembled a ghost or a hallucination and I was afraid she might vanish. She caught me by the arm. The touch put me in mind of a familiar warmth, the warmth of a familiar girl, I mean. But I did not know which one…

“Where are you taking me?” I asked.

My head swirled with many jokes and bantering remarks I could have made but none seemed to suit the moment.

“Does it matter to you now?” the girl asked a question which I understood still less than her pictures.

“You are taking me into a labyrinth!” I cried.

“Oh, am I?” she laughed and let go of my arm. In her laughter there was both contempt and womanish hauteur.

In the picture before me I saw my mother — she was young, very young.

“She seems happy,” I said.

“She was waiting for you then,” the girl answered.

In the picture mother was changing. I thought it was an optical illusion and tried to recapture the previous perspective but a change had indeed come over the picture.

“I don’t know how you achieve that but do you really think it is necessary?” I asked. “Don’t pictures capture the instant? Why is everything in your pictures changeable as it is in life?”

The lady-artist laughed and pointed at another canvas.

“This child is me, isn’t it?” — Did I feel it or indeed recognize myself?

“You seem frightened. Why?” she asked.

“That was the first time I felt I had a heart… Something alive pulsated within by breast.”

We were going deeper into the labyrinth. And I saw the Divine Rose. I had started work on it in Zheleznogorsk where my daughter was conceived. The idea occurred to me apparently by chance but the woodcarving was complete on Lydia’s birthday…

“How much are these pictures? I would like to have at least one of the ones I saw.”

“They are the most expensive items in the entire Shop for Airy Towers… Only rich people, very rich guests can afford them”

I fell silent and without will I followed her. But the memories had indeed excited me.

“Why don’t you give one picture as a gift then?” I said.

“I can’t. They are no longer mine…”

I was very sad: I really liked the pictures and very much wished to possess some of them.

“What is that?” I stopped in front one of the pictures. In it I was promenading in a strange city and all autos behind me were black hearses.

“They turn into hearses once you’ve passed by them. Kid’s stuff. You had weird dreams then… You don’t mean to say you’ve forgotten that nightmare?”

“Was it me who dreamt it? You seem to know things about me which even I myself have forgotten.”

“You are in the Shop for Airy Towers, you must know that,” was her answer.

Then I saw my picture “On the Bottom”. I had dedicated it to Pavlina. The earth and her bare bosom. The earth which desires to yield fruit although fortresses have been built  on top of her.

The next moment I was terrified to distraction. I saw a car ablaze. The  fire was fighting it out with the winter storm. It was my car at the moment of the crash.

“A grave misfortune,” my strange guide said with sympathy.

After it you and Pavlina went your separate ways. Married, she doesn’t look so beautiful. But after the crash she wished she was through with you.”

I saw her on the next picture, too. I had forgotten she was married. On the picture she was more mature and more feminine but was indeed sad.

“You are someone whom I know and you cannot deceive me!” I shouted. “Probably a former girlfriend of mine… You hate me and want to revenge yourself upon me…”

I was engulfed by her contemptuous laughter.

“This is not a labyrinth, Papa Jan! No, it isn’t. Here is the door in front of you!”

And the picture paled like overexposed photo paper. Daylight enveloped the gallery and it resembled a third-rate pub. I made for the moving staircase which was to take me to my world but was stopped by the customs official.

“I couldn’t buy anything,” I told him.

I stepped on the escalator and saw I was on an operating table. Now I clearly recalled the crash.

I heard the doctor say:

“He is dead! Such a fine fellow! What a pity!”

And he pulled off his gloves and mask.

I did not have to die! I had to build the Universal Gallery.

I swerved back and jumped off the escalator. And to the surgeon’s astonishment my heart began beating.

_____________________

 

And to the surgeon’s astonishment my heart throbbed in his hands.

The brain was still asleep. Or was leading me on a journey amid the stars. Were these stars or the lamps over the operating table whose glare blinded me?

The dazzling light riveted me to the bed.

To the Earth.

To my own self.

But in them also shone the words of the Absolute:

“Adam begat Moses… etc., etc…. Also born was Lydia, Gergana, Anna, Maria, Lucy, Mariana, Iriniya… Also born was Nikola, Timen, Ghesha, Lyudmil, Kosta, Rumen, Petyo, Sasho… Ivan was born… No, no!… Papa Jan! And with him Janoism was born…”

What is it?

It is so simple, don’t you remember?

A novo!

I’ll remind you of it again:

1. If you have one picture, paint some more…
The hand must get into the habit of caressing and building.

2. If you have one friend, let all the rest be his friends
Ad infinitum. To infinity.
Ad personam. Personally.

3. If you have one child, accept all others for his sisters and brothers.

4. If you have one love, let it be for everyone.

5. If you have a piece of bread, hand it out to your enemies.

6. If you have a lot of money, hand it out to the poor.
Ad se ipsum… To himself.

7. If you see glory let it seek you out.

8. If you have a goal, lay out the road to it as well.
Not all the roads lead towards the goal, nor are all roads yours.

9. If you happen to believe in God, believe in your own Self as well.
He is in you and thereby he is great and ubiquitous.

10.    If your harbour hatred, turn it into love.
… And hand it out to everyone
Fatum est series causarum. Fate is a series of causes.

11.    If you are loner, let all loners be your brothers.

12.    If you know truth, do not cover up falsehood.
Verum index sui et faisi…
Truth is a touchstone of itself and of falsehood.

13.    If you build a gallery, let it be universal…
IF YOU BUILD A GALLERY, LET IT BE UNIVERSAL…
IF YOU BUILD….

And the Shop for Airy Towers lay in ruins.

And I saw the rose in my daughter’s hands.

And I saw the road.

So I was alive indeed: everyone carries the road in himself

Everyone!


 


[1] Canadian wrestling — a contest between two adversaries who try their strength sitting along a table with elbows on it and palms firmly clasped, each one seeking to bend down the other’s arm.

[2] Lavra — a monastery of the highest rank in Russia.

[3] Komi — a region in Northern Russia.

[4] Izbushka — Russian log cabin.

[5] Dyadya may mean both “old man” and “uncle” in Russian.

[6] Toshko Kolev is a well-known Bulgarian comedian.

[7] Shashki — a game analogous to chess, popular in Russia.

[8] Kopek — Russian small coin

[9] Tsar — (Bulgarian, Russian) King.

[10] Danube is a big river in Europe dividing Bulgaria from Romania.

[11] Bayan — a Russian-style accordion.

[12] Natashka — a jocular appellation of any young Russian woman, deriving from Natalia a popular Russian female name.

[13] Mamata — an obscene Bulgarian curse.

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