You are on page 1of 73


by Italo Calvino Translated from Italian by William Weaver

First published in 1965 Translation first published in 1968

The Distance of the oon !t Daybrea" ! #i$n in #pace !ll at %ne &oint Without Colors 'ames Without (nd The !)uatic *ncle +o, uch #hall We -et. The Dinosaurs The Form of #pace The /i$ht01ears The #piral

The Distance of the Moon

At one time, according to Sir George H. Darwin, the Moon was very close to the Earth. Then the tides gradually pushed her far away the tides that the Moon herself causes in the Earth!s waters, where the Earth slowly loses energy. +o, ,ell I "no,2 00 old "fwf# cried,00 the rest of you can3t remember4 but I can5 We had her on top of us all the time4 that enormous oon6 ,hen she ,as full 00 ni$hts as bri$ht as day4 but ,ith a butter0colored li$ht 00 it loo"ed as if she ,ere $oin$ to crush us7 ,hen she ,as ne,4 she rolled around the s"y li"e a blac" umbrella blo,n by the ,ind7 and ,hen she ,as ,a8in$4 she came for,ard ,ith her horns so lo, she seemed about to stic" into the pea" of a promontory and $et cau$ht there5 -ut the ,hole business of the oon3s phases ,or"ed in a different ,ay then6 because the distances from the #un ,ere different4 and the orbits4 and the an$le of somethin$ or other4 I for$et ,hat7 as for eclipses4 ,ith (arth and oon stuc" to$ether the ,ay they ,ere4 ,hy4 ,e had eclipses

every minute6 naturally4 those t,o bi$ monsters mana$ed to put each other in the shade constantly4 first one4 then the other5 %rbit. %h4 elliptical4 of course6 for a ,hile it ,ould huddle a$ainst us and then it ,ould ta"e fli$ht for a ,hile5 The tides4 ,hen the oon s,un$ closer4 rose so hi$h nobody could hold them bac"5 There ,ere ni$hts ,hen the oon ,as full and very4 very lo,4 and the tide ,as so hi$h that the oon missed a duc"in$ in the sea by a hair3s0 breadth7 ,ell4 let3s say a fe, yards any,ay5 Climb up on the oon. %f course ,e did5 !ll you had to do ,as ro, out to it in a boat and4 ,hen you ,ere underneath4 prop a ladder a$ainst her and scramble up5 The spot ,here the oon ,as lo,est4 as she ,ent by4 ,as off the 9inc Cliffs5 We used to $o out ,ith those little ro,boats they had in those days4 round and flat4 made of cor"5 They held )uite a fe, of us6 me4 Captain :hd :hd4 his ,ife4 my deaf cousin4 and sometimes little ;lthl8 00 she ,as t,elve or so at that time5 %n those ni$hts the ,ater ,as very calm4 so silvery it loo"ed li"e mercury4 and the fish in it4 violet0colored4 unable to resist the oon3s attraction4 rose to the surface4 all of them4 and so did the octopuses and the saffron medusas5 There ,as al,ays a fli$ht of tiny creatures 00 little crabs4 s)uid4 and even some ,eeds4 li$ht and filmy4 and coral plants 00 that bro"e from the sea and ended up on the oon4 han$in$ do,n from that lime0,hite ceilin$4 or else they stayed in midair4 a phosphorescent s,arm ,e had to drive off4 ,avin$ banana leaves at them5 This is ho, ,e did the <ob6 in the boat ,e had a ladder6 one of us held it4 another climbed to the top4 and a third4 at the oars4 ro,ed until ,e ,ere ri$ht under the oon7 that3s ,hy there had to be so many of us =I only mentioned the main ones>5 The man at the top of the ladder4 as the boat approached the oon4 ,ould become scared and start shoutin$6 ?#top2 #top2 I3m $oin$ to ban$ my head2? That ,as the impression you had4 seein$ her on top of you4 immense4 and all rou$h ,ith sharp spi"es and <a$$ed4 sa,0tooth ed$es5 It may be different no,4 but then the oon4 or rather the bottom4 the underbelly of the oon4 the part that passed closest to the (arth and almost scraped it4 ,as covered ,ith a crust of sharp scales5 It had come to resemble the belly of a fish4 and the smell too4 as I recall4 if not do,nri$ht fishy4 ,as faintly similar4 li"e smo"ed salmon5 In reality4 from the top of the ladder4 standin$ erect on the last run$4 you could <ust touch the oon if you held your arms up5 We had ta"en the measurements carefully =,e didn3t yet suspect that she ,as movin$ a,ay from us>7 the only thin$ you had to be very careful about ,as ,here you put your hands5 I al,ays chose a scale that seemed fast =,e climbed up in $roups of five or si8 at a time>4 then I ,ould clin$ first ,ith one hand4 then ,ith both4 and immediately I ,ould feel ladder and boat driftin$ a,ay from belo, me4 and the motion of the oon ,ould tear me from the (arth3s attraction5 1es4 the oon ,as so stron$ that she pulled you up7 you reali@ed this the moment you passed from one to the other6 you had to s,in$ up abruptly4 ,ith a "ind of somersault4 $rabbin$ the scales4 thro,in$ your le$s over your head4 until your feet ,ere on the oon3s surface5 #een from the (arth4 you loo"ed as if you ,ere han$in$ there ,ith your head do,n4 but for you4 it ,as the normal position4 and the only odd thin$ ,as that ,hen you raised your eyes you sa, the sea above you4 $listenin$4 ,ith the boat and the others upside do,n4 han$in$ li"e a bunch of $rapes from the vine5 y cousin4 the Deaf %ne4 sho,ed a special talent for ma"in$ those leaps5 +is clumsy hands4 as soon as they touched the lunar surface =he ,as al,ays the first to <ump up from the ladder>4 suddenly became deft and sensitive5 They found immediately the

spot ,here he could hoist himself up7 in fact <ust the pressure of his palms seemed enou$h to ma"e him stic" to the satellite3s crust5 %nce I even thou$ht I sa, the oon come to,ard him4 as he held out his hands5 +e ,as <ust as de8trous in comin$ bac" do,n to (arth4 an operation still more difficult5 For us4 it consisted in <umpin$4 as hi$h as ,e could4 our arms upraised =seen from the oon4 that is4 because seen from the (arth it loo"ed more li"e a dive4 or li"e s,immin$ do,n,ards4 arms at our sides>4 li"e <umpin$ up from the (arth in other ,ords4 only no, ,e ,ere ,ithout the ladder4 because there ,as nothin$ to prop it a$ainst on the oon5 -ut instead of <umpin$ ,ith his arms out4 my cousin bent to,ard the oon3s surface4 his head do,n as if for a somersault4 then made a leap4 pushin$ ,ith his hands5 From the boat ,e ,atched him4 erect in the air as if he ,ere supportin$ the oon3s enormous ball and ,ere tossin$ it4 stri"in$ it ,ith his palms7 then4 ,hen his le$s came ,ithin reach4 ,e mana$ed to $rab his an"les and pull him do,n on board5 Ao,4 you ,ill as" me ,hat in the ,orld ,e ,ent up on the oon for7 I3ll e8plain it to you5 We ,ent to collect the mil"4 ,ith a bi$ spoon and a buc"et5 oon0mil" ,as very thic"4 li"e a "ind of cream cheese5 It formed in the crevices bet,een one scale and the ne8t4 throu$h the fermentation of various bodies and substances of terrestrial ori$in ,hich had flo,n up from the prairies and forests and la"es4 as the oon sailed over them5 It ,as composed chiefly of ve$etal <uices4 tadpoles4 bitumen4 lentils4 honey4 starch crystals4 stur$eon e$$s4 molds4 pollens4 $elatinous matter4 ,orms4 resins4 pepper4 mineral salts4 combustion residue5 1ou had only to dip the spoon under the scales that covered the oon3s scabby terrain4 and you brou$ht it out filled ,ith that precious muc"5 Aot in the pure state4 obviously7 there ,as a lot of refuse5 In the fermentation =,hich too" place as the oon passed over the e8panses of hot air above the deserts> not all the bodies melted7 some remained stuc" in it6 fin$ernails and cartila$e4 bolts4 sea horses4 nuts and peduncles4 shards of croc"ery4 fishhoo"s4 at times even a comb5 #o this paste4 after it ,as collected4 had to be refined4 filtered5 -ut that ,asn3t the difficulty6 the hard part ,as transportin$ it do,n to the (arth5 This is ho, ,e did it6 ,e hurled each spoonful into the air ,ith both hands4 usin$ the spoon as a catapult5 The cheese fle,4 and if ,e had thro,n it hard enou$h4 it stuc" to the ceilin$4 I mean the surface of the sea5 %nce there4 it floated4 and it ,as easy enou$h to pull it into the boat5 In this operation4 too4 my deaf cousin displayed a special $ift7 he had stren$th and a $ood aim7 ,ith a sin$le4 sharp thro,4 he could send the cheese strai$ht into a buc"et ,e held up to him from the boat5 !s for me4 I occasionally misfired7 the contents of the spoon ,ould fail to overcome the oon3s attraction and they ,ould fall bac" into my eye5 I still haven3t told you everythin$4 about the thin$s my cousin ,as $ood at5 That <ob of e8tractin$ lunar mil" from the oon3s scales ,as child3s play to him6 instead of the spoon4 at times he had only to thrust his bare hand under the scales4 or even one fin$er5 +e didn3t proceed in any orderly ,ay4 but ,ent to isolated places4 <umpin$ from one to the other4 as if he ,ere playin$ tric"s on the oon4 surprisin$ her4 or perhaps tic"lin$ her5 !nd ,herever he put his hand4 the mil" spurted out as if from a nanny $oat3s teats5 #o the rest of us had only to follo, him and collect ,ith our spoons the substance that he ,as pressin$ out4 first here4 then there4 but al,ays as if by chance4 since the Deaf %ne3s movements seemed to have no clear4 practical sense5 There ,ere places4 for e8ample4 that he touched merely for the fun of touchin$ them6 $aps bet,een t,o scales4 na"ed and tender folds of lunar flesh5 !t times my cousin

pressed not only his fin$ers but 00 in a carefully $au$ed leap 00 his bi$ toe =he climbed onto the oon barefoot> and this seemed to be the hei$ht of amusement for him4 if ,e could <ud$e by the chirpin$ sounds that came from his throat as he ,ent on leapin$5 The soil of the oon ,as not uniformly scaly4 but revealed irre$ular bare patches of pale4 slippery clay5 These soft areas inspired the Deaf %ne to turn somersaults or to fly almost li"e a bird4 as if he ,anted to impress his ,hole body into the oon3s pulp5 !s he ventured farther in this ,ay4 ,e lost si$ht of him at one point5 %n the oon there ,ere vast areas ,e had never had any reason or curiosity to e8plore4 and that ,as ,here my cousin vanished7 I had suspected that all those somersaults and nud$es he indul$ed in before our eyes ,ere only a preparation4 a prelude to somethin$ secret meant to ta"e place in the hidden @ones5 We fell into a special mood on those ni$hts off the 9inc Cliffs6 $ay4 but ,ith a touch of suspense4 as if inside our s"ulls4 instead of the brain4 ,e felt a fish4 floatin$4 attracted by the oon5 !nd so ,e navi$ated4 playin$ and sin$in$5 The Captain3s ,ife played the harp7 she had very lon$ arms4 silvery as eels on those ni$hts4 and armpits as dar" and mysterious as sea urchins7 and the sound of the harp ,as s,eet and piercin$4 so s,eet and piercin$ it ,as almost unbearable4 and ,e ,ere forced to let out lon$ cries4 not so much to accompany the music as to protect our hearin$ from it Transparent medusas rose to the sea3s surface4 throbbed there a moment4 then fle, off4 s,ayin$ to,ard the oon5 /ittle ;lthl8 amused herself by catchin$ them in midair4 thou$h it ,asn3t easy5 %nce4 as she stretched her little arms out to catch one4 she <umped up sli$htly and ,as also set free5 Thin as she ,as4 she ,as an ounce or t,o short of the ,ei$ht necessary for the (arth3s $ravity to overcome the oon3s attraction and brin$ her bac"6 so she fle, up amon$ the medusas4 suspended over the sea5 #he too" fri$ht4 cried4 then lau$hed and started playin$4 catchin$ shellfish and minno,s as they fle,4 stic"in$ some into her mouth and che,in$ them5 We ro,ed hard4 to "eep up ,ith the child6 the oon ran off in her ellipse4 dra$$in$ that s,arm of marine fauna throu$h the s"y4 and a train of lon$4 ent,ined sea,eeds4 and ;lthl8 han$in$ there in the midst5 +er t,o ,ispy braids seemed to be flyin$ on their o,n4 outstretched to,ard the oon7 but all the ,hile she "ept ,ri$$lin$ and "ic"in$ at the air4 as if she ,anted to fi$ht that influence4 and her soc"s 00 she had lost her shoes in the fli$ht 00 slipped off her feet and s,ayed4 attracted by the (arth3s force5 %n the ladder4 ,e tried to $rab them5 The idea of eatin$ the little animals in the air had been a $ood one7 the more ,ei$ht ;lthl8 $ained4 the more she san" to,ard the (arth7 in fact4 since amon$ those hoverin$ bodies hers ,as the lar$est4 mollus"s and sea,eeds and plan"ton be$an to $ravitate about her4 and soon the child ,as covered ,ith siliceous little shells4 chitinous carapaces4 and fibers of sea plants5 !nd the farther she vanished into that tan$le4 the more she ,as freed of the oon3s influence4 until she $ra@ed the surface of the ,ater and san" into the sea5 We ro,ed )uic"ly4 to pull her out and save her6 her body had remained ma$neti@ed4 and ,e had to ,or" hard to scrape off all the thin$s encrusted on her5 Tender corals ,ere ,ound about her head4 and every time ,e ran the comb throu$h her hair there ,as a sho,er of crayfish and sardines7 her eyes ,ere sealed shut by limpets clin$in$ to the lids ,ith their suc"ers7 s)uids3 tentacles ,ere coiled around her arms and her nec"7 and her little dress no, seemed ,oven only of ,eeds and spon$es5 We $ot the ,orst of it off her4 but for ,ee"s after,ards she ,ent on pullin$ out fins and shells4 and her s"in4

dotted ,ith little diatoms4 remained affected forever4 loo"in$ 00 to someone ,ho didn3t observe her carefully 00 as if it ,ere faintly dusted ,ith frec"les5 This should $ive you an idea of ho, the influences of (arth and oon4 practically e)ual4 fou$ht over the space bet,een them5 I3ll tell you somethin$ else6 a body that descended to the (arth from the satellite ,as still char$ed for a ,hile ,ith lunar force and re<ected the attraction of our ,orld5 (ven I4 bi$ and heavy as I ,as6 every time I had been up there4 I too" a ,hile to $et used to the (arth3s up and its do,n4 and the others ,ould have to $rab my arms and hold me4 clin$in$ in a bunch in the s,ayin$ boat ,hile I still had my head han$in$ and my le$s stretchin$ up to,ard the s"y5 ?+old on2 +old on to us2? they shouted at me4 and in all that $ropin$4 sometimes I ended up by sei@in$ one of rs5 :hd :hd3s breasts4 ,hich ,ere round and firm4 and the contact ,as $ood and secure and had an attraction as stron$ as the oon3s or even stron$er4 especially if I mana$ed4 as I plun$ed do,n4 to put my other arm around her hips4 and ,ith this I passed bac" into our ,orld and fell ,ith a thud into the bottom of the boat4 ,here Captain :hd :hd brou$ht me around4 thro,in$ a buc"et of ,ater in my face5 This is ho, the story of my love for the Captain3s ,ife be$an4 and my sufferin$5 -ecause it didn3t ta"e me lon$ to reali@e ,hom the lady "ept loo"in$ at insistently6 ,hen my cousin3s hands clasped the satellite4 I ,atched rs5 :hd :hd4 and in her eyes I could read the thou$hts that the deaf man3s familiarity ,ith the oon ,ere arousin$ in her7 and ,hen he disappeared in his mysterious lunar e8plorations4 I sa, her become restless4 as if on pins and needles4 and then it ,as all clear to me4 ho, rs5 :hd :hd ,as becomin$ <ealous of the oon and I ,as <ealous of my cousin5 +er eyes ,ere made of diamonds4 rs5 :hd :hd3s7 they flared ,hen she loo"ed at the oon4 almost challen$in$ly4 as if she ,ere sayin$6 ?1ou shan3t have him2? !nd I felt li"e an outsider5 The one ,ho least understood all of this ,as my deaf cousin5 When ,e helped him do,n4 pullin$ him 00 as I e8plained to you 00 by his le$s4 rs5 :hd :hd lost all her self0control4 doin$ everythin$ she could to ta"e his ,ei$ht a$ainst her o,n body4 foldin$ her lon$ silvery arms around him7 I felt a pan$ in my heart =the times I clun$ to her4 her body ,as soft and "ind4 but not thrust for,ard4 the ,ay it ,as ,ith my cousin>4 ,hile he ,as indifferent4 still lost in his lunar bliss5 I loo"ed at the Captain4 ,onderin$ if he also noticed his ,ife3s behavior7 but there ,as never a trace of any e8pression on that face of his4 eaten by brine4 mar"ed ,ith tarry ,rin"les5 #ince the Deaf %ne ,as al,ays the last to brea" a,ay from the oon4 his return ,as the si$nal for the boats to move off5 Then4 ,ith an unusually polite $esture4 :hd :hd pic"ed up the harp from the bottom of the boat and handed it to his ,ife5 #he ,as obli$ed to ta"e it and play a fe, notes5 Aothin$ could separate her more from the Deaf %ne than the sound of the harp5 I too" to sin$in$ in a lo, voice that sad son$ that $oes6 ?(very shiny fish is floatin$4 floatin$7 and every dar" fish is at the bottom4 at the bottom of the sea5 5 5? and all the others4 e8cept my cousin4 echoed my ,ords5 (very month4 once the satellite had moved on4 the Deaf %ne returned to his solitary detachment from the thin$s of the ,orld7 only the approach of the full oon aroused him a$ain5 That time I had arran$ed thin$s so it ,asn3t my turn to $o up4 I could stay in the boat ,ith the Captain3s ,ife5 -ut then4 as soon as my cousin had climbed the ladder4 rs5 :hd :hd said6 ?This time I ,ant to $o up there4 too2? This had never happened before7 the Captain3s ,ife had never $one up on the oon5 -ut :hd :hd made no ob<ection4 in fact he almost pushed her up the ladder

bodily4 e8claimin$6 ?'o ahead then24? and ,e all started helpin$ her4 and I held her from behind4 felt her round and soft on my arms4 and to hold her up I be$an to press my face and the palms of my hands a$ainst her4 and ,hen I felt her risin$ into the oon3s sphere I ,as heartsic" at that lost contact4 so I started to rush after her4 sayin$6 ?I3m $oin$ to $o up for a ,hile4 too4 to help out2? I ,as held bac" as if in a vise5 ?1ou stay here7 you have ,or" to do later4? the Captain commanded4 ,ithout raisin$ his voice5 !t that moment each one3s intentions ,ere already clear5 !nd yet I couldn3t fi$ure thin$s out7 even no, I3m not sure I3ve interpreted it all correctly5 Certainly the Captain3s ,ife had for a lon$ time been cherishin$ the desire to $o off privately ,ith my cousin up there =or at least to prevent him from $oin$ off alone ,ith the oon>4 but probably she had a still more ambitious plan4 one that ,ould have to be carried out in a$reement ,ith the Deaf %ne6 she ,anted the t,o of them to hide up there to$ether and stay on the oon for a month5 -ut perhaps my cousin4 deaf as he ,as4 hadn3t understood anythin$ of ,hat she had tried to e8plain to him4 or perhaps he hadn3t even reali@ed that he ,as the ob<ect of the lady3s desires5 !nd the Captain. +e ,anted nothin$ better than to be rid of his ,ife7 in fact4 as soon as she ,as confined up there4 ,e sa, him $ive free rein to his inclinations and plun$e into vice4 and then ,e understood ,hy he had done nothin$ to hold her bac"5 -ut had he "no,n from the be$innin$ that the oon3s orbit ,as ,idenin$. Aone of us could have suspected it5 The Deaf %ne perhaps4 but only he6 in the shado,y ,ay he "ne, thin$s4 he may have had a presentiment that he ,ould be forced to bid the oon fare,ell that ni$ht5 This is ,hy he hid in his secret places and reappeared only ,hen it ,as time to come bac" do,n on board5 It ,as no use for the Captain3s ,ife to try to follo, him6 ,e sa, her cross the scaly @one various times4 len$th and breadth4 then suddenly she stopped4 loo"in$ at us in the boat4 as if about to as" us ,hether ,e had seen him5 #urely there ,as somethin$ stran$e about that ni$ht5 The sea3s surface4 instead of bein$ taut as it ,as durin$ the full oon4 or even arched a bit to,ard the s"y4 no, seemed limp4 sa$$in$4 as if the lunar ma$net no lon$er e8ercised its full po,er5 !nd the li$ht4 too4 ,asn3t the same as the li$ht of other full oons7 the ni$ht3s shado,s seemed someho, to have thic"ened5 %ur friends up there must have reali@ed ,hat ,as happenin$7 in fact4 they loo"ed up at us ,ith fri$htened eyes5 !nd from their mouths and ours4 at the same moment4 came a cry6 ?The oon3s $oin$ a,ay2? The cry hadn3t died out ,hen my cousin appeared on the oon4 runnin$5 +e didn3t seem fri$htened4 or even ama@ed6 he placed his hands on the terrain4 flin$in$ himself into his usual somersault4 but this time after he had hurled himself into the air he remained suspended4 as little ;lthl8 had5 +e hovered a moment bet,een oon and (arth4 upside do,n4 then laboriously movin$ his arms4 li"e someone s,immin$ a$ainst a current4 he headed ,ith unusual slo,ness to,ard our planet5 From the oon the other sailors hastened to follo, his e8ample5 Aobody $ave a thou$ht to $ettin$ the oon0mil" that had been collected into the boats4 nor did the Captain scold them for this5 They had already ,aited too lon$4 the distance ,as difficult to cross by no,7 ,hen they tried to imitate my cousin3s leap or his s,immin$4 they remained there $ropin$4 suspended in midair5 ?Clin$ to$ether2 Idiots2 Clin$ to$ether2? the Captain yelled5 !t this command4 the sailors tried to form a $roup4 a mass4 to push all to$ether until they reached the @one of the (arth3s attraction6 all of a sudden a cascade of

bodies plun$ed into the sea ,ith a loud splash5 The boats ,ere no, ro,in$ to pic" them up5 ?Wait2 The Captain3s ,ife is missin$2? I shouted5 The Captain3s ,ife had also tried to <ump4 but she ,as still floatin$ only a fe, yards from the oon4 slo,ly movin$ her lon$4 silvery arms in the air5 I climbed up the ladder4 and in a vain attempt to $ive her somethin$ to $rasp I held the harp out to,ard her5 ?I can3t reach her2 We have to $o after her2? and I started to <ump up4 brandishin$ the harp5 !bove me the enormous lunar dis" no lon$er seemed the same as before6 it had become much smaller4 it "ept contractin$4 as if my $a@e ,ere drivin$ it a,ay4 and the emptied s"y $aped li"e an abyss ,here4 at the bottom4 the stars had be$un multiplyin$4 and the ni$ht poured a river of emptiness over me4 dro,ned me in di@@iness and alarm5 ?I3m afraid4? I thou$ht5 ?I3m too afraid to <ump5 I3m a co,ard2? and at that moment I <umped5 I s,am furiously throu$h the s"y4 and held the harp out to her4 and instead of comin$ to,ard me she rolled over and over4 sho,in$ me first her impassive face and then her bac"side5 ?+old ti$ht to me2? I shouted4 and I ,as already overta"in$ her4 ent,inin$ my limbs ,ith hers5 ?If ,e clin$ to$ether ,e can $o do,n2? and I ,as concentratin$ all my stren$th on unitin$ myself more closely ,ith her4 and I concentrated my sensations as I en<oyed the fullness of that embrace5 I ,as so absorbed I didn3t reali@e at first that I ,as4 indeed4 tearin$ her from her ,ei$htless condition4 but ,as ma"in$ her fall bac" on the oon5 Didn3t I reali@e it. %r had that been my intention from the very be$innin$. -efore I could thin" properly4 a cry ,as already burstin$ from my throat5 ?I3ll be the one to stay ,ith you for a month2? %r rather4 ?%n you2? I shouted4 in my e8citement6 ?%n you for a month2? and at that moment our embrace ,as bro"en by our fall to the oon3s surface4 ,here ,e rolled a,ay from each other amon$ those cold scales5 I raised my eyes as I did every time I touched the oon3s crust4 sure that I ,ould see above me the native sea li"e an endless ceilin$4 and I sa, it4 yes4 I sa, it this time4 too4 but much hi$her4 and much more narro,4 bound by its borders of coasts and cliffs and promontories4 and ho, small the boats seemed4 and ho, unfamiliar my friends3 faces and ho, ,ea" their cries2 ! sound reached me from nearby6 rs5 :hd :hd had discovered her harp and ,as caressin$ it4 s"etchin$ out a chord as sad as ,eepin$5 ! lon$ month be$an5 The oon turned slo,ly around the (arth5 %n the suspended $lobe ,e no lon$er sa, our familiar shore4 but the passa$e of oceans as deep as abysses and deserts of $lo,in$ lapilli4 and continents of ice4 and forests ,rithin$ ,ith reptiles4 and the roc"y ,alls of mountain chains $ashed by s,ift rivers4 and s,ampy cities4 and stone $raveyards4 and empires of clay and mud5 The distance spread a uniform color over everythin$6 the alien perspectives made every ima$e alien7 herds of elephants and s,arms of locusts ran over the plains4 so evenly vast and dense and thic"ly $ro,n that there ,as no difference amon$ them5 I should have been happy6 as I had dreamed4 I ,as alone ,ith her4 that intimacy ,ith the oon I had so often envied my cousin and ,ith rs5 :hd :hd ,as no, my e8clusive prero$ative4 a month of days and lunar ni$hts stretched uninterrupted before us4 the crust of the satellite nourished us ,ith its mil"4 ,hose tart flavor ,as familiar to us4 ,e raised our eyes up4 up to the ,orld ,here ,e had been born4 finally traversed in all its various e8panse4 e8plored landscapes no (arth0bein$ had ever seen4 or else ,e contemplated the stars beyond the oon4 bi$ as pieces of fruit4 made of li$ht4 ripened on

the curved branches of the s"y4 and everythin$ e8ceeded my most luminous hopes4 and yet4 and yet4 it ,as4 instead4 e8ile5 I thou$ht only of the (arth5 It ,as the (arth that caused each of us to be that someone he ,as rather than someone else7 up there4 ,rested from the (arth4 it ,as as if I ,ere no lon$er that I4 nor she that #he4 for me5 I ,as ea$er to return to the (arth4 and I trembled at the fear of havin$ lost it5 The fulfillment of my dream of love had lasted only that instant ,hen ,e had been united4 spinnin$ bet,een (arth and oon7 torn from its earthly soil4 my love no, "ne, only the heart0rendin$ nostal$ia for ,hat it lac"ed6 a ,here4 a surroundin$4 a before4 an after5 This is ,hat I ,as feelin$5 -ut she. !s I as"ed myself4 I ,as torn by my fears5 -ecause if she also thou$ht only of the (arth4 this could be a $ood si$n4 a si$n that she had finally come to understand me4 but it could also mean that everythin$ had been useless4 that her lon$in$s ,ere directed still and only to,ard my deaf cousin5 Instead4 she felt nothin$5 #he never raised her eyes to the old planet4 she ,ent off4 pale4 amon$ those ,astelands4 mumblin$ dir$es and stro"in$ her harp4 as if completely identified ,ith her temporary =as I thou$ht> lunar state5 Did this mean I had ,on out over my rival. Ao7 I had lost6 a hopeless defeat5 -ecause she had finally reali@ed that my cousin loved only the oon4 and the only thin$ she ,anted no, ,as to become the oon4 to be assimilated into the ob<ect of that e8trahuman love5 When the oon had completed its circlin$ of the planet4 there ,e ,ere a$ain over the 9inc Cliffs5 I reco$ni@ed them ,ith dismay6 not even in my dar"est previsions had I thou$ht the distance ,ould have made them so tiny5 In that mud puddle of the sea4 my friends had set forth a$ain4 ,ithout the no, useless ladders7 but from the boats rose a "ind of forest of lon$ poles7 everybody ,as brandishin$ one4 ,ith a harpoon or a $rapplin$ hoo" at the end4 perhaps in the hope of scrapin$ off a last bit of oon0mil" or of lendin$ some "ind of help to us ,retches up there5 -ut it ,as soon clear that no pole ,as lon$ enou$h to reach the oon7 and they dropped bac"4 ridiculously short4 humbled4 floatin$ on the sea7 and in that confusion some of the boats ,ere thro,n off balance and overturned5 -ut <ust then4 from another vessel a lon$er pole4 ,hich till then they had dra$$ed alon$ on the ,ater3s surface4 be$an to rise6 it must have been made of bamboo4 of many4 many bamboo poles stuc" one into the other4 and to raise it they had to $o slo,ly because 00 thin as it ,as 00 if they let it s,ay too much it mi$ht brea"5 Therefore4 they had to use it ,ith $reat stren$th and s"ill4 so that the ,holly vertical ,ei$ht ,ouldn3t roc" the boat5 #uddenly it ,as clear that the tip of that pole ,ould touch the oon4 and ,e sa, it $ra@e4 then press a$ainst the scaly terrain4 rest there a moment4 $ive a "ind of little push4 or rather a stron$ push that made it bounce off a$ain4 then come bac" and stri"e that same spot as if on the rebound4 then move a,ay once more5 !nd I reco$ni@ed4 ,e both 00 the Captain3s ,ife and I 00 reco$ni@ed my cousin6 it couldn3t have been anyone else4 he ,as playin$ his last $ame ,ith the oon4 one of his tric"s4 ,ith the oon on the tip of his pole as if he ,ere <u$$lin$ ,ith her5 !nd ,e reali@ed that his virtuosity had no purpose4 aimed at no practical result4 indeed you ,ould have said he ,as drivin$ the oon a,ay4 that he ,as helpin$ her departure4 that he ,anted to sho, her to her more distant orbit5 !nd this4 too4 ,as <ust li"e him6 he ,as unable to conceive desires that ,ent a$ainst the oon3s nature4 the oon3s course and destiny4 and if the oon no, tended to $o a,ay from him4 then he ,ould ta"e deli$ht in this separation <ust as4 till no,4 he had

deli$hted in the oon3s nearness5 What could rs5 :hd :hd do4 in the face of this. It ,as only at this moment that she proved her passion for the deaf man hadn3t been a frivolous ,him but an irrevocable vo,5 If ,hat my cousin no, loved ,as the distant oon4 then she too ,ould remain distant4 on the oon5 I sensed this4 seein$ that she didn3t ta"e a step to,ard the bamboo pole4 but simply turned her harp to,ard the (arth4 hi$h in the s"y4 and pluc"ed the strin$s5 I say I sa, her4 but to tell the truth I only cau$ht a $limpse of her out of the corner of my eye4 because the minute the pole had touched the lunar crust4 I had sprun$ and $rasped it4 and no,4 fast as a sna"e4 I ,as climbin$ up the bamboo "nots4 pushin$ myself alon$ ,ith <er"s of my arms and "nees4 li$ht in the rarefied space4 driven by a natural po,er that ordered me to return to the (arth4 oblivious of the motive that had brou$ht me here4 or perhaps more a,are of it than ever and of its unfortunate outcome7 and already my climb up the s,ayin$ pole had reached the point ,here I no lon$er had to ma"e any effort but could <ust allo, myself to slide4 head0first4 attracted by the (arth4 until in my haste the pole bro"e into a thousand pieces and I fell into the sea4 amon$ the boats5 y return ,as s,eet4 my home refound4 but my thou$hts ,ere filled only ,ith $rief at havin$ lost her4 and my eyes $a@ed at the oon4 forever beyond my reach4 as I sou$ht her5 !nd I sa, her5 #he ,as there ,here I had left her4 lyin$ on a beach directly over our heads4 and she said nothin$5 #he ,as the color of the oon7 she held the harp at her side and moved one hand no, and then in slo, arpe$$ios5 I could distin$uish the shape of her bosom4 her arms4 her thi$hs4 <ust as I remember them no,4 <ust as no,4 ,hen the oon has become that flat4 remote circle4 I still loo" for her as soon as the first sliver appears in the s"y4 and the more it ,a8es4 the more clearly I ima$ine I can see her4 her or somethin$ of her4 but only her4 in a hundred4 a thousand different vistas4 she ,ho ma"es the oon the oon and4 ,henever she is full4 sets the do$s to ho,lin$ all ni$ht lon$4 and me ,ith them5

The planets of the solar system, G. $. %uiper e&plains, 'egan to solidify in the dar(ness, through the condensation of a fluid, shapeless ne'ula. All was cold and dar(. )ater the Sun 'egan to 'ecome more concentrated until it was reduced almost to its present dimensions, and in this process the temperature rose and rose, to thousands of degrees, and the Sun started emitting radiations in space. &itch0dar" it ,as4 00 old "fwf# confirmed, 00 I ,as only a child4 I can barely remember it5 We ,ere there4 as usual4 ,ith Father and other4 'ranny -b3b4 some uncles and aunts ,ho ,ere visitin$4 r5 +n,4 the one ,ho later became a horse4 and us little ones5 I thin" I3ve told you before the ,ay ,e lived on the nebulae6 it ,as li"e lyin$ do,n4 ,e ,ere flat and very still4 turnin$ as they turned5 Aot that ,e ,ere lyin$ outside4 you understand4 on the nebula3s surface7 no4 it ,as too cold out there5 We ,ere underneath4 as if ,e had been tuc"ed in under a layer of fluid4 $rainy matter5 There ,as no ,ay of tellin$ time7 ,henever ,e started countin$ the nebula3s turns there ,ere disa$reements4 because

,e didn3t have any reference points in the dar"ness4 and ,e ended up ar$uin$5 #o ,e preferred to let the centuries flo, by as if they ,ere minutes7 there ,as nothin$ to do but ,ait4 "eep covered as best ,e could4 do@e4 spea" out no, and then to ma"e sure ,e ,ere all still there7 and4 naturally4 scratch ourselves7 because 00 they can say ,hat they li"e 00 all those particles spinnin$ around had only one effect4 a troublesome itchin$5 What ,e ,ere ,aitin$ for4 nobody could have said7 to be sure4 'ranny -b3b remembered bac" to the times ,hen matter ,as uniformly scattered in space4 and there ,as heat and li$ht7 even allo,in$ for all the e8a$$erations there must have been in those old fol"s3 tales4 those times had surely been better in some ,ays4 or at least different7 but as far as ,e ,ere concerned4 ,e <ust had to $et throu$h that enormous ni$ht5 y sister '3d=,>n fared the best4 than"s to her introverted nature6 she ,as a shy $irl and she loved the dar"5 For herself4 '3d=,>n al,ays chose to stay in places that ,ere a bit removed4 at the ed$e of the nebula4 and she ,ould contemplate the blac"ness4 and toy ,ith the little $rains of dust in tiny cascades4 and tal" to herself4 ,ith faint bursts of lau$hter that ,ere li"e tiny cascades of dust4 and 00 ,a"in$ or sleepin$ 00 she abandoned herself to dreams5 They ,eren3t dreams li"e ours =in the midst of the dar"ness4 ,e dreamed of more dar"ness4 because nothin$ else came into our minds>7 no4 she dreamed 00 from ,hat ,e could understand of her ravin$s 00 of a dar"ness a hundred times deeper and more various and velvety5 y father ,as the first to notice somethin$ ,as chan$in$5 I had do@ed off4 ,hen his shout ,a"ened me6 ?Watch out2 We3re hittin$ somethin$2? -eneath us4 the nebula3s matter4 instead of fluid as it had al,ays been4 ,as be$innin$ to condense5 To tell the truth4 my mother had been tossin$ and turnin$ for several hours4 sayin$6 ?*ff4 I <ust can3t seem to ma"e myself comfortable here2? In other ,ords4 accordin$ to her4 she had become a,are of a chan$e in the place ,here she ,as lyin$6 the dust ,asn3t the same as it had been before4 soft4 elastic4 uniform4 so you could ,allo, in it as much as you li"ed ,ithout leavin$ any print7 instead4 a "ind of rut or furro, ,as bein$ formed4 especially ,here she ,as accustomed to restin$ all her ,ei$ht5 !nd she thou$ht she could feel underneath her somethin$ li"e $ranules or blobs or bumps7 ,hich perhaps4 after all4 ,ere buried hundreds of miles farther do,n and ,ere pressin$ throu$h all those layers of soft dust5 Aot that ,e $enerally paid much attention to these premonitions of my mother3s6 poor thin$4 for a hypersensitive creature li"e herself4 and already ,ell alon$ in years4 our ,ay of life then ,as hardly ideal for the nerves5 !nd then it ,as my brother B,@fs4 an infant at the time7 at a certain point I felt him 00 ,ho "no,s. 00 slammin$ or di$$in$ or ,rithin$ in some ,ay4 and I as"ed6 ?What are you doin$.? !nd he said6 ?I3m playin$5? ?&layin$. With ,hat.? ?With a thin$4? he said5 1ou understand. It ,as the first time5 There had never been thin$s to play ,ith before5 !nd ho, could ,e have played. With that pap of $aseous matter. #ome fun6 that sort of stuff ,as all ri$ht perhaps for my sister '3d=,>n5 If B,@fs ,as playin$4 it meant he had found somethin$ ne,6 in fact4 after,ards4 e8a$$eratin$ as usual4 they said he had found a pebble5 It ,asn3t a pebble4 but it ,as surely a collection of more solid matter or 00 let3s say 00 somethin$ less $aseous5 +e ,as never very clear on this point7 that is4 he told stories4 as they occurred to him4 and ,hen the period came ,hen nic"el ,as formed and

nobody tal"ed of anythin$ but nic"el4 he said6 ?That3s it6 it ,as nic"el5 I ,as playin$ ,ith some nic"el2? #o after,ards he ,as al,ays called ?Aic"el B,@fs5? =It ,asn3t4 as some say no,4 that he had turned into nic"el4 unable 00 retarded as he ,as 00 to $o beyond the mineral phase7 it ,as a different thin$ alto$ether4 and I only mention this out of love for truth4 not because he ,as my brother6 he had al,ays been a bit bac",ard4 true enou$h4 but not of the metallic type4 if anythin$ a bit colloidal7 in fact4 ,hen he ,as still very youn$4 he married an al$a4 one of the first4 and ,e never heard from him a$ain5> In short4 it seemed everyone had felt somethin$6 e8cept me5 aybe it3s because I3m absent0minded5 I heard 00 I don3t "no, ,hether a,a"e or asleep 00 our father3s cry6 ?We3re hittin$ somethin$24? a meanin$less e8pression =since before then nothin$ had ever hit anythin$4 you can be sure>4 but one that too" on meanin$ at the very moment it ,as uttered4 that is4 it meant the sensation ,e ,ere be$innin$ to e8perience4 sli$htly nauseatin$4 li"e a slab of mud passin$ under us4 somethin$ flat4 on ,hich ,e felt ,e ,ere bouncin$5 !nd I said4 in a reproachful tone6 ?%h4 'ranny2? !fter,ards I often as"ed myself ,hy my first reaction ,as to become an$ry ,ith our $randmother5 'ranny -b3b4 ,ho clun$ to her habits of the old days4 often did embarrassin$ thin$s6 she continued to believe that matter ,as in uniform e8pansion and4 for e8ample4 that it ,as enou$h to thro, refuse any,here and it ,ould rarefy and disappear into the distance5 The fact that the process of condensation had be$un some ,hile a$o4 that is4 that dirt thic"ened on particles so ,e ,eren3t able to $et rid of it 00 she couldn3t $et this into her head5 #o in some obscure ,ay I connected this ne, fact of ?hittin$? ,ith some mista"e my $randmother mi$ht have made and I let out that cry5 Then 'ranny -b3b ans,ered6 ?What is it. +ave you found my cushion.? This cushion ,as a little ellipsoid of $alactic matter 'ranny had found some,here or other durin$ the first cataclysms of the universe7 and she al,ays carried it around ,ith her4 to sit on5 !t a certain point4 durin$ the $reat ni$ht4 it had been lost4 and she accused me of havin$ hidden it from her5 Ao,4 it ,as true I had al,ays hated that cushion4 it seemed so vul$ar and out of place on our nebula4 but the most 'ranny could blame me for ,as not havin$ $uarded it al,ays as she had ,anted me to5 (ven my father4 ,ho ,as al,ays very respectful to,ard her4 couldn3t help remar"in$6 ?%h see here4 amma4 somethin$ is happenin$ 00 ,e don3t "no, ,hat 00 and you $o on about that cushion2? ?!h4 I told you I couldn3t $et to sleep2? my mother said6 another remar" hardly appropriate to the situation5 !t that point ,e heard a $reat ?&,ac"2 Wac"2 #$rr2? and ,e reali@ed that somethin$ must have happened to r5 +n,6 he ,as ha,"in$ and spittin$ for all he ,as ,orth5 ? r5 +n,2 r5 +n,2 'et hold of yourself2 Where3s he $ot to no,.? my father started sayin$4 and in that dar"ness4 still ,ithout a ray of li$ht4 ,e mana$ed to $rope until ,e found him and could hoist him onto the surface of the nebula4 ,here he cau$ht his breath a$ain5 We laid him out on that e8ternal layer ,hich ,as then ta"in$ on a clotted4 slippery consistency5 ?Wrra"2 This stuff closes on you2? r5 +n, tried to say4 thou$h he didn3t have a $reat $ift for self0e8pression5 ?1ou $o do,n and do,n4 and you s,allo,2 #"rrrac"2? +e spat5 There ,as another novelty6 if you ,eren3t careful4 you could no, sin" on the

nebula5 y mother4 ,ith a mother3s instinct4 ,as the first to reali@e it5 !nd she cried6 ?Children6 are you all there. Where are you.? The truth ,as that ,e ,ere a bit confused4 and ,hereas before4 ,hen everythin$ had been lyin$ re$ularly for centuries4 ,e ,ere al,ays careful not to scatter4 no, ,e had for$otten all about it5 ?Ceep calm5 Aobody must stray4? my father said5 ?'3d=,>n2 Where are you. !nd the t,ins. +as anybody seen the t,ins. #pea" up2? Aobody ans,ered5 ?%h4 my $oodness4 they3re lost2? other shouted5 y little brothers ,eren3t yet old enou$h to "no, ho, to transmit any messa$e6 so they $ot lost easily and had to be ,atched over constantly5 ?I3ll $o loo" for them2? I said5 ?'ood for you4 Df,f)4 yes4 $o2? Father and other said4 then4 immediately repentant6 ?-ut if you do $o4 you3ll be lost4 too2 Ao4 stay here5 %h4 all ri$ht4 $o4 but let us "no, ,here you are6 ,histle2? I be$an to ,al" in the dar"ness4 in the marshy condensation of that nebula4 emittin$ a constant ,histle5 I say ?,al"?7 I mean a ,ay of movin$ over the surface4 inconceivable until a fe, minutes earlier4 and it ,as already an achievement to attempt it no,4 because the matter offered such little resistance that4 if you ,eren3t careful4 instead of proceedin$ on the surface you san" side,ays or even vertically and ,ere buried5 -ut in ,hatever direction I ,ent and at ,hatever level4 the chances of findin$ the t,ins remained the same6 ,ho could $uess ,here the t,o of them had $ot to. !ll of a sudden I spra,led7 as if they had 00 ,e ,ould say today 00 tripped me up5 It ,as the first time I had fallen4 I didn3t "no, ,hat ?to fall? ,as4 but ,e ,ere still on the softness and I didn3t hurt myself5 ?Don3t trample here4? a voice said4 ?I don3t ,ant you to4 Df,f)5? It ,as the voice of my sister '3d=,>n5 ?Why. What3s there.? ?I made some thin$s ,ith thin$s5 5 5? she said5 It too" me a ,hile to reali@e4 $ropin$4 that my sister4 messin$ about ,ith that sort of mud4 had built up a little hill4 all full of pinnacles4 spires4 and battlements5 ?What have you done there.? '3d=,>n never $ave you a strai$ht ans,er5 ?!n outside ,ith an inside in it5? I continued my ,al"4 fallin$ every no, and then5 I also stumbled over the inevitable r5 +n,4 ,ho ,as stuc" in the condensin$ matter a$ain4 head0first5 ?Come4 r5 +n,5 r5 +n,2 Can3t you possibly stay erect.? and I had to help him pull himself out once more4 this time pushin$ him from belo,4 because I ,as also completely immersed5 r5 +n,4 cou$hin$ and puffin$ and snee@in$ =it had never been so icy cold before>4 popped up on the surface at the very spot ,here 'ranny -b3b ,as sittin$5 'ranny fle, into the air4 immediately overcome ,ith emotion6 ? y $randchildren2 y $randchildren are bac"2? ?Ao4 no4 amma5 /oo"4 it3s r5 +n,2? (verythin$ ,as confused5 ?-ut the $randchildren.? ?They3re here2? I shouted4 ?and the cushion is here4 too2? The t,ins must lon$ before have made a secret hidin$ place for themselves in the thic"ness of the nebula4 and they had hidden the cushion there4 to play ,ith5 !s lon$ as matter had been fluid4 they could float in there and do somersaults throu$h the round cushion4 but no, they ,ere imprisoned in a "ind of spon$y cream6 the cushion3s central

hole ,as clo$$ed up4 and they felt crushed on all sides5 ?+an$ on to the cushion4? I tried to ma"e them understand5 ?I3ll pull you out4 you little fools2? I pulled and pulled and4 at a certain point4 before they "ne, ,hat ,as happenin$4 they ,ere already rollin$ about on the surface4 no, covered ,ith a scabby film li"e the ,hite of an e$$5 The cushion4 instead4 dissolved as soon as it emer$ed5 There ,as no use tryin$ to understand the phenomena that too" place in those days7 and there ,as no use tryin$ to e8plain to 'ranny -b3b5 Eust then4 as if they couldn3t have chosen a better moment4 our visitin$ relatives $ot up slo,ly and said6 ?Well4 it3s $ettin$ late7 I ,onder ,hat our children are up to5 We3re a little ,orried about them5 It3s been nice seein$ all of you a$ain4 but ,e3d better be $ettin$ alon$5? Aobody could say they ,ere ,ron$7 in fact4 they should have ta"en fri$ht and run off lon$ since7 but this couple4 perhaps because of the out0of0the0,ay place ,here they lived4 ,ere a bit $auche5 &erhaps they had been on pins and needles all this time and hadn3t dared say so5 y father said6 ?Well4 if you ,ant to $o4 I ,on3t try to "eep you5 -ut thin" it over6 maybe it ,ould be ,iser to stay until the situation3s cleared up a bit4 because as thin$s stand no,4 you don3t "no, ,hat sort of ris" you mi$ht be runnin$5? 'ood4 common sense4 in short5 -ut they insisted6 ?Ao4 no4 than"s all the same5 It3s been a real nice $et0to$ether4 but ,e ,on3t intrude on you any lon$er4? and more nonsense of the sort5 In other ,ords4 ,e may not have understood very much of the situation4 but they had no notion of it at all5 There ,ere three of them6 an aunt and t,o uncles4 all three very tall and practically identical7 ,e never really understood ,hich uncle ,as the husband and ,hich the brother4 or e8actly ho, they ,ere related to us6 in those days there ,ere many thin$s that ,ere left va$ue5 They be$an to $o off4 one at a time4 each in a different direction4 to,ard the blac" s"y4 and every no, and then4 as if to maintain contact4 they cried6 ?%h2 %h2? They al,ays acted li"e this6 they ,eren3t capable of behavin$ ,ith any sort of system5 They had hardly left ,hen their cries of ?%h2 %h2? could be heard from very distant points4 thou$h they ou$ht to have been still only a fe, paces a,ay5 !nd ,e could also hear some e8clamations of theirs4 ,hose meanin$ ,e couldn3t understand6 ?Why4 it3s hollo, here2? ?1ou can3t $et past this spot2? ?Then ,hy don3t you come here.? ?Where are you.? ?Eump2? ?Fine2 !nd ,hat do I <ump over.? ?%h4 but no, ,e3re headin$ bac" a$ain2? In other ,ords4 everythin$ ,as incomprehensible4 e8cept the fact that some enormous distances ,ere stretchin$ out bet,een us and those relatives5 It ,as our aunt4 the last to leave4 ,hose yells made the most sense6 ?+ere I am4 all alone4 stuc" on top of a piece of this stuff that3s come loose5 5 5? !nd the voices of the t,o uncles4 ,ea" no, in the distance4 repeated6 ?Fool5 5 5 Fool5 5 5 Fool5 5 5? We ,ere peerin$ into this dar"ness4 crisscrossed ,ith voices4 ,hen the chan$e too" place6 the only real4 $reat chan$e I3ve ever happened to ,itness4 and compared to it the rest is nothin$5 I mean this thin$ that be$an at the hori@on4 this vibration ,hich didn3t resemble those ,e then called sounds4 or those no, called the ?hittin$? vibrations4 or any others7 a "ind of eruption4 distant surely4 and yet4 at the same time4 it made ,hat ,as

close come closer7 in other ,ords4 all the dar"ness ,as suddenly dar" in contrast ,ith somethin$ else that ,asn3t dar"ness4 namely li$ht5 !s soon as ,e could ma"e a more careful analysis of the situation4 it turned out that6 first4 the s"y ,as dar" as before but ,as be$innin$ to be not so dar"7 second4 the surface ,here ,e ,ere ,as all bumpy and crusty4 an ice so dirty it ,as revoltin$4 ,hich ,as rapidly dissolvin$ because the temperature ,as risin$ at full speed7 and4 third4 there ,as ,hat ,e ,ould later have called a source of li$ht4 that is4 a mass that ,as becomin$ incandescent4 separated from us by an enormous empty space4 and it seemed to be tryin$ out all the colors one by one4 in iridescent fits and starts5 !nd there ,as more6 in the midst of the s"y4 bet,een us and that incandescent mass4 a couple of islands4 bri$htly li$hted and va$ue4 ,hich ,hirled in the void ,ith our uncles on them and other people4 reduced to distant shado,s4 lettin$ out a "ind of chirpin$ noise5 #o the better part ,as done6 the heart of the nebula4 contractin$4 had developed ,armth and li$ht4 and no, there ,as the #un5 !ll the rest ,ent on revolvin$ nearby4 divided and clotted into various pieces4 ercury4 :enus4 the (arth4 and others farther on4 and ,hoever ,as on them4 stayed ,here he ,as5 !nd4 above all4 it ,as deathly hot5 We stood there4 open0mouthed4 erect4 e8cept for r5 +n, ,ho ,as on all fours4 to be on the safe side5 !nd my $randmother2 +o, she lau$hed2 !s I said before4 'ranny -b3b dated from the a$e of diffused luminosity4 and all throu$h this dar" time she had "ept sayin$ that any minute thin$s ,ould $o bac" the ,ay they had been in the old days5 Ao, her moment seemed to have come7 for a ,hile she tried to act casual4 the sort of person ,ho accepts anythin$ that happens as perfectly natural7 then4 seein$ ,e paid her no attention4 she started lau$hin$ and callin$ us6 ?-unch of i$norant louts5 5 5 Cno,0 nothin$s5 5 5? #he ,asn3t spea"in$ )uite in $ood faith4 ho,ever7 unless her memory by then had be$un to fail her5 y father4 understandin$ ,hat little he did4 said to her4 prudently as al,ays6 ? amma4 I "no, ,hat you mean4 but really4 this seems )uite a different phenomenon5 5 5? !nd he pointed to the terrain6 ?/oo" do,n2? he e8claimed5 We lo,ered our eyes5 The (arth ,hich supported us ,as still a $elatinous4 diaphanous mass4 $ro,in$ more and more firm and opa)ue4 be$innin$ from the center ,here a "ind of yol" ,as thic"enin$7 but still our eyes mana$ed to penetrate throu$h it4 illuminated as it ,as by that first #un5 !nd in the midst of this "ind of transparent bubble ,e sa, a shado, movin$4 as if s,immin$ and flyin$5 !nd our mother said6 ?Dau$hter2? We all reco$ni@ed '3d=,>n6 fri$htened perhaps by the #un3s catchin$ fire4 follo,in$ a reaction of her shy spirit4 she had sun" into the condensin$ matter of the (arth4 and no, she ,as tryin$ to clear a path for herself in the depths of the planet4 and she loo"ed li"e a $old and silver butterfly as she passed into a @one that ,as still illuminated and diaphanous or vanished into the sphere of shado, that ,as $ro,in$ ,ider and ,ider5 ?'3d=,>n2 '3d=,>n2? ,e shouted and flun$ ourselves on the $round4 also tryin$ to clear a ,ay4 to reach her5 -ut the (arth3s surface no, ,as coa$ulatin$ more and more into a porous hus"4 and my brother B,@fs4 ,ho had mana$ed to stic" his head into a fissure4 ,as almost stran$led5 Then she ,as seen no more6 the solid @one no, occupied the ,hole central part of the planet5 y sister had remained in there4 and I never found out ,hether she had stayed buried in those depths or ,hether she had reached safety on the other side until I met her4

much later4 at Canberra in 191F4 married to a certain #ullivan4 a retired railroad man4 so chan$ed I hardly reco$ni@ed her5 We $ot up5 r5 +n, and 'ranny ,ere in front of us4 cryin$4 surrounded by pale blue0and0$old flames5 ?B,@fs2 Why have you set fire to 'ranny.? Father be$an to scold4 but4 turnin$ to,ard my brother4 he sa, that B,@fs ,as also enveloped in flames5 !nd so ,as my father4 and my mother4 too4 and I 00 ,e ,ere all burnin$ in the fire5 %r rather6 ,e ,eren3t burnin$4 ,e ,ere immersed in it as in a darlin$ forest7 the flames shot hi$h over the ,hole surface of the planet4 a fiery air in ,hich ,e could run and float and fly4 and ,e ,ere $ripped by a "ind of ne, <oy5 The #un3s radiations ,ere burnin$ the envelopes of the planets4 made of helium and hydro$en6 in the s"y4 ,here our uncles and aunt ,ere4 fiery $lobes spun4 dra$$in$ after them lon$ beards of $old and tur)uoise4 as a comet dra$s its tail5 The dar"ness came bac"5 -y no, ,e ,ere sure that everythin$ that could possibly happen had happened4 and ?yes4 this is the end4? 'randmother said4 ?mind ,hat us old fol"s say5 5 5? Instead4 the (arth had merely made one of its turns5 It ,as ni$ht5 (verythin$ ,as <ust be$innin$5

Situated in the e&ternal *one of the Mil(y +ay, the Sun ta(es a'out two hundred million years to ma(e a complete revolution of the Gala&y. Bi$ht4 that3s ho, lon$ it ta"es4 not a day less4 00 "fwf# said, 00 once4 as I ,ent past4 I dre, a si$n at a point in space4 <ust so I could find it a$ain t,o hundred million years later4 ,hen ,e ,ent by the ne8t time around5 What sort of si$n. It3s hard to e8plain because if I say si$n to you4 you immediately thin" of a somethin$ that can be distin$uished from a somethin$ else4 but nothin$ could be distin$uished from anythin$ there7 you immediately thin" of a si$n made ,ith some implement or ,ith your hands4 and then ,hen you ta"e the implement or your hands a,ay4 the si$n remains4 but in those days there ,ere no implements or even hands4 or teeth4 or noses4 all thin$s that came alon$ after,ards4 a lon$ time after,ards5 !s to the form a si$n should have4 you say it3s no problem because4 ,hatever form it may be $iven4 a si$n only has to serve as a si$n4 that is4 be different or else the same as other si$ns6 here a$ain it3s easy for you youn$ ones to tal"4 but in that period I didn3t have any e8amples to follo,4 I couldn3t say I3ll ma"e it the same or I3ll ma"e it different4 there ,ere no thin$s to copy4 nobody "ne, ,hat a line ,as4 strai$ht or curved4 or even a dot4 or a protuberance or a cavity5 I conceived the idea of ma"in$ a si$n4 that3s true enou$h4 or rather4 I conceived the idea of considerin$ a si$n a somethin$ that I felt li"e ma"in$4 so ,hen4 at that point in space and not in another4 I made somethin$4 meanin$ to ma"e a si$n4 it turned out that I really had made a si$n4 after all5 In other ,ords4 considerin$ it ,as the first si$n ever made in the universe4 or at least in the circuit of the il"y Way4 I must admit it came out very ,ell5 :isible. What a )uestion2 Who had eyes to see ,ith in those days. Aothin$ had ever been seen by

anythin$4 the )uestion never even arose5 Beco$ni@able4 yes4 beyond any possibility of error6 because all the other points in space ,ere the same4 indistin$uishable4 and instead4 this one had the si$n on it5 #o as the planets continued their revolutions4 and the solar system ,ent on in its o,n4 I soon left the si$n far behind me4 separated from it by the endless fields of space5 !nd I couldn3t help thin"in$ about ,hen I ,ould come bac" and encounter it a$ain4 and ho, I ,ould "no, it4 and ho, happy it ,ould ma"e me4 in that anonymous e8panse4 after I had spent a hundred thousand li$ht0years ,ithout meetin$ anythin$ familiar4 nothin$ for hundreds of centuries4 for thousands of millennia7 I3d come bac" and there it ,ould be in its place4 <ust as I had left it4 simple and bare4 but ,ith that unmista"able imprint4 so to spea"4 that I had $iven it5 #lo,ly the il"y Way revolved4 ,ith its frin$e of constellations and planets and clouds4 and the #un alon$ ,ith the rest4 to,ard the ed$e5 In all that circlin$4 only the si$n remained still4 in an ordinary spot4 out of all the orbit3s reach =to ma"e it4 I had leaned over the border of the 'ala8y a little4 so it ,ould remain outside and all those revolvin$ ,orlds ,ouldn3t crash into it>4 in an ordinary point that ,as no lon$er ordinary since it ,as the only point that ,as surely there4 and ,hich could be used as a reference point to distin$uish other points5 I thou$ht about it day and ni$ht7 in fact4 I couldn3t thin" about anythin$ else7 actually4 this ,as the first opportunity I had had to thin" somethin$7 or I should say6 to thin" somethin$ had never been possible4 first because there ,ere no thin$s to thin" about4 and second because si$ns to thin" of them by ,ere lac"in$4 but from the moment there ,as that si$n4 it ,as possible for someone thin"in$ to thin" of a si$n4 and therefore that one4 in the sense that the si$n ,as the thin$ you could thin" about and also the si$n of the thin$ thou$ht4 namely4 itself5 #o the situation ,as this6 the si$n served to mar" a place but at the same time it meant that in that place there ,as a si$n =somethin$ far more important because there ,ere plenty of places but there ,as only one si$n> and also at the same time that si$n ,as mine4 the si$n of me4 because it ,as the only si$n I had ever made and I ,as the only one ,ho had ever made si$ns5 It ,as li"e a name4 the name of that point4 and also my name that I had si$ned on that spot7 in short4 it ,as the only name available for everythin$ that re)uired a name5 Transported by the sides of the 'ala8y4 our ,orld ,ent navi$atin$ throu$h distant spaces4 and the si$n stayed ,here I had left it to mar" that spot4 and at the same time it mar"ed me4 I carried it ,ith me4 it inhabited me4 possessed me entirely4 came bet,een me and everythin$ ,ith ,hich I mi$ht have attempted to establish a relationship5 !s I ,aited to come bac" and meet it a$ain4 I could try to derive other si$ns from it and combinations of si$ns4 series of similar si$ns and contrasts of different si$ns5 -ut already tens and tens of thousands of millennia had $one by since the moment ,hen I had made it =rather4 since the fe, seconds in ,hich I had scra,led it do,n in the constant movement of the il"y Way> and no,4 <ust ,hen I needed to bear in mind its every detail =the sli$htest uncertainty about its form made uncertain the possible distinctions bet,een it and other si$ns I mi$ht ma"e>4 I reali@ed that4 thou$h I recalled its $eneral outline4 its over0all appearance4 still somethin$ about it eluded me4 I mean if I tried to brea" it do,n into its various elements4 I couldn3t remember ,hether4 bet,een one part and the other4 it ,ent li"e this or li"e that5 I needed it there in front of me4 to study4 to consult4 but instead it

,as still far a,ay4 I didn3t yet "no, ho, far4 because I had made it precisely in order to "no, the time it ,ould ta"e me to see it a$ain4 and until I had found it once more4 I ,ouldn3t "no,5 Ao,4 ho,ever4 it ,asn3t my motive in ma"in$ it that mattered to me4 but ho, it ,as made4 and I started inventin$ hypotheses about this ho,4 and theories accordin$ to ,hich a certain si$n had to be perforce in a certain ,ay4 or else4 proceedin$ by e8clusion4 I tried to eliminate all the less probable types of si$n to arrive at the ri$ht one4 but all these ima$inary si$ns vanished inevitably because that first si$n ,as missin$ as a term of comparison5 !s I rac"ed my brain li"e this =,hile the 'ala8y ,ent on turnin$ ,a"efully in its bed of soft emptiness and the atoms burned and radiated> I reali@ed I had lost by no, even that confused notion of my si$n4 and I succeeded in conceivin$ only interchan$eable fra$ments of si$ns4 that is4 smaller si$ns ,ithin the lar$e one4 and every chan$e of these si$ns0,ithin0the0si$n chan$ed the si$n itself into a completely different one7 in short4 I had completely for$otten ,hat my si$n ,as li"e and4 try as I mi$ht4 it ,ouldn3t come bac" to my mind5 Did I despair. Ao4 this for$etfulness ,as annoyin$4 but not irreparable5 Whatever happened4 I "ne, the si$n ,as there ,aitin$ for me4 )uiet and still5 I ,ould arrive4 I ,ould find it a$ain4 and I ,ould then be able to pic" up the thread of my meditations5 !t a rou$h $uess4 I calculated ,e had completed half of our $alactic revolution6 I had only to be patient4 the second half al,ays seemed to $o by more )uic"ly5 Ao, I <ust had to remember the si$n e8isted and I ,ould pass it a$ain5 Day follo,ed day4 and then I "ne, I must be near5 I ,as furiously impatient because I mi$ht encounter the si$n at any moment5 It3s here4 no4 a little farther on4 no, I3ll count up to a hundred5 5 5 +ad it disappeared. +ad ,e already $one past it. I didn3t "no,5 y si$n had perhaps remained ,ho "no,s ,here4 behind4 completely remote from the revolutionary orbit of our system5 I hadn3t calculated the oscillations to ,hich4 especially in those days4 the celestial bodies3 fields of $ravity ,ere sub<ect4 and ,hich caused them to trace irre$ular orbits4 cut li"e the flo,er of a dahlia5 For about a hundred millennia I tormented myself4 $oin$ over my calculations6 it turned out that our course touched that spot not every $alactic year but only every three4 that is4 every si8 hundred million solar years5 When you3ve ,aited t,o hundred million years4 you can also ,ait si8 hundred7 and I ,aited7 the ,ay ,as lon$ but I ,asn3t on foot4 after all7 astride the 'ala8y I traveled throu$h the li$ht0years4 $allopin$ over the planetary and stellar orbits as if I ,ere on a horse ,hose shoes struc" spar"s7 I ,as in a state of mountin$ e8citement7 I felt I ,as $oin$ forth to con)uer the only thin$ that mattered to me4 si$n and dominion and name5 5 5 I made the second circuit4 the third5 I ,as there5 I let out a yell5 !t a point ,hich had to be that very point4 in the place of my si$n4 there ,as a shapeless scratch4 a bruised4 chipped abrasion of space5 I had lost everythin$6 the si$n4 the point4 the thin$ that caused me 00 bein$ the one ,ho had made the si$n at that point 00 to be me5 #pace4 ,ithout a si$n4 ,as once a$ain a chasm4 the void4 ,ithout be$innin$ or end4 nauseatin$4 in ,hich everythin$ 00 includin$ me 00 ,as lost5 =!nd don3t come tellin$ me that4 to fi8 a point4 my si$n and the erasure of my si$n amounted to the same thin$7 the erasure ,as the ne$ation of the si$n4 and therefore didn3t serve to distin$uish one point from the precedin$ and successive points5> I ,as disheartened and for many li$ht0years I let myself be dra$$ed alon$ as if I ,ere unconscious5 When I finally raised my eyes =in the mean,hile4 si$ht had be$un in

our ,orld4 and4 as a result4 also life>4 I sa, ,hat I ,ould never have e8pected to see5 I sa, it4 the si$n4 but not that one4 a similar si$n4 a si$n un)uestionably copied from mine4 but one I reali@ed immediately couldn3t be mine4 it ,as so s)uat and careless and clumsily pretentious4 a ,retched counterfeit of ,hat I had meant to indicate ,ith that si$n ,hose ineffable purity I could only no, 00 throu$h contrast 00 recapture5 Who had played this tric" on me. I couldn3t fi$ure it out5 Finally4 a plurimillennial chain of deductions led me to the solution6 on another planetary system ,hich performed its $alactic revolution before us4 there ,as a certain C$,$" =the name I deduced after,ards4 in the later era of names>4 a spiteful type4 consumed ,ith envy4 ,ho had erased my si$n in a vandalistic impulse and then4 ,ith vul$ar artifice4 had attempted to ma"e another5 It ,as clear that his si$n had nothin$ to mar" e8cept C$,$"3s intention to imitate my si$n4 ,hich ,as beyond all comparison5 -ut at that moment the determination not to let my rival $et the better of me ,as stron$er than any other desire6 I ,anted immediately to ma"e a ne, si$n in space4 a real si$n that ,ould ma"e C$,$" die of envy5 !bout seven hundred millions of years had $one by since I had first tried to ma"e a si$n4 but I fell to ,or" ,ith a ,ill5 Ao, thin$s ,ere different4 ho,ever4 because the ,orld4 as I mentioned4 ,as be$innin$ to produce an ima$e of itself4 and in everythin$ a form ,as be$innin$ to correspond to a function4 and the forms of that time4 ,e believed4 had a lon$ future ahead of them =instead4 ,e ,ere ,ron$6 ta"e 00 to $ive you a fairly recent e8ample 00 the dinosaurs>4 and therefore in this ne, si$n of mine you could perceive the influence of our ne, ,ay of loo"in$ at thin$s4 call it style if you li"e4 that special ,ay that everythin$ had to be4 there4 in a certain fashion5 I must say I ,as truly satisfied ,ith it4 and I no lon$er re$retted that first si$n that had been erased4 because this one seemed vastly more beautiful to me5 -ut in the duration of that $alactic year ,e already be$an to reali@e that the ,orld3s forms had been temporary up until then4 and that they ,ould chan$e4 one by one5 !nd this a,areness ,as accompanied by a certain annoyance ,ith the old ima$es4 so that even their memory ,as intolerable5 I be$an to be tormented by a thou$ht6 I had left that si$n in space4 that si$n ,hich had seemed so beautiful and ori$inal to me and so suited to its function4 and ,hich no,4 in my memory4 seemed inappropriate4 in all its pretension4 a si$n chiefly of an anti)uated ,ay of conceivin$ si$ns and of my foolish acceptance of an order of thin$s I ou$ht to have been ,ise enou$h to brea" a,ay from in time5 In other ,ords4 I ,as ashamed of that si$n ,hich ,ent on throu$h the centuries4 bein$ passed by ,orlds in fli$ht4 ma"in$ a ridiculous spectacle of itself and of me and of that temporary ,ay ,e had had of seein$ thin$s5 I blushed ,hen I remembered it =and I remembered it constantly>4 blushes that lasted ,hole $eolo$ical eras6 to hide my shame I cra,led into the craters of the volcanoes4 in remorse I san" my teeth into the caps of the $laciations that covered the continents5 I ,as tortured by the thou$ht that C$,$"4 al,ays precedin$ me in the circumnavi$ation of the il"y Way4 ,ould see the si$n before I could erase it4 and boor that he ,as4 he ,ould moc" me and ma"e fun of me4 contemptuously repeatin$ the si$n in rou$h caricatures in every corner of the circum0$alactic sphere5 Instead4 this time the complicated astral time"eepin$ ,as in my favor5 C$,$"3s constellation didn3t encounter the si$n4 ,hereas our solar system turned up there punctually at the end of the first revolution4 so close that I ,as able to erase the ,hole thin$ ,ith the $reatest care5 Ao,4 there ,asn3t a sin$le si$n of mine in space5 I could start dra,in$ another4

but I "ne, that si$ns also allo, others to <ud$e the one ,ho ma"es them4 and that in the course of a $alactic year tastes and ideas have time to chan$e4 and the ,ay of re$ardin$ the earlier ones depends on ,hat comes after,ards7 in short4 I ,as afraid a si$n that no, mi$ht seem perfect to me4 in t,o hundred or si8 hundred million years ,ould ma"e me loo" absurd5 Instead4 in my nostal$ia4 the first si$n4 brutally rubbed out by C$,$"4 remained beyond the attac"s of time and its chan$es4 the si$n created before the be$innin$ of forms4 ,hich ,as to contain somethin$ that ,ould have survived all forms4 namely the fact of bein$ a si$n and nothin$ else5 a"in$ si$ns that ,eren3t that si$n no lon$er held any interest for me7 and I had for$otten that si$n no,4 billions of years before5 #o4 unable to ma"e true si$ns4 but ,antin$ someho, to annoy C$,$"4 I started ma"in$ false si$ns4 notches in space4 holes4 stains4 little tric"s that only an incompetent creature li"e C$,$" could mista"e for si$ns5 !nd still he furiously $ot rid of them ,ith his erasin$s =as I could see in later revolutions>4 ,ith a determination that must have cost him much effort5 =Ao, I scattered these false si$ns liberally throu$h space4 to see ho, far his simple0mindedness ,ould $o5> %bservin$ these erasures4 one circuit after the ne8t =the 'ala8y3s revolutions had no, become for me a slo,4 borin$ voya$e ,ithout $oal or e8pectation>4 I reali@ed somethin$6 as the $alactic years passed the erasures tended to fade in space4 and beneath them ,hat I had dra,n at those points4 my false si$ns 00 as I called them 00 be$an to reappear5 This discovery4 far from displeasin$ me4 filled me ,ith ne, hope5 If C$,$"3s erasures ,ere erased4 the first he had made4 there at that point4 must have disappeared by no,4 and my si$n must have returned to its pristine visibility2 #o e8pectation ,as revived4 to lend an8iety to my days5 The 'ala8y turned li"e an omelet in its heated pan4 itself both fryin$ pan and $olden e$$7 and I ,as fryin$4 ,ith it4 in my impatience5 -ut4 ,ith the passin$ of the $alactic years4 space ,as no lon$er that uniformly barren and colorless e8panse5 The idea of fi8in$ ,ith si$ns the points ,here ,e passed 00 as it had come to me and to C$,$" 00 had occurred to many4 scattered over billions of planets of other solar systems4 and I ,as constantly runnin$ into one of these thin$s4 or a pair4 or even a do@en4 simple t,o0dimensional scra,ls4 or else three0dimensional solids =polyhedrons4 for e8ample>4 or even thin$s constructed ,ith more care4 ,ith the fourth dimension and everythin$5 #o it happened that I reached the point of my si$n4 and I found five4 all there5 !nd I ,asn3t able to reco$ni@e my o,n5 It3s this one4 no4 that7 no4 no4 that one seems too modern4 but it could also be the most ancient7 I don3t reco$ni@e my hand in that one4 I ,ould never have ,anted to ma"e it li"e that5 5 5 !nd mean,hile the 'ala8y ran throu$h space and left behind those si$ns old and ne, and I still hadn3t found mine5 I3m not e8a$$eratin$ ,hen I say that the $alactic years that follo,ed ,ere the ,orst I had ever lived throu$h5 I ,ent on loo"in$4 and si$ns "ept $ro,in$ thic"er in space7 from all the ,orlds anybody ,ho had an opportunity invariably left his mar" in space someho,7 and our ,orld4 too4 every time I turned4 I found more cro,ded4 so that ,orld and space seemed the mirror of each other4 both minutely adorned ,ith hiero$lyphics and ideo$rams4 each of ,hich mi$ht be a si$n and mi$ht not be6 a calcareous concretion on basalt4 a crest raised by the ,ind on the clotted sand of the desert4 the arran$ement of the eyes in a peacoc"3s tail =$radually4 livin$ amon$ si$ns had led us to see si$ns in countless thin$s that4 before4 ,ere there4 mar"in$ nothin$ but their

o,n presence7 they had been transformed into the si$n of themselves and had been added to the series of si$ns made on purpose by those ,ho meant to ma"e a si$n>4 the fire0 strea"s a$ainst a ,all of schistose roc"4 the four0hundred0and0t,enty0seventh $roove 00 sli$htly croo"ed 00 of the cornice of a tomb3s pediment4 a se)uence of strea"s on a video durin$ a thunderstorm =the series of si$ns ,as multiplied in the series of the si$ns of si$ns4 of si$ns repeated countless times al,ays the same and al,ays someho, different because to the purposely made si$n you had to add the si$n that had happened there by chance>4 the badly in"ed tail of the letter , in an evenin$ ne,spaper <oined to a thready imperfection in the paper4 one amon$ the ei$ht hundred thousand fla"in$s of a tarred ,all in the elbourne doc"s4 the curve of a $raph4 a s"id0mar" on the asphalt4 a chromosome5 5 5 (very no, and then I3d start6 that3s the one2 !nd for a second I ,as sure I had rediscovered my si$n4 on the (arth or in space4 it made no difference4 because throu$h the si$ns a continuity had been established ,ith no precise boundaries any more5 In the universe no, there ,as no lon$er a container and a thin$ contained4 but only a $eneral thic"ness of si$ns superimposed and coa$ulated4 occupyin$ the ,hole volume of space7 it ,as constantly bein$ dotted4 minutely4 a net,or" of lines and scratches and reliefs and en$ravin$s7 the universe ,as scra,led over on all sides4 alon$ all its dimensions5 There ,as no lon$er any ,ay to establish a point of reference6 the 'ala8y ,ent on turnin$ but I could no lon$er count the revolutions4 any point could be the point of departure4 any si$n heaped up ,ith the others could be mine4 but discoverin$ it ,ould have served no purpose4 because it ,as clear that4 independent of si$ns4 space didn3t e8ist and perhaps had never e8isted5


Through the calculations 'egun 'y Edwin $. Hu''le on the gala&ies! velocity of recession, we can esta'lish the moment when all the universe!s matter was concentrated in a single point, 'efore it 'egan to e&pand in space. Aaturally4 ,e ,ere all there4 00 old "fwf# said, 00 ,here else could ,e have been. Aobody "ne, then that there could be space5 %r time either6 ,hat use did ,e have for time4 pac"ed in there li"e sardines. I say ?pac"ed li"e sardines4? usin$ a literary ima$e6 in reality there ,asn3t even space to pac" us into5 (very point of each of us coincided ,ith every point of each of the others in a sin$le point4 ,hich ,as ,here ,e all ,ere5 In fact4 ,e didn3t even bother one another4 e8cept for personality differences4 because ,hen space doesn3t e8ist4 havin$ somebody unpleasant li"e r5 &bert &berd underfoot all the time is the most irritatin$ thin$5 +o, many of us ,ere there. %h4 I ,as never able to fi$ure that out4 not even appro8imately5 To ma"e a count4 ,e ,ould have had to move apart4 at least a little4 and instead ,e all occupied that same point5 Contrary to ,hat you mi$ht thin"4 it ,asn3t the sort of situation that encoura$es sociability7 I "no,4 for e8ample4 that in other periods nei$hbors called on one another7 but there4 because of the fact that ,e ,ere all nei$hbors4 nobody even said $ood mornin$ or $ood evenin$ to anybody else5

In the end each of us associated only ,ith a limited number of ac)uaintances5 The ones I remember most are rs5 &h=i>A"G4 her friend De ;uaeau;4 a family of immi$rants by the name of 93@u4 and r5 &bert &berd4 ,hom I <ust mentioned5 There ,as also a cleanin$ ,oman 00 ?maintenance staff? she ,as called 00 only one4 for the ,hole universe4 since there ,as so little room5 To tell the truth4 she had nothin$ to do all day lon$4 not even dustin$ 00 inside one point not even a $rain of dust can enter 00 so she spent all her time $ossipin$ and complainin$5 Eust ,ith the people I3ve already named ,e ,ould have been overcro,ded7 but you have to add all the stuff ,e had to "eep piled up in there6 all the material that ,as to serve after,ards to form the universe4 no, dismantled and concentrated in such a ,ay that you ,eren3t able to tell ,hat ,as later to become part of astronomy =li"e the nebula of !ndromeda> from ,hat ,as assi$ned to $eo$raphy =the :os$es4 for e8ample> or to chemistry =li"e certain beryllium isotopes>5 !nd on top of that4 ,e ,ere al,ays bumpin$ a$ainst the 93@u family3s household $oods6 camp beds4 mattresses4 bas"ets7 these 93@us4 if you ,eren3t careful4 ,ith the e8cuse that they ,ere a lar$e family4 ,ould be$in to act as if they ,ere the only ones in the ,orld6 they even ,anted to han$ lines across our point to dry their ,ashin$5 -ut the others also had ,ron$ed the 93@us4 to be$in ,ith4 by callin$ them ?immi$rants4? on the prete8t that4 since the others had been there first4 the 93@us had come later5 This ,as mere unfounded pre<udice 00 that seems obvious to me 00 because neither before nor after e8isted4 nor any place to immi$rate from4 but there ,ere those ,ho insisted that the concept of ?immi$rant? could be understood in the abstract4 outside of space and time5 It ,as ,hat you mi$ht call a narro,0minded attitude4 our outloo" at that time4 very petty5 The fault of the environment in ,hich ,e had been reared5 !n attitude that4 basically4 has remained in all of us4 mind you6 it "eeps croppin$ up even today4 if t,o of us happen to meet 00 at the bus stop4 in a movie house4 at an international dentists3 convention 00 and start reminiscin$ about the old days5 We say hello 00 at times somebody reco$ni@es me4 at other times I reco$ni@e somebody 00 and ,e promptly start as"in$ about this one and that one =even if each remembers only a fe, of those remembered by the others>4 and so ,e start in a$ain on the old disputes4 the slanders4 the deni$rations5 *ntil somebody mentions rs5 &h=i>A"G 00 every conversation finally $ets around to her 00 and then4 all of a sudden4 the pettiness is put aside4 and ,e feel uplifted4 filled ,ith a blissful4 $enerous emotion5 rs5 &h=i>A"G4 the only one that none of us has for$otten and that ,e all re$ret5 Where has she ended up. I have lon$ since stopped loo"in$ for her6 rs5 &h=i>A"G4 her bosom4 her thi$hs4 her oran$e dressin$ $o,n 00 ,e3ll never meet her a$ain4 in this system of $ala8ies or in any other5 /et me ma"e one thin$ clear6 this theory that the universe4 after havin$ reached an e8tremity of rarefaction4 ,ill be condensed a$ain has never convinced me5 !nd yet many of us are countin$ only on that4 continually ma"in$ plans for the time ,hen ,e3ll all be bac" there a$ain5 /ast month4 I ,ent into the bar here on the corner and ,hom did I see. r5 &bert &berd5 ?What3s ne, ,ith you. +o, do you happen to be in this nei$hborhood.? I learned that he3s the a$ent for a plastics firm4 in &avia5 +e3s the same as ever4 ,ith his silver tooth4 his loud suspenders5 ?When ,e $o bac" there4? he said to me4 in a ,hisper4 ?the thin$ ,e have to ma"e sure of is4 this time4 certain people remain out5 5 5 1ou "no, ,ho I mean6 those 93@us5 5 5?

I ,ould have li"ed to ans,er him by sayin$ that I3ve heard a number of people ma"e the same remar"4 concludin$6 ?1ou "no, ,ho I mean5 5 5 r5 &bert &berd5 5 5? To avoid the sub<ect4 I hastened to say6 ?What about rs5 &h=i>A"G. Do you thin" ,e3ll find her bac" there a$ain.? ?!h4 yes5 5 5 #he4 by all means5 5 5? he said4 turnin$ purple5 For all of us the hope of returnin$ to that point means4 above all4 the hope of bein$ once more ,ith rs5 &h=i>A"G5 =This applies even to me4 thou$h I don3t believe in it5> !nd in that bar4 as al,ays happens4 ,e fell to tal"in$ about her4 and ,ere moved7 even r5 &bert &berd3s unpleasantness faded4 in the face of that memory5 rs5 &h=i>A"G3s $reat secret is that she never aroused any <ealousy amon$ us5 %r any $ossip4 either5 The fact that she ,ent to bed ,ith her friend4 r5 De ;uaeau;4 ,as ,ell "no,n5 -ut in a point4 if there3s a bed4 it ta"es up the ,hole point4 so it isn3t a )uestion of going to bed4 but of 'eing there4 because anybody in the point is also in the bed5 Conse)uently4 it ,as inevitable that she should be in bed also ,ith each of us5 If she had been another person4 there3s no tellin$ all the thin$s that ,ould have been said about her5 It ,as the cleanin$ ,oman ,ho al,ays started the slander4 and the others didn3t have to be coa8ed to imitate her5 %n the sub<ect of the 93@u family 00 for a chan$e2 00 the horrible thin$s ,e had to hear6 father4 dau$hters4 brothers4 sisters4 mother4 aunts6 nobody sho,ed any hesitation even before the most sinister insinuation5 -ut ,ith her it ,as different6 the happiness I derived from her ,as the <oy of bein$ concealed4 punctiform4 in her4 and of protectin$ her4 punctiform4 in me7 it ,as at the same time vicious contemplation =than"s to the promiscuity of the punctiform conver$ence of us all in her> and also chastity =$iven her punctiform impenetrability>5 In short6 ,hat more could I as". !nd all of this4 ,hich ,as true of me4 ,as true also for each of the others5 !nd for her6 she contained and ,as contained ,ith e)ual happiness4 and she ,elcomed us and loved and inhabited all e)ually5 We $ot alon$ so ,ell all to$ether4 so ,ell that somethin$ e8traordinary ,as bound to happen5 It ,as enou$h for her to say4 at a certain moment6 ?%h4 if I only had some room4 ho, I3d li"e to ma"e some noodles for you boys2? !nd in that moment ,e all thou$ht of the space that her round arms ,ould occupy4 movin$ bac",ard and for,ard ,ith the rollin$ pin over the dou$h4 her bosom leanin$ over the $reat mound of flour and e$$s ,hich cluttered the ,ide board ,hile her arms "neaded and "neaded4 ,hite and shiny ,ith oil up to the elbo,s7 ,e thou$ht of the space that the flour ,ould occupy4 and the ,heat for the flour4 and the fields to raise the ,heat4 and the mountains from ,hich the ,ater ,ould flo, to irri$ate the fields4 and the $ra@in$ lands for the herds of calves that ,ould $ive their meat for the sauce7 of the space it ,ould ta"e for the #un to arrive ,ith its rays4 to ripen the ,heat7 of the space for the #un to condense from the clouds of stellar $ases and burn7 of the )uantities of stars and $ala8ies and $alactic masses in fli$ht throu$h space ,hich ,ould be needed to hold suspended every $ala8y4 every nebula4 every sun4 every planet4 and at the same time ,e thou$ht of it4 this space ,as inevitably bein$ formed4 at the same time that rs5 &h=i>A"G ,as utterin$ those ,ords6 ?5 5 5 ah4 ,hat noodles4 boys2? the point that contained her and all of us ,as e8pandin$ in a halo of distance in li$ht0years and li$ht0centuries and billions of li$ht0millennia4 and ,e ,ere bein$ hurled to the four corners of the universe = r5 &bert &berd all the ,ay to &avia>4 and she4 dissolved into I don3t "no, ,hat "ind of ener$y0li$ht0heat4 she4 rs5 &h=i>A"G4 she ,ho in the midst of our closed4 petty ,orld had been capable of a $enerous impulse4

?-oys4 the noodles I ,ould ma"e for you24? a true outburst of $eneral love4 initiatin$ at the same moment the concept of space and4 properly spea"in$4 space itself4 and time4 and universal $ravitation4 and the $ravitatin$ universe4 ma"in$ possible billions and billions of suns4 and of planets4 and fields of ,heat4 and rs5 &h=i>A"Gs4 scattered throu$h the continents of the planets4 "neadin$ ,ith floury4 oil0shiny4 $enerous arms4 and she lost at that very moment4 and ,e4 mournin$ her loss5

-efore forming its atmosphere and its oceans, the Earth must have resem'led a gray 'all revolving in space. As the Moon does now. where the ultraviolet rays radiated 'y the Sun arrive directly, all colors are destroyed, which is why the cliffs of the lunar surface, instead of 'eing colored li(e Earth!s, are of a dead, uniform gray. /f the Earth displays a varicolored countenance, it is than(s to the atmosphere, which filters that murderous light. ! bit monotonous4 00 "fwf# confirmed, 00 but restful4 all the same5 I could $o for miles and miles at top speed4 the ,ay you can move ,here there isn3t any air about4 and all I could see ,as $ray upon $ray5 Ao sharp contrasts6 the only really ,hite ,hite4 if there ,as any4 lay in the center of the #un and you couldn3t even be$in to approach it ,ith your eyes7 and as far as really blac" blac" is concerned4 there ,asn3t even the dar"ness of ni$ht4 because all the stars ,ere constantly visible5 *ninterrupted hori@ons opened before me ,ith mountain chains <ust be$innin$ to emer$e4 $ray mountains4 above $ray roc"y plains7 and thou$h I crossed continent after continent I never came to a shore4 because oceans and la"es and rivers ,ere still lyin$ under$round some,here or other5 1ou rarely met anyone in those days6 there ,ere so fe, of us2 To survive ,ith that ultraviolet you couldn3t be too demandin$5 !bove all the lac" of atmosphere asserted itself in many ,ays4 you ta"e meteors for e8ample6 they fell li"e hail from all the points of space4 because then ,e didn3t have the stratosphere ,here no,adays they stri"e4 as if on a roof4 and disinte$rate5 Then there ,as the silence6 no use shoutin$2 Without any air to vibrate4 ,e ,ere all deaf and dumb5 The temperature. There ,as nothin$ around to retain the #un3s heat6 ,hen ni$ht fell it ,as so cold you could free@e stiff5 Fortunately4 the (arth3s crust ,armed us from belo,4 ,ith all those molten minerals ,hich ,ere bein$ compressed in the bo,els of the planet5 The ni$hts ,ere short =li"e the days6 the (arth turned around faster>7 I slept huddled up to a very ,arm roc"7 the dry cold all around ,as pleasant5 In other ,ords4 as far as the climate ,ent4 to tell you the truth4 I ,asn3t so badly off5 !mon$ the countless indispensable thin$s ,e had to do ,ithout4 the absence of colors 00 as you can ima$ine 00 ,as the least of our problems7 even if ,e had "no,n they e8isted4 ,e ,ould have considered them an unsuitable lu8ury5 The only dra,bac" ,as the strain on your eyes ,hen you had to hunt for somethin$ or someone4 because ,ith everythin$ e)ually colorless no form could be clearly distin$uished from ,hat ,as behind it or around it5 1ou could barely ma"e out a movin$ ob<ect6 a meteor fra$ment as it rolled4 or the serpentine ya,nin$ of a seismic chasm4 or a lapillus bein$ e<ected from a

volcano5 That day I ,as runnin$ throu$h a "ind of amphitheater of porous4 spon$y roc"s4 all pierced ,ith arches beyond ,hich other arches opened7 a very uneven terrain ,here the absence of color ,as strea"ed by distin$uishable concave shado,s5 !nd amon$ the pillars of these colorless arches I sa, a "ind of colorless flash runnin$ s,iftly4 disappearin$4 then reappearin$ farther on6 t,o flattened $lo,s that appeared and disappeared abruptly7 I still hadn3t reali@ed ,hat they ,ere4 but I ,as already in love and runnin$4 in pursuit of the eyes of !yl5 I ,ent into a sandy ,asteland6 I proceeded4 sin"in$ do,n amon$ dunes ,hich ,ere al,ays someho, different and yet almost the same5 Dependin$ on the point from ,hich you loo"ed at them4 the crests of the dunes seemed the outlines of reclinin$ bodies5 There you could almost ma"e out the form of an arm folded over a tender breast4 ,ith the palm open under a restin$ chee"7 farther on4 a youn$ foot ,ith a slender bi$ toe seemed to emer$e5 !s I stopped to observe those possible analo$ies4 a full minute ,ent by before I reali@ed that4 before my eyes4 I didn3t have a sandy rid$e but the ob<ect of my pursuit5 #he ,as lyin$4 colorless4 overcome ,ith sleep4 on the colorless sand5 I sat do,n nearby5 It ,as the season 00 as I "no, no, 00 ,hen the ultraviolet era ,as approachin$ its end on our planet7 a ,ay of life about to finish ,as displayin$ its supreme pea" of beauty5 Aothin$ so beautiful had ever run over the (arth4 as the creature I had before my eyes5 !yl opened her eyes5 #he sa, me5 !t first I believe she couldn3t distin$uish me 00 as had happened to me4 ,ith her 00 from the rest of that sandy ,orld7 then she seemed to reco$ni@e in me the un"no,n presence that had pursued her and she ,as fri$htened5 -ut in the end she became a,are of our common substance and there ,as a half0timid4 half0 smilin$ palpitation in the loo" she $ave me4 ,hich caused me to emit a silent ,himper of happiness5 I started conversin$4 all in $estures5 ?#and5 Aot0sand4? I said4 first pointin$ to our surroundin$s4 then to the t,o of us5 #he nodded yes4 she had understood5 ?Boc"5 Aot0roc"4? I said4 to continue that line of reasonin$5 It ,as a period in ,hich ,e didn3t have many concepts at our disposal6 to indicate ,hat ,e t,o ,ere4 for e8ample4 ,hat ,e had in common and ,hat ,as different4 ,as not an easy underta"in$5 ?I5 1ou0not0I5? I tried to e8plain4 ,ith $estures5 #he ,as ir"ed5 ?1es5 1ou0li"e0me4 but only so much4? I corrected myself5 #he ,as a bit reassured4 but still suspicious5 ?I4 you4 to$ether4 run run4? I tried to say5 #he burst out lau$hin$ and ran off5 We ran alon$ the crest of the volcanoes5 In the noon $rayness !yl3s flyin$ hair and the ton$ues of flame that rose from the craters ,ere min$led in a ,an4 identical flutterin$ of ,in$s5 ?Fire5 +air4? I said to her5 ?Fire same hair5? #he seemed convinced5 ?Aot beautiful.? I as"ed5 ?-eautiful4? she ans,ered5 The #un ,as already sin"in$ into a ,hitish sunset5 %n a cra$ of opa)ue roc"s4 the rays4 stri"in$ sidelon$4 made some of the roc"s shine5

?#tones there not same5 -eautiful4 eh.? I said5 ?Ao4? she ans,ered4 and loo"ed a,ay5 ?#tones there beautiful4 eh.? I insisted4 pointin$ to the shiny $ray of the stones5 ?Ao5? #he refused to loo"5 ?To you4 I4 stones there2? I offered her5 ?Ao5 #tones here2? !yl ans,ered and $rasped a handful of the opa)ue ones5 -ut I had already run ahead5 I came bac" ,ith the $listenin$ stones I had collected4 but I had to force her to ta"e them5 ?-eautiful2? I tried to persuade her5 ?Ao2? she protested4 but she loo"ed at them7 removed no, from the #un3s reflections4 they ,ere opa)ue li"e the other stones7 and only then did she say6 ?-eautiful2? Ai$ht fell4 the first I had spent not embracin$ a roc"4 and perhaps for this reason it seemed cruelly shorter to me5 The li$ht tended at every moment to erase !yl4 to cast a doubt on her presence4 but the dar"ness restored my certainty she ,as there5 The day returned4 to paint the (arth ,ith $ray7 and my $a@e moved around and didn3t see her5 I let out a mute cry6 ?!yl2 Why have you run off.? -ut she ,as in front of me and ,as loo"in$ for me4 too7 she couldn3t see me and silently shouted6 ?Df,f)2 Where are you.? *ntil our eyesi$ht dar"ened4 e8aminin$ that sooty luminosity and reco$ni@in$ the outline of an eyebro,4 an elbo,4 a thi$h5 Then I ,anted to sho,er !yl ,ith presents4 but nothin$ seemed to me ,orthy of her5 I hunted for everythin$ that ,as in some ,ay detached from the uniform surface of the ,orld4 everythin$ mar"ed by a spec"lin$4 a stain5 -ut I ,as soon forced to reali@e that !yl and I had different tastes4 if not do,nri$ht opposite ones6 I ,as see"in$ a ne, ,orld beyond the pallid patina that imprisoned everythin$4 I e8amined every si$n4 every crac" =to tell the truth somethin$ ,as be$innin$ to chan$e6 in certain points the colorlessness seemed shot throu$h ,ith varie$ated flashes>7 instead4 !yl ,as a happy inhabitant of the silence that rei$ns ,here all vibration is e8cluded7 for her anythin$ that loo"ed li"ely to brea" the absolute visual neutrality ,as a harsh discord7 beauty be$an for her only ,here the $rayness had e8tin$uished even the remotest desire to be anythin$ other than $ray5 +o, could ,e understand each other. Ao thin$ in the ,orld that lay before our eyes ,as sufficient to e8press ,hat ,e felt for each other4 but ,hile I ,as in a fury to ,rest un"no,n vibrations from thin$s4 she ,anted to reduce everythin$ to the colorless beyond of their ultimate substance5 ! meteorite crossed the s"y4 its tra<ectory passin$ in front of the #un7 its fluid and fiery envelope for an instant acted as a filter to the #un3s rays4 and all of a sudden the ,orld ,as immersed in a li$ht never seen before5 &urple chasms $aped at the foot of oran$e cliffs4 and my violet hands pointed to the flamin$ $reen meteor ,hile a thou$ht for ,hich ,ords did not yet e8ist tried to burst from my throat6 ?This for you2 From me this for you4 yes4 yes4 beautiful2? !t the same time I ,heeled around4 ea$er to see the ne, ,ay !yl ,ould surely shine in the $eneral transfi$uration7 but I didn3t see her6 as if in that sudden shatterin$ of the colorless $la@e4 she had found a ,ay to hide herself4 to slip off amon$ the crevices in the mosaic5 ?!yl2 Don3t be fri$htened4 !yl2 #ho, yourself and loo"2?

-ut already the meteorite3s arc had moved a,ay from the #un4 and the (arth ,as recon)uered by its perennial $ray4 no, even $rayer to my da@@led eyes4 and indistinct4 and opa)ue4 and there ,as no !yl5 #he had really disappeared5 I sou$ht her throu$h a lon$ throbbin$ of days and ni$hts5 It ,as the era ,hen the ,orld ,as testin$ the forms it ,as later to assume6 it tested them ,ith the material it had available4 even if it ,asn3t the most suitable4 since it ,as understood that there ,as nothin$ definitive about the trials5 Trees of smo"e0colored lava stretched out t,isted branches from ,hich hun$ thin leaves of slate5 -utterflies of ash flyin$ over clay meado,s hovered above opa)ue crystal daisies5 !yl mi$ht be the colorless shado, s,in$in$ from a branch of the colorless forest or bendin$ to pic" $ray mushrooms under $ray clumps of bushes5 ! hundred times I thou$ht I $limpsed her and a hundred times I thou$ht I lost her a$ain5 From the ,astelands I moved to the inhabited localities5 !t that time4 sensin$ the chan$es that ,ould ta"e place4 obscure builders ,ere shapin$ premature ima$es of a remote4 possible future5 I crossed a piled0up metropolis of stones7 I ,ent throu$h a mountain pierced ,ith passa$e,ays li"e an anchorites3 retreat7 I reached a port that opened upon a sea of mud7 I entered a $arden ,here4 from sandy beds4 tall menhirs rose into the s"y5 The $ray stone of the menhirs ,as covered ,ith a pattern of barely indicated $ray veins5 I stopped5 In the center of this par"4 !yl ,as playin$ ,ith her female companions5 They ,ere tossin$ a )uart@ ball into the air and catchin$ it5 #omeone thre, it too hard4 the ball came ,ithin my reach4 and I cau$ht it5 The others scattered to loo" for it7 ,hen I sa, !yl alone4 I thre, the ball into the air and cau$ht it a$ain5 !yl ran over7 hidin$4 I thre, the )uart@ ball4 dra,in$ !yl farther and farther a,ay5 Finally I sho,ed myself7 she scolded me4 then lau$hed7 and so ,e ,ent on4 playin$4 throu$h stran$e re$ions5 !t that time the strata of the planet ,ere laboriously tryin$ to establish an e)uilibrium throu$h a series of earth)ua"es5 (very no, and then the $round ,as sha"en by one4 and bet,een !yl and me crevasses opened across ,hich ,e thre, the )uart@ ball bac" and forth5 These chasms $ave the elements compressed in the heart of the (arth an avenue of escape4 and no, ,e sa, outcroppin$s of roc" emer$e4 or fluid clouds4 or boilin$ <ets spurt up5 !s I ,ent on playin$ ,ith !yl4 I noticed that a $assy layer had spread over the (arth3s crust4 li"e a lo, fo$ slo,ly risin$5 ! moment before it had reached our an"les4 and no, ,e ,ere in it up to our "nees4 then to our hips5 5 5 !t that si$ht4 a shado, of uncertainty and fear $re, in !yl3s eyes7 I didn3t ,ant to alarm her4 and so4 as if nothin$ ,ere happenin$4 I ,ent on ,ith our $ame7 but I4 too4 ,as an8ious5 It ,as somethin$ never seen before6 an immense fluid bubble ,as s,ellin$ around the (arth and completely enfoldin$ it7 soon it ,ould cover us from head to foot4 and ,ho could say ,hat the conse)uences ,ould be. I thre, the ball to !yl beyond a crac" openin$ in the $round4 but my thro, proved ine8plicably shorter than I had intended and the ball fell into the $ap7 the ball must have become suddenly very heavy7 no4 it ,as the crac" that had suddenly ya,ned enormously4 and no, !yl ,as far a,ay4 beyond a li)uid4 ,avy e8panse that had opened bet,een us and ,as foamin$ a$ainst the shore of roc"s4 and I leaned from this shore4 shoutin$6 ?!yl4 !yl2? and my voice4 its sound4 the very sound of my voice spread loudly4 as I had never ima$ined it4 and the ,aves rumbled still louder than my voice5 In other ,ords6 it ,as all

beyond understandin$5 I put my hands to my deafened ears4 and at the same moment I also felt the need to cover my nose and mouth4 so as not to breathe the heady blend of o8y$en and nitro$en that surrounded me4 but stron$est of all ,as the impulse to cover my eyes4 ,hich seemed ready to e8plode5 The li)uid mass spread out at my feet had suddenly turned a ne, color4 ,hich blinded me4 and I e8ploded in an articulate cry ,hich4 a little later4 too" on a specific meanin$6 ?!yl2 The sea is blue2? The $reat chan$e so lon$ a,aited had finally ta"en place5 %n the (arth no, there ,as air4 and ,ater5 !nd over that ne,born blue sea4 the #un 00 also colored 00 ,as settin$4 an absolutely different and even more violent color5 #o I ,as driven to $o on ,ith my senseless cries4 li"e6 ?+o, red the #un is4 !yl2 !yl2 +o, red2? Ai$ht fell5 (ven the dar"ness ,as different5 I ran loo"in$ for !yl4 emittin$ cries ,ithout rhyme or reason4 to e8press ,hat I sa,6 ?The stars are yello,4 !yl2 !yl2? I didn3t find her that ni$ht or the days and ni$hts that follo,ed5 !ll around4 the ,orld poured out colors4 constantly ne,4 pin" clouds $athered in violet cumuli ,hich unleashed $ilded li$htnin$7 after the storms lon$ rainbo,s announced hues that still hadn3t been seen4 in all possible combinations5 !nd chlorophyll ,as already be$innin$ its pro$ress6 mosses and ferns $re, $reen in the valleys ,here torrents ran5 This ,as finally the settin$ ,orthy of !yl3s beauty7 but she ,asn3t there2 !nd ,ithout her all this varicolored surnptuousness seemed useless to me4 ,asted5 I ran all over the (arth4 I sa, a$ain the thin$s I had once "no,n $ray4 and I ,as still ama@ed at discoverin$ fire ,as red4 ice ,hite4 the s"y pale blue4 the earth bro,n4 that rubies ,ere ruby0colored4 and topa@es the color of topa@4 and emeralds emerald5 !nd !yl. With all my ima$ination I couldn3t picture ho, she ,ould appear to my eyes5 I found the menhir $arden4 no, $reen ,ith trees and $rasses5 In murmurin$ pools red and blue and yello, fish ,ere s,immin$5 !yl3s friends ,ere still leapin$ over the la,n4 tossin$ the iridescent ball6 but ho, chan$ed they ,ere2 %ne ,as blonde ,ith ,hite s"in4 one brunette ,ith olive s"in4 one bro,n0haired ,ith pin" s"in4 one had red hair and ,as dotted ,ith countless4 enchantin$ frec"les5 ?!yl2? I cried5 ?Where is she. Where is !yl. What does she loo" li"e. Why isn3t she ,ith you.? +er friends3 lips ,ere red4 their teeth ,hite4 and then6 ton$ues and $ums ,ere pin"5 &in"4 too4 ,ere the tips of their breasts5 Their eyes ,ere a)uamarine blue4 cherry0 blac"4 ha@el and maroon5 ?Why5 5 5 !yl5 5 5? they ans,ered5 ?#he3s $one5 5 5 ,e don3t "no,5 5 5? and they ,ent bac" to their $ame5 I tried to ima$ine !yl3s hair and her s"in4 in every possible color4 but I couldn3t picture her7 and so4 as I loo"ed for her4 I e8plored the surface of the $lobe5 ?If she3s not up here4? I thou$ht4 ?that means she must be belo,4? and at the first earth)ua"e that came alon$4 I flun$ myself into a chasm4 do,n do,n into the bo,els of the (arth5 ?!yl2 !yl2? I called in the dar"ness5 ?!yl4 come see ho, beautiful it is outside2? +oarse4 I fell silent !nd at that moment !yl3s voice4 soft4 calm4 ans,ered me5 ?#ssh5 I3m here5 Why are you shoutin$ so much. What do you ,ant.? I couldn3t see a thin$5 ?!yl2 Come outside ,ith me5 If you only "ne,5 5 5 %utside5 5

5? ?I don3t li"e it4 outside5 5 5? ?-ut you4 before5 5 5? ?-efore ,as before5 Ao, it3s different5 !ll that confusion has come5? I lied5 ?Ao4 no5 It ,as <ust a passin$ chan$e of li$ht5 /i"e that time ,ith the meteorite2 It3s over no,5 (verythin$ is the ,ay it used to be5 Come4 don3t be afraid5 5 5? If she comes out4 I thou$ht4 after the first moment of be,ilderment4 she3ll become used to the colors4 she3ll be happy4 and she3ll understand that I lied for her o,n $ood5 ?Beally.? ?Why should I tell you stories. Come4 let me ta"e you outside5? ?Ao4 you $o ahead5 I3ll follo, you5? ?-ut I3m impatient to see you a$ain5? ?1ou3ll see me only the ,ay I li"e5 'o ahead and don3t turn around5? The telluric shoc"s cleared the ,ay for us5 The strata of roc" opened fan,ise and ,e advanced throu$h the $aps5 I heard !yl3s li$ht footsteps behind me5 %ne more )ua"e and ,e ,ere outside5 I ran alon$ steps of basalt and $ranite ,hich turned li"e the pa$es of a boo"6 already4 at the end4 the breach that ,ould lead us into the open air ,as tearin$ ,ide4 already the (arth3s crust ,as appearin$ beyond the $ap4 sunny and $reen4 already the li$ht ,as forcin$ its ,ay to,ard us5 There6 no, I ,ould see the colors bri$hten also on !yl3s face5 5 5 I turned to loo" at her5 I heard her scream as she dre, bac" to,ard the dar"ness4 my eyes still da@@led by the earlier li$ht could ma"e out nothin$4 then the rumble of the earth)ua"e dro,ned everythin$4 and a ,all of roc" suddenly rose4 vertically4 separatin$ us5 ?!yl2 Where are you. Try to come over to this side4 )uic"ly4 before the roc" settles2? !nd I ran alon$ the ,all loo"in$ for an openin$4 but the smooth4 $ray surface ,as compact4 ,ithout a fissure5 !n enormous chain of mountains had formed at that point5 !s I had been pro<ected out,ard4 into the open4 !yl had remained beyond the roc" ,all4 closed in the bo,els of the (arth5 ?!yl2 Where are you. Why aren3t you out here.? and I loo"ed around at the landscape that stretched a,ay from my feet5 Then4 all of a sudden4 those pea0$reen la,ns ,here the first scarlet poppies ,ere flo,erin$4 those canary0yello, fields ,hich striped the ta,ny hills slopin$ do,n to a sea full of a@ure $lints4 all seemed so trivial to me4 so banal4 so false4 so much in contrast ,ith !yl3s person4 ,ith !yl3s ,orld4 ,ith !yl3s idea of beauty4 that I reali@ed her place could never have been out here5 !nd I reali@ed4 ,ith $rief and fear4 that I had remained out here4 that I ,ould never a$ain be able to escape those $ilded and silvered $leams4 those little clouds that turned from pale blue to pin"4 those $reen leaves that yello,ed every autumn4 and that !yl3s perfect ,orld ,as lost forever4 so lost I couldn3t even ima$ine it any more4 and nothin$ ,as left that could remind me of it4 even remotely4 nothin$ e8cept perhaps that cold ,all of $ray stone5


+hen the gala&ies 'ecome more remote, the rarefaction of the universe is compensated

for 'y the formation of further gala&ies composed of newly created matter. To maintain a sta'le median density of the universe it is sufficient to create a hydrogen atom every 012 million years for 32 cu'ic centimeters of e&panding space. 4This steady state theory, as it is (nown, has 'een opposed to the other hypothesis, that the universe was 'orn at a precise moment as the result of a gigantic e&plosion.5 I ,as only a child4 but I ,as already a,are of it4 00 "fwf# narrated, 00 I ,as ac)uainted ,ith all the hydro$en atoms4 one by one4 and ,hen a ne, atom cropped up4 I noticed it ri$ht a,ay5 When I ,as a "id4 the only playthin$s ,e had in the ,hole universe ,ere the hydro$en atoms4 and ,e played ,ith them all the time4 I and another youn$ster my a$e ,hose name ,as &f,fp5 What sort of $ames. That3s simple enou$h to e8plain5 #ince space ,as curved4 ,e sent the atoms rollin$ alon$ its curve4 li"e so many marbles4 and the "id ,hose atom ,ent farthest ,on the $ame5 When you made your shot you had to be careful4 to calculate the effects4 the tra<ectories4 you had to "no, ho, to e8ploit the ma$netic fields and the fields of $ravity4 other,ise the ball left the trac" and ,as eliminated from the contest5 The rules ,ere the usual thin$6 ,ith one atom you could hit another of your atoms and send it farther ahead4 or else you could "noc" your opponent3s atom out of the ,ay5 %f course4 ,e ,ere careful not to thro, them too hard4 because ,hen t,o hydro$en atoms are "noc"ed to$ether4 clic"2 a deuterium atom mi$ht be formed4 or even a helium atom4 and for the purposes of the $ame4 such atoms ,ere out6 ,hat3s more4 if one of the t,o belon$ed to your opponent4 you had to $ive him an atom of your o,n to pay him bac"5 1ou "no, ho, the curve of space is shaped6 a little ball ,ould $o spinnin$ alon$ and then one fine moment it ,ould start off do,n the slope and you couldn3t catch it5 #o4 as ,e ,ent on playin$4 the number of atoms in the $ame "ept $ettin$ smaller4 and the first to run out of atoms ,as the loser5 Then4 ri$ht at the crucial moment4 these ne, atoms started croppin$ up5 %bviously4 there3s )uite a difference bet,een a ne, atom and a used one6 the ne, atoms ,ere shiny4 bri$ht4 fresh4 and moist4 as if ,ith de,5 We made ne, rules6 one ne, ,as ,orth three old7 and the ne, ones4 as they ,ere formed4 ,ere to be shared bet,een us4 fifty0fifty5 In this ,ay our $ame never ended4 and it never became borin$ either4 because every time ,e found ne, atoms it seemed as if the $ame ,ere ne, as ,ell4 as if ,e ,ere playin$ it for the first time5 Then4 ,hat ,ith one thin$ and another4 as the days ,ent by4 the $ame $re, less e8citin$5 There ,ere no more ne, atoms to be seen6 the ones ,e lost couldn3t be replaced4 our shots became ,ea"4 hesitant4 because ,e ,ere afraid to lose the fe, pieces still in the $ame4 in that barren4 even space5 &f,fp ,as chan$ed4 too6 he became absent0minded4 ,andered off and couldn3t be found ,hen it ,as his turn to shoot7 I ,ould call him4 but there ,as never an ans,er4 and then he ,ould turn up half an hour later5 ?'o on4 it3s your turn5 !ren3t you in the $ame any more.? ?%f course I3m in the $ame5 Don3t rush me5 I3m $oin$ to shoot no,5? ?Well4 if you "eep $oin$ off by yourself4 ,e mi$ht as ,ell stop playin$2? ?+mph2 1ou3re only ma"in$ all this fuss because you3re losin$5?

This ,as true6 I hadn3t any atoms left4 ,hereas &f,fp4 someho, or other4 al,ays had one in reserve5 If some ne, atoms didn3t turn up for us to share4 I hadn3t a hope of $ettin$ even ,ith him5 The ne8t time &f,fp ,ent off4 I follo,ed him4 on tiptoe5 !s lon$ as I ,as present4 he seemed to be strollin$ about aimlessly4 ,histlin$6 but once he ,as out of my si$ht he started trottin$ throu$h space4 intent4 li"e somebody ,ho has a definite purpose in mind5 !nd ,hat this purpose of his ,as 00 this treachery4 as you shall see 00 I soon discovered6 &f,fp "ne, all the places ,here ne, atoms ,ere formed and every no, and then he ,ould ta"e a little ,al"4 to collect them on the spot the minute they ,ere dished up4 then he ,ould hide them5 This ,as ,hy he ,as never short of atoms to play ,ith2 -ut before puttin$ them in the $ame4 incorri$ible cheat that he ,as4 he set about dis$uisin$ them as old atoms4 rubbin$ the film of the electrons until it ,as ,orn and dull4 to ma"e me believe this ,as an old atom he had had all alon$ and had <ust happened to find in his poc"et5 !nd that ,asn3t the ,hole story6 I made a )uic" calculation of the atoms played and I reali@ed they ,ere only a small part of those he had stolen and hid5 Was he pilin$ up a store of hydro$en. What ,as he $oin$ to do ,ith it. What did he have in mind. I suddenly had a suspicion6 &f,fp ,anted to build a universe of his o,n4 a brand0ne, universe5 From that moment on4 I couldn3t rest easy6 I had to $et even ,ith him5 I could have follo,ed his e8ample6 no, that I "ne, the places4 I could have $one there a little ahead of him and $rabbed the ne, atoms the moment they ,ere born4 before he could $et his hands on them2 -ut that ,ould have been too simple5 I ,anted to catch him in a trap ,orthy of his o,n perfidy5 First of all4 I started ma"in$ fa"e atoms6 ,hile he ,as occupied ,ith his treacherous raids4 I ,as in a secret storeroom of mine4 poundin$ and mi8in$ and "neadin$ all the material I had at my disposal5 To tell you the truth4 this material didn3t amount to much6 photoelectric radiations4 scrapin$s from ma$netic fields4 a fe, neutrons collected in the road7 but by rollin$ it into balls and ,ettin$ it ,ith saliva4 I mana$ed to ma"e it stic" to$ether5 In other ,ords4 I prepared some little corpuscles that4 on close inspection4 ,ere obviously not made of hydro$en or any other identifiable element4 but for somebody in a hurry4 li"e &f,fp4 ,ho rushed past and stuc" them furtively into his poc"et4 they loo"ed li"e real hydro$en4 and span"in$ ne,5 #o ,hile he still didn3t suspect a thin$4 I preceded him in his rounds5 I had made a careful mental note of all the places5 #pace is curved every,here4 but in some places it3s more curved than in others6 li"e poc"ets or bottlenec"s or niches4 ,here the void is crumpled up5 These niches are ,here4 every t,o hundred and fifty million years4 there is a sli$ht tin"lin$ sound and a shiny hydro$en atom is formed li"e a pearl bet,een the valves of an oyster5 I ,al"ed past4 poc"eted the atom4 and set the fa"e atom in its place5 &f,fp didn3t notice a thin$6 predatory4 $reedy4 he filled his poc"ets ,ith that rubbish4 as I ,as accumulatin$ all the treasures that the universe cherished in its bosom5 The fortunes of our $ames under,ent a chan$e6 I al,ays had ne, atoms to shoot4 ,hile &f,fp3s re$ularly missed fire5 Three times he tried a roll and three times the atom crumbled to bits as if crushed in space5 Ao, &f,fp found one e8cuse after another4 tryin$ to call off the $ame5 ?'o on4? I insisted4 ?if you don3t shoot4 the $ame3s mine5?

!nd he said6 ?It doesn3t count5 When an atom is ruined the $ame3s null and void4 and you start over a$ain5? This ,as a rule he had invented at that very moment5 I didn3t $ive him any peace4 I danced around him4 leaped on his bac"4 and chanted6 ?Thro, it thro, it thro, it If not4 you lose4 you "no, it5 For every turn that you don3t ta"e !n e8tra thro, for me to ma"e5? ?That3s enou$h of that4? &f,fp said4 ?let3s chan$e $ames5? ?!ha2? I said5 ?Why don3t ,e play at flyin$ $ala8ies.? ?'ala8ies.? &f,fp suddenly bri$htened ,ith pleasure5 ?#uits me5 -ut you5 5 5 you don3t have a $ala8y2? ?1es4 I do5? ?#o do I5? ?Come on2 /et3s see ,ho can send his hi$hest2? !nd I too" all the ne, atoms I ,as hidin$ and flun$ them into space5 !t first they seemed to scatter4 then they thic"ened to$ether into a "ind of li$ht cloud4 and the cloud s,elled and s,elled4 and inside it some incandescent condensations ,ere formed4 and they ,hirled and ,hirled and at a certain point became a spiral of constellations never seen before4 a spiral that poised4 openin$ in a $ust4 then sped a,ay as I held on to its tail and ran after it5 -ut no, I ,asn3t the one ,ho made the $ala8y fly4 it ,as the $ala8y that ,as liftin$ me aloft4 clin$in$ to its tail7 I mean4 there ,asn3t any hei$ht or depth no, but only space4 ,idenin$4 and the $ala8y in its midst4 also openin$ ,ide4 and me han$in$ there4 ma"in$ faces at &f,fp4 ,ho ,as already thousands of li$ht0years a,ay5 &f,fp4 at my first move4 had promptly du$ out all his hoard4 hurlin$ it ,ith a balanced movement as if he e8pected to see the coils of an endless $ala8y open in the s"y5 -ut instead4 nothin$ happened5 There ,as a si@@lin$ sound of radiations4 a messy flash4 then everythin$ died out at once5 ?Is that the best you can do.? I shouted at &f,fp4 ,ho ,as yellin$ curses at me4 $reen ,ith ra$e6 ?I3ll sho, you4 Df,f)4 you pi$2? -ut in the mean,hile my $ala8y and I ,ere flyin$ amon$ thousands of other $ala8ies4 and mine ,as the ne,est4 the envy of the ,hole firmament4 bla@in$ as it ,as ,ith youn$ hydro$en and the youn$est carbon and ne,born beryllium5 The old $ala8ies fled us4 filled ,ith <ealousy4 and ,e4 prancin$ and hau$hty4 avoided them4 so anti)uated and ponderous to loo" at5 !s that reciprocal fli$ht developed4 ,e sailed across spaces that became more and more rarefied and empty6 and then I sa, somethin$ appear in the midst of the void4 li"e uncertain bursts of li$ht5 These ,ere ne, $ala8ies4 formed by matter <ust born4 $ala8ies even ne,er than mine5 #oon space became filled a$ain4 and dense4 li"e a vineyard <ust before vinta$e time4 and ,e fle, on4 escapin$ from one another4 my $ala8y fleein$ the youn$er ones as it had the older4 and youn$ and old fleein$ us5 !nd ,e advanced to fly throu$h empty s"ies4 and these s"ies also became peopled4 and so on and on5 In one of these propa$ations4 I heard6 ?Df,f)4 you3ll pay for this no,4 you

traitor2? and I sa, a brand0ne, $ala8y flyin$ on our trail4 and there leanin$ for,ard from the very tip of the spiral4 yellin$ threats and insults at me4 ,as my old playmate &f,fp5 The chase be$an5 Where space rose4 &f,fp3s $ala8y4 youn$ and a$ile4 $ained $round4 but on the descents4 my heavier $ala8y plun$ed ahead a$ain5 In any "ind of race there3s a secret6 it3s all in ho, you ta"e the curves5 &f,fp3s $ala8y tended to narro, them4 mine to s,in$ out5 !nd as it "ept broadenin$ the curves4 ,e ,ere finally flun$ beyond the ed$e of space4 ,ith &f,fp after us5 We "ept up the pursuit4 usin$ the system one al,ays uses in such circumstances4 that is4 creatin$ space before us as ,e ,ent for,ard5 #o there I ,as4 ,ith nothin$ness in front of me4 and that nasty0faced &f,fp after me6 an unpleasant si$ht either ,ay5 In any case4 I preferred to loo" ahead4 and ,hat did I see. &f,fp4 ,hom my eyes had <ust left behind me4 ,as speedin$ on his $ala8y directly in front of me5 ?!h2? I cried4 ?no, it3s my turn to chase you2? ?What.? &f,fp said4 from before me or behind me4 I3m not really sure ,hich4 ?I3m the one ,ho3s chasin$ you2? I turned around6 there ,as &f,fp4 still at my heels5 I loo"ed ahead a$ain6 and he ,as there4 racin$ off ,ith his bac" turned to me5 -ut as I loo"ed more closely4 I sa, that in front of this $ala8y of his that ,as precedin$ me there ,as another4 and that other $ala8y ,as mine4 because there I ,as on it4 unmista"able even thou$h seen from behind5 !nd I turned to,ard the &f,fp follo,in$ me and narro,ed my eyes6 I sa, that his $ala8y ,as bein$ chased by another4 mine4 ,ith me on top of it4 turnin$ at that same time to loo" bac"5 !nd so after every Df,f) there ,as a &f,fp4 and after every &f,fp a Df,f)4 and every &f,fp ,as chasin$ a Df,f)4 ,ho ,as pursuin$ him and vice versa5 %ur distances $re, a bit shorter or a bit lon$er4 but no, it ,as clear that one ,ould never overta"e the other4 nor the other overta"e one5 We had lost all pleasure in this $ame of chase4 and ,e ,eren3t children any more for that matter4 but no, there ,as nothin$ else ,e could do5


The first verte'rates who, in the 6ar'oniferous period, a'andoned a#uatic life for terrestrial, descended from the osseous, pulmonate fish whose fins were capa'le of rotation 'eneath their 'odies and thus could 'e used as paws on the earth. -y then it ,as clear that the ,ater period ,as comin$ to an end4 00 old "fwf# recalled, 00 those ,ho decided to ma"e the $reat move ,ere $ro,in$ more and more numerous4 there ,asn3t a family that didn3t have some loved one up on dry land4 and everybody told fabulous tales of the thin$s that could be done there4 and they called bac" to their relatives to <oin them5 There ,as no holdin$ the youn$ fish7 they slapped their fins on the muddy ban"s to see if they ,ould ,or" as pa,s4 as the more talented ones had already discovered5 -ut <ust at that time the differences amon$ us ,ere becomin$ accentuated6 there mi$ht be a family that had been livin$ on land4 say4 for several $enerations4 ,hose youn$ people acted in a ,ay that ,asn3t even amphibious but almost reptilian already7 and there ,ere others ,ho lin$ered4 still livin$ li"e fish4 those ,ho4 in

fact4 became even more fishy than they had been before5 %ur family4 I must say4 includin$ $randparents4 ,as all up on the shore4 paddin$ about as if ,e had never "no,n ho, to do anythin$ else5 If it hadn3t been for the obstinacy of our $reat0uncle A3ba A3$a4 ,e ,ould have lon$ since lost all contact ,ith the a)uatic ,orld5 1es4 ,e had a $reat0uncle ,ho ,as a fish4 on my paternal $randmother3s side4 to be precise4 of the Coelacanthus family of the Devonian period =the fresh0,ater branch6 ,ho are4 for that matter4 cousins of the others 00 but I don3t ,ant to $o into all these )uestions of "inship4 nobody can ever follo, them anyho,>5 #o as I ,as sayin$4 this $reat0uncle lived in certain muddy shallo,s4 amon$ the roots of some protoconifers4 in that inlet of the la$oon ,here all our ancestors had been born5 +e never stirred from there6 at any season of the year all ,e had to do ,as push ourselves over the softer layers of ve$etation until ,e could feel ourselves sin"in$ into the dampness4 and there belo,4 a fe, palms3 len$ths from the ed$e4 ,e could see the column of little bubbles he sent up4 breathin$ heavily the ,ay old fol" do4 or the little cloud of mud scraped up by his sharp snout4 al,ays rumma$in$ around4 more out of habit than out of the need to hunt for anythin$5 ?*ncle A3ba A3$a2 We3ve come to pay you a visit2 Were you e8pectin$ us.? ,e ,ould shout4 slappin$ our pa,s and tails in the ,ater to attract his attention5 ?We3ve brou$ht you some insects that $ro, ,here ,e live2 *ncle A3ba A3$a2 +ave you ever seen such fat coc"roaches. Taste one and see if you li"e it ? ?1ou can clean those revoltin$ ,arts you3ve $ot ,ith your stin"in$ coc"roaches2? %ur $reat0uncle3s ans,er ,as al,ays some remar" of this sort4 or perhaps even ruder6 this is ho, he ,elcomed us every time4 but ,e paid no attention because ,e "ne, he ,ould mello, after a little ,hile4 accept our presents $ladly4 and converse in politer tones5 ?What do you mean4 *ncle. Warts. When did you ever see any ,arts on us.? This business about ,arts ,as a ,idespread pre<udice amon$ the old fish6 a notion that4 from livin$ on dry land4 ,e ,ould develop ,arts all over our bodies4 e8udin$ li)uid matter6 this ,as true enou$h for the toads4 but ,e had nothin$ in common ,ith them7 on the contrary4 our s"in4 smooth and slippery4 ,as such as no fish had ever had7 and our $reat0uncle "ne, this perfectly ,ell4 but he still couldn3t stop lardin$ his tal" ,ith all the slanders and intolerance he had $ro,n up in the midst of5 We ,ent to visit our $reat0uncle once a year4 the ,hole family to$ether5 It also $ave us an opportunity to have a reunion4 since ,e ,ere scattered all over the continent7 ,e could e8chan$e bits of ne,s4 trade edible insects4 and discuss old )uestions that ,ere still unsettled5 %ur $reat0uncle spo"e his mind even on )uestions that ,ere removed from him by miles and miles of dry land4 such as the division of territory for dra$onfly huntin$7 and he ,ould side ,ith this one or that one4 accordin$ to his o,n reasonin$4 ,hich ,as al,ays a)uatic5 ?-ut don3t you "no, that it3s al,ays better to hunt on the bottom and not on the ,ater3s surface. #o ,hat are you $ettin$ all upset over.? ?-ut4 *ncle4 you see6 it isn3t a )uestion of huntin$ on the bottom or on the surface5 I live at the foot of a hill4 and he lives half,ay up the slope5 5 5 1ou "no, ,hat I mean by hill4 *ncle5 5 5? !nd he said6 ?1ou al,ays find the best crayfish at the foot of the cliffs5? It <ust ,asn3t possible to ma"e him accept a reality different from his o,n5

!nd yet4 his opinions continued to e8ert an authority over all of us7 in the end ,e as"ed his advice about matters he didn3t be$in to understand4 thou$h ,e "ne, he could be dead ,ron$5 &erhaps his authority stemmed from the fact that he ,as a leftover from the past4 from his ,ay of usin$ old fi$ures of speech4 li"e6 ?/o,er your fins there4 youn$ster24? ,hose meanin$ ,e didn3t $rasp very clearly5 We had made various attempts to $et him up on land ,ith us4 and ,e ,ent on ma"in$ them7 indeed4 on this score4 the rivalry amon$ the various branches of the family never died out4 because ,hoever mana$ed to ta"e our $reat0uncle home ,ith him ,ould achieve a position of pre0eminence over the rest of our relatives5 -ut the rivalry ,as pointless4 because our uncle ,ouldn3t dream of leavin$ the la$oon5 ?*ncle4 if you only "ne, ho, sorry ,e feel leavin$ you all alone4 at your a$e4 in the midst of all that dampness5 5 5 We3ve had a ,onderful idea5 5 5? someone ,ould be$in5 ?I ,as e8pectin$ the lot of you to catch on finally4? the old fish interrupted4 ?no, you3ve $ot over the ,him of scrapin$ around in that drou$ht4 so it3s time you came bac" to live li"e normal bein$s5 +ere there3s plenty of ,ater for all4 and ,hen it comes to food4 there3s never been a better season for ,orms5 1ou can all dive ri$ht in4 and ,e ,on3t have to discuss it any further5? ?Ao4 no4 *ncle A3ba A3$a4 you3ve $ot it all ,ron$5 We ,anted to ta"e you to live ,ith us4 in a lovely little meado,5 5 5 1ou3ll be nice and snu$7 ,e3ll di$ you a little damp hole5 1ou3ll be able to turn and toss in it4 <ust li"e here5 !nd you mi$ht even try ta"in$ a fe, steps around the place6 you3ll be very $ood at it4 <ust ,ait and see5 !nd besides4 at your time of life4 the climate on land is much more suitable5 #o come no,4 *ncle A3ba A3$a4 don3t ,ait to be coa8ed5 Won3t you come home ,ith us.? ?Ao2? ,as our $reat0uncle3s sharp reply4 and ta"in$ a nose dive into the ,ater4 he vanished from our si$ht5 ?-ut ,hy4 *ncle. What have you $ot a$ainst the idea. We simply don3t understand5 !nyone as broad0minded as you ou$ht to be above certain pre<udices5 5 5? From an an$ry huff of ,ater at the surface4 before the final plun$e ,ith a still0 a$ile <er" of his tail fin4 came our uncle3s final ans,er6 ?+e ,ho has fleas in his scales s,ims ,ith his belly in the mud2? ,hich must have been an idiomatic e8pression =similar to our o,n4 much more concise proverb6 ?If you itch4 scratch?>4 ,ith that term ?mud? ,hich he insisted on usin$ ,here ,e ,ould say ?land5? That ,as about the time ,hen I fell in love5 /ll and I spent our days to$ether4 chasin$ each other7 no one as )uic" as she had ever been seen before7 in the ferns4 ,hich ,ere as tall as trees in those days4 she ,ould climb to the top in one burst4 and the tops ,ould bend almost to the $round4 then she ,ould <ump do,n and run off a$ain7 I4 ,ith slo,er and some,hat clumsier movements4 follo,ed her5 We ventured into @ones of the interior ,here no print had ever mar"ed the dry and crusty terrain7 at times I stopped4 fri$htened at havin$ come so far from the e8panse of the la$oons5 -ut nothin$ seemed so far from a)uatic life as she4 /ll4 did6 the deserts of sand and stones4 the prairies4 the thic" forests4 the roc"y hilloc"s4 the )uart@ mountains6 this ,as her ,orld4 a ,orld that seemed made especially to be scanned by her oblon$ eyes4 to be trod by her dartin$ steps5 When you loo"ed at her smooth s"in4 you felt that scales had never e8isted5 +er relatives made me a bit ill at ease7 hers ,as one of those families ,ho had become established on (arth in the earliest period and had finally become convinced they had never lived any,here else4 one of those families ,ho4 by no,4 even laid their e$$s on

dry terrain4 protected by a hard shell4 and /ll4 if you loo"ed at her ,hen she <umped4 at her flashin$ movements4 you could tell she had been born the ,ay she ,as no,4 from one of those e$$s ,armed by sand and sun4 havin$ completely s"ipped the s,immin$4 ,ri$$lin$ phase of the tadpole4 ,hich ,as still obli$atory in our less evolved families5 The time had come for /ll to meet my family6 and since its oldest and most authoritative member ,as 'reat0*ncle A3ba A3$a4 I couldn3t avoid a visit to him4 to introduce my fiancHe5 -ut every time an opportunity occurred4 I postponed it4 out of embarrassment7 "no,in$ the pre<udices amon$ ,hich she had been brou$ht up4 I hadn3t yet dared tell /ll that my $reat0uncle ,as a fish5 %ne day ,e had ,andered off to one of those damp promontories that $irdle the la$oon4 ,here the $round is made not so much of sand as of tan$led roots and rottin$ ve$etation5 !nd /ll came out ,ith one of her usual dares4 her challen$es to feats6 ?Df,f)4 ho, lon$ can you "eep your balance. /et3s see ,ho can run closest to the ed$e here2? !nd she darted for,ard ,ith her (arth0creature3s leap4 no, sli$htly hesitant4 ho,ever5 This time I not only felt I could follo, her4 but also that I could ,in4 because my pa,s $ot a better $rip on damp surfaces5 ?!s close to the ed$e as you li"e2? I cried5 ?!nd even beyond it2? ?Don3t tal" nonsense2? she said5 ?+o, can you run beyond the ed$e. It3s all ,ater there2? &erhaps this ,as the opportune moment to brin$ up the sub<ect of my $reat0uncle5 ?What of that.? I said to her5 ?There are those ,ho run on this side of the ed$e4 and those ,ho run on the other5? ?1ou3re sayin$ thin$s that ma"e no sense at all2? ?I3m sayin$ that my $reat0uncle A3ba A3$a lives in the ,ater the ,ay ,e live on the land4 and he3s never come out of itl? ?+a2 I3d li"e to meet this A3ba A3$a of yours2? #he had no sooner finished sayin$ this than the muddied surface of the la$oon $ur$led ,ith bubbles4 moved in a little eddy4 and allo,ed a nose4 all covered ,ith spi"y scales4 to appear5 ?Well4 here I am5 What3s the trouble.? 'reat0*ncle said4 starin$ at /ll ,ith eyes as round and ine8pressive as stones4 flappin$ the $ills at either side of his enormous throat5 Aever before had my $reat0uncle seemed so different from the rest of us6 a real monster5 ?*ncle4 if you don3t mind5 5 5 this is5 5 5 I mean4 I have the pleasure to present to you my future bride4 /ll4? and I pointed to my fiancHe4 ,ho for some un"no,n reason had stood erect on her hind pa,s4 in one of her most e8otic poses4 certainly the least li"ely to be appreciated by that boorish old relative5 ?!nd so4 youn$ lady4 you3ve come to ,et your tail a bit4 eh.? my $reat0uncle said6 a remar" that in his day no doubt had been considered courtly4 but to us sounded do,nri$ht indecent5 I loo"ed at /ll4 convinced I ,ould see her turn and run off ,ith a shoc"ed t,itter5 -ut I hadn3t considered ho, stron$ her trainin$ ,as4 her habit of i$norin$ all vul$arity in the ,orld around her5 ?Tell me somethin$6 those little plants there5 5 5? she said4 nonchalantly4 pointin$ to some rushes $ro,in$ tall in the midst of the la$oon4 ?,here do they put do,n their roots.? %ne of those )uestions you as" <ust to ma"e conversation6 as if she cared about those rushes2 -ut it seemed *ncle had been ,aitin$ only for that moment to start

e8plainin$ the ,hy and the ,herefore of the roots of floatin$ trees and ho, you could s,im amon$ them and4 indeed4 ho, they ,ere the very best places for huntin$5 I thou$ht he ,ould never stop5 I huffed impatiently4 I tried to interrupt him5 -ut ,hat did that saucy /ll do. #he encoura$ed him2 ?%h4 so you $o huntin$ amon$ those under,ater roots. +o, interestin$2? I could have sun" into the $round from shame5 !nd he said6 ?I3m not foolin$2 The ,orms you find there2 1ou can fill your belly4 all ri$ht2? !nd ,ithout $ivin$ it a second thou$ht4 he dived5 !n a$ile dive such as I3d never seen him ma"e before5 %r rather4 he made a leap into the air 00 his ,hole len$th out of the ,ater4 all dotted ,ith scales 00 spreadin$ the spi"y fans of his fins7 then4 ,hen he had completed a fine half0circle in the air4 he plun$ed bac"4 head0first4 and disappeared )uic"ly ,ith a "ind of scre,0motion of his crescent0shaped tail5 !t this si$ht4 I recalled the little speech I had prepared hastily to apolo$i@e to /ll4 ta"in$ advanta$e of my uncle3s departure =?1ou really have to understand him4 you "no,4 this mania for livin$ li"e a fish has finally even made him loo" li"e a fish?>4 but the ,ords died in my throat5 Aot even I had ever reali@ed the full e8tent of my $randmother3s brother3s fishiness5 #o I <ust said6 ?It3s late4 /ll4 let3s $o5 5 5? and already my $reat0uncle ,as re0emer$in$4 holdin$ in his shar"3s lips a $arland of ,orms and muddy sea,eed5 It seemed too $ood to be true4 ,hen ,e finally too" our leave7 but as I trotted alon$ silently behind /ll4 I ,as thin"in$ that no, she ,ould be$in to ma"e her comments4 that the ,orst ,as still to come5 -ut then /ll4 ,ithout stoppin$4 turned sli$htly to,ard me6 ?+e3s very nice4 your uncle4? and that ,as all she said5 ore than once in the past her irony had disarmed me7 but the icy sensation that filled me at this remar" ,as so a,ful that I ,ould rather not have seen her any more than to have to face the sub<ect a$ain5 Instead4 ,e ,ent on seein$ each other4 $oin$ to$ether4 and the la$oon episode ,as never mentioned5 I ,as still uneasy6 it ,as no use my tryin$ to persuade myself she had for$otten7 every no, and then I suspected she ,as remainin$ silent in order to embarrass me later in some spectacular ,ay4 in front of her family4 or else 00 and4 for me4 this ,as an even ,orse hypothesis 00 she ,as ma"in$ an effort to tal" about other thin$s only because she felt sorry for me5 Then4 out of a clear s"y4 one mornin$ she said curtly6 ?#ee here4 aren3t you $oin$ to ta"e me to visit your uncle any more.? In a faint voice I as"ed6 ?!re you <o"in$.? Aot at all7 she ,as in earnest4 she couldn3t ,ait to $o bac" and have a little chat ,ith old A3ba A3$a5 I ,as all mi8ed up5 That time our visit to the la$oon lasted lon$er5 We lay on a slopin$ ban"4 all three of us6 my $reat0uncle ,as nearest the ,ater4 but the t,o of us ,ere half in and half out4 too4 so anyone seein$ us from the distance4 all close to$ether4 ,ouldn3t have "no,n ,ho ,as terrestrial and ,ho ,as a)uatic5 The fish started in ,ith one of his usual tirades6 the superiority of ,ater respiration to air breathin$4 and all his repertory of deni$ration5 ?Ao, /ll ,ill <ump up and $ive him ,hat for2? I thou$ht5 Instead4 that day /ll ,as apparently usin$ a different tactic6 she ar$ued seriously4 defendin$ our point of vie,4 but as if she ,ere also ta"in$ old A3ba A3$a3s notions into consideration5 !ccordin$ to my $reat0uncle4 the lands that had emer$ed ,ere a limited phenomenon6 they ,ere $oin$ to disappear <ust as they had cropped up or4 in any event4

they ,ould be sub<ect to constant chan$es6 volcanoes4 $laciations4 earth)ua"es4 upheavals4 chan$es of climate and of ve$etation5 !nd our life in the midst of all this ,ould have to face constant transformations4 in the course of ,hich ,hole races ,ould disappear4 and the only survivors ,ould be those ,ho ,ere prepared to chan$e the bases of their e8istence so radically that the reasons ,hy livin$ ,as beautiful ,ould be completely over,helmed and for$otten5 This prospect ,as in absolute contradiction to the optimism in ,hich ,e children of the coast had been brou$ht up4 and I opposed the idea ,ith shoc"ed protests5 -ut for me the true4 livin$ confutation of those ar$uments ,as /ll6 in her I sa, the perfect4 definitive form4 born from the con)uest of the land that had emer$ed7 she ,as the sum of the ne, boundless possibilities that had opened5 +o, could my $reat0uncle try to deny the incarnate reality of /ll. I ,as aflame ,ith polemical passion4 and I thou$ht that my fiancHe ,as bein$ all too patient and too understandin$ ,ith our opponent5 True4 even for me 00 used as I ,as to hearin$ only $rumblin$s and abuse from my $reat0uncle3s mouth 00 this lo$ically arran$ed ar$umentation of his came as a novelty4 thou$h it ,as still spiced ,ith anti)uated and bombastic e8pressions and ,as made comical by his peculiar accent5 It ,as also ama@in$ to hear him display a detailed familiarity 00 thou$h entirely e8ternal 00 ,ith the continental lands5 -ut /ll4 ,ith her )uestions4 tried to ma"e him tal" as much as possible about life under ,ater6 and4 to be sure4 this ,as the theme that elicited the most ti$htly "nit4 even emotional discourse from my $reat0uncle5 Compared to the uncertainties of earth and air4 la$oons and seas and oceans represented a future ,ith security5 Do,n there4 chan$es ,ould be very fe,4 space and provender ,ere unlimited4 the temperature ,ould al,ays be steady7 in short4 life ,ould be maintained as it had $one on till then4 in its achieved4 perfect forms4 ,ithout metamorphoses or additions ,ith dubious outcome4 and every individual ,ould be able to develop his o,n nature4 to arrive at the essence of himself and of all thin$s5 y $reat0uncle spo"e of the a)uatic future ,ithout embellishments or illusions4 he didn3t conceal the problems4 even serious ones4 that ,ould arise =most ,orryin$ of all4 the increase of saline content>7 but they ,ere problems that ,ouldn3t upset the values and the proportions in ,hich he believed5 ?-ut no, ,e $allop over valleys and mountains4 *ncle2? I cried4 spea"in$ for myself but especially for /ll4 ,ho remained silent5 ?'o on ,ith you4 tadpole4 ,hen you3re ,et a$ain4 you3ll be bac" home2? he apostrophi@ed4 to me4 resumin$ the tone I had al,ays heard him use ,ith us5 ?Don3t you thin"4 *ncle4 that if ,e ,anted to learn to breathe under ,ater4 it ,ould be too late.? /ll as"ed earnestly4 and I didn3t "no, ,hether to feel flattered because she had called my old relative uncle or confused because certain )uestions =at least4 so I ,as accustomed to thin"> shouldn3t even be as"ed5 ?If you3re $ame4 s,eetie4? the fish said4 ?I can teach you in a minute2? /ll came out ,ith an odd lau$h4 then finally be$an to run a,ay4 to run on and on beyond all pursuit5 I hunted for her across plains and hills4 I reached the top of a basalt spur ,hich dominated the surroundin$ landscape of deserts and forests surrounded by the ,aters5 /ll ,as there5 What she had ,anted to tell me 00 I had understood her2 00 by listenin$ to A3ba A3$a and then by fleein$ and ta"in$ refu$e up here ,as surely this6 ,e had to live in our ,orld thorou$hly4 as the old fish lived in his5

?I3ll live here4 the ,ay *ncle does do,n there4? I shouted4 stammerin$ a bit7 then I corrected myself6 ?The t,o of us ,ill live here4 to$ether2? because it ,as true that ,ithout her I didn3t feel secure5 -ut ,hat did /ll ans,er me then. I blush ,hen I remember it even no,4 after all these $eolo$ical eras5 #he ans,ered6 ?'et alon$ ,ith you4 tadpole7 it ta"es more than that2? !nd I didn3t "no, ,hether she ,as imitatin$ my $reat0uncle4 to moc" him and me at once4 or ,hether she had really assumed the old nut3s attitude to,ard his nephe,4 and either hypothesis ,as e)ually discoura$in$4 because both meant she considered me at a half,ay sta$e4 a creature not at home in the one ,orld or in the other5 +ad I lost her. #uspectin$ this4 I hastened to ,oo her bac"5 I too" to performin$ all sorts of feats6 huntin$ flyin$ insects4 leapin$4 di$$in$ under$round dens4 ,restlin$ ,ith the stron$est of our $roup5 I ,as proud of myself4 but unfortunately ,henever I did somethin$ brave4 she ,asn3t there to see me6 she "ept disappearin$4 and no one "ne, ,here she had $one off to hide5 Finally I understood6 she ,ent to the la$oon4 ,here my $reat0uncle ,as teachin$ her to s,im under ,ater5 I sa, them surface to$ether6 they ,ere movin$ alon$ at the same speed4 li"e brother and sister5 ?1ou "no,.? she said4 $aily4 ?my pa,s ,or" beautifully as fins2? ?'ood for you2 That3s a bi$ step for,ard4? I couldn3t help remar"in$4 sarcastically5 It ,as a $ame4 for her6 I understood5 -ut a $ame I didn3t li"e5 I had to recall her to reality4 to the future that ,as a,aitin$ her5 %ne day I ,aited for her in the midst of a ,oods of tall ferns ,hich sloped to the ,ater5 ?/ll4 I have to tal" to you4? I said as soon as I sa, her4 ?you3ve been amusin$ yourself lon$ enou$h5 We have more important thin$s ahead of us5 I3ve discovered a passa$e in the mountains6 beyond it stretches an immense stone plain4 <ust abandoned by the ,ater5 We3ll be the first to settle there4 ,e3ll populate un"no,n lands4 you and I4 and our children5? ?The sea is immense4? /ll said5 ?#top repeatin$ that old fool3s nonsense5 The ,orld belon$s to those ,ith le$s4 not to fish4 and you "no, it5? ?I "no, that he3s somebody ,ho is somebody4? /ll said5 ?!nd ,hat about me.? ?There3s nobody ,ith le$s ,ho is li"e him5? ?!nd your family.? ?We3ve )uarreled5 They don3t understand anythin$5? ?Why4 you3re cra@y2 Aobody can turn bac"2? ?I can5? ?!nd ,hat do you thin" you3ll do4 all alone ,ith an old fish.? ? arry him5 -e a fish a$ain ,ith him5 !nd brin$ still more fish into the ,orld5 'ood0by5? !nd ,ith one of those rapid climbs of hers4 the last4 she reached the top of a fern frond4 bent it to,ard the la$oon4 and let $o in a dive5 #he surfaced4 but she ,asn3t alone6 the sturdy4 curved tail of 'reat0*ncle A3ba A3$a rose near hers and4 to$ether4 they cleft the ,aters5 It ,as a hard blo, for me5 -ut4 after all4 ,hat could I do about it. I ,ent on my

,ay4 in the midst of the ,orld3s transformations4 bein$ transformed myself5 (very no, and then4 amon$ the many forms of livin$ bein$s4 I encountered one ,ho ?,as somebody? more than I ,as6 one ,ho announced the future4 the duc"0billed platypus ,ho nurses its youn$4 <ust hatched from the e$$7 or I mi$ht encounter another ,ho bore ,itness to a past beyond all return4 a dinosaur ,ho had survived into the be$innin$ of the Ceno@oic4 or else 00 a crocodile 00 part of the past that had discovered a ,ay to remain immobile throu$h the centuries5 They all had somethin$4 I "no,4 that made them someho, superior to me4 sublime4 somethin$ that made me4 compared to them4 mediocre5 !nd yet I ,ouldn3t have traded places ,ith any of them5


The logic of cy'ernetics, applied to the history of the universe, is in the process of demonstrating how the gala&ies, the solar system, the Earth, cellular life could not help 'ut 'e 'orn. According to cy'ernetics, the universe is formed 'y a series of feed'ac(s, positive and negative, at first through the force of gravity that concentrates masses of hydrogen in the primitive cloud, then through nuclear force and centrifugal force which are 'alanced with the first. 7rom the moment that the process is set in motion, it can only follow the logic of this chain. 1es4 but at the be$innin$ nobody "ne, it4 00 "fwf# e&plained, 00 I mean4 you could foretell it perhaps4 but instinctively4 by ear4 $uessin$5 I don3t ,ant to boast4 but from the start I ,as ,illin$ to bet that there ,as $oin$ to be a universe4 and I hit the nail on the head7 on the )uestion of its nature4 too4 I ,on plenty of bets4 ,ith old Dean =">yC5 When ,e started bettin$ there ,asn3t anythin$ yet that mi$ht lead you to foresee anythin$4 e8cept for a fe, particles spinnin$ around4 some electrons scattered here and there at random4 and protons all more or less on their o,n5 I started feelin$ a bit stran$e4 as if there ,as $oin$ to be a chan$e of ,eather =in fact4 it had $ro,n sli$htly cold>4 and so I said6 ?1ou ,ant to bet ,e3re headin$ for atoms today.? !nd Dean =">yC said6 ?%h4 cut it out5 !toms2 Aothin$ of the sort4 and I3ll bet anythin$ you say5? #o I said6 ?Would you even bet i8.? The Dean ans,ered6 ?I8 raised to en2? +e had no sooner finished sayin$ this than around each proton its electron started ,hirlin$ and bu@@in$5 !n enormous hydro$en cloud ,as condensin$ in space5 ?1ou see. Full of atoms2? ?%h4 if you call that stuff atoms2? =">yC said7 he had the bad habit of puttin$ up an ar$ument4 instead of admittin$ he had lost a bet5 We ,ere al,ays bettin$4 the Dean and I4 because there ,as really nothin$ else to do4 and also because the only proof I e8isted ,as that I bet ,ith him4 and the only proof he e8isted ,as that he bet ,ith me5 We bet on ,hat events ,ould or ,ould not ta"e place7 the choice ,as virtually unlimited4 because up till then absolutely nothin$ had happened5 -ut since there ,asn3t even a ,ay to ima$ine ho, an event mi$ht be4 ,e desi$nated it in a "ind of code6 (vent !4 (vent -4 (vent C4 and so on4 <ust to distin$uish one from the

other5 What I mean is6 since there ,ere no alphabets in e8istence then or any other series of accepted si$ns4 first ,e bet on ho, a series of si$ns mi$ht be and then ,e matched these possible si$ns ,ith various possible events4 in order to identify ,ith sufficient precision matters that ,e still didn3t "no, a thin$ about5 We also didn3t "no, ,hat ,e ,ere sta"in$ because there ,as nothin$ that could serve as a sta"e4 and so ,e $ambled on our ,ord4 "eepin$ an account of the bets each had ,on4 to be added up later5 !ll these calculations ,ere very difficult4 since numbers didn3t e8ist then4 and ,e didn3t even have the concept of number4 to be$in to count4 because it ,asn3t possible to separate anythin$ from anythin$ else5 This situation be$an to chan$e ,hen4 in the proto$ala8ies4 the protostars started condensin$4 and I )uic"ly reali@ed ,here it ,ould all end4 ,ith that temperature risin$ all the time4 and so I said6 ?Ao, they3re $oin$ to catch fire5? ?Auts2? the Dean said5 ?Want to bet.? I said5 ?!nythin$ you li"e4? he said4 and ,ham4 the dar"ness ,as shattered by all these incandescent balls that be$an to s,ell out5 ?%h4 but that isn3t ,hat catchin$ fire means5 5 5? =">yC be$an4 )uibblin$ about ,ords in his usual ,ay5 -y that time I had developed a system of my o,n4 to shut him up6 ?%h4 no. !nd ,hat does it mean then4 in your opinion.? +e "ept )uiet6 lac"in$ ima$ination as he did4 ,hen a ,ord be$an to have one meanin$4 he couldn3t conceive of its havin$ any other5 Dean =">yC4 if you had to spend much time ,ith him4 ,as a fairly borin$ sort4 ,ithout any resources4 he never had anythin$ to tell5 Aot that I4 on the other hand4 could have told much4 since events ,orth tellin$ about had never happened4 or at least so it appeared to us5 The only thin$ ,as to frame hypotheses4 or rather6 hypothesi@e on the possibility of framin$ hypotheses5 Ao,4 ,hen it came to framin$ hypotheses of hypotheses4 I had much more ima$ination than the Dean4 and this ,as both an advanta$e and a disadvanta$e4 because it led me to ma"e ris"ier bets4 so that you mi$ht say our probabilities of ,innin$ ,ere even5 !s a rule4 I bet on the possibility of a certain event3s ta"in$ place4 ,hereas the Dean almost al,ays bet a$ainst it5 +e had a static sense of reality4 old =">yC4 if I may e8press myself in these terms4 since bet,een static and dynamic at that time there ,asn3t the difference there is no,adays4 or in any case you had to be very careful in $raspin$ it4 that difference5 For e8ample4 the stars be$an to s,ell4 and I said6 ?+o, much.? I tried to lead our predictions into the field of numbers4 ,here he ,ould have less to ar$ue about5 !t that time there ,ere only t,o numbers6 the number e and the number pi. The Dean did some fi$urin$4 by and lar$e4 and ans,ered6 ?They3ll $ro, to e raised to pi.8 Tryin$ to act smart2 !ny fool could have told that much5 -ut matters ,eren3t so simple4 as I had reali@ed5 ?1ou ,ant to bet they stop4 at a certain point.? ?!ll ri$ht5 When are they $oin$ to stop.? !nd ,ith my usual bravado4 I came out ,ith my pi. +e s,allo,ed it5 The Dean ,as dumfounded5 From that moment on ,e be$an to bet on the basis of e and of pi. 8$i98 the Dean shouted4 in the midst of the dar"ness and the scattered flashes5 -ut

instead that ,as the time it ,as e. We did it all for fun4 obviously7 because there ,as nothin$ in it for us4 as far as earnin$ ,ent5 When the elements be$an to be formed4 ,e started evaluatin$ our bets in atoms of the rarer elements4 and this is ,here I made a mista"e5 I had seen that the rarest of all ,as technetium4 so I started bettin$ tech0netium and ,hinin$4 and hoardin$6 I built up a capital of technetium5 I hadn3t foreseen it ,as an unstable element that dissolved in radiations6 suddenly I had to start all over a$ain4 from @ero5 Aaturally4 I made some ,ron$ bets4 too4 but then I $ot ahead a$ain and I could allo, myself a fe, ris"y pro$nostications5 ?Ao, a bismuth isotope is $oin$ to come out2? I said hastily4 ,atchin$ the ne,born elements crac"le forth from the crucible of a ?supernova? star5 ?/et3s bet2? Aothin$ of the sort6 it ,as a polonium atom4 in mint condition5 In these cases =">yC ,ould sni$$er and chuc"le as if his victories ,ere somethin$ to be proud of4 ,hereas he simply benefited from overbold moves on my part5 Conversely4 the more I ,ent ahead4 the better I understood the mechanism4 and in the face of every ne, phenomenon4 after a fe, rather $ropin$ bets4 I could calculate my previsions rationally5 The order that made one $ala8y move at precisely so many million li$ht0years from another4 no more and no less4 became clear to me before he cau$ht on5 !fter a ,hile it ,as all so easy I didn3t en<oy it any more5 !nd so4 from the data I had at my disposal4 I tried mentally to deduce other data4 and from them still others4 until I succeeded in su$$estin$ eventualities that had no apparent connection ,ith ,hat ,e ,ere ar$uin$ about5 !nd I <ust let them fall4 casually4 into our conversation5 For e8ample4 ,e ,ere ma"in$ predictions about the curve of the $alactic spirals4 and all of a sudden I came out ,ith6 ?Ao, listen a minute4 =">yC4 ,hat do you thin". Will the !ssyrians invade esopotamia.? +e lau$hed4 confused5 ? eso0 ,hat. When.? I calculated )uic"ly and blurted a date4 not in years and centuries of course4 because then the units of measurin$ time ,eren3t conceivable in len$ths of that sort4 and to indicate a precise date ,e had to rely on formulas so complicated it ,ould have ta"en a ,hole blac"board to ,rite them do,n5 ?+o, can you tell.? ?Come on4 =">yC4 are they $oin$ to invade or not. I say they do7 you say no5 !ll ri$ht. Don3t ta"e so lon$ about it? We ,ere still in the boundless void4 striped here and there by a strea" or t,o of hydro$en around the vorte8es of the first constellations5 I admit it re)uired very complicated deductions to foresee the esopotamian plains blac" ,ith men and horses and arro,s and trumpets4 but4 since I had nothin$ else to do4 I could brin$ it off5 Instead4 in such cases4 the Dean al,ays bet no4 not because he believed the !ssyrians ,ouldn3t do it4 but simply because he refused to thin" there ,ould ever be !ssyrians and esopotamia and the (arth and the human race5 These bets4 obviously4 ,ere lon$0term affairs4 more than the others7 not li"e some cases4 ,here the result ,as immediately "no,n5 ?1ou see that #un over there4 the one bein$ formed ,ith an ellipsoid all around it. Duic"4 before the planets are formed6 ho, far ,ill the orbits be from one another.? The ,ords ,ere hardly out of my mouth ,hen4 in the space of ei$ht or nine 00

,hat am I sayin$. 00 si8 or seven hundred million years4 the planets started revolvin$ each in its orbit4 not a ,hit more narro, nor a ,hit ,ider5 I $ot much more satisfaction4 ho,ever4 from the bets ,e had to bear in mind for billions and billions of years4 ,ithout for$ettin$ ,hat ,e had bet on4 and rememberin$ the shorter0term bets at the same time4 and the number =the era of ,hole numbers had be$un4 and this complicated matters a bit> of bets each of us had ,on4 the sum of the sta"es =my advanta$e "ept $ro,in$7 the Dean ,as up to his ears in debt>5 !nd in addition to all this I had to dream up ne, bets4 further and further ahead in the chain of my deductions5 ?%n February 84 19F64 at #anthia4 in the &rovince of :ercelli 00 $ot that. !t number 18 in :ia 'aribaldi 00 you follo, me. #i$norina 'iuseppina &ensotti4 a$ed t,enty0t,o4 leaves her home at )uarter to si8 in the afternoon6 does she turn ri$ht or left.? ? mmmm5 5 5? =">yC said5 ?Come on4 )uic"ly5 I say she turns ri$ht5 5 5? !nd throu$h the dust nebulae4 furro,ed by the orbits of the constellations4 I could already see the ,ispy evenin$ mist rise in the streets of #anthia4 the fault li$ht of a street lamp barely outlinin$ the side,al" in the sno,4 illuminatin$ for a moment the slim shado, of 'iuseppina &ensotti as she turned the corner past the Customs +ouse and disappeared5 %n the sub<ect of ,hat ,as to happen amon$ the celestial bodies4 I could stop ma"in$ ne, bets and ,ait calmly to poc"et my ,innin$s from =">yC as my predictions $radually came true5 -ut my passion for $amblin$ led me4 from every possible event4 to foresee the interminable series of events that follo,ed4 even do,n to the most mar$inal and aleatory ones5 I be$an to combine predictions of the most immediately and easily calculated events ,ith others that re)uired e8tremely complicated operations5 ?+urry4 loo" at the ,ay the planets are condensin$6 no, tell me4 ,hich is the one ,here an atmosphere is $oin$ to be formed. ercury. :enus. (arth. ars. Come on6 ma"e up your mind2 !nd ,hile you3re about it4 calculate for me the inde8 of demo$raphic increase on the Indian subcontinent durin$ the -ritish ra<5 What are you pu@@lin$ over. a"e it snappy2? I had started alon$ a narro, channel beyond ,hich events ,ere pilin$ up ,ith multiplied density7 I had only to sei@e them by the handful and thro, them in the face of my competitor4 ,ho had never $uessed at their e8istence5 %nce I happened to drop4 almost absently4 the )uestion6 ?!rsenal0Beal adrid4 semifinals5 !rsenal playin$ at home5 Who ,ins.4? and in a moment I reali@ed that ,ith ,hat seemed a casual <umble of ,ords I had hit on an infinite reserve of ne, combinations amon$ the si$ns ,hich compact4 opa)ue4 uniform reality ,ould use to dis$uise its monotony4 and I reali@ed that perhaps the race to,ard the future4 the race I had been the first to foresee and desire4 tended only 00 throu$h time and space 00 to,ard a crumblin$ into alternatives li"e this4 until it ,ould dissolve in a $eometry of invisible trian$les and ricochets li"e the course of a football amon$ the ,hite lines of a field as I tried to ima$ine them4 dra,n at the bottom of the luminous vorte8 of the planetary system4 decipherin$ the numbers mar"ed on the chests and bac"s of the players at ni$ht4 unreco$ni@able in the distance5 -y no, I had plun$ed into this ne, area of possibility4 $amblin$ everythin$ I had ,on before5 Who could stop me. The Dean3s customary be,ildered incredulity only spurred me to $reater ris"s5 When I sa, I ,as cau$ht in a trap it ,as too late5 I still had

the satisfaction 00 a mea$er satisfaction4 this time 00 of bein$ the first to be a,are of it6 =">yC seemed not to catch on to the fact that luc" had no, come over to his side4 but I counted his bursts of lau$hter4 once rare and no, becomin$ more and more fre)uent5 5 5 ?Df,f)4 have you noticed that &haraoh !menhotep I: had no male issue. I3ve ,on2? ?Df,f)4 loo" at &ompey2 +e lost out to Caesar after all2 I told you so2? !nd yet I had ,or"ed out my calculations to their conclusion4 I hadn3t overloo"ed a sin$le component5 (ven if I ,ere to $o bac" to the be$innin$4 I ,ould bet the same ,ay as before5 ?Df,f)4 under the (mperor Eustinian4 it ,as the sil",orm that ,as imported from China to Constantinople5 Aot $unpo,der5 5 5 %r am I $ettin$ thin$s mi8ed up.? ?Ao4 no4 you ,in4 you ,in5 5 5? To be sure4 I had let myself $o4 ma"in$ predictions about fleetin$4 impalpable events4 countless predictions4 and no, I couldn3t dra, bac"4 I couldn3t correct myself5 -esides4 correct myself ho,. %n the basis of ,hat. ?1ou see4 -al@ac doesn3t ma"e /ucien de BubemprH commit suicide at the end of )es /llusions perdues,8 the Dean said4 in a triumphant4 s)uea"y little voice he had been developin$ of late5 ?+e has him saved by Carlos +errera4 alias :autrin5 1ou "no,. The character ,ho ,as also in $:re Goriot. . . Ao, then4 Df,f)4 ho, far have ,e $ot.? y advanta$e ,as droppin$5 I had saved my ,innin$s4 converted into hard valuta4 in a #,iss ban"4 but I had constantly to ,ithdra, bi$ sums to meet my losses5 Aot that I lost every time5 I still ,on a bet no, and then4 even a bi$ one4 but the roles had been reversed7 ,hen I ,on I could no lon$er be sure it ,asn3t an accident or that4 the ne8t time4 my calculations ,ouldn3t a$ain be proved ,ron$5 !t the point ,e had reached4 ,e needed reference libraries4 subscriptions to speciali@ed ma$a@ines4 as ,ell as a comple8 of electronic computers for our calculations6 everythin$4 as you "no,4 ,as furnished us by a Besearch Foundation4 to ,hich4 ,hen ,e settled on this planet4 ,e appealed for funds to finance our research5 Aaturally4 our bets fi$ure as an innocent $ame bet,een the t,o of us and nobody suspects the hu$e sums involved in them5 %fficially ,e live on our modest salaries as researchers for the (lectronic &redictions Center4 ,ith the added sum4 for =">yC4 that $oes ,ith the position of Dean4 ,hich he intri$ued to obtain from the Department4 thou$h he "ept on pretendin$ he ,asn3t liftin$ a fin$er5 =+is predilection for stasis has $ot steadily ,orse7 he turned up here in the $uise of a paralytic4 in a ,heelchair5> This title of Dean4 I mi$ht add4 has nothin$ to do ,ith seniority4 other,ise I3d be <ust as much entitled to it as he is4 thou$h of course it doesn3t mean anythin$ to me5 #o this is ho, ,e reached our present situation5 Dean =">yC4 from the porch of his buildin$4 seated in the ,heelchair4 his le$s covered ,ith a ru$ of ne,spapers from all over the ,orld4 ,hich arrive ,ith the mornin$ post4 shouts so loud you can hear him all the ,ay across the campus6 ?Df,f)4 the atomic treaty bet,een Tur"ey and Eapan ,asn3t si$ned today7 they haven3t even be$un tal"s5 1ou see. Df,f)4 that man in Termini Imerese ,ho "illed his ,ife ,as $iven three years4 <ust as I said5 Aot life2? !nd he ,aves the pa$es of the papers4 blac" and ,hite the ,ay space ,as ,hen the $ala8ies ,ere bein$ formed4 and crammed 00 as space ,as then 00 ,ith isolated corpuscles4 surrounded by emptiness4 containin$ no destination or meanin$5 !nd I thin" ho, beautiful it ,as then4 throu$h that void4 to dra, lines and parabolas4 pic" out the

precise point4 the intersection bet,een space and time ,here the event ,ould sprin$ forth4 undeniable in the prominence of its $lo,7 ,hereas no, events come flo,in$ do,n ,ithout interruption4 li"e cement bein$ poured4 one column ne8t to the other4 one ,ithin the other4 separated by blac" and incon$ruous headlines4 le$ible in many ,ays but intrinsically ille$ible4 a dou$hy mass of events ,ithout form or direction4 ,hich surrounds4 submer$es4 crushes all reasonin$5 ?1ou "no, somethin$4 Df,f). The closin$ )uotations on Wall #treet are do,n F per cent4 not 62 !nd that buildin$ constructed ille$ally on the :ia Cassia is t,elve stories hi$h4 not nine2 Aearco I: ,ins at /on$champs by t,o len$ths5 What3s our score no,4 Df,f).?

The causes of the rapid e&tinction of the Dinosaur remain mysterious. the species had evolved and grown throughout the Triassic and the ;urassic, and for <12 million years the Dinosaur had 'een the undisputed master of the continents. $erhaps the species was una'le to adapt to the great changes of climate and vegetation which too( place in the 6retaceous period. -y its end all the Dinosaurs were dead. !ll e8cept me4 00 "fwf# corrected, 00 because4 for a certain period4 I ,as also a Dinosaur6 about fifty million years4 I3d say4 and I don3t re$ret it7 if you ,ere a Dinosaur in those days4 you ,ere sure you ,ere in the ri$ht4 and you made everyone loo" up to you5 Then the situation chan$ed 00 I don3t have to tell you all the details 00 and all sorts of trouble be$an4 defeats4 errors4 doubts4 treachery4 pestilences5 ! ne, population ,as $ro,in$ up on the (arth4 hostile to us5 They attac"ed us on all sides7 there ,as no dealin$ ,ith them5 Ao, there are those ,ho say the pleasure of decadence4 the desire to be destroyed ,ere part of the spirit of us Dinosaurs even before then5 I don3t "no,6 I never felt li"e that7 if some of the others did4 it ,as because they sensed they ,ere already finished5 I prefer not to thin" bac" to the period of the $reat death5 I never believed I3d escape it5 The lon$ mi$ration that saved me led me throu$h a cemetery of fleshless carcases4 ,here only a crest or a horn or a scale of armor or a fra$ment of horny s"in recalled the ancient splendor of the livin$ creature5 !nd over those remains ,or"ed the bea"s4 the bills4 the talons4 the suc"ers of the ne, masters of the planet5 When at last I found no further traces4 of the livin$ or of the dead4 then I stopped5 I spent many4 many years on those deserted plateaus5 I had survived ambushes4 epidemics4 starvation4 frost6 but I ,as alone5 To $o on stayin$ up there forever ,as impossible for me5 I started the <ourney do,n5 The ,orld had chan$ed6 I couldn3t reco$ni@e the mountains any more4 or the rivers4 or the trees5 The first time I $limpsed some livin$ bein$s4 I hid6 it ,as a floc" of the Ae, %nes4 small specimens4 but stron$5 ?+ey4 you2? They had spied me4 and I ,as immediately ama@ed at this familiar ,ay of addressin$ me5 I ran off7 they chased me5 For millennia I had been used to stri"in$ terror all around me4 and to feelin$ terror of the others3 reactions to the terror I aroused5

Aone of that no,5 ?+ey4 you2? They came over to me casually4 neither hostile nor fri$htened5 ?Why are you runnin$. What3s come over you.? They only ,anted me to sho, them the shortest path to I don3t "no, ,here5 I stammered out that I ,as a stran$er there5 ?What made you run off.? one of them said5 ?1ou loo"ed as if you3d seen5 5 5 a Dinosaur2? !nd the others lau$hed5 -ut in that lau$hter I sensed for the first time a hint of apprehension5 Their $ood humor ,as a bit forced5 Then one of them turned serious and added6 ?Don3t say that even as a <o"e5 1ou don3t "no, ,hat they are5 5 5? #o4 the terror of the Dinosaurs still continued in the Ae, %nes4 but perhaps they hadn3t seen any for several $enerations and ,eren3t able to reco$ni@e one5 I traveled on4 cautious but also impatient to repeat the e8periment5 !t a sprin$ a Ae, %ne4 a youn$ female4 ,as drin"in$7 she ,as alone5 I ,ent up softly4 stretched my nec" to drin" beside her7 I could already ima$ine her desperate scream the moment she sa, me4 her breathless fli$ht5 #he ,ould spread the alarm4 and the Ae, %nes ,ould come out in force to hunt me do,n5 5 5 For a moment I repented my action7 if I ,anted to save myself4 I should tear her limb from limb at once6 start it all over a$ain5 5 5 #he turned and said6 ?Aice and cool4 isn3t it.? #he ,ent on conversin$ amiably4 the usual remar"s one ma"es to stran$ers4 as"in$ me if I came from far a,ay4 if I had run into rain on the trip4 or if it had been sunny5 I ,ould never have ima$ined it possible to tal" li"e that ,ith non0Dinosaurs4 and I ,as tense and mostly silent5 ?I al,ays come here to drin"4? she said4 ?to the Dinosaur5 5 5? I reacted ,ith a start4 my eyes ,idenin$5 ?%h4 yes4 that3s ,hat ,e call it5 The Dinosaur3s #prin$5 5 5 that3s been its name since ancient times5 They say that a Dinosaur hid here4 one of the last4 and ,henever anybody came here for a drin" the Dinosaur <umped on him and tore him limb from limb5 y $oodness2? I ,anted to drop throu$h the earth5 ?Ao, she3ll reali@e ,ho I am4? I ,as thin"in$4 ?no, she3ll ta"e a better loo" at me and reco$ni@e me2? !nd as one does4 ,hen one doesn3t ,ant to be observed4 I "ept my eyes lo,ered and coiled my tail4 as if to hide it5 It ,as such a strain that ,hen4 still smilin$4 she said $ood0by and ,ent on her ,ay4 I felt as tired as if I3d fou$ht a battle4 one of those battles ,e fou$ht ,hen ,e ,ere defendin$ ourselves ,ith our cla,s and our teeth5 I reali@ed I hadn3t even said $ood0by bac" to her5 I reached the shore of a river4 ,here the Ae, %nes had their dens and fished for their livin$5 To create a bend in the river4 ,here the ,ater ,ould be less rapid and ,ould hold the fish4 they ,ere constructin$ a dam of branches5 !s soon as they sa, me4 they $lanced up from their ,or" and stopped5 They loo"ed at me4 then at each other4 in silence4 as if )uestionin$ one another5 ?This is it4? I thou$ht4 ?all I can do is sell my life dearly5? !nd I prepared to leap to my defense5 /uc"ily4 I stopped myself in time5 Those fishermen had nothin$ a$ainst me6 seein$ ho, stron$ I ,as4 they ,anted to as" me if I could stay ,ith them and ,or" transportin$ ,ood5 ?This is a safe place4? they insisted4 ,hen I seemed to hesitate5 ?There hasn3t been a Dinosaur seen here since the days of our $randfathers3 $randfathers5 5 5? Aobody suspected ,ho I mi$ht be5 I stayed5 The climate ,as $ood4 the food ,asn3t to my taste but it ,as all ri$ht4 and the ,or" ,asn3t too hard for one of my stren$th5 They $ave me a nic"name6 ?The *$ly %ne4? because I ,as different from them4

for no other reason5 These Ae, %nes4 I don3t "no, ho, in the ,orld you call them4 &antotheres or ,hatever4 ,ere still a rather formless species7 in fact4 all the other species descended from it later7 and already in those days there ,as the $reatest variety of similarities and dissimilarities from one individual to the ne8t4 so4 thou$h I ,as an entirely different type4 I ,as finally convinced I didn3t stand out too much5 Aot that I ever became completely used to this idea6 I al,ays felt li"e a Dinosaur in the midst of enemies4 and every evenin$4 ,hen they started tellin$ stories of the Dinosaurs4 le$ends handed do,n from $eneration to $eneration4 I hun$ bac" in the shado,4 my nerves on ed$e5 The stories ,ere terrifyin$5 The listeners4 pale4 occasionally burstin$ out ,ith cries of fear4 hun$ on the lips of the storyteller4 ,hose voice also betrayed an e)ually profound emotion5 #oon it ,as clear to me that all of them already "ne, those stories =even thou$h the repertory ,as very plentiful>4 but ,hen they heard them4 their fear ,as rene,ed every time5 The Dinosaurs ,ere portrayed as so many monsters4 described ,ith a ,ealth of details that ,ould never have helped anyone reco$ni@e them4 and depicted as intent only on harmin$ the Ae, %nes4 as if the Ae, %nes from the very be$innin$ had been the (arth3s most important inhabitants and ,e had had nothin$ better to do than run after them from mornin$ till ni$ht5 For myself4 ,hen I thou$ht about us Dinosaurs4 I returned in memory to a lon$ series of hardships4 death a$onies4 mournin$7 the stories that the Ae, %nes told about us ,ere so remote from my e8perience that they should have left me indifferent4 as if they referred to outsiders4 stran$ers5 !nd yet4 as I listened4 I reali@ed I had never thou$ht about ho, ,e appeared to others4 and that4 amon$ all the nonsense4 those tales4 here and there4 from the narrators3 point of vie,4 had hit on the truth5 In my mind their stories of terrors ,e inflicted became confused ,ith my memories of terror under$one6 the more I learned ho, ,e had made others tremble4 the more I trembled myself5 (ach one told a story4 in turn4 and at a certain point they said6 ?What does the *$ly %ne have to tell us. Don3t you have any stories. Didn3t anyone in your family have adventures ,ith the Dinosaurs.? ?1es4 but5 5 5? I stammered4 ?it ,as so lon$ a$o5 5 5 ah4 if you only "ne,5 5 5? The one ,ho came to my assistance at that <uncture ,as Fern0flo,er4 the youn$ creature of the sprin$5 ?%h4 leave him alone5 5 5 +e3s a forei$ner4 he doesn3t feel at home yet7 he can3t spea" our lan$ua$e ,ell enou$h5 5 5? In the end they chan$ed the sub<ect5 I could breathe a$ain5 ! "ind of friendliness had $ro,n up bet,een Fern0flo,er and me5 Aothin$ too intimate6 I had never dared touch her5 -ut ,e had lon$ tal"s5 %r rather4 she told me all sorts of thin$s about her life7 in my fear of $ivin$ myself a,ay4 of ma"in$ her suspect my identity4 I stuc" al,ays to $eneralities5 Fern0flo,er told me her dreams6 ?/ast ni$ht I sa, this enormous Dinosaur4 terrifyin$4 breathin$ smo"e from his nostrils5 +e came closer4 $rabbed me by the nape4 and carried me off5 +e ,anted to eat me alive5 It ,as a terrible dream4 simply terrible4 but 00 isn3t this odd. 00 I ,asn3t the least fri$htened5 Ao4 I don3t "no, ho, to say it5 5 5 I li"ed him5 5 5? That dream should have made me understand many thin$s and especially one thin$6 that Fern0flo,er desired nothin$ more than to be assaulted5 This ,as the moment for me to embrace her5 -ut the Dinosaur they ima$ined ,as too different from the Dinosaur I ,as4 and this thou$ht made me even more different and timid5 In other ,ords4

I missed a $ood opportunity5 Then Fern0flo,er3s brother returned from the season of fishin$ in the plains4 the youn$ one ,as much more closely ,atched4 and our conversations became less fre)uent5 This brother4 9ahn4 started actin$ suspicious the moment he first sa, me5 ?Who3s that. Where does he come from.? he as"ed the others4 pointin$ to me5 ?That3s the *$ly %ne4 a forei$ner4 ,ho ,or"s ,ith the timber4? they said to him5 ?Why. What3s stran$e about him.? ?I3d li"e to as" him that4? 9ahn said4 ,ith a $rim loo"5 ?+ey4 you2 What3s stran$e about you.? What could I ans,er. ? e. Aothin$5? ?#o4 you3re not stran$e4 eh.? and he lau$hed5 That time it ,ent no further4 but I ,as prepared for the ,orst5 This 9ahn ,as one of the most active ones in the villa$e5 +e had traveled about the ,orld and seemed to "no, many more thin$s than the others5 When he heard the usual tal" about the Dinosaurs he ,as sei@ed by a "ind of impatience5 ?Fairy tales4? he said once4 ?you3re all tellin$ fairy tales5 I3d li"e to see you if a real Dinosaur turned up here5? ?There haven3t been any for a lon$ time no,5 5 5? a fisherman said5 ?Aot all that lon$5 5 5? 9ahn sni$$ered5 ?!nd there mi$ht still be a herd or t,o around the countryside5 5 5 In the plains4 our bunch ta"es turns "eepin$ ,atch4 day and ni$ht5 -ut there ,e can trust one another7 ,e don3t ta"e in characters ,e don3t "no,5 5 5? !nd he $ave me a lon$4 meanin$ful loo"5 There ,as no point dra$$in$ thin$s out6 better force him into the open ri$ht a,ay5 I too" a step for,ard5 ?+ave you $ot somethin$ a$ainst me.? I as"ed5 ?I3m a$ainst anybody ,hen ,e don3t "no, ,ho $ave him birth or ,here he came from4 and ,hen he ,ants to eat our food and court our sisters5 5 5? %ne of the fishermen too" up my defense6 ?The *$ly %ne earns his "eep7 he3s a hard ,or"er5 5 5? ?+e3s capable of carryin$ tree trun"s on his bac"4 I ,on3t deny that4? 9ahn ,ent on4 ?but if dan$er came4 if ,e had to defend ourselves ,ith cla,s and teeth4 ho, can ,e be sure he ,ould behave properly.? ! $eneral ar$ument be$an5 The stran$e thin$ ,as that the possibility of my bein$ a Dinosaur never occurred to anyone7 the sin I ,as accused of ,as bein$ Different4 a Forei$ner4 and therefore *ntrust,orthy7 and the ar$ument ,as over ho, much my presence increased the dan$er of the Dinosaurs3 ever comin$ bac"5 ?I3d li"e to see him in battle4 ,ith that little li@ard3s mouth of his5 5 5? 9ahn ,ent on contemptuously4 $oadin$ me5 I ,ent over to him4 abruptly4 nose to nose5 ?1ou can see me ri$ht no,4 if you don3t run a,ay5? +e ,asn3t e8pectin$ that5 +e loo"ed around5 The others formed a circle5 There ,as nothin$ for us to do but fi$ht I moved for,ard4 brushed off his bite by t,istin$ my nec"7 I had already $iven him a blo, of my pa, that "noc"ed him on his bac"4 and I ,as on top of him5 This ,as a ,ron$ move7 as if I didn3t "no, it4 as if I had never seen Dinosaurs die4 cla,ed and bitten on the chest and the belly4 ,hen they believed they had pinned do,n their enemy5 -ut I still "ne, ho, to use my tail4 to steady myself7 I didn3t ,ant to let him turn me over7 I put on pressure4 but I felt I ,as about to $ive ,ay5 5 5

Then one of the observers yelled6 ?'ive it to him4 Dinosaur2? Ao sooner had they unmas"ed me than I became a$ain the Dinosaur of the old days6 since all ,as lost4 I mi$ht as ,ell ma"e them feel their ancient terror5 !nd I struc" 9ahn once4 t,ice4 three times5 5 5 They tore us apart5 ?9ahn4 ,e told you2 The *$ly %ne has muscles5 1ou don3t try any tric"s ,ith him4 not ,ith old *$ly2? !nd they lau$hed and con$ratulated me4 slappin$ me on the bac" ,ith their pa,s5 Convinced I had been discovered4 I couldn3t $et my bearin$s7 it ,as only later that I understood the cry ?Dinosaur? ,as a habit of theirs4 to encoura$e the rivals in a fi$ht4 as if to say6 ?'o on4 you3re the stron$er one2? and I ,asn3t even sure ,hether they had shouted the ,ord at me or at 9ahn5 From that day on I ,as the most respected of all5 (ven 9ahn encoura$ed me4 follo,ed me around to see me $ive ne, proofs of my stren$th5 I must say that their usual tal" about the Dinosaurs chan$ed a bit4 too4 as al,ays happens ,hen you tire of <ud$in$ thin$s in the same old ,ay and fashion be$ins to ta"e a ne, turn5 Ao,4 if they ,anted to critici@e somethin$ in the villa$e4 they had $ot into the habit of sayin$ that4 amon$ Dinosaurs4 certain thin$s ,ere never done4 that the Dinosaurs in many ,ays could offer an e8ample4 that the behavior of the Dinosaurs in this or that situation =in their private life4 for e8ample> ,as beyond reproach4 and so on5 In short4 there seemed to be emer$in$ a "ind of posthumous admiration for these Dinosaurs about ,hom no one "ne, anythin$ precise5 #ometimes I couldn3t help sayin$6 ?Come4 let3s not e8a$$erate5 What do you thin" a Dinosaur ,as4 after all.? They interrupted me6 ?#hut up5 What do you "no, about them. 1ou3ve never seen one5? &erhaps this ,as the ri$ht moment to start callin$ a spade a spade5 ?I have too seen them2? I cried4 ?and if you ,ant4 I can e8plain to you ,hat they ,ere li"e2? They didn3t believe me7 they thou$ht I ,as ma"in$ fun of them5 For me4 this ne, ,ay they had of tal"in$ about the Dinosaurs ,as almost as unbearable as the old one5 -ecause 00 apart from the $rief I felt at the sad fate that had befallen my species 00 I "ne, the life of the Dinosaurs from ,ithin4 I "ne, ho, ,e had been $overned by narro,0 mindedness4 pre<udice4 unable to adapt ourselves to ne, situations5 !nd I no, had to see them ta"e as a model that little ,orld of ours4 so bac",ard and so 00 to tell the truth 00 borin$2 I had to feel imposed on me4 and by them4 a "ind of sacred respect for my species ,hich I myself had never felt2 -ut4 after all4 this ,as only ri$ht6 ,hat did these Ae, %nes have that ,as so different from the Dinosaurs of the $ood old days. #afe in their villa$e ,ith their dams and their ponds4 they had also ta"en on a smu$ness4 a presumptuousness5 5 5 I finally felt to,ard them the same intolerance I had had to,ard my o,n environment4 and the more I heard them admirin$ the Dinosaurs the more I detested Dinosaurs and Ae, %nes ali"e5 ?1ou "no, somethin$. /ast ni$ht I dreamed that a Dinosaur ,as to $o past my house4? Fern0flo,er said to me4 ?a ma$nificent Dinosaur4 a &rince or a Cin$ of Dinosaurs5 I made myself pretty4 I put a ribbon on my head4 and I leaned out of the ,indo,5 I tried to attract the Dinosaur3s attention4 I bo,ed to him4 but he didn3t even seem to notice me4 didn3t even dei$n to $lance at me5 5 5? This dream furnished me ,ith a ne, "ey to the understandin$ of Fern0flo,er3s attitude to,ard me6 the youn$ creature had mista"en my shyness for disdainful pride5

Ao,4 ,hen I recall it4 I reali@e that all I had to do ,as maintain that attitude a little lon$er4 ma"e a sho, of hau$hty detachment4 and I ,ould have ,on her completely5 Instead4 the revelation so moved me that I thre, myself at her feet4 tears in my eyes4 and said6 ?Ao4 no4 Fern0flo,er4 it3s not the ,ay you believe7 you3re better than any Dinosaur4 a hundred times better4 and I feel so inferior to you5 5 5? Fern0flo,er stiffened4 too" a step bac",ards5 ?What are you sayin$.? This ,asn3t ,hat she e8pected6 she ,as upset4 and she found the scene a bit distasteful5 I understood this too late7 I hastily recovered myself4 but a feelin$ of uneasiness no, ,ei$hed heavily bet,een us5 There ,as no time to ponder it4 ,hat ,ith everythin$ that happened a little later5 -reathless messen$ers reached the villa$e5 ?The Dinosaurs are comin$ bac"2? ! herd of stran$e monsters had been si$hted4 speedin$ fiercely over the plain5 !t this rate they ,ould attac" the villa$e the follo,in$ mornin$5 The alarm ,as sounded5 1ou can ima$ine the flood of conflictin$ emotions that filled my breast at this ne,s6 my species ,asn3t e8tinct4 I ,ould be able to <oin my brothers4 ta"e up my old life2 -ut the memory of the old life that returned to my mind ,as the endless series of defeats4 of fli$hts4 of dan$ers7 to be$in a$ain meant perhaps only a temporary e8tension of that death a$ony4 the return to a phase I thou$ht had already ended5 Ao,4 here in the villa$e4 I had achieved a "ind of ne, tran)uillity4 and I ,as sorry to lose it5 The Ae, %nes ,ere also torn by conflictin$ feelin$s5 %n the one hand4 there ,as panic7 on the other4 the ,ish to triumph over the ancient enemy7 and at the same time4 there ,as the conviction that if the Dinosaurs had survived and ,ere no, advancin$ ven$efully it meant nobody could stop them and their victory4 pitiless as it mi$ht be4 could also perhaps be a $ood thin$ for all5 It ,as as if the Ae, %nes ,anted at the same time to defend themselves4 to flee4 to ,ipe out the enemy4 and to be defeated7 and this uncertainty ,as reflected in the disorder of their defense preparations5 ?Eust a moment2? 9ahn shouted5 ?There is only one amon$ us ,ho is capable of ta"in$ command2 The stron$est of all4 the *$ly %ne2? ?1ou3re ri$ht2 The *$ly %ne must command us2? the others shouted in chorus5 ?1es4 yes4 full po,er to the *$ly %ne2? !nd they placed themselves at my command5 ?Ao4 no4 ho, can I4 a forei$ner.5 5 5 I3m not up to it5 5 5? I parried5 -ut it ,as impossible to convince them5 What ,as I to do. That ni$ht I couldn3t close my eyes5 The call of my blood insisted I should desert and <oin my brothers7 loyalty to,ard the Ae, %nes4 ,ho had ,elcomed and sheltered me and $iven me their trust4 demanded I should consider myself on their side7 and in addition I "ne, full ,ell that neither Dinosaurs nor Ae, %nes ,ere ,orthy of my liftin$ a fin$er for them5 If the Dinosaurs ,ere tryin$ to re0establish their rule ,ith invasions and massacres4 it meant they had learned nothin$ from e8perience4 that they had survived only by mista"e5 !nd it ,as clear that the Ae, %nes4 turnin$ the command over to me4 had found the easiest solution6 leave all responsibility to an outsider4 ,ho could be their savior but also4 in case of defeat4 a scape$oat to hand over to the enemy to pacify him4 or else a traitor ,ho4 puttin$ them into the enemies3 hands4 could brin$ about their unconfessable dream of bein$ mastered by the Dinosaurs5 In short4 I ,anted nothin$ to do ,ith either side6 let them rip each other apart in turn2 I didn3t $ive a damn about any of them5 I had to escape as fast as possible4 let them ste, in their o,n <uice4 have nothin$ more to do ,ith these old stories5

That same ni$ht4 slippin$ a,ay in the dar"ness4 I left the villa$e5 y first impulse ,as to $et as far as possible from the battlefield4 return to my secret refu$es7 but curiosity $ot the better of me6 I had to see my counterparts4 to "no, ,ho ,ould ,in5 I hid on the top of some cliffs that overhun$ the bend of the river4 and I ,aited for da,n5 !s the li$ht bro"e4 some fi$ures appeared on the hori@on5 They char$ed for,ard5 (ven before I could distin$uish them clearly4 I could dismiss the notion that Dinosaurs could ever run so $racelessly5 When I reco$ni@ed them I didn3t "no, ,hether to lau$h or to blush ,ith shame5 Bhinoceroses4 a herd4 the first ones4 bi$ and clumsy and crude4 studded ,ith horny bumps4 but basically inoffensive4 devoted only to croppin$ $rass6 this is ,hat the others had mista"en for the ancient /ords of the (arth2 The rhinoceros herd $alloped ,ith the sound of thunder4 stopped to lic" some bushes4 then ran on to,ard the hori@on ,ithout even noticin$ the ,aitin$ s)uads of fishermen5 I ran bac" to the villa$e5 ?1ou $ot it all ,ron$2 They ,eren3t Dinosaurs2? I announced5 ?Bhinoceroses4 that3s ,hat they ,ere2 They3ve already $one5 There isn3t any more dan$erl? !nd I added4 to <ustify my vanishin$ in the ni$ht6 ?I ,ent out scoutin$5 To spy on them and report bac"5? ?We may not have understood they ,eren3t Dinosaurs4? 9ahn said calmly4 ?but ,e have understood that you ,ere not here4? and he turned his bac" on me5 To be sure4 they ,ere all disappointed6 about the Dinosaurs4 about me5 Ao, the stories of Dinosaurs became <o"es4 in ,hich the terrible monsters played ridiculous roles5 I no lon$er ,as affected by their petty ,it5 Ao, I reco$ni@ed the $reatness of spirit that had made us choose to disappear rather than live in a ,orld no lon$er suited to us5 If I survived it ,as only so that one of us could continue to feel himself a Dinosaur in the midst of these ,retches ,ho tried to conceal4 ,ith stupid teasin$4 the fear that still dominated them5 !nd ,hat choice did the Ae, %nes have4 beyond the choice bet,een moc"ery and fear. Fern0flo,er betrayed a ne, attitude ,hen she narrated a dream to me6 ?There ,as this Dinosaur4 very funny4 all $reen7 and everybody ,as teasin$ him and pullin$ his tail5 Then I stepped for,ard and protected him7 I too" him a,ay and petted him5 !nd I reali@ed that4 ridiculous as he ,as4 he ,as the saddest of all creatures and a river of tears flo,ed from his red and yello, eyes5? What came over me4 at those ,ords. ! revulsion4 a refusal to identify myself ,ith the ima$es of that dream4 the re<ection of a sentiment that seemed to have become pity4 an intolerance of the diminished idea they had all conceived of the Dinosaurian di$nity. I had a burst of pride7 I stiffened and hurled a fe, contemptuous phrases in her face6 ?Why do you bore me ,ith these dreams of yours. They $et more childish every time2 1ou can3t dream anythin$ but sentimental nonsense2? Fern0flo,er burst into tears5 I ,ent off4 shru$$in$ my shoulders5 This happened on the dam7 ,e ,eren3t alone7 the fishermen hadn3t heard our dialo$ue but they had noticed my an$ry reaction and the youn$ creature3s tears5 9ahn felt called upon to intervene5 ?Who do you thin" you are.? he said4 in a harsh voice5 ?+o, dare you insult my sister.? I stopped4 but didn3t ans,er5 If he ,anted to fi$ht4 I ,as ready5 -ut the mood of the villa$e had chan$ed in recent times6 they made a <o"e of everythin$5 From the $roup of fishermen a falsetto cry ,as heard6 ?Come off it4 $et alon$ ,ith you4 Dinosaur2? This4

as I ,ell "ne,4 ,as a moc"in$ e8pression ,hich had no, come into use4 as if to say6 ?Don3t e8a$$erate4 don3t $et carried a,ay4? and so on5 -ut somethin$ stirred in my blood5 ?1es4 I am one4 if you care to "no,4? I shouted4 ?a Dinosaur2 That3s ,hat I am2 #ince you never have seen any Dinosaurs4 here4 ta"e a loo" at me2? 'eneral snic"erin$ bro"e out5 ?I sa, one yesterday4? an old fisherman said4 ?he came out of the sno,5? #ilence immediately fell all around him5 The old fello, ,as <ust bac" from a <ourney in the mountains5 The tha, had melted an ancient $lacier and a Dinosaur3s s"eleton had come to li$ht5 The ne,s spread throu$h the villa$e5 ?/et3s $o see the Dinosaur2? They all ran up the mountain4 and I ,ent ,ith them5 When ,e had passed a moraine of stones4 uprooted trun"s4 mud4 and dead birds4 ,e sa, a deep4 shell0shaped valley5 ! veil of early lichens ,as turnin$ the roc"s $reen4 no, that they ,ere freed from the ice5 In the midst4 lyin$ as if asleep4 his nec" stretched by the ,idened intervals of the vertebrae4 his tail so,n in a lon$ serpentine4 a $iant Dinosaur3s s"eleton ,as lyin$5 The chest cavity ,as arched li"e a sail4 and ,hen the ,ind struc" the flat slabs of the ribs an invisible heart seemed to be beatin$ ,ithin them still5 The s"ull ,as turned in an an$uished position4 mouth open as if in a last cry5 The Ae, %nes ran do,n there4 shoutin$ $aily7 facin$ the s"ull4 they felt the empty eye soc"ets starin$ at them7 they "ept a fe, paces3 distance4 silently7 then they turned and resumed their silly festiveness5 If one of them had loo"ed from the s"eleton to me4 as I stood there starin$ at it4 he ,ould have reali@ed at once that ,e ,ere identical5 -ut nobody did this5 Those bones4 those cla,s4 those murderous limbs spo"e a lan$ua$e no, become ille$ible7 they no lon$er said anythin$ to anyone4 e8cept that va$ue name ,hich had remained unconnected ,ith the e8periences of the present5 I continued loo"in$ at the s"eleton4 the Father4 the -rother4 my Counterpart4 my #elf7 I reco$ni@ed my fleshless limbs4 my lineaments carved in the stone4 everythin$ ,e had been and ,ere no lon$er4 our ma<esty4 our faults4 our ruin5 Ao, these remains ,ould be used by the planet3s ne,4 heedless occupants to mar" a spot in the landscape4 they ,ould follo, the destiny of the name ?Dinosaur4? becomin$ an opa)ue sound ,ithout meanin$5 I must not allo, it5 (verythin$ that concerned the true nature of the Dinosaurs must remain hidden5 In the ni$ht4 as the Ae, %nes slept around the s"eleton4 ,hich they had dec"ed ,ith fla$s4 I transported it4 vertebra by vertebra4 and buried my Dead5 In the mornin$ the Ae, %nes found not a trace of the s"eleton5 They didn3t ,orry about it very lon$5 It ,as another mystery added to the many mysteries concernin$ the Dinosaurs5 They soon dismissed it from their thou$hts5 -ut the appearance of the s"eleton left its mar"4 for in all of them the idea of the Dinosaurs became bound to the idea of a sad end4 and in the stories they no, told the predominant tone ,as one of commiseration4 of $rief at our sufferin$s5 I had no use for this pity of theirs5 &ity for ,hat. If ever a species had had a rich4 full evolution4 a lon$ and happy rei$n4 that species ,as ours5 %ur e8tinction had been a $randiose epilo$ue4 ,orthy of our past5 What could those fools understand of it. (very time I heard them become sentimental about the poor Dinosaurs I felt li"e ma"in$ fun of them4 tellin$ invented4 incredible stories5 In any case4 the real truth about the Dinosaurs ,ould never be understood by anyone no,7 it ,as a secret I ,ould "eep for myself alone5

! band of va$abonds stopped at the villa$e5 !mon$ them ,as a youn$ female5 When I sa, her4 I started ,ith surprise5 *nless my eyes ,ere deceivin$ me4 she didn3t have only the blood of the Ae, %nes in her veins6 she ,as a +alf0breed4 a Dinosaur +alf0 breed5 Was she a,are of it. Ao4 certainly not4 <ud$in$ by her nonchalance5 &erhaps it hadn3t been one of her parents but one of her $randparents or $reat0$randparents or a more remote ancestor ,ho had been a Dinosaur7 and the features4 the movements of our stoc" ,ere croppin$ out a$ain in her in an almost shameless fashion4 no, unreco$ni@able to the others4 and to herself5 #he ,as a pretty4 $ay creature7 she immediately had a $roup of suitors after her4 and amon$ them the most constant and the most smitten ,as 9ahn5 It ,as early summer5 The youn$ people ,ere $ivin$ a feast on the river5 ?Come ,ith us4? 9ahn invited me4 tryin$ to be my friend after all our disa$reements7 then he immediately ,ent bac" to s,im at the side of the +alf0breed5 I ,ent over to Fern0flo,er5 &erhaps the moment had come for us to spea" openly4 to come to an understandin$5 ?What did you dream last ni$ht.? I as"ed4 to brea" the ice5 #he hun$ her head5 ?I sa, a ,ounded Dinosaur4 ,rithin$ and dyin$5 +e had bo,ed his noble4 delicate head4 and he suffered and suffered5 5 5 I loo"ed at him4 couldn3t ta"e my eyes off him4 and I reali@ed I ,as feelin$ a stran$e pleasure at seein$ him suffer5 5 5? Fern0flo,er3s lips ,ere taut4 evil4 in an e8pression I had never noticed in her5 I ,anted only to sho, her that in that play of ambi$uous4 $rim feelin$s I had no part6 I ,as one ,ho en<oyed life4 I ,as the heir of a happy race5 I started to dance around her4 I splashed river ,ater on her4 ,avin$ my tail5 ?1ou can never tal" about anythin$ that isn3t sad2? I said4 frivolously5 ?#top it5 Come and dance2? #he didn3t understand me5 #he made a $rimace5 ?!nd if you don3t dance ,ith me4 I3ll dance ,ith another2? I cried5 I $rasped the +alf0breed by one pa,4 carryin$ her off under 9ahn3s nose5 First he ,atched us move a,ay ,ithout understandin$4 he ,as so lost in his amorous contemplation4 then he ,as sei@ed ,ith <ealous ra$e5 Too late5 The +alf0breed and I had already dived into the river and ,ere s,immin$ to,ard the other ban"4 to hide in the bushes5 &erhaps I only ,anted to sho, Fern0flo,er ,ho I really ,as4 to deny the mista"en notions she had of me5 !nd perhaps I ,as also moved by an old bitterness to,ard 9ahn7 I ,anted to re<ect4 ostentatiously4 his ne, offer of friendship5 %r else4 more than anythin$4 it ,as the familiar and yet unusual form of the +alf0breed ,hich made me desire a natural4 direct relationship4 ,ithout secret thou$hts4 ,ithout memories5 The va$abond caravan ,ould be leavin$ a$ain in the mornin$5 The +alf0breed ,as ,illin$ to spend the ni$ht in the bushes5 I stayed there4 dallyin$ ,ith her4 until da,n5 These ,ere only ephemeral episodes in a life other,ise calm and uneventful5 I had allo,ed the truth about myself and the era of our domination to vanish into silence5 Ao, they hardly ever tal"ed about the Dinosaurs any more7 perhaps nobody believed they had ever e8isted5 (ven Fern0flo,er had stopped dreamin$ of them5 When she told me6 ?I dreamed that in a cavern there ,as the sole survivor of a species ,hose name nobody remembered4 and I ,ent to as" it of him4 and it ,as dar"4 and I "ne, he ,as there4 and I couldn3t see him4 and I "ne, ,ell ,ho he ,as and ,hat he loo"ed li"e but I couldn3t have e8pressed it4 and I didn3t understand if he ,as ans,erin$ my )uestions or I ,as ans,erin$ his5 5 5? for me this ,as a si$n that finally an amorous

understandin$ had be$un bet,een us4 the "ind I had ,anted since I first stopped at the sprin$4 ,hen I didn3t yet "no, if I ,ould be allo,ed to survive5 #ince then I had learned many thin$s4 and above all the ,ay in ,hich Dinosaurs con)uer5 First I had believed that disappearin$ had been4 for my brothers4 the ma$nanimous acceptance of a defeat7 no, I "ne, that the more the Dinosaurs disappear4 the more they e8tend their dominion4 and over forests far more vast than those that cover the continents6 in the labyrinth of the survivors3 thou$hts5 From the semidar"ness of fears and doubts of no, i$norant $enerations4 the Dinosaurs continued to e8tend their nec"s4 to raise their taloned hoofs4 and ,hen the last shado, of their ima$e had been erased4 their name ,ent on4 superimposed on all meanin$s4 perpetuatin$ their presence in relations amon$ livin$ bein$s5 Ao,4 ,hen the name too had been erased4 they ,ould become one thin$ ,ith the mute and anonymous molds of thou$ht4 throu$h ,hich thou$hts ta"e on form and substance6 by the Ae, %nes4 and by those ,ho ,ould come after the Ae, %nes4 and those ,ho ,ould come even after them5 I loo"ed around6 the villa$e that had seen me arrive as a stran$er I could no, ri$htfully call mine4 and I could call Fern0flo,er mine4 in the only ,ay a Dinosaur could call somethin$ his5 For this4 ,ith a silent ,ave4 I said $ood0by to Fern0flo,er4 left the villa$e4 and ,ent off forever5 !lon$ my ,ay I loo"ed at the trees4 the rivers4 and the mountains4 and I could no lon$er distin$uish the ones that had been there durin$ the Dinosaurs3 time from those that had come after,ards5 !round some dens a band of va$abonds ,as campin$5 From the distance I reco$ni@ed the +alf0breed4 still attractive4 only a little fatter5 To avoid bein$ seen4 I headed for the ,oods and observed her5 #he ,as follo,ed by a little son4 barely able to stand on his le$s and ,a$ his tail5 +o, lon$ had it been since I had seen a little Dinosaur4 so perfect4 so full of his o,n Dinosaur essence4 and so una,are of ,hat the ,ord ?Dinosaur? meant. I ,aited for him in a clearin$ in the ,oods to ,atch him play4 chase a butterfly4 slam a pine cone a$ainst a stone to di$ out the pine nuts5 I ,ent over5 It ,as my son4 all ri$ht5 +e loo"ed at me curiously5 ?Who are you.? he as"ed5 ?Aobody4? I said5 ?What about you. Do you "no, ,ho you are.? ?What a )uestion2 (verybody "no,s that6 I3m a Ae, %ne2? he said5 That ,as e8actly ,hat I had e8pected to hear him say5 I patted his head4 said6 ?'ood for you4? and ,ent off5 I traveled throu$h valleys and plains5 I came to a station4 cau$ht the first tram4 and ,as lost in the cro,d5


The e#uations of the gravitational field which relate the curve of space to the distri'ution of matter are already 'ecoming common (nowledge. To fall in the void as I fell6 none of you "no,s ,hat that means5 For you4 to fall means to plun$e perhaps from the t,enty0si8th floor of a s"yscraper4 or from an airplane

,hich brea"s do,n in fli$ht6 to fall headlon$4 $rope in the air a moment4 and then the (arth is immediately there4 and you $et a bi$ bump5 -ut I3m tal"in$ about the time ,hen there ,asn3t any (arth underneath or anythin$ else solid4 not even a celestial body in the distance capable of attractin$ you into its orbit5 1ou simply fell4 indefinitely4 for an indefinite len$th of time5 I ,ent do,n into the void4 to the most absolute bottom conceivable4 and once there I sa, that the e8treme limit must have been much4 much farther belo,4 very remote4 and I ,ent on fallin$4 to reach it5 #ince there ,ere no reference points4 I had no idea ,hether my fall ,as fast or slo,5 Ao, that I thin" about it4 there ,eren3t even any proofs that I ,as really fallin$6 perhaps I had al,ays remained immobile in the same place4 or I ,as movin$ in an up,ard direction7 since there ,as no above or belo, these ,ere only nominal )uestions and so I mi$ht <ust as ,ell $o on thin"in$ I ,as fallin$4 as I ,as naturally led to thin"5 !ssumin$ then that one ,as fallin$4 everyone fell ,ith the same speed and rate of acceleration7 in fact ,e ,ere al,ays more or less on the same level6 I4 *rsula +384 /ieutenant Fenimore5 I didn3t ta"e my eyes off *rsula +386 she ,as very beautiful to see4 and in fallin$ she had an easy4 rela8ed attitude5 I hoped I ,ould be able sometimes to catch her eye4 but as she fell4 *rsula +38 ,as al,ays intent on filin$ and polishin$ her nails or runnin$ her comb throu$h her lon$4 smooth hair4 and she never $lanced to,ard me5 Aor to,ard /ieutenant Fenimore4 I must say4 thou$h he did everythin$ he could to attract her attention5 %nce I cau$ht him 00 he thou$ht I couldn3t see him 00 as he ,as ma"in$ some si$nals to *rsula +386 first he struc" his t,o inde8 fin$ers4 outstretched4 one a$ainst the other4 then he made a rotatin$ $esture ,ith one hand4 then he pointed do,n5 I mean4 he seemed to hint at an understandin$ ,ith her4 an appointment for later on4 in some place do,n there4 ,here they ,ere to meet5 !ll nonsense4 I "ne, perfectly ,ell6 there ,ere no meetin$s possible amon$ us4 because our falls ,ere parallel and the same distance al,ays remained bet,een us5 -ut the mere fact that /ieutenant Fenimore4 had $ot such ideas into his head 00 and tried to put them into the head of *rsula +38 00 ,as enou$h to $et on my nerves4 even thou$h she paid no attention to him4 indeed she made a sli$ht blurtin$ sound ,ith her lips4 directed 00 I felt there ,as no doubt 00 at him5 =*rsula +38 fell4 revolvin$ ,ith la@y movements as if she ,ere turnin$ in her bed and it ,as hard to say ,hether her $estures ,ere directed at someone else or ,hether she ,as playin$ for her o,n benefit4 as ,as her habit> I too4 naturally4 dreamed only of meetin$ *rsula +384 but since4 in my fall4 I ,as follo,in$ a strai$ht line absolutely parallel to the one she follo,ed4 it seemed inappropriate to reveal such an unattainable desire5 %f course4 if I chose to be an optimist4 there ,as al,ays the possibility that4 if our t,o parallels continued to infinity4 the moment ,ould come ,hen they ,ould touch5 This eventuality $ave me some hope7 indeed4 it "ept me in a state of constant e8citement5 I don3t mind tellin$ you I had dreamed so much of a meetin$ of our parallels4 in $reat detail4 that it ,as no, a part of my e8perience4 as if I had actually lived it5 (verythin$ ,ould happen suddenly4 ,ith simplicity and naturalness6 after the lon$ separate <ourney4 unable to move an inch closer to each other4 after havin$ felt her as an alien bein$ for so lon$4 a prisoner of her parallel route4 then the consistency of space4 instead of bein$ impalpable as it had al,ays been4 ,ould become more taut and4 at the same time4 looser4 a condensin$ of the void ,hich ,ould seem to come not from outside but from ,ithin us4 and ,ould press me and *rsula

+38 to$ether =I had only to shut my eyes to see her come for,ard4 in an attitude I reco$ni@ed as hers even if it ,as different from all her habitual attitudes6 her arms stretched do,n4 alon$ her sides4 t,istin$ her ,rists as if she ,ere stretchin$ and at the same time ,rithin$ and leanin$ for,ard>4 and then the invisible line I ,as follo,in$ ,ould become a sin$le line4 occupied by a min$lin$ of her and me ,here her soft and secret nature ,ould be penetrated or rather ,ould enfold and4 I ,ould say4 almost absorb the part of myself that till then had been sufferin$ at bein$ alone and separate and barren5 (ven the most beautiful dreams can suddenly turn into ni$htmares4 and it then occurred to me that the meetin$ point of our t,o parallels mi$ht also be the point at ,hich all parallels e8istin$ in space eventually meet4 and so it ,ould mar" not only my meetin$ ,ith *rsula +38 but also 00 dreadful prospect 00 a meetin$ ,ith /ieutenant Fenimore5 !t the very moment ,hen *rsula +38 ,ould cease to be alien to me4 another alien ,ith his thin blac" mustache ,ould share our intimacies in an ine8tricable ,ay6 this thou$ht ,as enou$h to plun$e me into the most tormented <ealous hallucinations6 I heard the cry that our meetin$ 00 hers and mine 00 tore from us melt in a spasmodically <oyous unison and then 00 I ,as a$hast at the presentiment 00 from that sound burst her piercin$ cry as she ,as violated 00 so4 in my resentful bias4 I ima$ined 00 from behind4 and at the same time the /ieutenant3s vul$ar shout of triumph4 but perhaps 00 and here my <ealousy became delirium 00 these cries of theirs4 hers and his 00 mi$ht also not be so different or so dissonant4 they mi$ht also achieve a unison4 be <oined in a sin$le cry of do,nri$ht pleasure4 distinct from the sobbin$4 desperate moan that ,ould burst from my lips5 In this alternation of hopes and apprehensions I continued to fall4 constantly peerin$ into the depths of space to see if anythin$ heralded an immediate or future chan$e in our condition5 ! couple of times I mana$ed to $limpse a universe4 but it ,as far a,ay and seemed very tiny4 ,ell off to the ri$ht or to the left7 I barely had time to ma"e out a certain number of $ala8ies li"e shinin$ little dots collected into superimposed masses ,hich revolved ,ith a faint bu@@4 ,hen everythin$ ,ould vanish as it had appeared4 up,ards or to one side4 so that I be$an to suspect it had only been a momentary $lare in my eyes5 ?There2 /oo"2 There3s a universe2 /oo" over there2 There3s somethin$2? I shouted to *rsula +384 motionin$ in that direction7 but4 ton$ue bet,een her teeth4 she ,as busy caressin$ the smooth4 taut s"in of her le$s4 loo"in$ for those very rare and almost invisible e8cess hairs she could uproot ,ith a sharp tu$ of her pincerli"e nails4 and the only si$n she had heard my call mi$ht be the ,ay she stretched one le$ up,ards4 as if to e8ploit 00 you ,ould have said 00 for her methodical inspection the dim li$ht reflected from that distant firmament I don3t have to tell you the contempt /ieutenant Fenimore displayed to,ard ,hat I mi$ht have discovered on those occasions6 he $ave a shru$ 00 sha"in$ his epaulettes4 his bandoleer4 and the decorations ,ith ,hich he ,as pointlessly arrayed 00 and turned in the other direction4 snic"erin$5 *nless he ,as the one =,hen he ,as sure I ,as loo"in$ else,here> ,ho tried to arouse *rsula3s curiosity =and then it ,as my turn to lau$h4 seein$ that her only response ,as to revolve in a "ind of somersault4 turnin$ her behind to him6 a $esture no doubt disrespectful but lovely to see4 so that4 after re<oicin$ in my rival3s humiliation4 I cau$ht myself envyin$ him this4 as a privile$e>4 indicatin$ a labile point fleein$ throu$h space4 shoutin$6 ?There2 There2 ! universe2 This bi$2 I sa, it2 It3s a universe2?

I ,on3t say he ,as lyin$6 statements of that sort4 as far as I "no,4 ,ere as li"ely to be true as false5 It ,as a proved fact that4 every no, and then4 ,e s"irted a universe =or else a universe s"irted us>4 but it ,asn3t clear ,hether these ,ere a number of universes scattered throu$h space or ,hether it ,as al,ays the same universe ,e "ept passin$4 revolvin$ in a mysterious tra<ectory4 or ,hether there ,as no universe at all and ,hat ,e thou$ht ,e sa, ,as the mira$e of a universe ,hich perhaps had once e8isted and ,hose ima$e continued to rebound from the ,alls of space li"e the reboundin$ of an echo5 -ut it could also be that the universes had al,ays been there4 dense around us4 and had no idea of movin$4 and ,e ,eren3t movin$4 either4 and everythin$ ,as arrested forever4 ,ithout time4 in a dar"ness punctuated only by rapid flashes ,hen somethin$ or someone mana$ed for a moment to free himself from that slu$$ish timelessness and indicate the semblance of a movement5 !ll these hypotheses ,ere e)ually ,orth considerin$4 but they interested me only insofar as they concerned our fall and the possibility of touchin$ *rsula +385 In other ,ords4 nobody really "ne, anythin$5 #o ,hy did that pompous Fenimore sometimes assume a superior manner4 as if he ,ere certain of thin$s. +e had reali@ed that ,hen he ,anted to infuriate me the surest system ,as to pretend to a lon$0standin$ familiarity ,ith *rsula +385 !t a certain point *rsula too" to s,ayin$ as she came do,n4 her "nees to$ether4 shiftin$ the ,ei$ht of her body this ,ay and that4 as if ,averin$ in an ever0 broader @i$@a$6 <ust to brea" the monotony of that endless fall5 !nd the /ieutenant then also started s,ayin$4 tryin$ to pic" up her rhythm4 as if he ,ere follo,in$ the same invisible trac"4 or rather as if he ,ere dancin$ to the sound of the same music4 audible only to the t,o of them4 ,hich he even pretended to ,histle4 puttin$ into it4 on his o,n4 a "ind of unspo"en understandin$4 as if alludin$ to a private <o"e amon$ old boo@in$ companions5 It ,as all a bluff 00 I "ne, that4 of course 00 but still it $ave me the idea that a meetin$ bet,een *rsula +38 and /ieutenant Fenimore mi$ht already have ta"en place4 ,ho "no,s ho, lon$ a$o4 at the be$innin$ of their tra<ectories4 and this suspicion $na,ed at me painfully4 as if I had been the victim of an in<ustice5 %n reflectin$4 ho,ever4 I reasoned that if *rsula and the /ieutenant had once occupied the same point in space4 this meant that their respective lines of fall had since been movin$ apart and presumably ,ere still movin$ apart5 Ao,4 in this slo, but constant removal from the /ieutenant4 it ,as more than li"ely that *rsula ,as comin$ closer to me7 so the /ieutenant had little to boast of in his past con<unctions6 I ,as the one at ,hom the future smiled5 The process of reasonin$ that led me to this conclusion ,as not enou$h to reassure me at heart6 the possibility that *rsula +38 had already met the /ieutenant ,as in itself a ,ron$ ,hich4 if it had been done to me4 could no lon$er be redeemed5 I must add that past and future ,ere va$ue terms for me4 and I couldn3t ma"e much distinction bet,een them6 my memory didn3t e8tend beyond the interminable present of our parallel fall4 and ,hat mi$ht have been before4 since it couldn3t be remembered4 belon$ed to the same ima$inary ,orld as the future4 and ,as confounded ,ith the future5 #o I could also suppose that if t,o parallels had ever set out from the same point4 these ,ere the lines that *rsula +38 and I ,ere follo,in$ =in this case it ,as nostal$ia for a lost oneness that fed my ea$er desire to meet her>7 ho,ever4 I ,as reluctant to believe in this hypothesis4 because it mi$ht imply a pro$ressive separation and perhaps her future arrival in the braid0festooned arms of /ieutenant Fenimore4 but chiefly because I couldn3t $et out of the

present e8cept to ima$ine a different present4 and none of the rest counted5 &erhaps this ,as the secret6 to identify oneself so completely ,ith one3s o,n state of fall that one could reali@e the line follo,ed in fallin$ ,asn3t ,hat it seemed but another4 or rather to succeed in chan$in$ that line in the only ,ay it could be chan$ed4 namely4 by ma"in$ it become ,hat it had really al,ays been5 It ,asn3t throu$h concentratin$ on myself that this idea came to me4 thou$h4 but throu$h observin$4 ,ith my lovin$ eye4 ho, beautiful *rsula +38 ,as even ,hen seen from behind4 and notin$4 as ,e passed in si$ht of a very distant system of constellations4 an archin$ of her bac" and a "ind of t,itch of her behind4 but not so much the behind itself as an e8ternal slidin$ that seemed to rub past the behind and cause a not unpleasant reaction from the behind itself5 This fleetin$ impression ,as enou$h to ma"e me see our situation in a ne, ,ay6 if it ,as true that space ,ith somethin$ inside is different from empty space because the matter causes a curvin$ or a tautness ,hich ma"es all the lines contained in space curve or tauten4 then the line each of us ,as follo,in$ ,as strai$ht in the only ,ay a strai$ht line can be strai$ht6 namely4 deformed to the e8tent that the limpid harmony of the $eneral void is deformed by the clutter of matter4 in other ,ords4 t,istin$ all around this bump or pimple or e8crescence ,hich is the universe in the midst of space5 y point of reference ,as al,ays *rsula and4 in fact4 a certain ,ay she had of proceedin$ as if t,istin$ could ma"e more familiar the idea that our fall ,as li"e a ,indin$ and un,indin$ in a sort of spiral that ti$htened and then loosened5 +o,ever4 *rsula 00 if you ,atched her carefully 00 ,ound first in one direction4 then in the other4 so the pattern ,e ,ere tracin$ ,as more complicated5 The universe4 therefore4 had to be considered not a crude s,ellin$ placed there li"e a turnip4 but as an an$ular4 pointed fi$ure ,here every dent or bul$e or facet corresponded to other cavities and pro<ections and notchin$s of space and of the lines ,e follo,ed5 This4 ho,ever4 ,as still a schematic ima$e4 as if ,e ,ere dealin$ ,ith a smooth0,alled solid4 a compenetration of polyhedrons4 a cluster of crystals7 in reality the space in ,hich ,e moved ,as all battlemented and perforated4 ,ith spires and pinnacles ,hich spread out on every side4 ,ith cupolas and balustrades and peristyles4 ,ith rose ,indo,s4 ,ith double0 and triple0 arched fenestrations4 and ,hile ,e felt ,e ,ere plun$in$ strai$ht do,n4 in reality ,e ,ere racin$ alon$ the ed$e of moldin$s and invisible frie@es4 li"e ants ,ho4 crossin$ a city4 follo, itineraries traced not on the street cobbles but alon$ ,alls and ceilin$s and cornices and chandeliers5 Ao, if I say city it amounts to su$$estin$ fi$ures that are4 in some ,ay4 re$ular4 ,ith ri$ht an$les and symmetrical proportions4 ,hereas instead4 ,e should al,ays bear in mind ho, space brea"s up around every cherry tree and every leaf of every bou$h that moves in the ,ind4 and at every indentation of the ed$e of every leaf4 and also it forms alon$ every vein of the leaf4 and on the net,or" of veins inside the leaf4 and on the piercin$s made every moment by the riddlin$ arro,s of li$ht4 all printed in ne$ative in the dou$h of the void4 so that there is nothin$ no, that does not leave its print4 every possible print of every possible thin$4 and to$ether every transformation of these prints4 instant by instant4 so the pimple $ro,in$ on a caliph3s nose or the soap bubble restin$ on a laundress3s bosom chan$es the $eneral form of space in all its dimensions5 !ll I had to do ,as understand that space ,as made in this ,ay and I reali@ed there ,ere certain soft cavities hollo,ed in it as ,elcomin$ as hammoc"s ,here I could lie <oined ,ith *rsula +384 the t,o of us s,ayin$ to$ether4 bitin$ each other in turn alon$

all our persons5 The properties of space4 in fact4 ,ere such that one parallel ,ent one ,ay4 and another in another ,ay6 I for e8ample ,as plun$in$ ,ithin a tortuous cavern ,hile *rsula +38 ,as bein$ suc"ed alon$ a passa$e communicatin$ ,ith that same cavern so that ,e found ourselves rollin$ to$ether on a la,n of al$ae in a "ind of subspatial island4 ,rithin$4 she and I4 in every pose4 upri$ht and capsi@ed4 until all of a sudden our t,o strai$ht lines resumed their distance4 the same as al,ays4 and each continued on its o,n as if nothin$ had happened5 The $rain of space ,as porous and bro"en ,ith crevasses and dunes5 If I loo"ed carefully4 I could observe ,hen /ieutenant Fenimore3s course passed throu$h the bed of a narro,4 ,indin$ canyon7 then I placed myself on the top of a cliff and4 at <ust the ri$ht moment4 I hurled myself do,n on him4 careful to stri"e him on the cervical vertebrae ,ith my full ,ei$ht5 The bottom of such precipices in the void ,as stony as the bed of a dried0up stream4 and /ieutenant Fenimore4 sin"in$ to the $round4 remained ,ith his head stuc" bet,een t,o spurs of roc"7 I pressed one "nee into his stomach4 but he mean,hile ,as crushin$ my "nuc"les a$ainst a cactus3s thorns 00 or the bac" of a porcupine. =spi"es4 in any case4 of the "ind correspondin$ to certain sharp contractions of space> 00 to prevent me from $rabbin$ the pistol I had "ic"ed from his hand5 I don3t "no, ho, I happened4 a moment later4 to find myself ,ith my head thrust into the stiflin$ $ranulosity of the strata ,here space $ives ,ay4 crumblin$ li"e sand7 I spat4 blinded and da@ed7 Fenimore had mana$ed to collect his pistol7 a bullet ,histled past my ear4 ricochetin$ off a proliferation of the void that rose in the shape of an anthill5 !nd I fell upon him4 my hands at his throat4 to stran$le hun4 but my hands slammed a$ainst each other ,ith a ?plop2?6 our paths had become parallel a$ain4 and /ieutenant Fenimore and I ,ere descendin$4 maintainin$ our customary distance4 ostentatiously turnin$ our bac"s on each other4 li"e t,o people ,ho pretend they have never met4 haven3t even seen each other before5 What you mi$ht consider strai$ht4 one0dimensional lines ,ere similar4 in effect4 to lines of hand,ritin$ made on a ,hite pa$e by a pen that shifts ,ords and fra$ments of sentences from one line to another4 ,ith insertions and cross0references4 in the haste to finish an e8position ,hich has $one throu$h successive4 appro8imate drafts4 al,ays unsatisfactory7 and so ,e pursued each other4 /ieutenant Fenimore and I4 hidin$ behind the loops of the l!s4 especially the l3s of the ,ord ?parallel4? in order to shoot and ta"e cover from the bullets and pretend to be dead and ,ait4 say4 till Fenimore ,ent past in order to trip him up and dra$ him by his feet4 slammin$ his chin a$ainst the bottoms of the v3s and the u3s and the m3s and the n3s ,hich4 ,ritten all evenly in an italic hand4 became a bumpy succession of holes in the pavement =for e8ample4 in the e8pression ?unmeasurable universe?>4 leavin$ him stretched out in a place all trampled ,ith erasin$s and 80in$s4 then standin$ up there a$ain4 stained ,ith clotted in"4 to run to,ard *rsula +384 ,ho ,as tryin$ to act sly4 slippin$ behind the tails of the f ,hich trail off until they become ,isps4 but I could sei@e her by the hair and bend her a$ainst a d or a t <ust as I ,rite them no,4 in haste4 bent4 so you can recline a$ainst them4 then ,e mi$ht di$ a niche for ourselves do,n in a g, in the g of ?bi$4? a subterranean den ,hich can be adapted as ,e choose to our dimensions4 bein$ made more co@y and almost invisible or else arran$ed more hori@ontally so you can stretch out in it5 Whereas naturally the same lines4 rather than remain series of letters and ,ords4 can easily be dra,n out in their blac" thread and un,ound in continuous4 parallel4 strai$ht lines ,hich mean nothin$ beyond themselves in their constant flo,4 never meetin$4 <ust as ,e never meet in our constant

fall6 I4 *rsula +384 /ieutenant Fenimore4 and all the others5

THE LIGHT$YEARS The more distant a gala&y is, the more swiftly it moves away from us. A gala&y located at ten 'illion light=years from us would have a speed of recession e#ual to the speed of light, three hundred thousand (ilometers per second. The 8#uasi=stars8 recently discovered are already approaching this threshold. %ne ni$ht I ,as4 as usual4 observin$ the s"y ,ith my telescope5 I noticed that a si$n ,as han$in$ from a $ala8y a hundred million li$ht0years a,ay5 %n it ,as ,ritten6 I #!W 1%*5 I made a )uic" calculation6 the $ala8y3s li$ht had ta"en a hundred million years to reach me4 and since they sa, up there ,hat ,as ta"in$ place here a hundred million years later4 the moment ,hen they had seen me must date bac" t,o hundred million years5 (ven before I chec"ed my diary to see ,hat I had been doin$ that day4 I ,as sei@ed by a $hastly presentiment6 e8actly t,o hundred million years before4 not a day more nor a day less4 somethin$ had happened to me that I had al,ays tried to hide5 I had hoped that ,ith the passa$e of time the episode had been completely for$otten7 it ,as in sharp contrast 00 at least4 so it seemed to me 00 ,ith my customary behavior before and after that date6 so4 if ever anybody ,anted to di$ up that business a$ain4 I ,as ready to deny it )uite calmly4 and not only because it ,ould have been impossible to furnish proof4 but also because an action determined by such e8ceptional conditions 00 even if it ,as really verified 00 ,as so improbable that it could be considered untrue in all $ood faith4 even by me5 Instead4 from a distant celestial body4 here ,as somebody ,ho had seen me4 and the story ,as croppin$ up a$ain4 no, of all times5 Aaturally4 I ,as in a position to e8plain everythin$ that had happened4 and ,hat caused it to happen4 and to ma"e my o,n behavior completely comprehensible4 if not e8cusable5 I thou$ht of replyin$ at once ,ith a si$n4 usin$ a phrase in my o,n defense4 li"e /(T ( (;&/!IA or else I3D /IC( T% +!:( #((A 1%* IA 1 &/!C(4 but this ,ouldn3t have been enou$h and the thin$s that ,ould have to be said ,ere too many to be compressed into a short statement le$ible at such a distance5 !nd above all4 I had to be careful not to ma"e a misstep4 not to reinforce ,ith an e8plicit admission ,hat that I #!W 1%* merely hinted at5 In short4 before leavin$ myself open ,ith any declaration I ,ould have to "no, e8actly ,hat they had seen from the $ala8y and ,hat they hadn3t6 and for this purpose all I could do ,as as"4 usin$ a si$n on the order of DID 1%* B(!//1 #(( (:(B1T+IA' %B E*#T ! /ITT/( -IT. %r perhaps /(T3# #(( IF 1%*3B( T(//IA' T+( TB*T+6 W+!T W!# I D%IA'.4 then I ,ould have to ,ait lon$ enou$h for them to be able to see my si$n4 and then an e)ually lon$ period until I could see their ans,er and attend to the necessary rectifications5 !ll this ,ould ta"e another t,o hundred million years4 or rather a fe, million years more4 because ,hile the ima$es ,ere comin$ and $oin$ ,ith the speed of li$ht4 the $ala8ies continued to move apart4 therefore that constellation no, ,as no lon$er ,here I had seen it4 but a bit farther on4 and the ima$e of my si$n ,ould have to chase it5 I mean4 it ,as a slo, system4 ,hich

,ould have obli$ed me to discuss a$ain4 more than four hundred million years after they had happened4 those events that I ,anted to ma"e everyone for$et in the shortest possible time5 I thou$ht the best line to ta"e ,as to act as if nothin$ had happened4 minimi@e the importance of ,hat they mi$ht have found out5 #o I hastened to e8pose4 in full vie,4 a si$n on ,hich I had ,ritten simply6 W+!T %F IT. If up in the $ala8y they had thou$ht they ,ould embarrass me ,ith their I #!W 1%*4 my calm ,ould disconcert them4 and they ,ould be convinced there ,as no point in d,ellin$ on that episode5 If4 at the same time4 they didn3t have much information a$ainst me4 a va$ue e8pression li"e W+!T %F IT. ,ould be useful as a feeler4 to see ho, seriously I should ta"e their affirmation I #!W 1%*5 The distance separatin$ us =from its doc" of a hundred million li$ht0years the $ala8y had sailed a million centuries before4 <ourneyin$ into the dar"ness> ,ould perhaps ma"e it less obvious that my W+!T %F IT. ,as replyin$ to their I #!W 1%* of t,o hundred million years before4 but it didn3t seem ,ise to include more e8plicit references in the ne, si$n4 because if the memory of that day4 after three million centuries4 ,as becomin$ dim4 I certainly didn3t ,ant to be the one to refresh it5 !fter all4 the opinion they mi$ht have formed of me4 on that sin$le occasion4 shouldn3t ,orry me too much5 The facts of my life4 the ones that had follo,ed4 after that day4 for years and centuries and millennia4 testified 00 at least the $reat ma<ority of them 00 in my favor7 so I had only to let the facts spea" for themselves5 If4 from that distant celestial body4 they had seen ,hat I ,as doin$ one day t,o hundred million years a$o4 they must have seen me also the follo,in$ day4 and the day after that4 and the ne8t and the ne8t4 and they ,ould $radually have modified the first ne$ative opinion of me they mi$ht have formed4 hastily4 on the basis of an isolated episode5 In fact4 ,hen I thou$ht ho, many years had already $one by since that I #!W 1%*4 I ,as convinced the bad impression must no, have been erased by time and follo,ed by a probably positive evaluation4 or one4 in any case4 that corresponded more to reality5 +o,ever4 this rational certainty ,as not enou$h to afford me relief6 until I had the proof of a chan$e of opinion in my favor4 I ,ould remain uneasy at havin$ been cau$ht in an embarrassin$ position and identified ,ith it4 nailed fast in that situation5 Ao, you ,ill say I could very ,ell have shru$$ed off the opinion of me held by some stran$ers livin$ on a remote constellation5 !s a matter of fact4 ,hat ,orried me ,asn3t the limited opinion of this or that celestial body4 but the suspicion that the conse)uences of their havin$ seen me mi$ht be limitless5 !round that $ala8y there ,ere many others4 some ,ith a radius shorter by a hundred million li$ht0years4 ,ith observers ,ho "ept their eyes open6 the I #!W 1%* si$n4 before I had $limpsed it4 had certainly been read by inhabitants of other celestial bodies4 and the same thin$ ,ould have happened after,ards on the $radually more distant constellations5 (ven if no one could "no, precisely to ,hat specific situation that I #!W 1%* referred4 this indefiniteness ,ould not in the least be to my advanta$e5 %n the contrary4 since people are al,ays ready to believe the ,orst4 ,hat I mi$ht really have been seen doin$ at a distance of a hundred million li$ht0years ,as4 after all4 nothin$ compared to everythin$ that else,here they mi$ht ima$ine had been seen5 The bad impression I may have left durin$ that moment of heedlessness t,o million centuries a$o ,ould then be enlar$ed and multiplied4 refracted across all the $ala8ies of the universe4 nor ,as it possible for me to deny it ,ithout ma"in$ the situation ,orse4 since4 not "no,in$ ,hat e8treme and slanderous deductions

those ,ho hadn3t directly seen me mi$ht have come to4 I had no idea ,here to be$in and ,here to end my denials5 In this state of mind4 I "ept loo"in$ around every ni$ht ,ith my telescope5 !nd after t,o ni$hts I noticed that on a $ala8y at a distance of a hundred million years and one li$ht0day they had also put up a si$n I #!W 1%*5 There could be no doubt that they ,ere also referrin$ to that time6 ,hat I had al,ays tried to hide had been discovered not by only one celestial body but also by another located in )uite a different @one in space5 !nd by still others6 in the ni$hts that follo,ed I continued to see ne, si$ns ,ith I #!W 1%* on them4 set on different constellations every time5 From a calculation of the li$ht0 years it emer$ed that the moment ,hen they had seen me ,as al,ays the same5 To each of these I #!W 1%*# I ans,ered ,ith si$ns mar"ed by contemptuous indifference4 such as %+ B(!//1. +%W AIC( or else F!T /%T I C!B(4 or else by an almost provocative moc"ery4 such as T!AT &I# or else /%%C2 IT3# (24 but still retainin$ my reserve5 Thou$h the lo$ic of the situation led me to re$ard the future ,ith reasonable optimism4 the conver$ence of all those I #!W 1%*# on a sin$le point in my life4 a conver$ence surely fortuitous4 due to special conditions of interstellar visibility =the sin$le e8ception ,as one celestial body ,here4 correspondin$ to that same date4 a si$n appeared sayin$ W( C!A3T #(( ! D! A T+IA'>4 "ept me in a constant state of nerves5 It ,as as if in the space containin$ all the $ala8ies the ima$e of ,hat I had done that day ,ere bein$ pro<ected in the interior of a sphere that s,elled constantly4 at the speed of li$ht6 the observers of the celestial bodies that $radually came ,ithin the sphere3s radius ,ere enabled to see ,hat had happened5 (ach of these observers could4 in turn4 be considered the center of a sphere also e8pandin$ at the speed of li$ht4 pro<ectin$ the ,ords I #!W 1%* on their si$ns all around5 !t the same time4 all these celestial bodies belon$ed to $ala8ies movin$ a,ay from one another in space at a speed proportional to the distance4 and every observer ,ho indicated he had received a messa$e4 before he could receive a second one4 had already moved off throu$h space at a constantly increasin$ speed5 !t a certain point the farthest $ala8ies that had seen me =or had seen the I #!W 1%* si$n from a $ala8y closer to us4 or the I #!W T+( I #!W 1%* from a bit farther on> ,ould reach the ten0billion0li$ht0year threshold4 beyond ,hich they ,ould move off at three hundred thousand "ilometers per second4 the speed of li$ht4 and no ima$e ,ould be able to overta"e them after that5 #o there ,as the ris" that they ,ould remain ,ith their temporary mista"en opinion of me4 ,hich from that moment on ,ould become definitive4 no lon$er rectifiable4 beyond all appeal and therefore4 in a sense4 correct4 correspondin$ to the truth5 #o it ,as indispensable to clear up the misunderstandin$ as )uic"ly as possible5 !nd to clear it up4 I could hope for only one thin$6 that4 after that occasion4 I had been seen other times4 ,hen I $ave another ima$e of myself4 the one that ,as 00 I had no doubts on this score 00 the true ima$e of me that should be remembered5 In the course of the last t,o hundred million years4 there had been no lac" of opportunities4 and for me <ust one4 very clear4 ,ould be enou$h4 to avoid confusion5 Ao,4 for e8ample4 I recalled a day ,hen I had really been myself4 I mean myself in the ,ay I ,anted others to see me5 This day 00 I calculated rapidly 00 had been e8actly one hundred million years a$o5 #o4 on the $ala8y a hundred million li$ht0years a,ay they ,ere seein$ me at this very moment

in that situation so flatterin$ to my presti$e4 and their opinion of me ,as surely chan$in$4 modifyin$4 or rather refutin$ that first fleetin$ impression5 Bi$ht no,4 or thereabouts6 because no, the distance that separated us ,as no lon$er a hundred million li$ht0years4 but a hundred and one7 anyho, I had only to ,ait an e)ual number of years to allo, the li$ht there to arrive here =the date ,hen that ,ould happen ,as easily calculated4 bearin$ +ubble3s constant in mind> and then I ,ould learn their reaction5 Those ,ho had mana$ed to see me at moment 8 ,ould4 all the more surely4 have seen me at moment y4 and since my ima$e in y ,as much more convincin$ than in 8 00 indeed4 I ,ould call it more inspirin$4 unfor$ettable 00 they ,ould remember me in y4 ,hereas ,hat had been seen of me in 8 ,ould be for$otten immediately4 erased4 perhaps after havin$ been fleetin$ly recalled to mind4 in a "ind of dismissal4 as if to say6 Eust thin"4 one ,ho is li"e y can by chance be seen as 8 and you mi$ht believe he is 8 althou$h it3s clear that he3s absolutely y5 I ,as almost cheered by the number of I #!W 1%*# still appearin$ all around4 because it meant that interest in me ,as aroused and therefore my more radiant day ,ould escape no one5 It ,ould have had =or rather4 ,as already havin$4 beyond my "no,led$e> a much ,ider resonance than the sort 00 limited to $iven surroundin$s and4 moreover4 I must admit4 rather mar$inal 00 ,hich I4 in my modesty4 had formerly e8pected5 1ou must also consider those celestial bodies from ,hich 00 throu$h absent0 mindedness or bad placin$ 00 they hadn3t seen me but only a nearby I #!W 1%* si$n7 they had also set up si$ns sayin$6 /%%C# !# IF T+(13:( #((A 1%* or else FB% W+(B( T+(1 !B( T+(1 C!A #(( 1%*2 =e8pressions in ,hich I sensed a touch of curiosity or of sarcasm>7 on those bodies4 too4 there ,ere eyes trained on me and no,4 precisely because they had missed one opportunity4 they ,ould hardly allo, a second to escape them4 and havin$ received only indirect and hearsay information about 84 they ,ould be all the more ready to accept y as the only true reality concernin$ me5 #o the echo of the moment y ,ould be propa$ated throu$h time and space4 it ,ould reach the most distant4 the fastest $ala8ies4 and they ,ould elude all further ima$es4 racin$ at li$ht3s speed of three hundred thousand "ilometers per second and ta"in$ that no, definitive ima$e of me beyond time and space4 ,here it ,ould become the truth containin$ in its sphere ,ith unlimited radius all the other spheres ,ith their partial and contradictory truths5 ! hundred million centuries or so4 after all4 aren3t an eternity4 but to me they seemed never to $o by5 Finally the ni$ht arrived6 I had lon$ since aimed my telescope at that same $ala8y of the first time5 I moved my ri$ht eye4 its lid half closed4 to the eyepiece4 I raised my eyelid slo,ly4 and there ,as the constellation4 perfectly framed4 and there ,as a si$n in its midst4 the ,ords as yet indistinct5 I focused better5 5 5 There ,as ,ritten6 TB!0/!0/!0/!5 Eust that6 TB!0/!0/!0/!5 !t the moment ,hen I had e8pressed the essence of my personality4 ,ith abundant evidence and ,ith no ris" of misinterpretation4 at the moment ,hen I had furnished the "ey to interpretin$ all the acts of my past and future life and to formin$ an over0all and ob<ective opinion4 ,hat had they seen4 they ,ho had not only the opportunity but also the moral obli$ation to observe and note ,hat I ,as doin$. They hadn3t seen anythin$4 hadn3t been a,are of anythin$4 hadn3t observed anythin$ special5 To discover that such a $reat part of my reputation ,as at the mercy of a character ,ho ,as so untrust,orthy left me prostrate5 That proof of myself4

,hich 00 because of the various favorable circumstances that had accompanied it 00 I considered incapable of repetition4 had $one by unobserved4 ,asted4 definitely lost for a ,hole @one of the universe4 only because that $entleman had allo,ed himself five minutes of idleness4 of rela8ation4 ,e mi$ht as ,ell say of irresponsibility4 his head in the air li"e an idiot4 perhaps in the euphoria of someone ,ho has had a drop too much4 and on his si$n he had found nothin$ better to ,rite than a meanin$less scra,l4 perhaps the silly tune that he had been ,histlin$4 for$ettin$ his duties4 TB!0/!0/!0/!5 %nly one thou$ht afforded me some comfort6 the thou$ht that on the other $ala8ies there ,ere bound to be more dili$ent observers5 *ntil then I had never been so pleased at the $reat number of spectators that the old4 and unfortunate4 episode had had7 no, they ,ould be ready to perceive the ne, situation5 I returned to the telescope4 ni$ht after ni$ht5 ! fe, ni$hts later a $ala8y at the proper distance appeared to me in all its splendor5 It had a si$n5 !nd on it ,as ,ritten this sentence6 1%* +!:( ! F/!AA(/ *AD(B#+IBT5 Tears in my eyes4 I rac"ed my brain for an e8planation5 &erhaps in that place4 ,ith the passa$e of time4 they had so perfected their telescopes that they amused themselves by observin$ the most insi$nificant details4 the undershirt a person ,ore4 ,hether it ,as flannel or cotton4 and all the rest meant nothin$ to them4 they paid no attention to it at all5 !nd4 for them4 my honorable act4 my 00 shall ,e say. 00 ma$nanimous and $enerous act4 had $one for nothin$7 they had retained only one element4 my flannel undershirt6 an e8cellent undershirt4 to be sure4 and perhaps at another moment I ,ould have been pleased at their noticin$ it4 but not then4 oh no4 not then5 In any case4 I had many other ,itnesses a,aitin$ me6 it ,as only natural that4 out of the ,hole number4 some should fail7 I ,asn3t the sort of person to become distrau$ht over such a little setbac"5 In fact4 from a $ala8y a bit farther on4 I finally had the proof that someone had seen perfectly ho, I had behaved and had evaluated my action properly4 that is4 enthusiastically5 Indeed4 on a si$n he had ,ritten6 T+!T C+!B!CT(B3# B(!//1 %A T+( -!//5 I noted it ,ith complete satisfaction 00 a satisfaction4 mind you4 ,hich merely confirmed my e8pectation4 or rather my certainty that my merits ,ould be suitably reco$ni@ed 00 but then the e8pression T+!T C+!B!CT(B attracted my attention5 Why did they call me T+!T C+!B!CT(B4 if they already "ne, me and had seen me4 even in that unfortunate circumstance. #houldn3t I be )uite familiar to them already. With some ad<ustment4 I improved the focus of my telescope and discovered4 at the bottom of the same si$n4 another sentence ,ritten in smaller letters6 W+% T+( +(// C!A +( -(. Can you ima$ine a ,orse stro"e of luc". Those ,ho held the "ey to understandin$ ,ho I really ,as hadn3t reco$ni@ed me5 They hadn3t connected this praise,orthy episode ,ith that deplorable incident t,o hundred million years earlier4 so the deplorable incident ,as still attributed to me4 and the other ,asn3t4 the other remained an impersonal4 anonymous anecdote4 ,hich didn3t belon$ to anyone3s history5 y first impulse ,as to brandish a si$n6 IT3# (2 I $ave up the idea6 ,hat ,ould be the $ood of it. They ,ould see it more than a hundred million years after moment 8 had $one by7 ,e ,ere approachin$ the half0billion mar"7 to be sure of ma"in$ myself understood I ,ould have to specify4 di$ up that old business a$ain4 and this ,as <ust ,hat I ,anted most to avoid5 -y no, I had lost my self0confidence5 I ,as afraid I ,ouldn3t receive any $reater

amends from the other $ala8ies4 either5 Those ,ho had seen me had seen me in a partial4 fra$mentary4 careless ,ay4 or had understood only up to a point ,hat ,as happenin$4 missin$ the essential )uality4 not analy@in$ the elements of my personality ,hich4 from one situation to the ne8t4 ,ere thro,n into relief5 %nly one si$n said ,hat I had really been e8pectin$6 1%* CA%W #% (T+IA'. 1%*3B( B(!//1 %A T+( -!//2 I hastened to leaf throu$h my noteboo"4 to see ,hat reactions had come from that $ala8y at moment 85 -y coincidence4 that ,as the very place ,here the si$n had appeared sayin$ W( C!A3T #(( ! D! A T+IA'5 In that @one of the universe4 I surely en<oyed a hi$her esteem4 no denyin$ that4 and I ou$ht to have re<oiced at last4 but instead I felt no satisfaction at all5 I reali@ed that4 since these admirers of mine ,eren3t those ,ho mi$ht earlier have formed an unfavorable opinion of me4 I didn3t $ive a damn about them5 The assurance that moment y had refuted and erased moment 8 couldn3t come to me from them4 and my uneasiness continued4 e8acerbated by the $reat len$th of time and by my not "no,in$ ,hether the causes of my dismay ,ere there and ,hether or not they ,ould be dispelled5 Aaturally4 for the observers scattered over the universe4 moment 8 and moment y ,ere only t,o amon$ countless observable moments4 and in fact4 every ni$ht on the constellations located at the most varied distances si$ns appeared referrin$ to other episodes4 si$ns sayin$ #TB!I'+T !+(!D 1%*3B( %A T+( BI'+T TB!CC4 T+(B( 1%* '% !'!IA4 W!TC+ 1%*B #T(&4 I T%/D 1%* #%5 For each of them I could ,or" out the calculation4 the li$ht0years from here to there4 the li$ht0years from there to here4 and establish ,hich episode they ,ere referrin$ to6 all the actions of my life4 every time I pic"ed my nose4 all the times I mana$ed to <ump do,n from a movin$ tram4 ,ere still there4 travelin$ from one $ala8y to another4 and they ,ere bein$ considered4 commented on4 <ud$ed5 The comments and <ud$ments ,ere not al,ays pertinent6 the si$n TC+C TC+C applied to the time I $ave a third of my salary to a charity subscription7 the si$n T+I# TI ( I /IC( 1%*4 to ,hen I had for$otten in a train the manuscript of a treatise that had cost me years of study7 my famous prolusion at the *niversity of 'ottin$en ,as commented on ,ith the ,ords6 W!TC+ %*T F%B DB!FT#5 In a certain sense4 I could set my mind at rest6 no action of mine4 $ood or bad4 ,as completely lost5 !t least an echo of it ,as al,ays saved7 or rather4 several echoes4 ,hich varied from one end of the universe to the other4 and in that sphere ,hich ,as e8pandin$ and $eneratin$ other spheres7 but the echoes ,ere discontinuous4 conflictin$ pieces of information4 inessential4 from ,hich the ne8us of my actions didn3t emer$e4 and a ne, action ,as unable to e8plain or correct an old one4 so they remained one ne8t to the other4 ,ith a plus or minus si$n4 li"e a lon$4 lon$ polynomial ,hich cannot be reduced to a more simple e8pression5 What could I do4 at this point. To "eep botherin$ ,ith the past ,as useless7 so far it had $one the ,ay it had $one7 I had to ma"e sure the future ,ent better5 The important thin$ ,as that4 in everythin$ I did4 it should be clear ,hat ,as essential4 ,here the stress should be placed4 ,hat ,as to be noted and ,hat not5 I procured an enormous directional si$n4 one of those hu$e hands ,ith the pointin$ inde8 fin$er5 When I performed an action to ,hich I ,anted to call attention4 I had only to raise that si$n4 tryin$ to ma"e the fin$er point at the most important detail of the scene5 For the moments ,hen4 instead4 I preferred not to be observed4 I made another si$n4 a hand ,ith the thumb pointin$ in the

direction opposite the one I ,as turnin$4 to distract attention5 !ll I had to do ,as carry those si$ns ,herever I ,ent and raise one or the other4 accordin$ to the occasion5 It ,as a lon$0term operation4 naturally6 the observers hundreds of thousands of li$ht0years a,ay ,ould be hundreds of thousands of millennia late in perceivin$ ,hat I ,as doin$ no,4 and I ,ould have to ,ait more hundreds of thousands of millennia to read their reactions5 This delay ,as inevitable7 but there ,as4 unfortunately4 another dra,bac" I hadn3t foreseen6 ,hat could I do ,hen I reali@ed I had raised the ,ron$ si$n. For e8ample4 at a certain moment I ,as sure I ,as about to do somethin$ that ,ould $ive me di$nity and presti$e7 I hastened to ,ave the si$n ,ith the inde8 fin$er pointed at me7 and at that very moment I happened to ma"e a dreadful fau8 pas4 somethin$ unfor$ivable4 a display of human ,retchedness to ma"e you sin" into the $round in shame5 -ut it ,as done7 that ima$e4 ,ith the pointin$ si$n4 ,as already navi$atin$ throu$h space4 nobody could stop it4 it ,as devourin$ the li$ht0years4 spreadin$ amon$ the $ala8ies4 arousin$ in the millions of future centuries comments and lau$hter and turned0up noses4 ,hich from the depths of the millennia ,ould return to me and ,ould force me to still clumsier e8cuses4 to more embarrassed attempts at correction5 55 !nother day4 instead4 I had to face an unpleasant situation4 one of those situations in life that one is obli$ed to live throu$h4 "no,in$ that4 ,hatever happens4 there3s no ,ay of sho,in$ up ,ell5 I shielded myself ,ith the si$n ,ith the thumb pointin$ in the other ,ay4 and I ,ent off5 *ne8pectedly4 in that delicate and tic"lish situation4 I displayed )uic"0,ittedness4 a balance4 a tact4 a decisiveness that no one 00 myself least of all 00 had ever suspected in me6 I suddenly revealed hidden talents that implied a lon$ ripenin$ of character7 and mean,hile the si$n ,as deflectin$ the observers3 $a@e4 ma"in$ them loo" at a pot of peonies nearby5 Cases li"e these4 ,hich at first I considered e8ceptions4 the result of my ine8perience4 "ept happenin$ to me more and more fre)uently5 Too late I reali@ed I should have pointed out ,hat I hadn3t ,anted seen and should have hidden ,hat I had instead pointed out6 there ,as no ,ay to arrive before the ima$e and to ,arn them not to pay attention to the si$n5 I tried ma"in$ a third si$n ,ith the ,ord C%BB(CTI%A4 to raise ,hen I ,anted to annul the precedin$ si$n4 but in every $ala8y this ima$e ,ould have been seen only after the one it ,as meant to correct4 and by then the harm ,as done and I ,ould only seem doubly ridiculous4 and to neutrali@e that ,ith another si$n4 I'A%B( C%BB(CTI%A4 ,ould have been e)ually useless5 I ,ent on livin$4 ,aitin$ for the remote moment ,hen4 from the $ala8ies4 the comments on the ne, episodes ,ould arrive4 char$ed for me ,ith embarrassment and uneasiness7 then I ,ould be able to rebut4 sendin$ off my messa$es of reply4 ,hich I ,as already ponderin$4 each dictated by the situation5 ean,hile4 the $ala8ies for ,hom I ,as most compromised ,ere already revolvin$ around the threshold of the billions of li$ht0years at such speeds that4 to reach them4 my messa$es ,ould have to stru$$le across space4 clin$in$ to their acceleratin$ fli$ht6 then4 one by one4 they ,ould disappear from the last ten0billion0li$ht0year hori@on beyond ,hich no visible ob<ect can be seen4 and they ,ould bear ,ith them a <ud$ment by then irrevocable5 !nd4 thin"in$ of this <ud$ment I ,ould no lon$er be able to chan$e4 I suddenly

felt a "ind of relief4 as if peace could come to me only after the moment ,hen there ,ould be nothin$ to add and nothin$ to remove in that arbitrary led$er of misunderstandin$s4 and the $ala8ies ,hich ,ere $radually reduced to the last tail of the last luminous ray4 ,indin$ from the sphere of dar"ness4 seemed to brin$ ,ith them the only possible truth about myself4 and I couldn3t ,ait until all of them4 one after the other4 had follo,ed this path5

7or the ma>ority of mollus(s, the visi'le organic form has little importance in the life of the mem'ers of a species, since they cannot see one another and have, at most, only a vague perception of other individuals and of their surroundings. This does not prevent 'rightly colored stripings and forms which seem very 'eautiful to our eyes 4as in many gastropod shells5 from e&isting independently of any relationship to visi'ility. /i"e me4 ,hen I ,as clin$in$ to that roc"4 you mean. 00 "fwf# as(ed, 00 With the ,aves risin$ and fallin$4 and me there4 still4 flat4 suc"in$ ,hat there ,as to suc" and thin"in$ about it all the time. If that3s the time you ,ant to "no, about4 there isn3t much I can tell you5 Form. I didn3t have any7 that is4 I didn3t "no, I had one4 or rather I didn3t "no, you could have one5 I $re, more or less on all sides4 at random7 if this is ,hat you call radial symmetry4 I suppose I had radial symmetry4 but to tell you the truth I never paid any attention to it5 Why should I have $ro,n more on one side than on the other. I had no eyes4 no head4 no part of the body that ,as different from any other part7 no, I try to persuade myself that the t,o holes I had ,ere a mouth and an anus4 and that I therefore already had my bilateral symmetry4 <ust li"e the trilobites and the rest of you4 but in my memory I really can3t tell those holes apart4 I passed stuff from ,hatever side I felt li"e4 inside or outside ,as the same4 differences and repu$nances came alon$ much later5 (very no, and then I ,as sei@ed by fantasies4 that3s true7 for e8ample4 the notion of scratchin$ my armpit4 or crossin$ my le$s4 or once even of $ro,in$ a mustache5 I use these ,ords here ,ith you4 to ma"e myself clear7 then there ,ere many details I couldn3t foresee6 I had some cells4 one more or less the same as another4 and they all did more or less the same <ob5 -ut since I had no form I could feel all possible forms in myself4 and all actions and e8pressions and possibilities of ma"in$ noises4 even rude ones5 In short4 there ,ere no limitations to my thou$hts4 ,hich ,eren3t thou$hts4 after all4 because I had no brain to thin" them7 every cell on its o,n thou$ht every thin"able thin$ all at once4 not throu$h ima$es4 since ,e had no ima$es of any "ind at our disposal4 but simply in that indeterminate ,ay of feelin$ oneself there4 ,hich did not prevent us from feelin$ ourselves e)ually there in some other ,ay5 It ,as a rich and free and contented condition4 my condition at that time4 )uite the contrary of ,hat you mi$ht thin"5 I ,as a bachelor =our system of reproduction in those days didn3t re)uire even temporary couplin$s>4 healthy4 ,ithout too many ambitions5 When you3re youn$4 all evolution lies before you4 every road is open to you4 and at the same time you can en<oy the fact of bein$ there on the roc"4 flat mollus"0pulp4 damp and happy5 If you compare yourself ,ith the limitations that came after,ards4 if you thin" of

ho, havin$ one form e8cludes other forms4 of the monotonous routine ,here you finally feel trapped4 ,ell4 I don3t mind sayin$ life ,as beautiful in those days5 To be sure4 I lived a bit ,ithdra,n into myself4 that3s true4 no comparison ,ith our interrelated life no,adays7 and I3ll also admit that 00 partly because of my a$e and partly under the influence of my surroundin$s 00 I ,as ,hat they call a narcissist to a sli$ht e8tent7 I mean I stayed there observin$ myself all the time4 I sa, all my $ood points and all my defects4 and I li"ed myself for the former and for the latter7 I had no terms of comparison4 you must remember that4 too5 -ut I ,asn3t so bac",ard that I didn3t "no, somethin$ else e8isted beyond me6 the roc" ,here I clun$4 obviously4 and also the ,ater that reached me ,ith every ,ave4 but other stuff4 too4 farther on6 that is4 the ,orld5 The ,ater ,as a source of information4 reliable and precise6 it brou$ht me edible substances ,hich I absorbed throu$h all my surface4 and other inedible ones ,hich still helped me form an idea of ,hat there ,as around5 The system ,or"ed li"e this6 a ,ave ,ould come4 and I4 still stic"in$ to the roc"4 ,ould raise myself up a little bit4 imperceptibly 00 all I had to do ,as loosen the pressure sli$htly 00 and4 splat4 the ,ater passed beneath me4 full of substances and sensations and stimuli5 1ou never "ne, ho, those stimuli ,ere $oin$ to turn out4 sometimes a tic"lin$ that made you die lau$hin$4 other times a shudder4 a burnin$4 an itch7 so it ,as a constant seesa, of amusement and emotion5 -ut you mustn3t thin" I <ust lay there passively4 dumbly acceptin$ everythin$ that came6 after a ,hile I had ac)uired some e8perience and I ,as )uic" to analy@e ,hat sort of stuff ,as arrivin$ and to decide ho, I should behave4 to ma"e the best use of it or to avoid the more unpleasant conse)uences5 It ,as all a "ind of $ame of contractions4 ,ith each of the cells I had4 or of rela8in$ at the ri$ht moment6 and I could ma"e my choices4 re<ect4 attract4 even spit5 !nd so I learned that there ,ere the others, the element surroundin$ me ,as filled ,ith traces of them4 others hostile and different from me or else dis$ustin$ly similar5 Ao4 no, I3m $ivin$ you a disa$reeable idea of my character4 ,hich is all ,ron$5 Aaturally4 each of us ,ent about on his o,n business4 but the presence of the others reassured me4 created an inhabited @one around me4 freed me from the fear of bein$ an alarmin$ e8ception4 ,hich I ,ould have been if the fact of e8istin$ had been my fate alone4 a "ind of e8ile5 #o I "ne, that some of the others ,ere female5 The ,ater transmitted a special vibration4 a "ind of brrrum brrrum brrrum4 I remember ,hen I became a,are of it the first time4 or rather4 not the first4 I remember ,hen I became a,are of bein$ a,are of it as a thin$ I had al,ays "no,n5 !t the discovery of these vibrations3 e8istence4 I ,as sei@ed ,ith a $reat curiosity4 not so much to see them4 or to be seen by them either 00 since4 first4 ,e hadn3t any si$ht4 and secondly4 the se8es ,eren3t yet differentiated4 each individual ,as identical ,ith every other individual and at loo"in$ at one or another I ,ould have felt no more pleasure than in loo"in$ at myself 00 but a curiosity to "no, ,hether somethin$ ,ould happen bet,een me and them5 ! desperation filled me4 a desire not to do anythin$ special4 ,hich ,ould have been out of place4 "no,in$ that there ,as nothin$ special to do4 or nonspecial either4 but to respond in some ,ay to that vibration ,ith a correspondin$ vibration4 or rather4 ,ith a personal vibration of my o,n4 because4 sure enou$h4 there ,as somethin$ there that ,asn3t e8actly the same as the other4 I mean no, you mi$ht say it came from hormones4 but for me it ,as very beautiful5 #o then4 one of them4 shlup shlup shlup4 emitted her e$$s4 and I4 shlup shlup

shlup4 fertili@ed them6 all do,n inside the sea4 min$lin$ in the ,ater tepid from the sun7 oh4 I for$ot to tell you4 I could feel the sun4 ,hich ,armed the sea and heated the roc"5 %ne of them4 I said5 -ecause4 amon$ all those female messa$es that the sea slammed a$ainst me li"e an indistinct soup at first ,here everythin$ ,as all ri$ht ,ith me and I $rubbed about payin$ no attention to ,hat one ,as li"e or another4 suddenly I understood ,hat corresponded best to my tastes4 tastes ,hich I hadn3t "no,n before that moment4 of course5 In other ,ords4 I had fallen in love5 What I mean is6 I had be$un to reco$ni@e4 to isolate the si$ns of one of those from the others4 in fact I ,aited for these si$ns I had be$un to reco$ni@e4 I sou$ht them4 responded to those si$ns I a,aited ,ith other si$ns I made myself4 or rather it ,as I ,ho aroused them4 these si$ns from her4 ,hich I ans,ered ,ith other si$ns of my o,n4 I mean I ,as in love ,ith her and she ,ith me4 so ,hat more could I ,ant from life. Ao, habits have chan$ed4 and it already seems inconceivable to you that one could love a female li"e that4 ,ithout havin$ spent any time ,ith her5 !nd yet4 throu$h that unmista"able part of her still in solution in the sea ,ater4 ,hich the ,aves placed at my disposal4 I received a )uantity of information about her4 more than you can ima$ine6 not the superficial4 $eneric information you $et no,4 seein$ and smellin$ and touchin$ and hearin$ a voice4 but essential information4 ,hich I could then develop at len$th in my ima$ination5 I could thin" of her ,ith minute precision4 thin"in$ not so much of ho, she ,as made4 ,hich ,ould have been a banal and vul$ar ,ay of thin"in$ of her4 but of ho, from her present formlessness she ,ould be transformed into one of the infinite possible forms4 still remainin$ herself4 ho,ever5 I didn3t ima$ine the forms that she mi$ht assume4 but I ima$ined the special )uality that4 in ta"in$ them4 she ,ould $ive to those forms5 I "ne, her ,ell4 in other ,ords5 !nd I ,asn3t sure of her5 (very no, and then I ,as overcome ,ith suspicion4 an8iety4 ra$e5 I didn3t let anythin$ sho,4 you "no, my character4 but beneath that impassive mas" passed suppositions I can3t brin$ myself to confess even no,5 ore than once I suspected she ,as unfaithful to me4 that she sent messa$es not only to me but also to others7 more than once I thou$ht I had intercepted one4 or that I had discovered a tone of insincerity in a messa$e addressed to me5 I ,as <ealous4 I can admit it no,4 not so much out of distrust of her as out of unsureness of myself6 ,ho could assure me that she had really understood ,ho I ,as. %r that she had understood the fact that I ,as. This relationship achieved bet,een us than"s to the sea ,ater 00 a full4 complete relationship4 ,hat more could I as" for. 00 ,as for me somethin$ absolutely personal4 bet,een t,o uni)ue and distinct individualities. but for her. Who could assure me that ,hat she mi$ht find in me she hadn3t also found in another4 or in another t,o or three or ten or a hundred li"e me. Who could assure me that her abandon in our shared relations ,asn3t an indiscriminate abandon4 slapdash4 a "ind of 00 ,ho3s ne8t. 00 collective ecstasy. The fact that these suspicions did not correspond to the truth ,as confirmed4 for me4 by the subtle4 soft4 private vibration4 at times still tremblin$ ,ith modesty4 in our correspondences7 but ,hat if4 precisely out of shyness and ine8perience4 she didn3t pay enou$h attention to my characteristics and others too" advanta$e of this innocence to ,orm their ,ay in. !nd ,hat if she4 a novice4 believed it ,as still I and couldn3t distin$uish one from the other4 and so our most ultimate play ,as e8tended to a circle of stran$ers5 5 5. It ,as then that I be$an to secrete calcareous matter5 I ,anted to ma"e somethin$

to mar" my presence in an unmista"able fashion4 somethin$ that ,ould defend this individual presence of mine from the indiscriminate instability of all the rest5 Ao, it3s no use my pilin$ up ,ords4 tryin$ to e8plain the novelty of this intention I had7 the first ,ord I said is more than enou$h6 ma(e, I ,anted to ma(e, and considerin$ the fact that I had never made anythin$ or thou$ht you could ma"e anythin$4 this in itself ,as a bi$ event5 #o I be$an to ma"e the first thin$ that occurred to me4 and it ,as a shell5 From the mar$in of that fleshy cloa" on my body4 usin$ certain $lands4 I be$an to $ive off secretions ,hich too" on a curvin$ shape all around4 until I ,as covered ,ith a hard and varie$ated shield4 rou$h on the outside and smooth and shiny inside5 Aaturally4 I had no ,ay of controllin$ the form of ,hat I ,as ma"in$6 I <ust stayed there all huddled up4 silent and slu$$ish4 and I secreted5 I ,ent on even after the shell covered my ,hole body7 I be$an another turn7 in short4 I ,as $ettin$ one of those shells all t,isted into a spiral4 ,hich you4 ,hen you see them4 thin" are so hard to ma"e4 but all you have to do is "eep ,or"in$ and $ivin$ off the same matter ,ithout stoppin$4 and they $ro, li"e that4 one turn after the other5 %nce it e8isted4 this shell ,as also a necessary and indispensable place to stay inside of4 a defense for my survival7 it ,as a luc"y thin$ I had made it4 but ,hile I ,as ma"in$ it I had no idea of ma"in$ it because I needed it7 on the contrary4 it ,as li"e ,hen somebody lets out an e8clamation he could perfectly ,ell not ma"e4 and yet he ma"es it4 li"e ?+a? or ?hmph24? that3s ho, I made the shell6 simply to e8press myself5 !nd in this self0e8pression I put all the thou$hts I had about her4 I released the an$er she made me feel4 my amorous ,ay of thin"in$ about her4 my determination to e8ist for her4 the desire for me to be me4 and for her to be her4 and the love for myself that I put in my love for her 00 all the thin$s that could be said only in that conch shell ,ound into a spiral5 !t re$ular intervals the calcareous matter I ,as secretin$ came out colored4 so a number of lovely stripes ,ere formed runnin$ strai$ht throu$h the spirals4 and this shell ,as a thin$ different from me but also the truest part of me4 the e8planation of ,ho I ,as4 my portrait translated into a rhythmic system of volumes and stripes and colors and hard matter4 and it ,as the portrait of her as she ,as4 because at the same time she ,as ma"in$ herself a shell identical to mine and ,ithout "no,in$ it I ,as copyin$ ,hat she ,as doin$ and she ,ithout "no,in$ it ,as copyin$ ,hat I ,as doin$4 and all the others ,ere copyin$ all the others4 so ,e ,ould be bac" ,here ,e had been before e8cept for the fact that in sayin$ these shells ,ere the same I ,as a bit hasty4 because ,hen you loo"ed closer you discovered all sorts of little differences that later on mi$ht become enormous5 #o I can say that my shell made itself4 ,ithout my ta"in$ any special pains to have it come out one ,ay rather than another4 but this doesn3t mean that I ,as absent0 minded durin$ that time7 I applied myself4 instead4 to that act of secretin$4 ,ithout allo,in$ myself a moment3s distraction4 never thin"in$ of anythin$ else4 or rather6 thin"in$ al,ays of somethin$ else4 since I didn3t "no, ho, to thin" of the shell4 <ust as4 for that matter4 I didn3t "no, ho, to thin" of anythin$ else either4 but I accompanied the effort of ma"in$ the shell ,ith the effort of thin"in$ I ,as ma"in$ somethin$4 that is anythin$6 that is4 I thou$ht of all the thin$s it ,ould be possible to ma"e5 #o it ,asn3t even a monotonous tas"4 because the effort of thin"in$ ,hich accompanied it spread to,ard countless types of thou$hts ,hich spread4 each one4 to,ard countless types of actions that mi$ht each serve to ma"e countless thin$s4 and ma"in$ each of these thin$s ,as implicit in ma"in$ the shell $ro,4 turn after turn5 5 5

II 4And so now, after five hundred million years have gone 'y, / loo( around and, a'ove the roc(, / see the railway em'an(ment and the train passing along it with a party of Dutch girls loo(ing out of the window and, in the last compartment, a solitary traveler reading Herodotus in a 'ilingual edition, and the train vanishes into the tunnel under the highway, where there is a sign with the pyramids and the words ?:I#IT ('1&T4? and a little ice=cream wagon tries to pass a 'ig truc( laden with installments of Bh0#ti<l4 a periodical encyclopedia that comes out in paper'ac(, 'ut then it puts its 'ra(es on 'ecause its visi'ility is 'loc(ed 'y a cloud of 'ees which crosses the road coming from a row of hives in a field from which surely a #ueen 'ee is flying away, drawing 'ehind her a swarm in the direction opposite to the smo(e of the train, which has reappeared at the other end of the tunnel, so you can see hardly anything than(s to the cloudy stream of 'ees and coal smo(e, e&cept a few yards farther up there is a peasant 'rea(ing the ground with his mattoc( and, unaware, he 'rings to light and re'uries a fragment of a ?eolithic mattoc( similar to his own, in a garden that surrounds an astronomical o'servatory with its telescopes aimed at the s(y and on whose threshold the (eeper!s daughter sits reading the horoscopes in a wee(ly whose cover displays the face of the star of Cleopatra6 / see all this and / feel no ama*ement 'ecause ma(ing the shell implied also ma(ing the honey in the wa& com' and the coal and the telescopes and the reign of 6leopatra and the films a'out 6leopatra and the pyramids and the design of the *odiac of the 6haldean astrologers and the wars and empires Herodotus spea(s of and the words written 'y Herodotus and the wor(s written in all languages including those of Spino*a in Dutch and the fourteen=line summary of Spino*a!s life and wor(s in the installment of the encyclopedia in the truc( passed 'y the ice=cream wagon, and so / feel as if, in ma(ing the shell, / had also made the rest. / loo( around, and whom am / loo(ing for@ She is still the one / see(. /!ve 'een in love for five hundred million years, and if / see a Dutch girl on the sand with a 'each'oy wearing a gold chain around his nec( and showing her the swarm of 'ees to frighten her, there she is / recogni*e her from her inimita'le way of raising one shoulder until it almost touches her chee(, /!m almost sure, or rather /!d say a'solutely sure if it weren!t for a certain resem'lance that / find also in the daughter of the (eeper of the o'servatory, and in the photograph of the actress made up as 6leopatra, or perhaps in 6leopatra as she really was in person, for what part of the true 6leopatra they say every representation of 6leopatra contains, or in the #ueen 'ee flying at the head of the swarm with that forward impetuousness, or in the paper woman cut out and pasted on the plastic windshield of the little ice=cream wagon, wearing a 'athing suit li(e the Dutch girl on the 'each now listening over a little transistor radio to the voice of a woman singing, the same voice that the encyclopedia truc( driver hears over his radio, and the same one /!m now sure /!ve heard for five million years, it is surely she / hear singing and whose image / loo( for all around, seeing only gulls volplaning on the surface of the sea where a school of anchovies glistens and for a moment / am certain / recogni*e her in a female gull and a moment later / suspect that instead she!s an anchovy, though she might >ust as well 'e any #ueen or slave=girl named 'y Herodotus or only hinted at in the pages of the volume left to mar( the seat of the reader who has stepped into the corridor of the train to stri(e up a conversation with the party of Dutch tourists. / might say / am in love with

each of those girls and at the same time / am sure of 'eing in love always with her alone. And the more / torment myself with love for each of them, the less / can 'ring myself to say to them 8Here / am9,8 afraid of 'eing mista(en and even more afraid that she is mista(en, ta(ing me for some'ody else, for some'ody who, for all she (nows of me, might easily ta(e my place, for e&ample the 'each='oy with the gold chain, or the director of the o'servatory, or a gull, or a male anchovy, or the reader of Herodotus or Herodotus himself, or the vendor of ice cream, who has come down to the 'each along a dusty road among the pric(ly pears and is now surrounded 'y the Dutch girls in their 'athing suits, or Spino*a, or the truc( driver who is transporting the life and wor(s of Spino*a summari*ed and repeated two thousand times, or one of the drones dying at the 'ottom of the hive after having fulfilled his role in the continuation of the species.5 III 5 5 5Which doesn3t mean that the shell ,asn3t4 first and foremost4 a shell4 ,ith its particular form4 ,hich couldn3t be any different because it ,as the very form I had $iven it4 the only one I could or ,ould $ive it5 #ince the shell had a form4 the form of the ,orld ,as also chan$ed4 in the sense that no, it included the form of the ,orld as it had been ,ithout a shell plus the form of the shell5 !nd that had $reat conse)uences6 because the ,avin$ vibrations of li$ht4 stri"in$ bodies4 produce particular effects from them4 color first of all4 namely4 that matter I used to ma"e stripes ,ith ,hich vibrated in a different ,ay from the rest7 but there ,as also the fact that a volume enters into a special relationship of volumes ,ith other volumes4 all phenomena I couldn3t be a,are of4 thou$h they e8isted5 The shell in this ,ay ,as able to create visual ima$es of shells4 ,hich are thin$s very similar 00 as far as ,e "no, 00 to the shell itself4 e8cept that the shell is here4 ,hereas the ima$es of it are formed else,here4 possibly on a retina5 !n ima$e therefore presupposes a retina4 ,hich in turn presupposes a comple8 system stemmin$ from an encephalon5 #o4 in producin$ the shell4 I also produced its ima$e 00 not one4 of course4 but many4 because ,ith one shell you can ma"e as many shell0ima$es as you ,ant 00 but only potential ima$es because to form an ima$e you need all the re)uisites I mentioned before6 an encephalon ,ith its optic $an$lia4 and an optic nerve to carry the vibrations from outside to inside4 and this optic nerve4 at the other e8tremity4 ends in somethin$ made purposely to see ,hat there is outside4 namely the eye5 Ao, it3s ridiculous to thin" that4 havin$ an encephalon4 one ,ould simply drop a nerve li"e a fishin$ line cast into the dar"ness7 until the eyes crop up4 one can3t "no, ,hether there is somethin$ to be seen outside or not5 For myself4 I had none of this e)uipment4 so I ,as the least authori@ed to spea" of it7 ho,ever4 I had conceived an idea of my o,n4 namely that the important thin$ ,as to form some visual ima$es4 and the eyes ,ould come later in conse)uence5 #o I concentrated on ma"in$ the part of me that ,as outside =and even the ulterior part of me that conditioned the e8terior> $ive rise to an ima$e4 or rather to ,hat ,ould later be called a lovely ima$e =,hen compared to other ima$es considered less lovely4 or rather u$ly4 or simply revoltin$ly hideous>5 When a body succeeds in emittin$ or in reflectin$ luminous vibrations in a distinct and reco$ni@able order 00 I thou$ht 00 ,hat does it do ,ith these vibrations. &ut them in its poc"et. Ao4 it releases them on the first passer0by5 !nd ho, ,ill the latter

behave in the face of vibrations he can3t utili@e and ,hich4 ta"en in this ,ay4 mi$ht even be annoyin$. +ide his head in a hole. Ao4 he3ll thrust it out in that direction until the point most e8posed to the optic vibrations becomes sensiti@ed and develops the mechanism for e8ploitin$ them in the form of ima$es5 In short4 I conceived of the eye0 encephalon lin" as a "ind of tunnel du$ from the outside by the force of ,hat ,as ready to become ima$e4 rather than from ,ithin by the intention of pic"in$ up any old ima$e5 !nd I ,asn3t mista"en6 even today I3m sure that the pro<ect 00 in its over0all aspect 00 ,as ri$ht5 -ut my error lay in thin"in$ that si$ht ,ould also come to us4 that is to me and to her5 I elaborated a harmonious4 colored ima$e of myself to enter her visual receptivity4 to occupy its center4 to settle there4 so that she could utili@e me constantly4 in dreamin$ and in memory4 ,ith thou$ht as ,ell as ,ith si$ht5 !nd I felt at the same time she ,as radiatin$ an ima$e of herself so perfect that it ,ould impose itself on my fo$$y4 bac",ard senses4 developin$ in me an interior visual field ,here it ,ould bla@e forth definitely5 #o our efforts led us to become those perfect ob<ects of a sense ,hose nature nobody )uite "ne, yet4 and ,hich later became perfect precisely throu$h the perfection of its ob<ect4 ,hich ,as4 in fact4 us5 I3m tal"in$ about si$ht4 the eyes7 only I had failed to foresee one thin$6 the eyes that finally opened to see us didn3t belon$ to us but to others5 #hapeless4 colorless bein$s4 sac"s of $uts stuc" to$ether carelessly4 peopled the ,orld all around us4 ,ithout $ivin$ the sli$htest thou$ht to ,hat they should ma"e of themselves4 to ho, to e8press themselves and identify themselves in a stable4 complete form4 such as to enrich the visual possibilities of ,hoever sa, them5 They came and ,ent4 san" a ,hile4 then emer$ed4 in that space bet,een air and ,ater and roc"4 ,anderin$ about absently7 and ,e in the mean,hile4 she and I and all those intent on s)uee@in$ out a form of ourselves4 ,ere there slavin$ a,ay at our dar" tas"5 Than"s to us4 that badly defined space became a visual field7 and ,ho reaped the benefit. These intruders4 ,ho had never before $iven a thou$ht to the possibility of eyesi$ht =u$ly as they ,ere4 they ,ouldn3t have $ained a thin$ by seein$ one another>4 these creatures ,ho had al,ays turned a deaf ear to the vocation of form5 While ,e ,ere bent over4 doin$ the hardest part of the <ob4 that is4 creatin$ somethin$ to be seen4 they ,ere )uietly ta"in$ on the easiest part6 adaptin$ their la@y4 embryonic receptive or$ans to ,hat there ,as to receive7 our ima$es5 !nd they needn3t try tellin$ me no, that their <ob ,as toilsome too6 from that $luey mess that filled their heads anythin$ could have come out4 and a photosensitive mechanism doesn3t ta"e all that much trouble to put to$ether5 -ut ,hen it comes to perfectin$ it4 that3s another story2 +o, can you4 if you don3t have visible ob<ects to see4 $audy ones even4 the "ind that impose themselves on the eyesi$ht. To sum it up in a fe, ,ords6 they developed eyes at our e8pense5 #o si$ht4 our si$ht4 ,hich ,e ,ere obscurely ,aitin$ for4 ,as the si$ht that the others had of us5 In one ,ay or another4 the $reat revolution had ta"en place6 all of a sudden4 around us4 eyes ,ere openin$4 and corneas and irises and pupils6 the s,ollen4 colorless eye of polyps and cuttlefish4 the da@ed and $elatinous eyes of bream and mullet4 the protrudin$ and peduncled eyes of crayfish and lobsters4 the bul$in$ and faceted eyes of flies and ants5 ! seal no, comes for,ard4 blac" and shiny4 ,in"in$ little eyes li"e pinheads5 ! snail e8tends ball0li"e eyes at the end of lon$ antennae5 The ine8pressive eyes of the $ull e8amine the surface of the ,ater5 -eyond a $lass mas" the fro,nin$ eyes of an under,ater fisherman e8plore the depths5 Throu$h the lens of a spy$lass a sea

captain3s eyes and the eyes of a ,oman bathin$ conver$e on my shell4 then loo" at each other4 for$ettin$ me5 Framed by far0si$hted lenses I feel on me the far0si$hted eyes of a @oolo$ist4 tryin$ to frame me in the eye of a Bolleifle85 !t that moment a school of tiny anchovies4 barely born4 passes before me4 so tiny that in each little ,hite fish it seems there is room only for the eye3s blac" dot4 and it is a "ind of eye0dust that crosses the sea5 !ll these eyes ,ere mine5 I had made them possible7 I had had the active part7 I furnished them the ra, material4 the ima$e5 With eyes had come all the rest4 so everythin$ that the others4 havin$ eyes4 had become4 their every form and function4 and the )uantity of thin$s that4 than"s to eyes4 they had mana$ed to do4 in their every form and function4 came from ,hat I had done5 %f course4 they ,ere not <ust casually implicit in my bein$ there4 in my havin$ relations ,ith others4 male and female4 et cetera4 in my settin$ out to ma"e a shell4 et cetera5 In other ,ords4 I had foreseen absolutely everythin$5 !nd at the bottom of each of those eyes I lived4 or rather another me lived4 one of the ima$es of me4 and it encountered the ima$e of her4 the most faithful ima$e of her4 in that beyond ,hich opens4 past the semili)uid sphere of the irises4 in the dar"ness of the pupils4 the mirrored hall of the retinas4 in our true element ,hich e8tends ,ithout shores4 ,ithout boundaries5

Bac% Co&e'( An enchantin) se'ies of sto'ies a*o+t the e&o,+tion of the +ni&e'se Durin$ the course of these stories Calvino toys ,ith continuous creation4 the transformation of matter4 and the e8pandin$ and contractin$ reaches of space and time5 +is characters4 made out of mathematical formulae and simple cellular structures4 disport themselves amon$ $ala8ies4 e8perience the solidification of planets4 move from a)uatic to terrestrial e8istence4 play $ames ,ith hydro$en atoms4 and have a love life5 Calvino succeeds in relatin$ comple8 scientific concepts to the ordinary reactions of common humanity5 ?! poi$nant4 free,heelin$ account of Creation itself5 5 5 ICalvinoJ raises ima$ination to its e8ponential ma8imum5? 00 &aul West4 -oo( +orld Italo Calvino3s superb storytellin$ $ifts earned him international reno,n and a reputation as ?one of the ,orld3s best fabulists? =Eohn 'ardner4 ?ew Aor( Times -oo( ,eview5. -orn in Cuba in 19FK4 Calvino ,as raised in Italy4 ,here he lived most of his life5 +e died in #iena at the a$e of si8ty0one5

Related Interests