In the City
The temple? It doesn't seem that I'm standing in it. (Low, very low ceiling and no windows
anywhere. Everything here is white. White ceiling and white walls and from the white floor
to the highest vaulted arch is a mass of forms, decorations and ornaments, a fragile white
matter, indifferent and as endless as a coral city). But in spite of that, yes, in spite of
that I ask: "Where are the pews where I could sit down, and where are the aisles through which
I can pass? Where is the altar to which I should turn?"
The teeth aren't that sharp. For the time being there's no pain. At first it appeared to me
that the strange, divided animal (half horse and half pig) was quite incapable of escaping and
that I would be able to keep it in our garden. But suddenly it clamped down on my hand and all
at once everything was different. So here I stand with hand in snout, standing and thinking,
while that pug-nosed grip slowly tightens. If I don't want to lose the hand, I will have to
snatch it away.
I don't know. I don't know her and I have never seen her before. But she came and so now we're
rolling on the floor, gliding along the wall, crashing into the furniture, climbing to the
ceiling and then coming down, across the breadth of my room, slowly and softly like a large,
And then it will happen. All at once the hall is full of white globules (just a bit smaller
than ping-pong balls) bumping into the dancers, restricting their motion and throwing off their
steps. The dance continues but after a while we are swimming in that white mess as one would
swim in the midst of an avalanche, gasping for breath and blindly stepping forward. Valiantly
we swing the chairs. Valiantly we crouch under the tables and press our faces to the parquet
floor. The globules squeeze their way into our eyes, noses, and mouths; the dancers cough,
choke and suffocate.
At the Fair
I hear all of your words, questions as well as answers, I hear the crackling of the air rifles
and the cackle of children's voices and the blast of the fair whistle. Yet I see so little of
you, so terribly little--only a shifting spot far below me--and soon enough not even that.
(Yes, I admit that I was afraid. I was afraid that the centrifugal force would lead me away
and that I would always be clinging to the passenger next to me. But now I can already see
that it was worth that little bit of spare change.) And so we twisted round and round as we
climbed ever higher -- it seemed as if we would go on like this forever. I felt that what I'd
left behind of myself down there was stupid, useless and cruel and that I'm now pure in a way
that I've never been before. I don't think I'll go back.
My face is raised to the sky and my legs blindly stumble through the high grass. "I mustn't
trip! It mustn't disappear behind the trees!" But even as I approach the woods, that small,
cold sun keeps sinking lower and lower. And then (when it is barely above the tops of the
trees) a small black spot appears in the sun's middle (as if somebody had touched it there
with a small paintbrush dipped in india ink) and the spot grows, spreading out until finally
it devours the sun and I can no longer continue. Then the sky goes out.
(translated by G.S. Evans)
Vít Erban is a writer currently living in Prague, Czech Republic. He has
contributed to various Czech journals, including Literarni Noviny, in which
"A Small, Cold Sun" originally appeared as "Male, chladne srdce" in 1996.
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story copyright by author 2000 all rights reserved
translation copyright 2000 by G.S. Evans