Friday, October 27, 2006

New Jerusalem (1st part)

Part of the story which has been originally published in the book “1999” under the title “Novi Jerusalem”, Ljubljana, Zagreb; pp.53-57 © Borislav Pekic; English translation © Bernard Johnson.

for 2nd part HERE

Dedicated to Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

1st part

“Decades pass, the scars and wounds of the past
heal over for ever. During that time, some
of the islands of the Archipelago have fallen
apart and been covered by the polar sea of
oblivion. But one day in the future, the
Archipelago, its air, the bones of its
dwellers, frozen into the northern ice, will
be discovered by our descendants like some
incredible salamanders ...”
(A. Solzhenitsyn, “The Gulag Archipelago”)

“And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me that great city, the Holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God. Having the glory of God, and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal ...”
(Revelation 21-10)

It was the rat’s skeleton which had opened his eyes to it all.

It would have meant nothing, of course, if it had been found by itself in the ice-bound cave of the New Jerusalem settlement where the proto-man’s underground shelter had been preserved, frozen solid, or together with the remains of other rats.

But it had been dug up in close proximity with the skeleton of a man and a mole, and it was that that has given the archeological find its enormous importance, equivalent to the discovery of Troy in the history of First Mankind.

The skeletons were clasped tightly round each other – as in some bony cradle, the animals deep in the man’s pelvis zone – and all three had been caught in the hibernating grip of northern ice crystals for millions of years, most probably from 1999 and the world cataclysm of which they had been part.

For exactly how long could not really be known since the calculation of time had long since ceased.

And it was indeed the attitude of absolute confidence and mutual dependence on each other shown by those fossils of extinct species, whose bitter hostility could still have been recalled, if remembering had still been allowed, or anyone could or knew how to remember, or if anything at all had been known about the prehistory of Second Mankind, rather than only guessed at with a certain revulsion, which gave the touching sight a sense which encouraged Arno’s hopes that he was on the verge of a marvelous discovery which for his doomed world might bring salvation.

For if people of that icy civilization had dyed with animals which all others, both before and since, despised and hunted down, or at the very best cruelly abused, if they had slept with them, eaten with them, even treated such disgusting specimen of fauna as brothers, how must they have behaved towards each other?

Certainly incomparably better than nowadays, when people were simply not interested in each other and had long since forgotten when they came across the last living animal and killed it, and even those shut up inside the unreal zoos with their hologram simulators had begun to fade so badly that you needed sharp eyesight to make out the difference between what had once been a dog and what used to be a cat.

Even before that discovery of this trinity he had had some success in his researches in the Arctic Circle.

Afterwards had come the still richer, and for his revolutionary anthropological ides, crucial excavations over the whole of the Northern Terrain, an archipelago of exceptionally vast expanse and ruggedness with its sunken, rudimentary settlements containing an absolute minimum of material belongings which even for a layman, never mind a scientist, (the only scientist in the world, in fact), revealed that the spirit and spirituality had bee the basic principle of the era,

with its strange communication trenches without beginning or end, and, apparently, without purpose, its open church towers at all points of the compass, which could only point to an unlimited tolerance on the part of the ruling faith, unusual building sites on which, to all appearances apart from the will to build nothing at all been built,

monuments which represented no known object but reached upwards to unattainable universality, spiked wire fences, undoubted symbols of some unbreakable spiritual unity, and above all, communal mass graves, a moving, but also joyous image of a yearning to carry over a happy communality from life into death –

all this was indisputable proof that his mutant world was not the best possible one as had been thought, that it was not even very good at all, that in fact it was the worst of all possible worlds and that in respect of the search, attainment and values of human happiness and an ultimate definition of ideal existence, he could still learn a lot from the so despised first, or proto-mankind;

those three lovingly entwined skeletons, creatures that had grown together into a picture of perfect mutual dependency and dependence, frozen into the crystals of eternal ice remained the most precious archeological heritage, they set the golden seal on the story of his scientific life.

He would return to that picture of ideal humanity whenever, as now, his strength failed him and he needed to renew his determination, exhausted by the unsuccessful search for a man to whom he could entrust his discovery –

perhaps if they came to understand each other, or some others similar to him and with whom he could renew the extinct way of life which would then, by the very power of their unassailable example, spread throughout the planet and give it back its former luster –

a fellow-being with whose receptive thought his own evangelical secret would grow together like those skeletons, the bony structure of one-time happiness, preserved from oblivion by the polar blizzards of the far north.

The search for such a being, although in fact shorter, seemed to him incomparably longer – probably because it was fruitless – than his research at the site, and that had taken him a hundred years; the time he had needed to classify the remains of that ancient civilization, understand it correctly, interpret it scientifically and coordinate it logically with the “New Jerusalem’s Concept of Life” had taken a further hundred, in all, two of the five hundred years on which, in the most favorable circumstances, he could count.

As against the impression of immeasurable duration, the search for a man to whom the secret could be entrusted could not have lasted more than fifty years, including, before this expedition, the unsuccessful attempts to reach him, or any other man for that matter, by means of auditive and visual means of communication, unused since the time when contacts between people had disappeared – first the need, then the wish, then the means, or if it had come about in some other order, he could no longer remember.

The calculation was by no means certain. Without any measure of time, for which, apart from unreliable, individual memory, genetic for the most part and quite uninterested in the past, no means existed;

he had made use of an ingenious calendar found on the walls of the excavated proto-civilization, (a fretwork of lines, scratched with a finger-nail, a vertical stroke for each day crossed through with a horizontal one for each week), with no sense of succession, passage, alternation,

nothing could be placed in time, nothing ordered according to its progression, nothing held in memory – nor could events be linked together in what is conventionally called causality – first-born mankind had kept the total and then suddenly, one fine day, destroyed it, having kept it, so it would seem, in a network of interdependence of causes and effect together so as to destroy it all the more easily.

Now he was certain that his wandering was over and that he was near to his goal. Word of an robot enclave on a desert island near the western shore of the First Continent, with a solitary islander by seas safely emptied of life forms – where the cybernet stayed and man was unavoidable as its purpose - must be what the news he had been waiting for, the real thing if anything still could be.
for 2nd part HERE

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