Saturday, October 28, 2006

New Jerusalem (2nd part)

Part of the story which has been originally published in “1999” under the title “Novi Jerusalem”, Ljubljana, Zagreb; pp.58-61 © Borislav Pekic; English translation © Bernard Johnson.

for 3rd part HERE

As soon as he disembarked from the helicar with a chosen cybernetic escort he saw at once to his satisfaction that there was nothing on the island that contradicted the possibility of human life there. As everywhere else on the planet, nature had been fundamentally, methodically eradicated.

Any micro-fauna that had temporarily avoided annihilation had retreated into the ground, leaving on the surface only the least noticeable and most resistant insects: chameleons, masters of mimicry, and fleas, those bed-fellows of eternity. The rare flora had returned to the forms of their mossy origins, or recalled their dim, logogrammatic images but only as carbonized, friable skeletons.

The ground had taken on the ghostly color of washed-out lime and rocks crumbled to dust at the slightest breath of wind. In cracks and hollows a trickle of water, slowly choking without oxygen, and the dry beds of ancient rivers sent up eddies of purple dust like startled phantoms. Nothing here could have prevented man from developing and perfecting his precious solitude.

Nothing, except one still living patch of earth, discovered near the camp the day after they had landed. Although it was only a limited area, something that in more barbarous times must have been a pasture or some such useless vestige of land, and stretched out only as far as the stunted edge of a line of half withered elm trees behind which there dragged itself, thick and heavy as pitch, the all-but defunct current of a primeval stream; nature here lived as if there were no man, or as if he did not concern it.

But he was deterred from getting back into the helical and flying off at once by the evidence that life here was scarcely noticeable, in fact it was disappearing. And in addition, it was reduced to a meadow dug up by molehills, incapable of infecting the majestic deadness of the surrounding programmed zone with the life of which it itself had less than sufficient.

His robots neither shared his opinion nor felt that the meadow was quite so innocent of danger.

They were well aware that the regenerative power of nature was barely less than their own – although it was nonsensical, since it didn’t produce anything useful - and that a single bud on some by chance neglected tree, if left enough of time, was enough to once again set up the deadly cycle,

to again produce the prehistorical slime, from it to create one-cell organisms, aging to colonize it into poly-organic structures, then to form them again into amphibians and led them onto the solid ground, start a regime of sheer chaos on the planet, and return man to the slavery of its unpredictability.

They had wanted to pacify the meadow immediately with the standard combination of mechanical bulldozing and the injection of a lethal dose of radioactivity, but he would not allow it. (...)

A. Ramos-Stanley KubrickThe robots had a built-in, codified memory of the Species, the history of its mutations, induced as spontaneous (although, apart from his, another case spontaneity he didn’t know), the origins of the way of life they had adopted, the explanation of the collapse of the First Mankind –

he doubted that it was very different from that passed down through inherited human tradition – perhaps even something which was of significant concern for the New Jerusalem proto-civilization, whose super-human warmth must have been preserved even by the ice, and which called the description of that collapse into question.

For that, one simply needed the right key. That was what he lacked. None of the mutant had it. It was as if that key, after memory had been filled and closed off, had been thrown away into nature to disappear with it. And before he found it, deep within himself, like some missing part, or in nature itself, perhaps even in that miserable patch of meadow whose existence, as if to spite everything else, had some purpose, message, secret, he would not be able to rid himself of it. Nor of the robots, however much he couldn’t stand them, for the key, since it could be in them.

Like all mutants, he paid little head to nature. There was nothing personal in that, it was just that his experience of it, apart in the form of the ever-changing ice, a kind of solidified illusion, had been almost nil.

But he was a chimera, in the language of the proto-people – a procedural’s error in the laboratory recombination of his parents’ genes, an unforeseen retrogressive mutant in the strictly progressive mutation process of the Species, some unclear and inexplicable reversion in the continual forward progress of Second Mankind towards the perfection of individual self-sufficiency.

He was the firs scientist in the course of eons of people’s reconditioning against useful work and reflective thought – which was left to machines, programmed never to allow again a situation where the human hand, mind, will, any kind of human capability’s individual participation would ever be needed again – and from all other mutants, each more distant from each other and each more perfect in his different way, he too was different – but in an unheard of and dangerous respect:

he had been born with a flair, quite unknown to his contemporaries, for finding certain likenesses even in the greatest differences, and with a longing to bring them closer together, and that in an era of ideal separation, with other separate identities in order to re-establish a unified World from the deliberately dispersed particles of what had once been a Whole, a World once again capable of remembering and prepared to be continued, a World which would not permit of any Third Mankind and in whose innate lasting continuation nothing would begin again from the beginning.

The discovery that nature was part of a deep, if inexplicable, relationship with the people of the frozen New Jerusalem civilization - a community of man, rat and mole, was his incomplete but approximate model – led him to suppress his genetic revulsion towards everything not created by a robotic pseudo hand, invented by its pseudo mind, everything not artificial, and to overcome the principle that “life is a copy of a machine that works badly and man is an image of an imperfect robot”, and directed him towards a study of nature whenever he had the opportunity to come across it in any shape or size at all.

It happened, in fact, very rarely, but it did happen. It had happened now, when suddenly, instead of the expected grayness of a dead landscape, he had caught sight of the love field over which dandelions flaunted their yellow flowers.

It gleamed in the golden sunlight with golden glow, quite unaware of its striking ugliness. Like a deranged cripple, a veteran of a score of lost battles, and proud of his truncated stumps.
for 3rd part HERE

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