Saturday, August 11, 2007

Death at Golgotha-6th part

Novel published in Serbian as “Smrt na Golgoti”, Prosveta 1965, © Borislav Pekic, English translation © by Lovett F. Edwards

for the 1st part HERE

“Then he’d better hurry,” said the Bear in a bad mood, “he will kick off before he gets there. He is just barely hanging.”

This was the whole truth, he thought, I am barely hanging. I am hanging only out of spite. To spite my neighbors in death, to spite the soldiers who would rather go to the tavern, to spite those crying women in the bushes, to spite the gang who like a rotten product at the bottom of Jerusalem’s wall are waiting for me to expire, to spite my treacherous and deceptive God.Gauguin.Christ-jaune”We have been sentenced just like him, but for evil we have done,” said Zachary, “but he hasn’t done anything bad.”

And the Bear replied:

“I robbed five merchants, that is true, but I wish it had been six of them, since I would have succeeded, if the sixth, let his feet be damned, didn’t escape and brought the guards. You just had fun with your mother, Zachary! But this bastard here? He wanted to steal from all men and sleep with all women. He aimed high: to became related with the gods. Let him carry now his own cross!

“This isn’t my cross,” he said as if to apologies.

“Then get down from it, Son of God!”

“I am not the Son of God,” he repeated on apathetically. And I never did, he thought, done any evil except now and then I was unfaithful to Temna with a servant, and in my spare time I read the Ionian philosophers, but it appeared I was stupid, and that’s an evil for which I deserve the cross.

He no longer felt any pain; it had died away on his skin like a faint itch, and he no longer groaned, vomited or ground his teeth, but with his dying eyes he examined a tremendous storm which was gathering. And when the earth quaked for the first time, lightly as if shivering in the frost, he thought without conviction it were the footsteps of his God who is hurrying to help him.

The brilliant shadow of a star melted on the helmet of a guard who pricked him with a knife to check if he was still alive. In the smoke of the torches his face looked like an open wound.

From the Mount of Olives came the death rattle of the forest. In the black ball in the centre of which rose the place of execution with three bristling crucifixes, everything was suddenly clear: the black outlines of Jerusalem, the black trunk of the Judean hills, the black robe of heaven torn by lightning, the Romans on the black sand, and in the midst of it all, the three white suffocating smoke of the torches, stuck in the black rock at the foot of the crosses.

Everything was clearer to him now, but he whispered anyway, for the sake of appearances:

“Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani!”

“Don’t lament,” said the Bear kindly, “get down from the cross if you are the Son of God, come on jump from the cross, Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews!”

He bent his head towards the bandit, whose face was fuming in the reflection of the torch, and spoke in a wearily:

“I am not Jesus of Nazareth, you Philistine ox, and I am no king. Can’t you tell God from man, the teacher from the disciple, the emperor from his subject, the intelligent man from a fool? I am Simon of Cyrene.”

And he added, calling the Roman captain:

“I was on my way back from the fields when the Messiah met me, when they were taking him to the damned place. I, Simon the Cyrenian, was greedy for the new kingdom and kneeling I begged to carry his cross, to ease his burden and to take advantage of this last chance save my soul. He didn’t refuse, since he never refused those in misfortune.

So I took up his cross and while I was hauling it, praising his name and singing about his kingdom, the Son of God vanished in the crowd. Your blind Roman soldiers didn’t see anything. Drunk from brandy, crucified me instead of Christ,” and spitting on the captain’s helmet finished his confession with this words:

“Here, I deliver my secret into your hands, captain!”

O bright sun, - he thought lucidly, all of a sudden, and so knew he was dying – here on Golgotha there has been a glorious misunderstanding between heaven and earth. You are a burdened worm, Simon, but a worm which through its suffering will drag the whole world by the nose.

Wasn’t it written that the world would be saved? For that to happen, it was essential that Joshua, son of Joseph, and not Simon, son of Eliezer, die as a martyr on the cross to redeem the sins: not the Cyrenian but the Nazarene.

So everything has been in vain: miracles, prophets, parables, sacrifices, deprivations. The world was not saved; the original sin wasn’t washed away.

Simon maliciously thought of the men who would live according to that error, with that illusion which he, though unintentionally weaved by his death rattle. How can man replace God, and can one put a bug as a sacrifice instead of a bull, weed instead of wheat, rainwater in place of oil? – and he felt he would like to push all in their faces: robber, guards, Christ’s proud mother who at this moment ceased to be the Virgin, Christ who at this moment ceased to be the God-man, Jerusalem, Israel and the whole universe:

“You aren’t saved! You aren’t saved! You aren’t saved!

But in that effort he died, and as he breathed his last, he didn’t know whether the storm had already begun or the Philistine Bear was mocking him.

And the truth was both.

As they took Simon the Cyrenian down from the cross, the captain said whilst shacking:

“Really this was a righteous man,” and fearing lest the procurator of Judea, sensitive to the truth, might punish him because he had killed an innocent man and let a guilty one go free, he had a herald announce that Jesus, known as Christ, had breathed his last.

On Sunday, Christ appeared to Mary Cleophas – certainly not, as is thought, to Mary Magdalene – and after confirming his teaching in the hearts of Simon Peter, of Thomas, who was unfaithful and in all the hearts of his other disciples, and after issuing detailed instructions for spreading the true faith and the gospel of the kingdom of heaven, fled into the distant Pontic lands.

And nothing more was heard of him for a long time.

for the 1st part HERE


Leverquin said...

Baš mi je neobično da čitam Pekića na Engleskom jeziku. I to Vreme čuda.Gospođo Pekić, koliko je Vaš pokojni muž bio čitan u Engleskoj?
Zapravo, mene mnogo zanima Pekićev život, i uvek se zapitam što nisam rođen ranije, jer bih ga rado intevjuisao. Doduše verovatno bih bio zbunjen, jer ne bih znao odakle da počnem.
Godine kada je Borislav Pekić preminuo,ja sam imao samo četiri godine.
Toliko mnogo pitanja imam.


(published by Ljiljana Pekić) said...

Dragi Leverquin,
Milo mi je da čitate Pekića i da Vam se dopada. Knjiga VREME ČUDA je štampana u Americi i dobila je dobre kritike. A koliko je čitan u inostranstvu to se svarno ne zna. Znam da je priča (iz NOVOG JERUSALIMA) ČOVEK KOJI JE JEO SMRT bila u Francuskoj jedne godine bila proglašena za najbolju prevedenu knjigu.
Iduće godine će verovatno biti štampani Pekićevi Dnevnici, pa ćete možda naći neke odgovore koje tražite. Pored toga biće štampana i knjiga intervjua sa njim.
Srdačno Vas pozdravljam.