The Manuscripts

One manuscript turned up in a desert well. Although the language was scriptural, and could have been classified as philosophy or wisdom literature, the text was a long vulgate poem of lectures about harvests and departures, addressing all of the great questions of the soul. The second manuscript was found buried along the great highway. It was clear that the second manuscript was an imitation of the first. It suffered from poor grammar and pointless meditations, but the fictional framework of this second text was just as intriguing and appealing: the discourse of a stranger in a city on the verge of destruction. Ashes are more appetizing than grain, as the ancient proverb says. The man who found the manuscripts read both again and again over the course of the day, in the empty fields of scattered trees. The man came to know the texts well, the sources of their genius, the unrealized heights of expression possible, the unreached horizons of thought and dream that had been left behind. It were as though the very minimal and mediocre seeds of these texts suggested an invisible and imaginary harvest somewhere else, in some other unwritten text. It was clear that both texts were imitations of earlier works, in a tradition that saw the fading of form and depth with each successive edition, but perhaps they were not. Perhaps every text is the same as another, a futile attempt of one person to become an author, to become a text, in a time when all authors are already dead, when all souls are as readable or as burnable as texts, when all texts are as stable as the papyrus that turns to dust in fresh air and bright sun. To write is to die, and to live. Returning to his home, the man began to pen his own manuscript, to stretch for the landscapes missing from the other texts. It occured to him that he was a mere copyist, but it became unclear as to who or what he would be copying–the first manuscript, the second manuscript, their unknown sources, or the imaginary texts they had failed to write? The man wrote his own manuscript anyway. It was a text of winters, departures, and long abandoned cities. An assassin was the main speaker. There was almost nobody worthwhile there to listen. The assassin’s discourse would be the itinerary of a soul addressed to stray cats, thieves, and the thirty-two winds. They would ask and he would answer. Or perhaps he would ask and they would answer. Someone would say, Speak of confession, of contagion, of deterioration, of migration, of depression, of contemplation, of ingression, of resurrection, of origination, of convolution, of radiation.

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