A Chemical Wedding

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A Chemical Wedding

Dear Dimitrie,

At last. You probably didn’t expect me to write to you immediately after I left, but you can’t have thought I’d keep quiet so long. Lots of unexpected things have happened, and each day they stopped me from writing. I had to wait a fortnight at the Kakovo monastery (near Jerisos), which is attached to Chilandari, before I could enter Mount Athos. When I got here, I waited for twenty-five whole days to be given a ‘white card’ which would let me stay at Athos for a year, to learn Greek. Whit that card I can move around freely, and go in and out without restriction. This card would also save me from getting one visa at the Greek consulate in Skopje and another from Ministry for Northern Greece in Thessaloniki, in order to go to Mount Athos. The most difficult part, getting an identity card from Epistasia, the Holy Community of Mount Athos, has ended in success, which is much more that I expected. Now my acceptance on Athos by the Epistasia should be confirmed and legalised by the police in the department for foreigners. Finally, after all these things I’m just sketching to you, I became a legal citizen of Mount Athos. So much for this first report, I have to go to morning service.

Stefan

Dear Stefan,

I’m glad you wrote to me. Let me tell you first that we think and talk about you every day. After you left, I got a glossy booklet about Mount Athos from a friend, whit beautiful photographs and maps. Some evenings, when I look through it, I imagine you there in various situations. I look at the maps, trace a route whit my finger, I follow something, some invisible threads, I see a monk painting an icon or some of them making the evening meal. I resume you’re OK there. Here’s some news. Lazar is in Paris, maybe he’s written to you from there? We’re planning an exhibition in the Gallery in August. There’s been an interesting issue of the magazine Culture, I’ve bought a copy for you. I’m trying to write a long work, about how to get to the place we spend our lives looking for. Of course, everyone does it in different ways, there are few who find it. Maybe it’s the search that matters.

Dimitrie

Dear Dimitrie,

I’m surrounded by beauty, peace and spiritual contemplation. The air of mysticism is intensified by the traditional splendour of the vestments and gold-flecked chitons, which fit in perfectly whit the ascetic faces of the mystagogues. The atmosphere of the Protaton, the Byzantine church, which is ornamented whit the unearthly beauty of the 13th century Panselin frescos and icons, reaches its apotheosis in the angelic singing of the greatest precentor of Mount Athos, Father Dionysius.
He exalts us like a prophet, along the vertical of the theocentric dimension, without losing complete realism of the antrophocentric horizontal dimension.
Those are moments of historical time transformed into the aeon of perpetual light of the Eighth Day. Then we feel united whit the Christians from the first centuries, who thought of themselves as citizens of the Heavenly Jerusalem, living physically in the universe.
Besides the duties I’m assigned by the head of the monastery, I’m learning Greek every day from a monk who as a layman used to be doctor. Now I’ll tell you something interesting. While I was rummaging among some old books, manuscripts and all sorts of things in the monastery library, where I’m free to spend my time, I came across a really interesting notebook, something like a novel but not one, maybe a biography or something of the kind. I wouldn’t be able to write to you about it, perhaps I’ll manage to photocopy the text and sent it to you.

Stefan

Dear Stefan,

I can see from your letter that you’re having a good time. That’s what you wanted, isn’t it? I envy you looking through the monastery libraries. Who knows what’s in there, what secret they hide? The book I’m writing is giving me headaches, I can hardly cope whit it. I think I know what I want, but I simply can’t put it down on paper. Some news: Jerotić’s book Gifts from our Relatives, or something like that, has come out, but I haven’t got it yet. Write to me about your discovery.

Dimitrie

Dear Dimitrie,

There are some difficulties about photocopying the text. It can be done in Thessalloniki, but I haven’t the time or the opportunity. One of the monks, the librarian, told me that the manuscript wasn’t written by a monk, they don’t know how it came here. There are lots of manuscripts in the library whose origin is unknown. The text begins, ‘Who am I’, and you must admit it’s not very original, there are plenty of works on this topic. The author writes about some dilemmas of his, about the identity of his hero, that is, himself, because it’s written in the first person. It’s a mixture of essay, travelogue, biographical details and epistolary prose. The letters were written to someone whit the same name as me – Stefan. I think if the author had been more critical, he could have made some interesting prose out of it. But who’s the author? Nowhere does it mention his name or anything that this would reveal his identity. Nobody knows how this manuscript got here. Some books and manuscripts take strange paths. I remember the case of L. S.’s manuscript of Rubbish Heap, which is completely lost, or M. R.’s book Without Measure with your drawing, which was seen in Kisić’s library, and nobody knows how it got there. I hope you’ll write to me soon.

Stefan

Dear Stefan,

I’m awfully sorry I didn’t answer you last letter immediately. Suddenly, to my surprise, work on the book I wrote to you about started going so well that I had to simply write. I felt like a medium, as if someone was dictating to me, it went so easily. I took two weeks off work in order to devote myself to the book. Pretty soon, Tuesday to be precise, my holiday ends and I don’t think I’ll have finished it, because it keeps growing. I must say I’m pleased with that I’ve written so far. I’ve really valued the letters you’ve sent me up to now, thank you for your sentence ‘Who am I’, from the manuscript you found in the library. I think it’s the beginning of everything.

Dimitrie

Dear Dimitrie,

I haven’t got time to write you a long letter, only a few words. Something strange is happening here. I wrote to you about the manuscript I found in the monastery library. It’s about that. The last time I had it in my hands (about a month ago) it was perfectly all right. That’s when I mentioned it to you. After I’d got your letter, I went to the library to get the manuscript, intending to write to you about it in detail. You can imagine how surprised I was when I opened the notebook and began leafing through it. There was no trace of writing until halfway through. As if there never had been, or someone had erased it with a chemical. But only half of it, notice. The other half is here, the same text I read and which ends with the words of Pliny the Elder, "To live is not necessary; it is necessary to float’. I asked the librarian if anyone else was interested in the manuscript, but he said I was the only one. I don’t know what to think, but I can see something odd is happening. Tell me what you think.

Stefan

Dear Stefan,

You write about really strange things. It’s so bizarre that some writing you’ve read should disappear without trace. But if you claim that’s happened, I’ve got no reason to doubt it. Sometimes things happen which we can’t explain with the key of logic, because they’re in the realm of the irrational. You know that better than I do. I’ve got some news for you which will make you happy. I’ve finished the book at last. I only have to revise it. I hope I find a publisher. When you come I’d like to read it and give me your opinion. While I’m on the subject of the manuscript, I finished it with the words of Pliny the Elder, ‘To live is not necessary; it is necessary to float.’

Dimitrie

Dear Dimitrie,

The writing in the notebook has disappeared. It doesn’t exist any more. But I wonder if I’d right to say that. I think I know that’s happened.

Stefan
December 1984
Athos

Translated by: Milena Mitrovska and Michael Black

AuthorDimitrie Duracovski
2018-08-21T17:24:03+00:00 August 1st, 1998|Categories: Prose, Literature, Blesok no. 04|0 Comments