But that was not all. No, that was not all. If the typewriter were to be smashed when he fell, then the entire idea he was carrying within him would also be destroyed, because it was now inseparably bound to the typewriter. Something has to happen, something has to happen, he repeated, But, strange to say, he had already covered a good deal of the way, and nothing had happened, despite the fact that thousands of possibilities had already arisen in the emptiness, that vacancy which was as barren and deserted as the world on the first day, where any signs of motion, any movement whatsoever, could become a primal event. No, nothing had happened yet, although he still expected the inevitable. He was still in one piece. Perhaps, after all, nothing had to happen. No, no (how naive of him), something hat to happen and that… oh, no! right at the next crossing. Yes, now at last something had to happen, since a road cut right across his path and since there was no other choice, no detour he could make, no way in which he could avoid it. He clasped the typewriter under his arm so that he could be as close to it as possible when the inevitable fall occurred.
He looked up the street to street to see if any cars were coming. But what would happen if no cars came? What was about to happen could easily happen even if no cars appeared. He was, however, distinctly more assured when he gained the opposite pathway. Was not his luck remarkable, so great that it could save him from any catastrophe, despite the dangers lurking at every step? He was now confident that even if someone had been plotting mischief against him, his luck would see him through-that is, he, his idea, and his typewriter would come through intact and unchanged. After all, the fact that he had already covered so much of the way without mishap and was now standing in front of his own home surely indicated clearly that luck was on his side. Now his happiness would really be pure-now, when he opened the door, climbed the stairs, and locked himself in his room, where he would finally be alone and safe.
Just as he was opening the door, there was a creak. Something had to happen; something had to happen. Suddenly it dawned on him that the very fact that nothing had happened to him the whole way proved more firmly and conclusively than anything else that something would, after all, happen. He felt a voice repeating inside him, a voice he knew was true. Yes, something really will happen to you, and it will be far worse than you expect. So, he thought, it has to be. All right, but when? Where? He closed the door. Down here or up in his room? He climbed carefully up the stairs. Perhaps in his room. He went inside.
Surely there couldn’t be anything wrong with the typewriter. He tried to open the case, but the key only clicked loosely. The case remained locked. No, no, surely not. He tried turning the key again, left, right, but as he turned it in the lock there was no resistance. So, it was the typewriter after all. The case could not be opened. Could anything be more bitterly ironic? There he was at last in his room, alone, with the only typewriter that answered his needs, and this wretched case (which he could have smashed to bits in a few minutes) was standing between them. The case was of no value in itself, and yet he was obliged to handle it with care to avoid damaging anything inside, to avoid damaging the typewriter itself.
Suddenly, however, there was a click, and the case opened, as though it had never had any intention of remaining perpetually closed. It had been opened by one of those involuntary movements without which we would long since have ceased to exist. His hand, quite unwittingly, had pressed the button which he had taken for a mere decoration. It seemed, then, that this was not the accident that had been destined to occur, since the typewriter was now open and ready for writing. What had not happened earlier was now of no importance to him. He sat down, settled himself in his chair, drew from the drawer a white sheet of paper, rolled it into the carriage, and held his fingers ready to strike the keyboard.
What now? Well, go on, start from the beginning! What beginning? Well, from the starting point. Look, I know that your concept and your idea are quite complete, that is, there’s no beginning and no end, but in order to set them down on this piece of paper you have to begin to develop them somehow. Come on now, you must begin somehow, you can’t type it out simultaneously. It doesn’t matter how you start, just start! All right… he pressed down one key, but it made no impression on the paper. Then he remembered that they had told him to hit the keys, not press them. Very well, then, he was going to hit them. So… O – clack, N – clack, E – clack, N – clack, I – clack, G – clack, H – clack, T – clack, I – clack, N – clack, A – clack, P – clack, R – clack, I – clack, L – clack…
Hold on, hold on, something seems to have gone wrong; there’s something else setting up a disturbance between the idea and the typewriter, and it gets bigger every time I hit the key. Look, it’s already quite big, and it’s present throughout the room. I can feel its damp touch on my face. Some third thing has come into this room. He began to strain after his idea, but he felt it slipping further and further away from him. Those marks he had made on the paper, onenightinapril, meant nothing together, and when he HIT the keys-oh, he wished all this typing could be done without any NOISE. To make matters worse, somebody might HEAR what he was typing.
It was clear to him that he could not continue like this. Every tap on the keys troubled him more; in the end the noise might become so great that he would be forced outside. It was a good thing, after all, that he had stopped typing in time.
This, then, was what was to happen. He cursed his luck. He had everything he needed to set his ideas down: an open typewriter, paper, fingers. But he could not possibly have foreseen that in the very process of transforming his thoughts into words he would have to put up with this infernal slathering, which was so loud that it was driving him to distraction. Now the machine itself lost its importance, not because he had ceased to be fond of it nor because he wanted to hurl it through the window or smash it to bits. No, far from it, his affection toward it was still warm; he had spent far too much time finding it to begin finding fault now. But the typewriter, although it was in no way to blame, had simply lost its significance and had been reduced to the level of many other things that were also in some unfortunate way connected with his idea. There were the things such as the buttons and pockets already mentioned. Now he would have to look after the typewriter, and to feed it.
It could not feed him.
He was, nevertheless, far from beaten. In the end, it was a good thing that the inevitable had happened, had taken a form (or a sound) so he could now recognize it. It simply meant that his mind was not properly equipped to withstand the clattering of this machine. This did not necessarily imply that he would be unable to endure when he found himself confronted with a primitive sound, which would certainly be produced by any other form of typing or writing-but with an ordinary pencil? Oh, why did he not think of this before? That was the answer-a pencil! He immediately began to rummage through its drawer. He wasn’t going to write in ink; he thrust aside the pens. Oh, Lord, how could I write with a pen when I knew it is not the whole pen, nib, barrel, and top that does the writing, but only a thin thread of ink flowing out at the end. The same goes for mechanical pencils with their flimsy bits of lead that either fall out or break. No, no, I can’t possibly write with them, only with a proper wooden pencil. He finally drew out a wooden pencil, strong lead firmly fixed from one end to the other, a pencil he could hold firmly between his fingers, a pencil that could not possibly break.
Then he look another sheet of paper and began to write: one night in April a solitary lamp was burning… what was the matter this time? Could he not even stand the sound of a pencil scratching? At every sh-shh he gave a nervous start, like a sparrow. Wait, let’s see what I’ve written. Ugh, nothing. What did I want, what’s this meant to be? What if… etc. He was deeply destressed. Even the whiteness of the paper disturbed him, not so much because of the color – that could be easily changed – to yellow, for example – but because of the emptiness of the sheet.
It now seemed pointless for him to continue, since whenever he undertook the transmission of inner thought into outer reality the undertaking always produced some byproduct, something independent of him that he simply could not tolerate. It seemed incredible, but what had already happened was foredoomed. He was destined for silence.
Translated by Alan McConnell