from Chinese Letter

Context N°19

by Svetislav Basara

There is no use beating around the bush. I have to face an unpleasant fact. I will soon die. I don’t know exactly when. Perhaps in an hour, perhaps in a day, a month, a year, or thirty years. In any case, it all comes down to the adverb “soon.” If that’s an adverb. Death is standing next to me, always ready, and I’m afraid. My life is nothing but a fear of death and finding the ways of making this fear less unbearable. And one more thing: my life is a constant digression from the subject. My job is not to die but to write. All right! I am writing! Actually I don’t have a life. I pretend that I live. I’m putting lots of effort and time into this pretending, and it—sucking up my strength—is speeding up my already ever-closer end, but more or less I’m satisfied with the fruits of my effort, since the result of it is a solid illusion of life, so solid that I’m almost palpable. But here lies one contradiction: Life is quite simple, but also horrible, and it all comes down to the pumping of the heart, kidneys, liver, breathing and incessant repetition of unpleasant questions: how’s all this possible? How did I come to be on this earth? What happens after death? I realize that I’m here only as a result of the function of the above-mentioned organs and to my asking the three questions, but I find it unbearable to always question myself about where I come from and to where I will disappear, because before and after death there is a great infinite unknown where there’s not even the slightest trace of my I. I simply dare not think about the function of vital organs in order to avoid ruining everything. All around me there are cancers, cirrhosis, tuberculosis, bacteria.

Billions of bacteria. It’s all a conspiracy to stop the functioning of my organs, to bring havoc into strained harmony. And then—goodbye my fragile I, my inflated greatness, my unproven existence. From time to time I have a feeling that the whole universe is very fragile, and it takes so little for everything to turn into nothing. I took refuge in my room, inside my five or six walls. It’s not much shelter. I built a fence around my hundred cubic meters of emptiness with thin walls made of even denser emptiness and this shelter of mine is actually my prison. Prison of my body that is a prison of my I. I can’t move out of either cell. Nor do I dare. I’m fooling myself with some unfounded hopes. Actually, I’m making plans for some vague future. But I repeat: I will die sooner or later and there is nothing I can do to prevent this.

Except hang myself.

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Translation by Ana Lucic
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