The secret is not reached by the straight path, but by wandering

The secret is not reached by the straight path, but by wandering
The secret is not reached by the straight path, but by wandering

After "Unicat", "Inner Country of the Wind", "Last Love in Constantinople" and "The Other Body", in July 2012 the Bulgarian fans of the eccentric Serbian author Milorad Pavicwill enjoy his unique stories - a fusion of dreams, obsessive thoughts and daydreams, of fiction and historical truth - "Doors of sleep ".

The collection includes stories unfolded through images and themes typical of Pavic's style. At the same time, it is rich in fresh impressions, symbols and enigmatic flights of imagination, which teach us that "the secrets are not reached by the road, but by wandering, because the answers are not found at the end of the right path, but at the wrong path."

Milorad Pavic (1929-2009) is an acclaimed writer, poet and playwright with an original creative handwriting. Pavich is renowned as a writer of unconventional, interactive prose. When fame came to him and his works began to be published all over the world (they were translated into more than 80 languages), Pavic declared: "In short, I no longer have a biography. I only have a bibliography.”


One of the versions of the myth of the Argonauts tells that the ancient navigators, while saving themselves with the Golden Fleece from their pursuers, entered deep into the Danube (Ister) and at the mouth of the Sava, where Belgrade was later built, took in wrong direction. Instead of continuing down the great river, they swam down its tributary and continued up it. When they discovered the mistake, Jason calmly christened the Sava the Western Danube, reported that all was well, and continued sailing without admitting that the course was incorrect.

In 1492, an apprentice weaver from Genoa flew from the port of Palos to the vast Atlantic. On his head he wore a helmet, the shadow of which would later be remembered and imitated by millions of people, combing their hair in its shape for centuries. The man was looking for a shorter way to India, but when he landed on the unknown land, it became clear that this was not the country that he and his sailors expected, but a completely different land, later called America. After all, Columbus continued to consider the newly discovered land to be India, behaved as if everything was fine and continued his voyages without taking into account that the course was wrong. The five journeys exhausted him completely and he died in 1506, claiming until his last hour that he had discovered a new route to India… Similar things happened later. In the 20th century, with the help of incorrect calculations, a real Sun was discovered, whose radiance in the sky would never have been seen with accurate calculations…

These types of productive errors have always excited me. No wonder, because like many, I grew up with the wind map.

That's what it's all about.

Until recently, three books with clasps were kept in our family. They had reached us in the chest, where once in the summer time they kept the bacon, buried with corn kernels so that it would not spoil. All three books were left without keys. Two were unlocked, but the third could not be opened. We ordered a locksmith and one day my father brought home a little S-shaped jagged key and unlocked the book. It turned out to be the "Atlas of the Winds", a work long and often mentioned in our family, brought by the Buddha, where in the 18th century one of our ancestors lived, he undertook to write a Serbian history in Latin according to Kačić. The legend was preserved among us that the "Atlas of the Winds" was composed or copied by his hand, and then supplemented with various handwritings in Greek, Latin and Serbian until 1892. In the essay, special attention was paid to the winds in the Balkan region, the books used by the author were also described. The first map of the winds of the Balkan sky - the work claimed - was made by Odysseus and drawn on his ship's sail. This map, like countless others later, was lost, but new ones were constantly being compiled. The second atlas of the winds was made again in the far South, in Greece, sometime in the second century BC. With the help of this atlas, which has also disappeared, some unknown sculptor in Athens erected a century before our era the Tower of the Winds, taking upon himself the incredible task of carving on it all the winds that blow through Attica. On the frieze of his tower each of these winds was marked, depicted and explained by a separate inscription. The third wind map mentioned in the family manuscript was commissioned by a ruler. It was made by order of despot Stefan Lazarevic in the 15th century to track the movement of enemy vessels on the Danube, near the despot's capital, Belgrade, and the fourth map of the winds was made by one Peter Dimitrijevic, an illusionist who passed through all the winds on the Danube while foretelling Horus fortunes on an old silver coin and removing a hat with his third hand. In 1869, in the Grand Duke's Brewery in Belgrade, he announced his illusionist performance with a notice printed especially for the purpose. It was the work of the printing house housed on a ship in the Zemun harbor, and it promised visitors numerous illusionistic tricks, including a "Wonderful Map of the Winds," guaranteeing safe sailing, accurate location, and sure direction.

"You can't go wrong with the map of the winds!" - claimed Dimitrievich. Next to the announcement was a note: "After the performance, donuts will be fried and distributed to the esteemed audience." In each donut there will be a map of the winds, and in one of them - an imperial ducat. Whoever finds the ducat gets to keep it for himself.”

Along with the announcement, Dimitrievich also printed the Miraculous Map of the Winds, intended to be distributed in the donuts, but this very fact attracted the attention of the police in the principality. The copies of the map delivered by the ship were confiscated and destroyed together with the announcement, and the ship with the printer, accused of printing without permission papers of a military content, sailed up the Danube, making good use of a favorable wind, and, passing into Austrian territory, escaped from his pursuers.

At this point, the "Atlas of the Winds" interrupts the review of the previous maps and goes to the essence of its exposition - a catalog of the Balkan winds. They differ according to the direction from which they blow; according to the season and the year, for some blow for a ducat and others for a penny, and according to what they carry, for the same wind does not bring hail and birds' feathers. The games on Easter Day are described, when the children are divided into two groups and each supports and shouts for one of the two winds that compete that day in the sky, prayers against the different winds addressed to the saints or to the holy intercessors - the hierarchs, are also indicated. – who with their kind words can tame the devil in the air.

So such an atlas with 32 winds, half of which are diurnal and the other half nocturnal, was kept in our family for generations, and I remember that my father read it to us sometimes in the winter under the full moon - when (as he claimed) the meat of the table is most enjoyed, and the pocket is as empty as crabs at a new moon. All the winds were written on a card divided into 64 squares, of which the white ones represented the days of the month and the black its nights, while the last two squares were the 366th day and 366th night of the leap year, when the blessed winds blow.

Every time my father paid special attention to the last part of the atlas, where there was a recommendation to the readers how to avoid all dangers and not to follow the wrong wind in the wrong direction. For, judging by the manuscript of my ancestors, there were such dangerous winds in the Balkan sky that from their deadly games, picked up in the sky both day and night, it was difficult to escape alive from time to time. Therefore it was a great and important skill to master all the intricacies and pitfalls of the celestial changes, to study all their options, never to bet on a wrong card and win in the game of celestial chance, to harness the winds in your favor, or at least not to your harm. To always choose the right color that leads to profit and success, to avoid all wanderings and unknowns, never to lose the way where the Westerner and the Northerner meet, to reach the goal like that ducat in the donut - this was supreme wisdom and main task in life. The atlases of the winds helped man acquire this wisdom and cope with the difficult task. And our "Atlas of the Winds" - a manual of infallibility - fell into this type of book, and until recently I trusted it completely.

This year, the winter was shaping up to be frosty, the tongue in the mouth was waking up early, the fish was fattening, and the passers-by on Roosevelt Street, "stunned by the wind", were buying cemetery flowers. I was working by the window, the last one open before the cold. Notebooks and books were strewn across the floor of the room; the thick volumes were stacked upright, the thin books lay spread out on the carpet like tents. The thin-legged table paced restlessly around the room, startled by my steps, and laden like a draft horse with open and closed manuals, which I could recognize even with my eyes closed by the weight alone. There was no room for them on the shelves for a long time…

I was ending work that had lasted decades; it had stuck to me like a callus on the palm of my hand. As I neared the end of it, I no longer remembered the time when I had begun it, I finished it in another dwelling, none of the shirts with which I had written its first pages remained in the drawers, there were not so many teeth in my mouth, as many days as there are in the month. It was a voluminous work presenting the historical development of a centuries-old activity in the Balkans.

Unknown manuscripts and secret manuals transcribed in the ports of Jerusalem, excerpts from works brought from Paris and Bucharest, copies of documents of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from the Moscow Archive (classified and not publicly accessible), as well as materials from the Vatican (given to me by exception, as they belonged to the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith), secret reports of the spy services of the 18th century, in which facts of fateful importance to two or three empires of the time were commented on, reports on the smuggling of furs, on the purchase of Tokai wine or the supply of horses for the Russian royal stable, monastic protocols and charters from Athos in Greece or church records of monasteries and churches of both Christian religions in Dalmatia, voluminous confidential files of the Dubrovnik Republic from the 17th and 18th centuries - all this information for years was pouring into my handwriting. Everything was checked down to the smallest detail, every piece of information had its shadow or was someone's shadow, and these shadows were compared with their prototypes, subject to my firm resolution in the course of writing not to lose control of the vast material from the windy Balkans, where every name it has a tail, and each tail is sooner or later set on fire to reveal the tracks beneath it.

But I no longer loved this job as much as I did in the beginning. I was writing the last lines under the pressure of the numerous previous pages, and in the heavy manuscript, exhaustively documented and checked with two or three neighboring scientific fields, I was already attracted only by the color and smell of the old sheets, which reminded me of the time when I had long hair on my head. The days that remained behind me I now had to multiply by three, otherwise it felt as if everything had only happened yesterday, and the days ahead I could no longer foresee at all, to such an extent that time had closed in on me and retreated like a well. The work was drawing to a close, when my children (born at the beginning of it) were already grown up, and I felt that I had betrayed them for this manuscript, which now seemed to me as insignificant as a flea. I reflected on the fact that I and my peers had received everything ten years too late, I thought about the fact that it was only at the age of fifty that I discovered that all my life I had not known how to drink wine and had swallowed it with my mouth open, so to speak in vain. In vain - as it seemed to me now - I had also written my books: the last one, as well as the previous ten, which stood separately, in beautiful bindings, on a yellow shelf in my room. The short, dog-he althy autumn days were winding down and I sat at the table in the sun, which for the first time this year was beginning to bite, listening to the wind blow into the house.

Suddenly I heard in the room behind me a noise like the flapping of a bird. As he turned, something large and dark, quite heavy, flew out and flapped its wings into the sky. I approached the window and tried to make out what it could be, when something else flew over my head, even touching my hair. I saw everything that followed with my own eyes. One by one, the books from my library rose from the shelves of my room and flew out the window. They flapped in the wind like wings, so I had to step back so they wouldn't hit me with their spread pages. Crashing into the walls and window frames, hitting the panes and crashing into them, the books I had once written flew out, emptying the yellow bookshelf. The fastest ones were gaining height (among them I recognized our "Wind Atlas"), with a flock of migratory birds catching the wind high in the air, so that it was difficult to distinguish them from the swallows and wild geese that fly south at this time of year through the Belgrade sky.

I went out into the street keeping an eye on them, but all I could find was the occasional bare specimen, injured by the electric wires, rolling in the street ditches or on the roofs of cars. That was it.

I went back home and wanted to continue my work, but I could no longer check anything in my manuscript, I could not add anything with certainty, because I did not have the books and manuals. At the bottom of the shelves I saw the walls of my room for the first time, and I was glad of them. Because I finally knew whose dog was calling God's name. For a long time, all my life, I had walked the right roads, the proven paths, careful not to miss a single turn, calculated at which intersection to turn, just as my ancestors had taught me in the Atlas of the Winds. I wanted to know exactly where the fire was, what water I was treading, all my life I licked the soil and held it up to check where the wind was blowing, and I was always trying to find out what was the real name of the land I was walking on, so that I wouldn't take a wrong course and miss the goal I was headed for…

But now I already know: the secret is not reached by the road, but by wandering, it is found not at the end of the right path, but at the wrong path. Winds have their own shadows that show the face of the wind and blow in its direction. At least once I had to ignore the wind indicators, choose a course that everyone thought was wrong, decide to follow inaccurate calculations, and try an opportunity that the majority denied. I had to call Sava the West Danube at least once, even if it cost America not to bear my name…

Spring came to me with such thoughts and without books. She appeared one morning as if she had come out of the night, still bearing a winter name, and therefore we distrusted her, though the birds were returning. They sowed grass in the Belgrade yards and lined up dolls borrowed from the children to scare the sparrows. The southerly was blowing, the swallower of snow, when I came home one evening and felt somewhat strange in my room. I looked around and immediately noticed the change. All the shelves were full again. I wasn't particularly surprised, every single tooth aching, and I reluctantly walked over to the yellow shelf where I kept my own books. There they were: all ten of them, pale but unharmed. I picked one up, flipped through it, and put it back in its place. Then I quickly picked it up again. I thought I read something strange in her. I found the page I had looked at a while ago and found that my curiosity was not without reason. In the book which I had written myself, and over the printing of which I had personally watched, one sentence attracted my attention. It was plain, the plainest, and read:

One such example is the scribal prayer…

There was nothing strange about the sentence; it was typed like the others, it didn't break the page set, but it still struck me. I didn't write that sentence at all, it didn't belong in my book. On the contrary, its meaning so stood out from everything around it that it was clearly inserted there. I took a red pen and underlined the sentence intruder.

Then I pulled the armchair next to the lamp, put a coin in my mouth so I wouldn't fall asleep and started reading the book from the beginning. Around midnight I found one more, and then two more sentences that were extraneous and inserted into the text. I highlighted them too with the red pen and decided to go through all ten of my books. My eyes were closing, but I was reading, reading, and at dawn it occurred to me to use the alphabet. In it I found three names that were unknown to me and that I had never mentioned in any of my texts. This made my search easier. On the pages where the unknown names were listed, there were indeed intruder sentences. In the morning the hunt was coming to an end, a dozen representatives of the alien species were circled in red ink. Instead, my sentences disappeared from my books, but so that the text around them remained the same, and I fell asleep, amazed at the skill of the wordsmith, who managed to throw cuckoo eggs into my nest…

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