Breviary (1967-1988)

excerpt The sweet-watered Danube plunges into the salt-watered sea with a sluggish sort of rage soon to be changed into tranquil candor – the grand finale of a classic novel. Fabulous, resplendent, etc., the Delta comes across at times as a sheer waste of waters, an exercise in squandering, drowsiness, fatigue. Stagnant, it is. And lo, the running water summons up once again the mysterious energy setting it in motion. Past Sulina, as we advance seawards and the familiar world of the Delta is gradually submerged under the waters, it dawns upon me that what had appeared to be an act of surrender is in actual fact a form of will. Had some enchantment come to disperse the river into an illusory paradise thus depriving it of its vigor? Could it be that what was meant to move and advance had come to move in circles and languish? Have verbs become dysfunctional? Were nouns simply rotting away among water lilies and swans and in the huge pouches underneath the pelicans' bills? I'm standing at the prow. The speedboat slashes through the water, laser-like. There's no hint of error… a childhood thought surfaces from the days I was reading Jules Verne and wholeheartedly sided with the "heroes". The Sulina lighthouse, the first one, the nostalgic tower next to the old, beautiful, forlorn building of the "Danube Commission", is now far behind. The other lighthouse, more recent, is just sliding past. The third lighthouse, last of the lot, is right ahead of me. Now, as I write, I'm unable to remember what they really look like. A white-grayish flicker. Vanishing upwards. Foaming wave crests break upon the narrow deck. Is that still the Danube? Could it be the Black Sea? I grip the steel rails with both hands. Filtered light, November sun. Freezing cold. The wind is lashing mercilessly. The water is greenish, turbid, ashen, now almost clear, now muddy as can be. Another sensation surfacing from childhood when, after many trials and tears, I succeeded in clinging to the back of a galloping horse and enjoyed the whole thing – the feeling that I was mastering the beast. In like manner, I'm slicing through the high waves, riding on the highest place on the foredeck... now the water is calm for a change. Have we already left the narrow floating islets behind? Are we past the "threshold" already? I do my best to feel as much as I possibly can. I open the throttles all the way… The inexorable summons of space, inebriating horizon, the void claiming me… The lighthouse, to be sure, has changed its position. It recedes in the distance. Just a second ago it was rushing at me. Right turn? Left turn? U turn? I turn my head. I see the pilot's face, his head chiseled in stone. It's a character out of Joseph Conrad. Yet which one, exactly? excerpted from Gulliver în ţara nimănui (Gulliver in No Man's Land), Cartea Românească, 1994

by George Balăiţă (b. 1935)