Argiris Chionis: The joy of knowledge

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Argiris Chionis

 

The joy of knowledge

 

01-W-Century_Mag_Illuminated_W_BarbizonHEN THE FIRST PUZZLEMENT went away, he tried to understand what was happening. Despite the biting, intolerable pain he felt in the middle of his back, he strived to turn his head to see what that ferocious vice that was cutting his body in two was.

He kept losing and regaining his senses and kept trying, until eventually he stopped and remained still looking that strangely woven wire in front of him and that piece of cheese he so desired a while ago but now was looking at it indifferently and considered it distant.

       Time was passing and the vice was penetrating even deeper into his body, as his flesh and bones were surrendering slowly to its tight grip. He felt his entrails sticking together and he had the taste of vomit and blood in his mouth.

       He was losing and regaining his senses, but he was so tense, that even without having his senses, his eyes were impossible to close. He had his eyes open thus, looking in front of him (seeing and non-seeing interchangeably) the small yellow (or maybe green, red or blue or…) piece of cheese he so desired a while ago (a while?) and now was looking at it indifferently and considered it distant, very distant or… close, very close, so close he would think at times that it had entered his head and was growing, growing… pressing the walls of his skull, making them creak.

       He was trapped there, face to face with that piece of cheese growing and diminishing, going away and coming closer and in his tired mind started dawning shyly the thought that the strange piece of cheese, growing and diminishing, going away and coming closer, was an enemy that set him a trap.

       He was losing and regaining his senses, always keeping his eyes open, striving, in the bright intervals, to remember his past life, to put his thoughts in order and to find the root of evil, as if it was possible to open the vice that tightened its grip on his crushed body.

       He thought, first and foremost, what he did differently (the danger always lurks in the different thing, right?) that time than all the other times, the previous ones.

       He tried to remember all the details:

       How he waited to get dark…

       How he waited for those weird noises scaring him to stop

       How he emerged from the hole of…

       How he followed his smell…

       How… CRUNCH!

       Everything had happened as usual and only that terrible clatter and that vice, cutting now his body in half, were the unknown elements. These were the result, though.

       Aching more and more, with his eyes drier and the cheese growing and diminishing incessantly in front of them, losing and regaining his senses, thoughts he never had before came to him, because before he LIVED and that was, or at least it seemed to be simple and self-evident.

       For the first time, he started wondering why he was scared by the daylight, why was he trying to avoid it?

       He couldn’t understand though and he kept passing out.

       His agony lasted long.

       His tired mind kept revolving around the same thoughts, to no avail.

       Pinned there with his eyes open toward the piece of cheese incessantly growing and diminishing, with the vice wedged in his flesh, white darkness found him and it took the place of the black.

       The noises that once scared him (only in the past) were heard again and they came closer, until they stopped beside him. Then, a magnificent force lifted him high and unstuck the vice from his body.

       Right before he fell into the hot water, he understood. It was the first time in his life he understood something.

       He almost felt happy and if he wasn’t only a mouse he might smile.

 

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Source: From the short story collection Istories mias palias epohis pou den irthe akoma (Aigokeros editions, Athens, 1981).

Argiris Chionis (Athens, 1943-Throfari, Korinthia, 2011). Poetry, prose, translation. Lived and worked in Throfari, Korinthia. A collective edition of his poems is: I foni tis siopis. Poiimata1966-2000 (Nefeli editions, Athens, 2006). His last book: O,ti perigrafo me perigrafei. Poiisi Domatiou (Gavriilides editions, Athens, 2010).

Translated from the greek by

Vassilis Manoussakis (Athens, 1972). Poet, short-story writer, translator. He holds a Ph.D. in Con­tem­porary American Poetry. He currently teaches at the Hellenic American University in Athens.

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