Friday, May 1, 2009
Of branches, Galileo, and overcoats
One my favorite pieces of literature. Not for those afflicted with ADD.
From: Die Geschichte von Herrn Sommer (The Story of Mr Sommer) by Patrick Süskind, translated to English by yours truly (I preserved the grammar, punctuation, style and the sentence structure — or what passes for it in this piece).
In the times when I still climbed trees — it was a long time ago, years and decades back, and I was barely above one meter tall, wore shoes of the twenty eighth size [my shoes are of the fortieth size — CA] and was so light that I could fly — no, I am not lying, I really could fly — or, at least, almost could fly, or let’s say it better: at that time it was certainly within my power to do so, if I were to very firmly desire it and try to do it, because... because I remember vividly how one day I almost flew, how it was in autumn, the same very year I started school and was returning on that day home, and the wind was so strong that I, without spreading my arms, could lean against it at the same angle as a skier, or even a larger angle, without fear of falling... and when I then ran against the wind, down the hill from the school mountain — for the school was on a small hill by the village — and slightly pushed away from the ground and spread my arms, the wind immediately caught me, and I could make without slightest effort jumps two-to-three meters high and ten-to-twenty meters long — or, perhaps, not quite so long and not quite so high, but what difference does it really make? — in any event, I was almost flying, and if only I unbuttoned my overcoat and took its tails in my hands and spread them out as wings, the wind would fully pick me up in the air, and I would with absolute ease glide down from the school mountain over the valley towards the forest, and then over the forest down to the lake, near which our house was standing, to the utter amazement of my father, my mother, my sister and my brother, who were already too old and too heavy to fly, then make an elegant turn over the garden only to glide back over the lake, almost reaching the opposite shore, and, finally, calmly coast back over the air and still be home in time for dinner.
But, I did not unbutton my overcoat and did not fly up in reality. Not because I was afraid to fly, but because I did not know how and where I would be able to land, and whether I really could land. The lawn in front of our house was too hard for landing, the garden was too small, the water in the lake was too cold. To lift off — that was no problem. But what about coming back down?
With climbing trees I had the same situation: climbing up was not problematic in the least way. I saw the branches in front of myself, I felt them in my hands and could test their hardness even before I lifted myself and then put my foot on them. But when I was climbing down, I did not see everything and was forced to find, more or less blindly, the branches below me, until I found a proper support — except, oftentimes, the support was not so firm, but rotten and slippery, and then I would slip or fall through, and if I did not have a chance to catch some branch with both hands, I would fall down as a stone does, according to the so-called laws of falling bodies, discovered already almost four hundred years ago by an Italian scientist Galileo but still acting even today. [...]