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TIME AND THE INSTANT
- On beings who read and remember rests the world

Around 1980 I started to write something which at that time I imagined would be in three volumes, and that 'something', twenty-five years afterwards, is made of four volumes and is not completed yet. In fact, I'm in the middle of writing the fifth part of that work and I have renounced making any sort of predictions on the subject. But, in any case, in the about 1800 pages published so far, certain connections should appear obvious. The Ruin of Kasch is not only a book on Talleyrand, if on page 3 one finds rita, the mysterious Vedic word which means both 'truth' and 'order'. And the whole section on sacrifice, which is the centre of The Ruin is based on ancient Indian texts. In some respects, Ka is more akin to The Ruin of Kasch than to The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony, though at a glance it shares with The Marriage the preponderance of mythological material. It can be said that each of the last two books occupies a place that was already prepared by the first one: The Marriage can be read as the stories of Far-li-mas, which are the hidden core of The Ruin. As for Ka, after all, it grows out from the epigraph of the Ruin, which tells how Indra cut off the mountains' wings. And the Vedic seers, who are the true interlocutors and witnesses of the Ruin, become the main characters in Ka.

Obviously all this wasn't clear to me while I was writing the Ruin. And it still wasn't all that clear while I was writing the Marriage and Ka.

If what I write should be regarded as 'fiction' or 'non fiction' is a question which has now been haunting me for years ' and to which the Library of Congress has wisely answered, cataloguing the Marriage as 'fiction'. As to Ka: a book which begins with the sentence 'Suddenly the sky was darkened by an eagle' can only be a narrative. And, in this case, a narrative of the oldest kind: that in which the characters appear in other people's works as well. A genre which is also called mythography. On the other hand, a novel, if definitions are to be given such great importance, could be regarded as a narrative with characters which appear only there, only once. Anna Karenina appears only in Anna Karenina (at least I hope, until someone doesn't come around with the idea of writing another novel with a feminist called Anna Karenina). And to the remark that Ka is full of reflections, analyses, theses, it's easy to answer that to stop and think is something inherent in the physiology of the very act of telling a story. Also because the first thought is the narration itself. The sharpest and most concise formulation of this can be read in Spinoza: 'Indeed ideas are nothing else but tales, or mental stories of nature.'

The whole of Ka is comprised within the instant between the closing and the opening again of Garuda's eye. And it's the instant in which Garuda reads the name Ka at the end of the 121st hymn of Book X of the Rig Veda. Garuda is the reader, the reader of Ka. As for the stories which are told: they start before the gods, millions of years ago, and they end with the Buddha, in the 6th century BC. When the risis, the seers, speak of the great hall of Varuna's palace, this happens in a time that can be far off in the past or in the future, but can also coincide with the present time of the reader. It's a time within which anachronism loses all meaning. For a seer may talk, at a given point, like a Western philologist, and at another point he may imply modern speculations. After all, the first duty of the Saptarsi, the Seven Seers abiding in the stars of the Great Bear, is that of being wakeful, watching what happens on earth. And the Great Bear is still watching us.

In everything India has a taste for being extreme. Where others begin with the gods, India starts long before the gods ' as if once we get to the gods, the true story, or at least its crucial part, had already come to an end. And what was there before the gods' First of all, that mysterious entity (mysterious to itself in the first place) which is Ka, the progenitor. And then the Waters, apah, the element within which everything happens ' and which are both matter and mind. Another mystery. And then the seers, the risis, who somehow come not only before the gods, but also before Prajapati himself, because they are the breaths, pranas, which combining together made up his body. This creates already a triangle of beings who have no parallel elsewhere.

As for the gods, they are almost the last actors to step on the stage. Better, let's say the second last. We are the last.

In creating, we know of no greater contrast than between Jahv' and Prajapati. Jahv' decided to create from something the nature of which has always been discussed: nothingness. Prajapati detached himself from a whole which was self-enclosed and compact, prior to creation, in order to disperse some of its elements which then became the world, into space. The former built on the basis of something which might have looked like a boundless world. The latter crumbled and shattered something that upto then had been perfectly solid and enclosed in itself. Because of this Prajapati was punished. Because of this, Rudra, the dark archer, thrust an arrow into his groin while Prajapati was penetrating his own Daughter, the Dawn. So: Jahv' punishes, Prajapati is punished. Creation (or rather, to use a world more congenial to India: manifestation) is a fault, the very first fault. And it's a 'godly' fault.

In the immense building of the Vedic sacrifice, we find at the very top, as the sacrifice which is thousands and thousands of times more effective than any other, the japayaj'a, that sacrifice which consists in reading: the one who performs it is motionless and silent, he destroys nothing. But in his mind resound the words of the Veda. That man is reading his own mind. He utters to himself the words that have been handed down to him. It's the archetype of the act of reading. The inexhaustible and minute prescriptions of the Vedic sacrifice have faded in the course of time. The meaning of certain ritual words has now become doubtful, certain objects can only be conjectured. But the sharp point has remained intact: reading. On a being who reads and silently remembers the words he has read, on a chain of such beings rests the world, even now, in silence.

A fascinating man about whom I know almost nothing: this is Captain Robert Melville Grindlay. In 1813 he was in Ellora and made some drawings of the reliefs in the temple of Siva. He greatly admired them and presented those pictures to his friend Lady Hood. Years after, Lady Hood, who had then become Mrs Stewart Mackenzie, handed them to the Royal Asiatic Society, which in 1830 published them in its Transactions, to show that 'the art of sculpture once existed in India in a state of perfection much higher than is generally supposed'. One of these drawings ' the dancing Siva Bhairava ' has been used for the cover of Ka, in the first Italian edition. Comparing the drawing by Grindlay with the relief in Ellora, as can now be seen by travellers, it's immediately clear that Grindlay has been very accurate, even though he hasn't been able to reproduce some of the qualities of the original, such as the prodigious energy conveyed by Siva's back. At the same time, Grindlay has restored certain features, worn and eaten away by time. Thus, in his drawing, Siva's face, badly damaged in the original, takes on Alexandrian traits. And also other details are integrated with a chimerical Western touch. At a certain point, writing Ka, I wondered if by any chance I wasn't doing myself something not so very dissimilar.

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