A Standard Introduction to Lectures

First published in English in Gagarin 1, no.1, pp. 3-4


I would like to begin with a story, or, perhaps, with a fictitious encounter between the man that I am now, in this late summer afternoon, and the man that I am not yet, but will be when I read aloud these very same words. I have stopped and I have looked to the top of the page. I have scratched a line. I rewrite: I will begin with a story. An encounter between the man who is now sitting at this table, writing, waiting, listening to Schumann on the radio, and the man who will read these lines aloud.

I know that both of them will have an encounter, not fortuitous, but certainly brief, in two weeks time, in the same room where I will be reading this lecture. Now, seated here behind my desk, I want to imagine that room. The room where I will pronounce these very same words. Where I will hear my own voice, reading aloud the lines that I am writing now.
Certainly I will make mistakes, but departing from this subtle fact, I begin to write …to speak.

Allow me to imagine this room.

A rectangular room, spacious, extended towards the back, with various narrow windows. Various rows of chairs, arranged with military precision. Just in front of me, there, where I will be standing, is a wide wooden table. With a microphone atop, always uncomfortable. Maybe the walls are white and the ceiling is delicately covered with tiny filigree. And that very table where I will read these lines, perhaps will have rounded edges, like my table. And nevertheless, sitting here, I know that I will not succeed in imagining the arabesque of the ceiling, the color of these walls. If the door is to the right or at the back. If it is open or closed. This room does not yet exist in my mind.

I have stopped writing. Today is today. I have looked out of the window. To the branches of the poplars.

In front of me. To the table where I am writing now. Where I can also hear my voice, but differently, dwelling inside itself, muted, still. Just in front of me, simply framed, there is an early print of the Guarana River designed by Yago Levinas around 1550. There, where the Guarana finds the Ocean, there are tiny sailboats strolling indifferently along the Seadragon. The river sides are covered with exotic plants and the trees, meticulously drawn, are covered with schematic clouds that indicate the direction of the winds. Every time I get bored, or lose myself in thought, I look at that river and follow it, from its beginning to its mouth emptying into the Ocean.

I remember having read in one of this books that Robert Louis Stevenson, who was capable of imagining Treasure Island while he was sitting in front of a child’s cartography, that in the room where a writer works, there should always be one table covered with maps, plans, and travel books. A second table where he writes, and a third one that should always remain empty.

If the last will of all metaphors is to establish an analogy, draw a resemblance, reproduce in the mirror of words a similarity that allows one to forget that the image is only an image, then it would be possible to state that each of those three tables has an analogy beyond itself. Let me explain myself. The second table that Stevenson mentions: a table of Work, this is right now. The room where I write. Where I narrate and contradict myself. Where I attend to the mechanisms of creation, like a witness. The third table: the empty table, then, would be where I will speak in two weeks. An empty room that today does not exist as yet. Both tables, both rooms exist in an identical space and at the save time distant from one another. The last of the three tables is the first that Stevenson mentions. The one that is covered with topographical plans, with maps, with travel books. A table that in a certain way is a metaphor of itself. In chess terminology, it would be like a castling position. A table that is a stage constructed solely for disappearing. As if it were a magic trick. A disappearing act. He who sits there, is no longer there.

This table covered with maps, then, would be, in this play of analogies, the theme of this lecture: “The space between the man than I am, and the one that I am not yet.”