Now he knew
Posted February 13, 2007on:
This is how God sees the world, Pilâtre said.
He wanted to say something back, but he’d lost his voice. How fiercely the air was shaking them! And the sun–why was it so much brighter up here? His eyes hurt, but he couldn’t close them. And space itself: a straight line from every point to every other point, from this roof to this cloud, to the sun, and back to the roof. Points making lines, lines making planes, planes making bodies, and that wasn’t all. The fine curve of space was almost visible from here. He felt Pilâtre’s hand on his shoulder. Never go down again. Up and then up further, until there would be no earth beneath them any more. One day this is what people would experience. Everyone would fly then, as if it were quite normal, but by then he would be dead. He peered excitedly into the sun, the light was changing. Dusk seemed to be rising in the still-bright sky like fog. A last flame or two, red on the horizon, then no more sun, then stars. Things never happened this fast down there.
We’ve started to drop, said Pilâtre.
No, he begged, not yet! There was so many of them, more every moment. Each one a dying sun. Every one of them was decaying, and they were all following their own trajectories, and just as there were formulae for every planet that circled its own sun and every moon that circled its own planet, there was formula, certainly infinitely complicated, but then again maybe not, perhaps hiding behind its own simplicity, that described all these movements, every revolution of every individual body around every other; maybe all you had to do was keep looking. His eyes smarted. It felt as if he hadn’t blinked for a long time.
We’re about to land, said Pilâtre.
No, not yet! He rose on tiptoes, as if that could help, stared upward, and understood for the first time what movement was, what a body was, and most of all what space was, the space that they stretched between them, and that held them all, even him, even Pilâtre and this basket, in its embrace. Space that…
From “The Mathematician” by Daniel Kehlmann, translated by Carol Brown Janeway
It does not say in The Paris Review but I almost sure that “The Mathematician” was excerpted from Meausring the World, Kehlmann‘s first novel to be translated in English. I want it, I want it, I want it, I want it.