“Then what are you, my friend?” “Just a copy of a copy. A migrating soul.”

This is how the other book ends:

My writing is almost done: Vaublin shall live! If you call this life. He too was no more than a copy, of his own self. As I am, of mine.

No: no riddance.

So I left one book bearing the thought, not of art imitating life or vice versa, but of art imitating itself — auto-mimesis, two mirrors reflecting each other, sign without referrent, echoes without end; and I find myself here, back again at this idea, its double, its echo, in what I had thought was almost altogether a different kind of text.

All it takes, then, is two texts to create a labyrinth, false turns and mirrored passageways, the eerie sense of having been here before and not having taken half a step forward.

No more than a copy: in the first book then, the mouth of the maze, a copy is a forgery, a fake. There is horror there at what might be an empty core at the centre of all this noise and eloquence. A kind of giving up, a surrender. One recalls Munch’s screaming man, alone on a pier facing a sea that has melded with the sky, and the opening line from Borges: “Mirrors and copulation are abhominable, since they both multiply the numbers of men”.

Yet here, in this second book, there is no pretension: a copy is not so much a fake as it is hope of continuity; it is serious, real effort, it is service and pursuit. Copying allows the story to be told, and there is no pretence either, only necessity and endeavour. Every word copied is a step in the direction of the beloved, away from the false world of the book into the real, the place where she lives.

Why should two books, both equally obsessed with obsession, be caught up in a dialogue about mimicry and disappearance? Perhaps it is a sign of man’s fear, always there at the core of his being, that at the heart of it all is a search for something outside himself, that he alone is not enough for himself. And that the pursuit is for shadows only, that our ear both sensual and sensitive seeks out only the music that stirs us but cannot last.

 


 

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