FOR CONJURING THE
FOR CONJURING THE
ILATELY, a friend has complained to me that his sleep is troubled by a recurrent nightmare, in which he lives through two entire lifetimes.
In the first, he is born a brilliant and beautiful heiress to an im- mense fortune. Her loving and eccentric father arranges that his daughter's birth shall be filmed, together with her every conscious moment thereafter, in color and sound. Eventually he leaves in trust a capital sum, the income from which guarantees that the record shall continue, during all her waking hours, for the rest of her life. Her own inheritance is made contingent upon agreement to this invasion of privacy, to which she is, in any case, accustomed from earliest infancy.
As a woman, my friend lives a long, active and passionate life. She travels the world, and even visits the moon, where, due to a mis- calculation, she gives birth to a normal female baby inside a lunar landing capsule. She marries, amid scores of erotic adventures, no fewer than three men: an Olympic decathlon medalist, a radio- astronomer, and, finally, the cameraman of the crew that follows her everywhere.
At twenty-eight, she is named a Nobel laureate for her pioneering research on the optical cortex of the mammalian brain; on her forty- sixth birthday, she is awarded a special joint citation by the Con- gress of the United States and the Central Committee of the Peoples' Republic of China, in recognition of her difficult role in mediating a treaty regulating the mineral exploitation of Antarctica. In her sixty- seventh year, she declines, on the advice of her lawyers, a mysterious offer from the decrepit Panchen Lama, whom she once met, as a very young woman, at a dinner given in honor of the Papal Nuncio by the Governor of Tennessee. In short, she so crowds her days with ex- perience of every kind that she never once pauses to view the films of her own expanding past.
In extreme old age - having survived all her own children - she makes a will, leaving her fortune to the first child to be born, follow- ing the instant of her own death, in the same city ... on the single condition that such child shall spend its whole life watching the accumulated films of her own. Shortly, thereafter, she dies, quietly, in her sleep.
In his dream, my friend experiences her death; and then, after a brief intermission, he discovers, to his outraged astonishment, that he is about to be reincarnated as her heir. He emerges from the womb to confront the filmed image of her birth. He receives a thorough but quaintly obsolete education from the films of her school days. As a chubby, asthmatic little boy, he learns (without ever leaving his chair) to dance, sit a horse, and play the viola. During his adolescence, wealthy young men fumble through the confusion of her clothing to caress his own unimagin- able breasts.
By the time he reaches maturity, he is totally sedentary and reclu- sive, monstrously obese (from subsisting on an exclusive diet of but- tered popcorn), decidedly homosexual by inclination (though mas- turbation is his only activity), hyperopic, pallid. He no longer speaks, except to shout "FOCUS!"
In middle age, his health begins to fail, and with it, imperceptibly, the memory of his previous life, so that he grows increasingly depend- ent upon the films to know what to do next. Eventually, his entire inheritance goes to keep him barely alive: for decades he receives an incessant trickle of intravenous medication, as the projector behind him turns and turns.
Finally, he has watched the last reel of film. That same night, after the show, he dies, quietly, in his sleep, unaware that he has com- pleted his task ... whereupon my friend wakens abruptly, to dis- cover himself alive, at home, in his own bed.
- "A pentagram for conjuring the narrative" (em 5 partes), Hollis Frampton em Circles of Confusion.