Prefaces to a New Translation of the Gospel of John

Note: The following is a rough draft of two prefaces, addressed to the layperson and the scholar, to James David Audlin’s translation-in-progress of the Gospel of John. Comments are welcome!

Immediately below readers will find in draft three sections of the introduction to the same work.

It is hoped that those interested in the historical Jesus and in the origins of the New Testament will find it interesting.

See also a previous blog, below, To Inhabit and Possess: Revolutionary Bible Translation.

Preface to the Layperson


I fervently hope that the readers of this work will include not only the specialists, those versed in New Testament studies, as well as Christian clergy who remember a smattering of their exegetical studies from seminary, but also intelligent, curious readers who have not had any such formal training.

These lay people may decide not to read the introduction and notes. Although I have done my best in the introduction and notes to explain technical terms and to provide translations of words and phrases in Biblical languages, I fully realize that those parts of this book will be tough going for people without specialized training. Therefore, some of these lay readers may decide not to read any more than the restored translation of the Gospel of John itself – obviously the most interesting part of this book – and ignore all the rest. If they do, that’s fine with me. I have striven to provide a translated text of the Gospel of John that is clear in meaning and of a poetic diction that should be enjoyable to read. Still, I hope that the effort put into reading the material before and after the translation itself will be eventually rewarding.

I further realize that some people will be threatened by the objectives of this translation. They may wonder why I should want not merely to change, but to muck about in a wholesale manner with the revealed Word of God, when what we have in any copy of the Bible is good enough. They may feel that every word of the Bible was inspired by God, and written down by devout prophets and saints of considerable spiritual stature, and thus feel offended and threatened by my suggestion that this gospel as we have it today – and therefore by implication other Biblical texts – was shaped, indeed battered about, by very secular forces: intense theological debate, and motives founded in desire for worldly power. They may reject my suggestion that Jesus’s most intimate disciples conceived of him not as God made flesh, not as the Only Son of God, the Savior of the World, but as God’s appointed messenger to the Jewish people. They may be offended by my suggestion that Jesus had a wife and a child.

William L. Holladay, one of my professors at Andover Newton Theological School in the mid-1970s, was beautifully sensitive to feelings like this, and I cannot hope to express in written word what he said with much heart in the classroom. He always began his introductory Old Testament course by encouraging the students to cherish each their particular shape of faith, and remain open to the possibility that these explorations of the history of how Biblical texts came to be properly will not threaten, but actually deepen their faith.

In the same way I hope with this translation to provide the curious layperson (Christian and otherwise) the opportunity to come as close as is possible today to what an eyewitness to Jesus, someone was clearly his close relation, actually heard and saw while Jesus was walking this earth. And I hope that this layperson will be able to see how fragile this kerygma (the central message as proclaimed in preaching and writing) of Jesus was, inasmuch as the New Testament itself attests to how it became the object of an intense political tug-of-war.

In my view, awareness of the circumstantial details of Jesus’s life or the tug-of-war that followed his life over how to define that life take away nothing from the essential kerygma of Jesus. Whether Jesus was married or not, for instance, has absolutely no effect on the significance of his life and teachings and miracles; it merely deepens our appreciation of him for sharing with us the joys and sorrows of this earthly existence; like shadows on a sunny day it makes the colors and light even brighter. The fact that Jesus’s earliest followers argued over how to describe his nature and message cannot be avoided; it merely tells us how much it is human nature for pettiness to fight for control of the uncontrollable, the truly sacred, just as dogs scrap with each other over a suddenly discovered bone.

Readers may differ on whether it was a good thing, the shift from Jesus as a messenger to the Jewish people to God made flesh and an expiation for our sins. But the incontrovertible fact is that today the latter, not the former, is what most Christians believe – and it is primarily among Jews and Muslims that we find the former, original perspective still predominant. Whether we approve of this shift, it is a fact of history that it happened, and we cannot undo it; therefore, we must proceed on that basis.

Therefore, whether my readers believe in Jesus as the Only Son of God, the Savior of the World, or they believe something else, is perfectly fine with me. I do not demand or expect my readers to change the nature of their faith, or their lack thereof. Even atheists and agnostics whom I know are usually glad to grant that, putting aside questions of spirituality, there is much historical interest in the story of Jesus and the early movement that formed around him, for that story has had more effect on world history than any other, and is a large part of the shape and issues of the world of today. Even atheists and agnostics often acknowledge that there is a great deal of practical wisdom in the teachings attributed to Jesus. Rather, I hope all readers, Christian, of other faiths, or of no faith, are open to dialogue – to letting this text provide a historical context for how their view, whatever it is, came to be available to them.

So, though this book may be a challenge for some readers, I sincerely hope that it is a good challenge that helps them to grow in their understanding. (Certainly working on this book for some forty years has helped my own knowledge and faith to mature!) We are wise if we recognize that, if we only read books or talk with people we agree with, we learn nothing, and our own views do not mature. But, if we listen to and read information that shakes the edifice of our most cherished views, we gain the opportunity of strengthening the edifice, and indeed rebuilding those parts of it that were not solidly constructed. We can pretend such facts are not there, but that only leaves acutely vulnerable the house of our most cherished beliefs.

Think of Jesus’s parables of the house built on rock and of the house divided against itself. We want to build our faith on a rock, on a solid foundation, and this book can provide a solid foundation for faith. It is a restoration of the original text of the only gospel composed by an eyewitness to Jesus’s life and ministry; it therefore can help us build our faith on what (as best as we can determine) Jesus actually said and did, undistorted by intense religious battles in the early decades of what became the Christian faith, or by centuries of dogma and deliberate mistranslation.

So, yes, this version of the Gospel of John, including the introduction and notes, may threaten some of your most cherished beliefs, but that may be a good thing, if it helps those beliefs to mature.


Preface to the Scholar


Among the assertions I make in the introductory and subsequent materials in this book there is very little new. The assertion that Jesus was married and was a father has been around since the beginnings; it was a view of the Cathars and the former is at least implied by the Gospel of Philip. Others have proposed that John Mark is the Beloved Disciple. Many scholars, since at least the early nineteenth century, have discerned in the received text evidence of both inadvertent and deliberate changes in the text of the gospel. Others have proposed theoretical histories of how the text came to be as we have it today that are similar to mine.

The only thing that may be original with me is to take these various propositions and act on them: to undo layer by layer, like an onion, the changes that we can discern or reasonably hypothesize in the text, and see what we end up with thereafter.

This I have sought to do in the following stages:


1) Remove obvious late glosses and interpolations into the text, relying on internal textual evidence and reviewing the surviving manuscript record.

2) Reposition in their proper place a number of passages that clearly, by internal evidence, got out of order.

3) Restore, so much as possible, certain words and phrases that appear to be lacking in the received text.

4) Sweep away certain conventions of phraseology that have become customary in nearly two millennia of translation, notwithstanding what the actual text says, and let the text speak for itself in simple, lucid English.


As magnificently outlined by Thomas S. Kuhn (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions), there is usually a resistance in every field of scholarship to new paradigms, new ways of understanding the available data. This is, of course, salutary in that such new paradigms should be weighed and tested to see if they stand up to careful scrutiny from “the loyal opposition”. I welcome such scrutiny to the approach presented in this work. Not only am I certain that it will be criticized, but I welcome friendly criticism – for what we all want to know is the truth. Therefore, where it is clearly demonstrated that my hypotheses are incorrect I am no less delighted than where it is shown that they are correct.

However the hesitation to consider new paradigms should not take the form – as, sadly, it often does in academic circles – of rejecting and condemning them out of pride. Scholars who have spent their lifetimes documenting a certain perspective very often  feel threatened by new perspectives, irrationally believing that such new perspectives somehow demean and invalidate their entire life’s work.

When in the past ideas not unlike my own have been presented, including by such highly reputable specialists as James Daniel Tabor, some scholars have been all too quick to dismiss them. Quite illogically, some savants have all too quickly disparaged some of these propositions simply because they have appeared in fiction (from Kazantzakis and Saramago to The Da Vinci Code) and stage (Jesus Christ Superstar), and in popular books sometimes based on recent forgeries (The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail) or nonexistent sources (The Jesus Scroll). I hope that the approach offered in this work is judged on its own merits, not on the vaunted lack thereof in other works.

I was a student of Biblical research in seminary and have continued to read and practice this field, albeit on my own. No, I do not have a doctorate in that subject; no, I do not teach at a seminary. But to dismiss my proposals because they call various popular titles to mind, or because I am not a university professor, is purely an ad hominem fallacy. Excellence in Biblical studies is not to be found merely on campus, as the controversial but inarguably intelligent and knowledgeable Herschel Shanks demonstrates.

In the words of Benjamin Franklin, I stand on the shoulders of giants; I could not have proposed this thesis if it were not for many scholars of the past and present, of many different perspectives, who in their studies and in their academic clashes have brought us to the point that this thesis can be conceived and presented.


Introduction to a New Translation of the Gospel of John

Note: The following is a rough draft of the first three parts of the introduction to James David Audlin’s translation-in-progress of the Gospel of John. Comments are welcome!

Yes, this may be rather “dry” to some readers, but it is hoped that those interested in the origins of the New Testament will find it interesting.

More sections of this introduction will follow.

See also a previous blog, below, To Inhabit and Possess: Revolutionary Bible Translation.


 I: The Authorship of the Gospel of John

The Fourth Gospel is the only one in the canonical New Testament that claims to be an eyewitness account. The identity of this eyewitness is not given in the text as we have it; he is made known to us only as “the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved.” However, early church leaders are unanimous in ascribing its authorship to someone by the name of John; in fact, this is one of the strongest such ascriptions in the New Testament. Eusebius, for instance, identifies the Beloved Disciple as John, and says he died at Patmos – which happens to be where another Johannine text, the Revelation, was composed.

Despite this early and persistent testimony, many hypotheses have been proposed as to who the eyewitness, the Beloved Disciple, was. These range from one of the sons of Zebedee to Lazarus and even Mary Magdalene. My view is that the Beloved Disciple was John Mark, and that he was the son of Jesus.

The circumlocution “the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved” appears to be a modest way on the part of this eyewitness of avoiding the self-referential “I” (έγω), the way today someone might put “this writer” or “the undersigned”. The eyewitness uses such a roundabout in order to keep the emphasis on Jesus rather than on the mere teller of the story: with this phrase, even in speaking of himself he is speaking of Jesus (“the one whom Jesus loved”). If my hypothesis that he is the son of Jesus is correct, then even more as such he would understandably want to avoid people attaching undue significance to him as some kind of “divine son” instead of on Jesus.

More importantly, this circumlocution also avoids an unfortunate jangling with ΈΓΩ ΈΙΜΙ, “I AM”, which is the Greek rendering of one of the seven most sacred names for God in the Torah; אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה, often translated “I Am What I Am”, but literally “I Shall Be What I Shall Be”, though implying the past and present tenses too. Clearly our eyewitness wanted to avoid using the first person singular in referring to his own self, so that all “I am” phrases would be in the mouth of Jesus, and theologically significant.

In 14:6, Jesus paraphrases Isaiah 35:8 to say he is The Way to ΈΓΩ ΈΙΜΙ. (In 1:23, John the Baptist quotes the Septuagint version of Isaiah 40:3 to say he is the voice crying in the wilderness “Make straight the Way of the Lord”, the voice that precedes the Way. So significant was the phrase in the earliest days of this spiritual movement that, according to Acts they called themselves The Way.) This phrase ΈΓΩ ΈΙΜΙ occurs in several critical scenes, such as 6:20 (as Jesus walks beside the Sea of Galilee during a storm), 6:48, 51 (speaking of his flesh and blood), 8:28, 8:58 and 13:19 (which draw the connection between God and Jesus), 18:6 (his arrest). It also occurs in another Johannine text, the Revelation (at 1:8 and 4:8), in the past, present, and future tenses in Greek, but probably conscious of the phrase’s Hebrew origin.

But in the earliest, patristic period of Israelite religion the phrase אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה was more than just a way of referring to God; it was in itself a statement about the presence of God in each of us. The phrase almost definitely was an expansion of the most sacred name for God, יהוה. Scholars agree that the pronunciation of this name has been lost for millennia, and hence for millennia, in reading the Hebrew text of the Torah aloud, it has been the practice to say אֲדֹנָי (’Adonai, “my Lord”) in its place. Today it is often vocalized as “Yahweh” or “Jehovah”, but both of these are simply guesses.

As to the original pronunciation, Josephus provides a significant clue in the fifth chapter of his Jewish Wars, “τὰ ἱερὰ γράμματα ταῦτα δ’ ἐστὶ φωνήεντα τέσσαρα” (“[engraved with] the holy letters, and they are four vowels”). To utter these four letters, represented in English as YHWH, is not to speak an ordinary human word, not to vocalize at all, but to emit a whisper, a soft exhalation. For this Word is the Word, the Word before all others (έν αρχη), the Λογος (John 1:1ff) through which all things were made. If our breath is the name of God, then that would explain why אֲדֹנָי (’Adonai) was said in place of the Name in reading the Torah aloud: it, unlike an exhalation, would have been audible to the listeners.

This exhalation is the breath/spirit/wind that יהוה, YHWH (God), breathed across the surface of the waters (Genesis 1:2). By breathing his Name into Adam’s nostrils (Genesis 2:7), God gave the gift of a נֶפֶש, nephesh, a breath/soul, hence the gift of life, to him – and so, by extension, all living things, including you and me.

It is the faint sound of breathing, the קֹול דְּמָמָה דַקָּה that Elijah heard in the cave where he had hidden, wanting to die. It is the breath that יהוה breathed into the dry bones of Israel (Ezekiel 37). It is the wind-spirit-breath that God will breathe out upon all flesh in time to come (Joel 2:28f).

It is the wind-breath-spirit that comes down from the sky/heaven (όυρανος) in the form of a whirlwind (reading περισσοτερος [whirlwind] instead of περιστερας [dove]; I believe the Synoptics perpetrated a malapropism and that the Gospel of John was later “fixed” to cohere with it) when John the Baptist baptizes Jesus (John 1:32).

It is the same πνευμα from God that blows through the room where the apostles have gathered (Acts 2), such that their own exhalations as they speak are comprehensible in every language of the world, reversing the calamity of Babel (Genesis11), and paralleling Jesus’s own baptism as they themselves are baptized with the רוּחַ of God in fulfillment of Jesus’s promise (John 14:16f) that the Spirit/Breath will come and enter them. So it is that Jesus tells Nikodemos that one cannot enter the Realm of God without being born not only from water (amniotic fluid) but from above (άνωθεν), from the wind-breath-spirit of God.

Thus, from the patristic period through Jesus’s time and after, it was believed that the breath was the very presence of the Spirit of God within us: to inhale was to receive the gift of a living soul from God, and to exhale was to extol God with that Name that God breathed into us; further, breathing upon others conferred the Spirit/Breath of God on them and could heal their infirmities as well. What is more, as in the Native American “visible breath” tradition, we must always be truthful in our speech because to speak is to breathe the Name of God (“I AM the way, the truth, and the life”).

In this sense, the Name appears in several critical passages of the gospel. In 1:32, as John the Baptist baptizes Jesus the Πνευμα, the Wind/Breath/Spirit of God descends from heaven like a whirlwind. In 19:30 Jesus breathes out the wind/breath/spirit within him for the last time as he dies. In 20:22 Jesus exhales on the disciples and says “Receive the πνεθμα άγιον (the sacred breath/spirit – equivalent in Greek to רוּחַ (Ruach); by exhaling he proves he is alive, he heals them, he blesses them, he fills them with the Name and Spirit of God.

And thus it is that I believe our eyewitness preferred not to speak of himself in the first person singular.


However, in other places in the gospel the lack of a clear reference to the Beloved Disciple is among the means by which a late redactor of the gospel text excised references in the text to Jesus’s status as a husband and father, no doubt in order not to undercut a desire to present Jesus as divine.

As an example of these apparent excisions let us take the miracle at Cana. It makes no sense that Jesus’s mother tells him to provide more wine for the wedding banquet if he and she (plus, so we are told, the disciples) are merely guests at the wedding. This inadequate explanation was clearly supplied by the redactor, I believe, after he excised from the text any reference to Jesus’s actual role at the wedding, as the bridegroom. That role would make it his responsibility (as his mother reminds him) to replenish the wine for the guests. What is more, what the steward says to the bridegroom is only really funny if the bridegroom is Jesus. And, finally this scene is one of several parallels between the beginning and the conclusion of the gospel, in what is often called A-B-A symmetry or “inclusio”.

This first of his miracles, at his own wedding, is clearly meant to presage the last of his miracles, his resurrection, which is also a divine hierogamy. And, of course, the earthly wine at Cana anticipates the spiritual vine and wine imagery in the final chapters of the gospel. This was so obviously intended as one of a considerable number of “inclusio” parallels between the beginning and end of the gospel that the excision becomes fairly obvious to the critical reader.

Another obvious example of such an excision of Jesus’s familial relationships occurs in John 19:26-27, in which Jesus assigns his own filial responsibility for his mother to the Beloved Disciple. The gospel names three women named Mary as present at Jesus’s crucifixion: his mother, his aunt, and Mary Magdalene. [Note that Papias and Hegesippus, writing in the second century, say Clopas is the brother of Joseph (Jesus’s father). If so, then this second Mary is Jesus’s paternal aunt by marriage.] In a passage from the noncanonical Gospel of Philip closely paralleling this one, the Magdalene is referred to as Jesus’s companion; not merely his wife but (so the word suggests in contemporary literature) his partner or colleague. So we have immediate family to witness and discharge the responsibility bequeathed by the dying man. The form of the charge to his relatives comes in the form of parallelism, though as we have it it appears incomplete –


He said to his mother, “Woman, behold your son.”

Then he said to the disciple, “[___], behold your mother.”


The lacuna is best filled in with either the word “son” (ύιος) or the disciple’s name; clearly something has been suppressed here by the final editors of the text to hide the identity of the disciple. Surely, and especially in his dying moments, Jesus is going to hand off that responsibility to a close family member. It is not likely a brother of Jesus, since the wording strongly suggests Jesus is designating with his words a new mother-son relationship, and such a brother already has the same mother. Thus it makes sense to assume that he is giving to his son this filial responsibility for his mother; i.e., his son’s grandmother.

What is more, in both the Cana and crucifixion scenes the text has Jesus address his mother as “woman” (γυνη), a rather strange salutation that scholars have struggled for centuries to explain. I believe that further obvious parallelism has been weeded out by the redactor, and the two verses originally said something like this:


He said to his mother, “Mother, behold your son.”

Then he said to his son, “Son, behold your mother.”


In fact, in this gospel as we have it Jesus always refers to women as “woman”: besides his mother he does so to the Samaritan woman (4:21) and to Mary Magdalene (20:15). The latter, too, may be a revision of the text to avoid clearly stating how Jesus was associated with the Magdalene. She is described as elevated to a special status in the Pistis Sophia (a noncanonical gospel-like text probably composed in the second century), and also in the noncanonical Gospel of Philip, which calls her his companion, and says the disciples are envious of how he often kisses her often on the mouth; such kissing is not mere romance but an exchange of breaths among spiritual companions. Certainly his calling her “Mary” at the Resurrection (20:16) carries a strong implication of not just love but an equality of companionship, as does her response, to embrace him. Jesus’s words “Μη μου άπτου”, “Leave off from embracing me,” clearly directing her to cease for now from an embrace she is already giving him, because he wants her to go tell the brothers that he has risen, were badly mistranslated in Jerome’s Vulgate as “Noli me tangere”, “Do not touch me”, resulting in centuries of misogynistic mistranslation.

Far from being misogynistic, the resurrection scene in chapter 20 is fairly bristling with marriage imagery, complementing other passages in the gospel that make it clear that Mary was Jesus’s wife or companion. There are clear allusions to the beginning of Genesis and the Song of Songs, and even to the Odyssey. There is besides some clear paralleling between Jesus’s conversation with Mary and the first conversation he holds in the gospel, with the disciples of John the Baptist. Every word is calibrated to tell the reader that this scene is critically important. Thus, if Mary is in some sense his wife, it makes considerable sense that she seeks out their son, the Beloved Disciple, and his best friend Simon (nicknamed Peter).

The Beloved Disciple is specifically named in four scenes, and each of these scenes gives us a clue about him. At the Last Supper he shares a couch with Jesus, which it was custom for a father to do with his young son. At the Crucifixion the Beloved Disciple is given filial responsibility for Jesus’s mother, again suggesting he is Jesus’s son. At the Resurrection Mary calls him to the empty tomb, accompanied by Simon Peter, suggesting family responsibility for the deceased. And at the Sea of Galilee Jesus prophesies about Simon Peter’s and the Beloved Disciple’s future.

While most of the gospel does not specifically refer to the Beloved Disciple as an active presence, there is reason to believe that the eyewitness served his purpose by recounting the extended conversations he heard. If as I believe Barabbas (Son of the Father) is the Beloved Disciple, Jesus’s son, that would explain how the private audience with the consul, Pontius Pilate, was observed and recounted in the gospel: because, charged like his father with a crime, he was there. And a few scenes, most notably that of Mary Magdalene with Jesus at the Resurrection (John 20:1-18), are quite clearly his passing on to his own disciples what his mother, Mary Magdalene, had told him.

So we have an eyewitness widely attested to be named John who is beloved by Jesus, close as well to Mary Magdalene, and probably their son.


John Mark, best remembered for his appearances in the Acts of the Apostles, fits this description well.

We know from Acts 12:12 that John Mark’s mother is named Mary, and that she has a house in Jerusalem. He is brought from Jerusalem to accompany Saul (later Paul) and Barnabas, apparently mostly at the latter’s insistence. At first, the latter two men work closely together.

Joseph Barnabas, a Levite, sells property he owns in his native Cyprus and provides the proceeds to the highly Jewish Jerusalem branch of this new religious movement centered around Jesus. He introduces Saul to them, and later, often with Saul (later Paul), he evangelizes throughout the Roman Empire, especially in Cyprus and nearby Antioch. His cognomen “Barnabas” is given an obviously incorrect etymology in Acts (as “Son of Encouragement”), but it is far more likely to come from the Aramaic בר נביא, bar naḇyā, “the Son of the Prophet”. This name suggests he too is a close relative of Jesus. Colossians 4:10 suggests that he and John Mark are cousins.

Saul, also changed his name from that ethnically Jewish one to the etymologically unrelated “Paul”, much more cosmopolitan in the Roman Empire, much more palatable to the gentiles he hoped to convert. As this name-change suggests, he was at odds with the new movement’s very Jewish leadership in Jerusalem, which comprised in particular members of Jesus’s own family and his closest associates. Saul wants to Hellenize this movement, mainly by getting rid of such Jewish requirements as kosher diet and circumcision, and by turning Jesus into a typical Roman man-god: a man who declares his own divinity as did the Roman emperors, a god who dies and is resurrected, leaving behind mystical rites involving wine-blood and bread-body to invoke the deity’s presence, as did Dionysus.

When he takes Saul with him to evangelize, Joseph Barnabas brings John Mark along from Jerusalem (Acts 12:25). But in almost its next breath (13:6) Acts tells us about a “Jewish false prophet” in Paphos, then the Cypriot capital city, called Bar-Jesus – calling to mind Barabbas. The text that follows isn’t clear; this individual may or may not be the same as another “false prophet”, Elymas (Arabic for “Wise One”), who tried to turn Sergius Paulus, the Roman proconsul in Cyprus, away from the faith represented by Barnabas and Paul. So critical is the confrontation with Bar-Jesus and Elymas (who may or may not be the same person) that from this point on in Acts Saul is referred to as “Paul”, taking the name from Sergius Paulus. Moreover, from this point on (at least according to the book of Acts, but there is little reason to doubt this, since the sheer numbers of converts racked up by Paul conferred on him considerable authority in the early church) he takes over the missionary leadership from Barnabas.

This is more than a simple name-change; it is a signal of the intended nature of the man’s missionary activities and, ultimately, his plan to control and even mold the nature of the Jesus-centered spiritual movement. Saul’s original name was ethnically Jewish, and “Paul” would sound much more cosmopolitan in the Roman Empire, much more palatable to the gentiles he hoped to convert. He was at odds with the new movement’s very Jewish leadership in Jerusalem, which comprised in particular members of Jesus’s own family and his closest associates, and this name-change is emblematic of his break not just with this leadership but with all things Jewish.

As Paul, he seeks to Hellenize this movement, mainly by getting rid of such Jewish requirements as kosher diet and circumcision, and by turning Jesus into a typical Roman man-god, fully human yet fully divine.

The Jesus-centered religious movement was at the time rife with controversy.  Acts tells us (15:1) that the Jerusalemite contingent demanded that Barnabas and Paul require their converts to go through the Jewish ritual of circumcision. What is more, the two were summoned to Jerusalem, where they met with the elders for a rather stormy conference. It ended with a compromise mainly proposed by James, the brother of Jesus, and giving Paul and Barnabas pretty much freedom to do what they wanted. These two men, by their astonishing success at evangelizing, couldn’t be denied, and the Jerusalemite leaders knew it; their only card was the imprimatur of their good will. Feeling vindicated, the two returned to Antioch and preached. However then a rift developed between them and they separated – permanently.

This rift almost certainly was precipitated in part by the so-called Incident at Antioch of which Paul speaks at length in his letter to the Galatean church. In the letter (Galatians 2:11-14) Paul accuses the apostle Simon, better known by his nickname “Peter”, of refusing to eat a meal with gentile (i.e., non-Jewish) Christians in Antioch. Paul goes on to charge Peter with hypocrisy, claiming he has adopted a cushy gentile lifestyle, “not like a Jew”, and yet he demands gentile converts to accept traditional Jewish requirements, including kosher diet and cicrumcision. Even Paul’s friend, colleague, and mentor Joseph Barnabas sides with the Jerusalemite leadership.

But the wedge that actually drives the two men apart is John Mark. Acts (15:36-40) tells us that Paul alleges John Mark “had deserted them in Pamphylia and not accompanied them in the work” of evangelizing; therefore, he refuses to travel with John Mark any longer. Barnabas, on the other hand, still wants John Mark to come with them. So vehement is this argument between Paul and Barnabas that Saul no longer has any relations with the Jerusalemites, including Barnabas. Now calling himself Paul, he goes deep into the Roman world with his own highly Romanized brand of the faith.

The two issues, I believe, were related. My contention is that John Mark, without the blessing of Paul or Barnabas and possibly with the support of the Jerusalemite leadership, was putting himself forward as the son of Jesus (hence “Bar-Jesus”), as the dynastic “heir apparent” to the messianic claim of Jesus. This was no doubt a political effort to strengthen the power of the Jerusalem contingent of the religious movement, and besides to blunt, at least to some degree, the crushing Roman hegemony in the eastern Mediterranean.

This set John Mark’s goals at odds with Paul’s. John Mark clearly sided with his Jewish friends and relatives in Jerusalem, hence against the Roman Empire, to which Paul was reaching out. Likewise, by insisting on observing Jewish law, Peter and the other apostles were likewise (in Paul’s view) failing to recognize the great potential this religious movement had to gain gentile converts throughout the empire.

Paul, evidently, decided at a go to have done with everyone in the Jerusalem group – including Peter, including James the brother of Jesus, including John Mark the son of Jesus. Freed from their constraining influence, he continued in his preaching and letter-writing to recast Jesus in the mold of a Roman god. Barnabas continued his evangelizing too, but not with the same success as Paul.

John Mark went on to take an elder statesman role, writing letters to the churches, as did not only Paul but his uncles James and Judas, brothers of Jesus and leaders of the Jerusalemite faction. These letters far more than Paul’s are clearly directed to a Jewish audience.

The Revelation, written during his last years on the island of Patmos, speaks outrage against the evil Roman Empire and against the Pauline approach of watering down the Jewishness of the Jesus-centered movement to make it more palatable to gentiles.

And, also in these elder years, John Mark reminisced about his experiences as a disciple. Ironically, his memories of a very human Jesus, a husband and father, were eventually tampered with in order to create a gospel whose final version is the best example of the very “high christology” he did not espouse. Still, it is certainly due to this meddling that the gospel was made part of the canon in the increasingly Pauline, Romanized church, and very possibly that it survives at all.


II: A Theory as to the Devolution of the Gospel Text

The Gospel of John was clearly written ignorant of both the Gospel of Mark and the “Q” gospel (the hypothetical gospel that, besides Mark, was also a source from which Matthew and Luke took material), as well as their descendants, the gospels of Matthew and Luke. It contains several episodes in Jesus’s ministry that are also described in that Synoptic family of gospels, but in John they are told in an entirely different way.

Yet the reverse is also true; the Synoptic gospels appear to have been written by people unaware of the Gospel of John, since they do not incorporate any of several episodes that are unique to the latter, or adopt any of the amplifications found in John of several episodes also found in the Synoptics.

The second fact is borne out by the general agreement of scholars that the Gospel of John was promulgated relatively later than the other three canonical gospels. The first fact, however, supports theorizing an early date of composition for the gospel, at least in its Ur-text stage.

There can be little argument about an early (initial) composition for John. The very fact that it is, or was based on, an eyewitness account points to an early date.  So too do the number of close parallels to passages in the Dead Sea Scrolls (e.g., the passage in the Rule of the Community, “And by his [God’s] knowledge everything has been brought into being; and everything that exists he established according to his purpose; and apart from him nothing has been done.”, which is very close to John 1:3). What is more, there is no reference to the destruction by the Romans of the Second Temple in 70 C.E., again suggesting an early (first) composition. (Unlike other scholars, I don’t see any implicit reference to this destruction in 2:19-22, but rather an inclusio with 20:8-9. Both 2:19-22 and 11:48 probably reflect legitimate fears that were widely felt at the time – for Titus’s razing of the temple certainly was not unexpected.)

Charles Hill, in The Johannine Corpus in the Early Church, convincingly finds evidence that the gospel was read and referred to as early as the year 90, and that such early fathers as Ignatius and Polycarp were aware of it. This, too, forces us to settle on an early composition date.

Finally, the textual evidence for the Gospel of John is older and more reliable than that for any other New Testament text: the Rylands Library Papyrus P52, for instance, is the oldest manuscript fragment of any canonical New Testament text; dating from the first half of the second century, it contains portions of John 18:31-33 and 37-38 that give the text exactly as it is found in later, complete manuscripts. Other early fragments of John also vary little if at all from the gospel text as we have it now. Thus we must conclude that, if there was such a provenance so early of the final version of the Gospel of John, then composition of the gospel had to be relatively early.

These facts strongly suggest that the Gospel of John was, at least in its Ur-text, composed soon after the life of Jesus, before the Synoptics had become widely read – and yet that it did not gain wide publication until after the Synoptic Gospels had been written, such that the Synoptics were uninfluenced by the Gospel of John. The question this scenario raises is: What changes did the text of the Gospel of John go through during the time from its original composition (by, or transcribing the oral reminiscences of, the eyewitness, the Beloved Disciple) to the as-we-have-it-today final version?

Any fully satisfactory theory of the origination of the Gospel of John must also account somehow for the apparent similarities to some fragmentary noncanonical gospels that bear some resemblance to John, including the so-called Egerton Gospel. This question will be taken up in the notes to the translation of the restored original Gospel of John that follows.


Following is how I believe the Gospel of John achieved its present form. This discussion may be summarized by naming the agencies thus: 1) The eyewitness, 2) An amanuensis?, 3) An editor, 4) A redactor.

I think the Beloved Disciple, as an eyewitness to Jesus’s ministry, often reminisced about Jesus, and either he wrote his recollections down in at best a somewhat chronologically ordered fashion, or else an amanuensis transcribed them in as ordered a manner as possible, or a combination of both. It is not typically human nature to reminisce in chronological order; the scenario is much more likely that the Beloved Disciple simply remembered events during the ministry of Jesus as they occurred to him, and thus that he or his disciple(s) wrote them down in a haphazard manner. It would also be typical of human nature that he spoke of the same events more than once, providing different details each time, and that he or his amanuensis (or amanuenses) then later went back to add notes to accounts already written down.

The Beloved Disciple was most likely also the author of the three Letters of John, and possibly of the Revelation, which would mean he was certainly as a writer capable of composing the Gospel of John. The hypothesis that an amanuensis (or amanuenses) actually wrote down the oral reminiscences of the Beloved Disciple is at this time unprovable one way or the other, but it doesn’t matter, since whether he wrote down his reminiscences himself or an amanuensis did does not change the overall theory being proposed here. All we need to know is this first stage resulted in a written compilation of eyewitness accounts of various events in Jesus’s ministry, possibly to some degree in chronological order but possibly not, and probably with various additions scribbled into the margins to be smoothed into the text of the finished gospel when it came time to prepare it. The jumbled nature of this earliest version of the gospel helps account for some of the textual displacements within it.

What language this Ur-text was composed in is unclear. Sseveral words or phrases are in Aramaic, the lingua franca of Palestine at that time. And most of the references to the Tanakh (Jewish Bible, or Christian Old Testament) seem based on the original in Hebrew (the mother of the Aramaic language), not the Septuagint (the late Jewish translation of the Tanakh into Greek). Certainly some passages that are confusing in Greek become much clearer when back-translated into Aramaic or when read from the Peshitta, an early Aramaic translation of the New Testament; Jesus’s statement at John 8:39 (q.v.) is one of these.

Yet there is a considerable reliance throughout on not only Greek language in the text (especially the prologue), but on Greek literature (for instance, the allusions to Herakleitos and Plotinus in the prologue and to the Odyssey in chapter 20). While the references to the πνευμα and the רוּחַ work equally well in either language (since both mean wind/breath/spirit), some doubles entendres, such as ανωθεν (meaning either “from above” or “again”) in John 3:3 only exist in Greek. (This raises a side question of whether Jesus spoke with Nikodemos in Greek even though they were both local Jews and thus more likely inclined to speak in either Aramaic or Hebrew.) The Beloved Disciple, like Jesus and most reasonably well educated Jewish males at that time in that region, would have been fluent in Greek, Aramaic, Hebrew, and probably Latin as well. My theory is that there was some back-and-forth between Aramaic and Greek in this first stage of gospel composition, with the intention and trend being toward finalizing it in the latter language.

The second stage, I theorize, was that of revising and refining the gospel. A large portion of this was putting the reminiscences in chronological order, including inserting marginal glosses where they seemed best to go into the narrative flow. Either the Beloved Disciple himself or his amanuensis (or amanuenses) began to put these haphazard reminiscences into the shape of an ordered gospel. The poetic “Logos” prologue was composed and added to the gospel at this point, and the A-B-A symmetry, or “inclusio” structure was at least structured and partly if not completely fleshed out. I believe these latter refinements were mostly if not entirely provided by the Beloved Disciple, based on the following logic. Whoever it is who composed the prologue certainly also wrote the three Letters of John (and perhaps the Revelation). Given the considerable similarities in diction and theme between the gospel (the prologue in particular) and the letters, and given the strong attestation in the early church that the gospel and the letters were composed by someone named John, I assume the individual responsible for the prologue and the letters was John Mark, whom I believe to be the identity of the Beloved Disciple.

The editing and refining process, in my estimation, was never completed; the Beloved Disciple may have died or been killed by forces antithetical to this new religious movement (which were not few or powerless), or he may have simply abandoned the gospel-writing project for some reason. Thus at this point in my hypothesis there was a more or less complete gospel, but some passages were not properly edited and/or put in their proper locations. It will be my intent in this book to restore not the final version of the actual text that the Beloved Disciple left behind (before further modifications were wrought upon it by others), but the text that he intended to complete – a text, in fact, that has almost certainly never existed until now.

At this point, another individual whom I call the editor, clearly not the Beloved Disciple but associated with him, made changes to the Beloved Disciple’s monograph and added further material. This individual speaks directly to the reader with comments of his own at various points, such as at 20:30f and 21:24f – these two comments speak of the Beloved Disciple in the third person, making it clear that this editor holds the Beloved Disciple in high esteem. He probably composed and added chapter 21, either from rough notes left behind by the Beloved Disciple or else by basing it on his own memory of spoken recollections by the Beloved Disciple; this would explain the appendix nature and somewhat different style, and (with its implication of his death) may also explain why the Beloved Disciple did not complete work on the gospel.

It is probable that this editor put into the gospel other passages, such as 3:11-21 and 31-36, that were not necessarily intended by the Beloved Disciple to go into the gospel. My theory is that these passages actually were written reflections on the nature of Jesus by the Beloved Disciple, along the lines of I John and probably intended as another letter, such as IV John, of which only one sentence survives. The editor probably didn’t know better – either he was unaware that they weren’t intended to go into the gospel, or he was aware but he chose to use them anyway, as a good literary workman, placing somewhere in this magnum opus all of the precious writings left behind by the Beloved Disciple, even if they weren’t really meant to go into the gospel.

It is possible (but in my view much less likely) that this editor actually composed the prologue and added other non-gospel material with phraseology similar to the Letters of John; as noted above, it makes more sense that these texts were added by the Beloved Disciple himself. Finally, either this editor or the redactor (see below) also was responsible for various glosses to provide Greek translations of Aramaic or Hebrew words, to suggest fulfillments of passages in the Tanakh (Old Testament), and the like.

Also, at some point after the Beloved Disciple was no longer involved, large blocs of material got moved around (according to a theory first propounded by Rudolf Bultmann). Since many of these displaced “partitions” are of about the same length, a reasonable hypothesis is that the text of some early draft of the gospel was written on sheets of about the same length, perhaps relatively inexpensive scrap ends cut from finished scrolls and sold relatively inexpensively. As examples of these displacements: Chapter 2:1-11 (which begins “On the third day…”) clearly should go between 4:45 and 46b, and 3:25-30 probably follows 2:11. The sixth chapter clearly should follow immediately on 4:54. Jesus saying “Rise, let us go hence” at the end of chapter 14 clearly should be followed by 17:1 rather than two more chapters of Last Supper discourse. Someone at around this point, either the editor or the redactor (see below), put some (often clumsy) bridges into the texts to smooth over the gaps caused by displacement; an example of these is 4:46a.

The next stage in the development (or perhaps we should say the devolution) of the gospel text was conducted by an individual I refer to as the redactor. This person revised the text (as left by the Beloved Disciple, the amanuensis if any, and the editor) to remove all references to Jesus as a husband and father, and to change text or even add some phrases in order to heighten the “Christology” therein. It was at this point, for instance, that anything suggesting that Jesus was the bridegroom at Cana (chapter 2) and that the Beloved Disciple was Jesus’s son (especially 19:27) was extracted.

This redactor, or some copyist later yet, added the Lucan narrative at 7:53-8:11. Though an interesting episode, it clearly does not belong in this gospel.

At this point the Gospel of John had reached the form by which we know it today.

The intention of this book is to peel away, layer by layer as it were, these post-Beloved-Disciple distortions of his gospel, until we reach something as close to his Ur-text as possible – and then with considerable and conservative care, as much as is possible, completing the refinement of the original gospel that the Beloved Disciple did not do himself.


III: Relationship with Other Christian Scriptures


The earliest stage of the spiritual movement we now know as the Christian religion was marked by several significant factors. It was wholly a part of the Jewish faith, and did not (yet) consider itself a separate religion. It believed in the imminent arrival of the end of the world, or at least an overwhelming change in the nature of the created universe, within the lifetime of most people alive at the time. This belief imposed a certain pressure on the leadership of the movement to spread it as widely as possible – to save as many souls as it could before the end came – despite the fact that Judaism has never been by any means an evangelistic faith.

A man named Saul, associated with the Pharisees, after persecuting this new spiritual movement within the Jewish faith for some time, spoke and wrote often about a conversion experience, in which Jesus supposedly came to him in a vision. After this episode he switched sides, and began seeking to bring converts into the Jesus-centered movement. Saul started out among his fellow Jews, attempting to bring them to his particular understanding of the new Jesus-centered spiritual movement – but, far from achieving much success, he was himself subjected to persecution, at various times being imprisoned, badly beaten, and stoned to the point of death.

He shifted to a mission among the gentiles, who were of course far more plentiful in the Roman Empire, and in this he achieved astounding success. As part of this transition, he basically reinvented himself. Instead of proclaiming his pharisaical credentials he displayed his Roman citizenship. He changed his name from Saul, which sounded rather “ethnic” in those days just as it does now, to Paul. Though the two names are related only in terms of pronunciation, the latter sounded far more cosmopolitan to Roman citizens.

More importantly, Paul did not demand his gentile converts to follow the mitzvot (the laws of the Torah), even though he was supposedly converting them into a new movement within the Jewish faith, Most notably these laws included those requiring consumption only of kosher foods and the law that males had to be circumcised. Paul insisted that faith in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, replaced and obviated any need to follow these laws.  As his extant letters suggest, he did shift around somewhat in his views over time, but the overall thrust of his stance is that Jews joining the Jesus-centered movement were welcome to observe the mitzvot and gentiles were welcome not to observe them, but what really mattered was faith in Jesus, and to some degree the “good works” that serve as evidence of that faith.

Paul’s radical approach to evangelism did not sit well with the leaders of the movement in Jerusalem. Unlike Paul, they were close friends and relatives of Jesus, they had known Jesus personally, and had heard his teaching from his own lips. They were not happy with this upstart, who (in their perspective) based his missionary activities on a vision that ostensibly put him on a part with them as “knowing” Jesus. They felt he was watering down the faith to make it easier to gain converts. And, as an inevitable result, this ministry was astoundingly successful – to the point that Paul had a significant body of converts across the Roman Empire.

They insisted that conversion to this movement required acceptance of the Jewish religious laws, since this was (in their thinking) a Jewish movement. However, whether they liked it or not, Paul’s very success at missionarying conferred on him considerable power in the movement. He appeared destined to eclipse their own leadership, as of course in due course he did. Therefore, they had no choice but to treat with him, and ultimately to give in to him. At a conference in Jerusalem a compromise was worked out, in which Paul was instructed to “remember the poor,” a particular emphasis on the part of Jesus that Paul was glad to agree to, and a pro forma insistence that his gentile converts merely observe the so-called Noachian Laws: to refrain from idolatry, fornication, and consuming flesh that has been cut away from a living creature.

But on the major unique factor in Paul’s presentation of the Jesus movement no compromise could be reached, and the Jerusalemite leaders had no power to stop it.

Paul’s  modus operandi was to portray Jesus as much as possible in terms that would be familiar and palatable to gentiles in the Roman Empire – and that meant as a Græco-Roman-style god. The raw materials he used to this effect were very much available.

There was, of course, already a long history of mortals being recognized as gods from the most ancient times, most often shortly after their death, but sometimes even during their lifetimes. The deification of Julius Cæsar upon his death, for instance, was still a recent event in the Empire. A popular cult that believed him a god grew rapidly after his assassination in 44 B.C.E., especially when a comet appeared so bright that it was visible by day. So massive was this public sentiment that the Roman Senate had no choice but to ratify the imperator’s deification.

A considerable number of kings and emperors, especially in these eastern lands, were said to have been born to virgin mothers.

Emperor Augustus had been given the title of Savior of the World, like Seleucid and other kings before him.

The Dionysian religion also provided some useful motifs (as has been noted by Hölderlin [1800] and many others). Dionysos was put on trial before a ruler; indeed, in Euripides’s play the two engage in a deep conversation on godhead, power, revolution, and the nature of truth. Dionysos is killed, and then resurrected from the dead by his father-god Zeus (or Jupiter [a name that with Jewish implications; it at least sounded to Jews as יה-Πατερ, Yah-Pater, God the Father, and may in fact even have come from such linguistic roots]). His dévotées communed with him by ingesting bread and wine said to have transubstantiated into his sacred flesh and blood.

Many of the popular Mystery Religions of the day had the kind of ordained priesthood that Judaism did not, plus a great deal of colorful pageantry. The Gnostic movement, which slightly predated the movement that became Christianity, provided the idea of a γνοσις, a core wisdom that just need to be said and believed to confer immortality on the individual.

With Græco-Roman brushes like these, Saul became Paul – and a Jewish rabbi named ישוע‎, Y’shuah (“Joshua” in English) who came to teach about God became Ἰησοῦς (“Jesus” in English), became God – and a מָשִׁיחַ (Mashiach, “Anointed One”, any priest or king who wisely guides or frees the people; even King Cyrus of Persia is proclaimed a Mashiach in the Tanakh) became the unique Χριστος (“Christ” in English).


Given this context, one can easily see that the canonical New Testament at best something of a compromise, more accurately a kind of battleground with corpses still littering the field.

The presence of Paul, like the Colossus of Rhodes, towers over the New Testament as we have it today. The Gospels of Matthew and Luke, the Acts of the Apostles, a number of genuine letters of Paul, plus more that are doubtfully his or most likely written by others under his name but still very much a part of his school of Christology, and the Letter to the Hebrews (which may be by Paul’s erstwhile associate Barnabas) comprise the vast majority of texts. The Gospel of Luke was tampered with, especially to give it a virgin birth narrative like Matthew’s. The Gospel of Mark was given a “happy ending” describing the resurrected Jesus, likewise to bring it into line with the Pauline school.

So overwhelming is this Pauline presence that, if the word “canonical” is attached to a text, it should be viewed with suspicion; this means it was approved by the Church Fathers in the second century, who around the time of the councils of Nicæa wholeheartedly promoted the Pauline Jesus, the Roman god Jesus, which Constantine famously used (in the first effort that can truly be called a “hail Mary” long-shot) to shore up his power over a crumbling Roman Empire. Inevitably it led to the Roman Catholic (and to a lesser degree the Orthodox) Church, which to this day is the presence of the still-living Roman Empire, with a Pope instead of an Emperor, but otherwise the same pomp paid for by poor parishioners worldwide, and the same heavy boot heel ready to suppress all independent thought.

In the words of the late Joseph Comblin, a liberation theologian who actually lived with the poor:  “Jesus did not found a religion, he didn’t establish rites, teach doctrines. …When did religion enter Christianity? When Jesus became an object of worship.”

That leaves as non-Pauline in the New Testament only two short letters from or attributed to his close friend Simon Peter, a letter each from his brothers James and Jude, three short letters from (in my theory) his son John Mark, the Revelation – and the Gospel of John.

The Gospel of John shows clear signs of a redactor, and we must give him credit that he clearly sought to keep his modifications as minimal as possible, to suppress any reference to Jesus as a husband and father, and to heighten the Christology of the work, all to bring it more or less into line with the Pauline Jesus-as-Roman-god theology that eventually won the day. If John’s gospel is an eyewitness account, especially coming out of the Jerusalemite faction, then that explains the hesitation to include it in the canon without such modifications.

The prototypical gospels – Mark, John, and Thomas – seem to me to have been originally written by members of Jesus’s family. These close relatives appear to have invented the genre, and it was later that the genre was used by the established Paul-Nicæa Christian religion as a mechanism of establishing and enforcing dogma. Mark and John underwent plenty of theological surgery before being placed in the canon, and Thomas was simply shunted aside for containing far too many logia of Jesus that would serve to undermine his Pauline transformation into a Roman deity.

It is hoped that, thanks to the redactor’s care not to do more damage than he deemed necessary, we can reverse this process of Paul-izing the gospel. It is hoped further that we can correct the many displacements and other textual problems. It is hoped that we can re-edit the prototypical eyewitness account that then emerges to create, at least hypothetically, the gospel that the Beloved Disciple, the son of Jesus, had hoped to leave behind in this world.


Palíndromo – Vista de Antemano de la novela en español por James David Audlin

Novela en español por James David Audlin – vista de antemano.

Hay un capítulo central de mi novela la mas conocida, PALÍNDROMO.


Nadie parece saber lo que está hablando cuando se le pregunta si una mujer que vivía aquí, ha vuelto recientemente a la aldea. Él dice su nombre aquí y allá en todo el pueblo, Rafaela Tsosi, y ellos sólo se miran. Posiblemente no quieren confiar en este desconocido que dice se llama Fremder, quien es, de repente, residiendo entre ellos; hace décadas los aldeanos no he visto a nadie venir y en realidad querer vivir en Bosques. O puede ser que reconocen su rostro y saben que él es realmente el chico Huw Mendelez que huyó hace muchos años con la misma chica, cuyo nombre él pregunta por en ir en todas partes de la aldea, y se convirtieron en los patinadores famosos, y es bastante improbable que uno de los patinadores famosos volvería aquí preguntando acerca de la otra a menos que alguna cosa extraña se pasa, y los aldeanos no quieren decir nada hasta saber lo que él tiene que decir.

Tomó un poco de coraje para visitar la casa que había crecido, ya que tenía miedo de que sus padres le culparían de llevarla lejos de ellos cuando eran adolescentes. Pero no tenía de qué preocuparse; Angelina está ya vieja, vieja antes de su tiempo, una mujer ciega vagabulta con pelo blanco, cuya vagabulto marido Francisco murió el invierno anterior. La única razón por la que sobrevive es porque la gente del pueblo cuida de ella. Ella apenas se movió cuando él entró y habló con ella; que parecía hundido en su propia melancolía y sus recuerdos. “Mi hija ha muerto” es todo lo que dijo, con voz más cansada que arrepentida, aunque por lo menos ella no se opuso cuando le pidió a ver la habitación de su hija. Ella no se levantó de la mesa y su caff frío, por escoltarlo al dormitorio, por lo que subió las escaleras solo.

Cuando era un niño, por supuesto, nunca se habría permitido en él, pero cuando abrió la puerta le pareció familiar, o quizás él era solamente consciente del sentido cómodo de Rafaela que penetró ello. Que es más, la pequeña habitación pintada de blanco, con su techo abruptamente inclinado justo bajo la azotea aguda típica en este pueblo, y una buhardilla estrecha, parecía ser todavía en uso. Su cepillo estaba sobre la pequeña cómoda de madera de hongo, con algunos pelos largos atrapado en ello como si acabara de utilizarle no hace mucho tiempo; los cabellos eran blancos, no negros. Por encima de la cómoda estuvo un espejo en el cual ella debe haberse mirado cepillando su pelo, que, como las ventanas de esta casa vieja, estaba teñido de verde, el vidrio se hizo de la arena de Desastre, y su silicatos de imagen especular de azul y amarillo. Junto a la cómoda estaba un pequeño estante; se analizó los títulos, y se un poco sorprendió por el número de clásicos de antiguos tales como Blake, Milton, Whitman, Tennyson, y Shakespeare. Apoyándose contra el estante era la bolsa que él a menudo llevaba para ella como ellos corrían a través de los cosmódromos para embarcarse en el vuelo que los tomaría al siguiente espectáculo. ¿Cómo podría estar aquí a menos que ella había estado aquí hace poco? Abrió la puerta del armario y vi un par de ropas, familiarizado perfectamente, colgados en el armario pequeño, y, obviamente, no hace mucho tiempo, ya que estaban más cerca de la parte delantera que las delantales de niña; ellas eran las ropas que se acordaba muy bien de sus años ambulantes, fina suaves telas cortan bajo para mostrar las curvas calientas de sus pechos y con dobladillos cortos para mostrar sus piernas desnudas cuando patinó. Incluso encontró su más preciada posesión, un Selemni original hecho especialmente para ella por el diseñador propio. Estos vestidos no estarían aquí en su casa de la infancia a menos que ella les había traído con ella desde las estrellas.

Entonces algo pasó, o pareció pasar, que él está mirando hacia atrás, aquí cerca del estanque, en la luz de la estrella brillante y fría, y tiene problemas para aceptar. Él estaba de pie delante de la cómoda pequeña y mirando en el espejo a su propio reflejo, la reflexión de un hombre cansado, envejecido, solo, y entonces la vio, Rafaela, de pie detrás de la imagen de sí mismo. Llevaba ropas de un color naranja profundo que rozó la parte superior de sus pies. Su largo cabello era blanco, pero su rostro, la cara que él conocía mejor que cualquier cara en el universo, ya que él había casi besado aquella cara casi cada noche durante tantos años, era tan hermosa como siempre. Sus ojos no parecieron mirarle, pero a través de él.

–Huw –, dijo la reflexión. – Protege mi Árbol.

Se dio la vuelta, pero por supuesto no había nadie allí.

Así que salió de la casa. A pesar del aumento rápido de los síntomas de pánico – palpitaciones, temblores, y mareos – se las arregló para expresar su agradecimiento a la señora Tsosi, aunque ella aún no alzara la vista en él. Incapaz de pensar, sin saber a dónde ir, él vino aquí abajo, cerca del agua. Es a finales del verano o principios del otoño; ahora que él es un hombre de los mundos, es consciente de la lentitud con que las estaciones van y vienen en Desastre en su majestuosa pavana alrededor de su estrella. La mayoría de los planetas pasan por dos o incluso tres años en el tiempo que tarda éste en la órbita de una vez; es porque Desastre es tanto más lejano de su estrella, que tendría que deber apoyar la vida terreno, ya que esta estrella es mucho más brillante y más caliente que el Sol, la estrella de Vieja Tierra.

Los arces se encuentran en la hoja completa, y la brisa cruje por ellos casi como susurros. Uno de estos árboles? No hay árboles en todo el planeta aparte de estos rezagados de Vieja Tierra. Aún ella seguramente no significó uno de estos.

Él deja a su resto de ojos sobre las aguas de la charca y trata de dejar a su flotador de pensamientos libre del pasado. El pasado, sin embargo, está todavía muchísimo con él. Esto es el lugar donde, cuantos hace años él no puede decir (él nunca puede recordar la fórmula para convertir los años largos de Desastre en años estándares), pero esto es el lugar donde hace mucho tiempo esto había sido el invierno y ella había permitido a copos de nieve caerse en sus ojos y había dicho que podría ver otro mundo.

Él se acerca a la capilla, posiblemente tratando de alejarse de los recuerdos, o posiblemente a buscarlos, pero el fantasma lo sigue también en este caso. Él camina alrededor de la pequeña de tablilla blanca, recordando cuando eran pequeños y Rafaela le leía los poemas mórbidos antiguos de las lápidas en el campo detrás de la capilla. Recuerda el día en que se encontraban en el santuario, besando el uno al otro, y casi lo atrapan por el viejo Pastor Pablo, y sonríe brevemente con el dolor dulce de reconocimiento. La capilla se ve la misma que cuando era un niño, a no ser que quizás esto tenga contraído con los años.

Él se acerca de la estación del ferrocarril. Aquí es donde comenzó, por accidente (o quizás por una mezcla de planificación y espontaneidad por parte de Rafaela; con ella, nunca podía estar seguro), su viaje a la fama entre las estrellas. La estación, con su andén que cuelga hacia abajo, hacia la vía, como la falda polvorienta de una madre, parece más pequeña a los ojos adultos, los ojos que han sido entrenados, por los grandes cosmódromos interestelares, ser acostumbrado a la vista de los centros de transporte que son las obras maestras arquitectónicas de tamaño y esplendor, y esta pequeña estructura parecida a un granero no tiene nada magnífico sobre ello, aunque sea bonita de su propio modo simple, con su fachada destiñendo, desgastando, de madera de hongo.

Y luego él anda hasta el borde de los Llanos de Suicidio, donde ellos habían practicado su patinaje. A medida que sus ojos se adaptan a la horizontalidad vacía de estos llanos sin vida, él se da cuenta de algo nuevo, algo que no ha visto antes, en el seno mismo de la misma, una forma oscura brillante que riela encima de la llanura muerta, con su reflexión rielado también sobre la superficie de la sílice.

Él empieza a caminar más cerca, curioso. Después de un par de minutos se puede ver que tiene un tronco de color plateado con curvas blandas como las piernas desnudas de una mujer hermosa. Tiene ramas que alcanzan hasta el cielo como sus brazos. Está coronada con una aureola gloriosa de las hojas lujosamente verdes, e incluso a esta distancia se puede escuchar los retintines y resonantes en los vientos siempre cambiantes de los llanos.

Se trata de un Árbol. Se trata de un hongo. Donde nadie alguna vez habría esperado un Árbol, al medio mismo de este espacio enorme muerto – un espacio que ha muerto hace mucho tiempo – de hecho, incluso cuando la humanidad primero llegó aquí y el mundo entero era un bosque infinito, aún entonces este lugar ya mucho tiempo había sido desprovisto de Árboles.

Sí, mis niños, tiene usted razón. Él miraba a esto Árbol alrededor el cual somos juntados hoy. Hoy, sabemos su historia con intimidad bien. Pero ese día hace mucho tiempo, Huw Mendelez, también conocido como Arnoldo Fremder, no puede comenzar a desentrañar el misterio. Incluso cuando él crecía aquí, los bosques de hongo habían sido cortados abajo, casi todos ellos. En el tiempo del cual le digo, había sido hace mucho tiempo cortaron todos los Árboles de Desastre y serrado en pedazos. Wakefield, la administradora del planeta, le había mostrado las imágenes.

Después de varios minutos de paseo él ha venido a ello.

Protege mi Árbol. Esto es lo que su imagen le dijo, si él no alucinara.

Él está ya dispuesto a adivinar que esto es el único Árbol de hongo de vida sobre el planeta entero – y en ese momento, el momento en que el pensamiento se le ocurre, él tiene razón. El Árbol es alto, pero en medio de una inmensa llanura de implacable horizontalidad, parece ser aún más alto. Hoy, mis niños, mirad a su alrededor, y se puede ver que hay muchos Árboles en crecimiento. Algunos son tan altos como el nuestro aquí, y aún más alto, aunque ninguno sea tan viejo, tan completamente lleno de gracia, tan rico en la historia y la sabiduría, o tan lleno de amor, como este Árbol hermoso aquí delante de nosotros. Pero tened en cuenta que, durante el día sobre cual le hablo, todos estos otros Árboles aún no había arraigado; y esto era el único Árbol. Era el único Árbol, y su único amigo era una mujer humana.

Él se acuerda de la arboleda de álamos plateados en Nueva Hokkaido, en las alturas detrás de la casa de Ikuko-san, rielado con mágico cuando el viento jugaba con sus hojas. Los resonantes delicados de las hojas del Árbol como ellas golpean la una a la otra en la brisa invocan la memoria de los menudos carillones metálicos colgados de la kamidana, su pequeño lugar santo de familia dedicado a sus antepasados, que ella mantuvo cariñosamente en un nicho natural de piedra cerca de su puerta de entrada. El Árbol también trae a la memoria un abeto solitario en Vieja Tierra, uno de los últimos de su especie, que estado solo en una tierra baldía canadiense que había sido la tundra antes la contaminación y las guerras arruinaron los ecosistemas por todo el mundo.

Protege mi Árbol, ella dijo.

Él nota los signos de perturbación. La superficie vidriosa lisa de los llanos ha sido rota, y no por el Árbol que fuerza sus raíces a través de la sílice difícil, pero por la acción humana. Los signos son muy sutiles, pero se puede ver que la sustancia brillante ha sido cuidadosamente cortada en forma de un rectángulo, y la forma es casi exactamente correcta para servir como una tumba humana. Él se pone sobre manos y rodillas, sonriendo para un momento, porque cualquiera podría pensar que es un Paseante a Rodillas, y él mira cuidadosamente a los bordes del rectángulo, y pueda distinguir las marcas de quemaduras que le dicen fue hecho con un láser. No hay ninguna lápida para decir quien, si a nadie, es enterrado aquí, ningún poema mórbido como aquellos en el cementerio detrás de la capilla, ningún nada de nada.

Sin embargo, él sabe sin la menor duda que esto es una tumba, y está absolutamente seguro de la identidad del cuerpo enterrado bajo los pies de este Árbol, y él no se siente aflicción, sino una sensación de alegría tranquila, como volver a casa otra vez, saber donde ella es. Al parecer Petrashko decía la verdad. Y él se da cuenta que, sin la duda, él realmente vio su espíritu en el espejo, y que ella es de alguna manera todavía con él, que ella lo ha perdonado, que ella todavía lo ama.

Él no sabe quién la ha enterrado aquí, pero esto no importa – él adivina que debe ser alguien más que puso su cadáver bajo el Árbol en respuesta a su deseo, alguien que la amó también, alguien que pretenda hacer ningún daño a este Árbol que el cuerpo de ella alimenta, este Árbol que de algún manera es su vida extendió, su vida continuado, su vida metamorfoseado en otra forma. Y aquí, mis niños, mirad; después de todo, hay un poema: el viento caprichoso en este día de lluvia ha puesto otra hoja a repicar contra esta, llamando nuestra atención a las líneas de Shakespeare:


Aunque, Dios sabe, sólo como una tumba está figuró,

Que oculta tu vida, y apenas muestra los encantos ofreces.


Protege mi Árbol, ella dijo.

Esto él hará. Esto yo haré. Lo haré cada día de mi vida, hasta que yo también muera, y, si consigo mi deseo, soy enterrado bajo este Árbol con ella, con ella y él, él quien ella más tarde vino para amar, él que quien creí tuvo que haberla enterrado aquí.

Empujar aquí por comprar esta novela.

Palindrome – Prevue du Roman en français par James David Audlin

Prevue du roman en français par James David Audlin.

Voici un chapitre critical de mon roman le plus connu, PALINDROME.


Personne ne semble savoir de quoi il parle quand il demande si une femme qui a vécu ici est récemment retournée au village. Il dit le nom ici et là à travers le village, Raphaëla Tsosi, et obtient juste des regardes. Peut-être ils ne veulent pas se confier à cet étranger qui se fait appeler Fremder qui est tout d’un coup demeurant parmi eux, les villageois qui n’ont vu personne arriver et souhaiter vivre au Forêtville depuis des décennies. Ou il se peut qu’ils reconnaissent son visage et ils savent qu’il est vraiment le garçon Huw Mendelez qui s’est enfui il y a plusieurs années avec la même jeune fille dont le nom duquel il demande autour de la ville, et ils sont devenus célèbres patineurs, et il est très peu probable que l’un des patineurs célèbres reviendrait ici pour demander de l’autre à moins que quelque chose d’étrange se passe au moins, et ces villageois ne veulent rien dire jusqu’à ils sachent ce qu’il a à dire.

Il a fallu un peu de courage pour visiter la maison dans laquelle elle avait grandi, car il avait peur que ses parents lui blâmeraient pour la tenir loin d’eux quand ils étaient adolescents. Mais il n’avait pas besoin de s’inquiéter ; Angelina est vieille maintenant, vieille avant de son heure, une femme aveugle empotée des cheveux blancs, dont le mari empoté Francis est mort l’hiver précédent. Elle survit seulement parce que les gens du village avaient soin d’elle. Elle n’a guère mouvée quand il est entré et parlait à lui, elle semblait plongée dans ses propres souvenirs et mélancolies. «Ma fille est morte » est tout ce qu’elle disait, d’une voix plus fatiguée que regrettable, mais au moins elle ne s’est pas opposée quand il a demandé à voir sa chambre. Elle ne s’est pas levée de la table et de son caff froid pour lui montrer à la pièce, alors qu’il montait l’escalier seul.

Comme un garçon, bien sûr, il n’aurait jamais été autorisé à y pénétrer, mais quand il a ouvré la porte, elle semblait familière, ou peut-être il était juste conscient du sentiment confortable de Raphaëla qui l’a rempli. D’ailleurs, la petite pièce peinte en blanc, avec son plafond brusquement incliné juste sous le toit aigu typique de ce village, et une lucarne étroite, semblait être encore en usage. Sa brosse à cheveux était sur la commode petite de bois de fongus, avec quelques longs poils pris en elle comme si elle l’avait fait usage pas si longtemps passée ; les poils étaient blancs, pas noirs. Au-dessus de la commode était un miroir dans lequel elle doit avoir elle-même observée en se brossant les cheveux; comme les fenêtres de cette vieille maison, il est teinté de vert ; le verre a été fabriqué du sable du Désastre et ses silicates de bleu et jaune comme images de miroir. À côté de lui était une petite bibliothèque, il a scanné les titres, et était un peu surpris par le nombre de classiques par les anciens tels que Blake, Milton, Whitman, Tennyson, et Shakespeare. Appuyé contre la bibliothèque a été le sac qu’il avait lui-même souvent porté pour elle car ils ont dépêché à travers les spatioports pour aller à bord du navire qui les amènerait au prochain spectacle. Comment pourrait-il être ici à moins qu’elle n’ait été ici récemment ? Il a ouvré la porte de l’armoire et il a vu un couple de robes accroché dedans parfaitement familiers, et évidemment il n’y a pas longtemps, car ils étaient plus près de l’avant que les tabliers de fille ; ils étaient les robes qu’il se souvenait très bien de leurs années à la tournée, tissus déliés et mous, décolletés pour montrer les courbes chaleureuses de ses seins et avec des ourlets très courtes pour étaler ses jambes nues, lorsqu’elle a patiné. Il a même trouvé sa possession la plus précieuse, une jupe Selemni originale faite spécialement pour elle par le créateur lui-même. Ces robes ne seraient pas ici en maison de son enfance à moins qu’elle ne les ait ramenées avec elle des étoiles.

Puis quelque chose s’est passé, ou semblait se passer, que maintenant il est à la recherche, lorsqu’il se soutient dans la lumière froide de l’étoile près du lac, et ayant du mal à accepter. Il était devant la petite commode en regarder de sa réflexion, la réflexion d’un homme délaissé, fatigué, vieillissant, et ensuite il la voit, Raphaëla, debout au derrière de sa propre image. Elle était en robe d’une orange coucher-de-l’étoile qui a frôlé le haut de ses pieds. Ses longs cheveux étaient blancs, mais son visage, le visage qu’il connaissait mieux que tout autre visage dans l’univers, ayant presque embrassé ce visage à peu près chaque nuit pendant tant d’années, était plus beau que jamais. Ses yeux semblaient chercher pas à lui mais à travers de lui.

– Huw, la réflexion a déclaré. Protège mon Arbre.

Il s’est retourné, mais bien sûr il n’y avait personne là.

Ainsi, il a quitté la maison. Malgré l’augmentation rapide des symptômes de panique – palpitations, tremblements, et vertiges – il a réussi à exprimer ses remercîments à Mme Tsosi, aussi bien qu’elle n’a même pas levé les yeux. Incapable de penser, ne sachant où aller, il est venu ici près de l’eau. Il est la fin de l’été, ou au début de l’automne ; maintenant qu’il est un homme des mondes, il est conscient de si lentement les saisons vont et viennent sur le Désastre dans sa pavane imposante autour de son étoile. La plupart des mondes passent par deux ou même trois ans dans le temps qu’il faut pour celui-ci de n’orbiter la Misère qu’une fois, c’est parce qu’en le cas du Désastre il est si tant plus loin de son étoile, comment il devrait être pour soutenir la vie terrestre, puisque cette étoile est beaucoup plus lumineuse et plus chaude que le Soleil, l’étoile de la Vieille Terre.

Les érables sont en pleine feuille, et la brise bruisse à travers d’eux presque comme des voix chuchotantes. L’un de ces arbres ? Il n’y a pas d’arbres sur la planète entière hormis de ces rôdeurs de la Vieille Terre. Pourtant, certainement elle n’a pas signifié l’un de ces arbres.

Il laisse son regard se pose sur les eaux du lac et essaie de laisser ses pensées flotter libre du passé. Le passé, toutefois, est encore très près de lui. C’est l’endroit où, il ne peut pas dire combien d’années y a-t-il (il ne se souvient jamais la formule pour convertir les longues années sur le Désastre en années universelles), mais c’est l’endroit où il y a très longtemps il était l’hiver et elle avait laissé flocons de neige tomber sur les yeux et elle a dit qu’elle pouvait voir un autre monde.

Il marche à la chapelle ; peut-être il veut essayer d’échapper ses mémoires, ou peut-être les chercher, mais le fantôme le suit là aussi. Il se promène autour de la petite structure bardeau blanc ; il se souvient quand ils étaient petits et Raphaëla lui lisait les poèmes morbides anciens sur les pierres tombales dans le cimetière derrière d’elle. Il se rappelle le jour où ils ont été dans le sanctuaire en train d’embrasser et ils eurent presque découvert par le vieux pasteur Paulus, et il sourit brièvement avec la douleur douce de la reconnaissance. La chapelle est exactement la même que quand il était petit, sauf peut-être qu’elle a rétréci avec les années.

Il sort à la gare de chemin de fer. C’est là où ils ont commencé, par accident (ou peut-être par un mélange de plan et de la spontanéité de la part de Raphaëla ; avec elle, il ne pourrait jamais être sûr), leur voyage au renom parmi les étoiles. La gare, avec la plate-forme qui pendait vers la voie ferrée comme la jupe poussiéreuse d’une mère, semble plus petits à ses yeux adultes, des yeux qui ont été formés par grands spatioports interstellaires de s’attendre à des centres de transport à être chefs-d’œuvre architecturaux de taille et de grandeur, et cette petite structure comme une grange n’a rien de grandeur, mais elle est assez simple à sa manière, avec sa façade de bois de fongus qui se fane et s’éraille.

Et puis il marche vers le bord des plaines Suicide, où ils avaient pratiqué leur patinage. Comme ses yeux s’habituent à l’horizontalité de cette plaine vide sans vie, il remarque quelque chose de nouveau, quelque chose qu’il n’a pas vu auparavant, dans le milieu même des plaines, une forme ténébreuse-brillant qui scintille au-dessus de l’aplatissement mort, avec son reflet scintillant également sur la surface de la silice.

Il commence à marcher plus éloigné, curieux. Après quelques minutes, il peut voir qu’il a un tronc d’argent avec les courbes souples comme les jambes nues d’une belle femme. Il possède des branches atteignant le ciel comme les bras de la femme. Il est couronné d’une auréole glorieuse de feuilles vert foncé, et même à cette distance, il peut les entendre chuchoter et tinter et carillonner dans le vent en constant mouvement de révolution des plaines.

C’est un Arbre. C’est un fongus. Là où personne ne l’aurait jamais attendu, au beau milieu de ce vaste espace mort – un espace qui est mort depuis si longtemps – en fait, même quand l’humanité est arrivée ici et le monde entier était une forêt sans fin, même alors cet endroit avait déjà depuis longtemps dépourvu d’Arbres.

Oui, mes enfants, vous avez raison. Il regardait cet Arbre-ci autour quel nous sommes assemblés aujourd’hui. Aujourd’hui, nous savons de son histoire intimement bien. Mais ce jour-là il y a bien longtemps, Huw Mendelez, également connu comme Arnold Fremder, ne pouvait pas commencer à sonder le mystère. Même quand il a grandi ici, les forêts de fongus ont été presque toutes complètement hachées au bas. Au moment duquel je vous parle, tous les Arbres du Désastre ont été depuis longtemps abattus et sciés en pièces. Wakefield, l’administrateur de planète, lui avait montré les photos.

Après plusieurs minutes de marche, il est venu à lui.

Protège mon Arbre. C’est ce que son image lui a dit, s’il n’avait pas halluciné.

Il est déjà prêt à deviner que c’est le seul Arbre fongus qui vive sur la planète entière – et à ce moment, le moment l’idée lui vient, il a raison. L’Arbre est grand, mais au milieu d’un immense aplatissement d’horizontalité sans relâche, il semble encore plus grand. Aujourd’hui, mes enfants, regardez autour de vous et vous pouvez voir qu’il y a beaucoup d’Arbres qui agrandissent ici. Certains sont aussi grands que le nôtre ici, et encore plus, mais aucun n’est si ancien, si inclusivement gracieux, si riche en histoire et en sagesse, ou si plein d’amour que ce bel Arbre devant de nous. Mais considérez que, le jour duquel je vous parle, tous ces autres Arbres n’avaient pas encore ancrée, et ceci était le seul Arbre. Il était le seul Arbre, et son seul ami était une femme humaine.

Il se rappelle un taillis de peupliers argentés sur la Nouvelle Hokkaido, parmi les hauteurs derrière la maison d’Ikuko-san, chatoyantes de magie quand le vent jouait avec leurs feuilles. Le carillon léger des feuilles de l’Arbre lorsqu’elles frappent les unes les autres dans la brise ramène la mémoire du carillon petit de métal suspendu au kamidana, son sanctuaire miniature familial aux ancêtres, qu’elle a placé amoureusement dans une niche naturelle de la pierre près de la porte d’entrée. Il se souvient aussi en voir l’Arbre un sapin solitaire sur la Vieille Terre, l’un des derniers de son espèce, qui se tenait seul dans un désert du Canada qui avait été la toundra avant que la pollution et la guerre a détruit les écosystèmes de la planète.

Protège mon Arbre, elle a dit.

Il y trouve quelques signes de perturbation. La surface de verre lisse des plaines a été cassé, et non par l’Arbre de forcer ses racines à travers la silice dure, mais par l’action humaine. Les signes sont très subtils, mais il peut voir que la substance brillante a été soigneusement découpée en forme d’un rectangle, et la forme est à peu près parfaite de servir comme sépulture d’un humain. Il descend sur les mains et les genoux, momentanément avec un sourire, parce qu’on penserait qu’il est un Marcheur à Genoux, et il examine soigneusement les bords du rectangle, et il découvre les marques de brûlures qui lui disent qu’il a été fait avec un laser. Il n’y a pas de pierre tombale de dire qui, si quelqu’un, est enterré ici, ni aucun poème morbide comme celles dans le cimetière en arrière de la chapelle, rien du tout.

Mais il sait sans aucun doute que voici une tombe, et il est absolument certain de l’identité du corps enfoui sous les pieds de cet Arbre, et il ne sent pas la douleur, mais un sentiment de joie tranquille, comme un retour à la maison, à savoir où elle est. Apparemment Petrashko disait la vérité. Et il se rend compte que, sans doute, il a vu son esprit dans le miroir, et qu’elle est en quelque sorte toujours avec lui, qu’elle lui a pardonnée, qu’elle l’aime toujours.

Il ne sait pas qui l’a enterrée ici, mais il n’importe rien – il suppose qu’il doit être quelqu’un qui a mis son cadavre au-dessous de l’Arbre à l’appel d’elle-même, quelqu’un qui l’aimait aussi, quelqu’un qui n’a pas de maux souhaits pour cet Arbre qui se nourrit de son corps, cet Arbre qui est en quelque sorte sa vie prolongée, continuée, métamorphosée en une autre forme. Et voici, mes enfants, regardez, il y a un poème après tout : le vent capricieux en ce jour pluvieux a mis une autre feuille de carillon contre celle-ci, en attirant notre attention sur les lignes de Shakespeare :


Bien qu’encore, Dieu sache, il n’est qu’un tombeau

Qui cache ta vie, et montre peu de ta splendeur.

Protège mon Arbre, elle a dit.

Il le fera. Je le ferai. Je vais le faire tous les jours de ma vie, jusqu’au temps quand je serai mort aussi, et, si je reçois mon souhait, je serai enterré au-dessous de cet Arbre avec elle, avec elle et lui, celui qu’elle venait à aimer, celui qui j’ai cru a dû l’avoir l’enterrée ici.

Cliquer ici pour commander ce roman.

Rats Live on no Evil Star – Preview of Novel by James David Audlin

Novel by James David Audlin – Preview


This is a linchpin chapter in my best-known novel, RATS LIVE ON NO EVIL STAR.


Nobody seems to know what he is talking about when he asks if a woman who used to live here has recently returned to town. He says the name around the village, Raphaela Tsosi, and just gets stares. It may be that they don’t want to confide in this stranger who calls himself Fremder who’s all of a sudden residing among them, villagers who haven’t seen anyone actually come and want to live in Forestville for decades. Or it may be that they recognize his face and know he’s really the boy Huw Mendelez who ran away many years ago with the very girl whose name he’s going around town asking about, and they became famous skaters, and it’s pretty unlikely that one famous skater would come back here asking for the other unless something strange were going on, and these villagers don’t want to say anything until they know what he has to say.

It took a bit of courage to visit the house she had grown up in, since he was afraid that her parents would blame him for taking her away from them when they were adolescents. But he needn’t have worried; Angelina is old now, old before her time, a blind whitehaired stumblebum woman, whose stumblebum husband Francis died the previous winter. The only reason she survives is because the village folks look out for her. She hardly moved when he came in and spoke to her; she seemed sunk in her own melancholy and memories. “My daughter is dead” is all she would say, in a voice more tired out than regretful, though at least she didn’t object when he asked to see her daughter’s bedroom. She didn’t get up from the table and her cold caff to show him to the room, so he climbed the stairs alone.

As a boy, of course, he would never have been allowed into it, but still when he opened the door it seemed familiar, or perhaps he was just aware of the comfortable sense of Raphaela that pervaded it. What is more, the little white-painted room, with its steeply sloping ceiling just under the high-pitched roof typical in this village, and a narrow dormer, appeared to be still in use. Her brush was on the small funguswood dresser, with some long hairs caught in it as if she had just used it not long ago; the hairs were white, not black. Above the dresser was a mirror in which she must have observed herself while brushing her hair; like the windows in this old house it is tinged with green; the glass was made from the sand of Disaster and its mirror-image blue and yellow silicates. Next to it was a small bookcase; he scanned the titles, and was somewhat surprised by the number of classics by such ancients as Blake, Milton, Whitman, Tennyson, and Shakespeare. Leaning against the bookcase was the bag that he had himself often carried for her as they were racing through spaceports to board the flight that would take them to the next show. How could it be here unless she had been here recently? He pulled open the closet door and saw a couple of familiar dresses neatly hung in the little closet, and obviously not long ago, since they were closer to the front than the girl-child pinafores; they were the gowns that he remembered very well from their years on the road, fine soft fabrics cut low to show the warm swell of her breasts and with very short hemlines to display her naked legs as she skated. He even found her most prized possession, an original Selemni made specifically for her by the designer himself. These dresses would not be here in her childhood home unless she had brought them back with her from the stars.

Then something happened, or seemed to happen, that he is looking back on now, standing in the bright cold starlight down near the pond, and having trouble accepting. He was standing before the little dresser and looking into the mirror at his own reflection, the reflection of a tired, aging, lonely man, and then he saw her, Raphaela, standing behind the image of himself. She was wearing robes in a deep orange color that brushed the top of her feet. Her long hair was white, but her face, the face that he knew better than any face in the universe, having almost-kissed that face nearly every night for so many years, was as beautiful as ever. Her eyes seemed to be looking not at him but through him.

“Huw,” the reflection said. “Protect my Tree.”

He turned, but of course there was no one there.

So he left the house. Despite the rapidly increasing symptoms of panic – palpitations, shaking, and lightheadedness – he managed to express his thanks to Ms. Tsosi, though she didn’t even look up. Unable to think, not knowing where to go, he came down here near the water. It is late summer, or early fall; now that he is a man of the worlds, he is conscious of how slowly the seasons come and go on Disaster in its stately pavane around its star. Most planets go through two or even three years in the time it takes for this one to orbit once; it’s because Disaster is so much farther out from its star, which it would have to be to support terrene life, since this star is much brighter and hotter than the Sun, the star of Old Earth.

The maples are in full leaf, and the breeze rustles through them almost like whispering voices. One of these trees? There are no trees on this entire planet other than these stragglers from Old Earth. Yet she surely didn’t mean one of these.

He lets his eyes rest on the waters of the pond and tries to let his thoughts float free from the past. The past, however, is still very much with him. This is the spot where, how many years ago he cannot say (he never can remember the formula for converting the long years on Disaster into standard years), but this is the spot where a long time ago it had been winter and she had let snowflakes fall onto her eyes and she said she saw another world.

He walks to the chapel, possibly trying to get away from the memories, or possibly seeking them out, but the ghost follows him here too. He walks around the small white-clapboard structure, remembering when they were little and Raphaela would read to him the ancient morbid poems on the gravestones in the field behind it. He recalls the day when they were in the sanctuary kissing each other and they almost got caught by old Pastor Paulus, and smiles briefly with the sweet ache of recognition. The chapel looks just the same as it did when he was a kid, unless perhaps it has shrunken with the years.

He walks out to the railroad depot. This is where they began, by accident (or perhaps by a mix of plan and spontaneity on Raphaela’s part; with her he could never be sure), their voyage to fame among the stars. The station, with the platform hanging down toward the tracks like a mother’s dusty skirt, seems smaller to his adult eyes; eyes that have been trained by great interstellar spaceports to expect transportation hubs to be architectural masterpieces of size and grandeur, and this small barn of a structure has nothing grand about it, though it is pretty in its own simple way with its fading fraying funguswood façade.

And then he walks out to the edge of the Suicide Flats, where they had practiced their skating. As his eyes adjust to the empty horizontality of this lifeless plain he notices something new, something he hasn’t seen before, out in the very midst of it, a dark-bright shape shimmering above the dead flatness, with its reflection shimmering too on the surface of the silica.

He begins to walk closer, curious. After a couple minutes he can see that it has a silvery trunk with the supple curves of a beautiful woman’s naked legs. It has branches reaching up to the sky like her arms. It is crowned with a glorious nimbus of rich green leaves, and even from this distance he can hear them whispering and tinkling and chiming in the ever-shifting winds of the flats.

It is a Tree. It is a fungus. Where no one would ever have expected one, in the very middle of this vast dead space – a space that has been dead for such a long time – in fact, even when humanity first arrived here and the entire world was one endless forest, even then this place had already long been devoid of Trees.

Yes, children, you are right. He was looking at this very Tree around which we are gathered today. Today, we know its history intimately well. But on that day long ago, Huw Mendelez, also known as Arnold Fremder, cannot begin to fathom the mystery. Even when he was growing up here, the fungus forests had been all but completely hacked away. At the time I’m telling you about, all of the Trees of Disaster were long since chopped down and sawn up. Wakefield, the planet administrator, had shown him the pictures.

After several minutes of walking he has come to it.

Protect my Tree. That’s what her image told him, if he wasn’t hallucinating.

He is already willing to guess that this is the only living fungus Tree on the entire planet – and at that moment, the moment the thought occurs to him, he is right. The Tree is tall, but in the midst of an immense sheet of unremitting horizontality, it appears even taller. Today, children, look around, and you can see that there are many Trees growing. Some are as tall as ours here, and even taller, though none is as old, as encompassingly graceful, as rich in story and wisdom, or as full of love as this beautiful Tree here before us. But bear in mind that, on the day I’m telling you about, all these other Trees had not yet rooted; this was the only Tree. It was the only Tree, and its only friend was a human woman.

He is reminded of the stand of silver poplars back on New Hokkaido on the heights behind Ikuko-san’s house, shimmering with magic when the wind played with their leaves. The faint chiming of the Tree’s leaves as they strike each other in the breeze brings back the memory of the tiny metal chimes hung from the kamidana, her little family shrine to ancestors, which she lovingly kept in a natural niche of stone near her front door. The Tree also brings back to mind a solitary fir back on Old Earth, one of the last of its kind, standing alone in a Canadian wasteland that had been tundra before pollution and war wrecked the ecosystems worldwide.

Protect my Tree, she said.

He notices signs of disturbance. The glassy smooth surface of the flats has been broken, and not by the Tree forcing its roots through the hard silica, but by human action. The signs are very subtle, but he can tell that the shining substance has been carefully cut in the shape of a rectangle, and the shape is just about right to serve as a human grave. He gets down onto his hands and knees, momentarily smiling because anyone would think he’s a Kneewalker, and looks carefully at the edges of the rectangle, and makes out the burn marks that tell him it was done with a laser. There is no marker to say who, if anyone, is buried here, no morbid poem like those in the graveyard behind the chapel, nothing at all.

Yet he knows without the slightest doubt that this is a grave, and he is absolutely sure of the identity of the body buried beneath the feet of this Tree, and he feels not grief but a sense of quiet gladness, like coming home again, to know where she is. Apparently Petrashko was telling the truth. And he realizes that he did, without doubt, see her spirit in the mirror, and that she is somehow still with him, that she has forgiven him, that she still loves him.

He doesn’t know who it is who has buried her here, but it doesn’t matter – he guesses that it must be someone else who laid her corpse beneath the Tree at her bidding, someone who loved her too, someone who means no harm to this Tree that is nourished by her body, this Tree that in some way is her life extended, continued, metamorphosed into another form. And here, children, look; there is a poem after all: the fitful wind on this rainy day has set another leaf to chiming against this one, drawing our attention to Shakespeare’s lines:


… Though yet, heaven knows, it is but as a tomb

Which hides your life, and shows not half your parts.


Protect my Tree, she said.

That he will do. That I will do. I will do it every day of my life, until I too die, and, if I get my wish, I am buried beneath this Tree with her, with her and him, the one whom she came to love, the one whom I believed had to have buried her here.

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