Etnograf, Jorge Luis Borges

by Vertebrata

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Slučaj su mi ispričali u Texasu, ali se zbio u nekoj drugoj državi. Ima samo jednog protagonista, ali u svakoj priči ima na tisuće junaka, vidljivih i nevidljivih, živih i mrtvih. Zvao se, mislim, Fred Murdock. Bio je visok, kakvi jesu Amerikanci, ni plav ni smeđ, oštra profila, škrt na riječima. Ništa posebno ne bijaše na njemu, čak ni ona hinjena posebnost svojstvena mladima. Prirodno smjeran, imao je povjerenja u knjige i u one što ih pišu. Bio je u dobi kad čovjek još ne zna tko je i spreman se prepustiti onome što mu slučaj ponudi: perzijskoj mistici ili neznanom podrijetlu mađarskog jezika, ratnim pustolovinama ili algebri, puritanizmu ili orgijama. Na Sveučilištu mu savjetovahu studij urođeničkih govora. U nekim zapadnim plemenima održali su se neki ezoterični obredi; njegov profesor, čovjek poodmakle dobi, predloži mu da ode živjeti u jedan indijanski logor, te da promatra obrede i dozna tajnu što je vrači otkrivaju posvećenima. Po povratku će napisati tezu što će je Institut objaviti. Murdock to spremno prihvati. Jedan od njegovih predaka bijaše umro u borbama oko granice; ta davna nezgoda njegova roda postade sada vezom. Svakako, predvidio je poteškoće što ga očekivahu; morao se potruditi da ga crvenokošci prihvate kao jednoga od svojih. Uputio se u dugotrajnu pustolovinu. Više od dvije godine stanovao je na otvorenom, pod kožnim šatorom ili izložen nepogodama. Ustajao bi prije zore, lijegao s mrakom, te započe sanjati na jeziku koji ne bijaše jezik njegovih otaca. Navikao je svoje nepce na opore okuse, pokrivao se čudnim krpama, zaboravio je prijatelje i grad, a počeo je i razmišljati na način koji je njegova logika odbijala. Za prvih mjeseci naukovanja vodio je povjerljive bilješke, koje zatim uništi, možda da ne pobudi sumnju drugih, a možda zato što mu više i ne trebahu. Na završetku razdoblja namijenjenog vježbanju moralne i fizičke spremnosti, svećenik mu naredi da zapamti svoje snove te da mu ih izjutra povjeri. Ustanovi da za punog mjeseca sanja bizone. Povjeri te svoje višekratne snove svojemu učitelju; on odluči da mu otkrije svoje tajno znanje. Jednoga jutra, ne oprostivši se ni od koga, Murdock pobježe.

U gradu je osjetio čežnju za onim prvim večerima na otvorenom, za kojih je, bar neko vrijeme, osjećao čežnju prema gradu. Uputi se u profesorov kabinet i kaza mu kako znade tajnu, ali je, ipak, odlučio da je ne objavi.

– Veže li vas zakletva? – upita drugi.
– To nije moj razlog – kaza Murdock. – U tim sam krajevima naučio nešto što ne mogu izreći.
– Možda je engleski jezik nedostatan? – primijeti drugi.
– Ništa od toga, gospodine. Sad kad imam tajnu, mogao bih je izraziti na sto različitih i čak proturječnih načina. Ne znam kako da vam kažem da je tajna dragocjena i da mi sada znanost, naša znanost, izgleda sasvim ništavnom.
Dodade nakon kraće stanke:
– Tajna, uostalom, ne vrijedi koliko putovi što me do nje dovedoše. Te putove treba proći.
Profesor mu hladno reče:
– Izvjestit ću Vijeće od vašoj odluci. Kanite li živjeti među Indijancima?
Murdock se usprotivi:
– Ne. Možda se neću vratiti. Ono što su me ljudi tamo naučili vrijedi na bilo kojem mjestu i za bilo kakvu prigodu.
Takav je bio, u srži, razgovor.
Fred se oženio, zatim rastavio i danas je jedan od knjižničara na Sveučilištu Yale.

(preveo Tonko Maroević)

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“The Ethnographer”
by
Jorge Luis Borges

I was told about the case in Texas, but it had happened in another state. It has a single protagonist (though in every story there are thousands of protagonists, visible and invisible, alive and dead). The man’s name, I believe, was Fred Murdock. He was tall, as Americans are; his hair was neither blond nor dark, his features were sharp, and he spoke very little. There was nothing singular about him, not even that feigned singularity that young men affect. He was naturally respectful, and he distrusted neither books nor the men and women who write them. He was at that age when a man doesn’t yet know who he is, and so is ready to throw himself into whatever chance puts in his way — Persian mysticism or the unknown origins of Hungarian, the hazards of war or algebra, Puritanism or orgy. At the university, an adviser had interested him in Amerindian languages. Certain esoteric rites still survived in certain tribes out West; one of his professors, an older man, suggested that he go live on a reservation, observe the rites, and discover the secret revealed by the medicine men to the initiates. When he came back, he would have his dissertation, and the university authorities would see that it was published. Murdock leaped at the suggestion. One of his ancestors had died in the frontier wars; that bygone conflict of his race was now a link. He must have foreseen the difficulties that lay ahead for him; he would have to convince the red men to accept him as one of their own. He set out upon the long adventure. He lived for more than two years on the prairie, sometimes sheltered by adobe walls and sometimes in the open. He rose before dawn, went to bed at sundown, and came to dream in a language that was not that of his fathers. He conditioned his palate to harsh flavors, he covered himself with strange clothing, he forgot his friends and the city, he came to think in a fashion that the logic of his mind rejected. During the first few months of his new education he secretly took notes; later, he tore the notes up — perhaps to avoid drawing suspicion upon himself, perhaps because he no longer needed them. After a period of time (determined upon in advance by certain practices, both spiritual and physical), the priest instructed Murdock to start remembering his dreams, and to recount them to him at daybreak each morning. The young man found that on nights of the full moon he dreamed of buffalo. He reported these recurrent dreams to his teacher; the teacher at last revealed to him the tribe’s secret doctrine. One morning, without saying a word to anyone, Murdock left.

In the city, he was homesick for those first evenings on the prairie when, long ago, he had been homesick for the city. He made his way to his professor’s office and told him that he knew the secret, but had resolved not to reveal it.

“Are you bound by your oath?” the professor asked.

“That’s not the reason,” Murdock replied. “I learned something out there that I can’t express.”

“The English language may not be able to communicate it,” the professor suggested.

“That’s not it, sir. Now that I possess the secret, I could tell it in a hundred different and even contradictory ways. I don’t know how to tell you this, but the secret is beautiful, and science, our science, seems mere frivolity to me now.”

After a pause he added: “And anyway, the secret is not as important as the paths that led me to it. Each person has to walk those paths himself.”

The professor spoke coldly: “I will inform the committee of your decision. Are you planning to live among the Indians?”

“No,” Murdock answered. “I may not even go back to the prairie. What the men of the prairie taught me is good anywhere and for any circumstances.”

That was the essence of their conversation.

Fred married, divorced, and is now one of the librarians at Yale.

(Translation by Andrew Hurley).

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EL ETNOGRAFO

El caso me lo refirieron en Texas, pero había acontenido en otro estado. Cuenta con un solo protagonista, salvo que en toda historia los protagonistas son miles, visibles e invisibles, vivos y muertos. Se llamaba, creo, Fred Murdock. Era alto a la manera americana, ni rubio ni moreno, de perfil de hacha, de muy pocas palabras. Nada singular había en él, ni siquiera esa fingida singularidad que es propia de los jóvenes. Naturalmente respetuoso, no descreía de los libros ni de quienes escriben los libros.  Era suya esa edad en que el hombre no sabe aún quién es y está listo para entregarse a lo que le propone el azar: la mística del persa o el desconocido origen del húngaro, la aventuras de la guerra o del álgebra, el puritanismo o la orgía. En la universidad le aconsejaron el estudio de las lenguas indígenas. Hay ritos esotéricos que perduran en ciertas tribus del oeste; su profesor, un hombre entrado en años, le propuso que hiciera su habitación en una toldería, que observara los ritos y que descubriera el secreto que los brujos revelan al iniciado. A su vuelta, redactaría una tesis que las autoridades del instituto darían a la imprenta. Murdock aceptó con alacridad. Uno de sus mayores había muerto en las guerras de la frontera; esa antigua discordia de sus estirpes era un vínculo ahora. Previó, sin duda, las dificultades que lo aguardaban; tenía que lograr que los hombres rojos lo aceptaran como a uno de los suyos. Emprendió la larga aventura. Más de dos años habitó en la pradera, bajo toldos de cuero o a la intemperie. Se levantaba antes del alba, se acostaba al anochecer, llegó a soñar en un idioma que no era el de sus padres. Acostumbró su paladar a sabores ásperos, se cubrió con ropas extrañas, olvidó los amigos y la ciudad, llegó a pensar de una manera que su lógica rechazaba. Durante los primeros meses de aprendizaje tomaba notas sigilosas, que rompería después, acaso para no despertar la suspicacia de los otros, acaso porque ya no las precisaba. Al término de un plazo prefijado por ciertos ejercicios, de índole moral y de índole física, el sacerdote le ordenó que fuera recordando sus sueños y que se los confiara al clarear el día. Comprobó que en las noches de luna llena soñaba con bisontes. Confió estos sueños repetidos a su maestro; éste acabó por revelarle su doctrina secreta. Una mañana, sin haberse despedido de nadie, Murdock se fue.
    En la ciudad, sintió la nostalgia de aquellas tardes iniciales de la pradera en que había sentido, hace tiempo, la nostalgia de la ciudad. Se encaminó al despacho del profesor y le dijo que sabía el secreto y que había resuelto no publicarlo.
    — ¿Lo ata su juramento? — preguntó el otro.
    — No es ésa mi razón — dijo Murdock –. En esas lejanías aprendí algo que no puedo decir.
    — ¿Acaso el idioma inglés es insuficiente? — observaría el otro.
    — Nada de eso, señor. Ahora que poseo el secreto, podría enunciarlo de cien modos distintos y aun contradictorios. No sé muy bien cómo decirle que el secreto es precioso y que ahora la ciencia, nuestra ciencia, me parece una mera frivolidad.
    Agregó al cabo de una pausa:
    — El secreto, por lo demás, no vale lo que valen los caminos que me condujeron a él. Esos caminos hay que andarlos.
    El profesor le dijo con frialdad:
    — Comunicaré su decisión al Concejo. ¿Usted piensa vivir entre los indios?
    Murdock le contestó:
    — No. Tal vez no vuelva a la pradera. Lo que me enseñaron sus hombres vale para cualquier lugar y para cualquier circunstancia.
    Tal fue, en esencia, el diálogo.
    Fred se casó, se divorció y es ahora uno de los bibliotecarios de Yale.

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