So, finally it came, September, a Monday, the twelfth, I remember that well. No, nothing specific happened, let alone something special or final except that was the day I received that little piece of paper. A small note, eight by twelve centimeters, no longer, without a single word on it. Just up at the top, on the left side, there was a six-digit number, blue ink on white paper: six, eight, two, dash, et cetera. I took back my identity card at the desk, pushed the glass door and went out. I look around, absorbed in thought and then sighed deeply. Then I crumpled up the paper and threw it away. I'd had that phone number written at home for a long time. Even so, half an hour ago I still thought that it was better to contact people in person, to see them, explain things. I looked at my watch. Yes, not even half an hour since I walked up those narrow zigzagging stairs with the smooth black railing like ebony under my hand and the dark orange carpeting under my foot. The second floor isn't far, I almost knew the hallway and the position of door number fourteen by heart.
It's still not ready said the clerk, barely lifting his head from the paper in front of him.
A woman, sitting at a side desk right next to him, didn't turn around. She continued to eat something, I suppose, wrapped up in a piece of paper. Expect for that folded paper and several other documents, neither desk had much of anything on it. There was a telephone on each one and the desks were smoothly polished as the only free space in this rather small room, with its large window whose plastic blinds were half-closed. In front and behind, left and right, all the way to the door and right next to the window, even on the floor, were stacks and stacks of notebooks and cardboard boxes, record books, bookkeeping journals, catalogues, laws, material.
I said, the commission hasn't yet the clerk raised his head once more without putting down the document in his hand.
Excuse me for asking I cautiously began it's taking quite a bit of time. As though there are some problems?
Or maybe not, it passed through my head, since he didn't answer.
But then again, I continued bravely it's not trash or anything political, that can be seen at first glance. In any case, I grew up after the war, a child of socialism, as they say I smiled.
But he remained silent and I perceived that silence could mean a lot more that has nothing in common with approval and encouragement.
Well, I was wondering, is there any possibility of an appeal, complaint, how is it done and to whom? He raised an eyebrow.
When opinions are divided, about a book for example, what happens legally? I finally asked.
Legally? he raised his voice too and I unconsciously took a half step backwards. But I had nowhere to go. An entire column of catalogues and record books wobbled and almost collapsed on my head.
Well all right then, in practical terms? I had to acquiesce do you give some sort of justification for your reviews?
No! he answered briefly.
But that isn't really fair to the publisher, to the writer. Isn't that so?
He was silent again, and seemed to lower his head even further into paper in his hand. I looked at him curiously, I had taken another step forward, I didn't pay any attention to the woman. She was sitting, eating, not looking at me, not listening to me, I couldn't expect anything from her. But now she turned around, took a small piece of paper, wrote something on it and silently pushed it across the table to me. And I unconsciously took it. However, I still expected an answer. But the clerk had nothing to say.
Here's the phone number the woman said impatiently, indicating the small piece of paper.
What phone number? I had to change the question. I just wanted to ask, just wanted to know...
But she didn't hear me. It was obvious that she had received all the answers, she sat comfortably at that desk with that wrapped up morsel, and the guy from across the hall or who knows where who could drop by, although he didn't have to drop by, didn't even have to exist, one momentary case actually, unnecessary facility or what in short, he could only have disturbed her and directed her thoughts without any reason or need. The world began and the world ended there with that morsel and among those document paragraphs, all the skills and all the dear meaning, regardless of who created that world, some god or some creator, and whether or not there is room in it for every question and every little essay. The best of all possible worlds, i.e. can it be otherwise?! And what's there to discuss!
The telephone number the impatient woman repeated. For you to ask!
For me to ask a number, a faceless voice, to ask someone there, sometime, just to leave her alone right now, even if she is the one who will have to asker the phone, say what she feels needs to be said and then hang up.
I understood and said: Good-bye!
Good-bye they both said.
And so I went home and thought it over. Suddenly it was all clear.
Definition: If the subject is that specific characteristic and that determination that feels if the possibility of feeling exists, that thinks if the possibility of thinking exists, that eats, wants, moves, exists if there is the possibility of eating, wanting, moving, existing and if all the rest is object,
Then one can formulate an
Conviction: The main contradiction in society, in this one, that one, society in general, is actually the contradiction within man himself, man as a subject and man as an object, the eternal contradiction between subject as the expression of possibility and object as the means and mediator towards that possibility, between an individual and a general simply to say, one Point and the other Infinity.
And I should not forget this either: I telephoned, of course. Somewhere around the end of September 1977 was the last time I inquired.
As you know, we give our opinion or we don't give it. There's no need for you to come anymore. Wait! I heard the voice from the receiver.
So I'm waiting.
(POLITICS, BREAD AND THE BOOK, from chapter VIII,
translated by Alice Copple-Toiζ)