In memory of the nearly 300,000 Holocaust victims killed at the Nazi-run extermination camp Chelmno, SMU Dedman College senior Sam W. read this powerful passage from The Book of Disquiet, written by anti-fascist/-communist Portuguese poet Fernando Passoa (1888-1935):
Today, suddenly, I reached an absurd but unerring conclusion. In a moment of enlightenment, I realized that I’m nobody, absolutely nobody. When the lightning flashed, I saw that what I had thought to be a city was in fact a deserted plain and, in the same sinister light that revealed me to myself, there seemed to be no sky above it. I was robbed of any possibility of having existed before the world. If I was ever reincarnated, I must have done so without myself, without a self to reincarnate.
I am the outskirts of some non-existent town, the long-winded prologue to an unwritten book. I’m nobody, nobody. I don’t know how to feel or think or love. I’m a character in a novel as yet unwritten, hovering in the air and undone before I’ve even existed, amongst the dreams of someone who never quite managed to breathe life into me.
I’m always thinking, always feeling, but my thoughts lack all reason, my emotions all feeling. I’m falling through a trapdoor, through infinite, infinitous space, in a directionless, empty fall. My soul is a black maelstrom, a great madness spinning about a vacuum, the swirling of a vast ocean around a hole in the void, and in the waters, more like whirlwinds than waters, float images of all I ever saw or heard in the world: houses, faces, books, boxes, snatches of music and fragments of voices, all caught up in a sinister, bottomless whirlpool.
And I, I myself, am the centre that exists only because the geometry of the abyss demands it; I am the nothing around which all this spins, I exist so that it can spin, I am a centre that exists only because every circle has one. I, I myself, am the well in which the walls have fallen away to leave only viscous slime. I am the centre of everything surrounded by the great nothing.
And it is as if hell itself were laughing within me but, instead of the human touch of diabolical laughter, there’s the mad croak of the dead universe, the circling cadaver of physical space, the end of all worlds drifting blackly in the wind, misshapen, anachronistic, without the God who created it, without God himself who spins in the dark of darks, impossible, unique, everything.
If only I could think! If only I could feel!
About the photo: Fragments unearthed at Chelmno,
by Sherry Aikman, from the new SMU Embrey Human
Rights Program book, No Resting Place: Holocaust Poland