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10 pages, Audiobook
First published January 1, 1941
“Copulation and mirrors are abominable.” The text of the encyclopædia ran, “To one of these Gnostics, the visible world was an illusion or, more precisely, a sophism. Mirrors and fatherhood are abominable because they reproduce and multiply the planet.”
Like all men in Babylon, I have been a proconsul; like all, a slave. I have known absolute power, public disgrace, and imprisonment. Behold, my right forefinger is missing. Behold, beneath this rent in my cloak my flesh bears a red tattoo. It is a beth, the second letter of our alphabet. On nights when the moon is full, this symbol grants me sway over men whose sign is a gimel but, at the same time, it makes me subject to those marked with an aleph.
I thought of a labyrinth of labyrinths, of a meandering, ever-growing labyrinth that would encompass the past and future and would somehow take in the heavenly bodies. Absorbed in these imaginings, I forgot my predicament as a hunted man. For untold moments, I felt I was a detached observer of the world. The living, twilit fields, the moon, the remains of the evening were playing on me; as was the easy slope of the road, which removed any chance of tiring. The evening was intimate, infinite.
“In all works of fiction, each time the writer is confronted with choices, he opts for one and discards the rest. In the inextricable Ts’ui Pên, he opts—at one and the same time—for all the alternatives. By so doing, he creates several futures, several times over, and in turn these proliferate and branch off.”