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When it’s pouring, it’s really not very easy.
When it’s very hot, and I’m sweating profusely, I have quite a hard time too. 
But the weather has its own moods, we have to make do with whatever it offers us.
I have been digging for nearly six months now, a hole that is now maybe one hundred and sixty feet deep.
Apparently, more than six thousand people have asked me about it from up there. Questions, in truth always the same questions: “Why are you digging?” “How far are you going?” “Is it for apartheid?” “Are you a right-wing revolutionary? Or a left-wing one?” “Are you demonstrating against religion, power, hunger in the world? Against who, Mister Gilles Voreppe?” These are the type of questions they shout down at me.
I always reply that I am digging, and one evening, as I was finishing the day disappointed with the amount I had achieved, I got angry. So I yelled at those people up there. “Leave me alone, and look inside your own heads, instead of asking me why I’m digging.”
Since then, I’ve heard these words between seven and ten times a day, in a gentle, sensual tone… “Are you alright, Mister Voreppe? Do you need anything? Can we help you in any way?” I’ve also heard women’s voices: “Can I join in? You seem to like earthly pleasures! And people who are down to earth?”
Inevitably, for the past three months, I’ve more or less given up replying.
People make mountains out of molehills. I dig in the ground, simply because you can’t dig in the air; emptiness gives you nothing to catch onto, you try sticking the point of your pick into the air… Even a piece of wood falls back to earth as soon as it’s been thrown into space, so… And then, the earth is made to be dug; anybody can see that. But my undertaking seems to be shaking up public opinion. It’s a good job the land belongs to me, otherwise they would have driven me off it by throwing stones at me.
I live in my hole; I sleep in it. They create a business around my digging. They send me down nice treats several times a day. At first the basket used to tip over and then some technicians refined it; after that it only tipped over twice. In the end, I have got some really good support. The organisation is fantastic. No problem with my clothes, which come back to me regularly cleaned, and they give me free pickaxes, whenever I hit a problem. At the end of the day, I take responsibility for clearing the earth and the pebbles. I put the debris in sturdy plastic bags and they are taken up to the surface. 
Sometimes, exhausted, I lean on my pickaxe, flex my legs and look up to the sky; there must easily be eighteen cameras around my hole, all pointing at me. I could well be on television all over the world.
Sometimes my imagination makes me smile. That vision of villages lost in the African savanna, the brood of kids, the parents, the old people, the whole tribe gathered around the Chief’s hut and those hundreds of dark eyes all watching me; also the image of those Bedouins camping among the dunes, forgetting to feed their camels because their eyes are fixed on a TV they have got from God knows where. But I couldn’t care less about any of these little things.
When I run out of energy and can’t dig any more, I am sure they will come and find me. I think they will come at night, while I am sleeping. A special commando unit armed with hypodermic syringes will act gently but swiftly. They will lay me on a stretcher, and I will wake up in a lunatic asylum. It will be rather noisy, there will be a few demonstrations during the first fortnight, then no-one will say any more about it.
Nevertheless, certain journalists on the look-out for a sensational story will be tempted to interview me. They will dig galleries that will lead to my cell. I will see them appear, covered in earth, from under my bed. “We can offer you a tidy sum, you just have to name your price: fifteen thousand, thirty thousand dollars?” “Eighty thousand?”, another will offer, appearing like a jack-in-the-box. “Why did you do it, Mister Voreppe?” 
So what will I tell them?
I might tell the truth, but they will not like that truth. How astonished they will be when I say, “Give me a bit of your strength so that I can carry on my work, that’s all I ask.” What will they say to that? They will turn around and go back where they came from, with angry expressions on their faces. “He’s mad, stark, raving mad, that guy: completely nuts. I’ve seen some screwballs, but that one… a hopeless case.”
If I die in my hole, in the middle of my work, for example, this location will be listed; it will become a place of pilgrimage. They will put a big sign two yards in front of my hole, and write on it: “Here a man dug for 45 years, 124 days, 3 hours and 54 minutes.”
Right now, my work is waiting for me. The break is over. I’ve just pulled on the rope, and the basket containing the cup of mint tea is rising up, very gently, towards the top of my work. 
Another six feet and I think I will have done a good job, this Good Friday.

Translated by Wendy Cross

276

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