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No World Concerto

No World Concerto

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No World Concerto

413 página
5 horas
Apr 2, 2013


Hailed by Spain's Revista Quimera as one of the top ten Spanish-language novels of the decade, alongside Bolaño's 2666, Vila-Matas's Bartleby & Co., and Marías's Your Face Tomorrow, the many layers of The No World Concerto center around an old screenwriter, holed up in a shabby hotel in order to write a screenplay about his lover, a young piano prodigy who wants in turn to give up music and become a writer, and believes she may be in contact with creatures from another dimension. Shifting effortlessly between realities, The No World Concerto is a delightful and prismatic novel, and the first of A. G. Porta's books to appear in English, finally joining those of his early writing partner Roberto Bolaño.
Apr 2, 2013

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No World Concerto - A. G. Porta


1. The world is all that is the case.

5.123 If a god creates a world in which certain propositions are true, then by that very act he also creates a world in which all the propositions that follow from them come true.

LUDWIG WITTGENSTEIN, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus

55. So is the hypothesis possible, that all the things around us don’t exist? Would that not be like the hypothesis of our having miscalculated in all our calculations?

75. Would this be correct: If I merely believed wrongly that there is a table here in front of me, this might still be a mistake; but if I believe wrongly that I have seen this table, or one like it, every day for several months past, and have regularly used it, that isn’t a mistake?


The screenwriter stands with his luggage, facing the hotel, having just gotten out of a taxi, thinking he ought to know, or at least have a good idea, how the story he intends to write is going to end. He’s certainly seen better hotels than this, but today he can’t afford to pay for one, because he no longer gets the advances he used to, and he’s lost a well-paying job teaching literature at a school for gifted kids. Now, all he’s left are some savings and a miserable pension, and he doesn’t know how long they’re going to last, for life in the neighboring country’s capital is so much more expensive than the city he just left. He remembers when he was young and distinguished, back when he was working in the movies, back in the days when he didn’t have to teach. It is noon, on August 1st, when the taxi leaves him standing at the hotel’s entrance, motionless, as if afraid to confront his destiny, wincing at the small, grimy windows of the dreary façade, at the weather-beaten awning covering part of the sidewalk, thinking he’s seen better hotels than this one, wondering if anyone alive can recall its last renovation. After spending a few moments gathering his thoughts, he gathers his belongings, taking the portable typewriter in one hand, his cane in the other—against which he leans to offset his imbalance—and wobbles through the front door, keeping the corner of his eye fixed on the luggage he leaves on the sidewalk as he stumbles toward the reception desk. There are no bellhops in sight, and the receptionist talks on the telephone, watching him insouciantly as he clumsily lugs in his bags. He doesn’t know how many days he’ll stay. He thinks a few. Once in his room on the fourth floor, he briefly inspects the facilities, a diminutive bathroom and a mini-kitchen converted from a storage closet. He then sits on one of the beds and checks if the telephone is working. He promised his wife he’d call her every day; several times a day in fact, so he dials the number and waits, takes a good look around the room, noting the arrangement of the furniture, two beds and a writing desk, until he hears the fifth ring and hangs up. Still seated, he looks at a mirror on the wall, searches for the kitchen’s reflection, which his position and viewing angle prevent him from finding, so he looks out the window instead. He thinks he’ll have to move the desk a few inches if he wants to take advantage of the natural light. He takes a small diary from his jacket pocket and searches for a phone number, dials it, waits, but again there’s no answer. After the voicemail prompt, he gives the details of his change of address then lies back on the bed for an ample stretch. He decides to sleep on the bed nearest the writing desk; the other, beside the window, will serve as a makeshift table for his bags and research material. He gets up to move the desk a few inches before setting up his workstation. He fiddles quite a while with the typewriter, for it must be in the perfect position. On one side of it, he places a couple of books, some index cards, and a few loose pages—both typewritten and scribbled on with pencil; on the other side, a carefully squared-off stack of blank paper. After arranging everything meticulously and standing back to admire his accomplishment, he goes over to the window to look down on the street below. He notes that the sidewalks are quite spacious, zooms in on the occasional passerby—many returning home from work, a few with bags of groceries—scans over to the other side of the street where some people are waiting for a bus, and finally pans upward to survey the building opposite. While looking in one of the windows, he surprises a woman folding children’s laundry when she looks up and accidentally meets his eyes. He smiles, but she quickly looks away. No matter, he forgives her. She must deal with these situations everyday. Besides, she doesn’t even know him. He turns to look at the typewriter, the books, the mountain of paper, but hesitates. Perhaps, he thinks, he shouldn’t get ahead of himself. After all, fools rush in where angels fear to tread. Ideas should be given time to germinate. So he decides to freshen up and go for a walk instead. Although he’s been to the neighboring country’s capital before, he’d still like to do some exploring, to take a walk along the riverbank, and relax in the park on one the benches beside the pond. His limp affects his progress, but he thinks slow progress has its advantages. On reaching the river, he decides to follow its course while appreciating the view of the opposite bank, with its rows of houses, amusing himself by wondering about the people behind each window, living out their lives inscrutably, recalling, as he always does when in this mood, a certain movie in which an angel is able to hear other people’s voices, not only when they speak, but also when they think, the spoken and unspoken thoughts of everyone on Earth. He stops at the railing to look out on the wharf, at the boats full of tourists, the barges full of cargo, before deciding to continue on to an old bookstore where, years before, he remembers buying his first collection of screenplays. The bookseller, who looks a hundred years old, is propped in a chair in the middle of the store—a book in one hand, a cup of tea in the other—not acknowledging the screenwriter, who imagines him dying in that same chair with the same cup of tea in his hand, since he presumes booksellers never retire. He buys nothing, doesn’t want to disturb him, rob him of what little time he has left. Instead, he waits until he reaches the boulevard, and buys a newspaper at one of the kiosks. Although he thinks they’re mostly a waste of time, sometimes they can be troves of great ideas. After dining at a restaurant next to the botanical gardens, he decides to head for the pond to see if the children there still sail their little toy boats. He recalls the day he went there with his son, when he sat down on one of the benches to have a rest and watch him play, and perhaps to do as he does now, reminisce. He sees some parents are doing the same with their children, young fathers and mothers, although his eyes are only for the mothers. He thinks they’re pretty. He tries to make eye contact while riffling through a newspaper he’s already read, but none of them answer his gaze. He soon forgets all about them though, adapts to his surroundings, diffuses himself among the other strangers present—the parents and children, the various tourists—until he finally believes he has possession of the place, and then returns to the hotel alone.

That evening, the screenwriter prepares to begin his work. He positions himself before the typewriter, the books, the mountain of paper, and a little notebook filled with plans, snatches of dialogue, and notes on the story’s structure. Before beginning, he removes his glasses to massage his eyes, relaxes them on the middle distance, and then considers what he wants to say. He’d like to be original, but at his age, ambition has given way to disillusion. He’d be happy to produce a decent script. Before even touching the typewriter, he decides to make a cup of coffee, so he shuffles with the help of his cane toward the mini-kitchen, which is half obscured on the other side of the room. He lights a cigarette and smiles contentedly, glad that he has his own kitchen—not that his limp is an issue, but at least he doesn’t have to stray too far to get a cup of coffee. He looks out the window and notices the woman across the street, whose movements he’d been following earlier that afternoon. He noted then that she was setting the table. Now he can see her serving dinner to some brats he assumes are her sons. After looking for a husband and not finding one, the screenwriter concludes there isn’t one. He starts entertaining the notion of inviting her to dinner, but then quickly reproaches himself. Who says there isn’t a husband? From a distance she looks quite pretty—young, the way he likes them. She’s not going anywhere, he tells himself, and he has all the time in the world to seduce her. He leaves his vantage point by the window and retreats to the kitchen and the solace of a murmuring kettle. While pouring a cup, he fantasizes about their first encounter, imagining her likely negative reaction, before consoling himself by thinking she’ll have the time to get to know him better. He returns to his desk and works for a while, if an activity that produces no results can be called work. First, he attributes his lack of inspiration on his taking an overlong break; then, he blames it on his sitting too long at the desk thinking, waiting for the ipsissima verba to fall into his lap. He removes his glasses and relaxes his eyes on the view outside the window, on the traffic lights in the street below, the glow from the windows in the building opposite, the numinous halo above the cityscape, until suddenly, a knock on the door restores him to his senses.

He wasn’t expecting her. The reason, perhaps, is that he’d only just arrived in the capital. The real reason: he didn’t want to delude himself. She floats over the threshold like a ghost and ambles through the room, pausing in front of the writing desk. She rests her hand on his typewriter momentarily and glances around, examining all four corners of the screenwriter’s new abode, before going to the window and peeking through a chink in the curtain—which she quickly pulls shut, and then declares she’s being followed. She’s not certain of course, nothing is certain in this life, but she’s had this feeling for days now. She sits on the edge of one of the beds. She can’t stay long, the rehearsal lasted longer than she expected. She came to this country’s capital to be part of a youth orchestra called the Little Sinfonietta, and to record the 5 Pieces for piano by a famous composer of twelve-tone music. Although she’s a celebrated pianist, her real obsession is writing. But she rarely has the time for what she considers to be her true calling, and even when she finds the time, she’s unable to concentrate, due to her chronic suspicions of being followed, so her work in progress remains at an impasse. She came to see his new room, to examine the desk where the screenwriter will ply his trade. He watches her silently, longingly. He’d give anything to make her stay the whole night, to feel her body’s warmth next to his, to be safe in the cocoon of their desire, and then the tender moment afterward when she would rest her head upon his breast, and tangle his graying chest hair between her fingers. But she seems nervous, and the screenwriter suspects she’s taken caffeine pills to help her stay awake. The sex is strange when she’s too wired, he thinks, she has no patience, just wants to get it over with as quickly and as roughly as possible. They say little, although, occasionally, they mention the voices she hears, and her impression that they pronounce her name with a ka sound. Voices from another world, not like the ones the screenwriter hears, or like the movie he recalls; they don’t speak with the accent of his inner voice, nor do they sound like the voice she affects when reciting the twenty-one poems of that other twelve-tone composition, and though they call out to her, they’re not human voices, and who knows what it is they want to say, or why they pronounce her name with a ka. He watches her as she paces around the room. They begin to discuss literature, particularly the most revolutionary writer of the twentieth century. Sometimes I have trouble following you, she says. His work still impresses her, although the novelty has long since worn off. Perhaps it’s because he always changes his approach, the standard that defines his whole idea of literature, and therefore hers, is never quite the same. It’s too dry. No, she can’t quite put her finger on it. Luckily, the novel came with a reader’s guide, although it did little to help her penetrate its difficulty, and this, paradoxically, is what has made the novel famous. Maybe the thing that jars you the most in a novel is when it’s not clear if the narrator or one of the characters is speaking, so the reader mistakes the narrator for one of the characters or one of the characters for the narrator, something the novelist has no control over, and hence both chance and contingency are given literary form, allowing for a multiplicity of possible narrative voices and possible characters that can all be confounded together in an infinite number of possible scenarios, without the reader knowing where they came from or where they’re going, without her knowing more, perhaps, than their names. The reader may be taken aback at first, but after a few pages, sometimes by degrees, sometimes spontaneously, she begins at last to grasp what’s going on. The screenwriter doesn’t see the danger in reading other writers’ works, except in getting too involved in them, in overly assimilating, imitating, which stymies one’s developing a distinctive style. The girl spots the silhouette of someone waiting on the street below. She imagines a detective, or maybe a jealous lover keeping tabs on his fiancée; it could even be a spy or a policeman. He thinks she’s too young to talk about developing a personal style. Perhaps, in all her sixteen years, she’s read very little.

Perhaps she isn’t familiar enough with the spectrum of different styles and languages that constitute his literary world. But the screenwriter is fully aware of his own shortcomings. To be a writer requires more than just desire, one has to want it more than anything else in the world. She made a promise to herself. Her musical talent wouldn’t interfere with her writing, despite her making little progress on her No World, the work she writes and rewrites, having never progressed beyond twenty pages, saying something always prompts her to start over, to change the theme, the diction, even the structure. The screenwriter thinks youth ideal for self-discovery, the waiting ends when one finds one’s true vocation. This may not apply to the pianist, but it certainly does to the writer. It’s a game they play, in which sometimes he plays the tutor, sometimes the lover. He gives her advice on reading, tells her to focus on the twentieth century’s most revolutionary writer, but he also recommends the great dramatist of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, whose works he insists have set the standard for everything written after them. She must read as widely as possible to cultivate a proper sense of what will stand the test of time. But being selective is not naïve reductionism, he says. The alternative is to read many more books than is feasible in a single lifetime, and of the making of books there is no end. So the girl reads everything he recommends, between each visit, each of her rehearsals, and each abortive attempt at her No World. But I don’t see the point, she complains. He says young women today are spread too thinly between school and extra-curricular distractions to develop as artists, especially the so-called musical prodigies. She kisses his forehead. There was a message from the Principal on my mom’s answering machine, she says, referring to the Principal of the school at which the screenwriter taught. It was from a week ago, ten days at most—before he embarked on his trip. He looks into her eyes; she delays, smiling mischievously, getting ready to leave, until the moment of her exit when she says, But don’t worry, I deleted it.

The screenwriter forgets all about the woman in the building opposite, and her sons, who must have finished their dinner by now. Only the girl occupies his thoughts. He imagines her in a theater, sitting on a stool in the middle of a stage, surrounded by five other members of the Little Sinfonietta, reciting the same stanza over and over. The rehearsal might have gone quite differently of course, but this is how he likes to imagine her. He feels incapable of writing now. He needs her to be near him, speaking to him, for when she speaks, he takes what she says as dictation, which is why she’s the protagonist of his script, but he also wants to keep her close-by, to prolong the time he has with her, a time during which he no longer feels the ache of her absence, a time that seems to contract with each visit. He writes his characters’ initials on a blank page, with line strokes of varying thickness radiating from each, representing all manner of links and associations. He organizes himself and tries to gather his thoughts, but all he can think about is the girl’s next visit. He goes to the window and looks down on the fading rush hour, the traffic lights, and the windows above the sidewalk across the street. He makes out the light of a TV in the darkness of the woman’s apartment, and he imagines her children seated before it as she’s washing the dishes in the kitchen. Although it’s past their bedtime, he makes allowances for their staying up so late since it’s vacation time. When he returns to his seat, it doesn’t take long before he’s fantasizing again, before he’s affecting industry by jotting a few halfhearted notes on a card now and then. Some of his characters are gifted musicians. He’s well acquainted with the type: the girl, the young orchestra conductor, and the brilliant composer and accompanist for the Little Sinfonietta had all been his students once. The Scholastic Institute at which he taught wouldn’t settle for second best. The screenwriter thinks his movie is structured in concentric layers like an onion, but when his spirits are low, and he can’t concentrate, he finds it impossible to distinguish between the layers. Maybe he’s just tired, he thinks, attempting to justify abandoning his desk and going to bed. But he stays seated for a while longer, thinking of the layers, incomplete, indistinguishable, trying to cut the onion, bleary-eyed, purblind, until he finally gives up. Again, he removes his glasses to massage his eyes, to relax them on the middle distance beyond the window. The woman in the building opposite has turned out the lights and he stares into the darkness of her window. He’s procrastinating. He thinks about the onion again. Then the girl—she’s probably tired by now, at the point of sleep, but still burning with ambition all the same, still determined to be a writer who’ll accomplish great things. He wonders about the voices in her head, always calling out to her, never silent, and about her persecution complex—like her ambition—ever restless. A thing of little consequence to others, perhaps, but for the screenwriter, at least, it’s a beginning.

He sleeps badly, erratically, waking in the night repeatedly, until the new day’s reveille breaks in through the curtain cracks, prompting him to get out of bed. It’s early. In August, he always rises early. He draws the curtains and opens the window, taking a quick look at the building opposite. Nothing. No movement on the street below either. The city still slumbers. This makes the screenwriter think of his wife. He promised to call her several times a day, to sustain, rejuvenate her memory of him. He’s already lost track, but he does remember yesterday was the last time he called. Something in the pit of his stomach goads him to pick up to phone and dial the number. No reply. Feeling a chill, he goes to the window. The drone of vehicles waiting at the traffic lights below tells him the city is stirring. He closes the window to shut out the noise, and takes a seat beside the telephone. Again, he calls his wife; again, he lets it ring five times before hanging up. Then he repeats the process again. She never answers. He cracks a smile as if the ritual induces a pleasurable frisson. Remember me? he mutters into receiver, biting his bottom lip. After hanging up for the last time, he grabs his glasses and returns to the writing desk, takes out a few index cards and scans them a while, reviewing his notes on the plot from the beginning: the girl practicing endlessly at the piano, her rehearsals with the Little Sinfonietta, her writings, her nightly visits. He imagines her thinking of him—thinking of him waiting for her, sitting at his desk in a modest room in a flophouse most piano starlets like her would avoid. After sleeping a little more, he wakes up hungry. He checks the time. He goes into the bathroom and eyes himself in the mirror for a while. Then he starts scrupulously combing his hair. He feels young, despite his age, no one could ever guess his age. In the hallway, the doors to some of the other rooms are open. He sees a maid pushing a vacuum, flanked by a massif of dirty towels. She says hello, he simply nods his head. Her blue uniform is unbuttoned at the crotch, but since he doesn’t find her attractive anyway, he looks away. He heads for the canteen musing over the girl, imagines the realia she deems indispensable: the satchel in which she keeps her sheet music, the books he recommends, her diary, and the notebooks in which she works on her magnum opus. It’s probably an idea he jotted elsewhere, but he imagines the young orchestra conductor saying something along the lines of: Supposing twelve-tone music had never been invented. The screenwriter scribbles it in his notebook just in case, setting it off from the rest of the page, and takes a seat at the table. No need for more detail, the suggestion of the phrase is all he needs to recover the whole idea. Now, he imagines the girl writing in her diary, gasping for an afflatus, groping after an elusive plot so she can finally continue her story, and the screenwriter squirms under this reminder of himself. When she finishes giving the concerts, he’ll ask her to run away with him, he thinks, to go with him as far away as possible, to the other side of the world if need be, to a city where the cost of living could be covered by a pension check, where they could live off the earnings from his screenplays, the novels the girl will write under his aegis, and maybe even the proceeds of a piano recital or two: a beautiful thought, but the reverie makes him lose his train of thought. Still, the idea’s now safely ensconced in his pocket. How different it would be, having breakfast with her, looking out at the sea: a different life; a different world. This neighboring country, this capital city, is only a hitching post—he thinks, trying to reassure himself—a momentary detour from his path to a better life. After breakfast and reading a newspaper in the discommodious hotel lobby, he decides to stretch his legs by joining the pedestrians outside. He heads first to the pond, then to a kiosk located at the point where the boulevards intersect, and purchases a broadsheet from his native country. He’s unable to read while limping, so he stands aside and skims over some of the headlines. Then he tucks it under his arm and limps down the hill toward the café in the plaza. The waitress is attractive. He smiles, she doesn’t seem to notice. So he lights a cigarette and finishes going over the headlines. While waiting to be served, he takes a look around the plaza and suddenly recalls the phrase he noted down during breakfast. He recites it a couple of times under his breath, and decides to build on it before it dissipates. The action takes place on stage in a small, empty theater. Near the end of the rehearsal, as the girl sees her father take a seat in the front row, the screenwriter puts in the mouth of the young conductor the words: Supposing twelve-tone music had never been invented. The brilliant composer, barely paying attention as he collects the tiny music boxes from the young musicians, eventually suggests that another, similar, genre of music would exist in its place, but under another name. It’s a possibility, says the young conductor wearily, half-engrossed in his own thoughts. The girl grabs her satchel and steps down from the stage. As he enters the theater, her father takes a look around to get a sense of the place. He hopes the dreary surroundings, the darkness, the empty seats are only due to the orchestra’s still being in rehearsal, not a foreboding of the concerts ahead. He wanted to be there for the whole rehearsal, but he arrived late. Still, at least he managed to catch the last few notes as he walked in the door. The precocious youngsters are putting away their instruments. The young conductor greets the girl’s father, as does the brilliant composer. Both seem to be on familiar terms with him. They slowly exit the theater together. The girl wonders why her father showed up. He’s never attended a rehearsal before, and she doubts he’d be interested in a work whose chief protagonist is a clown. But she doubts even more that he’d be interested in her. She explains to him part of their repertoire. It’s a new version of an old composition, she says, so fresh it could be mistaken for an original piece, entitled Dress Rehearsal for Voice and Music Boxes. He’s not very interested. He happened to be visiting the neighboring country’s capital on business; his presence is a coincidence, that’s all. The screenwriter considers the situation as presented, and asks himself why a father wouldn’t take more of an interest in his own daughter. He doesn’t seem the least bit concerned she might end up in the arms of an unscrupulous roué, he thinks, referring to the young conductor of the orchestra. For some reason, the young conductor’s come to embody the screenwriter’s notion of lubricity and perversion. All fathers must think like this. After all, the world is full of these kinds of people, and although they’re precocious, the young musicians of the orchestra are still kids—dressed in their uniforms, heading for the minibus that will return them to their dorms. We were looking for a place with a foosball table, she says, referring to the conductor, the composer, and herself, who have a puckish streak, unlike the others. In reality, they don’t even know if foosball bars exist here in the neighboring country’s capital. Her father excuses himself, says he must go, for there are people waiting for him elsewhere, and he’s already running late. Let’s suppose twelve-tone music had never been invented, the young conductor is overheard declaiming, no serialism, or any of that stuff. For he wants to know if music with aleatoric elements, or whatever one wishes to call them, could have been conceived at any other time. The brilliant composer doesn’t respond. He seems lost in thought, as if he’s immersed in his mysterious creative process, playing the part of the genius, the brilliant one, the wunderkind that they all imagine him to be. The other two don’t respond either. What do you think? The conductor asks, directing his question at the girl. That it couldn’t have existed at any other time, she says. They walk a few meters in the opposite direction to her father, who’s parked his car a little farther ahead. Night falls, and the screenwriter observes the scene from afar, he sees them poorly lit under a streetlight whose brightness has yet to overtake the dimming twilight. The girl takes a few steps away from her friends and tells her father good-bye. Putting her right arm around him, she feels a revolver at his side and asks him jokingly if he’s on duty, though she’s well aware he’s not a policeman or anything of the sort. He smiles in a routine manner that could be interpreted to mean anything, and she returns to her friends as he makes his way up the street—thinking, perhaps, that the twelve-tone experiment was a failure, and wondering why anyone would want to repeat it. He saw you, says the girl reprovingly, addressing the brilliant composer, who’s in the process of rolling a joint. Your dad probably knows more about this stuff than we do, he says, but the girl doesn’t want her father getting too close. She doesn’t want him interfering in her life.

I hear voices, the girl confesses. I think they come from another world. The young conductor asks her how she can be sure. How does she know the voices aren’t just inside her head? But she’s utterly convinced of it, and that should be proof enough, it seems. The young conductor says no one can know if something exists in and of itself outside the mind. Maybe you don’t exist except in my head, he says. The world doesn’t truly exist, interjects the brilliant composer, who then asks them to consider whether the entity that has created everything, that is imagining their existence, is of limited extension—if it takes up space somewhere—or whether it’s infinite. They’re not even voices from this world, insists the girl, they’re from a false world, a No World created by some alien consciousness. The brilliant composer’s symphony touches on this, she says, while really thinking about her own work in progress—the No World she writes and rewrites without ever getting anywhere; the No World that’s always expanding inside her, ever ripening, while never reaching maturity. There is a language that reaches out into the cosmos, with which we could communicate with beings from another galaxy. That language is music. How can she know they’re not actually the voices of the great musicians? Suppose the great musicians had never really existed. At times, it seems they’re only playing games. But then they’d say life itself is a game. The young conductor says it’s all the same, speculating about what would’ve happened if twelve-tone serialism had never been invented, or if the great musicians had never been born: the point is the music was invented, the musicians were born. And these things happened because they had to. The screenwriter imagines the young conductor’s voice off-screen, as the camera zooms in from a panoramic view of the city toward a dingy little bar with a foosball table—like one of those gambling dens in the movies, fumid and fusty, manned by local ruffians playing pool. Similarly, says the young conductor, youth exists in every age because it has to. The girl and the brilliant composer remain silent as he concludes his monologue, and the camera stops zooming once all three are together in the frame, their hands gripping the bars running through the tiny foosball players, the funk of smoke and alcohol pervading a setting unsuited for formalist debates and metaphysical colloquies. The two guys are wearing the Scholastic Institute’s regulation uniform, comprised of a navy-blue blazer, gray pants, a white shirt, and a necktie. The girl, on the other hand, likes to think she’s different, since she’s considered a rising star of the piano world, and although she attends the same school, believes she can dress however she likes, and it so happens she likes to dress in white. The young orchestra conductor takes aim, maneuvering his defensive line, before spinning the bar violently, projecting the ball up the table. If the great musicians were never born, he says, other musicians would be revered in their place. The brilliant composer reproves him for sounding like a broken record, for he’s merely repeating something he’s stated several times before.

It is night. The young conductor is rolling a joint and wants to know if the girl will write a libretto about making love in her mother’s bed. She can try, but all she really wants to do is get her novel back on track. Her cell phone rings, she moves her index finger to her lips, indicating that the conductor should remain silent. Her mother is off on her travels, but she’ll be back for the concerts, and this, the girl presumes, is why she’s calling . . . the young orchestra conductor nibbles on the girl’s toes and then continues up her leg, putting the joint between his lips, from which he takes a final drag before proffering it to the girl. During the hand-off, he teases her by blowing the smoke in her face. But she ignores him and takes a long drag of the joint as her mother begins the interrogation. First she asks if the phone call had woken the girl up. No. She was reading the greatest dramatist who ever lived. A genius, she says. Her mother tends to disregard what her daughter is reading, no matter who the writer is, or how great he happens to be. She cares only about her career as a pianist. The girl talks about the reading material her literature teacher gave her. But haven’t you already completed that course? Yes, but this is supplementary reading. You’ve already told him you want to be a writer, haven’t you. The girl changes the subject and asks if her mother has managed to track down her cousin. Her mother’s spent a long time trying to locate a certain cousin who went missing in the neighboring country’s capital years before. No, she answers curtly and hangs up. That’s new, the girl thinks. Her mother usually ignores her questions. An answer is progress. The girl and the young conductor are reading W’s magnum opus. He wants to know if she’ll write a libretto based on W and his work. Later that night, the dramatist visits her in a dream. It seems he wants to explain to her the secrets of his craft. He teaches by demonstration, his words accompanied by gesticulations, like a magician threading his hands through the air while uttering incantations, who creates a world and measures its just circumference, who molds his characters and gives them the breath of life. He talks about their diversity, each an individual, a separate creation. He mentions his audience, and the girl seizes on this with curiosity, because she wants to know if it plays a major part in the creation of his works. But he suddenly starts speaking another language, and she despairs that she will only get to hear but not understand his answer. She turns, in her dream, to the young conductor, and begs him to take some notes. But then she wakes up, and sees the young conductor is no longer by her side. She gets out of the bed to go look for him and finds him in the living room, sitting naked in an armchair watching TV, with a glass of beer in his hand. On the screen, a pornographic actress anxiously tongues an inordinately erect penis before putting it into her mouth. The girl stands beside the piano looking on, silently. How old would you say she is? the conductor asks without turning. The girl doesn’t know. Perhaps thirty-something, she answers indecisively. There’s something about mature women, he says, still not taking his eyes off the screen, and lets a few seconds go by before adding, it’s as if they exude more confidence or something. The male actor then penetrates the actress, thrusting slowly at first, then faster, before settling into a regular rhythm. The girl says she feels the same way about older men, but she’s not sure if it’s for the same reason. The girl doesn’t realize the conductor has an erection until he stands up. He brings her to the armchair and sits her facing backwards in his lap, penetrating her from behind, his eyes remaining fixed on the screen almost every moment. He even starts thrusting in time with the actor, and the girl feels he’s only using her to imagine having sex with a thirty-something porn star. She tells him about her dream, about the dramatist’s visitation, that she believes he was going to reveal to her the secrets of his dramaturgy. The young conductor isn’t listening. Mature women really turn me on, he says. You’ll find lots of mature women in his plays, she says. Then she continues

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