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From The Life of Sun-Tzu in the Sacred City of Vilnius
by Ričardas Gavelis


3. The Revolt of the Snails

That dangerous evening had to end tragically; perhaps even with a bloody ball of twisted guts. Perhaps even with the flawless knife of a surgeon. I was overly confident in my disguise; I had ascended too high into pride, and let my soul loose. And worst of all—I completely ignored the danger of a snail uprising. Snails are dangerous for the sole reason that they’re small, slimy, and have moveable horns, but you eat them anyway. And as if that weren’t enough—when they’re well-prepared, they’re tasty too. That is the ultimate horror of a snail uprising. That’s how they try to get inside you, to melt into your essence and infect you with their snailishness. Sometimes they succeed at this. In fact, they frequently do.

     It succeeded on the evening of our silver wedding anniversary. But this time the snails behaved in a particularly disgusting manner. They attacked us without even being eaten. They arranged a conspiracy that equaled the worst conspiracies of edible animals in the history of the world. That evening they got even with the entire restaurant’s administration, the waiters, and even some of the paintings on the walls.

     It was the paintings that outraged me the most—I always used to get along well with them. I have always considered pictures living creatures, nothing less than a life form of my own race. It’s particularly painful when your own race betrays you. A true black would consider a white’s betrayal something that practically goes without saying. But betrayal by his black brother could crush him completely. I wasn’t at all outraged that the snails betrayed and defied me, but the paintings’ betrayal pierced my soul with black voodoo needles.

     It was those damned pictures that moved first. Those miserable schemers hung the walls with copies, or maybe imitations, of Francis Bacon. Old Francis keeps turning over in his grave whenever he thinks of them—things are actually quite painful for him: a million idiots have hung a million walls with ridiculous imitations of his figures. And in the other world he has to go on worrying about every one of them. There is no peace on the other side of the Lethe.


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More excerpts at the Center for the Art of Translation and at Asymptote.

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