Chapter 1

There is no beginning. I was begotten—just like you—and since then I’ve been lumbered.

I tried to get out of it every way I could, but no one else has ever pulled it off. We’re all born the same way, statistically.

Notwithstanding on my own two feet I devised an impregnable defense. In the game of checkmate it’s been named after me as ‘‘Ajar’s Endgame.’’ First I got into the hospital in Cahors; then I had several sojourns at Dr. Christianssen’s psychiatric clinic in Copenhagen.

I was assessed, analyzed, tested, and laid bare to the point where my defenses collapsed. I was ‘cured’’ and put back into circulation.

I managed to filch some of the cards from my medical file to see if they were any use for literature or recuperation.

Simulation taken to such an extreme and pursued without interruption or slip over such a long period of time clearly constitutes obsessive-compulsive behavior and betokens an authentic personality disorder.

Sure, I know that—but everyone else goes in for simulation to an amazing extent. I know a guy from North Africa who’s been behaving like a garbage collector for forty years and a ticket inspector who performs the same action three thousand times a day, because if you don’t fake it, they call you asocial, or not integrated, or perturbed. I could go further and assert that life itself is just a simulation in a hocus bogus world, but that would be seen as lacking in maturity on my part.

Subject is an orphan who since childhood has nursed hatred for a distant relative; typical of father fixation.

Uncle Bogey is a bastard, but that doesn’t have to mean he’s my dad. I never said he was, I just hoped so at various times, out of despair. After the appearance of my book Life Before Us, it was my detectives, not I, who insinuated he was my only begetter.

Subject makes a complete muddle of his shoelaces when he tries to undo them. Then he tears or cuts them off to get his feet out. Transfer to shoelaces of psychological knots that he only manages to intensify when he tries to sort them out.

The part about the laces is true, but the rest is crap.

It is also true that I have a problem with my skin, because it’s not mine, I just inherited it. I was wrapped up by congenital means, including aforethought, premeditation, and prisoner be upstanding in court, especially at night, around four a.m., when apparently my blood-sugar level hits rock bottom, and there’s wailing and screaming inside.

I don’t know when ‘‘clinical signs’’ of being lumbered—what they call my ‘‘symptoms’’—first arose. I’m not sure which particular massacre was involved, but I suddenly felt surrounded by pointing fingers and subject to unprecedented visibility. There he is! Guildenstern, belay him! I saw I had gone global with unlimited liability. That’s actually why the psychiatrists certified I was not responsible. Once you feel you’re a tyrant all over the planet, you get diagnosed as a victim.

I did all I could to get away from myself. I even started learning Swahili, because I reckoned it was as remote as you could get. I swotted and sweated, but it was no use, I could understand what I was even in Swahili, and it was back to being lumbered all over again.

Then I dabbled in Hungaro-Finnish. I was certain I would never bump into a Hungaro-Finn in Cahors and end up staring myself in the face. But I didn’t feel entirely safe. The thought that there might perhaps be a speaker of Hungaro-Finnish even in Cahors worried me hugely. Since we would then be the only speakers of the language in the whole Department, we might be overcome by emotion and fall into each other’s arms and pour our hearts out. We’d swap our crime scenes, and soon we’d be on to the great train robbery. I said ‘‘great train robbery’’ because it has no possible connection to the context and it was an opportunity not to be missed. I don’t want to have any connection to context.

All the same I keep on looking for someone incomprehensible who won’t understand me either, because I have a terrible thirst for brotherhood.


Chapter 2

I first had hallucinations when I was sixteen. I suddenly saw myself besieged by thundering waves of reality and under attack from all sides. I was very young, I knew nothing about psychiatry, and when I switched on the TV and saw Vietnam and kids with bellies bloated by death dying in Africa and soldiers’ corpses jumping out at me, I truly thought I had gone berserk and was having hallucinations. That’s how, without quite knowing what I was doing, I began to devise my gambit, which allows me to hole up in various medical establishments.

It wasn’t done in a day. It took blood, sweat, tears, etc.

I did not make myself. There’s congenitals of the mom’n’pop corner store, with alcoholism, hardening of the arteries, and, on a higher shelf, tuberculosis and diabetes. But you have to go much further up, because it’s only right at the top that you find the truly unspeakable.

As soon as my first mythical book appeared people began to observe that I did not really exist and that I was therefore probably a fiction. They even assumed I was a collective.

It’s true. I am a collective work, but I can’t yet tell you whether it was premeditated. On the face of it, I don’t consider I have enough talent to imagine that there could have been syphilis aforethought or anything of that kind solely in order to squeeze a literary trifle out of me. There could have been, of course, because you don’t look a gift horse, but I can’t be sure.

Subject writes under the pen name of Ajar, pronounced ‘‘Azhar,’’ meaning ‘‘most brilliant’’ in Arabic, revealing masochistic vulnerability which the subject probably cultivates on purpose as a potent source of literary inspiration.

That’s wrong. They’re all bastards. I wrote my books in various hospitals on doctors’ advice. They said it would be therapeutic. They suggested painting first, but that was a bummer.

Since I knew I was fictional, I thought I might have a talent for fiction.

Subject engages in fantasies of invulnerability, taking on the physical appearance of various objects (pocketknife, paperweight, chains, key ring). Subject’s aim is to reach a state of unfeeling, and also to simulate appropriately cooperative behavior toward society, by which he constantly feels threatened. Turned down the Goncourt prize to avoid prosecution.

I turned down the Goncourt prize in 1975 because of a panic attack. They had overcome my defensive gambit got right inside it, and I was horrified by the publicity, which winkled me out of all my hidey-holes, and by my detectives asking questions at the hospital in Cahors. I was afraid for my mother, who had died of hardened arteries, and whom I’d used for the character of Madame Rosa in the book. I was afraid for the kid I was hiding, he was maybe between twelve and thirty-four years old, as I was, or maybe forty, or a hundred, or two hundred thousand years old or more, because you have to go right back to the start if you want to plead not guilty. So I turned down the prize—but that only made me more visible. People said I was after publicity.

I have had treatment since then and things are much better, thank you. During my last stay in the hospital I even wrote my third book.

On several occasions subject fancied he was a python to escape from his human predicament and thus evade the responsibilities, duties, and guilt that go with. Used himself to write a novel, Cuddles, based on his pythonism. Long-term effect of indulgence in masturbation.

That’s correct. As such I was even invited to attend the National Congress of the Anti-Defamation League on November 29, 1975, because reptiles are always first in the firing line when it comes to hate speech. I couldn’t go because at that time I had been put back in my cage in Copenhagen. I take this opportunity of thanking the organizers.

I shall refrain with hauteur from quoting one card in my medical file that is clearly anti-Semitic: it says I am Jewish.

But I tried to find out if my feeling of unworthiness and guilt came from the fact that I was Jewish and had therefore not crucified Jesus, for which I’ve been blamed ever since by anti-Semites. Did I become a python to stop being Jewish? Dr. Christianssen said I jerked off too much.

He wasn’t against masturbation—a little dialectics, cerebral animation, and intellectual satisfaction wasn’t a bad thing, it could even be helpful, but two thousand years of jerking off was going too far. He reminded me that because we now have blacks, Arabs, Chinese, and Communists, Jews are no longer strictly necessary for jerking off.

Then I asked the good doctor if I hadn’t been led to being a python because Jews had been propaganded for two millennia as usurers and snakes in the grass, and he replied that it was perfectly possible, I was capable of anything, myself included, for the sake of a book.

I thought of Uncle Bogey, because he is a notorious writer and has always had a knack for making a nice little bookpile out of suffering and horror.

I started writing again.

As you can see, I can’t get out of this tangle. I’m surrounded on all sides, and I’m lumbered.

In the hospital I have a fellow patient who has deciphered the hieroglyphs of a pre-Columbian dialect of ancient Egyptian and can think and speak in this universally unknown tongue that’s got no attested inscriptions or health insurance. He even left some cuneiform enigmas unsolved to leave room for the future. Because while they remain undeciphered they still might be hiding a genuine revelation, an explanation, or an answer. He’s a lucky man, because that way he thinks he knows something that’s still intact.