Academic journal article Chicago Review


Academic journal article Chicago Review


Article excerpt

The brain of man is filled with passageways like the contours and multiple crossroads of the labyrinth. In its curved folds lie the imprint of thousands of images, recordings of millions of words.

Certain cities of the orient were designed to baffle the enemy by a tangle of intricate streets. For those concealed within the labyrinth its detours were a measure of safety; for the invaders it presented an image of fearful mystery.

Sabina had chosen the labyrinth for safety.

There existed five or six versions of her birthplace, parents, racial origins. For Jay her first version was: my mother was a Hungarian gypsy. She sang in cafes and told fortunes. My father played the guitar. When they came to America they opened a night club, mostly for Hungairans. It was like a contnuation of life in Hungary.

But when Jay asked her: "What did you do as a girl in that environment? Did you sing? Did you tell fortunes? Did you learn to dance? Did you wear long braids and a white blouse? How did you learn to speak such beautiful English?" Sabina did not answer. Jay had taken her to a Hungarian restaurant and waited for her response to the music, the dances, the songs, to the swarthy men whose glances were like a dagger thrust. But Sabina had forgotten this story by then and looked on the scene with detachment. When Jay pressed her she began another: "I was born on the road. My parents were show people. We travelled all the time. My father was a mugician in a circus. My mother was a trapezist."

Had she learned there her skill in balancing in space, in time, avoiding all definitions and crystallizatoins? Had she learned from her father to deal in camouflage, in quick sleight of hand? (This story came before the one in which she asserted her father had been anonymous. Not knowing who he was, he might turn out to be any of the men she admired at the time.) "But," said Jay. "You told me once your father was a Don Juan, that it was his faithlessness which had affected your childhood, giving you a feeling of impermanency."

"That was true, too," said Sabina, "one can be a faithless magician!" "And you learned from him, no doubt, to juggle with facts."

From the very first day Jay who had always lived joyously and obviously outside, in daylight, had been drawn into this labyrinth unwittingly by his own curiosity and love of facts. He had believed only in what he saw, in one dimension, like a candid photographer, and he now found himself inside rows of mirrors with endless reflections and counter reflections. Sabina was like those veiled figures glimpsed turning the corner of a Moroccan street, wrapped from head to foot in white cotton, throwing to a stranger a single spark from fathomless eyes. Was she the very woman one had been seeking? There was a compulsion to follow her.

From story to story, from a mobile evanescent childhood, to a kaleidoscopic adolescence, to a tumultuous and smoky womanhood, a figure whom even a passport official would have had difficulty in identifying.

Jay had the primitive urge of the invader. But from the first day he was trapped by what he believed to be a duel between reality and illusion. It was difficult to invade a labyrinth! Sabina felt: once my supply of stories is exhausted I die. Jay felt: once the stories are exhausted, I will possess Sabina.

Every man she had known had demanded of her, ultimately, an abdication of the Sabina she wanted to conceal. If she answered Jay's questions he would be disillusioned. Only illusion could create a human being one could love with passion.

This was her labyrinth, and her Minotaur wore the open face of Jay asking such direct questions as would a compiler of statistics, a census taker. How old are you? Are you married? Do you have children?

She had used every curvature in the maze to escape his questions. Why had he assumed the role of detective?

When she first met him in the cafe, he seemed so candid. …

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