Thursday, September 23, 2010

My name is Etah, he said, with an h at the end. Understood, I said. And you are Father Urrutia Lacroix. The very same, I said. Beside me, Mr Raef was smiling and nodding without a word. Urrutia is a Basque name, isn't it? It is indeed, I said. Lacroix, of course, is French. Mr Raef and I nodded in time. Do you know where the name Etah comes from? I have no idea, I said. Take a guess, he said. Albania? You're cold, he said. I have no idea, I said. Finland, he said. It's half-Finnish, half-Lithuanian. Quite, quite, said Mr Raef. In times long gone there was a good deal of commerce between the Finns and the Lithuanians, for them the Baltic Sea was like a bridge, or a river, a stream crossed by innumerable black bridges, imagine that. I am, I said. And Mr Etah smiled. You're imagining it, are you? Yes, I'm imagining it. Black bridges, oh yes, murmured Mr Raef beside me. And streams of little Finns and Lithuanians going back and forth across them endlessly, said Mr Etah. Day and night. By the light of the moon or the feeble light of torches. Plunged in darkness, guided by memory. Not feeling the cold that cuts to the bone up there near the Arctic circle, feeling nothing, just alive and moving. Not even feeling alive: just moving, inured to the routine of crossing the Baltic in one direction or the other. A normal part of life.

- Roberto Bolaño
By Night in Chile

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