Archives for April 2007

Édition nº 144: Manuel pour entretenir les chemins

1] Le chemin commence í  un carrefour. Vous pouvez vous y arríªter et vous demander quelle direction prendre. Mais ne pensez pas trop longtemps, sinon vous ne quitterez jamais cet endroit. Posez-vous la question classique de Castaneda : « De ces chemins, lequel a-t-il un cÅ“ur ? » Réfléchissez suffisamment aux choix qui se présentent, mais après le premier pas, oubliez définitivement le carrefour, ou bien vous ne cesserez plus d’íªtre torturé par la question inutile : « Ai-je choisi le bon chemin ? ». Si vous avez écouté votre cÅ“ur avant de faire le premier mouvement, vous avez choisi le bon chemin.

2] Le chemin ne dure pas toujours. C’est une bénédiction que de le parcourir pendant un certain temps, mais un jour il prendra fin, alors soyez toujours príªt í  le quitter í  tout moment. Si ébloui que vous soyez par certains paysages, ou effrayé de constater que dans certaines parties un grand effort est nécessaire pour aller plus loin, rien ne doit vous retenir. Ni les heures d’euphorie, ni les journées interminables oí¹ tout paraí®t difficile et oí¹ vous progressez lentement. Tí´t ou tard, un ange viendra, et votre voyage arrivera í  son terme, ne l’oubliez pas.

3] Faites honneur í  votre chemin. Vous l’avez choisi, vous en avez décidé, et dans la mesure oí¹ vous respectez le sol que vous foulez, ce sol lui aussi respectera vos pieds. Faites toujours ce qui vaut le mieux pour entretenir et défendre votre chemin, et il en fera autant pour vous.

4] Soyez bien équipé. Emportez un rí¢teau, une pelle, un canif. Comprenez que pour les feuilles sèches, les canifs sont inutiles, et que pour les herbes profondément enracinées, les rí¢teaux sont inutiles. Sachez toujours lequel de vos outils utiliser í  chaque moment. Et prenez-en soin, car ils sont vos meilleurs alliés.

5] Le chemin va en avant et en arrière. Il vous faut parfois retourner parce que vous avez perdu quelque chose, ou qu’un message qui devait íªtre remis a été oublié dans votre poche. Un chemin bien soigné vous permet de revenir en arrière sans trop de problèmes.

6] Occupez-vous de votre chemin avant de vous occuper de ce qui est autour de vous : l’attention et la concentration sont fondamentales. Ne vous laissez pas distraire par les feuilles sèches qui se trouvent sur les bas-cí´tés, ou par la manière dont les autres soignent leur chemin. Usez de votre énergie pour soigner et entretenir le sol qui accueille vos pas.

7] Ayez de la patience. Il faut parfois répéter les míªmes tí¢ches, par exemple arracher des mauvaises herbes ou boucher des trous qui sont apparus après une pluie imprévue. Ne vous fí¢chez pas pour cela, cela fait partie du voyage. Míªme si vous íªtes fatigué, et malgré certaines tí¢ches répétitives, ayez de la patience.

8] Les chemins se croisent : on peut vous dire le temps qu’il fait. Écoutez les conseils, prenez vos décisions personnelles. Vous íªtes seul responsable du chemin qui vous a été confié.

9] La nature suit ses propres règles : ainsi, vous devez íªtre préparé pour les changements brusques de l’automne, le verglas en hiver, les tentations des fleurs au printemps, la soif et les pluies en été. En chacune de ces saisons, profitez de ce qu’elle a de meilleur, et ne vous plaignez pas de ses caractéristiques.

10] Faites de votre chemin un miroir de vous-míªme : ne vous laissez nullement influencer par la faí§on dont les autres soignent leurs chemins. Vous avez votre í¢me pour écouter, et les oiseaux pour raconter ce que dit votre í¢me. Que leurs histoires soient belles et plaisent í  tout ce qui vous entoure. Surtout, que les histoires que votre í¢me raconte au cours du voyage se reflètent dans chaque seconde du parcours.

11] Aimez votre chemin : sinon, rien n’a de sens.

Edizione nº 144: Manuale per mantenere i cammini

1] Il cammino comincia da un crocevia. Lí¬ puoi sostare e pensare in quale direzione proseguire. Ma non soffermarti a pensarci troppo, altrimenti non ti allontanerai mai da quel luogo. Rivolgiti la classica domanda di Castaneda: quale di questi cammini ha un cuore? Rifletti bene sulle scelte che ti si pongono davanti, ma una volta fatto il primo passo dimentica definitivamente il crocevia, o sarai sempre torturato dall’inutile interrogativo: “Avrí² scelto il cammino giusto?” Se hai ascoltato il tuo cuore prima di fare la prima mossa, hai scelto il cammino giusto.

2] Il cammino non dura per sempre. íˆ una benedizione percorrerlo per un certo periodo, ma un giorno esso terminerí , dunque sii sempre pronto a prendere commiato in qualsiasi momento. Per quanto tu sia affascinato da certi paesaggi, o spaventato da alcuni tratti in cui è necessario molto sforzo per proseguire, non attaccarti a nulla. Né alle ore di euforia né agli interminabili giorni in cui tutto sembra difficile e il progresso è lento. Prima o poi un angelo verrí , e il tuo viaggio giungerí  alla fine, non dimenticarlo.

3] Fai onore al tuo cammino. íˆ frutto della tua scelta, della tua decisione, e nella misura in cui rispetterai il suolo che calpesti, anche questo suolo rispetterí  i tuoi piedi. Fai sempre del tuo meglio per conservare e mantenere il tuo cammino, ed esso farí  lo stesso per te.

4] Sii ben equipaggiato. Porta con te un rastrello, una pala e un temperino. Devi capire che per le foglie secche i temperini sono inutili, e per le erbacce molto radicate i rastrelli sono inutili. Sappi sempre quali strumenti utilizzare in ogni momento. E abbine cura, perché sono i tuoi principali alleati.

5] Il cammino va avanti e indietro. A volte bisogna tornare indietro perché si è perduto qualcosa, o un messaggio che si doveva consegnare è rimasto dimenticato in tasca. Un cammino ben meditato ti permette di tornare indietro senza grandi problemi.

6] Bada al cammino piuttosto che a cií² che ti circonda. Attenzione e concentrazione sono fondamentali. Non lasciarti distrarre dalle foglie secche che si ammucchiano ai bordi, o dal modo in cui gli altri si stanno preoccupando della propria strada. Usa la tua energia per aver cura e preservare il suolo che accoglie i tuoi passi.

7] Abbi pazienza. A volte è necessario ripetere gli stessi compiti, come sradicare le erbacce o chiudere le buche che si sono aperte dopo una pioggia inattesa. Non ti infastidire per questo, fa parte del viaggio. Sia pure stanco, sia pure con certi compiti ripetitivi, abbi pazienza.

8] I cammini si incrociano. Gli altri possono dirti com’è il tempo. Ascolta i consigli, ma prendi le tue decisioni. Solo tu sei responsabile del cammino che ti è stato affidato.

9] La natura segue le proprie regole. Percií² devi essere pronto ai cambiamenti repentini in autunno, al ghiaccio scivoloso in inverno, alle tentazioni dei fiori in primavera, alla sete e alle piogge in estate. In ciascuna di queste stagioni, approfitta di quanto c’è di meglio e non lamentarti delle sue caratteristiche.

10] Fai del tuo cammino uno specchio di te stesso. Non lasciarti assolutamente influenzare dalla maniera in cui gli altri si prendono cura del loro cammino. Tu hai la tua anima da ascoltare, e gli uccelli ai quali raccontare cií² che la tua anima sta dicendo. Che le tue storie siano belle e compiacciano tutto cií² che ti circonda. Soprattutto, che le storie che la tua anima racconta durante il viaggio siano riflesse in ogni secondo del percorso.

11] Ama il tuo cammino: senza questo, nulla ha senso.

Sixième Chapitre

Père Giancarlo Fontana, 72 ans

Bien sí»r, j’ai été très surpris quand ce couple, trop jeune, est venu í  l’église pour que nous organisions la cérémonie. Je connaissais peu Lukás Jessen-Petersen, et c’est ce jour-lí  que j’ai appris que sa famille, d’une obscure noblesse danoise, était farouchement opposée í  cette union. Non seulement contre ce mariage, mais aussi contre l’Église.

Son père, s’appuyant sur des arguments scientifiques tout í  fait incontestables, affirmait que la Bible, sur laquelle est fondée toute la religion, en réalité n’était pas un livre, mais un collage de soixante-six manuscrits différents, dont on ne connaí®t ni le vrai nom, ni l’identité de l’auteur ; qu’entre tous ces livres, presque mille ans étaient passés, plus que le temps qui sépare la rédaction du dernier de ces livres de la découverte de l’Amérique par Colomb. Aucun íªtre vivant sur toute la planète – ni les singes, ni les oiseaux – n’a besoin de dix commandements, disait-il, pour savoir comment se comporter. Il importe seulement que l’on suive les lois de la nature, et le monde restera en harmonie.

Bien sí»r, je lis la Bible. Bien sí»r, je connais un peu son histoire. Mais les íªtres humains qui l’ont rédigée étaient des instruments du Pouvoir Divin, et Jésus a forgé une alliance beaucoup plus forte que les dix commandements : l’amour. Les oiseaux, les singes, quelle que soit la créature de Dieu dont nous parlons, obéissent í  leurs instincts et suivent seulement ce qui est programmé. Dans le cas de l’íªtre humain, les choses sont plus compliquées parce qu’il connaí®t l’amour et ses pièges.

Bon. Voilí  que je fais de nouveau un sermon, alors qu’en vérité, je devais parler de ma rencontre avec Athéna et Lukás. Tandis que je causais avec le garí§on – et je dis causais, parce que nous n’appartenons pas í  la míªme foi, je ne suis donc pas soumis au secret de la confession -, j’ai su qu’en plus de l’anticléricalisme qui régnait chez lui, le fait qu’Athéna était étrangère suscitait une immense résistance. J’ai eu envie de lui demander de citer í  des proches au moins un passage de la Bible, qui ne contient aucune profession de foi, mais un appel au bon sens :

« Tu ne haí¯ras pas l’Édomite, car il est ton frère ; et tu ne haí¯ras pas l’Égyptien, car tu as été étranger dans son pays. »

Pardon. Je recommence í  citer la Bible. Je promets í  partir de maintenant de me contrí´ler. Après la conversation avec le garí§on, j’ai passé au moins deux heures avec Sherine – ou Athéna, ainsi qu’elle préférait qu’on l’appelí¢t.

Athéna m’a toujours intrigué. Dès qu’elle a commencé í  fréquenter l’église, elle m’a semblé avoir en tíªte un projet très clair : devenir sainte. Elle m’a raconté, et son amoureux ne le savait pas, que peu avant que la guerre civile éclate í  Beyrouth, elle avait vécu une expérience très semblable í  celle de sainte Thérèse de Lisieux : elle avait vu du sang dans les rues. On peut l’attribuer í  un traumatisme d’enfance et d’adolescence, mais le fait est que cette expérience, connue comme « la possession créatrice par le sacré », tous les íªtres humains la connaissent dans une mesure plus ou moins large. Brusquement, pendant une fraction de seconde, nous sentons que toute notre vie a une justification, que nos péchés sont pardonnés, que l’amour est toujours le plus fort et peut nous transformer définitivement.

Mais c’est aussi í  ce moment que nous avons peur. Qu’il soit divin ou humain, s’abandonner totalement í  l’amour signifie renoncer í  tout – y compris í  son propre bien-íªtre, ou í  sa capacité de prendre des décisions. Cela signifie aimer au sens le plus profond du terme. En réalité, nous ne voulons pas de la forme de salut que Dieu a choisie pour nous racheter : nous voulons garder le contrí´le absolu de tous nos pas, la pleine conscience de nos décisions, et pouvoir choisir l’objet de notre dévotion.

Avec l’amour, cela ne se passe pas comme cela. Il arrive, il s’installe, et il se met í  tout diriger. Seules des í¢mes très fortes se laissent emporter, et Athéna était une í¢me très forte.

Tellement forte qu’elle passait des heures dans une contemplation profonde. Elle avait un don exceptionnel pour la musique ; on disait qu’elle dansait très bien, mais l’église n’est pas un lieu approprié pour cela, alors elle apportait sa guitare tous les matins, et elle chantait quelque temps au moins pour la Vierge, avant de partir pour l’université.

Je me rappelle encore le jour oí¹ je l’ai entendue pour la première fois. J’avais déjí  célébré la messe du matin pour les rares paroissiens qui sont príªts í  se lever tí´t en hiver, quand je me suis souvenu que j’avais oublié de recueillir l’argent qu’ils avaient déposé dans le tronc. Je suis revenu, j’ai entendu de la musique et tout m’est apparu différent, comme si la main d’un ange avait touché les lieux. Dans un coin, dans une sorte d’extase, une jeune fille d’une vingtaine d’années jouait des cantiques sur sa guitare, les yeux fixés sur l’image de l’Immaculée Conception.

Je suis allé jusqu’au tronc. Elle a remarqué ma présence, et elle s’est interrompue ; mais j’ai fait un signe de la tíªte, pour l’inciter í  continuer. Puis je me suis assis sur un banc, j’ai fermé les yeux et j’ai écouté.

í€ ce moment-lí , la sensation du Paradis, la « possession créatrice par le sacré » a semblé descendre des cieux. Comme si elle comprenait ce qu’il se passait dans mon cÅ“ur, elle a commencé í  entrecouper son chant de silences. Aux moments oí¹ elle cessait de jouer, je disais une prière. Ensuite, la musique reprenait.

J’ai eu conscience d’íªtre en train de vivre un moment inoubliable – un de ces moments magiques que nous ne pouvons comprendre qu’après qu’ils ont pris fin. J’étais lí  tout entier, sans passé, sans avenir, vivant uniquement cette matinée, cette musique, cette douceur, ma prière inattendue. Je suis entré dans une sorte d’adoration, d’extase, reconnaissant d’íªtre en ce monde, content d’avoir suivi ma vocation malgré des conflits avec ma famille. Dans la simplicité de cette petite chapelle, dans la voix de la jeune fille, dans la lumière du matin qui inondait tout, j’ai compris encore une fois que la grandeur de Dieu se montrait í  travers des choses simples.

Après bien des larmes et un moment qui m’a semblé une éternité, elle s’est arríªtée. Je me suis retourné, j’ai découvert que c’était l’une de mes paroissiennes. Dès lors, nous sommes devenus amis et, chaque fois que nous le pouvions, nous participions í  cette adoration í  travers la musique.

Mais l’idée du mariage a été pour moi une surprise totale. Comme nous étions assez intimes, je lui ai demandé comment elle s’attendait í  ce que la famille de son mari la reí§oive.

« Mal. Très mal. »

Avec précaution, je lui ai demandé si elle était forcée de se marier pour une raison quelconque.

« Je suis vierge. Je ne suis pas enceinte. »

J’ai voulu savoir si elle avait déjí  prévenu sa propre famille, et elle m’a dit oui – ils avaient réagi avec un certain étonnement, suivi des larmes de la mère et des menaces du père.

« Quand je viens ici louer la Vierge par ma musique, je ne pense pas í  ce que les autres vont dire : je partage simplement avec elle mes sentiments. Et depuis que j’ai une certaine notion des choses, cela n’a pas changé ; je suis un réceptacle dans lequel l’Énergie Divine peut se manifester. Et cette énergie me demande maintenant d’avoir un enfant, auquel je pourrai donner ce que ma mère biologique ne m’a jamais donné : protection et sécurité.

– Personne n’est en sécurité sur cette terre », ai-je répondu. Elle avait encore un long avenir devant elle, le miracle de la création avait le temps de se manifester. Mais Athéna était décidée :

« Sainte Thérèse ne s’est pas rebellée contre la maladie dont elle était atteinte ; bien au contraire, elle y a vu un signe de la Gloire. Sainte Thérèse était beaucoup plus jeune que je le suis aujourd’hui, elle avait quinze ans quand elle a décidé d’entrer dans un couvent. On le lui a interdit et elle n’a pas accepté : elle a décidé d’aller directement parler au Pape. Pouvez-vous imaginer cela ? Parler au Pape ! Et elle a réussi í  atteindre ses objectifs.

« Cette míªme Gloire me demande quelque chose qui est beaucoup plus facile et beaucoup plus généreux qu’une maladie – íªtre mère. Si j’attends trop, je ne pourrai pas íªtre la camarade de mon enfant, la différence d’í¢ge sera trop grande et nous n’aurons plus les míªmes intéríªts communs.

– Vous ne seriez pas la seule », ai-je insisté.

Mais Athéna a continué, comme si elle ne m’avait pas entendu :

« Je suis heureuse quand je pense que Dieu existe et qu’Il m’écoute ; mais cela ne suffit pas pour continuer í  vivre, et rien ne semble avoir de sens. Je feins une gaieté que je ne ressens pas, je dissimule ma tristesse pour ne pas inquiéter ceux qui m’aiment tant et se font tant de soucis pour moi. Mais récemment j’ai envisagé l’hypothèse du suicide. Le soir, avant de me coucher, j’ai de longues conversations avec moi-míªme, je veux chasser cette idée, ce serait une ingratitude envers tous, une fuite, une manière de répandre tragédie et misère sur la terre. Le matin, je viens ici converser avec la Sainte Vierge, lui demander de me délivrer des démons auxquels je parle la nuit. Jusqu’í  présent, je m’en suis sortie, mais je commence í  faiblir. Je sais que j’ai une mission que j’ai refusée très longtemps, et qu’il me faut maintenant accepter.

« Cette mission, c’est la maternité. Je dois l’accomplir, ou je deviendrai folle. Si je ne vois pas la vie se développer en moi, je ne pourrai plus accepter la vie qui est í  l’extérieur. »

Le prochain chapitre sera en ligne le 13.04.2007

Sesto Capitolo

Padre Giancarlo Fontana, 72 anni

Certo, rimasi assai sorpreso quando la coppia – davvero molto giovane – venne in chiesa per organizzare la cerimonia. Io conoscevo poco Lukás Jessen-Petersen, e quello stesso giorno appresi che la sua famiglia, appartenente a un’oscura stirpe nobile della Danimarca, era apertamente contraria all’unione – una contrarietí  che non riguardava solo il matrimonio, ma anche la Chiesa.

Basandosi su argomentazioni scientifiche piuttosto discutibili, suo padre affermava che la Bibbia, su cui si fonda la religione, in realtí  non è un libro, bensí¬ una raccolta di 66 manoscritti dei quali non si conosce né il vero titolo né l’identití  degli autori; che tra la scrittura del primo libro e quella dell’ultimo intercorsero quasi mille anni – pií¹ del tempo passato dalla scoperta dell’America da parte di Colombo a oggi. Inoltre, sosteneva che nessun essere vivente del pianeta – dalle scimmie agli uccelli – ha bisogno di dieci comandamenti per sapere come comportarsi: è sufficiente seguire le leggi della natura, e il mondo vivrí  in armonia.

Chiaro che leggo la Bibbia. E conosco un po’ della sua storia – sicuro! Comunque, gli esseri umani che la scrissero furono strumenti del Potere Divino, e Gesí¹ forgií² un’alleanza assai pií¹ forte dei dieci comandamenti: l’amore. Gli uccelli, le scimmie, o qualsiasi altra creatura, obbediscono all’istinto e si adeguano a cií² che è originariamente stabilito. Nel caso dell’essere umano, le cose sono molto pií¹ complesse, giacché l’uomo conosce l’amore e le sue trappole.

Adesso basta, perí²: sto di nuovo facendo un sermone quando, in realtí , dovrei parlare del mio incontro con Athena e Lukás. Durante la conversazione con il ragazzo – e utilizzo il termine “conversazione” poiché non apparteniamo alla stessa fede e, di conseguenza, non sono vincolato al segreto della confessione -, venni a sapere che la sua famiglia si opponeva al matrimonio, sia per il forte anticlericalismo, sia per il fatto che Athena era straniera. Avvertii il desiderio di chiedergli di poter citare almeno un brano della Bibbia in cui non vi è alcuna professione di fede, ma solo un avvertimento di buonsenso:

“Non aborrirai l’edomeo, poiché è tuo fratello; non aborrirai l’egizio, poiché fosti straniero nel suo paese.”

Mi scusi. Ho citato nuovamente la Bibbia, ma le prometto che d’ora in poi mi controllerí². Dopo la conversazione con il ragazzo, passai almeno un paio d’ore con Sherine – o con Athena, come preferiva farsi chiamare.

Athena mi ha sempre incuriosito. Fin da quando aveva cominciato a frequentare la chiesa, mi era sembrato che avesse in mente un solo progetto: divenire santa. Mi disse che, sebbene il suo ragazzo lo ignorasse, poco prima che scoppiasse la guerra civile a Beirut, aveva avuto un’esperienza molto simile a quella di Santa Teresa di Lisieux: aveva visto del sangue nelle strade. Anche se potremmo attribuire la visione a un trauma dell’infanzia o dell’adolescenza, questa esperienza – nota come “la possessione creativa per il sacro” – è qualcosa che interessa, in misura maggiore o minore, tutti gli esseri umani. D’un tratto, per una frazione di secondo, sentiamo che la nostra intera vita è giustificata, che i nostri peccati sono perdonati, che l’amore si dimostra sempre pií¹ forte e puí² trasformarci in maniera definitiva.

In quello stesso momento, perí², proviamo anche paura. Abbandonarsi completamente all’amore – sia esso divino o umano – significa rinunciare a tutto: anche al proprio benessere o alla propria capacití  di prendere decisioni. Significa amare nel senso pií¹ profondo della parola. In realtí , noi non vogliamo essere salvi nel modo in cui Dio ha deciso: desideriamo mantenere il controllo assoluto di tutti i passi, avere piena coscienza delle nostre decisioni, poter scegliere l’oggetto della devozione.

Con l’amore non è cosí¬: esso arriva, s’insedia e assume il controllo di ogni azione. Solo le anime molto forti si lasciano trasportare – e Athena lo era.

Era un’anima talmente forte che trascorreva ore in profonda contemplazione. Aveva un talento particolare per la musica: si diceva che danzasse assai bene, ma la chiesa non è un luogo adatto per farlo, e cosí¬ aveva l’abitudine di passare ogni mattina con la sua chitarra e di trattenersi un po’ di tempo a cantare per la Vergine, prima di andare all’universití .

Ricordo ancora quando la ascoltai per la prima volta. Avevo gií  celebrato la messa mattutina per i pochi parrocchiani che sono disposti a svegliarsi presto durante l’inverno, quando mi venne in mente che avevo dimenticato di raccogliere il denaro nella cassetta delle offerte. Tornai indietro e udii una musica che mi fece vedere la chiesa in maniera diversa, come se quell’ambiente fosse stato sfiorato dalla mano di un angelo. In un angolo, come in estasi, c’era una giovane sui vent’anni che intonava – accompagnandosi con la chitarra – dei canti di lode, con gli occhi fissi sulla figura dell’Immacolata Concezione.

Mi avvicinai alla cassetta delle offerte. La ragazza si accorse della mia presenza e si interruppe, ma io le rivolsi un cenno affermativo con il capo, incoraggiandola a proseguire. Poi mi sedetti in uno dei banchi, chiusi gli occhi e rimasi ad ascoltare.

In quel momento, la sensazione del Paradiso – “la possessione creativa del sacro” – sembrí² discendere dai cieli. Come se capisse il sentimento che investiva il mio cuore, lei comincií² ad alternare il canto al silenzio. Negli attimi in cui smetteva di suonare, io recitavo una preghiera. Dopodiché la musica riprendeva.

Ebbi coscienza che stavo vivendo un momento indimenticabile della mia vita – quei momenti magici dei quali ci rendiamo conto soltanto quando sono ormai trascorsi. Ero lí¬ con tutto il mio essere – senza passato e senza futuro -, e vivevo solo quel mattino, quella musica, quella dolcezza, quella preghiera inattesa. Entrai in uno stato di adorazione, di estasi, di gratitudine per il fatto di trovarmi in questo mondo, felice di aver seguito la vocazione, nonostante i dissapori con la mia famiglia. Nella sobrietí  di quella piccola chiesa, nella voce della giovane, nella luce mattutina che inondava ogni angolo, ancora una volta compresi che la grandezza di Dio si mostra attraverso le cose semplici.

Dopo copiose lacrime – e dopo quella che mi sembrí² un’eternití  -, la giovane tacque. Mi voltai e scoprii che si trattava di una parrocchiana. Da allora diventammo amici, e ogni volta che ci fu possibile condividemmo questa adorazione attraverso la musica.

Comunque, l’idea del matrimonio mi sorprese. Poiché avevamo una certa confidenza, volli sapere come si aspettava di essere accolta dalla famiglia del marito.

“Male. Molto male.”

Con enorme cautela, le domandai se non fosse obbligata a sposarsi per qualche ragione.

“Sono vergine. Non sono incinta.”

Le chiesi se avesse gií  comunicato la sua decisione alla famiglia, e mi rispose di sí¬ – i genitori avevano avuto una reazione di stupore: c’erano state le lacrime della madre e le minacce del padre.

“Quando vengo in chiesa a lodare la Vergine con la mia musica, non penso a cií² che diranno gli altri: sto semplicemente condividendo con Lei i miei sentimenti. Da quando mi conosco come essere umano, è sempre stato cosí¬: sono un vaso dove l’Energia Divina puí² manifestarsi. E ora questa Energia mi chiede di avere un bambino, affinché io possa dargli cií² che la mia madre naturale mi ha negato: protezione e sicurezza.

Nessuno è sicuro su questa terra, replicai. Davanti a sé, aveva ancora un futuro assai lungo: aveva molto tempo perché il miracolo della creazione si manifestasse. Athena, perí², era decisa:

“Santa Teresa non si ribellí² contro la malattia che la colpí¬: anzi, al contrario, in essa vide un segnale della Gloria. E Santa Teresa era molto pií¹ giovane di me: aveva quindici anni, quando scelse di entrare in convento. Fu ostacolata, ma non si piegí²: decise di andare a parlare direttamente con il Papa – ma se l’immagina? Parlare con il Papa? E riuscí¬ a raggiungere i propri obiettivi.

“íˆ quella medesima Gloria che ora mi chiede qualcosa di molto pií¹ facile e molto pií¹ generoso di una malattia – che io sia madre. Se aspetterí² a lungo, non potrí² essere compagna di mio figlio: la differenza di etí  sarí  troppo grande e, allora, non avremo pií¹ tanti interessi in comune.”

Non sarebbe stata l’unica, insistetti io.

Ma Athena proseguí¬, come se non mi stesse ascoltando:

“Io sono felice solo quando penso che Dio esiste e mi ascolta: ma questo non basta per continuare a vivere, e nulla sembra avere un significato. Cerco di mostrare una gioia che non provo, nascondo la mia tristezza per non inquietare coloro che mi amano e si preoccupano per me. Di recente, perí², ho preso in considerazione l’ipotesi del suicidio. La sera, prima di addormentarmi, faccio lunghe conversazioni con me stessa, adoperandomi per scacciare questa idea: sarebbe una fuga, un’ingratitudine verso tutti, un modo di diffondere tragedia e miseria sulla terra. La mattina, vengo in chiesa a confidarmi con la Santa, chiedendole di allontanare i demoni con cui parlo durante la notte. Finora ha funzionato, ma comincio a sentirmi debole. So di avere una missione: l’ho rifiutata per lungo tempo, ma adesso devo accettarla.

“íˆ la missione di essere madre: devo compierla, o impazzirí². Se non potrí² vedere la vita crescere dentro di me, non riuscirí² pií¹ ad accettare l’esistenza che sta all’esterno.”

Il prossimo capitolo sarí  on-line: 13.04.07

“Cari lettori, poiché non parlo la vostra lingua, ho chiesto alla casa editrice di tradurre i vostri commenti. Le vostre considerazioni sul mio nuovo romanzo sono molto importanti per me.”

Con affetto, Paulo Coelho

Ninth Chapter

Pavel Podbielski, 57, owner of the apartment

Athena and I had one thing in common: we were both refugees from a war and arrived in England when we were still children, although I fled Poland over fifty years ago. We both knew that, despite that physical change, our traditions continue to exist in exile – communities join together again, language and religion remain alive, and in a place that will always be foreign to them, people tend to look after each other.

Traditions continue, but the desire to go back gradually disappears. That desire needs to stay alive in our hearts as a hope with which we like to delude ourselves, but it will never be put into practice; I’ll never go back to live in CzÄ™stochowa, and Athena and her family will never return to Beirut.

It was this kind of solidarity that made me rent her the third floor of my house in Basset Road – normally, I’d prefer tenants without children. I’d made that mistake before, and two things had happened: I complained about the noise they made during the day, and they complained about the noise I made during the night. Both noises had their roots in sacred elements – crying and music – but they belonged to two completely different worlds and it was hard for them to coexist.

I warned her, but she didn’t really take it in, and told me not to worry about her son. He spent all day at his grandmother’s house anyway, and the apartment was conveniently close to her work at a local bank.

Despite my warnings, and despite holding out bravely at first, eight days later the doorbell rang. It was Athena, with her child in her arms.

‘My son can’t sleep. Couldn’t you turn the music down at least for one night?’

Everyone in the room stared at her.

‘What’s going on?’

The child immediately stopped crying, as if he were as surprised as his mother to see that group of people, who had stopped in mid-dance.

I pressed the pause button on the cassette player and beckoned her in. Then I restarted the music so as not to interrupt the ritual. Athena sat down in one corner of the room, rocking her child in her arms and watching him drift off to sleep despite the noise of drums and brass. She stayed for the whole ceremony and left along with the other guests, but – as I thought she would – she rang my doorbell the next morning, before going to work.

‘You don’t have to explain what I saw – people dancing with their eyes closed – because I know what that means. I often do the same myself, and at the moment, those are the only times of peace and serenity in my life. Before I became a mother, I used to go to clubs with my husband and my friends, and I’d see people dancing with their eyes closed there too. Some were just trying to look cool, and others seemed to be genuinely moved by a greater, more powerful force. And ever since I’ve been old enough to think for myself, I’ve always used dance as a way of getting in touch with something stronger and more powerful than myself. Anyway, could you tell me what that music was?’

‘What are you doing this Sunday?’

‘Nothing special. I might go for a walk with Viorel in Regent’s Park and get some fresh air. I’ll have plenty of time later on for a social calendar of my own; for the moment, I’ve decided to follow my son’s.’

‘I’ll come with you, if you like.’

On the two nights before our walk, Athena came to watch the ritual. Her son fell asleep after only a few minutes, and she merely watched what was going on around her without saying a word. She sat quite still on the sofa, but I was sure that her soul was dancing.

On Sunday afternoon, while we were walking in the park, I asked her to pay attention to everything she was seeing and hearing: the leaves moving in the breeze, the waves on the lake, the birds singing, the dogs barking, the shouts of children as they ran back and forth, as if obeying some strange logic, incomprehensible to grown-ups.

‘Everything moves, and everything moves to a rhythm. And everything that moves to a rhythm creates a sound. At this moment, the same thing is happening here and everywhere else in the world. Our ancestors noticed the same thing when they tried to escape from the cold into caves: things moved and made noise. The first human beings may have been frightened by this at first, but that fear was soon replaced by a sense of awe: they understood that this was the way in which some Superior Being was communicating with them. In the hope of reciprocating that communication, they started imitating the sounds and movements around them – and thus dance and music were born. A few days ago, you told me that dance puts you in touch with something stronger than yourself.’

‘Yes, when I dance, I’m a free woman, or, rather, a free spirit who can travel through the universe, contemplate the present, divine the future, and be transformed into pure energy. And that gives me enormous pleasure, a joy that always goes far beyond everything I’ve experienced or will experience in my lifetime. There was a time when I was determined to become a saint, praising God through music and movement, but that path is closed to me forever now.’

‘Which path do you mean?’

She made her son more comfortable in his pushchair. I saw that she didn’t want to answer that question and so I asked again: when mouths close, it’s because there’s something important to be said.

Without a flicker of emotion, as if she’d always had to endure in silence the things life imposed on her, she told me about what had happened at the church, when the priest – possibly her only friend – had refused her communion. She also told me about the curse she had uttered then, and that she had left the Catholic Church forever.

‘A saint is someone who lives his or her life with dignity,’ I explained. ‘All we have to do is understand that we’re all here for a reason and to commit ourselves to that. Then we can laugh at our sufferings, large and small, and walk fearlessly, aware that each step has meaning. We can let ourselves be guided by the light emanating from the Vertex.’

‘What do you mean by the Vertex? In mathematics, it’s the topmost angle of a triangle.’

‘In life, too, it’s the culminating point, the goal of all those who, like everyone else, make mistakes, but who, even in their darkest moments, never lose sight of the light emanating from their hearts. That’s what we’re trying to do in our group. The Vertex is hidden inside us, and we can reach it if we accept it and recognise its light.’

I explained that I’d come up with the name ‘the search for the Vertex’ for the dance she’d watched on previous nights, performed by people of all ages (at the time there were ten of us, aged between nineteen and sixty-five). Athena asked where I’d found out about it.

I told her that, immediately after the end of the Second World War, some of my family had managed to escape from the Communist regime that was taking over Poland, and decided to move to England. They’d been advised to bring with them art objects and antiquarian books, which, they were told, were highly valued in this part of the world.

Paintings and sculptures were quickly sold, but the books remained, gathering dust. My mother was keen for me to read and speak Polish, and the books formed part of my education. One day, inside a nineteenth-century edition of Thomas Malthus, I found two pages of notes written by my grandfather, who had died in a concentration camp. I started reading, assuming it would be something to do with an inheritance or else a passionate letter intended for a secret lover, because it was said that he’d fallen in love with someone in Russia.

There was, in fact, some truth in this. The pages contained a description of his journey to Siberia during the Communist revolution. There, in the remote village of Diedov, he fell in love with an actress. (Editor’s note: It has not been possible to locate this village on the map. The name may have been deliberately changed, or the place itself may have disappeared after Stalin’s forced migrations.) According to my grandfather, the actress was part of a sect, who believed that they had found the remedy for all ills through a particular kind of dance, because the dance brought the dancer into contact with the light from the Vertex.

They feared that the tradition would disappear; the inhabitants of the village were soon to be transported to another place. Both the actress and her friends begged him to write down what they had learned. He did, but clearly didn’t think it was of much importance, because he left his notes inside a book, and there they remained until the day I found them.

Athena broke in:

‘But dance isn’t something you write about, you have to do it.’

‘Exactly. All the notes say is this: Dance to the point of exhaustion, as if you were a mountaineer climbing a hill, a sacred mountain. Dance until you are so out of breath that your organism is forced to obtain oxygen some other way, and it is that, in the end, which will cause you to lose your identity and your relationship with space and time. Dance only to the sound of percussion; repeat the process every day; know that, at a certain moment, your eyes will, quite naturally, close, and you will begin to see a light that comes from within, a light that answers your questions and develops your hidden powers.’

‘Have you developed some special power?’

Instead of replying, I suggested that she join our group, since her son seemed perfectly at ease even when the noise of the cymbals and the other percussion instruments was at its loudest. The following day, at the usual time, she was there for the start of the session. I introduced her to my friends, explaining that she was my upstairs neighbour. No one said anything about their lives or asked her what she did. When the moment came, I turned on the music and we began to dance.
She started dancing with the child in her arms, but he soon fell asleep, and she put him down on the sofa. Before I closed my eyes and went into a trance, I saw that she had understood exactly what I meant by the path of the Vertex.

Every day, except Sunday, she was there with the child. We would exchange a few words of welcome, then I would put on the music a friend of mine had brought from the Russian steppes, and we would all dance to the point of exhaustion. After a month of this, she asked me for a copy of the tape.

‘I’d like to do the dancing in the morning, before I leave Viorel at my Mum’s house and go to work.’

I tried to dissuade her.

‘I don’t know, I think a group that’s connected by the same energy creates a kind of aura that helps everyone get into the trance state. Besides, doing the dancing before you go to work is just asking to get the sack, because you’ll be exhausted all day.’

Athena thought for a moment, then said:

‘You’re absolutely right when you talk about collective energy. In your group, for example, there are four couples and your wife. All of them have found love. That’s why they can share such a positive vibration with me. But I’m on my own, or, rather, I’m with my son, but he can’t yet manifest his love in a way we can understand. So I’d prefer to accept my loneliness. If I try to run away from it now, I’ll never find a partner again. If I accept it, rather than fight against it, things might change. I’ve noticed that loneliness gets stronger when we try to face it down, but gets weaker when we simply ignore it.’

‘Did you join our group in search of love?’

‘That would be a perfectly good reason, I think, but the answer is “No”. I came in search of a meaning for my life, because, at present, its only meaning is my son, Viorel, and I’m afraid I might end up destroying him, either by being over-protective or by projecting onto him the dreams I’ve never managed to realise. Then one night, while I was dancing, I felt that I’d been cured. If we were talking about some physical ailment, we’d probably call it a miracle, but it was a spiritual malaise that was making me unhappy, and suddenly it vanished.’

I knew what she meant.

‘No one taught me to dance to the sound of that music,’ Athena went on, ‘but I have a feeling I know what I’m doing.’

‘It’s not something you have to learn. Remember our walk in the park and what we saw there? Nature creating its own rhythms and adapting itself to each moment.’

‘No one taught me how to love either, but I loved God, I loved my husband, I love my son and my family. And yet still there’s something missing. Although I get tired when I’m dancing, when I stop, I seem to be in a state of grace, of profound ecstasy. I want that ecstasy to last throughout the day and for it to help me find what I lack: the love of a man. I can see the heart of that man while I’m dancing, but not his face. I sense that he’s close by, which is why I need to remain alert. I need to dance in the morning so that I can spend the rest of the day paying attention to everything that’s going on around me.’

‘Do you know what the word “ecstasy” means? It comes from the Greek and means, “to stand outside yourself”. Spending the whole day outside yourself is asking too much of body and soul.’

‘I’d like to try anyway.’

I saw that there was no point arguing and so I made her a copy of the tape. And from then on, I woke every morning to the sound of music and dancing upstairs, and I wondered how she could face her work at the bank after almost an hour of being in a trance. When we bumped into each other in the corridor, I suggested she come in for a coffee, and she told me that she’d made more copies of the tape and that many of her work colleagues were also now looking for the Vertex.

‘Did I do wrong? Was it a secret?’

Of course it wasn’t. On the contrary, she was helping me preserve a tradition that was almost lost. According to my grandfather’s notes, one of the women said that a monk who visited the region had once told them that each of us contains our ancestors and all the generations to come. When we free ourselves, we are freeing all humanity.

‘So all the men and women in that village in Siberia must be here now and very happy too. Their work is being reborn in this world, thanks to your grandfather. There’s one thing I’d like to ask you: what made you decide to dance after you read those notes? If you’d read something about sport instead, would you have decided to become a footballer?’

This was a question no one had ever asked me.

‘Because, at the time, I was ill. I was suffering from a rare form of arthritis, and the doctors told me that I should prepare myself for life in a wheelchair by the age of thirty-five. I saw that I didn’t have much time ahead of me and so I decided to devote myself to something I wouldn’t be able to do later on. My grandfather had written on one of those small sheets of paper that the inhabitants of Diedov believed in the curative powers of trances.’

‘And it seems they were right.’

I didn’t say anything, but I wasn’t so sure. Perhaps the doctors were wrong. Perhaps the fact of being from an immigrant family, unable to allow myself the luxury of being ill, acted with such force upon my unconscious mind that it provoked a natural reaction in my body. Or perhaps it really was a miracle, although that went totally against what my Catholic faith preaches: dance is not a cure.

I remember that, as an adolescent, I had no idea what the right music would sound like, and so I used to put on a black hood and imagine that everything around me had ceased to exist: my spirit would travel to Diedov, to be with those men and women, with my grandfather and his beloved actress. In the silence of my bedroom, I would ask them to teach me to dance, to go beyond my limits, because soon I would be paralysed forever. The more my body moved, the more brightly the light in my heart shone, and the more I learned – perhaps on my own, perhaps from the ghosts of the past. I even imagined the music they must have listened to during their rituals, and when a friend visited Siberia many years later, I asked him to bring me back some records. To my surprise, one of them was very similar to the music I had imagined would accompany the dancing in Diedov.

It was best to say nothing of all this to Athena; she was easily influenced and, I thought, slightly unstable.

‘Perhaps what you’re doing is right,’ was all I said.

We talked again, shortly before her trip to the Middle East. She seemed contented, as if she’d found everything she wanted: love.

‘My colleagues at work have formed a group, and they call themselves “the Pilgrims of the Vertex”. And all thanks to your grandfather.’

‘All thanks to you, you mean, because you felt the need to share the dance with others. I know you’re leaving, but I’d like to thank you for giving another dimension to what I’ve been doing all these years in trying to spread the light to a few interested people, but always very tentatively, always afraid people might find the whole story ridiculous.’

‘Do you know what I’ve learned? That although ecstasy is the ability to stand outside yourself, dance is a way of rising up into space, of discovering new dimensions while still remaining in touch with your body. When you dance, the spiritual world and the real world manage to coexist quite happily. I think classical dancers dance on pointes because they’re simultaneously touching the earth and reaching up to the skies.’

As far as I can remember, those were her last words to me. During any dance to which we surrender with joy, the brain loses its controlling power, and the heart takes up the reins of the body. Only at that moment does the Vertex appear. As long as we believe in it, of course.

Next chapter will be on-line on: 13.04.07

Any message about any chapter can be left in the “readers’ corner” post.

Eighth Chapter

Father Giancarlo Fontana

I saw her when she arrived for Sunday mass, with the baby in her arms as usual. I knew that she and Lukás were having difficulties, but, until that week, these had all seemed merely the sort of misunderstandings that all couples have, and since both of them were people who radiated goodness, I hoped that, sooner or later, they would resolve their differences.

It had been a whole year since she last visited the church in the morning to play her guitar and praise the Virgin. She devoted herself to looking after Viorel, whom I had the honour to baptise, although I must admit I know of no saint with that name. However, she still came to mass every Sunday, and we always talked afterwards, when everyone else had left. She said I was her only friend. Together we had shared in divine worship, now, though, it was her earthly problems she needed to share with me.

She loved Lukás more than any man she had ever met; he was her son’s father, the person she had chosen to spend her life with, someone who had given up everything and had courage enough to start a family. When the difficulties started, she tried to convince him that it was just a phase, that she had to devote herself to their son, but that she had no intention of turning Viorel into a spoiled brat. Soon she would let him face certain of life’s challenges alone. After that, she would go back to being the wife and woman he’d known when they first met, possibly with even more intensity, because now she had a better understanding of the duties and responsibilities that came with the choice she’d made. Lukás still felt rejected; she tried desperately to divide herself between her husband and her child, but she was always obliged to choose, and when that happened, she never hesitated: she chose Viorel.

Drawing on my scant knowledge of psychology, I said that this wasn’t the first time I’d heard such a story, and that in such situations men do tend to feel rejected, but that it soon passes. I’d heard about similar problems in conversations with my other parishioners. During one of our talks, Athena acknowledged that she had perhaps been rather precipitate; the romance of being a young mother had blinded her to the real challenges that arise after the birth of a child. But it was too late now for regrets.

She asked if I could talk to Lukás, who never came to church, perhaps because he didn’t believe in God or perhaps because he preferred to spend his Sunday mornings with his son. I agreed to do so, as long as he came of his own accord. Just when Athena was about to ask him this favour, the major crisis occurred, and he left her and Viorel.

I advised her to be patient, but she was deeply hurt. She’d been abandoned once in childhood, and all the hatred she felt for her birth mother was automatically transferred to Lukás, although later, I understand, they became good friends again. For Athena, breaking family ties was possibly the gravest sin anyone could commit.

She continued attending church on Sundays, but always went straight back home afterwards. She had no one now with whom to leave her son, who cried lustily throughout mass, disturbing everyone else’s concentration. On one of the rare occasions when we could speak, she said that she was working for a bank, had rented an apartment, and that I needn’t worry about her. Viorel’s father (she never mentioned her husband’s name now) was fulfilling his financial obligations.

Then came that fateful Sunday.

I learned what had happened during the week – one of the parishioners told me. I spent several nights praying for an angel to bring me inspiration and tell me whether I should keep my commitment to the Church or to flesh-and-blood men and women. When no angel appeared, I contacted my superior, and he said that the only reason the Church has survived is because it’s always been rigid about dogma, and if it started making exceptions, we’d be back in the Middle Ages. I knew exactly what was going to happen. I thought of phoning Athena, but she hadn’t given me her new number.

That morning, my hands were trembling as I lifted up the host and blessed the bread. I spoke the words that had come down to me through a thousand-year-old tradition, using the power passed on from generation to generation by the apostles. But then my thoughts turned to that young woman with her child in her arms, a kind of Virgin Mary, the miracle of motherhood and love made manifest in abandonment and solitude, and who had just joined the line as she always did, and was slowly approaching in order to take communion.

I think most of the congregation knew what was happening. And they were all watching me, waiting for my reaction. I saw myself surrounded by the just, by sinners, by Pharisees, by members of the Sanhedrin, by apostles and disciples and people with good intentions and bad.

Athena stood before me and repeated the usual gesture: she closed her eyes and opened her mouth to receive the Body of Christ.

The Body of Christ remained in my hands.

She opened her eyes, unable to understand what was going on.

‘We’ll talk later,’ I whispered.

But she didn’t move.

‘There are people behind you in the queue. We’ll talk later.’

‘What’s going on?’ she asked, and everyone in the line could hear her question.

‘We’ll talk later.’

‘Why won’t you give me communion? Can’t you see you’re humiliating me in front of everyone? Haven’t I been through enough already?’

‘Athena, the Church forbids divorced people from receiving the sacrament. You signed your divorce papers this week. We’ll talk later,’ I said again.

When she still didn’t move, I beckoned to the person behind her to come forward. I continued giving communion until the last parishioner had received it. And it was then, just before I turned to the altar, that I heard that voice.

It was no longer the voice of the girl who sang her worship of the Virgin Mary, who talked about her plans, who was so moved when she shared with me what she’d learned about the lives of the saints, and who almost wept when she spoke to me about her marital problems. It was the voice of a wounded, humiliated animal, its heart full of loathing.

‘A curse on this place!’ said the voice. ‘A curse on all those who never listened to the words of Christ and who have transformed his message into a stone building. For Christ said: “Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Well, I’m heavy laden, and they won’t let me come to Him. Today I’ve learned that the Church has changed those words to read: “Come unto me all ye who follow our rules, and let the heavy laden go hang!”’

I heard one of the women in the front row of pews telling her to be quiet. But I wanted to hear. I needed to hear. I turned to her, my head bowed – it was all I could do.

‘I swear that I will never set foot in a church ever again. Once more, I’ve been abandoned by a family, and this time it has nothing to do with financial difficulties or with the immaturity of those who marry too young. A curse upon all those who slam the door in the face of a mother and her child! You’re just like those people who refused to take in the Holy Family, like those who denied Christ when he most needed a friend!’

With that, she turned and left in tears, her baby in her arms. I finished the service, gave the final blessing and went straight to the sacristy – that Sunday, there would be no mingling with the faithful, no pointless conversations. That Sunday, I was faced by a philosophical dilemma: I had chosen to respect the institution rather than the words on which that institution was based.

I’m getting old now, and God could take me at any moment. I’ve remained faithful to my religion and I believe that, for all its errors, it really is trying to put things right. This will take decades, possibly centuries, but one day, all that will matter is love and Christ’s words: ‘Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’ I’ve devoted my entire life to the priesthood and I don’t regret my decision for one second. However, there are times, like that Sunday, when, although I didn’t doubt my faith, I did doubt men.

I know now what happened to Athena, and I wonder: Did it all start there, or was it already in her soul? I think of the many Athenas and Lukáses in the world who are divorced and because of that can no longer receive the sacrament of the Eucharist; all they can do is contemplate the suffering, crucified Christ and listen to His words, words that are not always in accord with the laws of the Vatican. In a few cases, these people leave the church, but the majority continue coming to mass on Sundays, because that’s what they’re used to, even though they know that the miracle of the transmutation of the bread and the wine into the flesh and the blood of the Lord is forbidden to them.

I like to imagine that, when she left the church, Athena met Jesus. Weeping and confused, she would have thrown herself into his arms, asking him to explain why she was being excluded just because of a piece of paper she’d signed, something of no importance on the spiritual plane, and which was of interest only to registry offices and the tax man.

And looking at Athena, Jesus might have replied:

‘My child, I’ve been excluded too. It’s a very long time since they’ve allowed me in there.’

Next chapter will be on-line on: 09.04.07

Any message about any chapter can be left in the “readers’ corner” post.

Quinto Capitolo

Lukás Jessen-Petersen, 32 anni, ingegnere, ex marito

Athena sapeva gií  di essere stata adottata quando la incontrai per la prima volta. Aveva diciannove anni, e stava per litigare all’interno della caffetteria dell’universití : qualcuno, pensando che fosse di origine inglese (bianca, capelli lisci, occhi ora verdi ora grigi), aveva fatto dei commenti negativi sul Medio Oriente.

Era il primo giorno di lezione: la classe era nuova, nessuno sapeva niente dei propri compagni. Ma quella giovane scattí² in piedi, afferrí² l’altra ragazza per il colletto e si mise a urlare:

“Razzista!”

Vidi gli occhi terrorizzati della giovane assalita, lo sguardo eccitato degli altri studenti, bramosi di assistere al prosieguo della scena. Poiché ero un anno avanti rispetto a quel gruppo, mi figurai immediatamente le conseguenze: studio del rettore, denunce, probabile espulsione, indagine di polizia sul razzismo ecc. Lí¬, tutti avevano qualcosa da perdere.

“Chiudi quella bocca!” urlai, senza sapere che cosa stavo dicendo.

Non conoscevo nessuna delle due ragazze. Non mi reputo certo il salvatore del mondo e, sinceramente, penso che qualche rara lite sia stimolante per i giovani. Comunque, la reazione e il mio urlo furono pií¹ forti di me.

“Piantala!” strillai di nuovo alla ragazza carina, che adesso aveva afferrato la rivale – anche lei piuttosto bella – per il collo. La giovane mi guardí² e mi fulminí² con gli occhi. E, all’improvviso, qualcosa cambií². Sorrise – benché continuasse a serrare le mani intorno al collo della collega.

“Hai dimenticato di dire: ‘Per favore.'”

Tutti scoppiarono a ridere.

“Piantala,” ripetei. “Per favore.”

Lascií² la rivale e si diresse verso di me. Tutte le teste seguirono il suo movimento.

“Hai un’ottima educazione. E… per caso, non hai anche una sigaretta?”

Le porsi il pacchetto, e andammo a fumare nel campus. Era passata dalla rabbia furente al rilassamento totale; qualche minuto dopo stava ridendo, parlava del tempo, mi domandava se apprezzavo questo o quel gruppo musicale. Udii la campanella dell’inizio delle lezioni – e solennemente ignorai cií² che una costante della mia educazione fin dalla nascita: osservare la disciplina. Rimasi lí¬ a chiacchierare, come se non ci fossero pií¹ l’universití , le liti, i ritrovi, il vento, il freddo, il sole. Esisteva solo quella ragazza dagli occhi grigi di fronte a me, che parlava di cose tutt’altro che interessanti: anzi decisamente futili, ma che avrebbero potuto tenermi lí¬ per il resto dell’esistenza.

Due ore pií¹ tardi, stavamo pranzando insieme. Sette ore dopo, eravamo in un bar a mangiare e bere quello che i nostri bilanci ci permettevano. I discorsi si erano fatti via via pií¹ profondi e, in poco tempo, sapevo praticamente tutto della sua vita – senza che le facessi alcuna domanda, Athena mi raccontava particolari della sua infanzia e della sua adolescenza. In seguito, appresi che si comportava sempre cosí¬: quel giorno, perí², mi sentii l’uomo pií¹ speciale sulla faccia della terra.

Era arrivata a Londra come profuga della guerra civile libanese. Il padre, un cristiano maronita (N.d.R.: comunití  cristiana integrata nella Chiesa Cattolica che, benché sottoposta all’autorití  del Vaticano, non esige il celibato dei preti e adotta riti orientali e ortodossi), era stato minacciato di morte perché lavorava con il governo, ma non si era deciso a lasciare il Libano finché Athena, dopo aver udito di nascosto una conversazione telefonica, aveva stabilito che doveva crescere, assumersi le proprie responsabilití  di figlia e proteggere coloro che amava.

Aveva accennato una sorta di danza, aveva finto di essere in trance (era venuta a conoscenza di quello stato a scuola, durante lo studio delle vite dei santi), iniziando a proferire una serie di frasi. Non so come un bambino possa fare in modo che gli adulti prendano delle decisioni sulla base delle sue parole, tuttavia Athena affermí² che era andata proprio cosí¬: il padre era superstizioso, e lei si diceva assolutamente convinta di aver salvato la vita alla sua famiglia.

Erano arrivati in Inghilterra come profughi – ma non come mendicanti. Le comunití  libanesi sono diffuse in tutto il mondo, e cosí¬ il padre aveva avuto la possibilití  di dedicarsi ancora ai propri affari, e la vita era continuata. Athena aveva ripreso a studiare in buoni istituti, a seguire corsi di danza – la sua passione – e, una volta terminate le scuole secondarie, aveva scelto la facoltí  di ingegneria.

Viveva a Londra quando i genitori l’avevano invitata a cena in uno dei ristoranti pií¹ costosi della cittí  e le avevano spiegato – con enorme cautela – che era stata adottata. Lei si era finta sorpresa e li aveva abbracciati, aggiungendo che non sarebbe cambiato niente nel loro rapporto.

In realtí , in un momento di odio, un certo amico di famiglia, l’aveva gií  tacciata di essere un'”orfana senza gratitudine”. “Non sei neppure la loro figlia naturale, e non sai come ci si comporta!” Lei gli aveva lanciato un posacenere, ferendolo al volto: aveva pianto di nascosto per due giorni ma, ben presto, si era abituata alla situazione. A quel “galantuomo”, invece, era rimasta una cicatrice che non poteva spiegare a nessuno, e cosí¬ aveva cominciato a raccontare di essere stato aggredito per strada.

La invitai a uscire con me il giorno seguente. In maniera assolutamente diretta, mi disse che era vergine, che frequentava la chiesa tutte le domeniche e che non le interessavano i romanzi d’amore – piuttosto si preoccupava di leggere quanto pií¹ le fosse possibile sulla situazione in Medio Oriente.

Insomma, era occupata. Occupatissima.

“La gente crede che l’unico sogno di una donna sia quello di sposarsi e avere dei figli. Tu pensi che, a causa di tutto cií² che ti ho raccontato, io abbia sofferto molto nella vita. Non è cosí¬. E questa storia la conosco gií : altri uomini mi hanno avvicinato con la scusa di ‘proteggermi’ dalle tragedie.

“Ci si dimentica che, fin dall’antica Grecia, i guerrieri tornavano dalle guerre o morti sopra il proprio scudo, o fortificati dalle cicatrici. Be’, io sto in un campo di battaglia fin dalla nascita, sono ancora viva e non ho bisogno che qualcuno mi protegga.”

Fece una pausa.

“Hai visto come sono colta?”

“Molto. Eppure quando attacchi chi è pií¹ debole di te, dai l’idea di avere davvero bisogno di protezione. Avresti potuto rovinarti la carriera universitaria, stamane.”

“Hai ragione. Accetto l’invito.”

Da quel giorno, cominciammo a uscire insieme con regolarití . Quanto pií¹ le stavo vicino, tanto pií¹ scoprivo la mia luce – perché lei mi stimolava a dare sempre il meglio di me. Non aveva mai letto un libro sulla magia o sull’esoterismo: diceva che erano storie del demonio, che l’unica salvezza risiedeva in Gesí¹ – soltanto in Lui. Di tanto in tanto, insinuava cose che mi sembravano in disaccordo con gli insegnamenti della Chiesa.

“Cristo si circondava di mendicanti, prostitute, esattori delle imposte e pescatori. Io penso che, attraverso quell’atteggiamento, volesse suggerire che la scintilla divina si trova nell’anima di tutti e che non si estingue mai. Quando sono particolarmente tranquilla, o quando sono agitatissima, capisco che sto vibrando insieme all’intero universo – e arrivo a conoscere cose che ignoro, come se fosse il Signore Iddio a guidare i miei passi. Ci sono momenti in cui sento che tutto mi viene rivelato.”

Poi, subito dopo, si correggeva:

“Ma tutto questo è sbagliato.”

Athena viveva sempre tra due mondi: quello che sentiva come vero e quello che le veniva insegnato attraverso la fede.

Un giorno, dopo quasi un semestre di equazioni, calcoli e studi strutturali, disse che voleva lasciare la facoltí .

“Ma non hai mai neppure accennato a una simile eventualití .”

“Avevo paura di parlarne persino con me stessa. Poi, oggi sono stata dalla mia parrucchiera… Ha lavorato giorno e notte perché la figlia potesse finire gli studi di sociologia. La ragazza è riuscita a terminare l’universití  ma, dopo aver bussato a molte porte, ha trovato soltanto un impiego come segretaria in un cementificio. Eppure la mia parrucchiera ha continuato a ripetermi orgogliosa: ‘Mia figlia è laureata.’

“La maggior parte degli amici dei miei genitori – e dei loro figli – ha una laurea. Questo non significa che siano riusciti a trovare un lavoro nel campo in cui desideravano – anzi, spesso è accaduto il contrario. Hanno frequentato l’universití  perché qualcuno, in un’epoca in cui gli atenei sembravano tremendamente importanti, ha detto loro che per farsi strada nella vita bisognava avere una laurea. E cosí¬ nel mondo non ci sono pií¹ bravi giardinieri, panettieri, antiquari, muratori, scrittori.”

Le chiesi di riflettere ancora, prima di prendere una decisione cosí¬ radicale. Ma lei mi cití² alcuni versi di Robert Frost:

Davanti a me c’erano due strade.

Io ho scelto la strada meno battuta,

E questo ha fatto la differenza.

L’indomani, non si presentí² alle lezioni. Durante il nostro incontro successivo, le domandai che cosa avrebbe fatto.

“Mi sposerí². E avrí² un figlio.”

Non era un ultimatum. Io avevo vent’anni – lei diciannove -, e pensavo che fosse ancora presto per un simile impegno.

Ma Athena parlava molto seriamente. E io dovevo scegliere tra abbandonare l’unica cosa che occupava sinceramente i miei pensieri – l’amore per quella donna – o perdere la libertí  e le opportunití  che il futuro poteva riservarmi.

Onestamente, la decisione non fu affatto difficile.

Il prossimo capitolo sarí  on-line: 09.04.07

“Cari lettori, poiché non parlo la vostra lingua, ho chiesto alla casa editrice di tradurre i vostri commenti. Le vostre considerazioni sul mio nuovo romanzo sono molto importanti per me.”

Con affetto, Paulo Coelho

Cinquième chapitre

Lukás Jessen-Petersen, 32 ans, ingénieur, ex-mari

Athéna savait déjí  qu’elle avait été adoptée par ses parents quand je l’ai rencontrée pour la première fois. Elle avait dix-neuf ans et elle était sur le point de se battre í  la cafétéria de l’université avec une fille qui, pensant qu’elle était d’origine anglaise (blanche, cheveux lisses, yeux tantí´t verts, tantí´t gris), avait fait une remarque hostile au sujet du Moyen-Orient.

C’était le premier jour de cours ; la promotion était nouvelle, personne ne savait rien de ses camarades. Mais cette jeune fille s’est levée, et elle s’est mise í  hurler comme une folle :

« Raciste ! »

J’ai vu la terreur dans les yeux de l’autre, le regard excité des étudiants présents qui voulaient voir ce qui se passait. Comme cette classe était lí  pour un an, j’ai prévu immédiatement les conséquences : bureau du recteur, plaintes, risque d’expulsion, enquíªte policière sur le racisme, et cetera. Tout le monde avait quelque chose í  perdre.

« Tais-toi ! » me suis-je écrié, ne sachant ce que je disais.

Je ne les connaissais ni l’une, ni l’autre. Je ne cherche pas í  sauver le monde et, pour parler sincèrement, une querelle de temps en temps, c’est stimulant pour les jeunes. Mais mon cri et ma réaction avaient été plus forts que moi.

« Arríªte ! » ai-je crié de nouveau í  la jolie fille qui attrapait l’autre, jolie elle aussi, par la peau du cou. Elle m’a foudroyé du regard. Et brusquement, quelque chose a changé. Elle a souri – les mains encore sur la gorge de sa camarade.

« Tu as oublié de dire : “s’il te plaí®t”. »

Tout le monde a éclaté de rire.

« Arríªte, ai-je demandé. S’il te plaí®t. »

Elle a lí¢ché la fille et marché dans ma direction. Toutes les tíªtes ont accompagné son mouvement.

« Tu as de l’éducation. Aurais-tu aussi une cigarette ? »

J’ai tendu mon paquet, et nous sommes allés fumer sur le campus. Elle était passée de la rage absolue au relí¢chement complet, et au bout de quelques minutes, elle riait, parlait du temps, me demandait si j’aimais tel groupe musical ou tel autre. J’ai entendu la sonnerie qui appelait pour les cours, et j’ai ignoré solennellement ce pour quoi j’avais été éduqué toute ma vie : le respect de la discipline. Je suis resté lí  í  bavarder, comme si l’université, les querelles, la cantine, le vent, le froid, le soleil n’existaient plus. Seule existait cette femme aux yeux gris devant moi, tenant des propos inutiles et absolument sans intéríªt, capables de me garder lí  pour le restant de ma vie.

Deux heures plus tard, nous déjeunions ensemble. Sept heures plus tard, nous étions dans un bar, dí®nant et buvant autant que notre budget nous permettait de manger et de boire. Nos conversations se sont approfondies, et en peu de temps je savais déjí  presque tout de sa vie – Athéna racontait des détails de son enfance, de son adolescence, sans que je pose aucune question. Plus tard, j’ai su qu’elle était ainsi avec tout le monde ; mais ce jour-lí , je me suis senti l’homme le plus exceptionnel sur la Terre.

Elle était arrivée í  Londres comme réfugiée de la guerre civile qui avait éclaté au Liban. Son père, un chrétien maronite (N.R. : appartenant í  une branche de l’Église catholique qui, bien que soumise í  l’autorité du Vatican, n’exige pas le célibat des príªtres et pratique des rites orientaux et orthodoxes), menacé de mort parce qu’il travaillait avec le gouvernement, ne voulait pas se résoudre í  l’exil, jusqu’au jour oí¹ Athéna, écoutant en cachette une conversation téléphonique, avait décidé qu’il était temps de grandir, d’assumer ses responsabilités filiales et de protéger ceux qu’elle aimait tant.

Elle avait esquissé une sorte de danse, feignant d’íªtre en transe (elle avait appris tout cela au collège, quand elle étudiait la vie des saints) et commencé í  dire des choses. Je ne sais pas comment une enfant peut entraí®ner les adultes í  prendre des décisions fondées sur ses commentaires, mais Athéna a affirmé que c’était exactement ce qui s’était passé ; son père était superstitieux, elle était absolument convaincue qu’elle avait sauvé la vie de sa famille.

Ils sont arrivés ici comme réfugiés, mais pas comme des mendiants. La communauté libanaise est dispersée dans le monde entier, le père a trouvé tout de suite un moyen de rétablir ses affaires, et la vie a continué. Athéna a pu étudier dans de bonnes écoles, elle a pris des cours de danse – c’était sa passion – et choisi la faculté d’ingénierie aussití´t l’enseignement secondaire terminé.

Ils étaient déjí  í  Londres quand ses parents l’ont invitée í  dí®ner dans l’un des restaurants les plus luxueux de la ville et lui ont expliqué, avec précaution, qu’elle avait été adoptée. Elle a simulé la surprise, et affirmé que cela ne changeait rien í  leur relation.

Mais en réalité, un ami de la famille, dans un accès de haine, l’avait déjí  traitée d’« orpheline ingrate, míªme pas une fille naturelle, qui ne sait pas se tenir ». Elle avait lancé un cendrier, le blessant au visage, pleuré en cachette pendant deux jours, mais s’était habituée í  ce fait. Ce proche en avait gardé une cicatrice et, ne pouvant en expliquer l’origine í  personne, il racontait qu’il avait été agressé dans la rue par des voyous.

Je l’ai invitée í  sortir le lendemain. D’une manière très directe, elle a déclaré qu’elle était vierge, qu’elle fréquentait l’église le dimanche et ne s’intéressait pas aux romans d’amour – elle se souciait davantage de lire tout ce qu’elle pouvait sur la situation au Moyen-Orient.

Enfin, elle était occupée. Très occupée.

« Les gens croient qu’une femme ne ríªve que de se marier et d’avoir des enfants. Et toi, í  cause de tout ce que je t’ai raconté, tu crois que j’ai beaucoup souffert dans la vie. Ce n’est pas vrai, et je connais cette histoire, d’autres hommes se sont approchés de moi avec ce discours, “me protéger” des tragédies.

« Ce qu’ils oublient, c’est que déjí  dans la Grèce antique, les gens revenaient des combats morts sur leurs boucliers, ou bien renforcés par leurs cicatrices. C’est mieux ainsi : je suis sur le champ de bataille depuis que je suis née, je suis toujours en vie, et je n’ai besoin de personne pour me protéger. »

Elle a fait une pause.

« Tu vois comme je suis cultivée ?

– Très cultivée, mais quand tu attaques une personne plus faible que toi, tu laisses entendre que tu as vraiment besoin de protection. Tu aurais pu ruiner ta carrière universitaire ici.

– Tu as raison. J’accepte l’invitation. »

í€ partir de ce jour-lí , nous nous sommes mis í  sortir ensemble régulièrement, et plus j’étais près d’elle, plus je découvrais ma propre lumière – elle m’encourageait í  donner toujours le meilleur de moi-míªme. Elle n’avait jamais lu aucun livre de magie ou d’ésotérisme : elle disait que c’était chose du démon, que le seul salut était en Jésus, et point final. De temps í  autre, elle insinuait des choses qui ne semblaient pas en accord avec les enseignements de l’Église :

« Le Christ s’entourait de mendiants, de prostituées, de collecteurs d’impí´ts, de píªcheurs. Je pense qu’il voulait dire par lí  que l’étincelle divine se trouve dans toutes les í¢mes et ne s’éteint jamais. Quand je suis calme, ou quand je suis terriblement agitée, je sens que je vibre avec tout l’Univers. Et je fais alors des découvertes – comme si c’était Dieu lui-míªme qui guidait mes pas. Il y a des minutes oí¹ je sens que tout m’est révélé. »

Et aussití´t, elle se corrigeait :

« C’est faux ! »

Athéna vivait toujours entre deux mondes : celui qu’elle sentait authentique et celui qui lui était enseigné í  travers sa foi.

Un jour, après un semestre ou presque d’équations, de calculs, d’études de structures, elle a annoncé qu’elle allait abandonner la faculté.

« Mais tu ne m’en as jamais parlé !

– J’avais peur d’aborder le sujet, míªme avec moi-míªme. Mais aujourd’hui, j’étais chez ma coiffeuse, qui a travaillé jour et nuit pour que sa fille puisse finir ses études de sociologie. La fille a réussi í  terminer la faculté, et après avoir frappé í  toutes les portes, elle a trouvé un emploi de secrétaire dans une entreprise de production de ciment. Pourtant, ma coiffeuse répétait aujourd’hui, toute fière : “Ma fille a un diplí´me.”

« La plupart des amis de mes parents, et des enfants des amis de mes parents, ont un diplí´me. Cela ne signifie pas qu’ils aient trouvé un emploi í  leur goí»t – bien au contraire, ils sont entrés dans une université et en sont sortis parce que quelqu’un leur a dit, í  une époque oí¹ les universités semblent compter, que, pour s’élever dans la vie, on avait besoin d’un diplí´me. Et le monde se prive d’excellents jardiniers, boulangers, antiquaires, sculpteurs, écrivains. »

Je l’ai priée de réfléchir encore un peu, avant de prendre une décision aussi radicale. Mais elle a cité les vers de Robert Frost :

« Devant moi il y avait deux routes

J’ai choisi la route la moins fréquentée

Et cela a fait toute la différence. »

Le lendemain, elle n’est pas venue aux cours. Lors de notre rencontre suivante, je lui ai demandé ce qu’elle allait faire.

« Me marier. Et avoir un enfant. »

Ce n’était pas un ultimatum. J’avais vingt ans, elle dix-neuf, et je pensais qu’il était encore très tí´t pour un engagement de cette nature.

Mais Athéna parlait très sérieusement. Et moi, je devais choisir entre perdre la seule chose qui occupait vraiment ma pensée – mon amour pour cette femme – ou perdre ma liberté et tous les choix que l’avenir me promettait.

Honníªtement, la décision n’a pas été très difficile.

Le prochain chapitre sera en ligne le 09.04.2007

Η γωνιά των αναγνωστών της Μάγισσας του Πορτομπέλο.

Ο χώρος αυτός προορίζεται για τους αναγνώστες που έχουν διαβάσει το βιβλίο. Εδώ θα δημοσιεύονται όλες οι απόψεις, θετικές και αρνητικές. Θα απορρίπτονται μόνο όσες είναι προσβλητικές και επιθετικές. Ο σχολιασμός και η κριτική είναι κάτι το θετικό, όμως στη συζήτηση μπορούν να συμμετάσχουν αποκλειστικά και μόνο όσοι έχουν διαβάσει τη Μάγισσα του Πορτομπέλο. Όσοι αναγνώστες δεν έχουν ακόμα διαβάσει τα πρώτα κεφάλαια, μπορούν να τα δουν κάνοντας κλικ στη στήλη που βρίσκεται στο δεξί μέρος της σελίδας. Εντωμεταξύ, δε θα υπάρχει πρόσβαση στα σχόλια».

Φιλικά

Πάουλα Μπρακονότ

ÄŒtenáÅ™skí½ koutek pro ÄŒarodÄ›jku z Portobella

Tento prostor je určen pro ty, kdo již knihu pÅ™ečetli. UveÅ™ejňujeme pozitivní­ i negativní­ reakce, vyÅ™azeny budou jen ty hrubé či agresivní­. Kritizovat a komentovat je pÅ™irozené a my budeme zachovávat prostor ví½hradnÄ› pro ty, kdo čarodÄ›jku z Portobella pÅ™ečetli. Ti, kteÅ™í­ jeÅ¡tÄ› nečetli první­ kapitoly románu, mohou kliknout na sloupec vpravo na obrazovce. V té chví­li se poznámky uzavÅ™ou.

S pozdravem

Paula Braconnot