Sous Rature

EL OJO DE DIOS Part the First:: Insects & Letters

David-Baptiste Chirot



El Ojo de Dios

For Leonardo Sciascia

“J’ai trop a ecrire, c’est pourquoi je n’ecrire rien.”—Stendhal, Journal, 1804

Part the First: Insects and Letters




El Colonel smiles. Bright birds sing in the morning air. Limpid light through the wide
open windows bathes the high celinged room’s whitewashed stone walls. The coolness of
night, refreshing as nearby mountain streams, rises in the wake of dawn’s departing
mists. “The promise of a good day is given unto him,” El Colonel hums, imitating the
cadences of a childhood hymn.

El Colonel smiles. With practiced precision, his favorite adjutant appears, “true to the
appointed minute, ever mindful of detail.”

El Colonel smiles. Along with his great fondness for alliteration, El Colonel has an
addiction for placing thoughts, those improvised compositions, in quotation marks. This
brings “a deft touch of intriguing and entertaining irony to the most prosaic of ideas,
events, and persons “ Habituated to an imaginative isolation, El Colonel’s intellectual
companions are his “compositions” with their attendant “commentaries,” “asides,”
“digressions,” and “annotations.” By means of this “ironic distancing” he continually
invents “a hitherto unknown and as yet unpublished form of writing, never before seen
nor heard.”

El Colonel smiles. This writing is a method of creating for himself a reader who is in turn
accompanied by his own doubling as a writer. Where there had been “no one with who to
share his most intimate thoughts, the fullness and agility of his life,” there is now not only
such a companion; there is also a recorder of “his deeds and exploits.” In such a way El
Colonel simultaneously acts, writes and reads both for himself and to another, who is also

both a reader and an other author in turn, providing El Colonel with his own role as a
reader. By these means his life takes on an aura of legend, and he acts both as though
creating the performance of something which is happening, and of something which has
happened “already.” By the latter means, his life is taking place in a futurity in which it is
read, and in a present in which it is written. The simplest acts and words are invested with
the immediacy of a drama “taking place,” the glow of “great acts having taken place ,”
and, to heighten both drama and aura, the precisions of a prefatory “about to take place,”
which allows for the insertion of the necessary commentaries, directions, and asides. “For
the benefit of the listener, for the pleasure of the reader, for the background material
necessary to the writer,” as El Colonel describes it with relish in a self-penned blurb.

El Colonel smiles. “Implacable face of an idol, obsidian eyes set in burnished copper,”
the handsome adjutant stands before him with the morning’s first batch of dispatches,
files, runner-delivered letters, and neatly folded and crisp “primarily Provincial”
newspapers. The adjutant is one of El Colonel’s pet projects, “a raw recruit before our
very eyes transformed into a perfect specimen of youth tempered with discipline.”

El Colonel smiles. The adjutant’s high cheek bones and broad shoulders “indicate a
physiognomy and physique in harmony with the topography.” “Impassive, inscrutable, O
what rock hewn ages has your being not known,” El Colonel hums as the bright birds

El Colonel smiles. Snapping to attention, the handing over of the documents being
accomplished, the adjutant speaks in clear, carefully enunciated tones. “Colonel today is
the one appointed for your meeting with El Ojo, at 10.00 hours.”

El Colonel smiles. With a slight broadening of his lips, El Colonel indicates to the
expectant adjutant that he, too, may smile. A smile which El Colonel “knows full well he
is eager to indulge in.” El Ojo is well known to be a great favorite with the men of the
“Heroic Patrol.” His meetings with El Colonel “inspire and arouse curiosity even among
the most stoic.” Sometimes these meetings change nothing more in the daily routine than
this “elevation of interest”; sometimes “they indicate an imminent Action of the Heroes.”

El Colonel smiles, the adjutant smiles. “El Ojo,” El Colonel pronounces with firmness,
and, with a broad gesture indicating that a small table and two large chairs are to be
advanced to the center of the room, adds, “Prepare the strongest Reserve coffee and bring
two pack of unsealed cigarettes.” It is well known that El Ojo will only smoke cigarettes
whose seals are broken before his watchful gaze.

El Colonel smiles. Going to the wide open window he gazes through aviator sunglasses at
the bright birds, the luminosity of the landscape and “reflects on the irony that reflective
glasses shield one’s reflections from observing eyes by their mirrored reflections of a
thwarted inquiry."



El Colonel smiles. Behind the reflecting sunglasses, “his own reflections concern
themselves with a reflection found within the ‘Author’s Note’ to the Second Edition of
Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent, a copy of which he found when literally ransacking a
small private library whose owner he had been ordered to take possession of.” El Colonel
“recollects in tranquility,” that the passage had “greatly interested, inspired and amused
him, for in it Conrad had written: ‘Man may smile and smile but he is not an investigating
animal. He loves the obvious. He shrinks from explanations. Yet I will go on with

El Colonel smiles. Watching the play of light on large leaves upon whose surfaces insects
have begun to gather “seems to remind him of the play of the light even in the cool
dimness of the library on the leaves of the book, upon whose surfaces the letters had
gathered.” This “doubly reflecting” aspect of his seeing and his recollections strikes him
“as an image of the intimate intercourse of the natural and human worlds, of the
revelatory union of the exterior and interior of consciousness, and of the synchronistic
simultaneity of the moment and a memory which doubles as its mirror.”

El Colonel smiles. Conrad’s man who may smile and smile, loving the obvious and
shrinking from explanations, he finds himself to be the “paradoxical embodiment of the
contradiction of.” For, “reading Conrad’s words crawling on the leaves of the book in the
cool, shadowy light, he had found himself, not as the one described, but as the union of
the description and its author. As both the smiler and the investigative explainer who
describes and refutes him, as the one whose task it is to bring into being their union. As
and in himself. And in that moment he experienced the recognition of his unique

Vocation and of himself. “

El Colonel smiles. “To smile, to love the obvious, and to present and preserve the
explanation which both the smile and the obvious conceal, the reflections behind their
reflecting surfaces. This, this is his alone, this unique vocation, this great passion, this
most confidential mission.”

El colonel smiles. Checking his watch, he turns and approaches a chair on one side of the
table set in the center of the large light filled room. This chair and the one on the table’s
other side are high backed, with strong arms of a wood hard as iron and painted in a still
shiny black lacquer. The upholstered seats and backs are not uncomfortable and of a
worn red fading into rose. With studied and precise, angular movements, El Colonel
begins to arrange himself in the correct position in which to be found by his “immanent
and eminent visitor.”

El Colonel permits himself a barely audible and very brief laugh as “he takes possession
of himself the better to assiduously arrange the head, the torso, the limbs, the folded
hands, as though he were in the process of preparing a stuffed and mounted specimen of a
representative example of a Colonel, whose taxidermist he himself was.”