“Savonarola is back…?”
by Christos Tsagkaris
An old man walks these days in the city. His clothes are old—bringing memories of other times. Some tell that he looks like a forgotten statue that came in life. Even though he presents himself as en enemy of monumental architecture, we cannot be sure where he comes from. We don’t even know what he wants from us.
He holds a list filled with books. Every morning he visits all the libraries and the bookshops. At midday he usually holds a package of books–both new and old. He is a little weird and it’s almost impossible to discuss things with him. He is always mumbling something about saving the city from liars or testing the truth of the books before the face of sun.
“Before the face of sun” I sometimes hear him murmuring. “Before the face of sun I will judge their faith to the books. And at this exact moment we will see whether their books can cope with the storm of light.”
“Pro sol VERITAS”. The police has mentioned some graffities on the ruined walls of the medieval castle… “Pro sol VERITAS”… “Pro veritate sol.” Philologists support that these are Latin. An ancient language present in a modern form of writing. Classical words protest… But against what they do protest? “Truth before the face of sun…” That is exactly what he is mumbling all the times. However the old man always mumbles, he seldom speaks. And whenever he speaks he doesn’t speak in an accurate way.
Every day people stop him in the road:
“Speak of yourself at last! Who are you? What do you want to judge?”
“I will judge their theories on nature under the sun”.
“Who are ‘they’, to whom do you refer?”
“Come on my side and seek the liars…!”
“Speak at last? Who are the liars? Which is your side? Why are you talking about sides?”
“A side is the place that human nature calls you to defense in case of fight. A side is what brave Hamlet meant while saying “to fight when honor is at stake”. A side is the wall of your castle… You ought to defend it against your enemies… What are the enemies doing…? Yes, that is the question… Be sure that they won’t come to ruin your castle at once. They will come to you as diplomats seeking discussion. They will come to persuade you to leave your castle… And that moment will be their triumph…” he claims… And then you can hear them shouting again:
“Speak clearly at last! Are you mad? What’s all this story with the enemies and the castle? Have you come from antiquity…?”
“Seek the truth under the light of sun” he mumbles while leaving them without a specific answer. After those discussions he disappears for several days. And this is a weird thing to say. Even if his presence is a source of curiosity for us, we tend to forget him absolutely as soon as he disappears. We remember him the day he comes up again strolling the roads of our cities and we start thinking again… “Who is he? What is he doing with all these books?” He is a living question for us. We argue about him concerning his true identity and then we forget him. But we will never have a specific answer, except myths and dreams…
Dreams…? Yes, I thought I saw him while reading a book about the history of our city. There was a reference to the monk Savonarola, a tyrant that used to burn books and works of art at the central square of our city. And while reading, just for a moment I saw the weird old man. It was early morning, the moment when the sun rises behind the mountains. He was standing looking to the mountains. A book was open in his hands, but I do not remember what exactly this book was about. And then he took another and another and left them all on the rock till the rock was hidden behind the books. His eyes were red and tired—probably he was reading all night. He prepared himself and started talking as in a court:
“In the past I used to be easily irritated. In the past I was young and strong, popular among my co-citizens. In the past I would judge every single line. I would give all false books to fire so as to be burnt. But time passes. And hereby I am an old weird man, unknown even to the residents of my home town. If they knew me they would firmly disagree with me. My figure is nothing but a miserable statue and my name is nothing but the definition of shame. Years and years I travel around the world seeking pieces of the truth in books. But I have neither the strength nor the means to judge them on my own. I have read them again and again and I cannot be sure whether they are true or false… And thus, hereby I let you books to the ultimate criterion of light. Shine to signify your truth or burn and let my people free of your mistakes…!”
Suddenly—or maybe because his speech finished as soon as the sunrise started—the books and the man were surrounded by a vast light. My eyes closed automatically and I woke up to find that I have slept on the encyclopedia.
During next days the old man appeared again in the city. Whenever I see him, I ask myself…: “Who is that man really? Could it really be him? Did he came back?”
Christos Tsagkaris lives in Greece. He studies Medicine and enjoys reading and writing literature in his spare time. He has been awarded in several literary competitions both in Greece and abroad. Some of these competitions were held by the United Nations (“Un voeu pour la planet”), the “Poesie en Liberte” foundation, the University of Cyprus, the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and the Greek Literary Union. Poems and fiction of his have also been included in literary anthologies or published in literary online magazines such as “Frear”, “Fractalart”, “tovivlio”,” Bookpress”, “Logotexnia21”, Diasporic Literature, “Literatology”and “101 Words”.
4 thoughts on ““Savonarola is back…?””
What a wonderful story! It held me spellbound to the end.
The elements of awkwardness in English useage seem to enhance the dream-like, surreal quality of the account, as does the ambiguity of its ending. Like all surreal art, in calls into question easy assumption about the nature of truth. AGB
Close to magical realism. I like the surreal qualities of this.
A room without books is like a body without a soul and a website without this specific writer’s thoughts is like a field without blossoms. Congratulations.