A few weeks ago my friend Rachel emailed me what she promised would be a real curiosity, and it turned out to be a very peculiar text indeed. She had transcribed it from a manuscript that had been tucked inside a copy of Plato’s Republic that she bought second-hand while in Dublin. The text consisted of a series of very short, enigmatic prose pieces, most no longer than a three-line sentence.
Included in the text was an email address. After sending a message to this email, Rachel was invited to a private mailing list shared between six people, each of whom was sending variations on the text among themselves and trying to establish a definitive version. I thank the members of this mailing list for allowing me to publish their collated text on this blog, and I respect their wishes not to have their contact information disclosed.
The author’s name is given as Kamil Schweighardt, of which nothing shows up on google, and the translators are Jan Cerny and Thomas Novak. There is a fourth member, whose name varies, who provided assistance in polishing the English.
Schweighardt is always listed as the author, and Jan Cerny is always the main translator, but Novak is sometimes absent, and the name of the fourth party, who revised the English, is inconsistent. If we assume that they are using their real names, we can conclude that Schweighardt, Cerny and Novak are probably Czech.
One text gives Schweighardt’s dates of birth and death as being 1907 and 1978 respectively. All but one of the five texts are prefaced to say that they are translations from Czech, but one says that it is a translation from German.
There are several reasons why I am sceptical about the Czech dimension to the story. Why are there two translators – what does Novak do? Why, in the English speaking world, is this phenomenon confined to Dublin? Why is there nothing on the internet about Kamil Schweighardt? The Bohemian elements, it seems to me, have the air of being no more than Rosicrucian atmospherics, affectations of Rudolf II’s court and the Voynich manuscript. Theophilius Schweighardt, as may be significant, was the name of a seventeenth-century alchemist. I would like to know if there is any sign that Kamil Schweighardt was real. Is anyone who can read Czech or German, and/or who lives in the Czech Republic, able to tell me if there is any phenomenon similar to this over there? I know this website has some regular Irish readers – has anyone else in Dublin, other than the members of the anonymous mailing list, encountered something like this?
Each version of the Visions Abyssal contains a core ‘canonical text’ supposedly written by Schweighardt himself, and ‘apocrypha’, not quite of the same quality or tone. The apocrypha are not obsequiously solemn, as would be expected from the imitations of their master by initiates, but are in fact light in tone, and somewhat silly. Perhaps they were considered not to be of quality fitting to Schweighardt’s reputation amongst his followers and were downgraded to the role of apocrypha as a result.
The mystery is interesting, if smelling of deliberate mystification and affectation, but the text itself is even more interesting. Schweighardt’s very short rhythmic sentences remind me, if anything, of Max Jacob’s poetry, and Félix Féneon and Yasunari Kawabata’s short prose, but in truth there is really little else like them. ‘Schweighardt’ is an intriguing and perplexing stylist in his own right, and perhaps he deserves to be known on that account if at all.
Here are the abyssal visions of Kamil Schweighardt:
Between a thing and the beyond of thing, between that beyond and nothing: the precipice of the abyss.
A compass of the abyss: a blink between sense and something vaster, an eclipse of form by the eyelid of the abyss, and, within that darkness, a dim vision of a compass broken by the abyss.
One map of the abyss: this, the corrosion in language of the abyss.
In the smithy abyssal occurs the smelting of abyssal sentences. The aural sense’s function in the composition of rhythmic sentences is steered, by a dysfunction of the inner ear, through the abyssal smithy. Behold the slag of the smithwork.
Apology of the Abyss
Apology of the abyss: the fall again into the abyssal architecture of self-excuse, the contactuous circumlocution of the abyss within and by this sentence; the coil and uncoil of meaning and form as mediated through this discussion of the abyssal subject.
The ‘Apology of the Abyss’, inscribed in the walls of a seashell, could be heard by its intricate echoes in the sound of that seashell, its obtuse verbosity grating like a steel-woollen storm of recollected fingernails on the eardrum.
The Eardrum Resounds
The grating phrases, like fingernails scratching on the eardrum, inflicted, like rain deposited and regathered as cloud, some inclination to their perpetuation, some need to scratch a fingernail novel on the walls of the abyss.
The Fingernail’s Scripture
Fingernails, wedged into the fissures and precipices of the abyss, became the hinges of the abyss. Fingernail novels, originally anguished attacks on the abyss, became the scripture of the abyss.
The fingernail novels, of which this is one, tapped with their words against the walls of the abyss; rotated through the logical planes of the abyss, the word-sound of sentences such as this was exactly that of fingernails hitting a wall.
Fingernails Descending on Hard Surfaces
The rhythmic, rain-like sound of fingernails descending on hard surfaces was actually not very like the sound of rain, but was absorbed like rain into the cloud of aural memory, and fell into these words in aspiration to pluvial prosody’s marriage with pluvial metaphor, yes, fell somewhat rhythmically, somewhat like rain, into these words to do with fingernails that do not quite sound like rain.
The abyss, an infinite confusion of which the periphery was everywhere and the centre somewhere in the distance…
A noted tendency of Abyssinia is to make minds marginal in their imagination of its landscapes; to make the mind an incongruous caravan in its visualizations of Abyssinia.
A noted tendency of the Abyssal Plains is to make the mind a periphery of their vista; to fresco closed eyelids as landscapes in which the mind is a painter in the distance.
A noted fact of the abscess is its sound-symbolic association, arbitrary but for the echo of the mise-en-abyme, bestowing by convention some mention of it having a noted feature.
Treatise on the Abyss
The abyss was that which was incarnated in contradictory representations, that which issued falsely proportioned shell-effigies as concessions to the world that could accommodate its form only as deformation, that which accommodated itself to words only for description to be disfigured in spiralling dance with abyssal deformation.
Stair-like spiralling rhythms of consonantal tension with vocalic torsion: some indication, by rotation through the plane of language, of the shape of the abyss. Discussion of the abyss: echo of the dimensions of the abyss.
The hammer wielded in the ambiguity of the abyssal action beat formlessness between the forms of a disordered inner ear and a metal seashell. The abyssal hammer fell and left a resounding echo: the steel vibrations between the shattering eardrum and the seashell.
What of the Abyss?
What of the abyss? – could it be that our every blink and shoelace is the echoing coil of the eclipse and loop of the abyss? Could it be that its depths of dimension are those alluded to at the point of hesitation, at the summit-wobble, at the blink-like difference between revelation and confusion?
Ecstasy at distance from the abyss: ecstasy surveying the territory of the abyss. Ecstasy of the abyss: ecstasy a map of the abyss.
Ecstasies on the precipice of the abyss: states of the fascination enjoined by their extent and dimensions, joys enjoyed for elasticity of form and mutability of texture; raptures felt beyond rapture as spirit detached from body; yes, ecstasies of ecstasy felt as something in the distance.
Corridors out of form, bones out of joint, sentences with sense ajar; these are of the kingdom of the abyss. The prison on whose walls are the tapped the breaking fingernails, the confusion of first wakefulness, the circumlocutuous campaign of the abyss through its vagueness…
Intimations of the Abyss.
Intimations of the abyss: a music-box; a mollusc’s shell; a blink; a moth’s flight; a disorder of the inner ear; a helical, staircase-like pattern of consonants and vowels: metaphors ajar and aflutter of the abyss.
Here are the apocryphal pieces, which I have been told are not the work of Schweighardt, but are perhaps the work, in some measure, of Cerny, Novak and/or Sheehy:
She awoke like a mouse in the jaws of night, from a dream ending in the mouth of an owl to the awakening ambush of her night-cowled cat.
The alchemist wasted years in trying to transmute his suffering into its luminous and justifying expression: the work that would vindicate its failure in un-wasting waste’s failed aestheticisation.
The plum-jar labelled ‘Gnosis!’ perplexed him: an epitaph to knowing as fully as now was unknown, the renunciation of insight’s promise to survive beyond its accompanying exultation, an annunciation recalled darkly. But he could buy more plums.
The room encased his mind like a second skull. Every thought ricocheted in the indented echoes of every predecessor; every mood mixed breath with the mildew. Moving to another town, he shed this shell and bequeathed it to the moulding of another soul.
Autumn’s colourings proceeded as along a boxed row of pastels, mellowing the leaves until they fell like the simile off the box.
The scent of earth stirred ancient echoes: echoes of Aghartha.
A being of language that loved herself for that, she thought sentences that self-luxuriated like a stretching body, her words reaching such decadent self-reference that they ceased to allude to a world outside of them, but to note and loop this fact into the ribbon of this memoir.
A man looked at a radio. ‘Can a man be a radio?’ he thought in ceaseless volleys. In another world, a man was a radio.
Inspired by its part in her thoughts of this occurring, a region of neurons seceded from her brain.
The thoughts encircled him, trapped his thoughts in circular patterns and rhythms, commandeering his body to illustrate their control and its adherence to Euclidean principles.
Titles, Skins and Dimensions
Skin and Liminal Things was pondered as a title for a meditation on the affinities of names and exteriors, producing by digression a short tale called Liminal Satellites, renamed Skins, Things Liminal and Cortical, renamed Rind, Curd, Awn and Cortex, and finally Titles, Skins and Dimensions.
Two men existed briefly in each other’s minds, dangling from and within each other’s dreams like spools or cocoons, dissipating as they untangled from each other’s thoughts.
Tapestries Depicting their Peeling in Language from their Ecstatic Inspiration was the title of a series of fictions in which this fact featured.
Barbarossa smelled in the stained white beard he sometimes mistakes for smoke the youth in which he would sometimes mistake it for fire.