István Orosz

And the Garden comes, as if in a dream,
and begins to grow in the night,
breathing, misting, spreading its vines,
like a cancer in the forest of the body.
In unfathomable layers
grows its labyrinth: secret diagram,
erected, ruined, erected anew
moon-struck ancient face – replica

for Blessed Botany…

I am searching for a time, but in vain; yet it would have been good to find it, so that I don’t have to cite by heart the story, the often-quoted tale in which the painter puts down his brush, steps into the landscape, sets off among the bushes of the freshly painted picture, on one of the meandering trails into the distance, and disappears into the dusk setting over the garden, or is swallowed by the fog enveloping the labyrinth. The aerial perspective – as the jargon has it. He is lost before our external eye, but of course the internal eyes follow, since there within us he continues to stroll on; lost, or simply not found for an eternity. He promenades in the labyrinth that is transformed into cerebral furrows. It is not even necessary to take great pains to readjust the form: it is easy to see a labyrinth in the convoluted coil of the Moebius-strip of grey matter. There he roams; the wind subsides about him, and the birds fade away, as suits the nature of already drawn pictures.

  In a word, I would begin with the tale of the painter lost in his own picture, though the original has to be found in the precise quotation: needle in a haystack. Searching through the bookshelf is doomed to hopelessness, since the cardinal leading principle goes like this: “there is still a space large enough to accommodate the selected third volume of Borges”. Something like this has a greater chance of emerging from the drawer for bed linens, or from behind the refrigerator. I could say that we live on a gallows; in fact, I will say it, because it will come naturally to my writing on labyrinths. In a word, a place of loss. Please, just read (because we have nevertheless returned somehow to the bookshelf) the section of approximately a half-metre of spines: Kafka, Tamás Morus, Joyce, Santarcangeli, M. C. Escher, Umberto Eco, Szentkuthy, the Odyssy and another Borges. As it happens, exactly that which contains The Garden of Forking Paths, as well as The Book of Sand, in both of which it is just as possible to get lost between the letters as in a veritable labyrinth.

  The garden is eternal nostalgia. It is a summons of the desired world, and a resurrection of Paradise. The order presumably designed in Creation also casts its imagination onto the Garden of Eden, and this is why then, alongside natural forces, the laws also appear. The geometric networks are projected onto the garden, and the labyrinth takes form. Accompanying myths, religions and rituals, it is one of the most ancient motifs. As far as desire for order is logical, just as human is the wish for freedom, which often precisely in return for order, manifests itself as the contrast of geometric, symbolic and allegorical representations of order. The enigmatic point of the labyrinth is the crossroad, and the constraint to choose that appears at the intersection: this is the blessed and cursed emblem of man who yearns for freedom, and who is condemned to freedom. The possibility of going astray, the knowledge that at any time, we may decide in error: this renders the wandering in the labyrinth at once beautiful and desperate.  The enter through the gate of the labyrinth means simply to step out of time, to break away from the world, to accept solitude and to surrender ourselves to the unknown forces of destiny. To its severity or its benevolence. But to err in the labyrinth is both a cultural lesson and an intellectual adventure. S/he who undertakes it can feel s/he winds Ariadne’s thread together with Plato and Dante, with the cathedral-building Freemasons, and with Piranesi, Gaudí and Picasso.

  The most beautiful garden experiences are related to Italy: in Tivoli the Villa d’Este Gardens, Prince Orsini’s garden in Bomarzo, or that of the Pitti Palace in Florence: the Boboli. It is not difficult to recognise that these gardens exist also within time: the trees grow with broad spreading branches, ivy runs along the walls, the fountains are overgrown with pond scum and the statues with moss. It is to no avail that I see them in their youth as projected onto the monitor of my imagination; the romanticism of fallible, ancient gardens is more fascinating. Kicking at the forest litter, I hum with Csokonai (Mihály Csokonai Vitéz: “To Solitude”): “Delight in such a place to roam / And for a poet to feel at home”.  And for my type of draughtsman.

  The beautiful Baroque gardens blur with the gardens of my childhood: the promenade in Kecskemét with the tramping of football, the oak forest in Szepezd with the rustling of the wings of stag-beetles, and of course, the park on Hargita Street, where the densest, most velvety nights seeped from the boughs of elderberry. I know that it is not easy to convince that these gardens are in my drawings; yet, I would even swear upon it. They are all there, separately and simultaneously. The gardens, or at least the aberrations and solitudes learned from them. Their invisibility corroborates them. And the secrerts with which they entrusted me. The face of Happy Botany. The ancient verse, which I invoked above is painfully true: the fountain, the angel, and perhaps I am also real in it:

Somewhere there it must be
in the navel of this labyrinth,
mysteriously black,
as black as ebony,
the deep, hollow well.
An angel digs it every night,
it is audible within, the whiz and sizzle
of the light of the falling stars.
There lives a turtle below,
growing for a thousand years forgotten,
what got into the boy,
who once might have been me.

  Should I continue to search for the tale of the painter who disappeared into his picture? The origin of the story? Perhaps I would only arrive at crossroads opening onto each other. Once, when I read about it, I always happened upon newer entrances. X wrote that he knows it from Y, and Y heard about it from Z. Accompanying was an infinity of allusions, and perhaps there, in infinity, where the paths of the labyrinth straighten out to become parallels, the wind subsides, the waters cease to flow, and gravity is exhausted, there the painter ambles along, dragging his long beard, as an ancient likeness of our future wise grandchildren, and his breath made visible casts a wrinkle on the translucent glass block of eternity.


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