The Zone

«”What was it? A meteorite? A visit of inhabitants of the cosmic abyss? One way or another, our small country has seen the birth of a miracle – the Zone. We immediately sent troops there. They haven’t come back. Then we surrounded the Zone with police cordons… Perhaps, that was the right thing to do. Though, I don’t know…”
– From an interview with Nobel Prize winner, Professor Wallace.

– My dear, our world is hopelessly boring. Therefore, there can be no telepathy, or apparitions, or flying saucers, nothing like that. The world is ruled by cast-iron laws, and it’s insufferably boring. Alas, those laws are never violated. They don’t know how to be violated. So don’t even hope for a UFO, that would have been too interesting. (…)

–  I’m a writer, so, naturally, everyone calls me Writer for some reason.

– And what do you write about?

– About the readers. Obviously, there’s nothing else one should write about. One should write about nothing at all. (…)

– But imagine some antique pot displayed in a museum. It was used at its time as a receptacle of food leftovers, but now it’s an object of universal admiration for its laconic pattern and unique form. Everyone goes oh! and ah! And suddenly it turns out that it’s not antique at all, that some joker has palmed it off on the archeologists just for fun. Strange as it may seem, the admiration dies off. Those connoisseurs… (…)

– In fact, I don’t think much. It’s not good for me. It’s impossible to write, thinking all the time of success or failure. But if no one is going to read me in one hundred years, why the hell should I write at all? (…)

– They are elusive things: the moment we name them, their meaning disappears, melts, dissolves like a jellyfish in the sun. My conscience wants vegetarianism to win over the world. And my subconscious is yearning for a piece of juicy meat. (…)

– Here we are… home, at last. How quiet it is. This is the quietest place in the world. You’ll see for yourselves. Not a single soul here. (…)- He has a mutant daughter, “a victim of the Zone” as they call it. They say she’s got no legs. (…)

– There’s no one in the Zone and there can’t be. (…)

– The Zone wants to be respected. Otherwise it will punish. (…) Only we are not going this way. We’ll go around. (…) In the Zone, the longer way, the less risk. (…) The Zone is a very complicated system… of traps, and they’re all deadly. I don’t know what’s going on here in the absence of people, but the moment someone shows up, everything comes into motion. Old traps disappear and new ones emerge. Safe spots become impassable. Now your path is easy, now it’s hopelessly involved. That’s the Zone. It may even seem capricious. But it is what we’ve made it with our condition. (…) I think it lets those pass who… have lost all hope. Not good or bad, but wretched people. But even the most wretched will die if they don’t know how to behave. (…) Besides, one doesn’t return here the way one comes. (…)

– And let them have a laugh at their passions. Because what they call passion actually is not some emotional energy, but just the friction between their souls and the outside world. And most important, let them believe in themselves let them be helpless like children, because weakness is a great thing, and strength is nothing. When a man is just born, he is weak and flexible, when he dies, he is hard and insensitive. When a tree is growing, it’s tender and pliant, but when it’s dry and hard, it dies. Hardness and strength are death’s companions. Pliancy and weakness are expressions of the freshness of being. Because what has hardened will never win. (…)

– Shall we wait for him?

– We can’t. Things change here every minute. We’ll have to go. (…)

– Let’s imagine that I enter this room and return to our God-forsaken town a genius. A man writes because he’s tormented, because he doubts. He needs to constantly prove to himself and the others that he’s worth something. And if I know for sure that I’m a genius? Why write then? What the hell for? (…) In any case, all this technology of yours… all those blast furnaces, wheels… and other bullshit are only designed in order to work less and eat more. They are all just crutches, artificial limbs. And mankind exists in order to create… works of art. (…)

– Take music, for instance. Less than anything else, it is connected to reality, or if connected at all, it’s done mechanically, not by way of ideas, just by a sheer sound, devoid of… any associations. And yet, music, as if by some miracle, gets through to our heart. What is it that resonates in us in response to noise brought to harmony, making it the source of the greatest delight which stuns us and brings us together? (…)

– Experiments, facts, truth of the highest instance. There’s no such thing as facts. Especially here. All this is someone’s idiotic invention. Don’t you feel it? But you, of course, must find out whose invention it is. And why. What good can your knowledge do? Who is going to get guilty conscience because of it? Me? I’ve got no conscience. I just got nerves. Some bastard would criticize me, I get wounded. Another would loud me, I get wounded again. I would put my heart and soul in it, they gobble up both my heart and soul. I would relieve my soul of filth, they gobble it up too. They’re all so literate. They all got sensory deficiency. And they’re all swarming around, journalists, editors, critics, some endless broads. And they all demand: more, more! What hell of a writer am I if I hate writing? If it’s constant torment for me, a painful, shameful occupation, sort of squeezing out a hemorrhoids. I used to think that someone would get better because of my books. No, nobody needs me! In two days after I die they’ll start gobbling up someone else. I wanted to change them, but it’s they who’ve changed me. Making me in their own image. The future used to be just a continuation of the present, with all the changes looming far behind the horizon. Now the future and the present are one. Are they ready for it? They don’t want to know anything! All they know is how to gobble! (…)

– You’ve hidden it. I’ve found it. The old building. Bunker four. Do you hear me? (…) You may do it. You may inform on me, you may set my colleagues against me, but it’s too late. I’m now at a stone’s throw from that place.

– Do you realize that’s the end of you as a scientist? (…) Do you realize what will happen if you dare?

– Trying to scare me again? All my life I’ve been afraid of something. Even of you. But now I’m not afraid of anything, I assure you. (…)

– Do you realize what will happen when everybody believes in the room? And all come rushing here? It’s only a question of time. If not today, then tomorrow! And not just tens of them, thousands! Unfulfilled emperors, great inquisitors, fuhrers, self-appointed benefactors of the human race! And they’ll come not for money or inspiration, but to change the world!

– I never take here people like that. (…)

– Will you please stop this sociological diarrhea? Can you really believe in all those fairy tales? (…) Come on! A human being is not capable of such hatred or love… that would extend over the whole of mankind. Well, money, a woman, maybe a desire for revenge, let my boss be overrun by a car, that I can understand. But ruling over the world! A just society! God’s kingdom on earth! These are not just wishes, this is ideology, action, concepts. Unconscious compassion is not ready for realization yet. As a regular instinctive impulse.(…)

– Never do anything that can’t be undone. (…)

– That’s all people have got left on this earth! It’s the only place they can come to, if there’s no hope left for them. (…)

– You’re enjoying yourself here. You’re like God Almighty here. You, a hypocritical louse, decide who is to live and who is to die. He deliberates! Now I see why you stalkers never enter the room yourselves. You revel in all that power, that mystery, your authority! (…)

– A stalker must not enter the room. A stalker must not even enter the Zone with an ulterior motive. (…)

– So all that’s mine is here. You understand? Here! In the Zone! My happiness, my freedom, my self-respect, it’s all here! I bring here people like me, desperate and tormented. People who have nothing else to hope for. And I can help them! No one else can help them, only I, the louse, can! (…)

– Because he realized that not just any wish comes true here, but only your innermost wish. Not what would you holler at the top of your voice… Coming true here is only what’s in line with your nature, with your essence, of which you know nothing. But it’s there, in you, directing you all your life. (…)

– Things like conscience, anguish, they are just inventions. (…)

– Calling themselves intellectuals, those writers and scientists! (…) They don’t believe in anything! They’ve got the organ with which one believes atrophied for lack of use. (…) Haven’t you seen them? They’ve got empty eyes. The only thing they can think about is how to sell themselves not too cheap! How to get as much as possible for their every emotional movement! (…) And nobody believes. Not only those two. Nobody! Who am I going to take there? (…)

– You’ve probably noticed already that he’s not of this world. (…) My mother used to say:
“He’s a stalker, he’s doomed, he’s an eternal prisoner! (…)

I love your eyes, my darling friend,
Their play, so passionate and bright’ning,
When a sudden stare up you send,
And like a heaven-blown lightning,
It’d take in all from end to end.
But there’s more that I admire:
Your eyes when they’re downcast
In bursts of love-inspired fire,
And through the eyelash goes fast
A somber, dull call of desire…»

– Excerpts from the script of “Stalker” (1980) by Tarkovski.


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