Excerpt of “An Episode…”

The German landscape painter Rugendas and his companion colleague Krause sit on the banks of the river near El Tambo in Argentina after a morning spent sketching scenes of melees from an Indian raid. They are considering these sketches, their value, their part to play in “a very minor episode in the ongoing clash of civilizations”.

“Imagine a brilliant police detective summarizing his investigations for the husband of the victim, the widower. Thanks to his subtle deductions he has been able to “reconstruct” how the murder was committed; he does not know the identity of the murderer, but he has managed to work out everything else with an almost magical precision, as if he had seen it happen. And his interlocutor, the widowers, who is, in fact, the murderer, has to admit that the detective is a genius, because it really did happen exactly as he says; yet at the same time, although of course he actually saw it happen and is the only living eyewitness as well as the culprit, he cannot match what happened with that the policeman is telling him, not because there are errors, large or small, in the account, or details out of place, but because the match is inconceivable, there is such an abyss between one story and the other, or between a story and the lack of a story, between the lived experience and the reconstruction (even when the reconstruction has been executed to perfection) that widower simply cannot see a relation between them; which leads him to conclude that he is innocent, that he did not kill his wife.”

-Cesar Aira, “An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter” p74




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