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City Of Glass - New York Trilogy #1, City of Glass - 01

City of Glass - 01

1

IT was a wrong number that started it, the telephone ringing three times in the dead of night, and the voice on the other end asking for someone he was not. Much later, when he was able to think about the things that happened to him, he would conclude that nothing was real except chance. But that was much later. In the beginning, there was simply the event and its consequences. Whether it might have turned out differently, or whether it was all predetermined with the first word that came from the stranger's mouth, is not the question. The question is the story itself, and whether or not it means something is not for the story to tell.

As for Quinn, there is little that need detain us. Who he was, where he came from, and what he did are of no great importance. We know, for example, that he was thirty-five years old. We know that he had once been married, had once been a father, and that both his wife and son were now dead. We also know that he wrote books. To be precise, we know that he wrote mystery novels. These works were written under the name of William Wilson, and he produced them at the rate of about one a year, which brought in enough money for him to live modestly in a small New York apartment. Because he spent no more than five or six months on a novel, for the rest of the year he was free to do as he wished. He read many books, he looked at paintings, he went to the movies. In the summer he watched baseball on television; in the winter he went to the opera. More than anything else, however, what he liked to do was walk. Nearly every ay, rain or shine, hot or cold, he would leave his apartment to walk through the city—never really going anywhere, but simply going wherever his legs happened to take him.

New York was an inexhaustible space, a labyrinth of endless steps, and no matter how far he walked, no matter how well he came to know its neighborhoods and streets, it always left him with the feeling of being lost. Lost, not only in the city, but within himself as well. Each time he took a walk, he felt as though he were leaving himself behind, and by giving himself up to the movement of the streets, by reducing himself to a seeing eye, he was able to escape the obligation to think, and this, more than anything else, brought him a measure of peace, a salutary emptiness within. The world was outside of him, around him, before him, and the speed with which it kept changing made it impossible for him to dwell on any one thing for very long. Motion was of the essence, the act of putting one foot in front of the other and allowing himself to follow the drift of his own body. By wandering aimlessly, all places became equal, and it no longer mattered where he was. On his best walks, he was able to feel that he was nowhere. And this, finally, was all he ever asked of things: to be nowhere. New York was the nowhere he had built around himself, and he realized that he had no intention of ever leaving it again.

In the past, Quinn had been more ambitious. As a young man he had published several books of poetry, had written plays, critical essays, and had worked on a number of long translations. But quite abruptly, he had given up all that. A part of him had died, he told his friends, and he did not want it coming back to haunt him. It was then that he had taken on the name of William Wilson. Quinn was no longer that part of him that could write books, and although in many ways Quinn continued to exist, he no longer existed for anyone but himself.

He had continued to write because it was the only thing he felt he could do. Mystery novels seemed a reasonable solution. He had little trouble inventing the intricate stories they required, and he wrote well, often in spite of himself, as if without having to make an effort. Because he did not consider himself to be the author of what he wrote, he did not feel responsible for it and therefore was not compelled to defend it in his heart. William Wilson, after all, was an invention, and even though he had been born within Quinn himself, he now led an independent life. Quinn treated him with deference, at times even admiration, but he never went so far as to believe that he and William Wilson were the same man. It was for this reason that he did not emerge from behind the mask of his pseudonym. He had an agent, but they had never met. Their contacts were confined to the mail, for which purpose Quinn had rented a numbered box at the post office. The same was true of the publisher, who paid all fees, monies, and royalties to Quinn through the agent. No book by William Wilson ever included an author's photograph or biographical note. William Wilson was not listed in any writers' directory, he did not give interviews, and all the letters he received were answered by his agent's secretary. As far as Quinn could tell, no one knew his secret. In the beginning, when his friends learned that he had given up writing, they would ask him how he was planning to live. He told them all the same thing: that he had inherited a trust fund from his wife. But the fact was that his wife had never had any money. And the fact was that he no longer had any friends.

It had been more than five years now. He did not think about his son very much anymore, and only recently he had removed the photograph of his wife from the wall. Every once in a while, he would suddenly feel what it had been like to hold the three-year-old boy in his arms but that was not exactly thinking, nor was it even remembering. It was a physical sensation, an imprint of the past that had been left in his body, and he had no control over it. These moments came less often now, and for the most part it seemed as though things had begun to change for him. He no longer wished to be dead. At the same time, it cannot be said that he was glad to be alive. But at least he did not resent it. He was alive, .and the stubbornness of this fact had little by little begun to fascinate him—as if he had managed to outlive himself, as if he were somehow living a posthumous life. He did not sleep with the lamp on anymore, and for many months now he had not remembered any of his dreams.

It was night. Quinn lay in bed smoking a cigarette, listening to the rain beat against the window. He wondered when it would stop and whether he would feel like taking a long walk or a short walk in the morning. An open copy of Marco Polo's Travels_ lay face down on the pillow beside him. Since finishing the latest William Wilson novel two weeks earlier, he had been languishing. His private-eye narrator, Max Work, had solved an elaborate series of crimes, had suffered through a number of beatings and narrow escapes, and Quinn was feeling somewhat exhausted by his efforts. Over the years, Work had become very close to Quinn. Whereas William Wilson remained an abstract figure for him, Work had increasingly come to life. In the triad of selves that Quinn had become, Wilson served as a kind of ventriloquist, Quinn himself was the dummy, and Work was the animated voice that gave purpose to the enterprise. If Wilson was an illusion, he nevertheless justified the lives of the other two. If Wilson did not exist, he nevertheless was the bridge that allowed Quinn to pass from himself into, Work. And little by little, Work had become a presence in Quinn's life, his interior brother, his comrade in solitude.

Quinn picked up the Marco Polo and started reading the first page again. “We will set down things seen as seen, things heard as heard, so that our book may be an accurate record, free from any sort of fabrication. And all who read this book or hear it may do so with full confidence, because it contains nothing but the truth.” Just as Quinn was beginning to ponder the meaning of these sentences, to turn their crisp assurances over in his mind, the telephone rang. Much later, when he was able to reconstruct the events of that night, he would remember looking at the clock, seeing that it was past twelve, and wondering why someone should be calling him at that hour. More than likely, he thought, it was bad news. He climbed out of bed, walked naked to the telephone, and picked up the receiver on the second ring.

“Yes?”

There was a long pause on the other end, and for a moment Quinn thought the caller had hung up. Then, as if from a great distance, there came the sound of a voice unlike any he had ever heard. It was at once mechanical and filled with feeling, hardly more than a whisper and yet perfectly audible, and so even in tone that he was unable to tell if it belonged to a man or a woman.

“Hello?” said the voice.

“Who is this?” asked Quinn.

“Hello?” said the voice again.

“I'm listening,” said Quinn. “Who is this?”

“Is this Paul Auster?” asked the voice. “I would like to speak to Mr. Paul Auster.”

“There's no one here by that name.”

“Paul Auster. Of the Auster Detective Agency.”

“I'm sorry,” said Quinn.

“You must have the wrong number.”

“This is a matter of utmost urgency,” said the voice.

“There's nothing I can do for you,” said Quinn. “There is no Paul Auster here.”

“You don't understand,” said the voice. “Time is running out.”

“Then I suggest you dial again. This is not a detective agency.

Quinn hung up the phone. He stood there on the cold floor, looking down at his feet, his knees, his limp penis. For a brief moment he regretted having been so abrupt with the caller. It might have been interesting, he thought, to have played along with him a little. Perhaps he could have found out something about the case—perhaps even have helped in some way. “I must learn to think more quickly on my feet,” he said to himself.

Like most people, Quinn knew almost nothing about crime. He had never murdered anyone, had never stolen anything, and he did not know anyone who had. He had never been inside a police station, had never met a private detective, had never spoken to a criminal. Whatever he knew about these things, he had learned from books, films, and newspapers. He did not, however, consider this to be a handicap. What interested him about the stories he wrote was not their relation to the world but their relation to other stories.



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City of Glass - 01

1

IT was a wrong number that started it, the telephone ringing three times in the dead of night, and the voice on the other end asking for someone he was not. Much later, when he was able to think about the things that happened to him, he would conclude that nothing was real except chance. But that was much later. In the beginning, there was simply the event and its consequences. Whether it might have turned out differently, or whether it was all predetermined with the first word that came from the stranger's mouth, is not the question. The question is the story itself, and whether or not it means something is not for the story to tell.

As for Quinn, there is little that need detain us. Who he was, where he came from, and what he did are of no great importance. We know, for example, that he was thirty-five years old. We know that he had once been married, had once been a father, and that both his wife and son were now dead. We also know that he wrote books. To be precise, we know that he wrote mystery novels. These works were written under the name of William Wilson, and he produced them at the rate of about one a year, which brought in enough money for him to live modestly in a small New York apartment. Because he spent no more than five or six months on a novel, for the rest of the year he was free to do as he wished. He read many books, he looked at paintings, he went to the movies. In the summer he watched baseball on television; in the winter he went to the opera. More than anything else, however, what he liked to do was walk. Nearly every ay, rain or shine, hot or cold, he would leave his apartment to walk through the city—never really going anywhere, but simply going wherever his legs happened to take him.

New York was an inexhaustible space, a labyrinth of endless steps, and no matter how far he walked, no matter how well he came to know its neighborhoods and streets, it always left him with the feeling of being lost. Lost, not only in the city, but within himself as well. Each time he took a walk, he felt as though he were leaving himself behind, and by giving himself up to the movement of the streets, by reducing himself to a seeing eye, he was able to escape the obligation to think, and this, more than anything else, brought him a measure of peace, a salutary emptiness within. The world was outside of him, around him, before him, and the speed with which it kept changing made it impossible for him to dwell on any one thing for very long. Motion was of the essence, the act of putting one foot in front of the other and allowing himself to follow the drift of his own body. El movimiento era esencial, el acto de poner un pie delante del otro y permitirse seguir la deriva de su propio cuerpo. By wandering aimlessly, all places became equal, and it no longer mattered where he was. Al deambular sin rumbo fijo, todos los lugares se volvieron iguales y ya no importaba dónde estaba. On his best walks, he was able to feel that he was nowhere. And this, finally, was all he ever asked of things: to be nowhere. New York was the nowhere he had built around himself, and he realized that he had no intention of ever leaving it again.

In the past, Quinn had been more ambitious. As a young man he had published several books of poetry, had written plays, critical essays, and had worked on a number of long translations. But quite abruptly, he had given up all that. A part of him had died, he told his friends, and he did not want it coming back to haunt him. It was then that he had taken on the name of William Wilson. Quinn was no longer that part of him that could write books, and although in many ways Quinn continued to exist, he no longer existed for anyone but himself.

He had continued to write because it was the only thing he felt he could do. Mystery novels seemed a reasonable solution. He had little trouble inventing the intricate stories they required, and he wrote well, often in spite of himself, as if without having to make an effort. Tuvo pocos problemas para inventar las intrincadas historias que requerían, y escribió bien, a menudo a pesar de sí mismo, como si no tuviera que hacer un esfuerzo. Because he did not consider himself to be the author of what he wrote, he did not feel responsible for it and therefore was not compelled to defend it in his heart. Como no se consideraba el autor de lo que escribía, no se sentía responsable por ello y por tanto no estaba obligado a defenderlo en su corazón. William Wilson, after all, was an invention, and even though he had been born within Quinn himself, he now led an independent life. William Wilson, después de todo, era un invento y, aunque había nacido dentro del propio Quinn, ahora llevaba una vida independiente. Quinn treated him with deference, at times even admiration, but he never went so far as to believe that he and William Wilson were the same man. Quinn lo trató con deferencia, a veces incluso con admiración, pero nunca llegó a creer que él y William Wilson fueran el mismo hombre. It was for this reason that he did not emerge from behind the mask of his pseudonym. Por eso no salió de detrás de la máscara de su seudónimo. He had an agent, but they had never met. Tenía un agente, pero nunca se habían conocido. Their contacts were confined to the mail, for which purpose Quinn had rented a numbered box at the post office. Sus contactos se limitaban al correo, para lo cual Quinn había alquilado un buzón numerado en la oficina de correos. The same was true of the publisher, who paid all fees, monies, and royalties to Quinn through the agent. Lo mismo ocurrió con el editor, quien pagó todos los honorarios, dinero y regalías a Quinn a través del agente. No book by William Wilson ever included an author's photograph or biographical note. Ningún libro de William Wilson incluyó jamás una fotografía o una nota biográfica del autor. William Wilson was not listed in any writers' directory, he did not give interviews, and all the letters he received were answered by his agent's secretary. William Wilson no figuraba en ningún directorio de escritores, no concedió entrevistas y todas las cartas que recibió fueron respondidas por la secretaria de su agente. As far as Quinn could tell, no one knew his secret. Por lo que Quinn podía decir, nadie conocía su secreto. In the beginning, when his friends learned that he had given up writing, they would ask him how he was planning to live. Al principio, cuando sus amigos se enteraban de que había dejado de escribir, le preguntaban cómo pensaba vivir. He told them all the same thing: that he had inherited a trust fund from his wife. Les dijo a todos lo mismo: que había heredado un fondo fiduciario de su esposa. But the fact was that his wife had never had any money. Pero el hecho era que su esposa nunca había tenido dinero. And the fact was that he no longer had any friends. Y el caso es que ya no tenía amigos.

It had been more than five years now. Ya habían pasado más de cinco años. He did not think about his son very much anymore, and only recently he had removed the photograph of his wife from the wall. Ya no pensaba mucho en su hijo, y solo recientemente había quitado la fotografía de su esposa de la pared. Every once in a while, he would suddenly feel what it had been like to hold the three-year-old boy in his arms but that was not exactly thinking, nor was it even remembering. De vez en cuando, de repente sentía lo que había sido tener al niño de tres años en sus brazos, pero eso no era exactamente pensar, ni siquiera recordar. It was a physical sensation, an imprint of the past that had been left in his body, and he had no control over it. Era una sensación física, una huella del pasado que había quedado en su cuerpo, y no tenía control sobre ella. These moments came less often now, and for the most part it seemed as though things had begun to change for him. Ahora estos momentos eran menos frecuentes y, en su mayor parte, parecía que las cosas habían comenzado a cambiar para él. He no longer wished to be dead. Ya no deseaba estar muerto. At the same time, it cannot be said that he was glad to be alive. Al mismo tiempo, no se puede decir que estaba contento de estar vivo. But at least he did not resent it. Pero al menos no lo resintió. He was alive, .and the stubbornness of this fact had little by little begun to fascinate him—as if he had managed to outlive himself, as if he were somehow living a posthumous life. Estaba vivo, y la obstinación de este hecho había comenzado poco a poco a fascinarlo, como si hubiera logrado sobrevivir a sí mismo, como si de alguna manera estuviera viviendo una vida póstuma. He did not sleep with the lamp on anymore, and for many months now he had not remembered any of his dreams. Ya no dormía con la lámpara encendida, y desde hacía muchos meses no recordaba ninguno de sus sueños.

It was night. Era de noche. Quinn lay in bed smoking a cigarette, listening to the rain beat against the window. Quinn yacía en la cama fumando un cigarrillo, escuchando la lluvia golpear contra la ventana. He wondered when it would stop and whether he would feel like taking a long walk or a short walk in the morning. Se preguntó cuándo se detendría y si tendría ganas de dar un paseo largo o corto por la mañana. An open copy of Marco Polo's Travels_ lay face down on the pillow beside him. Un ejemplar abierto de Los viajes de Marco Polo yacía boca abajo sobre la almohada a su lado. Since finishing the latest William Wilson novel two weeks earlier, he had been languishing. Desde que terminó la última novela de William Wilson dos semanas antes, había estado languideciendo. His private-eye narrator, Max Work, had solved an elaborate series of crimes, had suffered through a number of beatings and narrow escapes, and Quinn was feeling somewhat exhausted by his efforts. Su narrador, un detective privado, Max Work, había resuelto una complicada serie de crímenes, había sufrido una serie de palizas y había escapado por los pelos, y Quinn se sentía algo agotado por sus esfuerzos. Over the years, Work had become very close to Quinn. Con los años, Work se había vuelto muy cercano a Quinn. Whereas William Wilson remained an abstract figure for him, Work had increasingly come to life. Mientras que William Wilson seguía siendo para él una figura abstracta, el trabajo cobraba cada vez más vida. In the triad of selves that Quinn had become, Wilson served as a kind of ventriloquist, Quinn himself was the dummy, and Work was the animated voice that gave purpose to the enterprise. En la tríada de yos en que se había convertido Quinn, Wilson actuaba como una especie de ventrílocuo, el propio Quinn era el maniquí y Work era la voz animada que daba sentido a la empresa. If Wilson was an illusion, he nevertheless justified the lives of the other two. Si Wilson era una ilusión, sin embargo justificó la vida de los otros dos. If Wilson did not exist, he nevertheless was the bridge that allowed Quinn to pass from himself into, Work. Si Wilson no existió, sin embargo fue el puente que permitió a Quinn pasar de sí mismo al Trabajo. And little by little, Work had become a presence in Quinn's life, his interior brother, his comrade in solitude. Y poco a poco, el Trabajo se había hecho presente en la vida de Quinn, su hermano interior, su compañero de soledad.

Quinn picked up the Marco Polo and started reading the first page again. Quinn tomó el Marco Polo y comenzó a leer la primera página nuevamente. “We will set down things seen as seen, things heard as heard, so that our book may be an accurate record, free from any sort of fabrication. “Apuntaremos las cosas vistas como vistas, las cosas oídas como oídas, para que nuestro libro sea un registro exacto, libre de cualquier tipo de fabricación. And all who read this book or hear it may do so with full confidence, because it contains nothing but the truth.” Just as Quinn was beginning to ponder the meaning of these sentences, to turn their crisp assurances over in his mind, the telephone rang. Y todos los que lean este libro o lo escuchen pueden hacerlo con plena confianza, porque no contiene nada más que la verdad”. Justo cuando Quinn empezaba a reflexionar sobre el significado de estas frases, a darle vueltas a sus nítidas garantías en su mente, sonó el teléfono. Much later, when he was able to reconstruct the events of that night, he would remember looking at the clock, seeing that it was past twelve, and wondering why someone should be calling him at that hour. Mucho tiempo después, cuando pudo reconstruir los hechos de esa noche, recordaría mirar el reloj, ver que eran más de las doce y preguntarse por qué alguien debería estar llamándolo a esa hora. More than likely, he thought, it was bad news. Lo más probable, pensó, eran malas noticias. He climbed out of bed, walked naked to the telephone, and picked up the receiver on the second ring. Se levantó de la cama, caminó desnudo hasta el teléfono y descolgó el auricular al segundo timbre.

“Yes?” "¿Sí?"

There was a long pause on the other end, and for a moment Quinn thought the caller had hung up. Hubo una larga pausa al otro lado del teléfono y, por un momento, Quinn pensó que la persona que llamaba había colgado. Then, as if from a great distance, there came the sound of a voice unlike any he had ever heard. Entonces, como si viniera de una gran distancia, llegó el sonido de una voz como nunca antes había escuchado. It was at once mechanical and filled with feeling, hardly more than a whisper and yet perfectly audible, and so even in tone that he was unable to tell if it belonged to a man or a woman. Era a la vez mecánico y lleno de sentimiento, apenas más que un susurro y, sin embargo, perfectamente audible, y tan parejo en el tono que no pudo distinguir si pertenecía a un hombre oa una mujer.

“Hello?” said the voice. "¿Hola?" dijo la voz.

“Who is this?” asked Quinn.

“Hello?” said the voice again. "¿Hola?" dijo la voz de nuevo.

“I'm listening,” said Quinn. "Estoy escuchando", dijo Quinn. “Who is this?” "¿Quién es?"

“Is this Paul Auster?” asked the voice. “¿Este es Paul Auster?” preguntó la voz. “I would like to speak to Mr. Paul Auster.” “Me gustaría hablar con el Sr. Paul Auster”.

“There's no one here by that name.” “No hay nadie aquí con ese nombre”.

“Paul Auster. Of the Auster Detective Agency.” De la Agencia de Detectives Auster.

“I'm sorry,” said Quinn. "Lo siento", dijo Quinn.

“You must have the wrong number.” "Debes tener el número equivocado".

“This is a matter of utmost urgency,” said the voice. “Este es un asunto de suma urgencia”, dijo la voz.

“There's nothing I can do for you,” said Quinn. "No hay nada que pueda hacer por ti", dijo Quinn. “There is no Paul Auster here.” “Aquí no hay ningún Paul Auster”.

“You don't understand,” said the voice. “No lo entiendes”, dijo la voz. “Time is running out.” “El tiempo se está acabando”.

“Then I suggest you dial again. “Entonces te sugiero que marques de nuevo. This is not a detective agency. Esto no es una agencia de detectives.

Quinn hung up the phone. Quinn colgó el teléfono. He stood there on the cold floor, looking down at his feet, his knees, his limp penis. Se quedó de pie en el suelo frío, mirándose los pies, las rodillas, el pene fláccido. For a brief moment he regretted having been so abrupt with the caller. Por un breve momento lamentó haber sido tan brusco con la persona que llamó. It might have been interesting, he thought, to have played along with him a little. Podría haber sido interesante, pensó, haber jugado un poco con él. Perhaps he could have found out something about the case—perhaps even have helped in some way. Tal vez podría haber descubierto algo sobre el caso, tal vez incluso haber ayudado de alguna manera. “I must learn to think more quickly on my feet,” he said to himself. “Debo aprender a pensar más rápido de pie”, se dijo a sí mismo.

Like most people, Quinn knew almost nothing about crime. Como la mayoría de la gente, Quinn no sabía casi nada sobre delincuencia. He had never murdered anyone, had never stolen anything, and he did not know anyone who had. Nunca había asesinado a nadie, nunca había robado nada y no conocía a nadie que lo hubiera hecho. He had never been inside a police station, had never met a private detective, had never spoken to a criminal. Nunca había estado dentro de una comisaría, nunca había conocido a un detective privado, nunca había hablado con un criminal. Whatever he knew about these things, he had learned from books, films, and newspapers. Todo lo que sabía sobre estas cosas, lo había aprendido de libros, películas y periódicos. He did not, however, consider this to be a handicap. Sin embargo, no consideró que esto fuera una desventaja. What interested him about the stories he wrote was not their relation to the world but their relation to other stories. Lo que le interesaba de las historias que escribía no era su relación con el mundo sino su relación con otras historias.

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