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The Short Form

“The Great Wall”

Ismail Kadare


More than once they asked for work on the Wall restoration project; after the repeated collapses of the right-hand tower, one was so persistent he actually got to see me personally and told me in bad Chinese that he’d once seen in a far distant land a bridge in one of whose pillars a man had been immured. He pointed his eyes as he swore that he had really seen it, and even asked for a scrap of cardboard so he could draw the shape of the bridge for me. It was only a small bridge, he said, but to stop it from collapsing a sacrifice had to be made. How, then, could this huge Wall of China remain standing without an offering of the same kind?

He came back to see me a few days later and told the same story once more, but this time he made a lavishly detailed drawing of the bridge.

When I asked him why he’d pictured it upside down, he turned pale. “I don’t know,” he replied, “perhaps because that’s the way it looks in the water... Anyway, the night before last, that’s how I saw it in my dream. Upside down.”

We read it in Agamemnon's Daughter.