Are You Sure You Know Who You Are?: The Testimony by Haïlji

Quietly / Very quietly / I walk toward the city to scout [] / The streets are quiet / The sidewalks are hushed / There’s no Mickiewicz [] / It’s grey, dirty, wintry cold / There’s no Slowacki [] / There are no cosmonauts / No popes [] / There’s nothing at all


This is an excerpt from a famous Polish song called “Cichosza,” co-written by poet Michał Zabłocki and singer-songwriter Grzegorz Turnau. As Cracow, one of the oldest and most beautiful cities in Poland, lies sunken in silence and darkness, a lonely pioneer in the city sets off on a journey only to find nothing really exists. Not counting the things we are already aware of, not a single new thing exists.


While reading The Testimony, the ninth novel of Haïlji, published recently in Lithuania, a country to which the author is deeply attached, we cannot help but be reminded of the scene of the encounter between Morpheus and Neo in The Matrix. As the novel builds to its denouement, we face a dilemma: What do we choose? The blue pill, which will make all our facts stay true for good, or the red pill, which will toss us into a bottomless slough of despair just like the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland? The end of the novel apparently concerns all of us living in this era, not just the protagonist of the story.


If I were placed in a similar situation as Neo in The Matrix, I might choose the blue pill. No matter how great the ecstasy of recognizing truth and reality, I am not sure I could withstand the pain when everything around me collapses, or the stressful labor required to rebuild reality out of nothing. Furthermore, what if the collapsing involves not only the objects around me, like the walls or the roof, but also everything that concerns “me”?


The word “testimony” in the title of the book instead of “racetrack,” a motif the author never seems to tire of, might bemuse long-standing fans; however, the racetrack is mentioned several times in this novel, too, so fans need not be too worried. Although it is a pity that not a single book with this motif is yet translated into Lithuanian, we still have to point out the conception of racetracks here.


As far as I know, the author hasn’t yet clarified the meaning of the recurring motif of racetracks in his works. The stars of the racetracks might look to be the horses that race without any clear reason, but, in fact, the racetrack is nothing but a complex of regimes and orders arranged by the masses that don’t have anything to do with horses. The racing horses keep running back and forth on the tracks, as if floating on the wave of regime and system created by crowds and custom, which is nothing but a momentary aggregate, where all kinds of segregated existence with their own purpose and reasons of life are melted in. In that space, there are no protagonists, no audience, no t...