07 August 2009

Of the teller of tales

Watch the tale of Jan Karski

Jan Karski was a unique man entrusted with the last words of a dying race.
He asked nothing. He just listened and watched.
Then he told everybody.
Jan Karski foretold the complete destruction of a race. He desperately attempted to forestall the unimaginable by telling and retelling his tale. Yet, nobody believed it.
His tale, like the most horrible of fairy tales, seemed to fit best with dragons and witches.
Once the race died, its last message became a stone and a bone.
Jan Karski kept his silence then, for 35 years. He finally spoke to tell his tale when Claude Lanzmann filmed Shoah. This telling of the tale, after 35 years of keeping silence, is what you are watching. In this telling, Jan Karski had to tear words from the stone and the bone, words so alien, words so alone.
Egyptian pharaohs did not do it.
Babylonians did not do it.

It captivates me, this telling, more than any telling of any tale before or since. A tale of people extinct is frighteningly close to myths. It is a fairytale kilometer away from our reality.
Could the words, photographs, songs, movies of Jan Karski’s tale ever cross that fairytale kilometer to your reality? No. Yet, Jan Karski’s unique and compelling telling crosses that fairytale kilometer to my reality. Because he, the teller, tells the story about the teller, about his own nightmarish listening and watching at the time. And because he, the teller, tells the story about his own, teller’s, disbelief - at the time after he heard and before he saw.
Few things, if any, scared me more than Jan Karski's disbelief.

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