“I want to set down here an experience which I had some nights ago: a trifle too evanescent and ecstatic to be called an adventure, too irrational and sentimental to be called a thought. It consists of a scene and its word: a word already stated by me, but not lived with complete dedication until then. I shall now proceed to give its history, with the accidents of time and place which were its declaration.
"I remember it as follows. The afternoon preceding that night, I was in Barracas: a locality not visited by my habit and whose distance from those I later traversed had already lent a strange flavor to that day. The evening had no destiny at all; since it was clear, I went out to take a walk and to recollect after dinner. I did not want to determine a route for my stroll; I tried to attain a maximum latitude of probabilities in order not to fatigue my expectation with the necessary foresight of any one of them. I managed, to the imperfect degree of possibility, to do what is called walking at random; I accepted, with no other conscious prejudice than that of avoiding the wider avenues or streets, the most obscure invitations of chance. However, a kind of familiar gravitation led me farther on, in the direction of certain neighborhoods, the names of which I have every desire to recall and which dictate reverence to my heart. I do not mean by this my own neighborhood, the precise surroundings of my childhood, but rather its still mysterious environs: an area I have possessed often in words but seldom in reality, immediate and at the same time mythical. The reverse of the familiar, its far side, are for me those penultimate streets, almost as effectively unknown as the hidden foundations of our house or our invisible skeleton. My progress brought me to a corner. I breathed in the night, in a most serene holiday from thought. The view, not at all complex, seemed simplified by my tiredness. It was made unreal by its very typicality. The street was one of low houses and though its first meaning was one of poverty, its second was certainly one of contentment. It was as humble and enchanting as anything could be. None of the houses dared open itself to the street; the fig tree darkened over the corner; the little arched doorways – higher than the taut outlines of the walls – seemed wrought from the same infinite substance of the night. The sidewalk formed an escarpment over the street; the street was of elemental earth, the earth of an as yet unconquered America. Farther down, the alleyway, already open to the pampa, crumbled into the Maldonado. Above the turbid and chaotic earth, a rose-colored wall seemed not to house the moonlight, but rather to effuse an intimate light of its own. There can be no better way of naming tenderness than that soft rose color.
"I kept looking at this simplicity. I thought, surely out loud: This is the same as thirty years ago… I conjectured the date: a recent time in other countries but now quite remote in this changeable part of the world. Perhaps a bird was singing and for it I felt a tiny affection, the same size as the bird; but the most certain thing was that in this now vertiginous silence there was no other sound than the intemporal one of the crickets. The easy thought ‘I am in the eighteen-nineties’ ceased to be a few approximate words and was deepened into a reality. I felt dead, I felt as an abstract spectator of the world; an indefinite fear imbued with science, which is the best clarity of metaphysics. I did not think that I had returned upstream on the supposed waters of Time; rather I suspected that I was the possessor of a reticent or absent sense of the inconceivable word eternity. Only later was I able to define that imagination.
"I write it now as follows: That pure representation of homogeneous objects – the night in serenity, a limpid little wall, the provincial scent of the honeysuckle, the elemental earth – is not merely identical to the one present on that corner so many years ago; it is, without resemblances or repetitions, the very same. Time, if we can intuitively grasp such an identity, is a delusion: the difference and inseparability of one moment belonging to its apparent past from another belonging to its apparent present is sufficient to disintegrate it.
"It is evident that the number of such human moments is not infinite. The elemental ones – those of physical suffering and physical pleasure, those of the coming of sleep, those of the hearing of a piece of music, those of great intensity or great lassitude – are even more impersonal. Aforehand I derive this conclusion: life is too poor not to be immortal as well. But we do not even have the certainty of our poverty, since time, which is easily refutable in sense experience, is not so in the intellectual, from whose essence the concept of succession seems inseparable. Thus shall remain as an emotional anecdote the half-glimpsed idea and as the confessed irresolution of this page the true moment of ecstasy and possible suggestion of eternity with which that night was not parsimonious for me.”