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Nikolai Vogel


The darkness of the vault above my head. I've been here for not so long. Nevertheless years are passing by. The sunlight always stays above, drags the time along only outside, but it is carried inside, lies beneath the dust within the bottles.
    There is only little illumination, it looks fragile as if it could break down every moment that one is here - only emphasizing the might of darkness down here, withdraws almost fearfully.
    Something unreal reigns, something different. Colours hardly have a meaning here. Years are lined up, at the same time facing eachother. The stairs are leading to a different time. In the cellar I myself am unreal, silent as thought only, as a moment out of place - time won't pass by.
    Set plane beneath the earth, reaching along the lightless coldness there are the rooms of storage. Casings of glass lying there like bits and pieces of time ripped out of their context. The bottle necks pointing at me while I pass. Many of them lying on eachother. A place of rest for what hadn't been drunk at some gorgeous feast of former generations. The best bottles often kept aside for special occasions which never occurred. What is not so good is drunken easily, what is good often outlives you. I am a mere visitor from a fast world. I marvel at the bottles, but they don't even realise my passing by. Although you know the paths you always have the feeling of being lost. Always in doubt searching for the right time, the steady hold, the similarity of the pleasure of fittingly combined ripe moments.
I think that there are more passages - far more. The cellar always is bigger than you think. And there are always regions that you can't enter - unless you destroy something else.
    I hear a gurgling. And of course I see the images - bursting bottles, liquid pouring out everywhere and streaming down, flooding the floor, lifting me up, and I am swimming inside, drinking for more air, seeping away, moistening the most distant ground, oozing away, evaporating- into my nose, my head that pictures those images.     - Of course nothing of that, only the ever lasting silence of the dust.
    The cellar is always there. Everything else is only images. As if only deepness exists, but never without a surface. Nobody knows those who built the cellar. At best there is still a forgotten dust-aged corner with a bottle of wine that they have already drunk. The cellar itself like the fear of the own grave. A substitute grave filled with liquid that washes away one's fear.

I can see four figures sitting around in a circle. They hold big glasses. One of them divides the bottle up into four equal amounts. They salute each other, but the gulps they take are sized differently.

I step down into the cellar beneath the cellar. It's not large. Here are no bottles anymore. Only four brick walls and a floor made of soil. Absolute silence. No sound whatsoever. I wait for a drop - wait for it to fall on the ground. The tension before the sound that will make me twitch though I am awaiting it. Then I focus on imagining that I am the drop. I fall and while the sky has already disappeared the ground approaches. - But it remains silent. Humidity creeps down along the walls without sound. In the cellar there are thoughts, in the cellar there are all the fears - the dark mirror's reflection.

Conversation with Death
    - I am Death
    - Are you coming for me?
    - I am Death
    - The end?
    - I am Death
    - Life just irrelevant? Over now? - As if nothing had ever happened?
    - I am Death

The curtness of Death who doesn't give answers to anyone. - Nevertheless all questions are silenced with him. - In the cellar there is what has never existed. Stolen from the light just like from time. The wine in the bottles above me keeps it, but it changes within it, creeps up to maturity and beyond to brown transparency, fragrance of graves, questions to time. Made for tongues. Drinking time. Time that has to rest in darkness.
    In front of me loads of bottles. Drowned in dust. Like a picture in memory of me.
    These are archives of the most fragile and beautiful impressions of taste - and they are fleeting archives, right from the start. The bottles are all empty. Inside them there are also just moments that echo the light, dusking. - In the oldest ones the colours sink to the ground. In the cellar there are no colours.
    Almost as if an allegory of life's strangeness rests here. All distinctions thought to be important, though they are - considered one by one - are not more than an insignificant joke, the reflection of the beat of a wing in the sunlight.     Life lies between distinctions that occupies its time; man and animal, woman and man, old and young, smart and stupid, white and black, night and day, rich and poor, picture and text...
    Perhaps you can leave all this behind while drinking wine - all distinctions focus on tongue and nose, they withdraw vanishing - and they would blend into each other completely with the perfect wine - every analysis would end - the taste would be within the undistinguished life itself; then.
But here they still rest being in closure - they occupy me, those tongue archives, like an assembly of different languages that are not spoken, but speak themselves on the tongue. I am in the cellar. The wine is in the cellar. The wine is in the glass. I am the glass. In the cellar there is no sky, but it is like the night.
    Why are archives always dark, why are the places that should drag you into the deepness, the storage places of human thoughts - why are these places always dark - as if they were meant to bury and swallow these reminiscences rather than revealing them to the present.
    Therefore these bottles seem to be the maddest, but most honest archive that one can ever imagine: Kept, stored over decades, legends of nuances in the taste, vintages of the century, ... but to experience them, you had to open them. Reminiscence and experience for the present only existed by destroying them for the future.
    And isn't it a fact that with every other archive that which is stored presently changes over the years. Wine never kept the same - with other things it only wasn't that obvious. There was no way of preservation.
    It wasn't possible to get the past through time without changes.
    Piled up in front of me some rare left-over bottles, survived many celebrations, Tokai Essenzia. - There rests the light of the last century.
    In its essence this is a collection of light. Light from different regions. Sun's fireball which stands behind the haze of the morning, breaking through. People busy in the streets for some time and bended down in the vineyards - many of them dead -, the lightsoaken grapes emptied for long, their interior here in front of me, inside of some few last bottles of Musigny 1929. Bended lines of the row of hills in noon's heat. Perhaps only this bottle of old Chianti Riserva 1947 still keeps it. Light that's slowly splitting up. The prism of time.
    Layed out in the dark so it only slowly disappears. Wrapped and covered, cradled by darkness. - Resting... one day it will shine again on someone's tongue when it illuminates throats and is washed down in an enlightened stream, vanishes slowly in the morning - but already having made its path through the body and floating into language which is blurred by more and more light and finally disappears in a mutter.
Te fascination inside the cellar is not darkness but stored light.     With the light time passes by.
    In thought I step up with a blinded look towards the sky. The sun is shining as if it was its first day. - I start drinking.

Translation: Tomas MacGiollaPadraig

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