The Elephant's Memory
- By Erri De Luca, translated by Jim Hicks
Photo by Getty Images. Scientific American, December 2017.
In the north the skies will start to close in. The clouds will thicken—a cover sealed shut. Even bombing won’t make them open.
Daily temperatures will fall, the earth will freeze, become barren. The skies will be dark, even at noon during the summer solstice.
Citicombs will be built—entire cities underground. Those who live in the North will long to emigrate south of the Mediterranean, where the sun has remained in the cloudless sky.
They will petition Africa for climatic asylum. It will be given to those who can demonstrate that their families once welcomed a migrant from Africa. There will be a registry and archive, called “The Elephant’s Memory.”
Credentials will be checked on a case-by-case basis. Those without documents will offer their weight in gold to get on board a boat, but the Mediterranean and Atlantic will have become surly and stormy, the winds blocking every passage.
Due to its latitude, the skies of Australia will be clear. Entry will be prohibited to everyone with white skin. Dark skin will be the health certificate of those who belong in the sun.
The boundary line with Mexico will be the border of Latin America. There too only those able to show proof of fraternity during the era of counter-migrations will fulfill entry requirements.
The proportion of whites in the human species will fall, in isolation beneath the weight of the skies. The descendants of those who once spoke of invasions will try to evade their fate.
From the island of Lampedusa, a glimmer of light will be seen on the southern horizon, the point from which the most lost of all travelers in humanity’s history once arrived.
Africa will have an office in Lampedusa that examines requests for asylum. There will be another in Ceuta, another in Lesbos as well. History will be flipped up in the air, an omelet turned by a practiced chef.
History, by definition, does not forget.
Erri De Luca is an Italian novelist, essayist, poet, and translator
Jim Hicks is the executive editor of the Massachusetts Review