by Endre Tóth

Translated from the Esperanto original
by Ralph Dumain

Mr. Don noticed a dull light. He did not know whether it filtered in from the outside world, signaling the end of the cave's passageway, or whether it was only an optical illusion. But when he drew near, it was evident that the light emanated from a hollow on the side. A thin man sat in it, on the floor, feet crossed, and stared into the flame of a candle, which had burned almost to the end. Mr. Don was partly jubilant, partly not. It could be that the stranger knows this cave and could serve as a guide; at the same time, Don was perturbed by a sense of perfect solitude such as he had never experienced. Wearing soft-soled shoes, he was about to proceed onward undetected past the entrance to this cubbyhole, but some mysterious force compelled him not to do so. He greeted the stranger. The latter, with a hand signal, requested silence.

En route Don intermittently lit matches in the profound darkness. He felt a mild breeze, which could only come from the outside world, and he knew that he was plodding persistently against it. Surely he would be able to exit the cave passageway. He lit it up from time to time just to enjoy the spectacle surrounding him. The rocky walls were everywhere covered with little craters, little protuberances, furrows, and the like. They even bore resplendent colors. Mr. Don felt as if he had entered an exhibit of abstract art. The spectacle would have reminded him of a geographical relief map had the colors correlated with the craters and bulges. He had never seen anything like it. Did he find them enjoyable, or was he merely curious? He could not say. But from time to time he stopped and stared at the walls until the match burned out. He passed by the side-hollows and caverns, and had he lit them up, he would have discovered that they offered the same sights. But he persistently walked against the breeze to reach the outside world. He didn't know how much time he passed pressing on. The silence, the quietude which surrounded him, was so deep, his perception of time ceased to function.

Meanwhile the candlelight before the thin stranger began to flicker, then burned out completely. Mr. Don thought he ought to say something, but he couldn't think of anything. But he heard the stranger in the darkness standing up and coming toward him.

"Come on in, if you want."

Mr. Don hesitantly started, fearing he would bump into the stranger, but the latter took his arm and led him into a cavern the size of a room.

"You appear to know your way around here," Mr. Don murmured, embarrassed.

"Yes. I've spent much of the day here."

"Are you looking at the figures and protuberances on the wall?"

"Not at all. I'm looking into the light. Into the flame of a candle."


"When the light has burned out, the darkness gets even deeper. Haven't you experienced this yourself?"

"Well, yes," said Mr. Don, "but you could do that at home."

"Yes. But think about the silence. Those walls, covered with variable reliefs, create an acoustics I've never heard anywhere else."

"You're right," Don said, unconvinced, "but surely you've noticed what kind of walls you're surrounded by, right?"


"Don't you know whether this environment was formed naturally, or maybe artificially?"

"It is artificial, not a natural thing, but writing, information, a message. Take it however you like."

"I would have never guessed it," said Mr. Don, "but that's an odd point of view. No one has ever seen any writing like this. Which ones are the letters, the bulges or the spots of color?"

"Both. If I still had a candle I'd explain some of it to you."

"I have matches. Shall I light one?"

When the match was struck the stranger began: "Look. There's a black spot, like a square. Let's ignore the protuberances for now, let's just talk about the shape. It's not a regular quadrangle, only similar to one. If it were regular, it would mean vulture."

"More precisely, it's not a letter, but some kind of ideogram."

"We could say that," the foreigner agreed, "but look, its left corner tilts downward. Such as it is, it means dislocation. Besides, on the right-hand side, there's something sticking out that looks like a triangle. If we take that into consideration: a well near a tree-lined road."

"Looks pretty complicated to me."

"Yes, extraordinarily complicated. Scarcely learnable. Talented people take about 15, 20 years. I myself, having--shall we say--not a great deal of talent, took 30 years. I now understand every message perfectly." Meanwhile, the match burned down, but the stranger continued. "And I must add, that there are colleagues," he said almost whispering, "who've taken 60, one even 63 years, tormenting themselves, and still, oh my."

"Dear God!" Mr. Don said, "To pass so much time here in a cave?"

"Here, in the world inside, time passes totally differently than in the outside world."

They remained quiet for a while.

"Well, you've already told me about the black square," Mr. Don began, "but how to continue? How do you read on? Vertically? Horizontally?"

"You can read in any direction. Horizontally, vertically, parabolically, hyperbolically, whichever. The writing is meaningful in all directions; it even has multiple meanings. You can even read it along the circumference. Well, obviously, only experts can do that."

"I still have matches. Would you be good enough to read a bit?"

"Willingly," said the stranger, and when the light was struck, he began right away:

"The large bird, carrying in its beak the branch of an olive tree, slowly approached the spot where the reed grew, and dropped the twig. Was somebody waiting here? Or not? Who could know? A swarm formed among the vertical reeds. Who was moving here, it is impossible to know. But it is not even worth knowing, because it matters only to know what..."

Regrettably, the match burned out, although Mr. Don was more than willing to learn what was worth knowing.

"Tell me," he spoke up. "Wouldn't it be possible to translate this information or message into ordinary script, so that it would be comprehensible to all?"

The stranger laughed out loud: "Man! Don't you understand? The variant readings of this script are infinite in number. It would be more precise to say, because the number of the conjugations and declinations are infinite, the number of variations is infinitely infinite. From this cavern, not a very large one, you could write so many books with ordinary letters they would fill a huge library. But for what? You must read this script and in that way you can read the information, but what makes it so important to read?"

"What are you saying"" Mr. Don was surprised. "Aren't you accustomed to reading the message?"

"During the long years of learning, I assimilated the greatest part of the message. Then there was no more time for that. Sitting here in the darkness in the great silence, you must attend to the internal world of the skull. Do you understand? That's just what the whole complex of caves is for. Darkness and silence. There's the essence. Here you can compose and edit your own cavern. Just now I'm doing that myself; I'm conceiving my message." The stranger was silent for a bit, then he continued. "Ridiculous! Translate into ordinary script? Into script comprehensible to everyone? Does there exist any writing comprehensible to everyone? Well, think about it: this cavern is not just for one message, but it is a continuation of all the other messages. A continuation of those in the rest of the caverns, and in the passageway of the cave. All information is interrelated. One is the continuation of the other. Let me make a comparison: think about the internal world of your skull as a continuation of the inner world of my skull. Or vice versa: you inquire, and on that my inner world becomes dependent. Whether or not I answer, you surely asked, and because of this fact we already depend on one another. In the same way the cave passageways, the caverns, the hollows, are in a dependent relation. There is so much information, and if we only once traversed the entire passageway, and, let's say we read it just horizontally, even then it might take years before we would reach the end. No. No, sir. There's only one thing to do: to learn the whole script, then everyone must conceive his own cave-message."

"Pardon the question," Mr. Don blurted out. "Is your cavern ready?"

"Yes, I can hope that it will be ready soon. Well, indeed, the refinement of the details ... but regrettably, now I must depart."

"Are you in a great rush?", Mr. Don asked. "Couldn't you read more? Just while a solitary match is burning?"

"I still have some time", the stranger said.

The match was lit and the stranger began:

"The black balustrade together with the terrace sank into the sludge. Fish zigzagged between its columns. In the stone urn, where there were always flowers, a hydra now squatted, with its five distended arms rebutting that the number of celestial directions is four. The great oaken gate of the palace fell from its place; it grew slippery from the algae covering it. From time to time vesicles bubbled up out of the water, like happy little leaflets from down in the sage world of subaqueous silence. A pillar broke in the middle and like a giant mouth it yawned. This world is attractive for its mystery, but yet ..." Unfortunately, this match too burned out. Mr. Don, disoriented, allowed the stranger to take him by the arm, and embark with him in the dark.

"Come with me! I will lead you into the outside world."

The stranger set off--this surprised Mr. Don--not against the breeze; however, when the man touched his arm, he felt a strange sense of security. He could not for the life of him formulate a name for such a feeling. But thinking about it, he already saw its form drawn in the darkness. A green triangle. How is it pronounced?

What had the stranger said? With not much talent, learning would take 30 years. Thus he would have time to conceptualize a chamber not bigger than a fist. And it would contain the green triangle. What could it mean?

A possibility?

A hope?

A chance?


Translation completed 27 June 2000
English translation copyright by Ralph Dumain ©2000

SOURCE/ FONTO: Tóth, Endre. "Groto," in/en: Lappar, La Antikristo [Lappar, the Antichrist] (Budapest: Hungara Esperanto-Asocio, 1982), pp. 25-31.

Editorial note from Lester Shepard: The bird in question is a crow in the original Hungarian. (12 August 2001)

A Memorial Tribute to Endre Tóth
by Ralph Dumain

Remembering Endre Tóth: Some Preliminary Notes
by Lester Shepard

“Mi Ne Deziras Esti Juvelo” de Georgi Miĥalkov

Aŭtune de Endre Tóth

"La murdita juglandarbo" de Endre Tóth

Esperanto & Interlinguistics Study Guide / Retgvidilo pri Esperanto & Interlingvistiko

Wisdom, Philosophy & Everyday Life — Theoretical Perspectives: An Unconventional Guide

On other sites / Alireteje:

"Groto" in Esperanto

“Die Grotte”: German translation of story / germanlingva traduko de "Groto"

German translation of short story collection Lappar, La Antikristo /
germanlingva traduko de novelaro: LAPPAR, DER ANTICHRIST

Lappar, La Antikristo

"Esperanta Antikristo ekster la Verda Infero" de Tomasz Chmielik

"La Plej Valora" de Sten Johansson

Endre Tóth - Vikipedio

Lappar, la antikristo - Vikipedio

Pri E. Tóth parolas Julian Modest kaj Vilmos Benczik
El la Songazeto 3 de Literatura Foiro
(sonregistraĵo / sound file)

Antichrist - International Film Festival Rotterdam 2013 - IFFR

Antychryst (Adam Guzinski, 2003), short film / filmeto

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Uploaded 27 June 2000
Updated 12 August 2001
German link added 7 March 2002
Links added 11 January 2004
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