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1

What she told herself was true, she thought, and wondered what else she could tell herself.

I have invented fictions of myself that seem truer than what I think I know, she thought.

The fiction of self as invention is the only credible fiction, she thought, spinning stories in her search for truth.

Half my face is invented on a groundwork of fact, she thought. We become whatever our faces tell us.

I have found a new face for myself, she thought. It only looks like me, the rest is invention.

My body too is an invention, but it’s the only body I know. The trouble is it makes itself up as it goes along without me.

She had made an attempt to invent a language of unsourced gestures. How to say yes without looking as though one did. How not to lie.

Invention is not lying. When we invent ourselves we are discovering truth, she said, smiling at something in the mirror.

Inventing is a way of happening. It’s a song I thought I remembered that I was making up. It sounds like this, she sang.

If I could ungender myself, she thought, I would think differently. My very face would have a different value, especially to myself.

 

2

So she invented him and equipped him with certain faults that she then attempted to correct. Then she had to reinvent the faults.

This is your nature, she said to him. I should know. I invented you. But she had forgotten something. Now she had to invent that too.

What she invented was a man prepared to invent her in return. This seemed only fair.

I never believe a thing he says, she said to herself. He is a fiction in the interim. He is an anecdote no one believes.

I am using an invented female self to reflect on my degendered manhood, she admitted to herself.

Under the eyelids real eyes invented themselves. The conceptual eyes of a real world. Invention is gorgeous, she wrote.

 

3

Here was the third voice, the one not used to speaking itself, only others. It had a foot in either gender. It had washed and shaved.

It was night in the imagined city. It could stay that way unless she invented morning, and it was her prerogative to do so.

Everything about her was fiction striving towards faction. But wasn’t that true of everyone? she thought. One invents oneself as one is.

The body is invention, said the blood. This organ is not a figment of my imagination but this genuinely mortal voice is.

I am tired, said the voice. I must invent more energy for myself. She was wearing a stunning pair of shoes. She must live up to them.

This fictive voice knows more than I do. This bare floor is something I tread with my invented feet. She wept and moved forward.

And so she unwrote herself from the fictions that defined her. Here was night. The street was real. All the lights were on.

 

George Szirtes was born in Budapest in 1948 and moved to England with his family after fleeing the Hungarian Uprising of 1956. His poetry collections include The Slant Door, which won him the Faber Memorial Prize in 1980; Reel, which won him the T.S. Eliot Prize in 2004; and most recently Bad Machine, published by Bloodaxe Books in 2013, among others. He has also received accolades for his translation of László Krasznahorkai’s Satantango (New Directions), which won the 2013 Best Translated Book Award from Three Percent, the online literary magazine of Open Letter Books. For a full list of published verse and translations, click here.

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