Altaplana, world of Francois Schuiten and Benoit Peeters

the impossible & infinite encyclopedia of the world created by Schuiten & Peeters

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Tea Colour

(Translation by Andrew Fentem)

In a large city in the north of England, a man was sleeping alone in his room. His alarm clock had just gone off, but he was already half-awake. A few minutes later he got up and took a quick shower, then gulped down some cereal. Everything was arranged so that he could dress and have breakfast as quickly as possible in the morning, as the man was always tired.

Next he slurped down some tea as he was setting off for work. His gaze fell for a moment on the bottom of his teacup. Then his eyes moved gradually up again from the bottom of the teacup towards the wall, where a picture was hanging, returned to the base of the cup, and back up yet again to the picture.

We are in the City of Books. The books are so huge they are like walls. But two or three books have fallen, leaving a gap through which white water is gushing strongly and vigorously, almost violently. The city’s inhabitants are fleeing. A young woman is the only one not to think of the water as dangerous. Quite the opposite - she stretches out her arm towards the opening left by the fallen books as if to welcome it. A light bursts forth through the gap. The water is good for you, but she alone knows this. A smile, serene and welcoming, can be seen on her face.

The man with the cup of tea looks at the bottom of his cup again. The colour of his tea is the same as the colour of the books. Exactly the same, he says to himself. Sure, the books were various shades, but he could see these same shades if he raised the white cup to tip his tea. His eyes then passed from the tea to his watch, which he was holding in his other hand. It was already half past seven and he had to leave, get to the bus stop as quickly as possible, and go to work.

Once on the bus, the man thought of the picture again. He wasn’t English. The poster was from his homeland, though it definitely depicted a country other than his. The bus journey took half an hour before reaching the man’s place of work. But he didn’t get off, he stayed on the bus until the terminus, which also happened to be the city airport. Eventually he got off, and flew away to the City of Books.

Vincent Fransolet