Extract from Michael Mitchell's translation

Max Frisch's An Answer from the Silence

There could hardly be a better day for walking, blue sky and not too hot. The clouds, like cotton wool, are hanging motionless over the valley, the grasshoppers chirping in the meadows. It is still summer, only the shimmer of light over the fields already has a golden softness and a single brown-edged leaf lying on the path is enough to bring on thoughts of autumn, even though everything is still green, the brightly coloured butterflies are fluttering through the air and the ripening corn is still standing on the slopes.

For hours now the walker has hardly allowed himself a rest; he has taken off his shirt and is carrying his rucksack on his bare shoulders, which are brown and gleaming. It's a heavy rucksack, loaded with a rope and crampons, a sleeping bag and tent; he is carrying pitons as well, and anyone meeting him would see straight away that this walker with the upright gait and swinging his ice-axe clearly has something big planned.

But no one meets him.

It is a quiet and lonely mountain valley. Now and again the stream can be heard thundering through the gorge, or the route leads past the high rocks, where the water pours down in silvery drifts of spray.

It's all still as it was, thirteen years ago. Then he had been walking with his older brother, who showed him various things, explaining for example how such a valley came to be formed, how the old glaciers had slowly ground out a wide trench, just like a carpenter's plane, of which scrape marks of the glaciers on the rocks were evidence, and if you looked along the valley you could see the terraces of an older, higher valley bottom. Only then, his grown-up brother had said, had the stream come and sawn out the narrow gorges, over many thousands of years, of course.

Seeing the rock, the solitary walker recalls all that now. At the time he was still a boy, with the youthful feeling that your life is stretching out in front of you almost endlessly, and perhaps it was here, on this spot, that for the first time he had felt as short-lived as a mayfly —

Thirteen years ago.

At one point a jolting, creaking cart comes and you have to step to one side as long as the dust is swirling up and descending on the meadows in clouds of white.

The solitary walker also remembers the little spring beside the path farther on; its lively babbling is no older now and this time he again takes a drink of the ice-cold water that sometimes simply stops running, only to gurgle and bubble once more all the more merrily. It brings exquisite refreshment to his forehead when he holds it under the pipe; he also dips his brown arms in the mossy wooden trough a second time, before picking up his ice-axe. Soon the black drops on his boots have disappeared under the dust again.

Perhaps he doesn't even know himself why he's not allowing himself to rest, even though he actually has plenty of time. Often he just keeps his eyes fixed on his boots as they walk, not looking to either side, like someone who has an important goal ahead, or at least believes he has, and is concentrating on that alone…