The Infra-World, 31–55




For long he believed he was still striding through the forest, in the numbingly warm wind, which seemed to blow from all sides and move the trees like snakes, following the barely visible blood-trail of the regularly pulsing ground in an always similar twilight, alone in the battle with the animal. In the first days and nights, or were they only hours, how could he measure the time without the sky, he even asked himself sometimes, what might be under the ground, which beat in waves underneath his footsteps so that it seemed to breathe, how thin the skin over the unknown thing beneath and how long it would hold it back from the entrails of the world.

In this incomparable text by Heiner Müller, the exact title of which is Heracles 2 or the Hydra, Heracles sets out in search of the many-headed monster in hopes of vanquishing it. Walking for some indefinite period through a shifting, living forest which transforms as he moves through it, Heracles suddenly realises that what he had taken for a forest was, itself, already, the hydra:

[…] [He] understood, in the rising panic: the forest was the animal, for some time now the forest he thought he was walking through had been the animal, which bore him in the tempo of his steps