The Two-Headed Man and the Paper Life
was once a two-headed man. He sat at an office desk and wrote down
somebody's fate. Employees went to and fro carrying folders full of
everyday-ness. Peeping in, a little girl shuddered with convulsions,
and shrieked, 'What's this HORRIBLE THING doing here?'
The girl was taken away and treated
for hallucinations; guards were stationed at the doors.
This tale is told merely for the
edification of those who enjoy peeping through the key-holes of their
Centre of the Universe
The red comb of that pheasant is the centre of the
universe. The pheasant moves and sometimes even flies, and the centre
of the universe shifts about with him. Why this particular pheasant,
you ask, and why his comb? But the One Who Knows The Answers has
already shrugged his shoulders, the movement causing his grey comb to
shake at the same time.
Careful with Kites
flying a kite in the long-suffering heavens, you never know what you
may catch. If it's a dead bird or a piece of aircraft metal, no
problem. But supposing a snag gets caught, or, God forbid, the moon?
Our daring kite-flier will then find himself in direct and prolonged
connection with the skies.
And it isn't so far the case that, should he
finally decide to release the kite, it won't give chase to him.
James Bond retired and settled in the Soviet Union
– for whose break-up he was responsible. His pension was delivered to
him by pigeon-post from Yorkshire. On Tuesdays, the former 007
attended party members' meetings, and made recordings with a
tape-recorder embedded in a cigarette. The meetings ended with the
singing of theInternationale but
James Bond, on principle, murmured through his grey moustaches, 'God
Save the Queen'. 'Here's our comrade from the developing republics
singing out of tune,' said the nimble old men, in their Pioneer ties,
patting Bond lovingly on his cast-iron shoulders.
At first, the Montagues and Capulets were friends.
But then there arose a disagreement concerning the style of their hats.
When aesthetics are involved, mountains of dead bodies will follow
difficult to be on friendly terms with your friends. All could be well,
were it not for their nice habit of working with scissors.
‘More tea?’ my friend asks kindly, trimming my
left ear. ‘Some vodka perhaps?’ the other friend adds, simultaneously
cutting off my surplus chin.
Crawling away, completely bandaged, I take to my
bed at an unknown enemy’s place, and when people approach me I make a
hideous animal face, so as not to tempt them to sudden friendship.
alarm-clock bomb rings up like an uninvited guest and offers you an
experience of ravaged Nirvana. There's nothing you can do except sing
it the pointless song, 'May there always be me.' Sometimes the
alarm-clock looms up first, quietly ticking in the doorway. It's better
that you hear it.
from the Russian by Carol Rumens and Yuri Drobyshev
published in Blind Spots by Carol Rumens, Seren, 2008;
till Death' first published in ''The Liberal'', April/May 2007, England)
The pabaco is an exotic fruit. It doesn’t grow everywhere; it could be
said that it doesn’t grow anywhere, but all the same it’s imported from
somewhere, put onto tables – and people find that it’s edible, to their
great delight. So the pabaco fruit would almost be the fruit of
people’s imaginations, were it not for its juicy blue flesh inside a
snow-white skin. And its stem is red, so therefore the pabaco tree is
considered sacred in countries with red, white and blue flags. As there
are very many countries like this, the pabaco fruit is considered a
national dish in each of them.
Many people, of course, have bought
cartons of pabaco juice, which makes skin white, eyes blue, and brings
to the cheeks what is called the bashful blush of the pabaco-eater.
However, even half-litre cartons of this juice are so expensive that
people only buy them on monthly national holidays. It's said that this
is for the best, because if this juice (or the compote that is made
from chopped up blue, white and red seeds that crunch on the teeth) is
consumed more often than this, then the colours fall differently on
people – skin becomes blue, or even navy, eyes go red, and hair turns
white. These people, like prophets of old, cause holy terror in those
they meet; they are avoided and given the most unpleasant of jobs to
do: being zealous about their red white and blue country. These
grey-haired subjects with blood-filled eyes and bluish skin are taken
around in cars with blacked-out windows, and sent to live in houses
where the windows are not transparent.
In one country the pabaco fruit has
even ended up on the state flag, together with three lions, who for
many years have been bearing their teeth at it, unable to take a bite.
This flag is supposed to illustrate that complete human happiness is
impossible to achieve, a fact, which the inhabitants of the red white
and blue country had guessed long before this flag appeared. The author
of these notes must admit that he has tasted this wonderful fruit, and
moreover completely legally. Just like the other so-called chosen ones,
he is allowed to write about such lofty themes as the sacred pabaco
tree, the monthly national holidays and being zealous about the land of
one’s birth. The chosen ones write on white paper with reel ink, and
sometimes even with the blue liquid that flows through their veins.
from the Russian by Siobhán McNamara
published in ''The Prague Revue'', 2008, Prague)
Agamemnon in Cambridge
Agamemnon is giving lectures on psychology. ‘You
love them when you don’t know them, and you know them when you hate
them’ he says. ‘And knowledge changes your face, so that by the time
you’re forty you get ambiguous congratulations from the mirror,’ adds
someone’s portrait from the wall.
the lecture Agamemnon drinks goats’ milk in the bar. The milk is
brought in especially for him from an Irish farm.
a private life
important for a male academic?’ one of his students asks him. Choking
on his milk, Agamemnon thinks: ‘I’d love to send the young pup down to
Pluto for insinuations like that’ but he answers aloud, calmly: ‘A man
can live in a heavenly landscape too. Indeed, and he can guess at the
love of girls and all people. The clouds will depict this love for him,
and even completely figuratively – showing him three noble visions.’
Witness of an Underwater Time
Hardly anyone has noticed that the octopus, as well
as possessing eight legs, also wears a tie. The octopus is unlikely to
be able to explain why he needs this finishing touch to his dress –
perhaps it’s a sign of a self-esteem that has been challenged too
often? All in all, the octopus is honest, scrupulous and poor. He
doesn’t need much. Perceiving the endlessness of the underwater paths
on which his epoch got lost, he thinks about himself: I am a creature
without a name or a biography. I have a body, but it’s almost
transparent. My brain is transparent through and through. My memories
are gradually becoming colourless; my voice cannot be heard from under
deaf waters. So what’s left? What’s left?
sharks smile crookedly: there’s a lot left – ink.
Some people carry the Northern Lights inside them, some a Brazilian
beach or a Japanese rock garden. What Dr. Livingstone carries inside
himself is Africa.
In this Africa an enormous brown ape sits under a tree and
small black monkeys scratch her heels. If another large ape appears
nearby, she walks on straight through the first one, not causing her
the least harm: the strong can exist in different worlds.
The brown ape from Dr. Livingstone’s Africa needs a good
example to imitate. When things become absolutely unbearable for her,
Dr. Livingstone sends her his human form. It climbs up to a branch
above her, and she spends hours looking up at it, all the time sitting
in the one position.
Meanwhile Dr. Livingstone goes around
without his human form. His observations suggest to him that in the
world as he knows it there are far fewer people than human forms. The
people float like shadows along paths and streets, and to stop
themselves from being blown away they carry something weighty: the
Northern Lights, a Brazilian beach or a Japanese rock garden. As we
already noted, Dr. Livingstone carries Africa inside him.
Abyss is Calling
Night was drifting along the black river from
village to village, from century to century. History was swimming
behind it, spluttering and spitting out silt. At one point in space
there was an unscheduled stop, and in the timeless silence was heard:
‘Farewell Ramirez, Gonzalez and Rodriguez! The abyss is calling you!’
Then there followed
an abrupt command – and a
A General emerged
from the darkness, and announced
where the next unscheduled stop would be. New gold medals with pictures
of Ramirez, Gonzalez and Rodriguez jangled mysteriously on the
darkness did what it does best: it closed in.
from the Russian by Siobhán McNamara
published in ''Shadowtrain'' No 26, 2008, England)