An excerpt translated in english from “The Game…” included in the Anthology “Fiction 2013 – contemporary Romanian prose”

Editura Polirom a realizat antologia “Fiction 2013 – contemporary romanian prose”, care include fragmente dintr-o seama de romane aparute in acel an la editura ieseana. E vorba, printre altii, de Radu Aldulescu, Ruxandra Cesereanu, Florina Ilis, Florin Lazarescu, Marin Malaicu-Hondrari, Iaon T. Morar, O. Nimigean, Doina Rusti si Daniela Zeca. Antologia cuprinde si un fragment din “Judecata de apoi a statuilor”, prima nuvela din volumul “Jocul ceor o suta de frunze si alte povestiri”, in traducerea lui Alistair Ian Blyth (foto):


Excerpt from The Last Judgement of Statues: The tavern stood at the crossroads. He who built it there had done so cannily, for it was on the way to the fair. It was there that the lucky and the luckless gathered to drink to their transactions and make small talk. In time, the fairs grew sparser and finally ceased. As the city spread over the plain the old streets were torn down, passing trade dwindled, and the regulars moved into housing blocks. Those left behind, in houses huddled one against the other on those old streets, lived in fear of the bulldozers. In summer they brought wicker tables and chairs outside, onto the pavement. In winter the tavern had a largish room, with a linoleum floor and a high counter, propped against the wall at the back. The sole illumination came from a light bulb that hung from the ceiling on two braided wires, which dangled so low that the tallest customers had to stoop lest they hit it with their foreheads. Every movement made by those seated at the tables cast its shadow on the walls like a dark curtain. “I thought you weren’t coming, godfather,” said Fandarac, waving to him. Petrache did not know how he had come to be Fandarac’s godfather, but it had stood the test of time and this was what he called him back. “What are you drinking, godfather?” he asked, sitting down at his table. “I’ll have some of that new drink, gin, a kind of sicklier vodka.” “Don’t they have plum brandy?” “They weren’t able to get hold of any. He says it’s because of the excise. Whatever that is.” Petrache sighed through dry lips. They had dried out when he did the pickling. “Then I’ll have a beer,” he said. “What kind of revolution was that, if we don’t even have plum brandy any more…” “It’s no big deal.” Fandarac was old. He had been through a lot in life. “People have revolutions every so often. It’s a way of getting out of a rut…” “That’s what my mother used to say.” Petrache straightened his back to make room for Șofronică, so he could wipe the table and place his mug of beer in front of him. “How about that” he marvelled. “How did you know I wanted beer before I asked for it? You’ve been eavesdropping, I shouldn’t wonder.” “Each to his own trade,” replied the tavern keeper, turning the handle of the mug towards him. “I don’t even need to eavesdrop. I read lips.” “Right, you can read lips in this dim light,” grumbled Petrache to himself. And then, to his godfather: “Did you hear that Steiner the tailor died?” “I heard. Last night.” “Why were they in such a hurry to bury him? Not to mention that the funeral was after sunset. I’ve never heard the like. Funerals should be held at noon.” “Don’t you know?” His godfather leaned over towards him. “They found him in the morning, hanged. The priest didn’t want to read the rites over him and bury him. They had a hard job finding a washerwoman to bathe him. They buried him in secret, at the edge… There’s no inscription on the cross, like with the paupers they find dead in the road…” “What got into him like that, all of a sudden?” Fandarac looked all around. There were customers at another two tables and the tavern keeper was busy fixing something at the counter, with his back turned. “It wasn’t all of a sudden. He’d been tailoring all crooked for a while. He saw things…” “What did he see?” “The stars…” “We all see the stars…” “You think so? When was the last time you looked at them?” “I don’t know. They’re always there. It makes no difference if I look at them or not.” “That was the thing, because he was always looking at them. And he said that they were different from usual. That they kept getting bigger. And that they shone more brightly, some more than others.” “And what is that supposed to mean?” “It means that the stars are getting closer and closer and that one day they’ll come crashing down on us. And they’ll burn up the earth like a dry husk.” “And that’s why he did himself in?” “You know how it is… When you’re convinced it’s going to happen, the waiting is unbearable. In the end, aren’t we suicides in our own way?” He pointed at his glass. “Even this rotgut that Șofronică waters down… We want to live well and we still do the bad thing. We do ourselves damage even as we cure ourselves. Speaking of which, have you got a cigarette?” “I haven’t been smoking much later. I’d rather spend the money on food.” Șofronică came over, with his swaying walk, and took a packet of cigarettes out of the pocket of his grease-stained apron. “We’re a serious firm…” “Peace unto thee, reader,” said Fandarac brightly, taking a cigarette from the middle of the packet. “What school taught you to lip-read? Because at the school we went to, my godfather and me, they taught us to read books…” “The school of life, godfather,” said Șofronică proudly. “You learn to read anything at all, people’s faces, their lips, their handwriting, the bulge of their pockets. If you don’t believe me, order a coffee and after you drink it, call me over and I’ll read the grounds. The reading is free, but the coffee is priced double.” “You’re nothing but cutpurses, you readers of signs,” huffed Fandarac. “Get back to your counter. You’re wasting your time here with us and you don’t know what that lot at the other tables are talking about. You’re leaving pages unread.” “Don’t you worry,” said Șofronică, as he went away. “The ear hears what the eye doesn’t see. Fandarac waved his hand in disgust. “See that?” he said to Petrache. “It’s a disease, like with the tailor. All of a sudden you start to cut crookedly. The thing is that to you it looks like the scissors cut straight, whereas to everybody else it looks crooked. And then there was the winter…” “What about the winter?” He asked without being curious, because instead of waiting for an answer, he took another swig of beer. Fandarac waited patiently for him to put down his mug and wipe his mouth. “Well,” he said at last. “That it’s never-ending. Today the birds passed by in flocks, swarming like bees. And they flew low, at chimney level. They all but prevented the smoke from rising.” “And what does that mean?” “That it’s going to snow again. Or at least that there’ll be a thick hoarfrost. That’s what they say, that the sky is heavy when the crows fly low, croaking. Who ever heard of snow at Easter?” Petrache was lost in thought. “But did you see any ravens?” “Ravens? What do you mean, ravens?” “I mean crows, but bigger. Like big black ducks.” From his godfather’s puzzled look, Petrache realised that he hadn’t seen any. “I saw some,” said Petrache, staring into space. “Up there by the castle. But they don’t fly around in flocks, like crows. Just one shows up, as if somebody has summoned it. I chase it away, shoo it, but it won’t leave. Only when it wants to. It comes in the morning mainly, after I open the main gates.” “Who would summon it?” “That I don’t know. I’m the only person around at that hour. Apart from the statue.” He sighed, as if thinking about things known only to him. “I’m off,” he said, placing some change on the table. “Mother won’t go to bed until I get back.” “Will you be back tomorrow?” Fandarac called after him. “We’ll have another chat.” “I’m meeting Aurica tomorrow. I’m taking her to the fair. It’s Good Friday the day after tomorrow and the fair will be closing.” He said the last words to himself, as he was going out, and so not even Șofronică the reader of signs could make them out. The weather had indeed suddenly turned cold. An icy silence had descended. Not a branch was moving; not a dog was barking. His footfalls creaked on the cobbles, announcing the coming frost. He looked for the flocks of birds, but even they had scattered. Not one star could be seen in the lead-coloured sky. He thought of Steiner for a moment. If he had been alive, he would have had a more peaceful night, without the terror of the burning stars, unless they were burning in some other way. In his tiny room he groped through the dark. He knocked over two stacks of books before he found the edge of the bed. He sat for a while, feeling a faint dizziness at the back of his head and struggling to understand what good it did people to talk about death so much. He sighed, curled up facing the shadow-thronged wall, and fell asleep with his clothes on.

  • Posted by  Varujan Vosganian
  • Lansari, Noutati, Stiri

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