IESUS NAZARENUS REX IUDAEORUM[1]

 

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium
and gathered the whole Roman cohort around Him.

“The Gospel according to Matthew”, 27, 27.

God is my witness that the firefight had lasted for days, without any significant cause and visible effect. We stood on one side of the canal, and they were on the other. The sun choked us during the day and the swarms of bloodthirsty mosquitoes drove us crazy throughout the night. From time to time a bullet would squeal above our heads and disappear like a headless fly. Along with bullets, we exchanged bursts of insults and ugly words. We did the same with those across the water, as we did between ourselves.

We did our best to fill in the gape of emptiness that divided us.

We resembled the participants of some harmless children’s game until the night when few of them crossed the canal and slew the two of our men in the trench, while they were sleeping.

The very thing startled us. Fear and courage stood side by side. To my astonishment and against my will, the general attack started.

We fired randomly out of all weapons we had.

They were risen from their trenches more by noise than by preciseness of our bullets and projectiles. They started to run frantically, without making any resistance.

They ran faster than we pursued them.

We went in and out of their deserted villages and robbed unsparingly everything we could find. We justified crossing the borders forbidden up this point by the need to settle the debts from the previous war.

Wheels of the attack stuck in the cesspool of greed.

Overloaded transportations went backwards with no order or measurement to the background.

Luckily, the enemies were still pursued by their fear.

It was only the next day we were able to advance further. Only God knows why there was still no resistance. Everything was repeated from house to house, from village to village.

The war was accelerated by the general aims, and personal ones slowed it down.

When the robbers’ appetite and fights about spoils of war started to rise, there was an abrupt slowing down of the advance.

It took us few days to reach the coast of the Kupa, where the advance, with the relief on both sides, ended. The hard executable task of keeping what we won lay before us.

The commanding officers had their hands full with organization of the guards, men’s accommodation and reinstalling the communication system.

However, the soldiers were interested only in house searching and patrolling along the village.

It resulted in piles of household furnishings along the way. Every soldier formed a little pile of its own and guarded it jealously. He would take all of it with him when he left the front.

I’m presenting all this because of the event that happened during the first days of our stay in one village situated parallel to the river flow.

In those days it wasn’t unusual to come across the drunken soldiers. Furthermore, only few of them were sober. Some were drunk with revenge, some with greed, and some with alcohol.

I’m pointing your attention to the two of them.

They happened to be in the village crossroads, under the shadow of the apple-tree, which top leaned over the road from the deserted yard. They were drinking the trophy rakia alternately from the soldier canteen and grinning, God knows why.

In all that stupor and delirium, their attention was drawn by the Christ made of tin, nailed to the wooden cross.

On the little plate above the Christ’s head, barely visible, his guilt was written: I. N. R. I.

– Look! Their Christ!

– Look, for God’s sake, they crucified the completely innocent man!

– Lets take him down from the crucifix, to save him from misery, poor fellow!

They stood up. One of them approached the cross and touched the metal figure with fear.

– Touch him! He is still warm! Maybe we could help him?

With great difficulty and swears, they started unnailing him with knives and rifle butts.

Having separated the body from the cross with difficulty, they put it between themselves so it looked like the three of them were walking hugged, all in step and headed to the house where the unit command was. As soon as they entered the yard, both of them started crying out:

– Oh, commandant! Come out!

– We are bringing the wounded man to you!

– Call the medical orderly!

– Maybe it’s not too late!

– It appears like he’s showing some vital signs!

As an answer to their shouting, inside the house there was a scramble. A dozen of men rushed to the front door and jammed them with their bodies.

When they saw the scene – the thunderous laughter started to echo, and than stopped on the spot.

Those two didn’t allow that to confuse them.

– Does anyone have the glass of rakia to disinfect his wounds? We could use it also, to drench our dried throats!

The earsplitting uproar filled the entire yard. Everyone seemed to compete with others who would be the first and fastest to offer help to the liberated Christ.

– It will be hard to bring him back without mouth-to-mouth resuscitation!

– Well, you give it to him! Are you made of wood?

– Look what they did to their God! Left him to us!

– Don’t go too close! The wretch needs some air!

– Oh, god’s people, isn’t he one of us?! Maybe we threw him in between them?

– It’s anybody’s guess! These two have taken his uniform down. You see that he is in his underwear.

– Don’t look under! Do you have any doubts that he is a male?

– You wouldn’t be male either, if they molested you like him!

– Let’s just hope he didn’t give us away!

– He didn’t! By the number of his wounds it’s clear that he had been beaten and tortured for a long time.

– He is a tough nut to crack!

– Of course he is tough, when he’s made of metal!

Shield his eyes from the sun! Can’t you see that he is squinting?

– Who could look at us with wide open eyes when we are like this?

– Here’s the helmet! Put it on his head!

– Dozens of hands jammed the helmet on his head. The metal grating sound could be heard. As if he was staggering under all that burden.

– Don’t let him faint! Wake him up!

Slaps and punches were flying. The metal resounded in a dull tone.

Not far from there the flame reached a nearby house’s roof. Tiles in flame exploded like faraway machine-gun bursts.

– One can’t tell who is more drunk!

– For God’s sake, brothers, everything just seems so suspicious to me…

– Everyone ran – only he stayed to greet us?!

– You’re right. He is the one to hang steadily and look at us with suspicion, in order to run away to his people before dawn and with all the gathered information.

– People, don’t exaggerate! He ran away from someone’s field where he scared the crows off!

– Or they finished him off on the fence while stealing hens?

………………………………………………………………………..

The moods never alter that fast as with soldiers like this.

The debaucheries from a moment ago became quiet on the spot, and men fell into a deep drowse.

Only the Christ stayed leaned against the house wall out of which one could hear discontinuous snoring of the asleep.

Although he was on security guard, he looked careless, with arms spread, like the one who lazily stretched his legs, slowly and hardly visible, after hard work.

He seemed absorbed in his thoughts, captivated by the recent noise and the smell of burning.

His lips were half -open.

As if he would – God forbid – utter some word any moment now, or, perish the thought, pass away.

Prevela na engleski
Slavica Stevanovi
ć


[1] Jesus the Nazorean, King of the Jews

AN EXPOSÉ ON THE NOVEL “AMBER, HONEY, AND THE SORB-APPLE”

It seems impossible to the author to reach the deepest bottom
of biography, or the final form of destiny by describing the external
stream of life, or by psychological analysis, no matter how deep
it may penetrate. The essential characteristics of human life lie
in a completely different dimension of the spirit, not in the category
of facts, but in their spiritual sense.

                                                                                          Bruno Schulz

To say that this is a novel about Bruno Schulz is not enough. There is some truth in the claim that famous persons become literary characters so as to intensify the intrigue. However, there are always other (often decisive) reasons why the authors decide their characters to be other authors. It can easily be checked on three examples of the contemporary European novel. Peter Esterhazy says in THE BOOK OF HRABAL: "On the one hand, the author felt that he could understand Hrabal well, and, presumably, there was not any vanity in that yet, he found that they differed from each other significantly. Actually: in all respects. Like one egg from another, that was how they differed. But that is the very point, the author focused on his own otherness, his own foreignness." In his novel DOVLATOFF AND HIS MILIEU Alexander Genis states: "Books about others are written when you do not have anything to say about yourself. In this case it is not so. I am writing it solely because I intend to have a chat about myself. But to reach any further, I need quite a high tree." The narrator in the novel FLAUBERT’S PARROT by Julian Barnes asks a few questions: "Why does the literary work compel us to search for the author? Why cannot we leave him alone? Why are we not satisfied with the books themselves?" Instead of the answer, there is the written book.

"The mere fact of individual existence includes irony, deceit, slang," says Schulz at one place. Everything functions by "the rule of the panmasquerade". What kind of masquerade results, I thought, when two individual existences actually meet?

That is why in the novel AMBER, HONEY, AND THE SORB-APPLE Schulz writes letters to his colleague, a literature teacher, with whom he works at Drohobitze grammar school and for whom he cherishes "a special kind of feelings". But my Schulz knows the same as Hamvas: "Seduction is fruitless and futile, aimless and senseless… Nothing ensues from seduction: everything is a magic game of colourful, intoxicating, and deceptive intrigue which enchants and overshadows, but once it is dispersed, both the seductress and the seduced stay alone, disappointed, miserable, embittered, and empty." It is also known to the woman Schulz addresses the letters to and who translates those letters into German, for fear of being discovered by her husband. Nevertheless, they accept the game. Game is the last right they would renounce. Anyway, the ruins of that game and the dungyard of bookish sentiments seem to be witnessing the birth of something that could tentatively be called love or loving.

Besides, this novel is a watery book; that water flows between the shores of pathos and irony, between imitation and spontaneity, between wisdom and banality. Schulz’s love letters flow between two inaccessible and perilous shores: the Scylla of authority (The Foreword to the Serbian Edition) and the Charybdis of anonimity (The Letter to the Editor).

Somebody will wonder with good reason: why Schulz of all people?

Because he was one of the loneliest people I know of. Because he so desperately cried for help from that loneliness. His whole writing and visual arts adventure is a quest for the Other. The seduction of the rarest kind. (And seduction is a special kind of masochism.) Because, at the first meeting (which is "often decisive") with his "person and work" I had a déjà vu experience. He seemed to me somewhat familiar, like an integral part of me. AMBER, HONEY, AND THE SORB-APPLE is a quest for the Schulz in myself. An attempt of private investigation as to how many parts there are in Schulz’s mythology that could also be called my own.

Another thing that ties me to Schulz is life in the province and growing up on the border. This novel was written in the Serbian province, after the exile from my homeland (Krajina), after a childhood in the bordering area where empires, religions, nations and attitudes intreweave.

While writing the novel, I offered Schulz a possibility not to resemble himself and prevented his letters from being a sheer pastiche of his short stories. (There are so many unsuccessful and empty pastiches in contemporary literature.) Hence, I enabled him to be sincerer through formal privileges (the letters to the woman he doubtless cares for, and who is, according to him, their only witness), but sincerer in a different (maybe more authentic way).

I considered it senseless to repeat the procedures of famous precursors and to reconstruct Schulz’s love preoccupations from the shards of his life. The time of reconstructions has passed. I took the liberty to construct his love life from my own grist, with all the characteristics of the places and times I lived and live in. (Hence the polemical reflex of the novel, justifying Borges’s, and not only his belief that every book has to have a counterbook, or counterbooks.) If today’s writers do not write better than their precursors, they at least try to be sincerer than them. First of all, sincerer to themselves.

I have allowed my own reading to "ferment" and thus create the existing seams, fill in the gaps and avoid black holes. My Schulz often peeps from beneath Kafka’s army coat. (Thus for a moment those two Kafka’s last written periods in the letter to his parents are identified with the two holes on Schulz’s body which the lethal bullets passed through.) This book is, among the rest, the quest for the spiritual fatherhood. Which means, it is not the quest for the real father, like, for example, in Kis, but for the father that is incessantly creating and regenerating me. For the father, one of whose fathers is myself as well.

If I have succeeded in something, I think – then it is the intimation of the traces of Schulz’s driving force and the recognition of his characteristic energetic potential, linguistic and narrative, reaching the very verge of surfeit.

That Bruno’s probe that goes down to the nameless, only sporadically emerges to the surface of his biography in my novel and encompasses a few widely known facts, and goes down into the depth again, in search of the possible and the probable.

Preveo na engleski
Sergej Macura ©

DAS ROSAFARBENE MAL

 

Schon seit ein Paar Jahren bin ich als Tonmeister im örtlichen Radio eingestellt. Meistens fallen mir Kontaktsendungen zu. Die älteren Kollegen gehen nämlich solchen Sendungen aus dem Weg, weil sie eine ständige Anwesenheit am Mischpult voraussetzen.
Für diese Art von Sendungen hatte sich, nicht ohne Neid der restlichen Moderatoren, unsere Kollegin Nadja spezialisiert. Sie ist ein Paar Jahre älter als ich und, Sie können mir ruhig glauben, sie sieht underschön aus.
Ohne zu blinzeln sehe ich Nadja zu wie sie das Studio betritt. Währenddessen lasse ich es so aussehen, als würde ich mich mit der Vorbereitung einiger Jinglebänder herumschlagen. Obwohl sie durchaus nicht sparsam mit ihrem Lächeln umgeht, behaupte ich, dass dieses eine, das sie ab und zu an mich richtet besonders viel Charme und Intensität besitzt.
Nur das Glasfenster trennt uns.
Sie setzt sich an den Stuhl, rückt lange und vorsichtig die Kopfhörer zurecht und versucht dabei ihre Frisur nicht zu zerstören, passt den Abstand zwischen dem Mikrofon und ihrem vulkanartigen Mund an, prüft ob jedes Detail an ihrem Outfit sitzt, als wäre sie nicht beim Radio sondern stünde vor Kameras. Dann steckt sie mit einer blitzschnellen Handbewegung ihre widerspenstige Haarsträhne hinter die Ohrmuschel. Sobald ihre Hand jedoch loslässt, schnellt diese siegreich wie eine Fahne wieder auf. Je öfter Nadja diese Bewegung wiederholt, desto unruhiger und verspielter wird die Haarsträhne. Mit dieser Handbewegung beendet sie das übliche Ritual vor dem Beginn der Sendung. Plötzlich hebt sie ihren Blick unerwartet von dem Papier vor ihr und sieht in meine Richtung – ich glaube sie bemerkt mich nicht einmal – und lässt ihn auf der Uhr verharren, die an der Wand über meinem Rücken hängt. In diesem einen Augenblick, in dem ihre Augen am größten sind, spreche ich, von dieser Lektüre vergiftet, ein stummes „Nadja, ich liebe Sie!“ aus.
Die Sendung kann beginnen. Ich bedeute ihr mit einer deutlichen Handbewegung, dass sie im Äther ist. Sie fängt an unaufhaltsam zu plappern und sich mit dem ganzen Körper im Rhythmus der Musik zu pendeln. Sie summt und plaudert mit den Zuhörern, zwitschert und lacht wie verzaubert. Und während sie sich anderen hingibt, rufe ich das Bild derselben Nadja aus einigen früheren Begegnungen auf, auch wenn sie nur zwei Meter von mir entfernt ist.
molski

An diesen Tagen nahm ich mit ein paar Kollegen, unter ihnen auch Nadja, an Straßenprotesten teil. Nadja war immer wie ein Teenager angezogen, mit Buttons verziert (ich jedoch sah nur dieses eine auf dem „Ich liebe Sie auch!“ steht) und kleinen blaugelben Fähnchen, während ihr Hals von einer Schnur mit einer schwarzen Pfeife umfasst wurde. Als die Menschenmasse um uns herum pfiff, schloss sich Nadja ihr an.
Sie blies aus aller Kraft mit geschlossenen Augen in ihre Pfeife.
Auch dann inmitten eines schallenden Deliriums, schaffe ich es nicht meinen Mut zu sammeln und wenigstens ein leises „Nadja, ich liebe Sie!“ hervorzubringen.
Deswegen spreche ich diese vier Wörter (oh, sind es schon so viele?!) schweigend aus und verstecke sie auch vor mir selbst, ohne zu wissen, was sie in Wirklichkeit bedeuten sollen. Ob sie ein Gebet oder ein Schrei sind, oder nur ein Ventil, mit wessen Hilfe ich mein inneres Gleichgewicht reguliere.
Ich weiß nur soviel: diese Wörter vertreten etwas, wovor ich machtlos bin und von dem mir schwindelig wird. In meinen Träumereien gehe ich sogar soweit mir einzubilden wie Nadja ein rosafarbenes Mal unter dem Schlüsselbein besitzt.
(Dem Schlüsselbein!)
In diesem Augenblick endet die Sendung. Die Equipe zuständig für das Nachtprogramm nimmt unsere Plätze ein. Am Ausgang aus dem Radioräumen warte ich bis Nadja allen Kollegen ein Lächeln verteilt hat und sich zum Abgang anzieht und losgeht.
Endlich gehen wir heraus.
Im halbbeleuchteten Gang, suche ich, schon fast blind, an der Wand entlang nach einem Knopf für den Aufzug. Er kommt knarzend aus der Tiefe. Wir warten schweigend bis der Knopf anfängt zu leuchten.
Wir steigen ein.
Im Aufzug beobachtet Nadja sich im großen Spiegel und versucht wieder diese eigensinnige Strähne zu disziplinieren, macht einen Schmollmund, verbessert kleine Makel an ihrem Outfit. Als der Aufzug plötzlich anfängt unter uns in die Tiefe zu fallen, bleiben ihre Augen einen Augenblick lang wie versteinert (wahrscheinlich aus Angst), wie die einer Heiligen auf Fresken.
Sie können schon meine innere Stimme erraten. In der Unmöglichkeit irgendetwas anderes zu unternehmen, ruft sie leise und verzweifelt: „Nadja, ich liebe Sie.“
Als ob sie meine Gedanken gelesen hätte, blinzelt sie aufgewühlt mit ihren Augenlidern, atmet tief ein und aus. Nach jedem Blinzeln, bleiben ihre Augen länger geschlossen als davor. Mein Gehör ist so präzise angepasst, dass ich das Blinzeln hören kann, das noch lange nach dieser Begebenheit in meinen Ohren hallen wird.
Dann bemerkt mich Nadja, in meinem trübseligen Zustand, neben sich, legt ihre Hand, die mir wie glühende Kohlen vorkommt, auf meine Schulter und sagt lässig:
„Wenn ich dich so traurig sehe, erlebe ich jedes Lächeln von mir wie eine Sünde.“
Wie soll man ihr beibringen – frage ich Sie nun – dass sie manchmal wie die Liebe meines Lebens aussieht?
Diese eine Liebe, die mir auch jetzt während ich das schreibe im Nacken sitzt. Die eine die ich, seit ich bewusst lebe, aus reiner Illusion und Meerschaum erschaffe.
Wenn Nadja dies lesen würde – würde sie mich hassen. Noch schlimmer wäre es wenn sie es mir glauben würde.
Glücklicherweise liest sie Geschichten nicht gern.
Einfach so, fange ich an rückwärts zu zählen, von neun an, und weiß, dass im Erdgeschoss dieses Gebäudes ein Ehemann und ungeduldige Kinder auf Nadja warten.
Morgen ist eine neue Sendung.

Aus dem Serbischen von
Tamara Golubović

mirko

 

 

Mirko Demić, Jahrgang 1964, ist ein serbischer Schriftsteller, sowie Herausgeber der Litreraturzeitschrift „Koraci“. Für das Buch „Molski akordi“ hat Demić den Andric-Preis 2009 bekommen. Für das Buch „Trezvenjaci na pijanoj ladi“ hat er den „Dejan Medakovic“-Preis (2010) erhalten. Er lebt in Kragujevac.

 

 

 

Tamara Golubović, geb. in Belgrad, Serbien. Studium der Anglistik/ Amerikanistik und Medien- und Kommunikationswissenschaft an der Universität Mannheim. Übersetzungen aus dem Englischen und Serbischen, u.a. V. Aleksi, L. F. Baum, M. Finley, N. Rotar, A. York.